Let’s face it. The industrial age over the last few one hundred years has created a global mess of the environment including the air, water, land and fish and wildlife. Instead of cleaning up the mess the “business as usual” people have simply said, “Eh, leave it for the next generation to clean up.” That next generation has finally arrived, and now the mess must be cleaned up. Eyes watering, lungs congested, digestion interrupted, and fungus growing on the feet people especially in the cities are breathing in their own poisons.
Last Spring US Congressman Henry Waxman pushed through his Energy Committee a piece of legislation said to be a “revolutionary step” toward reversing the adverse effects of CO2 driven climate change. Well, actually Mr. Waxman’s legislation was compromised into “silly putty” shaped by corporations to fit their economic specifications. The legislation includes a “cap-and-trade” system that promises to enrich electricity, coal, oil and other business while basically doing little or nothing to reverse CO2 and other Green House Gas emissions.
The National Congress of American Indians congratulated Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Waxman’s achievement, but some American Indian tribal goverments recognized the legislation for what it is: A corporate give away that actually makes things worse for Indian communities and other indigenous peoples in the world as well as everyone else.
Wednesday 30 September Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) released what they referred to as a “first step” for the Senate to consider climate change legislation. Majority leader Harry Ried (D-Nv) frankly admits that there will be no time for the Senate to pass a climate change bill before the end of the year, so it is probable that the Senate will consider its Bill in the election year beginning in January. That will definitely cause the Bill to go into heavy weather, so to speak, against waves of opposition from corporate interests. The House of Representatives is all up for reelection and a third of the Senate. That will ensure tough going for a climate bill.
The Senate Bill does not include a “cap and trade” provision, but it does propose that the US should reduce its green house gas emissions by 20% by 2020. The Senate Bill is marginally better than the House passed law, but it has little chance of becoming the law of the land.
Unlike the House Bill the Senate Bill recognizes the importance of tribal culture to the restoration of ecosystems. This is important and could have far reach implications even if the Boxer-Kerry Bill fails to see the light of day.
In an international meeting of 180 state governments in Bangkok this week, a complicated “negotiating text” sits on the table for the countries to shape into a new Climate Change Treaty to replace the Kyoto Accords by 2012. Indigenous peoples (100 representatives strong) are actively pushing a policy paper in meetings with state’s government representatives urging them to incorporate indigenous traditional knowledge provisions, indigenous peoples’ land and forest rights; and indigenous government regulatory and cultural standards as part of the solution. While the indigenous delegates are working very hard, little progress on the treaty either for indigenous peoples or states’ governments is actually being accomplished. The United States government is present, but it doesn’t really have a position to push and to lead with. The US legislative body hasn’t acted, nor has it provided policy guidance. So, things are kind of moving like slow mud. It doesn’t appear that a climate treaty will be signed in Copenhagen this December as the United Nation schedule requires. That means that negotiations at the international level will have to continue for the next few years while the US Congress takes its time passing a climate change law…probably in 2012.
Indigenous nations are first and foremost the peoples in the world most immediately affected by the changing climate and the adverse effects of green house gases and other poison. The simple truth is that indigenous peoples live closer to the natural world, and since the natural world is being polluted, and the climate changes are causing waters to rise, glaciers to melt, forests to retreat, tundras to change and deserts to drift indigenous peoples living in these areas experience dramatic changes now. Adverse climate change affects are not in the future, for indigenous peoples they are a present day hazard.
Since the people who caused the ecological and climate mess are unable to respond sensibly, it is essential that indigenous peoples take the initiative and act on their own. Reclaiming native culture and essential practices in relation to specific ecosystems can actually contribute to reversing the damage done by the industrial-money driven populations. Indeed, it is increasingly apparent to me that reversing the adverse effects of changing climate may only be possible at the local eco-niche level instead of the global level. If this is true, then indigenous peoples, their cultural practices and their understanding of the natural world may proved to be the main means for solving the problem. Of course, those who are making the mess will have to stop making a mess, but it may turn out that that too will begin to happen as cities begin to choke themselves. Global economic down-turns like the one seen for the last few years may be a surprising contributor to the solution.
Human culture re-balancing ecosystems and global economic recession may be the most power solution. The smallest may have the strongest and best solution.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here