Everyone is talking about the weather. The water lilies and cattails aren't
as tall this year. This means that they will have less medicine for us.
The birch bark is more brittle these days. Everything from baskets to
canoes needs it to be more supple.
The cedar strips, even in the rain forest along the Northwest Pacific
coast, aren't as damp and elastic as usual. The hats and baskets will not
be as strong as they used to be.
The medicine plants at Bear Butte are going away again. They made a
comeback after the big fire a few years ago, but now they're hiding.
The natural corn is getting smaller. The genetically-altered corn is taking
over and no one knows how big it will get, or how scary.
Everyone's talking about the fish that aren't coming back from the ocean
and are disappearing from the rivers.
And the frogs. And the salmon. Innocents with multiple eyes and poisons in
There are fewer bats, and more mosquitoes which carry more West Nile virus
- West Nile, as in Egypt - to people in most of the United States.
People are seeing riverbeds that haven't been seen for 20 and 50 years.
Burials from thousands of years ago are being exposed.
There are more and more fields of beautiful wildflowers. These make people
feel good about being alive, but they're the kind of flowers that come out
after everything's been burned to the ground. The Earth is parched and
trying to start over again in the dead places.
Inuit people of the Arctic tell us that global warming is endangering their
homes, their food, their way of life and their very lives.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as any other place on the planet, 300
scientists told us in 2004. After conducting the Arctic Climate Impact
Assessment study for four years, they said the ice and permafrost are
melting and the sea levels are rising.
The Inuit and the scientists warn that polar bears may be looking at their
The Bush administration has ignored all the evidence, all the voices, all
the signs, even its own State Department's 2002 report on U.S. Climate
Action, which says, "Greenhouse gasses are accumulating in the Earth's
atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air
temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise."
Another alarm about global warming was sounded this year by the chairman of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri. In an
address at an international conference, he told delegates from more than
100 countries that the world may have "reached the level of dangerous
concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
He called for deep cuts in pollution levels, warning that we are "risking
the ability of the human race to survive."
Instead of mobilizing American people and businesses to stop cooking the
air and water and get busy cooling things down, the White House and
leadership in the House and Senate are cracking the foundation of
environmental protections that have been built over the past 30 years.
They are weakening protections for animals, birds, trees, plants and water
under the National Forest Management Act, and are all but putting the
lumber companies in charge of the forests.
They are weakening the Clean Air Act through a maneuver with the cruelly
deceptive title, "Clean Skies Initiative." This, at a time when asthma is
at an all-time high nationwide and increasing numbers of American children
are gasping for breath.
They are making new rules to increase mercury emissions, which will cause
deformities throughout the food chain, even to nursing human babies.
They are exposing more and more sacred places and sacred beings to damage
and destruction, even giving a lifetime judgeship on the 9th Circuit Court
of Appeals to former Interior Solicitor William Myers, who has a
demonstrable record of threatening sacred places.
They are closer to their goal of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, with full knowledge of the harm this will do to all the creatures
that live there and to the Native people who depend on the porcupine
caribou that give birth there.
Over the past year, we have seen the worst storms in 50 years in Africa,
the most devastating earthquake and tsunami ever in South Asia, the
greatest number of tornadoes on record for any August and snow in the
spring in places that usually register 70 degree days in winter.
Within days of each other at the start of this year, three volcanoes began
to erupt: Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Etna in Sicily and Volcano
Colima in Mexico. Colima's ash plume is high enough to interfere with air
traffic routes. Helens' steam and ash plume is six miles high. Etna is
putting on a spectacular show of spewing lava and magma.
There are active volcanoes in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan,
the Philippines and all over the world. For any three volcanoes to erupt at
the same time is an extraordinary event.
I don't know if volcanic activity is related to global warming, drilling
deep holes and taking oil out or to any other human activity. It does seem
to me that Mother Earth is talking to us, telling us something. Whatever
that something is, we'd best discover it immediately and do what we can to
The current American political leadership is moving in the opposite
direction from prudent and provident action. If we cannot alter that
political course, we need to do what we can to protect our part of the
garden in the best way we can.
We can start by listening to Mother Earth and doing what we can to heal her
wounds or, at the very least, to not injure her further.
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the
Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C. and a columnist for Indian