Baby Steps

Among us are elders, spiritual leaders and other representatives of indigenous cultures from all over the world. We are sitting in the circular Music Room of the Fonseca building. In this final session, we are shaping a message for the WILD10 conference. Under time pressure.

For the last few days here in Salamanca, I have been translating Felipe Gómez. He represents the initiative of Oxlajuj Ajpop, a Mayan alliance to preserve sacred natural sites and spiritual cultures of Guatemala. According to the Mayan calendar, he is air; a communicator. His speeches have been gentle but strong, and it is an honour to let him speak through my mouth. Some of his key points are that the economy needs to change, that we should continuously dig into our unique potential and that we should work together save the world.

The meeting has kicked off in a confusing way. People keep dropping in, and we enlarge the circle every time. I fear we’ll end up diffuse. Shay, who gathered us, came in stressed and fearful, something she picked up in an earlier conversation on the economic value of ecosystems. She interrupts a speaker, but is called back by a representative of the Tla-o-qui-aht, who asks for the rule that people don’t be interrupted. Interruption is a sign of disrespect in his culture.

Just after the final entrance of people and the final enlargement of the circle, Julie asks for an opening ritual. How did she know? Her friend Terry sings a song of his childhood, through which he calls the spirits for protection of the newborn. During yesterday night’s diner, he told us in a powerful voice: “we’re setting baby steps now, but in 20 years, we’ll be running”. The song restores peace in the group and the conversation becomes more meaningful. But we have only half an hour left.

Much is said, more remains. Perhaps it’s not the words that matter now, but the fact that we’re together. We trust in our common future and if we keep our faith strong, our actions might indeed make a difference. It may not be that visible yet, but up here in the Music Room, I’ve felt a movement rise. After over a millennium of suppression, the voice of nature is publically spoken. It won’t be silenced this time.

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