The North Pole is warming and it is about 50 degrees above average for this time of year and this is not normal. This is the Arctic’s warmest year since records began in 1900. The warmth this fall was described as “just relentless." The arctic is warming faster than any other region on earth. It is like the freezer door has been left open for too long, and the Arctic air is spilling out causing severe cold snaps in the Midwest United States, like 50 degrees Fahrenheit below average. The day after I left Standing Rock that kind of cold hit with a vengeance, and it was already beyond too cold for me and my boots!
There is some hope this global warming won’t end all our dreams for a white Christmas, chances are given now for a Christmas snow in the U.S. about every five to eight years.
When Pope Francis wrote about the “urgent challenge to protect our common home” he also saw “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” I also saw images of those now thin and hungry polar bears walking on real earth, not a bit of snow in site: water with no ice, a White Christmas for the "season" didn't seem quite as important to me as it is for them.
Wendel Berry felt like the pope when he said, “I can’t think about climate change and look away from the ruining land and the ruining communities and the ruining towns and the ruining lives that are around me." There is the “great mistake” of separating the land and the people, in that it “permits people to treat the land as an inert material quantity” to be safely exploited. He told the story of the first time he saw strip mining, saying, “It never occurred to me that people could do a thing like that.” I think about each of the EPA and other officials who see the chat piles around Picher and their first responses to the scope of the cleanup they faced of manmade waste.
Berry's World-Ending Fire is burning in every internal combustion engine every day. “We’ve been burning the world up, literally, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Coal is the earth. Petroleum is the earth.” The movement to put that fire out: the climate change movement appeals to guilt, anger, and fear, and the answer’s not coming that way. Wendall Berry thinks it’s going to come from love. He thinks it’ll come from people finding work they love, loving one another and then they will begin to protect everything that’s worth protecting, to stop permanent damage to everything that’s worth keeping.
“A whole program of that kind has to be carried on by whole people. People who are not ashamed to say that they love something. I can’t give anybody hope. Hope has to come up out of you. It’s been a struggle for me to be hopeful, and all I can do is invite other people to take up the same struggle.”
What he is describing I saw and you have too in the reports from the way those water protectors have taken on the impossible task of protecting what is most loved, our water. Berry thought we needed love to find hope, but we also need Faith.
And one member of the Electoral College agreed with me when he cast his vote for my friend Faith Spotted Eagle. Faith has created a movement within the Great Sioux Nation, to regain their sacred hoop, to find their inner strengths and rebuild courage, beginning with the girls and a circle of Grandmothers in the Brave Heart Society.
Her father told her when she was a girl that she would have to do something about the tribal burial ground the Army Corps of Engineers had flooded to create a lake. Twenty-nine years later, she saw why when the water level of the lake fell and the bones of her relations were exposed, even a tiny coffin was exposed because the graves had not been properly moved.
That Brave Heart Society kept a vigil camp on the banks to prevent scuba divers from stealing artifacts and took the Army Corps to court to allow time for the girls and women to remove the remains. These actions prepared Faith to organize a movement that has culminated in the efforts at Standing Rock. She received recognition in an issue of Mother Jones as an official "Hell Raiser" at that time. But the teachings the Brave Heart girls received are being taught in part to everyone entering the camp and the movement goes home with everyone leaving.
Tell me that does not give you Faith, too.