Chief Seattle (1786-1866), after whom the city of Seattle, Washington, is named, was a member of the Suquamish tribe. He is remembered especially for his pleas to the white men to respect the earth the way the Native Americans do. His pleas went largely unheeded. As a result, 55% of our rivers are too polluted to support life, 23% are considered “fair,” and only 21% are “good,” according to an EPA study released in March of this year. Although air pollution has gone down a lot since the 1980s, there are still problems with smog in the cities. The most polluted cities in America are all in California: Bakersfield-Delano, Merced, Fresno-Madera, Hanford-Corcoran, and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside area. Our use of pesticides and herbicides is not only contaminating the soil, but killing the bee population. Leaking oil and tar sands pipes are contaminating our soil and water and killing wildlife.
Here are some quotes attributed to Chief Seattle for you to think about. Ask yourself how things might be different if we had listened to the chief’s advice.
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“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
“The earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.”
“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”
“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
The Native Americans have been trying to tell us some things for many years, and we haven’t been listening. They are saying that the earth is not ours to plunder and pollute. It must be shared with all life forms, and kept clean so that everyone can enjoy it now, and for years to come. They are telling us that human beings are not any more important than the animals and plants that grow and live on the earth. When we alter the earth by mining for resources, planting genetically modified crops, and burning down forests, we are destroying earth’s balance. When we take over an area for human use, we take away animal habitats and contribute to the ever more rapid extinction of species of animals. When we poison the air, water and soil, we are only hastening our own extinction, as well as that of the plants and animals with whom we share this place.
It’s easy to tell ourselves that there’s nothing we can do, personally, to change the situation, but if enough of us act, there are things that can be done. We desperately need to find ways to harness truly clean energy sources, such as sun power, water power, and wind power. We need to pay attention, as individuals, to the amount of waste we produce. We must demand cars that do not run on fossil fuels. We must work with others to encourage companies and organizations to divest from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and to oppose pipelines that carry oil and dirty tar sands across our lands.
We must also demand that food be labeled as genetically modified or not, so that people can make their choices, and we must look very carefully at the growing correlation between consumption of GMO foods and food allergies and illnesses, as well as how the GMO crops may be upsetting nature’s balance.
We need to teach our kids by example that material consumption is not the be-all and end-all of life. We need to make it clear to manufacturers that we want products that can be made without harming the environment, products that can be fixed, re-purposed or recycled, and products that are biodegradable. 🙂