I am from Mikamak’ik and I’m a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation with shared settler-nation ancestry. My Elders taught me to see and feel the essential connectedness of all life. As a Mi’kmaq, I view Creation as a gift. This gift encompasses everything we have and need to survive, and we have an inherent opportunity to be Creation’s care-takers.
But this gift is on fire. Down under in Australia, and here, too. The sacred Creation is in flames.
The global media response to the tragedies unfolding in Australia in recent weeks must provide us with an opportunity to create a profound shift in our global consciousness. Like a moth to a flame, our global attention has been drawn to the climate-change-induced fires ravaging Australian landscape and communities.
Can this fire, or its spiritual resonance, help us tear down the boundaries that have divided us as urban and bush cultures, earth and sky beings, and, ultimately, as human and animal brethren?
An unprecedented number of media stories are tracking the loss of life in Australia, but the situation extends much farther. Media outlets across the globe are sharing images of charred landscapes, asphyxiated animals and desperate emergency responders. We are viewing the destruction of our commons in a real-time-streamed tragedy.
Our modern culture has induced this global-warming moment, and a return to nature may help us correct our course.
The lands and territories occupied by Canada are home to 30 per cent of the world's total remaining wild forests and 20 per cent of its freshwater. Forests, oceans, grasslands and wetlands are massive holders of carbon and serve as our first defence in the climate struggle. These landscapes are also Indigenous territories and the frontlines in the fight for cultural and environmental survival.
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On Wet'suwet'en territory, communities stand their ground to block the imminent destruction of their sacred lands, while the RCMP attempt to remove Elders and women with state-sanctioned force. We cannot allow this to happen. Full stop.
We must seize the moment and shift our awareness and create a new reality.
In Australia, the latest reports point to one billion animals lost to this fire, in addition to the loss of human life and landscape. Around the world, a quieter crisis threatens one million species being permanently lost to extinction.
But this is more than an extinction event. This is an extermination event fuelled by global wealth and privilege through the accumulation and inequitable distribution of resources and information in a manner intended to skew our understanding of the harm being done to our planet and climate.
The care-taking teaching essential to my culture has not been sufficiently respected and practised by settler nations. The chronic undervaluing and lack of caring for nature and local Indigenous knowledge has been a key driver of climate change and of the tragedy unfolding in Canada and around the world.
But there is hope.
Some governments, including Canada, have made important commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian government plans to expand protected areas in nature to safeguard wildlife habitat and biodiversity by protecting 17 per cent of lands by the end of this 2020 and 25 per cent of land and ocean by 2025, leading to 30 per cent by 2030. They have also committed to investing in nature-based solutions, including the planting of two billion trees and the rewilding of urban areas.
Drawing on the difficult stories from Australia, we must dismantle the conceptual and systemic barriers that keep us apart. The new reality is here when teenagers rescue koalas fleeing the flames, when families and people stand in the ocean to escape the fire, and when communities that were once strangers reach across borders to extend relief and support.
The new reality holds up an ethic of survival and solidarity, not limitless growth. We must draw on each other for a new kind of strength, a strength to be unapologetically resilient. In addition to urgent action needed to limit emissions and protect nature, we need to take concrete steps to defend and protect the rights of all to a safe existence.
The International Panel on Climate Change recognizes that the protection of land and water, and the recognition and proper implementation of Indigenous Peoples rights is a way to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The ecosystems being defended by Indigenous Peoples are home to an astonishing biodiversity and a sacred way of life, which, if respected, can sustain our nations, our well-being and our economy.
If we act now and steward wisely, while respecting people’s rights, we can care for our future effectively. Indigenous governments, local communities, and nature groups across the country are ready with proposals for protecting natural areas, led by Indigenous knowledge and laws, which can help Canada reach its conservation targets. We are ready to work together.
The time to act is now. Our resolve is strong, and growing. The current protected area targets are but steps on a journey. Ultimately traditional knowledge and western science both tell us that nature will need at least half of the planet if any of us are to survive.
Weal’in. / Thank You
Thank you Mr. Sark.
Thank you Mr. Sark.
Your article brought to mind my ancestors - my maternal and paternal grandparents who homesteaded in Saskatchewan in the 1910s. I remember the amazing stories - the hardship, the hard work, the fierce pride they had in becoming the bread basket of the world. I also know how well they (and I as their descendant) were rewarded).
I now see clearly that there was absolutely, as Mr. Sark outlines in this article, an “INEQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION” of the bounty of the prairies. Although my grandparents worked extremely hard, many who worked equally hard did and not all have not shared in this bounty.
And now although it is true that my ancestors did not know the effects of their work and I do not blame them, I see that they, together with their generation and many others, have “ CREATED AN EXTERMINATION EVENT FUELLED BY WEALTH AND PRIVILEGE”.
I agree with Mr. Sark - my ancestors and I were/are part of the “settler nations” who have not sufficiently protected the earth.
I am reminded of my father’s words over 50 years ago - that it is not possible to sustain limitless economic growth. I didn’t understand what he said then. I think I get it now.
Thank you Mr. Sark, for saying so well what we all need to hear.
Kindness and Love
Settlers? Hardly. I come from
Settlers? Hardly. I come from a long line of such stock, and we've been doing nothing but unsettling for centuries.
I say newcomers. I'm from first newcomers families. Others are recent newcomers.
First Nations (a term I use, because they have the right to determine who their people are, whether born into their society or adopted, while all other terms rely on blood lines, down to fractions, to calculate membership) are the settlers. Newcomers are the nomads, and very restless, destructive nomads, indeed.
While words are just words, and what matters is understanding, sometimes getting the words right can help with context and perspective, which are also vital.