By Wendy Gonyea
We’ve come to a point as citizens of Etino:ha tsa’ onwanja:de ~Mother Earth~ to put our collective heads together, take a hard look at our individual lifestyles, and figure out how to start turning things around for the survival of us all. We need to get serious or we will be the generation that fails to maintain our place in creation and fails to leave a legacy of life for our coming generations.
There have been lots of signs all along. You know what they are; mild winters, blazing hot summer, loss of trees, polluted waters, glaciers’ melting. Last spring we noted our first ozone alert in Onondaga territory. On May 25, 2007, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued this alert because of poor air quality. And, it was hot..near 90 degrees. We hear this about Los Angeles and other big cities, but here around Syracuse? We’ve had another ozone alert this year, on June 6, 2008, another 90 degree day. So now we know we are not exempt from the results of environmental destruction. No one is. People on the Onondaga Nation may have been ‘holding the line’ trying to live in our place, but we won’t be spared as the signs are now upon us too.
For several years the world community debated whether global warming was even real. The newly created Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) heard testimony of dozens of scientists, climatologists and concluded in 2007: Global warming is 90 %- or very likely, cause by humans. The impact of global warming has been undeniably real to our relatives in the Arctic, to the Inuit and Inupiat. There, entire villages are suffering from erosion and instability. Their homes, schools are sinking due to warming permafrost. The concept of ‘permafrost’ or ‘permanently frozen’ is melting away. Hunters and fishermen who go out to feed their families are in danger, as are the hunted themselves. They are losing their habitat.
A visitor to our community and Lake in 2007, Evon Peter of the Neetsaii Gwich’in in Arctic Village, called this a human rights issue. These indigenous communities are the least responsible for their new hardship, but they are the most impacted. They are not developers or avid consumers. They live off the land. Today they are trying to survive as their world changes, as sea levels rise and storm surges invade their homes. There are nearly 200 villages in need of relocation in the Arctic. Be thankful of where you live the next time you come home after a long day to the safety and stability of your home.
No one has the corner on suffering. It is happening in the Arctic, and now the people of the Mississippi Delta are hurting. The citizens of California are facing over 1,000 fires as the summer season has just begun. Scientists, Al Gore, and prophesies are all revealing truths. Man has tipped the balance. Humans are beginning to pay the price for a continuous quest for development-bigger, better, and an enormous appetite for material gains, luxuries and greed. Too many humans seem to thirst for enjoyment, self-wealth rather than thinking of their fellow man.
Due to the declining ice pack, the polar bear was added to the Endangered Species list May 15, 2008. Their population is declining. They are struggling to survive, to hunt as their ice floes recede. The Interior Department thinks putting the polar bear on the list is “the first step toward saving the polar bear and the entire Arctic ecosystem from global warming.” (NY Times, April 30, 2008) I hope they are right. Another view of solving America’s energy crisis is to open up the Arctic for offshore oil and gas development. The legacy of the polar bear deserves to be more than a symbol for soda, they have a right to live too.
The United States, the most responsible for greenhouse gases that warm the planet, has lacked leadership toward unifying corporations and citizens to reduce emissions. The U.S. wouldn’t sign the Kyoto Treaty that pledged reductions, 132 other Nations have. But the States are taking environmental action, as are the Mayors of cities, including Syracuse.
Once adults, we are responsible for our actions, what we eat, places we go, how we get there. If we all made more changes in our personal habits, we would be a part of the effort to turn the tide. We’ve become great re-cyclers, but now we need to be better shoppers. Use less plastic bags. Buy local products. You don’t need exotic foods when you can cook up some milkweeds or pick your own berries. We’ve all cut back on driving because gas costs so darn much. Walk places- or bike. Try not to buy paper stuff. Use your real plates instead of saving them for guests-you’re classy. Use cloth napkins, more rags, less paper towels. Buy energy saving products when you do buy, but think about spending. Do you really need that new product or are you being subjected to a sales pitch, or hype. If we all think environmentally, and act environmentally conscious, we can feel good about doing our part, however big or small. We’ll be helping our relatives in the north, the polar bears, and our children still coming.