My soft footsteps, attuned to the rhythmic heartbeat of the Earth, gently push through the dense ground cover that graciously blankets the immense landscape of the tundra. With each step, I feel the dewy breath of the land rise up through the crisp morning mist, tenderly warming the souls of my feet. It is here, in this seemingly endless, quiet space where I finally find myself at home with my inner consciousness, able to hear the voice of truth, and feel the interconnection between all that exists.
Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, who is guiding my trek to the Big Ice in Kangerlussuaq, west Greenland, is a shaman, traditional healer, and storyteller whose family descend from the far North of Kalaallit Nunaat (the Inuit name for the island). His dedication to the environment and indigenous issues has taken him to more than 70 countries around the world to speak, conduct seminars, ceremonies and share traditional Inuit teachings. He tells us that “Only by melting the ice in the heart of man, will man have the chance to change and use his knowledge wisely.”
Angaangaaq, says that there are three distinct paths across this vast wilderness; one of the Caribou, one of the Muskox, and one of the Human. It is up to each one of us to choose which of these paths we will take upon our journey. The animals tread so gently, cracking open seeds beneath their hooves without crushing them so that they can take root, and grow into vegetation which will eventually feed an Arctic hare that might in turn feed an Arctic fox or an eagle. The circle of life is so evident on the narrow trails of the caribou and muskoxen, but what about where the human steps?
It is only here, in the company of Greenland’s otherworldly nature, embraced by the stillness, where I have felt safe and strong enough to open my eyes to the overwhelming reality of the impact that the human footprint has had upon our Mother Earth.
As well as affecting the rise in sea-level, the regulation of global temperatures, Northern Hemisphere weather, and the habitats of Arctic and marine life, the changes taking place in this unique ecosystem also bring an uncertain future for Inuit culture, tradition and livelihood.
When we take our first steps onto the Big Ice; the ice sheet that reaches over 80 percent of Greenland, we pause, realizing how small we stand as we bask in her sheer magnificence. I humbly listen to the rapidly thawing ice, as stories and ancient knowledge spill out of the melting glaciers with a surprisingly vigorous new energy. Everything that she has to voice about the destructive and truly ungrateful behaviour of humanity comes with forgiveness and an unconditional love, but also with a very direct message. If we want to continue living on this planet, we must move forward with our eyes and hearts wide open, and our intentions pure.
The growing interest in the Arctic and her resources is a huge threat to her well-being and she very well knows it. The relative conservation of Greenland today is largely the accidental result of a lack of intensive human interference, thanks to the extreme climate, expensive travel, and long distance from densely populated cities. With temperatures rising, though, the Arctic’s future is no longer secured.
As Greenland becomes green, human activity in the North is sure to increase with improved access and a rising demand for the rich resources that have been frozen in time. Risks from pollution, such as oil spills, adverse affects of mining, and damage from invasive alien species brought over by ships will increase as a web of new roads and large-scale development projects weave their way across the land.
By following the example of the animals, we can choose to honour Mother Earth, starting with Kalaallit Nunaat. We can cherish and nurture her raw, natural beauty instead of depleting it for profit, and by allowing her ecosystems and species to evolve naturally, and Indigenous cultures to continue practicing traditional, sustainable ways of life. The challenges facing Arctic biodiversity and global preservation are interconnected, requiring a holistic approach and worldwide cooperation. Together, we can change our fate and create a new Human path that we can be proud to gently walk upon.
“The beautiful thing about the circle is that we cannot see each other’s backs, and the strength of the circle is that we can only see each other’s beauty and spirit.
Can you imagine living in a world where everyone is equal?
We are all so different from each other, yet we are all worth knowing, worth accepting, worth respecting, worth acknowledging, and most of all, worth loving.”
– Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq (Kalaallit Nunaat-Greenland)