The Meaning of Winter Solstice at Door Creek Park

By Brock Woods, Madnorski Trails Chair

The sun has just set on the longest night of the year at Door Creek Park. And two dozen hardy club members just helped to inaugurate our new major east-side ski park!

12 degrees on this first day of our winter. And though many had cold hands and feet, everyone I spoke with was pleased—and warmed—by their winding ski through a picturesque, semi-wild park most had never visited before. What mostly concerned us was how to fulfill the park’s obvious ski trail potential!

This is worlds away from what many humans used to worry about on the solstice! For most of the time we have lived in northern parts of the world we have wondered on this day how we would live through the cold months ahead, before a new growing season would warm and feed us. We worried, and acted.

So, what did we do then to ensure enough of us would make it to keep our species alive? We learned to save, and to commit our resources in the best ways we could think of to make them last. And we partied, or prayed, or both because we just didn’t know enough to be sure…

5,000 years ago at Stonehenge on this very night thousands gathered from all over England to do these things. And a thousand years ago our skiing Norse forbears “celebrated” their Yule with 12 nights of similar activities–for the same worrisome reasons.

Some of us still note the solstice, but no more do we worry about the continued existence of our kind. We should. Again. We have used our planet to get our food and shelter in increasingly technological ways, built largely on fossil fuels, and around the use and destruction of the homes and sustenance of most of our planet’s other species. Evidence shows that this kind of subsidized existence is unlikely to continue for much longer since, like it or not, our way of life depends on the lives of the other species around us. Enough of them must have healthy places to live so we can continue to do so.

This demands change. Only about 1/6 of continents and 1/12 of oceans have any kind of protection now. It’s not enough, so two days ago the COP 15 Biodiversity Summit made a major commitment to try halting the loss of hundreds of thousands of threatened plants and animals. Almost 200 countries agreed to a landmark framework called COP15 to protect nearly 30% of Earth’s surface as refuge for wildlife by 2030, dubbed “30 by 30”.

All good, right? Well, it’s going to take perhaps $598 to $824 billion a year to get it done, and only $200 billion has been committed. What’s more, our country has never even become a party to the treaty—about the only country not to! We participated in negotiations, but our Senate would never ratify our official participation as far back as when Clinton was president!

So, what can we do? First, write every politician we can stand writing to to join the rest of the world in this effort. Also, give our fair share and perhaps even lead the world to more realistic support! Also, of course, give to your favorite conservation organization. And drive less.

Few of us in 21st century America worry much on the winter solstice about heading off to cold homes, or about what food we’ll find until next summer, but unless we make the right choices now we may have to begin worrying about more than just making it to next year. Thanks for listening!