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I was on the 101 highway driving south with my mom as the now-called Alisal Fire broke out. I am not being dramatic when I say it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. “Go, go, go!” yelled my mom as a 70-mph wind gust picked up flames and sent them forward, just yards from our car. We were one of the last vehicles that was able to easily navigate the turnaround at a break in between the cinder block dividers. As we drove back north, away from the smoke and flames, my heart rate slowed to almost normal, my sweaty palms began to dry, and tears of gratitude, relief, and sadness ran down my cheeks. When we came around the bend in the road minutes earlier and realized what was in front of us, all I could think was, I have to get my mom to safety. That we were now heading back to safety filled my heart with gratitude. That we had a place to go and had water, transportation, and each other, filled my mind with relief. So that was all part of the tears. Moreover though, I cried for the irony that this fire would break out on what is now known as Indigenous People’s Day. 

Indigenous people have long known that the relationship between nature and humankind is one and the same; caretaking of the earth is caretaking for ourselves for we are part of nature, part of the deeply and intrinsically connected web of life. That we have forgotten this is the root of why we now face human caused climate change and global warming. That we have worked against nature in fire prevention rather than working with nature is part of why we now have these disastrous fires. 

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that included deep friendship with indigenous elders from around the world. I learned there is ancient wisdom in indigenous ideology that we can–we must–apply to the challenges of our times. In our sustainable development work, in our climate action, in our impact investing, in our voting, in our daily acts, we must begin with the understanding that we are all connected, all part of the sacred web of life. Fires like this remind us we are out of balance in the web and now is the time to remember and regain our balance.