Essay The way we are in the world, changes the world


Oct. 23, 2013


Here’s something Native elders understand: Without respect for natural laws, no amount of technology will get us out of this mess. Why can’t we hear that message?


By Alan S. Kesselheim

The Daily Climate


“An elder I spoke to shared an experience that captures the disconnect. He is from Greenland. He conducts ceremonies around the world. People know him as “Uncle,” a man of unquestioned poise and power. His given name is Angaangaq. He told me about being in New York City, performing a ceremony.

“It was very hot,” he said. “It was the end of a long day. The Hudson River was nearby, and I suggested going for a swim. I started running toward the river to dive in. People got all upset and called for me to stop. ‘You can’t swim there,’ they said. ‘It’s polluted.’


“I turned to them, perplexed. I just read a story in the morning paper today,” he said he told them. “It boasted that New York City has the highest percentage of college graduates of any major city on Earth. You are the most educated population in the world, and you’re telling me that you can’t swim in your river? I don’t understand.”