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Recommendations for Action: An Alliance for Environmental Justice

Coal Plant on the perimeter of the Moapa Reservation

Indigenous people groups are the people who lived on the land first, they are native to the land, just like a plant or an animal belongs in that region.  Despite this definition that indicates their belong on their land, they are the population that has most frequently been ignored when decisions are made about how their native land should be used.  Much of this has its roots in colonial ideologies, which support western ideals and development of or extraction from land.  Repeatedly in history, society has prioritized the interests of the colonizer, who are typically white, whose interests usually lie in utilizing the land without considering its consequences.  In modern times, it is the government that has the power to regulate industry actions, and usually it prioritizes economic interests. Currently in the United States of America, only 40% of the population is aware that indigenous people still exist in the US.[1]  This lack of awareness is due to lack of representation, gaps in public education, and lack of media coverage surrounding indigenous issues. Additionally, native nations in the US have been quarantined into reservation land that was strategically given so that valuable land remained in non-native hands.  This confiscation of valuable land even took place after treaties, like when the black hills were taken back because of gold, despite being promised to the Sioux Nation just a few years before.[2]  Because the reservation system was not designed for indigenous wellbeing and little public awareness, many native nations have fallen into poverty and poor health.  Much of this has been worsened through resource extraction, deforestation, or pollution by private, non-native owned companies.  These impact are often not known by the public and companies feel little need to remediate land because of limited enforcement from governmental agencies and native nations being a minority group.  Because the land is being destroyed, the already less useful land cannot be used and these communities slip further into poverty. On a larger scale, detriment to the environment impacts everyone, so while it is the indigenous communities that receive the most negative impact, due to wind currents, the hydraulic cycle and other earth systems, pollution eventually makes its way to every corner of the planet.  This means that mistreatment of indigenous people should be a priority to everyone. Many of these native nations have cultures that are deeply attached to nature, which means that when their ecosystem is disturbed it impacts them culturally or spiritually as well.  For this reason, it is important that this issue is approached, not only through protection and revival of ecosystems, but more holistically, through programs that support all of the needs of the community. After many broken promises by the government, many of these communities have been left broken with little hope of achieving the rights that they deserve.  In order for a program to be effective, it needs to empower the communities, prepare them to defend their rights and lands effectively, and provide programming that resolves current environmental problems.

A great model of what could be done in the United States is the Avianza Ceibo organization, which was further discussed here: https://uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/571bfc178948a4cfce4737fb63bc04a0/indigenous-environmental-justice/index.html. This is a program in the Northern Amazon region of South America that is made up of the indigenous people from four nations: the A’Kofan, the Siekopai, the Siona, and the Waorani.  These nations were previously warring, but their fight for environmental justice has united them.  The issues that they are addressing are: lack of clean water, defending their rights as indigenous people, mapping their territories, monitoring the ecosystem in which they live, increasing female involvement in community issues, and increasing electricity access through solar voltaic panels.

This model would be advantageous to follow because their struggles are different, but similar, to those experienced by native peoples in the United States. It is a common misconception that indigenous people are and always have been united.  Native American Nations, like neighboring nations elsewhere in the world, have been in conflict and formed alliances throughout their history. That being said, they do share many of the same experiences of trauma from colonial actions and the movement west, which has bonded them today.  Some of the most famous instances of indigenous unification in the United States have been the “Red Power Movement” in the 1960s and most recently the Standing Rock Protests.  The Standing Rock Protests in Cannonball, North Dakota drew support from over 200 American and Canadian native nations, as well as non-native support.  This was a movement that unified indigenous peoples of many different nations to fight for one cause, their indigenous environmental rights.  It was a display of indigenous pride that had not been broadcasted to the public for decades and it reached the homes and minds of people globally.  Because of their actions the Obama Administration halted progress on the pipeline.  This was not a permanent ban, but most recently a federal judge has once again halted the progress that the Trump Administration had restarted.  This would not have been possible without the voices of indigenous nations.  The momentum and unification is clearly present and gives hope that some form of organization similar to Alianza Ceibo could be created.  It is important to use this momentum to move forward.

