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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.
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 »