Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Ice is Melting

Five years ago I found myself peering over the railings in the Press Gallery of the UN General Assembly Hall in New York to witness the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. It was a gathering of about 1000 leaders and entourage plus a few observers (such as myself) that took place over 4 days to strive for ways forward to solving problems of a bruised world. The colours, sounds and general atmosphere was highly vivid, and extraordinary encounters took place amid complex organisational issues and political manoeuvres.

I took it on myself to jot down as much as I had time, energy and inclination, leading to what was probably my first blog which I called Glimpses of the Presentations at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. There were many impressive speeches, but one was particularly resonating and urgent, sufficient for me to take as the title for that day's session, "The Ice is melting: A message from the indigenous peoples." It was delivered late in the evening, under the direction of Chief Oren Lyons Indigenous, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation. Comments from indigenous peoples' perspective were recorded following the summit by Marie-Danielle Samuel, Yachay Wasi, in a People's Voice article, on the People's Paths site.

I recorded Chief Oren Lyons' plea thus:

The second day extended late into the evening, so that by about 8pm only a small proportion remained to listen to the final presentations. Those who remained were witness of an extraordinary message, which I felt was delivered in one voice.

A group of about 20 or 30 indigenous peoples, mainly from North and South America (Incas, Mayans, Eskimos and others) plus Northern Europe (Suomi), gathered on the stage. ... The spokesman proclaimed an urgent message from a runner in Greenland. Fifteeen years ago [1985] the runner had noticed trickles of water from the fascia of mountains. Now it was pouring, pouring. This glacier mountain had apparently lost 4,000 feet of ice, and the rate of melting was increasing...

There were strong words of warning: "We see the acceleration of the winds, the fires in North America, and the suns rays are causing cancer. We are already helpless... We will now see the spiritual powers that govern the world..."'

This message has had serious echoes this month. First, as reported by BBC Radio 4, there has been further confirmation of the seriousness of the melting snow in the Arctic as Alaskan people tell of climate change, especially how the ice is thinning dramatically. Then, we see that very large quantities of methane are set to be released over the coming few years from the Siberian peat blogs in a Guardian article, Warming hits 'tipping point'. Further, a BBC News Video report from Greenland (Real Media) shows the watery scene that confronted Ministers, which evidently gave a sense of urgency as the BBC reported Talks renew vigour to tackle warming.

The situation may be far more serious than conveyed - I feel it is rather like a big ship that has been steering the wrong course at high speed for many miles: even if we apply the brakes now to change course, the momentum that has built up will carry the Earth forward in the same perilous direction for a long time (decades, I expect) before the situation can start to improve.

What can we do? I most often hear the main approaches are as follows and they're broadly in two camps: reducing consumption, replenishing the Earth; on the other, there are hopes of a 'holy grail' with the investigation of new pollution free renewable energy resources. I play my part to some extent: for instance, I haven't driven since I passed my driving test, I've donated for replanting trees, but I feel these are physical manifestation of a deeper rooted problem, so rather than deal with the symptoms, we should treat the root causes. If, for example, a scientific conference in Condensed Matter Nuclear Science were to irrefutably demonstrate experiments resulting in a safe means to produce practically limitless fuel, I don't think it would necessarily be a good sign for the planet.

Some while ago I read a saying,

When a single flower blooms, it is Spring everywhere

It is actually a chapter title in a book by Fr Kakichi Kadowaki on his experiences of Zen, its English title, 'Zen and the Bible'.

It points to a simple solution. There is only one focus needed to realise a global impact - ourself. As it is said, "world peace through inner peace." When one is still within, there is peace everywhere.