The organization for American native nations should have more than one goal, like the Alianza Ceibo.  These goals should include environmental protection and remediation, protecting their rights and cultural practices, native empowerment, and improving infrastructure in indigenous communities.  Though this sounds like a daunting number of goals for an organization, they are all crucial to the betterment of life on reservation land.  Each part plays a role in the success of the other goals, meaning that the momentum currently seen in the media needs to be focused on completing these goals.  The pace of these changes is dependent on government agreement and funding. Because of the reservation system, many native nations have high rates of poverty, which may limit the success of their actions. Money can be the difference between success and failure of an organization, which makes it important that this organization has financial backing.  Because support for the Standing Rock Protests were tremendous, it is likely that there will be enough support for an alliance to protect and ensure native nations their environmental and human rights.  The current administration, the Trump Administration, is focused on deregulation and prioritization of corporate interests, especially oil and gas. This will be disadvantageous for this movement because regulation of industry is one of the methods that may help to improve indigenous wellbeing.  However, the public does have power in a democracy and if the movement can get the backing of the majority, governmental change will occur. Additionally, self advocacy can be viewed as dangerous because police violence is known to be more severe in minority, people of color communities and native nations experience this as well. However, this risk has been willingly taken in the past and the very reason to fighting is for greater rights and wellbeing of their people who may otherwise be impacted by oppression currently or in the future.  

Those that need to be involved in this organization are indigenous people, themselves, with the financial aid and some alternative forms of aid (like materials or legal counseling) potentially from outside sources.  It is important that indigenous nations have ownership of their fight for equal rights.  Their involvement is also crucial in assuring that the most urgent issues are addressed first.  These actions should include using the law to improve their circumstances as well as proposing new legislation.  Legal actions may be focused on preventing businesses and corporations from causing new or more destruction, but it may also be focused on access to or repossession of sacred land that has been lost.  Next should be remediation projects in order to revive the land that has been destroyed by resource extraction and land use.  Not only will this allow them to use this land in the future, but it will help mitigate the impacts that the pollution and deforestation is having on the health of their populations today.  Additionally, there should be movement to improve the quality of life on reservations.  Many homes on reservation lands do not have access to clean drinking water and many other amenities that may be considered standard in the United States.  This would be a great opportunity to implement sustainable practices because they are not confined to old infrastructure and it would better the standard of living of these populations.  Lastly, similar to the goals of Alianzo Ceibo, this program should work to increase native pride and unity through defending their rights, protecting their histories, and saving their lands. Because the alliance would be organized by indigenous communities and change conducted by these people, there would be pride in their accomplishments, motivation for future action, and overall better well being among indigenous communities in the United States.  Through the unification of some native nations, others outside of the alliance will also benefit because increased visibility and policy changes can set a precedent for future indigenous environmental and social justice. 

The measurement for the success of this alliance will be multi-faceted.  It can be measured quantitatively through the number of new water collection systems or water purification systems that are installed on the reservation, the amount of land remediated, the number of houses that are provided electricity in a sustainable manner, etc. It can also be measured more qualitatively by the quality of life that is experienced on and off reservations by indigenous people.  Though qualitative, it can be measured through quantitative indicators of higher standard of living, such as life expectancy, cancer rates, and mental health. 

The best action regarding the issue of indigenous environmental justice is the unification of native nations to defend their rights and implement change. The goals should include environmental protection and remediation, protecting their rights and cultural practices, native empowerment, and improving infrastructure.  This should be done through legal actions as well as physically remediating land and improving infrastructure.  It is incredibly important that these communities are also broadcasting their voice and increasing support through media attention. Most of all, it is important that this is their movement and not controlled by outside individuals.  It is important for them to form alliances to support their cause, but it should remain authentic to their goals and culture. Growing this alliance may be slow or difficult, but self advocacy for indigenous rights is the most sustainable mode for action.     

