The earth that has sustained human life is in a period of rapid change. As humans, and caretakers of the earth, we are in a place and time in history where our compassion, kindness and flexible thinking will be required more and more to meet the challenges of a warming earth. Each human has the capacity to think well of all other humans, to think well of all life on earth. We have the capacity to think flexibly in each and every new situation. And each situation is a new and different moment, a new and different situation. We have a responsibility, I think, to grow ourselves into the people we were meant to be. To be more kind, more compassionate. To use our thinking for the good of all life that exists. We can do this by tapping into our own goodness without fear or shame. We can do this by deciding to take leadership to see that everything goes well for everyone around us. It sounds like a big task, but when taken one step, one moment at a time it is doable and will develop the capacity to sustain human life over the long term.

We are all born with a deep excitement about life with big dreams and hopes for what we might accomplish. Life has a tendency to wear us down. Some of us give up on those hopes and dreams but they are never gone, they are just covered with layers of dust – the dust of oppression, the dust of abuse, the dust of addictions, the dust of too many hurts that it seems impossible to get rid of. While it may seem impossible, it is completely possible to dust off those hopes and dreams and live them to fruition. This coming time of climate change is going to require more and more of us to decide, to actively decide, to move beyond the hurts and oppression we have lived and to move to a more powerful place of deciding to fulfill our birthright to live those big dreams and hopes. Each of us is capable of deciding to live well and to see that the lives of those around us can go a bit better. If enough people in a community make the decision to live well, with a caring attitude towards everyone else, everything, even the coming climate change hardships, will go better for everyone.

Boozhoo. It is a beautiful day here in Minneapolis. I think it is important that we always try to remember the beauty that is around us. If we can notice the sun shining or the shape of the clouds overhead, or the child trying to make eye contact with us from her parents grocery cart at the store, if we can notice these good things, our day will go better. So often we forget to notice that everything around us is connected and in truth the universe wants for our lives and the lives of everyone around us to go well. If we let it. We are in times that tend to make people fearful. Climate change, the current state of politics in the United States and now the current threat of coronavirus. These are real concerns. And it does no good to pretend that these concerns aren’t real. The bigger question is how do we prepare ourselves, our families and our community to address the concerns in ways that are beneficial for all. We can build relationships with other people who work to see that real change, for real good can and will happen.

We are seeing a lot of changes occurring at a rapid pace. We need flexible, adaptable thinking and behaviors to these new and different situations. The coronavirus is changing how the world thinks about personal space, medical care, work environments and the necessity, or lack of necessity, for large groups of people to gather. One place of hope that I have during this time of health crisis is the drastic change of the atmosphere over China as they shut down production, travel and commerce in response to the virus in the hopes of containing it. As a result of the shutdowns, NASA satellite photos show a drastic reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution across China. I can imagine a world of commerce run with full consciousness of its impact on the environment. What if the Twin Cities proactively designated, at a minimum, one day a month as a ‘shut-down’ day – where travel, factories, work-places – all shut down voluntarily to clear the air?  If we could continue the level of change witnessed in China’s air pollution without the threat of death from a virus it would be wonderful for the climate and the human race.

What if we lived in a world where no one was expendable? Where Black Lives Mattered? And there were not 5000+ Missing or Murdered Native women? What if there was no need for a child protection system and domestic violence ceased to be an issue? What if the incarceration rate of Native women dropped to zero? It seems to me that people’s attitude towards the coronavirus is indicative of their attitude towards the vulnerable and the elders. I have heard people say ‘I am not worried about this virus it’s only the old people dying.’ Or, ‘I’m not worried about the virus, I am healthy.’ This is a careless attitude when anyone who carries the virus can then infect others – the elders of our community or those with fragile immune systems.  It is the elders who carry the knowledge of the generations. I know this is true for Native communities. I believe it to be true for Southeast Asians, true for Muslim communities and for the African American community. We value our young as precious beings moving to the future.  We value elders as keepers of sacred knowledge. In my viewpoint, no one is expendable

In this time of the Covid pandemic, social media is my daily, sometimes minute by minute, connection to the outside world. Via social media, I see extroverts, who thrive on human contact, struggling with loss of freedom of contact along with the young adults whose need for friends is as great as their need for food and water. Others are mourning jobs which were their mirror for reflecting their identity and worth back to them. There are folks who are struggling mightily to make ends meet. On top of it all is the fear of severe illness or death from this virus that is silently stalking us all. As an Anishinaabe woman, I feel this is the time we have been preparing for. I am not talking about an apocalypse or ‘end of the world’ scenario. I am talking about ancient prophecies that told us there would be a time when humans would need to choose between two paths – the path of greed and industrialization or a way of life that is in balance with all living beings of the planet.

This virus, which is causing so much grief, has also put into motion a healing of the earth. As countries, cities, industrial production, and international travel have ground to a halt; as gas-powered vehicles of all kinds have stopped – from school buses to city buses to rush-hour traffic jams – the atmosphere has cleared, waters have cleansed themselves and people are commenting in surprise, “I heard all kinds of birds today.” This virus is giving humankind a gift. It is showing us exactly what is required to save the planet. To end the degradation of the environment. To give Mother Earth the time and space to heal and regenerate so that human life can continue. It is a hard gift. It is a gift given with tough love. We, individually and collectively, are the ones who can decide to pay attention to what we are being shown and to insist that we never again go back to life as it was. Lives fueled by unnecessary wants over human needs.

In isolation, I have found time to have many moments of fun. I love the Indian humor on Facebook and in memes. Many are joking, honestly, that this isn’t our first pandemic. Indians jumped on Facebook and created the Social Distance Pow Wow. 182K folks are currently on that site – singing, dancing, sharing artwork and stories. Some of the best-known Native comedians have shown up to do standup. My granddaughter and I re-created a painting of Anishinabe artist Karen Savage in the vein of the Getty Museum’s request that people recreate famous paintings using what they find in their homes. I am looking under and beyond the heartache of so many lies, deaths and collapse, confident there is an upwelling of hope waiting to emerge and take charge. A friend said, “It isn’t enough that we vision or dream a new way of being. In order for real change to occur that can continue the environmental cleansing that is occurring, people need to organize and take action for these visions to become the new reality.”