What Really Matters

Let's learn from native peoples before it's too late

I am struggling to understand just what is going on: Russians hacking into email accounts, plagiarized First Lady speeches, “Make America Great Again,” deposed chairwoman . . .

Things are heating up! Literally. The temperature is going through the roof. New York is planning to build a wall around Manhattan to protect against sea level rise. Miami may be completely submerged within a few decades. Climatic shifts are coming more quickly than predicted, the ecological homeostasis is being changed for generations to come, and the campaigns are focused elsewhere.

Fortunately, I was able to turn to the Bohemian and read Will Parrish’s excellent article about the current battles to protect the redwoods in our area (“Last Stands,” July 27). Like a wise elder, he gives a sense of perspective that runs deeper than the tantalizing scandal of the moment.

Wisdom is embedded in Mr. Parrish’s article. He reports on the ignored counsel of the Karuk people who have lived in Northern California for 10,000 years (as have the Wappo, and later the Miwok and Pomo people). Sustainable cultures kept a balance in this region for millennia, before European contact led to the destruction of peoples and environment in less than 200 years. These folks are still here trying to figure out the way forward. Fortunately, the activists are also here. A new generation is showing up, reminding us that the forest is never saved, that the struggle is ongoing.

When contemplating the history, I feel a steely resolve to prevent a repeat of Charles Hurwitz’s strategy of extracting everything he could from the forest, all the while pitting environmentalists against loggers. He is long gone, we are still here, and the ecosystem has suffered greatly.

As the climate evolves to the next phase of “normal,” can we afford to ignore the advice of the original peoples to protect the life-support systems of our home? Given the key role trees play in protecting the land and the atmosphere, a decision to clear-cut redwoods at this critical time is almost incomprehensible.

Thank you, Bohemian, for keeping us focused on what really matters.

Gary Pace lives in Sebastopol.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].

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