** Because I am not an indigenous, nor do I live on a reservation, I have kept the goals of this project fairly general. Historically, some interventions have been poorly executed on reservations because outsiders thought they knew what native nations needed.  I have seen this first hand when visiting Pine Ridge Reservation, SD.  In towns on the reservation, such as La Plant, one can see an abandoned YMCA and evidence of Habitat Humanity, which are both successful organizations, but did not meet the needs of the people living there, thus they failed.  For this reason, I have included general goals like “environmental protection and remediation, protecting their rights and cultural practices, native empowerment, and improving infrastructure in indigenous communities”, but I have not specified exactly what infrastructure project should be completed first. Social justice, even regarding the environment, should include input from the community of what is the greatest need.  Native people in the United States are a people group that has consistently been overruled by non-native control, it is important that these actions listen to their needs. 

Crazy Horse Memorial to commemorate a indigenous hero.

[1]“Research Findings: Compilation of All Research.” Reclaiming Native Truth, June 2018. https://www.reclaimingnativetruth.com/research/.

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Innovation: Activating Indigenous Activists

The program being proposed is called Activating Indigenous Activists (AIA).  AIA’s goal is to improve indigenous environmental justice advocacy skills and encourage the action within indigenous communities.  In order to improve the skills of those advocating for environmental justice in indigenous communities advocates will be trained to refine their skills and understand how to maintain cultural integrity, but also expand their techniques to reach and appeal to federal agencies that may have different cultural values.

In indigenous nations, collectively, in the United States of America, there is a lot of action  being made to protect the environmental rights of their people.  Some traction has been made, but many of the leaders of these movements have little training in political interactions.  Though this may be successful when done organically, further development of communication skills and working on techniques to increase visibility may increase rates of success.  Additionally, employment of many native communities in the US is lower than the national average, and this program would provide positions for individuals living on reservations.  

The reason for employing native individuals in the program is for several different reasons.  The first is cross-cultural interaction and understanding.  By having employees of this not-for-profit organization be from different native nations as well as non-native background, the integrity of native goals will be upheld and understanding of how to employ these cultural beliefs in conversation with federal agencies will be gained.  It is very important, as well, that indigenous employees are from different native nations because indigenous cultures differ, therefore, depending on what people group is self-advocating, different employees should be consulted.

Due to the size of the United States of America, it is important that multiple channels are employed to distribute information.  The first, and most accessible option is physical copies of training material.  This material will be fairly generic and will be divided by subject, such as property remediation.  This same information will also be available online via articles, guides, and different training videos.  Through developing paper and digital copies the information will be more accessible.  This material will be developed through the coordination of indigenous and non-indigenous employees of the organization with the goals to maintain cultural integrity, while strategically working with federal agencies, corporations, etc.  The next and more complicated channel will be through training workshops with event and community specific employees.  This means that depending on the environmental justice issue being addressed, different, specialized employees will lead the workshop.  This specificity will improve the success of our training workshops and empower communities to advocate for their environmental justice.

This project will be non-profit meaning all income and donations will go to employing individuals, travel fairs, and developing materials.  The materials online will be through a subscription program meaning that native nations can subscribe to receive the materials on a monthly or yearly basis.  The location specific workshops will have a low fee in order to cover travel costs and the employees working the workshops.  Though this project will not have net monetary gain, however all costs will be met and indigenous individuals will be more prepared and confident in self-advocacy.

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Organization: Indigenous People for Indigenous People

One organization that is working towards indigenous environmental justice is Indigenous Climate Action.  This is a Canada based organization that is founded by indigenous people for indigenous people, and ultimately the wellbeing of all humans.  As an organization, they believe that indigenous people do and should play a large role in climate change solutions, that maintaining their sovereignty and autonomy is crucial to climate justice, and that they should be guided by their ancestral wisdom of Elders to reclaim their

“roles and responsibilities as stewards, caretakers and protectors of the lands, waterways, and biodiversity of the planet, as well as ensure Indigenous cultural and spiritual survival.”

