So far it's been an unsettling year. There's rumours of horrendous outcomes at the Fukushima nuclear plant and a devastating cold snap in Eastern Canada.
It used to be that a Canadian winter that has blasted our eastern neighbours, was just typical. We expected it. But climate change altered our perception and appreciation. Milder winters with less snow and severe temperatures lulled us into false security. So that the sudden teeth of a raging Canadian winter storm knocks us for a loop.
When the earthquake in 2010 caused ruptures in the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, there was the requisite media frenzy. But the typical shelf life of even as dangerous a story as that, meant that Fukushima vanished from our TVs, radios and newspapers and only the environmentally conscious kept tabs on it. Entering 2014 there was speculation that a meltdown in one of the reactors was imminent.
For me, it's not exactly news.
About thirty years ago now I was at a bundle opening ceremony in Wyoming. Bundles are sacred artifacts that contain items of great significance to the people. They are used to guide prayers, ritual and ceremonies. Typically, they are opened to allow them to be re-energized every year just after the first thunders are heard. Those ceremonies around a bundle opening are very solemn and prayerful.
That year we sat in a council lodge, a very large teepee. There were about 30 of us there. Late on the second night one of the elders was speaking on the importance of the bundle to the well being of the people. Then he started talking about its use in conjunction with another very old artifact. He called it the Prophecy Pole.
He asked his assistant to bring it into the circle. It was wrapped in hide and when it was revealed we could tell that it was very old and very powerful. The elder explained that it was carved by generations of seers. All along its length were symbols and when it was shown to us up close, those symbols were mysterious and wonder inducing.
Near the top of the pole were symbols of lightning bolts flying through the air. He explained that this was the time we were about to enter back then. The lightning bolts referred to people being able to speak to each other across great distances. They referred to instantaneous communication. They referred to the Internet and cellphones and computers. They referred to these days now.
He said that in this time other symbols on the pole referred to the Earth becoming unstable because all the lightning bolts flying through the air would change important things. I know now that he referred to the magnetic field. Birds would lose their way, he said. The ancient migrations of hoofed animals would be altered forever. The normal articulation of the seasons would become onerous: droughts, wildfires, storms, and earthquakes.
Everything he said 30 years ago has come to fruition. We live in an age of an unstable planet. We live in a time when great and sudden changes will continue. I'm not saying this because of the prophecy pole. I'm saying it because it is true. What seeing and learning about the prophecy pole did for me was introduce me to the idea of predictable change.
Predictable change. We know that every action we take affects something or someone else. That's true for the planet as well. Every pipeline, every open pit mine, tar sands development, or act of resource depletion profoundly affects the planet we call our home. Predicable change. It's in our power to stop it. It always was.