Different versions of Seattle’s speech are circulating. In 1971, a screenwriter wrote the text you just read. It subsequently became a religious creed within the environmentalist movement. It differs significantly from the first published text compiled from memories and notes of one of the attendants. As is often the case with religion, historicity is not of the essence. It is an inspiring speech.
The message strikes at the heart of the matter. Nothing is sacred anymore. The pursuit of money destroys our planet and our humanity. The white man may think he owns the land, but he does not. He may think he controls his destiny, but he does not. We share a common destiny. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the children of the Earth.
As long as production and consumption increase, new problems emerge faster than we can solve old ones with laws, technology, targets and other solutions. Most of us believe that structural changes are impossible, but acknowledging a problem is the beginning of a solution. Our belief that nothing will help can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We need a new starting point, a new foundation for our culture, our beliefs and thinking and our place in the universe. Small steps cannot save us. We need to completely change the way we live. God gave us this planet on loan. As long as we do not change our ways, our societies will not become more humane and respectful of Creation.
People within the environmentalist movement tried to make the planet and everything on it sacred and claimed that everything is interconnected. In 1991, the environmentalist group Strohalm issued a booklet named Towards a Philosophy of Connectedness.1 It lays out Strohalm’s vision for a sustainable and humane society.
The principal founder of Strohalm is Henk van Arkel, a dedicated individual who remained its driving force for many decades. His views mask that Van Arkel is a moderate man who does not blame anyone in particular for our current predicament. In 1993, I became familiar with Strohalm when I joined the environmentalist movement.
I knew that the people from Strohalm were right, but I also believed they were naive dreamers. People will not change their lifestyles out of their free will. And we cannot do without energy. But as we are heading for an apocalypse, we cannot allow a false sense of realism to stand in the way of what we should do. Things have to change dramatically. Perhaps, there is a way out, but it will not be easy.
Featured image: Earth from space. NASA. Public Domain.
1. Naar een filosofie van verbondenheid. Guus Peterse, Henk van Arkel, Hans Radder, Seattle, Pieter Schroever and Margrit Kennedy (1990). Aktie Strohalm.