Nyuntu Ninti

Nyuntu Ninti

(What you should know)

I have written often of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its increasingly dire warnings about the state of our planet. The most recent report released this year states that the world is running out of options to hit climate goals. In a statement released this week by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres he chastised the governments of high-emitting countries stating that they “are choking our planet, based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels.” He continued by saying that the latest IPCC report is a “file of shame cataloging empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” The changes that are needed to prevent catastrophic destruction to the planet indicate that the world must roughly halve emissions in the next eight years.

These warnings are not new, but are repeated with greater and greater urgency. However, I do not wish to dwell on the IPCC report, but rather heed Pope Francis’ call for an “ecological conversion.” He reminds us that “a change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. Purchasing is always a moral–and not simply economic–act. Today, in a word, the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.”

A change in lifestyle requires a change in consciousness; a change in the way we view and relate to the world around us. The title of this blog, Nyuntu Ninti, is an aboriginal term meaning “what you should know”. The Anangu people of Uluru, Australia, have existed for about 40,000 years. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in 1788, two hundred thousand  aboriginal people lived in harmony with each other and the land. After their arrival thousands of aborigines died from diseases and their culture almost destroyed. Today, however, these people, like so many indigenous people of other lands, are reminding us of what is truly important. Here are some of the principles that guide their lives and which they offer us:

  • Everything here (in our land) is family. The trees are our family, all the animals that live with us are our family.
  • Our elders have always taught us that we are connected to everything; that “being alive connects you to every other living thing that’s around you. You’re never lost and you’re never, ever alone-you’re one with everything else that there is.”.
  • We never take more that we need. We don’t destroy anything that cannot produce again.
  • We believe Mother Earth looks after us and we in turn must look after her.
  • Everything is ours. Everything is family. No one is without when you think and live that way.

At a time when the world is in such upheaval and violence and hatred are the headlines in the news daily, perhaps we need to reevaluate what is truly important in life; to allow ourselves to have a conversion of heart. I would like to conclude this blog with the Aboriginal Ten Commandments which invite us to base our lives on love and respect.

Aboriginal Ten Commandments

Honor and Respect the Great Creator, the one who is above all.

Honor and Respect the Earth for we are physically and spiritually connected to all living and non-living things as we are their custodian kin.

Honor and Respect our ancient philosophy whereby ‘what is good enough for one is good enough for all’ as no one is above another, for all are equal.

Honor and Respect all members of Humanity for we are one ancient family, united and related through our kinship systems.

Honor and Respect every person’s right to freely practice and express in their own way their unique forms of spirituality, faith and beliefs.

Honor and Respect our ancient rule of sharing with one another so that no one is ever left without.

 Honor and Respect our ancient rule of caring for one another so that no one will ever feel alone.

Honor and Respect both our Elders and Youth for each are very important when it comes to generational change and the advancement of our Peoples.

 Honor and Respect that violence and substance abuse have no place within our lands, homes, and families.

 Honor and Respect other peoples home boundaries and never walk into the home 0f another without first being invited in, as it is our ancient way.

Pope Francis calls for an ecological conversion; a change of heart. The aboriginal wisdom shared above is an invitation to look at our lives and the changes that we are called to make. Imagine a world where Honor and Respect were the touchstones of our lives.


Randall, Bob and Melanie Hogan. Nyuntu Ninti (What you should know). ABC Books, 2009.

Kanyini. A youtube film about the Anangu people of Uluru, Australia

The Aboriginal Ten Commandments

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A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart and Mind

Pope Francis has called for a change of heart and mind regarding protection of Earth. He has stated very clearly that actions which support the future of the planet “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level” and reiterates St. Pope John Paul II’s words “We must encourage and support an ecological conversion.”

Leading global sustainability scientist, Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, says it is time for humanity to adopt a new mindset. Dr. Nicholas says very bluntly that humans are standing on the edge of a cliff brought on by an Exploitation Mindset which sees producing and consuming more material goods as the path to progress and purpose. She proposes a Regeneration Mindset where “we’d conceptualize ‘growth’ as a process of renewal and restoration and care for what matters most.” “This point of view”, she continues, “means finding a way for everyone, now and in the future, to live a good life, within the limits of the biosphere.” Both Pope Francis and Dr. Nicholas are calling for a transformation in the way we view the world and interact with it.