As an organization they do a few different things, but their main focus is their Toolkit.  The toolkit is a communication method that focus on bringing indigenous peoples to the “front-lines of both climate impacts and efforts to protect the earth” by providing these community information on policies and strategies that address climate change.  They provide the information through gatherings that educate indigenous peoples on climate change and its impact on land and livelihood, with the goal to bring indigenous peoples together and tackle the issue collectively. The second thing that they do is “amplify voices”.  Indigenous people groups are communities that have historically been silenced, so this organization aims using their knowledge and rights in order to bring climate change and its impact to the forefront of public discussion. They also create resources for indigenous people to create climate change solutions within their own communities.  Lastly, they work to support indigenous sovereignty, meaning they are working to protect their ability to control what occurs on their territory and to their people, a lot of which can be addressed through environmental justice actions.

On day three of the Solidarity to Solutions Week 

I think that overall this organization acts to fulfill our definition of sustainability.  This organization is attempting to convert non-sustainable aspects of society into a more sustainable version.  In order to do so they are communicating with their community to spread awareness so that their future can be ensured.  People in this community are experiencing natural aspects of their life and ancestors’ lives changing, such as animal migratory patterns, extinction of necessary species, and climate changes, such as the loss of permafrost.  These aspects are completely altering how they have lived for centuries and is forcing adaptation. This organization, through communications, is trying to increase awareness and call them to action to protect their wellbeing and the planet around them.  Through this they are trying to ensure the wellbeing of their future generations. These actions include protesting pipelines, which leak often polluting waterways, and create GHG emissions when used as energy. They also are educating the public on why these environmental disasters and climate change are social justice issues.  This organization support political actions that support the wellbeing of indigenous peoples, which later allow them to protect their communities from environmental injustices. The organization aims at bettering the wellbeing of indigenous people in Canada but also in the United States; attending hearings, protests, and meetings in the United States; and globally in involving themselves in United Nations events.  All of these methods meet the goals of the definition of sustainability created in class.

“Vision.” Indigenous Climate Action. https://www.indigenousclimateaction.com.

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Systems Thinking: How it all intersects


            Systems thinking is a holistic method for analyzing an issue.  When applying this method to sustainability it includes looking at every part of the issue or process to identify ways in which to modify the issue so that it is made more sustainable, according to the definition of sustainability found in my “what is sustainability” tab.  

Figure 1

            In order to use systems thinking regarding resource extraction and indigenous environmental justice, I have created Figure 1.  Organizing the complexity of this issue in this manner demonstrates how systems thinking works and allowed me to consider the interconnectedness of this system.  To do so, I broke the issue down into what causes this problem, who and what this problem impacts, ways this problem could be solved, and the limitations to solving this issue.  The causes include what elements play a role in indigenous environmental injustices caused by resource extraction.  These causes include differences in social economic status and culture, racism, public awareness of issues, how the media covers the topic, the interest of corporations and big business, resource demand, a lack of regulation, politics and the complexities of the reservation system.  All of these elements play a role in the occurrence or violation of environmental justice.  The impacts category includes the stakeholders of this issue.  In the instance of resource extraction and indigenous people in the United States, the stakeholders are the indigenous people, citizens living downstream/downwind from resource extraction areas, the corporations, small businesses, NGOs and governmental organizations such as: the EPA, OSHA, NIOSH, MSHA, USDOL, and USDA.  All of these have a variety of solutions and limitations that you can observe in Figure 1.  In order to explain how systems thinking works, I have outlined the connection to one cause of this issue in red, as seen in Figure 2.  The cause I selected was the lack of regulation.  Many environmental justice issues occur purely because regulation is either too weak, does not exist, or favors economic interests.  This failure to regulate not only impacts the indigenous people, but any citizen living downstream or downwind of the resource extraction area.  Small businesses and farmers can also be negatively impacted if their land is polluted.  This lack of regulation can impact big business positively, allowing them to extract with low costs.  Alternatively, lack of regulation can lead to environmental tragedies, like oil polluting our waterways, that forces the business to frantically defend their actions, pay for cleaning the spill.  Lastly, organizations can be drawn into environmental justice issues regarding resource extraction, as they may be criticized for not regulating, have to increase regulations, and enforce regulations.  Some solutions to the issue of lack of regulation includes increasing public awareness and education on issues so that they vote for representatives that support regulations, increasing representation of indigenous communities in the US government, and simply increasing resource extraction regulations to decrease environmental injustices.  In figure 2 I checked the limitations that apply to remedying the lack of regulation. 

