(Serpent River First Nation, April 22, 2019) The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Protecting Our Species.” We are in a time which we all have an awareness that climate change and the impacts of global warming are definitely real. This sense becomes even more acute when we recognize the inevitable change and unavoidable impacts that our children and their children will inherit.

Protecting our planet is most certainly something that we must get correct when we as parents, teachers, Elders, knowledge keepers, industry leaders, policy makers and experts explain the issue of Climate Change. So let’s begin with what we know about the theme of this year’s Earth Day theme. First some history. On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the North American continent, and around the world, smog was becoming deadly, and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. That was 49 years ago – thus far minimal progress has been made, or we wouldn’t be swimming in peril and global anxiety.

The Earth Day Networks is an important initiative that is recognized as the world’s largest movement focused on the realities and possible solutions to pushing back against the impacts of climate change. On their website, in support of this year’s theme you will find a protection list of 14 species: bees, giraffes, coral reefs, whales, elephants, insects, trees, plants, birds, fish, sharks, crustaceans, sea turtles and great apes. https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/

The Earth is still humanity’s only home in all the Universe, and the only world that we know of that is capable of supporting human beings. Today, Earth Day, it’s more vital than ever to appreciate it; meaning, we need to get it right now.

What about this year’s theme? Well, in one way it is an excellent effort to help focus on some critical measure that must be made to protect the planet. It also has me thinking about two things – the omission of human beings on the species list and the use of the word “our” in the theme: Protecting Our Species. If we are going to have an impact on the enormity of climate change, we must be prepared as a global community to challenge our perspective about where we fit in on the circle of endangered species and we must be prepared to challenge the views that are perpetuated by language that places a subtle sense of superiority of humans over other life forces.

Indigenous Peoples perspectives may have some validity to this perspective. This year, for example, Turtle Island News, has issued an Earth Day edition which has references, stories, scheduled events, and links to the issues around climate change – http://theturtleislandnews.com/index.php/all-news/.

It is well known; we’ve long been at a climate change crossroads for some time. The harmonious world that our ancestors have known even before European contact on Turtle Island, was also a world in which they prophesied that survival depended on the way we would make change. These references conveyed by indigenous knowledge keepers have common threads in changing our practices, by making change in our hearts and making a deliberate shift in our minds.

The most important shift in our paradigm is not just about the earth, but about one another. Nations, regions, communities, families and our fellow brothers and sisters; it’s time for moving beyond destructive relationships that only create strife and inequity among the human species.

Survival depends on all life being respected to the highest degree and care for the earth in a manner that a newborn loves their mother – revering, loving and respecting.

From my family to yours – let’s make Earth Day every day and let us never lose sight of the importance of caring for all life; teaching the next generation that life will hand back the balance of how we as humans treat the gift of life that has freely been given to us.

Bimaadzwin’s goal is Advancing Nationhood and Sovereignty by focusing on Land, People and Prosperity.

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