To Solve Climate Change, We Need To Recognize Our Unity With All Of Nature
Four sacred gifts from indigenous elders hold the key to healing ourselves and our shared environment
As a culture, we tend to think of climate change in terms of its effects on sea levels, seasonal temperatures, and animal habitats. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with those and similar observations, there is one thing conspicuously missing from the way we think about climate change: It is a spiritual issue.
Rather than seeing ourselves as part of the Earth and intrinsically connected to her seasons, cycles and rhythms, our “I am separate” mindset causes us to behave toward the natural world as if we are not connected to it — as if it is something to own, use and dominate — resulting in unlimited resource extraction, pollution of our environment, degradation of our food and water, climate change, the extinction of species, and more.
We already have the technology to solve such problems; what we don’t have is the collective will. And we don’t have the collective will because we don’t have the wisdom.
Thankfully, there is another way to live.
In order to truly solve climate change, we must open ourselves to the realization of our unity with all of nature. Be curious; ask yourself these questions:
- What problem do I see happening here, right now?
- How am I part of the problem?
- Who else can I join to help repair and resolve the problem?
Four Sacred Gifts
In 1994, a group of 27 indigenous elders from the four colors and directions — elders from the North American tribes representing the red and south direction, a Buddhist elder from Tibet represent the yellow and east direction, a Sami elder from Finland representing the white and north direction, and two elders from African tribes representing the black and west direction — came together to offer the people of Earth four sacred gifts. We can use these gifts to heal ourselves and our shared environment. Here are the gifts the elders bestowed upon humanity, along with some suggestions as to how we can view these gifts in relation to climate change.
1. The power to forgive the unforgivable. The indigenous peoples of the world have suffered uncountable atrocities at the hands of occupying nations, including the destruction of our Mother Earth. If indigenous people can forgive, so can we all. They show us that we do not have to be consumed by hating “evil” greedy multinational corporate leaders, corrupt politicians, powerful media interests and the like when it comes to our environmental problems.
Instead, recognizing our role and responsibility to ourselves, our Earth and future generations, we need to free ourselves from the prison of animosity. By acting from a place of forgiveness, we liberate our energy to create a new world, to make the change that our hearts desire. Forgiveness stops the cycle of blame that shackles us to what we don’t want, separating ourselves from each other and the Earth. Forgiveness opens the door for us to concentrate on what we do want. Forgiveness does not mean forgoing justice, does not mean betraying our responsibility to each other and the Earth. It does not mean forgetting. Instead, it is a path to freedom, allowing us to use our individual and collective energy to right the wrongs and bring forth a healed and vibrant world.
2. The power of unity. What happens in China affects the United States. What happens to the rainforest alters the Arctic. When one species of animal or plant becomes extinct, its effects are felt elsewhere. We are indeed interconnected, and the more we are awakened, the more we can understand the power and sensibility of oneness, the more empowered we are to take action together.
3. The power of healing. Reawakening our connection to nature, the Earth and each other is powerful medicine that can heal many ills. We must reconnect with each other and with the cycles of the natural world, including the movement of weather conditions and plant and animal behavior. Most of all, though, we must reconnect with our true selves. We are meant to be in alignment at the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical level. When we are good medicine to ourselves and each other, honoring the spirit that resides within us, the healing that results will be reflected in our external world.
4. The power of hope. Climate change can feel frightening and overwhelming. But no matter how bad things seem, positive change is still possible. Hope is not an illusion; it is a constant and dependable source of energy to support what we want to create: an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on our Earth. Focus on what gives you hope, and let that inspire you to be in positive action to reverse global warming.
My uncle from the Osage reservation would draw a circle in the air while saying, “To live as a whole human being is to live in balance, understanding our connection to people, to Earth and to spirit; to hurt one of these is to hurt all of these; to love one of these is to love all of these.” This gave me a clear picture of what is true abundance: the intimate interconnection of all life, and the process of receiving and giving back to this life.
I understood his words to mean that when I treat you with dignity, when I treat you with care — whether at home, in the workplace or in my community — I am showing dignity not only to you but to people, Earth and spirit. I remember as a little girl listening to him and thinking: “Wow, I have a lot of power!” It’s amazing how easy it is to grow up thinking that you do not have that power. You begin to lose sight of what is real, what it really means to be a whole human being and what it means to have this original wisdom. The re-emergence of the felt experience of belonging in the larger consciousness (our collective interdependence and evolution), not only in our own lives but also in our connection to all things, compels action from all of us. Once we truly recognize that everything is connected to everything else, we become owners of a simple and tremendously valuable truth: that we each have the power to effect positive change. This spiritual understanding is the key to creating sustainable solutions to climate change.
Anita Sanchez, Ph.D., Aztec and Mexican-American, is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the new book The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times (Simon & Schuster). She bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. For more information, visit www.FourSacredGifts.com.
This article was republished from Ensia.