Chief Seattle

Olympic National Park

When faced with the challenges of understanding the reality of climate change, many of us are struck with the notion, “I am just one person, what difference can I really make?” I personally found inspiration in the words of Chief Seattle written on a plaque I came across while hiking in Olympic national park.

This we know,
The earth does not belong to man,
Man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected,
like the blood which unites one family.
What befalls the earth,
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life.
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web
he does to himself.
— Chief Seattle

These words spoken in the 1850’s are eerily prophetic. They ring truer today as the effects of our assault on the natural world become harder and harder to ignore. Climate change and loss of biodiversity are two of the greatest threats modern man has ever faced. Those of us who saw smoke turn day into night during the raging Oregon and California wildfires witnessed a harbinger of what’s to come unless people of the world embrace a science-based, collaborative approach to solving our climate crisis. 

Now is not the time for nationalism. Now is not the time for isolationism.  Water and air do not respect national boundaries. Fish and wildlife can’t see frontiers. Covid-19 has shown unequivocally what happens on the other side of the world can affect us. 

Loss of rain forest in Brazil affects us. 

Acidification of the oceans affect us. 

Overfishing affects us. 

Loss of glaciers, snowpack, and rising sea levels affect us.

It is imperative that we take action to preserve the source of human health: Nature. We need to elect national leaders with the foresight, and will, to encourage multinational efforts to tackle climate change on a global scale. Leaders that will provide our businesses, which are the most innovative and successful in the world, incentives to leverage their financial and deal making expertise to drive billions of dollars of private investment into projects that will sequester carbon from the atmosphere, protect our fisheries (and our food supply), and replace carbon-based energy with sustainable wind and solar energy. The cost of the effects of climate change and pollution far outweigh the cost of investment in sustainable infrastructure. 

What can one person do? Each of us have a vote. Regardless of what party affiliation you may have, on this one most important issue of our age, there is a difference and your vote matters. In the words of David Attenborough, “What
we do now will profoundly affect life on earth for the next thousand years.”

Vote, volunteer, shop responsibly for products produced sustainably, join the conversation, contribute whatever amount you can to the environmental organization of your choice. If we work together, we can and will turn this around. 


1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

October 21, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Good essay, Phil. Thank you for this. There are lots of things happening–from new technologies to re-foresting and rewilding–that can help rebuild our bio systems if we can slow Co2 emissions enough to give us a chance. And if the US can cut down on our over-draft on the world’s resources. There are something like 6 billion people on this planet who live without electricity–the sun shines on them for solar energy, there are streams for small generators, I’ve heard of a light that can be set. up in a small village that will light it for seven years–on a battery. Sometimes the solutions happen when you think small. On prevention we have to think large. I also read that last year not a single country in the world met its goals for regaining bio-diversity. NOT A SINGLE COUNTRY.

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