The sacred ritual at ALEF 2016

By any measure, the moment can only be described as remarkable. The identities matter not, as I neither know who the ladies in traditional attire are, nor am inclined to discover.

I prefer not to, in fact, lest what they did become more about who they are than about what they did.

As Day Two of the Americas Latino EcoFestival (ALEF) drew to a close (yesterday, Friday Oct. 14, at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver, CO), we were ushered outside the building to take a group picture of all participants.

A conference billed as a series of panels and conferences, amazing as they all were, had blossomed into a celebration of Earth and spirit.

One moving testimony after another. One uplifting musical interlude after another. One gripping work of art upon another. All grabbing us repeatedly, tugging at us incessantly, screaming at us quietly, reminding us that the life of the planet matters, and telling us why and what we can do about it.

On the surface, ALEF brought together Latinos from across the Americas to not just join the environmental movement, but to strengthen it. But it is about far more than that, for love of Earth is so completely ethnic- and color-blind, as is love itself.

At no moment was that made clearer than on that green quad, where we expected the group picture before moving on to the evening gala. But then we were asked to form a circle, for a prayer, they said. We obliged, of course.

And then the ladies stepped forth, the air filling quickly with spiritual expectation, as they pulled flowers, candles and vegetables from a box and arranged them on the chilly, damp grass.

The sounds of urban traffic around us drew silent. The chirping of the birds in the trees among us drew louder. The wind grew stronger.

Some prayed, some sang, as we learned the deep symbolism of the items now forming a beautiful circular pattern on the ground. There is the sun and its fire, the poles of the Earth and their meaning, the flow and timelessness of life in this one and only ecosystem housing all species, humans being but one among them.

“Sit or kneel and put your hands on the grass,” one of the indigenous matriarchs instructed. “Feel Mother Earth beneath you. We rely on her for so much, but thank her so little. So let’s take this moment to focus on her, to care for her, to caress her with our hands. And now put your forehead on the ground and give her a kiss. Kiss Mother Earth. Let her know how much you love her.”

All thoughts of dualism vanished at that instant. The ancient wisdom of Earth and human as one consumed us all. The reverence of planet lived and practiced by native societies since the dawn of humankind raised our collective conscience in ways unexpected, and unfamiliar, for it is a space occupied far more by the intuition we use far less, than by the zone of the intellect where we tend to feel more comfortable.

When we rose from the ground, nourished by its spirit, as if it had returned the love, we held hands and lifted them as high as our shoulders and elbows could stretch, and our guide urged us to go forth…transformed…and to transform others on our journey.

At this late stage in the struggle to protect Mother Earth, after decades of toil both loud and anonymous by the world’s activists and sustainability change makers, scientists tell us increasingly, ever more urgently, with data that grows scarier and more certain by the day, that the odds of saving humanity from the worst ravages of climate change are now too high to conquer.

The damage is upon us, the collapse of ordered society not far off. It is the stark message of science, unforgiving, black and white. We have crossed the line of the unthinkable, with biblical consequences very few dare to even think about, much less comment.

So we toil on, struggle on, march on, under the illusion we still have time. And that’s OK, for the actions taken do help improve our lot, even if they won’t in the end change our fate.

Yes, it’s all right to keep the fight. Let’s stay focused on the service that is our calling. The service and love that defines who we are and why we live. The purpose we cannot possibly escape, nor want to, for it gives us meaning and a sense of hope, both for here and and even more for what’s beyond.

One of the activities at ALEF was the debut showing of River of Gold, a heart wrenching documentary about the epidemic of illegal gold mining that has led to unconscionable deforestation and disease around the world.

In uncovering the damage caused by rampant greed and tragic indifference to climate consequence, the movie also substantiates what the scientists are screaming out to the world: that fixing our wrongs will take far longer than we have.

Yet, true to the paradox of this moment, the discussion after the showing, with the production team present from the Amazon Aid Foundation and the United Nations, was all about what can be done. The film will no doubt lead to helpful changes, much like the 2006 movie Blood Diamond did to counter the illegal sale of diamonds to finance wars in Africa. And again, that’s as it should be.

But the biggest change, from River of Gold and every action taken to counter climate calamity, is to do as the matriarchs did on the green quad that beautiful Friday evening in Denver.

Regardless of timing and outcome, and even more so now that we know the science and what is to come, the time has come to come together as one. One species. One ecosystem. One powerful will. A single higher conscience. United in spirit. Relentless in our determination to live, for the soul never dies. Committed to one another in service and love.

We left the circle inspired. The group picture felt like one big group hug. It was that conscience at work, the one that will carry us forward along our journey, that will keep our spirit high regardless of what happens next.

Because indeed, when we connect at that sublime level with each other and with nature, what happens next matters far less than what happens now, than the care we can give each other and Mother Earth…

Today.

Pioneering Deep Climate Adaptability as a business value driver and Adaptation Ambition for faster mainstreaming. Because societies adapt only if companies do.

Pioneering Deep Climate Adaptability as a business value driver and Adaptation Ambition for faster mainstreaming. Because societies adapt only if companies do.