Figure 2

            Because this one cause is connected with so many of the impacted, solutions, and limitations it is clear that it is important to consider all aspects of the issue.  Systems thinking is a more efficient method to creating interventions.  This is because it requires the consideration of all aspects of the issue prior to attacking the issue.  Without doing so, actions taken may not be as effective.

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Individual Action – How to Approach Indigenous Environmental Justice!

The process of extracting, processing and transporting minerals very complicated and riddled with spills, pollution, and harmful emissions. The impact of resource extraction affects everyone, but disproportionately interferes with the health and wellbeing of minority groups. This is a fact that is recognized by the United States Environmental Agency (EPA) as an environmental justice issue.[1] Native nations in the US have a long history of being mistreated and discounted by the United States Government. Some common examples of indigenous environmental injustices include the aftermath of the gold rush in the Black Hills, uranium mining on Navajo land and pipeline protests in Standing Rock. All of these actions, at the time, were approved by the federal government and negatively impacted the native nations living at those locations. It can be hard to see ways in which an individual can act to protect the rights of native nations when it is the federal government completing the environmental injustice, however there are ways an individual can help. The first method is through spreading the word and increasing public knowledge, the second is avoiding a “not in my backyard” mentality and lastly using your voting privilege to push environmental justice agendas.

The first method I mentioned to combat environmental injustices is through increasing public awareness. Spreading the word to friends, family, and peers about what is going on creates momentum for change. Media has a lot of control in what people perceive to be important. This was seen during the Standing Rock Protests in 2016. Suddenly, much of the country was aware of a native nation issue, which is a community rarely emphasized by the media. This resulted in many people contacting their representatives about their views, hosting local protests for or against the pipeline, and discussing issue in daily conversation. This very much changed once media turned their attention away from the protests. Suddenly it felt as if the issue had been resolved, even though it was still occurring. While it was being covered and discussed, it pushed action from President Obama and later President Trump. This was a clear example of the media and conversation pushing federal action where it may have otherwise been dragged. It is important that those who are invested in the issue continue the conversation so that the problems are not dropped. Public awareness encourages action, thus creating political momentum that may resolve some of the injustices or at least cause the public to question political or industry actions.

The second method of individual action is to avoid “not in my backyard” mentality. This is the idea that the public is fine with something as long as it is not in their backyard. This mentality could even be something that they, in theory, support. An example of this is supporting wind energy, but not wanting to have a wind turbine in their town for aesthetic reasons. Commonly, wealthier communities will argue for factories or other undesirable infrastructure to not occur in their town. This pushes these things to poorer areas that are commonly occupied by minorities. Instead of arguing it out of your backyard, consider arguing for alternatives. The solution is to figure out a more sustainable, less dangerous or environmentally polluting method. Or to find an area that has the least impact on the public and environment, if possible. It is important that the problem is not forgotten the second it leaves the possibility of being in your backyard.

The last method for individual action against native environmental injustices caused by resource extraction is to use your voice. Use your vote to elect officials and politicians that support your desire to uphold environmental justice in resource extraction practices. By doing so, native nations may be less impacted by the pollution occurring or remaining on their land. While it is easy to feel like just one person in a sea of many, your vote can help elect representatives and politicians that will fight for the causes that you support. This is a way to amplify your voice.

