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Closing the Circle

"Somewhere between the teachings of Western science and those of the Native community there is some agreement on the state of the world.  Ecosystems are collapsing, species are going extinct, the polar icecaps are melting, and nuclear bombings and accidents have contaminated the land.

"According to Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, 50,000 species are lost every year.  Three-quarters of the world's species of birds are declining, and one-quarter of all mammalian species are endangered.  Tropical rainforests, freshwater lakes and coral reefs are at immediate risk, and global warming and climate change will accelerate the rate of biological decline dramatically.

"The writing is on the wall, in bold letters.  There is no easy answer, and even scientists themselves seem to recognize the necessity of finding new strategies and understandings.

"In an unusual gathering in late 1998, for instance, NASA scientists met with Indigenous elders to discuss global warming and to hear the elders' suggestions on possible solutions.  The response the scientists received may have been only part of what they had hoped for.  As one observer summarized, the elders pretty much responded, 'You did it, you fix it.'

"In the final analysis, we humans can say whatever we would like - rationalize, revise statistical observations, extend deadlines, and make accommodations for the perceived 'common good.'  But 'natural law,' as Yakima fisherman and former director of the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission Ted Strong explains, 'is a hard and strict taskmaster.'  Dump dioxin into the river, and you will inevitably eat or drink it.  Assent to acceptable levels of radioactive emissions, and sooner or later, those sensitive cells in the human body will likely respond.

"The challenge is to transform human laws to match natural laws, not vice versa.  And to correspondingly transform wasteful production and voracious consumption.  America and industrial society must move from a society based on conquest to one steeped in the practice of survival.

"In order to do that, we must close the circle.  The linear nature of industrial production itself, in which labor and technology turn natural wealth into consumer products and waste, must be transformed into a cyclical system.  In the best scenario, natural resources must be reused or not used at all, and waste production cut to a mere trickle.  Those who watch carefully know that this will require a technological, cultural and legal transformation."

- Winona LaDuke
Executive Director, Honor the Earth

Quoted from:  LaDuke W  (1999)  All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life.  Honor the Earth, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photographs:  Student-made posters.  Photos by Amy Preble (USA).

 

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