Sunday, October 5, 2008

Verse 6 - Dirty Energy Bootcamp

We met with Wahleih Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC) and Jihon Gearon of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) in Flagstaff Arizona. The walls were plastered with defiance that washed over me as a sign of hope. This meeting was, for me, like the first day in dirty energy 101, bootcamp style. The disturbing news I'd read about on the internet or at work surrounding mining and oil were suddenly right there, in the room - two young beautiful bright women about the same age as me, whose lives are directly impacted by the effects of mining in their back yard. The connection I felt was penetrating.

In a story that goes back to the inception of Arizona and questions of how to power the growing urban areas of Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Peabody Coal began mining on Navajo land before Wahleih was born. Using pristine ground water from the Navajo aquifer Peabody built the longest pipeline and the only of it's kind in North America for transporting coal 300 miles away from Black Mesa and in the process using about 3.3 million gallons a day of drinking water.

Black Mesa Water Coalition formed to protect the Navajo ground water.

Due to pressure from the Black Mesa Water Coalition and other community groups in 2005 the Black Mesa Mine was shut down and for a time the misuse of water was halted. Now, the entire issue has been reopened. At stake is the reopening of the Black Mesa Mine, merging it with the Kayenta Mine, and allowing Peabody Western Coal Company the right to mine coal until there is no coal left.

Something Wahleih said sticks with me, she said that the elders reminded her that as long as their communities live on top of precious resources the battle will never stop. That is true for now, but Wahleih and team have plans that could side step that with proper support. They have formed a green jobs initiative and the future looks bright!

Indigenous Environmental Network works with groups across the USA and Canada such as The Black Mesa Water Coalition to connect them and to serve as a watch dog on national and international policy, mobilizing their network when needed.
The bulk of their focus is on:

  • Tribal campus sustainability projects, such as community gardening, solar installation, etc..

  • The red oil network (resisting environmental destruction on indigenous land) which is focused in Alaska

  • The Tar Sands in Canada

Jihan's work specifically focuses on several other campaigns that do not fall into these areas, connecting all of the varied groups together, and aiding in providing the support and training they need to launch their own campaigns.

One area of her work that stands out for me is the Tar Sands in Alberta Canada. One world's largest deposit of tar sands occur in Canada in Fort McMurray and the situation there is like the gold rush, but for oil.

Extracting oil from Tar Sands requires an enormous amount of energy including oversized machinery to knock down forests and then scoop up two tons of sand to extract the bitumen, to then upgrade to remove impurities. "Making one barrel of oil from the sands generates two barrels of toxic waste."

The resulting destruction and environmental degradation there is massive. If you're like me and you find your nuggets of truth these days on blogs and late shows do visit the green peace spoof site to get a glimpse.
Planned development in the area to meet US addiction to oil (about 16% of US oil comes from northern Alberta) is the size of Florida.

Already Native communities that live down stream from the Tar Sands are being affected. The animals are getting sick and the communities who live off of the land and hunt animals for survival and are being contaminated by animals with tumors and illness and toxic water.

That is true insanity.

Check out this resource:

Canada's Highway to Hell

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