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“These communities — islands of biological and cultural diversity in the ever-rising deluge of development and urbanization — are humankind’s “Archipelago of Hope,” for here lies our best chance to remember — or learn — how to care for Earth in a way that keeps it healthy for our descendants.”

So writes Gleb Raygorodetsky in his book The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which was one of my sabbatical reads.  This book is an engaging travelogue to various indigenous communities to explore how they are developing resilience in the midst of a changing climate.

The theme is adaptability to an ever-changing world.  These indigenous communities have ancient practices, but because they are more in tune with the earth, they are experiencing the rapid changes to their environments and are having to quickly adapt their practices and customs.

For instance, the Sami, who are reindeer herders and salmon fishers living in Finland.  One of their elders declares, “It is time to say goodbye to some things we’ll never see again. . . . But it is also time to build new knowledge.  And this knowledge could only emerge through keeping strong connections with the traditional territory.”

The Altai people reside in the Altai Mountains that run along the Russian-Mongolian border.  One of their elders talks about how unpredictable the seasons have become, making it difficult to plan.  This, of course, is also something we now hear a lot of in Nebraska.  Weather becoming unpredictable is clearly a global sentiment.

According to the Altai, “If nature is not treated with reverence, reciprocity, respect, and restraint, the relationship becomes compromised, leading to environmental imbalance, such as climate change.”

Another Sami elder states, “But there is also a glimmer of hope–if the land can heal, even if it takes a long time, it means that we can also heal together with the land.”  

I believe this is wisdom for all of us in these troubling times.  This wisdom reminds us to take the very long view.  We so often get trapped into the fierce urgency of our own moment.  But how can we take action that plants seeds that will bear fruit over the decades and centuries ahead?

Raygorodetsky visits the Tla-0-qui-aht who live along the coast of British Columbia.  There, while walking in their forests among ancient trees, he learns that “our medicine must penetrate to the very core of our affliction.”

How do we do that?  He responds that we must address fundamental values and behaviors to respond to and live resiliently through this changing climate.  He writes, “What a different world we would live in, if it were arranged not along the lines of fear, greed, and power, but around the intricate web of respectful and reciprocal human relationships with the Earth and all its living beings.”

To be like the Sapara people of the Amazon, who “see their rainforest as a living breathing conscious being that must be cherished and cared for.”  Or Nenets of Siberia whose worldview sees people as “an integral part of nature, not separate from or positioned above it.  Their well-being is a product of the timeless coevolution between the people and their land.”

The Altai shaman Maria Amanchina teaches that “If every human being could feel nature, the world would be saved.”  She adds, “On our own, we have no hope of healing anybody or fixing anything.  We can do this only by asking other living beings to help us heal the earth.  We need to ask everybody–animals, plants, spirits, the land itself–and, of course, each other.”


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First Central Congregational Church