Glen Anderson mentioned hearing Chencho Alas who's speaking at Traditions tonight at 7 PM at Traditions. I have seen some of the hopeless projects he worked on and with persistent resistance of others, turn things around. His approach is to encourage people not to focus on the overwhelming structures that appear unmovable and hopeless to a focus on the positive and building on small successes. I have visited his projects in war torn El Salvador working with rural peasant communities 3 times and saw changes I thought were impossible then because their government was working against them, our government was working against them and the entire international economic order was working against them but these people restructured their society bottom up, eliminated post war extreme community violence in 5 years, developed organic gardens and small 6 acre farms and developed coops and marketed goods, performed reforestation projects and restored an estuary and mangroves. They also got young people to drop out of gangs to become artists. Chencho has had some amazing success in efforts to heal communities and the earth. I was sure this was impossible but with his vision and inspiration and the persistent resistance especially of the women who were not going to settle for what was wrong, they had amazing success. It is a great opportunity to have him here at Traditions.
I wanted to mention another Native American woman I recently met and gave her a ride to a speaking engagement She is Caren Trujillo, a Yaqui Traditional Healer from New Mexico and living in Tucson . I was asked to pick her up at her hotel in Fife and bring her to the event. What an amazing woman and visionary she was. In a lot of ways with her optimism, she reminds me a lot of Chencho. On the ride in I mentioned that I did volunteer work in the peace and justice movement and that I was concerned with a lot of the cynicism of activists today who have faced so many setbacks, especially on climate change and the depression this caused. I told her I was worried about this affecting the sustainability of the movement. She mentioned she has seen this too and knows it is from these people's experiences but it is not an accurate picture. She told things are very bad and will probably get worse before turning around. She is very optimistic about the future and says when she see's this cynicism, she has to call it out and points out what she as seen especially in the young indigenous people from around the world who are not yet leaders but on their way to become leaders. They refuse to settle for what is wrong. They want clean, air, water and a healthy planet and will not rest until they get it. She said she is not talking just about Native people in the US but other places even in Europe who search her out and there is major positive cultural shifts coming to our societies. This is her web site: http://www.ctrujillo.8m.com/ The Puyallup Tribe brings her to Tacoma for Native American healings so there will be more opportunities to interact with her in the future.
Caren is a person who has in her life and experienced the cultural genocide her people have gone through and the hopeless this has created for her people. I asked her the problem of the cultural racism in western society that has never listed to Native voices. Her response was: this two will change because the young people coming up will not accept it.
My own experience: I worked for 37 years as a wetland biologist and in the 70's and 80's watched as thousands of acres of wetlands, I tried to protect, were filled and developed. Then in then in the late 80's President George Bush and especially Dan Quale worked to reduce even the existing then wetlands protection and there was such an outcry the federal protection to wetlands became stronger. In the next election, I voted for Ralph Nader but Clinton was elected and further increased the ability to restore wetlands and large and small wetlands started to be restored including Brown's farm at Nisqually delta. While not the answer, part of the answer to responding to climate change is carbon sequestration in estuary and wetland restoration, reforestation, to organic gardening and farming to locally produced foods. Below is just one study of some benefits:
http://www.earthcorps.org/pdfs/Snohomish_Report_summary_2-5-14.pdf. Note this is just part of the picture as stopping the discharge of carbon dioxide is also needed. While we will not turn things totally around and have a new normal that will continue to get worse and we will lose many species I do believe what ever we do or do not do will determine how bad it will get and number of species we will lose and what adaptations are needed from sea level rise et al.
There is the old Weight of a Snowflake story:
"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a sparrow asked a wild dove.
"Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.
"In that case I must tell a marvelous story," the sparrow said. "I sat on a branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow, not heavily, not a giant blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch - nothing more than nothing, as you say - the branch broke off."
Having said that, the sparrow flew away. The dove thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself:
"Perhaps there is only one voice lacking for peace to come in our world."
One critical element Chencho Alas incorporates into his work is a focus on cultural and spiritual principals and values. This is important in sustaining the movements for change. Some people confuse this with religion but it is not religion. Spirituality is a a person's view of themselves , their responsibilities and connection to others and the earth. This spirituality is maintained by experiencing grandchildren, planting gardens, experiencing the glory of nature and celebrating the small successes we often overlook in our journey together to a better world.
So keep playing with those grandchildren. But don't stop working on the struggle.