Winter is a beautiful time of the year here in rural Lanark, Ontario. These are Algonquin lands, which sit within a vast area between the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers and remain the traditional and existent territory of our people; meaning, it is unceded. For some 50 years I’ve lived upon and tended to 500 plus acres of diverse habitat ranging from mature forests and marshlands to grasslands and all manner of terrain indicative of the Canadian Shield. This property is bordered to the south by the region’s Mississippi River, to the west by McCullochs Mud Lake, and comprises habitat for diverse species of plants and animals. On any given morning from my back porch, I have the privilege of greeting rabbits, deer, eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes, wolves and even the occasional moose or bear.
Living within this environment is a privilege, but not one born of manufactured entitlement. Rather, it is the result of an inherent love for the land, a cultural comprehension of how all things are connected, and the recognition of and respect for natural law. By referencing natural law, I speak about the observable law relating to natural phenomena, the action and reaction and cause and effect involving all elements and lifeforms within our universe. But equally important as part of this definition is to see natural law as a body of unchanging moral principles that should serve as the basis for all human conduct.
In our Algonquin tradition, this is perhaps best described as Ginawaydaganuc. Although its translation is not easily conveyed, it essentially emerges as a concept that means or embraces all of life. Within that embrace the understanding of all of life includes mental or intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual considerations and perspectives. All of these elements are needed to establish a healthy and balanced connection to the lifeforms, elements, and energies that make our human life possible. If you don’t have all of those pieces in place then you're not properly aligned or appropriately connected.
Ginawaydaganuc is what guides my path to try and live within the carrying capacity of our local environment and to have as little impact as possible upon the broader ecosystem we all share. At home we utilize solar panels to generate all our electrical energy needs. We conduct sustainable selective harvesting of trees within our forest to provide fuel for heating through highly efficient wood furnaces. And we both hunt and grow a large garden to produce foods that are preserved in a variety of ways to supplement our annual food supply.
This same concept is what guides Plenty Canada as well. We recently completed the installation of an expanded solar voltaic system that, as you will read about in this edition of our contact newsletter, has transformed our office into a carbon negative facility. Our organisation produces more electricity than it consumes. I’m very proud of everyone who contributed to making manifest a vision we’ve held for a long time.
It’s not easy to transition oneself or one’s business or organisation or agency to sustainable practices. But at each and every level such efforts have become crucial. In his 2020 address, “The State of the Planet,” Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres painted a stark picture of the circumstances in which we now live. In his passionate and fact-filled speech, he delivered a substantial list of scientific, which is to say, evidence-based, determinations documenting the dramatic changes we observe happening to the earth, its lands, waters, and sky.
“Humanity is waging war on nature,” he said. “This year, more than 80 per cent of the world’s oceans experienced marine heatwaves. In the Arctic, 2020 has seen exceptional warmth, with temperatures more than 3 degrees Celsius above average, and more than 5 degrees in northern Siberia.”
These temperature increases are extraordinary but should come as no surprise to anyone living within Canada. We’ve literally seen and felt these changes during our lifetimes. Winters roll in later and leave earlier, its warmth leading to previously infrequent insect infestations and other changes to the cycles of life for flora and fauna.
“Arctic sea ice in October was the lowest on record, and now re-freezing has been the slowest on record,” said Guterres. “Greenland ice has continued its long-term decline, losing an average of 278 gigatons a year. Permafrost is melting and so releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal.”
How is it then that Canadian society and societies around the world fail to make the necessary adjustments? Well, it’s not the lack of knowledge. It’s not the lack of technology either. It’s the lack of a culture that places an appropriate emphasis and prioritisation on decisions and actions required to secure a viable future for the Seventh Generation, for our descendants.
The world is headed for an astonishing temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century. However, the science on this matter is clear. Human beings, the cause of global warming during this era of the Anthropocene, need to limit temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In order to accomplish this, fossil fuel production needs to decrease by roughly 6 per cent every year between now and 2030. Instead, said Guterres, “the world is moving in the opposite direction, planning an annual increase of 2 per cent.”
It seems to me that a little Ginawaydaganuc would go a long way. And like the song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” and “not just for some, but for everyone.” Empathic traditions, whereby humans acknowledge and respect all things, are desperately needed now more than ever. I hope you join us in this struggle to secure a sustainable and viable future for a planet we all share.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.