Saturday, May 13, 2006

Words of Power #20: Cusco, Kyoto and The Yellow Sand Storm

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Words of Power #20: Cusco, Kyoto & The Yellow Sand Storm

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama today successfully concluded his three-day visit to Peru with the address to the intellectuals and opinion makers at the auditorium of National Library of Peru….On the second day (May 8), His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Cusco, the ancient mythical capital of Inca civilization, where he had a very emotional gathering with the elders of the indigenous people of Incas. The gathering was held at the Temple Qoricancha (Sacred Temple of Sun) in the heart of Cusco City, located at the altitude of 3,000 meters above the sea level…His Holiness gave a public talk on "Ancient Culture in the Modern Society" in the City Hall auditorium which was attended by 1,500 people (800 people in the main auditorium and another 700 people in the annexure of the Town Hall with a short circuit TV facility)… In his talk, His Holiness advised the audience to learn from the culture of native indigenous people how to care the mother earth, the only home for the humanity. His Holiness drew the attention of the audience to the issue of the global environmental crisis, by highlighting the seriousness the problem of global warming, shortage of drinking water in Indian sub-continent and China, and desertification in many parts of the world.…His Holiness is visiting Peru for the first time." Office of Tibet, Dalai Lama Concludes Three-Day Visit to Peru, 5-11-06

