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On April 1, 2010, Green For All hosted a Clean Energy Jobs Convening in Albuquerque at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Sponsors of the event included Green For All, Sierra Club, Concept Green, LLC, Renewable Funding, Central New Mexico Labor Council and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. The two featured speakers included State Senator Tim Keller and Jeremy Hays (Green For All, Clean Energy Works Portland).

(One of the event sponsors, Green For All, an organization based out of Oakland, CA, has committed to environmental and economic justice through the promotion of green jobs with justice. I honor and respect the work they are doing, and in particular am a huge fan of their founder, Van Jones. While Van left to serve in the Obama Administration  last year, they have continued a commitment to strong and inspiring leadership with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.)

I just moved back to New Mexico from the Bay Area, living there for over six years, and it was amazing to see Oakland come to the table with a broad coalition of stake holders here in Albuquerque to talk about a model for promoting jobs with justice that has had some success in Portland. The goal of the convening was to learn more about the pilot project in Portland and then collectively work to tweak the model so that it can work here in Albuquerque – bringing a triple bottom line model of environmental and economic justice to New Mexico.

The convening focused on Clean Energy Works Portland’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program that is operating within Portland’s Renewable Energy Financing District. In 2009 New Mexico approved SB647, known as the Renewable Energy Financing District Act, which allows local governments to make available bonds (through federal stimulus dollars) to the public for the express purpose of increasing clean, renewable energy use. The bill was sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25). Up to this point, no one in the state has significantly moved on the opportunities the bill has opened up for New Mexico. Santa Fe and Los Lunas are looking into it, but have not created a program yet.

Clean Energy Works Portland is suggesting that Albuquerque take advantage of the new bill by instituting a PACE program, but crafting it so that it works with our communities’ specific needs. Some of the highlights of the program Portland is modeling include: Read the rest of this entry »

My testimony to the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in Santa Fe on 3/1/2010, regarding case No. EIB 08-19(R) concerned with creating an emissions cap for the fossil fuel industry here in New Mexico. I am passionately supportive of the emissions cap.

Statement

I am here today before the board speaking on behalf of my family, my community, the many infants and children of my community. And most importantly, I speak on behalf of my own unborn children.

I’m so very proud to be a New Mexican, and because of this I can tell you today that New Mexico DESERVES to have every chance to be at the forefront of the global green economy. New Mexicans are some of the most hard working, honest, straight forward, unpretentious, down to earth, kind and caring folks I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. New Mexicans are willing to work hard for the progress that is promised through environmental regulations for some of the biggest, dirtiest corporations in New Mexico and the United States. Creating an emissions cap for New Mexico’s fossil fuel industry makes good business sense, is good for the health of all New Mexicans, promotes the sustained beauty of our landscape and most of all gives us the opportunity to jumpstart our economy in a meaningful way and stand, with pride, at the fore-front of the green energy revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIVE LANDS CONSIDERED NATIONAL SACRIFICE AREAS: “A closer look at the western religious origins of the term [sacrifice] is even more disturbing. The ‘sacrificial lamb’ or ‘scapegoat’ is symbolically understood to take on the weight of the community’s sins, and is then either exiled from the community or killed as an act of atonement.

In that sense, the designation of many Indian lands as National Sacrifice Areas is a disturbingly accurate recognition of present reality. Native communities are the scapegoats for Western consumer culture, bearing the burdens of the sins of the community. Indian communities have hosted toxic waste, a by-product of white middle class consumer lifestyles, without ever having benefited from those lifestyles.” – Jonna Higgins-Freese and Jeff Tomhave, in their article Race, Sacrifice, and Native Lands

As an ally to Native women environmental leaders throughout the Southwest, I have witnessed, first hand, that Native American grassroots and community groups are facing a multi-faceted fight when it comes to protecting their lands from continued environmental destruction and cultural genocide.

