By Rev. Belle Mickelson
For The Cordova Times
Last Sunday, a contingent of Cordovans walked down Main Street behind a banner that read, “Stand with the Gwich’in; Protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge; Conserve Energy; End Plastic Pollution.”
The children who were along were so happy to hold Earth Day signs and be part of an important movement to support this beautiful earth and all the creatures that walk, fly and swim on and in it!
The Earth Day finale was at the Fisherman’s Memorial, where after an opening prayer, a variety of speakers talked about what the earth meant to them, while eagles circled and cried out overhead.
The day began with an Earth Day Service at St. George’s Episcopal Church. Musicians led everyone in singing “All God’s Critters”, “Rise and Shine”, and “Canticle of the Sun”. There were many kids and even a little lamb attended, carefully outfitted in a diaper!
Besides Earth Day, it was Good Shepherd Sunday. It was very fitting as we are all called to be shepherds of the earth and each other. We whom have been given so much can really help others.
Cordovans know how oil companies can impact their lives and we also know that we are part of the problem. We all use oil and oil end products like plastics, but we can do a lot more to conserve energy and use less so we don’t need to drill in precious, fragile places.
“Standing with the Gwich’in” means helping these people protect their caribou calving grounds from oil drilling. The Gwich’in people of northeast Alaska and northwestern Canada have lived on their lands for thousands of years with the Porcupine Caribou Herd as their main source of food. The caribou all calve on a narrow band of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, right where the oil companies want to drill.
There’s a story in the Bible that the prophet Nathan told to King David. There was a rich man that had many flocks of sheep. When guests came, instead of taking one of his own for the feast, the rich man killed the little lamb that was the pet of the gardener’s family, the lamb that lived in the house and played with their kids.
That’s a story for us. In America, there are millions of cows and every grocery store has meat and groceries galore. However, in Gwich’in country, the people live a subsistence lifestyle, really depending on the caribou. Most jobs are hunting, fishing, and hauling wood and water. People don’t have the cash to buy expensive groceries. The caribou are a vital part of their culture, their songs, their dances, and their stories. They call themselves “the Caribou People.”
Here in Cordova, we can speak and act for justice and peace. We can heal ourselves, heal our neighbors near and far, and heal the earth. Let’s start by standing with the Gwich’in; by conserving energy and by ending plastic pollution. Our Earth Day Pledge asks us to try these simple Earth Day Actions: 1. Bring our own shopping bags. 2. Ditch single use plastic straws. 3. Stop buying plastic bottles of water. 4. Grow a garden. 5. Bring our own forks and spoons, rather than single use plastic ones. These ideas are just a start. We can all do our part to be responsible citizens of this wonderful earth!
To find out more about Earth Day, visit http://www.earthday.org
The Rev. Belle Mickelson is the rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church. She also travels, bringing music to villages with www.dancingwiththespirit.org