Recently, an ex-pat colleague, who lives in Kyoto, called to tell me that yellow sand from the deserts of China and Mongolia was falling from the sky in Japan. I hung up the phone, and googled corroboration from Yomiuri Shimbun and the Independent.
Yes, global warming is melting the glaciers on the Tibetan plateau, which, in turn, is causing desertification.
The consequences are profound:
“The dust contains hazardous substances and is on the increase due to global climate change….On April 16-17, an estimated 300,000 tons of sand fell on Beijing with the official Xinhua News Agency reporting that the capital looked like a desert. Two days later, an Earth observatory satellite of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration spotted the same sandstorm moving over Japan….” Yellow sand deluging Japan, Yomiuri Shimbun, 5-3-06
“….the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau are vanishing so fast that they will be reduced by 50 per cent every decade….the vast environmental changes brought about by the process will increase droughts and sandstorms over the rest of the country, and devastate many of the world's greatest rivers, in what experts warn will be an ‘ecological catastrophe’…Perhaps worst of all, the melting threatens to disrupt water supplies over much of Asia…..” Geoffrey Lean, Ice-capped roof of world turns to desert, Independent, 7-7-06
I closed my eyes, and remembered an extraordinary night, over thirty years ago, high in the Andes, on the Bolivian Altiplano. I had gone there to circumambulate the ruins of Tiahuanaco. I rented a room in the town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Suddenly, at 9 P.M., as I sat writing in my notebook, the town generator was shutdown for the night. I was plunged into an utter darkness that was both terrifying and exhalting. Up on that barren plateau, there were no cities or airfields for hundreds of miles. The starry night cut into me like a great sword, wielded by the very hand of God. My body shook with the nearness of an utter majesty. I felt the whole of civilization dwarfed by the pulsating limitlessness of this One Being, within whom we erupt, and into whom we are reabsorbed.
As I opened my eyes, returning from the memory of that epiphany, I heard the voice of the Kogi, echoing from a 1993 documentary:
"I'm speaking on behalf of us all, to send out a message to all the Younger Brothers, and I'm going to have to say it in a way that they can understand. ... She taught, the Great Mother taught, she taught us right and wrong. The Great Mother gave us what we needed to live. ... But now they are taking out the Mother's heart. She'll end, and the world will end, if you do not stop digging and digging. ... What would they think if all we Mamas died ... and there was no one doing our work. Well, the rain wouldn't fall, it would get hotter and hotter from the sky, and the trees wouldn't grow and the crops wouldn't grow - or am I wrong and they would grow anyway?"
The Kogi was a “lost tribe.” It led a hidden life in Sierra Nevada de Santa Mara mountain range on the Columbian coast. They called themselves “Older Brother,” and referred to us as “Younger Brother.” They dressed in white, and lived without the wheel. They called their shaman “mamas.”
Alan Ereira of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) established contact, and trust, with them. They told him they had a message for “Younger Brother.” They wanted to break their “400-year silence.”
Their saga is chronicled in the remarkable "From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers' Warning” (Mystic Fire Video, 1993):
“….at the top of the mountain - the most sacred part because water and therefore life comes from it - there is no good news. Everything is drying up. ‘They have sold the clouds,’ one of the Mamas says. ‘The world will come to an end,’ another says. They are so few. Their voice is so muted. They have no money, no lobbyists. Chances are no one will listen…’BBC, tell the Younger Brother: Open your eyes,' a Mama says. Ereira is finally escorted back to the hanging bridge. ‘We want the Younger Brother to know that he can't come back,’ a leader says. They pull into place the symbolic barrier of sticks and turn their backs, a sad little procession high over a precipice." Michael J. Farrell, From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers' Warning, National Catholic Reporter, 10-27-95
When you feel the yellow sand falling from the sky, be like the Kogi; ask yourself, “How can I help Younger Brother to open his eyes.”
Some among us have asked themselves this question, and answered it by acting with courage and responsibility:
"An educational group that former Vice President Al Gore is helping to launch intends to spend millions of dollars convincing Americans that global warming is an urgent problem….The group, which yesterday adopted the name Alliance for Climate Protection, plans to use advertising and grass-roots organizing to try to raise awareness, particularly among labor groups, hunters, evangelicals and conservatives in general….Initial funding for the effort will come from projects run by Mr. Gore, which include ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ a film documentary starring Mr. Gore slated for release by Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Classics unit ahead of Memorial Day weekend in New York and Los Angeles." Antonio Regalado, Global Warming Will Be Core Focus Of Gore-Led Group, Wall Street Journal, 5-10-06
Gore’s bi-partisan group includes Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Adviser to George H.W. Bush, and Lee Thomas, who served as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Ronald Reagan.
But, of course, it is a national disgrace (and a global tragedy) that this effort is not being led by the White House, or even by the Congressional leadership of the opposition party. Ironically, even though Al Gore was not sworn into the high office he was elected to in 2000, he is still providing Presidential leadership on this most vital national security issue, as well as other moral challenges (e.g. the use of torture, and the threat to the U.S. Constitution).
As I sat in Copacabana, over thirty years ago, there were a lot more options, both collectively and individually, than there are now. Even a decade or so ago, when the Kogi message was delivered, there was a lot more space, and a lot more time. But the era of warnings and options has past. The global crisis is upon us, and it is deepening at every turn of the wheel.
Now, we are faced with a formidable adversary. It is our own image in the mirror of the world. In one hand, this adversary holds opportunity, in the other, denial. We can only overcome ourselves by choosing opportunity over denial, i.e. by accepting responsibility for one, and letting go of the other.
We must live our lives as examples, and as meditation in action.
Do not disparage the seemingly trivial (e.g., bringing your own cloth grocery bags to the store, and your own thermal cup to the espresso bar). Do not despair over the seemingly unassailable (e.g., the orgy of suicidal self-interest indulged in by corporatists, and their enablers in the major political parties and the mainstream news media organizations).
When you hear the news stories of refugees displaced, powerless and in desperate straits, realize that it could be a glimpse into your own future. But do not be afraid. Speak out. Get strong in your body, and in your psyche.
Remember that the universe itself is your ally in this struggle.
P.S. As I cited in GS(3) Intelligence Briefing for 5-11-06, the University of Chicago’s Cass R. Sunstein recently remarked that that the cost of the U.S.’s foolish military adventure in Iraq has already exceeded the projected cost of U.S. compliance with the Kyoto Accords (Washington Post, 5-10-06).

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His writing, speaking and consulting focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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