  • Increasingly the federal government and private industry is looking toward Tribal lands for new and existing sources of domestic energy, as well as ground zero for launching domestic “green” alternative energy initiatives. For centuries, corporations and the federal government have exploited Native communities for their own gain, therefore those entities pushing for this renewed effort to source alternatives in Indian Country must be held accountable to those communities who will ultimately bear the brunt of the expansion and development.
  • This effort to keep parties accountable is much harder than one might think. Tribal power over its own lands is a complicated matter, involving a “checkerboard” of intersecting, interwoven, complex relationships between federal, state and tribal policies.
    • Overall, it should be noted that more often than not, tribal governments answer to federal and state regulations, as opposed to the other way around.
    • Historically, the federal government has perceived Indigenous people of this land, first, as uncivilized “savages,” then when human rights were called into question, the perception shifted to recognizing their humanity, but deeming them infantile, so as to continue to exert power over them and their lands.
  • Unfortunately, the department of the federal government that most directly affects tribal sovereignty when it comes to environmental considerations is the EPA. The reason this is unfortunate is because research shows that the EPA “ …more often than not, opposes congressional attempts to pass tough environmental laws… spends more time and money figuring out how to exempt corporations from regulations than it does enforcing them and …. the EPA’s will to regulate is so weak that a proposed regulation must be under a court-ordered deadline (brought by an environmental group) before it will even be considered for the EPA administrator’s signature.[1
  • Investigation into the relationships between decision makers and industry has cast a negative light on many projects brought to Indian Country. For its part, the EPA has a long record of administrators leaving the department and entering into highly lucrative positions with hazardous waste management corporations and other industry players. Therefore, it is critical to provide support, when called for, to Native American partners in seeking to untangle the web of intricate policies so that the voice of the grassroots is heard as new decisions are made regarding Native land use.
  • With the onslaught of the recent economic downturn, both global and domestic, budget cuts to critical services that provide for some of the most impacted communities in this country are being enacted. The result is that impoverished communities are left disproportionately under-served by both governmental services and pro bono advocacy.
  • And lastly, as our government seeks to assuage Americans’ economic and national security fears, solutions are being sought in the heart of Native country – federal and private interests are looking to the vast amounts of untapped petroleum-based resources that lie beneath the lands of this country’s Indigenous peoples, as well as those purported to be sustainable, “green” alternatives.

Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet… we will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” – President Barack Obama

Nuclear power is going to be an important part of our energy mix.. We will be building some [clean] coal plants… while we search for alternatives.” – Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winning physicist and Secretary of Energy. Read the rest of this entry »

The massive efforts to develop the Third World in the years since World War II were not motivated by purely philanthropic considerations but by the need to bring the Third World into the orbit of the Western trading system in order to create an ever-expanding market for our goods and services and a source of cheap labor and raw materials for our industries. This has also been the goal of colonialism especially during its last phase, which started in the 1870’s. For that reason, there is a striking continuity between the colonial era and the era of development, both in the methods used to achieve their common goal and in the social and ecological consequences of applying them.[1]

Following the Second World War in 1944, President Roosevelt convened a United Nations-sponsored (the UN at this time not officially formed yet) monetary and financial conference at Bretton Woods to discuss redevelopment of devastated areas due to the destruction of the wars. Ultimately it was in the conferences’ plans to create a Bank of Reconstruction and Development. This “bank” is today known as the World Bank and the addition of the word “development” was a controversial move according to some of the conference members, specifically those from Latin American countries; for the concept of “development” was to indicate assistance given to economically disadvantaged countries that had long suffered under colonial occupation. The overall result of the end of World War II and the Bretton Woods conference was a general split of the world into two camps: the US-led capitalist ideological, political and economic bloc and the Soviet-led socialist ideological, political and economic bloc- and the two camps proceeded to battle for world allegiance through development aid and military programs.[2]

Starting in Europe, the United States made an agreement, the Marshall Plan, which instituted a new aid design, ultimately benefiting the supplier of aid, not the receiver. Marianne Gronemeyer says of the new deal, In reality, the package of measures was the prototype of all future self-help, though it nevertheless remained a public gesture of giving. World politics had never before been so elegant. The boundaries between giving and taking were blurred to the point of unrecognizability.”[3]

In 1948, UN Resolution 200 aimed to recognize the “technical backwardness” of the “underdeveloped” nations of the world and the commitment of “developed” nations to assist them in modernizing. President Truman said of this new effort,

“More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas… We invite other countries to pool their technological resources in this undertaking. Their contributions will be warmly welcomed. This should be a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the United Nations and its specialized agencies whenever practicable… The old imperialism – exploitation for foreign profit – has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing.”[4]

This became the basis for the hegemonic assault of the industrialized nations upon the rest of the world, not to mention the absolute refusal of these nations to recognize their part in creating the abject poverty experienced throughout the Global South.

