Thursday, May 19, 2011

From The Ground =/= Green

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

I know, I know. Some of the readers wanted to read a scathing “Fuck you” to the government about the Geronimo codename. However, I believed that many others did the information justice and many more famous Indians have covered it. I thought that my voice would have just been my own ego-rage-ranting. But I digress.

An issue that should probably deserve more attention, especially from so-called Green Eco Friendly Liberals, is the issue of energy. Uranium is still marketed as a clean way to make electricity, even in the wake of Japan’s tsunami. However, I disagree with Jeff Gerritsen (link above) that poisoning and side effects were unintended. The effects were quite known, and it was a simple case of the government not giving two shits. Hell, it’d ~*FIIINAALLLY!*~ get rid of their Indian problem in the West.

Effects of Uranium mining, for example, are: birth defects, leukemia, cancerous growths, breathing problems (from inhalation of contaminants in the mines), stomach problems (from ingestion of contaminants), blindness, bone/limb injury, infection of open wounds, head injury, tetanus, fainting spells/dizziness, etc.

Coal mining (which was proposed by Bush as super awesome; I am sure many remember the pro-coal ads) is also toted as a viable solution. Sure, if you’re poor and not-white, that is. Notice the majority of the mining accidents over the few years are in poor, POC filled areas. Even south of the border was affected. These are expendable workers, and often face the same human rights violations as other hard labor workers. Efforts to unionize and demand better pay, treatment, and care have been violently resisted; folks may remember Harlan County versus megacorp Duke and the subsequent shitfest that was.

Coal and Uranium aren’t the only things greedy CEO’s go digging for. Oil is also a big commodity, and right now the reservations in Canada are being affected by a major Oil spill in the Peace Region. Wildlife will also be affected and thus hurt meat food supplies for the locals. Major oil companies in numerous countries want to push for offshore drilling in the Arctic region. Of course, it seems these companies are having amnesia over BP, which is still affecting the area.

Many would argue that it’s clearly a choice to work in these areas. If these individuals knew the risks, of course they’d avoid that job, right? Well, if it’s the only viable option for work (which is how they strategically place these mining spots, by the way), it’s either a) work there b) don’t work, possibly go to crime, and get arrested (side note: the biggest prisons happen to be near the biggest mining areas. Hmmm), and c) get the hell out of Dodge. If you can barely afford things, getting the hell out of Dodge is a tougher option than most. Education is poor around the area; so many merit-based scholarships will not be granted to individuals seeking higher education elsewhere from the mining town. Typically, colleges are FAR AWAY from mining areas, and sometimes are in the next state over or on the other side of the state. Being that segregated from family could be a toll on the person.

With a risky job, one would assume the health insurance and coverage would be great. Cops who work traffic, for example, get double pay per hour because of the risk. That is not so with miners. On reservations, for example, hours are spent waiting just to be seen, and much of the equipment is sub-par and can’t pick up things. Months of waiting for blood test results, because they are often at the bottom of the barrel for testing. Often times one is asked to revisit because their blood was tested ‘inconclusive’, which really means ‘the sample got old and bad because we waited too fucking long’. With the life expectancy to be so down for Native Americans already, mining and the effects of environmental hazard mismanagements can be detrimental.

Many so-called environmental groups tout these things as viable options, conveniently ignoring the cold hard facts about these resources. They aren’t viable if human, animal, and plant life is considered expendable. Just because it comes from the ground does not make it “green”.

By the time you read this, the Diné group in northern New Mexico will be at a hearing to fight Hydro Resources, Inc. and their Uranium mining industry nearby. Their argument is that allowing them to mine Uranium nearby is a violation of human rights. We will see how this turns out, and my thoughts are with them.

As always, I don’t leave you guys without goodies. Two movies that are interesting, and are also documentaries, are Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action, and Harlan County, USA. A great place to be updated on the impacts on Indigenous people worldwide and environmentalism is Indigenous Environmental Network.