Scientists from around the world are telling us that our planet is in great peril. A previous blog cited the most recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report cited that “Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system. Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”

As the New Year begins, it is an opportune time to reflect on our own lifestyles and ask what steps we can take to move towards a Regenerative Mindset. Dr. Nicholas cites three principles of regeneration: 1) Respect and care for people and nature; 2) Reduce harm at its source, not by treating its symptoms; and 3) Turn our impulse to build toward the building of resilience.

The first principle challenges us to recognize that humans are not the only inhabitants of planet Earth. We share this space with a host of other species; thousands upon thousands of plants and animals as well as rivers, mountains, rocks, glaciers, oceans and more. Each is essential to the well-being of the whole. Where do you see yourself in the community of creation? Do you recognize the value of all that is not human? What steps will you take to live more sustainably and in harmony with the world around you?

Governments are beginning to take steps to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, but that only treats the symptoms, not the root cause of the problems. According to Dr. Nicholas, “To reduce harm to people and nature, trace it back to its origins and look for systemic solutions that stop the harm as completely and quickly as possible…The solution to pollution is not dilution but prevention: designing systems from the start that work with rather than against physics, chemistry, and biology.” Take the time to become better informed about climate change, its causes and effects, and then share your knowledge with others and consciously make choices that reduce your carbon footprint.

Resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks and maintain essential functions. Resilient systems are flexible and work best when they start at the local level and then expand outwards. How can you work with others to make your local community more resilient?

A Regenerative Mindset calls for an ecological conversion. Ecological conversion is defined as the “transformation of hearts and minds toward greater love of God, each other, and creation. It is a process of acknowledging our contribution to the social and ecological crisis and acting in ways that nurture communion: healing and renewing our common home.”

What commitment will you make as the New Year begins that will nurture communion and lead towards the healing and renewing of our common home? Imagine if everyone took just one step…



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What is the Paris Agreement?

More than 170 countries signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “Paris will shape the lives of all future generations in a profound way – it is their future that is at stake.”

The Paris Agreement is a result of the 21st meeting of world leaders designed to address environmental sustainability. The four key points of the agreement are as follows:

  • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century;
  • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2 degrees C (3.6 F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 C.
  • To review progress every five years; and
  • To provide $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

One of the most significant outcomes of the Paris meeting is that the debate on climate change has shifted from whether scientific evidence is strong enough to warrant making aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to accepting the science and exploring how cutting emissions can be achieved without hurting economic growth. The world is now united on this issue and recognizes a moral imperative to act.

Prior to the Paris Meeting (also known as Conference of the Parties (COP) 21) 187 countries submitted Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs are what each country has committed to in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the key points are legally binding within the United Nations framework. The regular review and submission of emission reduction targets will be binding. So too will the $100bn fund from developed economies to help emerging and developing nations move away from burning fossil fuels to clean energy sources. What won’t be legally binding will be the emission targets. These will be determined by nations themselves. Since fiscal policy shapes economic activities, it is imperative that citizens hold their governments accountable for promises made.

What occurred in Paris at COP21 was the “adoption” of the Paris Agreement by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Adoption is the formal act that establishes the form and content of an agreement. 

In addition to adopting the Paris Agreement, the Parties made a number of key decisions about what’s necessary for the Agreement to enter into force.  They also agreed on a process for how countries will finalize their current national climate plans and shift them from being Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  

The Paris Agreement will be in full legal force and effect when at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC that account for at least 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. At this point in time, it is not possible to accurately predict when this will occur, as it depends on how quickly individual countries are able to complete their domestic approval processes. Once the Agreement enters into force, the first meeting of the Parties to the Agreement will occur in conjunction with the next COP.

It is now in the hands of the people in each country to make sure that their governments honor the commitments they have made to the world community. This requires contacting national congresspersons to tell them we want them to honor the commitments the U.S. has made. It also requires asking questions of prospective Presidential candidates about their position on the Paris Agreement. In the words of Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a senior adviser to the U.N., “If the next President does not honor this agreement they would have to blow off the whole rest of the world and I don’t think the United States would find another partner to do that. You’d have to just be the renegade state.”

April 25, 2016

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