Friday, 15 January 2010

Down Came the Rain and Washed it all Away

Today it rained and now most of the snow that was hanging out, making everything white, is gone, melted, washed into the drains and the river and out to sea.

Yesterday it snowed. Today the weather people predicted a high of three. What a difference is made by a few degrees.

Today I did some more research for my essay on the difference of views on natural resource extraction between industrial-capitalist societies and indigenous societies. Well, I'm still learning, but I think the main one would be that the indigenous societies are by and large not subscribers to industrial-capitalism. But would they be if they could be? That's the question I'm wondering about now. Taking this conversation down to the level of the American Indian, I'm concerned that they might convert. I was reading about a few organizations, mainly the Council of energy Resource Tribes (CERT) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Now, as I understand it, the American Indians traditionally see themselves as being a part of nature--animate and inanimate. All things in nature have what you might call a soul or a spirit. They believe that natural features, such as mountains or rocks, can be ancestors. (I am looking for a good source to back this up or correct it.) Anyway, they see themselves as part of the Creator's creation, not above anything else, connected to everything else, and they believe they have a responsibility to the creator, to their families and their tribes to protect it. Surely, this doesn't mean that they've never made mistakes, but the belief and sense of responsibility remain.

Then there's the problem of economic development. Say all along the way, all throughout colonization and the establishment of the United States, settlers, reservations, etc. the American Indians were given a choice and rejected the industrial-capitalist way of life. They said, no we don't want to participate. All along, they've been underdeveloped as compared to their non-Indian neighbors (possibly mostly due to the fact that they weren't left with the best land, sometimes removed from their traditional lands completely, and separated from their traditional ways of life, hunting, farming, obtaining water, etc). Now, they want to develop. One might say, as someone somewhere in my reading did, that economic development is essential to survival. So what routes to economic development are available to them? Selling off land as storage space for nuclear waste? Selling off land -- to developers, miners, whoever will buy it? Selling off natural resources? Developing their own land, opening doors to tourism and gamblers, casinos?

So there are these economic pressures. And CERT and BIA are interested in helping the tribes develop economically (as some tribes see the worst unemployment rates and poverty rates in the country) while balancing their environmental concerns. The concern is that these pressures might cause the tribes to trade long-term environmental problems for short-term economic benefits. There was one tribe in Minnesota, I think, that voted to be a place to store these mobile nuclear storage bins. And another in Utah, but the governor or some government official said he didn't want them in the state. Scary when some government man is the one giving more consideration to environmental and health effects and future generations.

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