Through discussing environmental justice issues regarding resource extraction on reservation land, avoiding “not in my backyard” mentality, and amplifying individual voice through voting in representatives and politicians that support indigenous rights, the nation can take steps towards environmental justice for native nations. These individual actions may be frustrating because they are not always instantly gratifying. Despite this, they are effective. Legislation could definitely aid this process, but there is not enough public push or federal desire to increase the protection of these people. Additionally the federal agencies that regulate the environmental impact of companies are currently stretched thin so that regulations, if improved, may not be feasible to be enforced. The suggestion actions however, do meet the definition of sustainability included in my about section because these actions support ethical economic development that avoids the exploitation of environment and elevates the standard of wellbeing on native lands.

 

[1] Environmental Justice. (2018, May 18). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice

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Problem Identification: Resource Extraction and Its Impact on Indigenous Communities

Environmental justice, or “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies”[1], was first recognized in the US during the 1980s. Through this definition, it has been recognized that minority groups are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation.[2] Indigenous nations in the United States are not excluded from this statistic, in fact, throughout history the United States government has consistently prioritized the extraction of materials and the use of land for its citizens over the well-being of indigenous peoples. For this reason, indigenous nations have repeatedly been the victims of environmental destruction.

One of the most well-known environmental justice issues involving native nations and the US government was the gold rush in the Black Hills. The gold rush in California during the 1940s was only the start of this era as this rush quickly spread throughout the country in the following decades. It reached the Black hills when traces of gold were found downstream in the 1870s. Immediately, there was a desire to investigate the area for its source. This was complicated because only a few years prior to the discovery of gold, the Sioux Nation had signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1968 with the US government. This treaty designated the western half of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, as tribal lands. However, by 1974, when the US government failed to negotiate the land back for gold mining, the US Congress decided to get rid of these treaties and mine the land anyway. This forced the people onto reservations and caused the destruction of sacred lands that had been inhabited by the Sioux and other native nations for centuries. During the time this land was mined, it is estimated that 500 billion ounces, or $9 trillion of gold was removed from those hills.[3] Yet, the same people forced to relocate are now the poorest people in the nation. According to the 2010 United States Census sited Shannon County, part of Sioux reservation land, as having the lowest per capita in the country. Furthermore, Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Crow Creek counties, all part of the Sioux reservation, are listed just below Shannon County as the poorest counties in the nation. This is compounded with a 70% unemployment rate, high drug-use rates, a 10% high school graduation rate, and an average life expectancy of 40.[4] Today, the result of the abandoned gold mines is waste runoff that pollutes the water with harmful heavy metals and acids.[5] Meanwhile, the only recognition of these injustices occurred a century later in 1980 when the Supreme Court sided with the Sioux that the government was wrong in the taking of the Black Hills.[6] Still, little has been done to right these wrongs.

A second, more recent environmental injustice by the US government started in the 1940s with the extraction of Uranium from Navajo Reservation land in Arizona and New Mexico. Between then and the 1980s the federal government purchased millions of tons of uranium ore from privately owned companies blasting this land. For the first 30 years, the US was legally the sole purchaser of this uranium.[7] The uranium industry served as a job for the Navajo people who, like the Sioux, had been forced to live on government allotted reservation lands. However, nobody explained to the workers that mining uranium was exposing workers to radiation that would later cause cancer rates to skyrocket. The correlation between uranium mining and lung cancer had been discovered in 1879 in Europe and by the 1950s they knew that uranium was the cause, yet the native workers were not alerted or provided appropriate protective equipment.[8] This lack of information continued to be an issue when the mining companies left because the government did not enforce the clean up of the mines.[9] The chemicals and wastes left behind completely contaminated the water of the area, and without proper knowledge the people continued to drink, bathe, and use the water, intaking the uranium and damaging their kidneys from its toxicity. Living near the abandoned mines is also impacting reproduction and development for not only humans but the animals living in the area.[10] This became even more of an issue in July of 1979 when a dam located near the United Nuclear Corp.’s uranium mill failed and carried 1,100 tons of milling waste and 94 million gallons of wastewater to the Puerco River, which flows right through the Navajo reservation. This caused 80 miles of the river and land around it to be contaminated with this radioactive waste, making this the largest release of radioactive material in US history.[11]

