I ride my bike up River Road as often as I can. The prayer place is where I stop and give thanks and say prayers. I look across the Delaware River at the trees and the water. When I took this photo, to my right I heard a kingfisher and to my left, a barred owl (they sometimes call during the day).
River Road, Callicoon, New York.
What I hope to get across is that saving lizards, snakes, wildlife, is saving ourselves. We can’t do without a biodiverse environment to live in that will sustain us while we continue to fight for justice, equality, and human rights. What we need is Rights of Nature written into our constitution. Right now, I’m not going to speak to the sarcastic and pessimistic voices in my head –the ones saying, good luck with that, we haven’t even ratified the ERA. Reptile and amphibian people, bird people, fish and bug people, mammal people –all of us are speaking for wildlife and the planet, since they have no voice.
These past days I go to be with friends and we console each other about who our new leader is. We want to regroup, put our heads together. The extinction of wildlife is almost a non-issue, a non-topic, though climate change does enter the discussion at some point. How could it be otherwise, since we fear for our lives and for loved ones. I am reminded of this:
“… I am fighting for my future… I am here to speak for all generations to come… I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go…. I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil –borders and governments will never change that…”
–Severn Cullis-Suzuki, UN Earth Summit, Rio, Brazil 1992
Here is an article from The Guardian:
“Living Planet Index shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% on 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact
…Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: ‘The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.’
He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness. [italics mine]”
When I shared this article on Facebook I got shot down right away. Someone said, “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” On another page I saw comments go up like, “Fear-mongering.” Hmmm. All I know is that in the twenty-plus years snorkeling the reef in the Bahamas, I saw the decline in wildlife. I see it here in the Catskills. I never see green snakes anymore. Fewer wood turtles every summer, fewer spring peepers. Our serpent predators are all but gone. Black snakes, milk snakes, and Timber rattlers are rare now, and we are having a real rodent problem. Rats and mice are out of control and most people I know have lyme, including me.
Here is what Ariana Gonzalez wrote. Find the complete piece on Facebook:
“I say the following not to provoke an argument, but to provoke thought. Please read, and try to really hear what I’m saying.
I woke up yesterday with a heavy heart, full of deep sadness and fear. … People feel dehumanized, people feel devalued, people feel scared, people are literally fearing their lives and future. This is a reality for many people. If you do not feel any of these feelings, consider yourself privileged.
….If you are able to brush the feelings of sadness off quickly and move on with your day, and think others should do the same, consider yourself privileged. …If you do not support Donald Trump and know how dangerous he is, but also didn’t vote in a way that you knew would help defeat him out of spite or protest, consider yourself privileged. …If you are able to brush this loss aside as a natural consequence because at least the DNC got what it deserved (which also means that WE got what THEY “deserved”), consider yourself privileged. If you do not fear for your life, for your future, for your child’s future, for the future of your loved ones, consider yourself privileged.
At the beginning of this semester, I had to write an essay identifying five aspects of my identity… The purpose of this assignment was for us to recognize and reflect where we stand in society, because if we were going to discuss and reflect issues that stem from race, class, and gender in society, we first had to reflect on ourselves. If any of the above applies to you, I ask that you do not get angry. I ask that you reflect on it. It is ok to be at a place of privilege in society, but it is damaging if you deny this and do not work and fight for justice for those who are not. In order to address these issues in society, in our towns, in our country, we first need to reflect on ourselves. We are not safe until all are safe, we are not free until all are free.”
Thank you, Ariana.
I want to add that we are not safe until our natural world –this world, the one we all live in– is safe, too. People first, one might say. But people cannot live without wildlife. I will strive to show this for the rest of my life.
For now, this:
what they did yesterday afternoon
by warsan shire
they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?