The shift in focus from promoting individual and community subsistence that values diversity and local control, to a global-led marketplace that devalues such ideas and has allowed for the promotion and prioritization of development / aid projects that displace millions in the name of modernization; promote profits for corporations not people; undermine the autonomy of countries, subjecting them to the influence of richer and more politically and militarily powerful countries; culturally appropriate family planning and control by women over their own bodies and reproductive choices; an increased number of people unable to provide for their most basic needs with their own land and labor; destruction of  environments that for centuries have provided communities with all of their needs—these realities are the real foundation of modern aid programs. Enclosure of the commons throughout the world has also included the sale of communal lands to pay off national debt and the privatization of public services, all of which take communal control away from citizens and give it over to governments and corporations. Read the rest of this entry »

“A purely reductionist science, biotechnology reduces all life to bits of information (genetic code) that can be arranged and rearranged at whim.”  –Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety & Organic Consumers Association

What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

Through genetic engineering, an organism’s DNA can be manipulated to highlight a desired trait- for example, the gene for drought resistance or pest resistance can be isolated in one organism and transferred to the target organism to produce a plant that now has an internal genetic resistance to drought or particular pests. This could and has been accomplished for thousands of years through traditional plant breeding methods, but proponents claim that genetic engineering speeds up and makes more precise this process through bioengineering. It should be noted that the majority of the scientific community opposing genetic engineering stress the fact that we would need to understand completely the processes of ecology, genetics and biology before ensuring that we can understand and anticipate all of the effects of creating, growing and consuming genetically engineered foods. This requires numerous, lengthy and rigorous testing of these products before placing on grocery store shelves for consumers. The most extensive studies have been done by the biotech corporations themselves and they are not sharing with the consuming public- and are not required to currently, as those findings are protected by law as confidential business information.

The most famous of genetically modified organisms thus far is Monsanto’s Bt gene being used in corn and cotton plants. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacteria that produces insect larvae lethal crystal proteins. This integration of the Bt genes into the corn allows the corn to produce its own pesticide, specifically against the European corn borer (Whitman, p.1).

Some food for thought… Read the rest of this entry »

For centuries the success of a community has depended on their ability to navigate the delicate process of sustainable food gathering and production. The Mesopotamian culture learned this lesson when the once rich soils became over irrigated, water logged and salinated. Rome destroyed the fertility of its North African provinces’ land due to over cultivation of grain, which resulted in desertification, soil erosion, watershed depletion and food supply depletion. Egypt seemed to be one of the only regions to dodge unsustainable agricultural practices, that is until industrial agriculture and the Aswan dam destroyed that delicate balance that had been maintained. Egypt, once self-sufficient, now imports 40% of its grain stocks.

During Columbus’ second visit to the America’s he brought with him sugar cane – this was an extremely rare and valuable commodity on the European market (they were addicted to tea!) and their diet. It was cultivated on plantations throughout the West Indies and north-east Brazil and became one of the major staples of the gruesome triangular trade between Africa, the Caribbean, etc. and Europe. This success of this trade system and the resulting capital accumulation of European markets relied on the slave labor of stolen Africans and the ripe, fertile land of the Caribbean and the Americas. Agriculture was transformed from a subsistence method of food production and survival to a commodity production method for a capitalist cash economy. It was the beginning of communities forced to work the land. That same land today is some of the most destroyed in those regions and the native populations are some of the most impoverished in the world.

“The extraction of surplus from the land, its forests, its plant and mineral wealth, was crucial to capital accumulation on a world scale. And it was accompanied by the exploitation, both direct and indirect, of the women and men of peasant and forest dwelling communities throughout the world.”[1] Read the rest of this entry »

Plastic… waste is not just a national problem in the US, it’s a national disgrace… America faces a growing mountain of plastic… waste with all of the resulting social and environmental consequences.” -Pat Franklin, Executive Director of the Container Recycling Institute in Washington, DC.[1]

Every year, about 300 billion pounds of plastic is produced around the world, and only a fraction is recycled. Despite the convenience and durability plastics afford our lives on-the-go, its overall impact on our health and the planet are far too dangerous to ignore any longer. Research has found that specific kinds of plastics (petroleum-based) leach dangerous chemicals into foods they comes into contact with and the manufacturing and disposal of these products are laying waste to our communities, health and planet.

In this article you’ll find information on:

Plastic Myths

American Annual Plastics Statistics

Plastics Most-Wanted List

Most Dangerous Plastic Marked #7

Plastic Health Risks

Do you know what your plastic cutlery is made of?

Plastic Environmental Impacts

The Skinny on Bioplastics

Alternatives and Solutions

Do you know about the North Pacific Garbage Patch?

Read the rest of this entry »