It was not until 2008 that the EPA decided to start taking action by cleaning up mine waste at the expense of the private mining companies. Because many of the private mining companies are bankrupt or no longer exist, this process is moving very slowly.[12]

The most recent, and likely the most publicized environmental injustice to indigenous groups has been the employment of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline is being built by the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois daily. Pipelines are a useful tool in transporting oil, yet they leak frequently. According to reports from The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there have been over 3,300 leaks and ruptures of pipelines between 2010 and 2016. For the reason of spills, the Sioux people, with the support of many other native nations, have protested the installation because it will travel underneath the Missouri River, which is their primary drinking water source. Additionally, the land the pipeline would cross is an ancient burial ground of the Standing Rock Sioux. On top of the other reasons, the government also failed to consult tribal leaders during the permitting process of the pipeline, which is required under federal law.[13] Despite all of this, President Trump approved the pipeline.

Over the next three months I will explore potential sustainable solutions surrounding this issue of resource extraction and environmental justice in native nations. In order for the solutions to be sustainable they must serve to meet the social and economic needs of the present and the future without exceeding planetary boundaries.  This is best achieved using an inclusive and transparent process based on scientific principles that ensures:

  • resource use that maximizes renewal, encourages re-use, and minimizes waste while protecting and restoring the health of natural systems, all organisms and biodiversity; and reducing pollution and mitigating global climate change;
  • ethical economic development that promotes equitable opportunity and empowers rather than exploits people and the environment, and does not undermine peoples’ capacity to meet their own needs; and
  • an elevated standard of human well-being for all people including but not limited to improved health and increased equitable access to basic human rights.

This will all be considered in relation to the concept that we are living in the epoch of the Anthropocene. This epoch is being called the Anthropocene because of the argument that the earth is being permanently changed by human (or anthro-) activity. Environmental justice for native nations includes understanding that human impact alters how humans and other species, alike, exist. The native nations in the United States, being a minority population, are being especially impacted by these anthropogenic changes, thus the ideas of the Anthropocene epoch should be considered.

[1] Environmental Justice. (2018, May 18). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice

[2] Ibid.

[3] Little Finger, L. (2014, March). We Walk on Our Ancestors: The Sacredness of the Black Hills. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/we-walk-our-ancestors-sacredness-black-hills

[4] Kristof, N. (2012, May 10). Poverty’s Poster Child. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/kristof-povertys-poster-child.html

[5] Rahn, P. H., Davis, A. D., Webb, C. J., & Nichols, A. D. (1995, April 10). Water quality impacts from mining in the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA. Retrieved from https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00770601

[6] History of the Black Hills. (2018, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/wica/learn/historyculture/history-of-the-black-hills.htm

[7] Morales, L. (2016, April 10). For The Navajo Nation, Uranium Mining’s Deadly Legacy Lingers. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/10/473547227/for-the-navajo-nation-uranium-minings-deadly-legacy-lingers

[8] Arnold, C. (2014). Once Upon a Mine: The Legacy of Uranium on the Navajo Nation. Environmental Health Perspectives, 122(2). doi:10.1289/ehp.122-a44

[9] Shebala, M., & Navajo Times. (2009, July 23). Poison in the earth. Retrieved from http://navajotimes.com/news/2009/0709/072309uranium.php

[10] Arnold, Ibid.

[11] Shebala, Ibid.

[12] Morales, Ibid.

[13] Worland, J. (2016, October 28). Dakota Access Pipeline: What to Know About the Controversy. Retrieved from http://time.com/4548566/dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux/

 

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