Impact of Nuclear on Indian Country & the Socialism of Nuclear Industry - not insured by private enterprise, only by Gov't ...public pays the price not the owners of nuclear
by Philip Klasky, Lecturer in American Indian Studies & Dr. Carlos Davidson, Dir,. SFSU Environmental Studies
In the first of five parts of a seminar held at San Francisco State University, April 8, 2011, Philip Klasky, Lecturer in American Indian Studies and Dr. Carlos Davidson, Director of the SFSU Environmental Studies Program, lay out the cultural, environmental and historical context of nuclear technology.
"True, the white man brought great change. But the varied fruits of his civilization, though highly colored and inviting, are sickening and deadening. And if it be the part of civilization to maim, rob, and thwart, then what is progress? I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization."
-- Chief Standing Bear, 1933, The Land of the Spotted Eagle (p.515)
The following is an excerpt from, The Clan of One-Breasted Women. the epilog of, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, written by Terry Tempest Williams ...a powerful personal account of a woman's family life experience with radioactive fallout from the Nevada test site. "I belong to a Clan of One-Breasted Women," says Terry. "My mother, my grandmothers, and six aunts have all had mastectomies. Seven are dead ... I've had my own problems: two biopsies for breast cancer and a small tumor removed between my ribs diagnosed as a borderline malignancy." The Nevada test site was illegally created on the Shoshoni ancestral lands stolen by the U.S. government in violation of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley which it signed with the Shoshoni guaranteeing the sovereignty of the Shoshoni people over their traditional homeland, Newe Segobia.)
One night, I dreamed women from all over the world were circling a blazing fire in the desert. They spoke of change, of how they hold the moon in their bellies and wax and wane with its phases. They mocked at the presumption of even-tempered beings and made promises that they would never fear the witch inside themselves. The women danced wildly as sparks broke away from the flames and entered the night sky as stars.
And they sang a song given to them by Shoshoni grandmothers:
Ah ne nah, nah ... Consider the rabbits nin nah nah ... How gently they walk on the earth Ah ne nah, nah ... Consider the rabbits nin nah nah ... How gently they walk on the earth Nyaga mutzi ... We remember them oh ne nay ... We can walk gently also Nyaga mutzi ... We remember them oh ne nay ... We can walk gently also
The women danced and drummed and sang for weeks, preparing themselves for what was to come. They would reclaim the desert for the sake of their children, for the sake of the land. A few miles downwind from the fire circle, bombs were being tested. Rabbits felt the tremors. Their soft leather pads on paws and feet recognized the shaking sands while the roots of mesquite and sage were smoldering. Rocks were hot from the inside out and dust devils hummed unnaturally. And each time there was another nuclear test, ravens watched the desert heave. Stretch marks appeared. The land was losing its muscle.
The women couldn't bear it any longer. They were mothers. They had suffered labor pains but always under the promise of birth. The red-hot pains beneath the desert promised death only, as each bomb became stillborn. A contract was being drawn by the women who understood the fate of the earth as their own.
Under the cover of darkness, ten women slipped under the barbed-wire fence and entered the contaminated country. They were trespassing. They walked toward the town of Mercury in moonlight, taking their cues from coyote, kit fox, antelope ground squirrel, and quail. They moved quietly and deliberately through the maze of Joshua trees. When a hint of daylight appeared they rested, drinking tea and sharing their rations of food. The women closed their eyes. The time had come to protest with the heart, that to deny one's genealogy with the earth was to commit treason against one's soul.
At dawn, the women draped themselves in Mylar, wrapping long streamers of silver plastic around their arms to blow in the breeze. They wore clear masks that became the faces of humanity. And when they arrived on the edge of Mercury, they carried all the butterflies of a summer day in their wombs. They paused to allow their courage to settle.
The town, which forbids pregnant women and children to enter because of radiation risks to their health, was asleep. The women moved through the streets as winged messengers, twirling around each other in slow motion, peeking inside homes and watching the easy sleep of men and women. They were astonished by such stillness and periodically would utter a shrill note or low cry just to verify life.
The residents finally awoke to what appeared as strange apparitions. Some simply stared. Others called authorities, and in time, the women were apprehended by wary soldiers dressed in desert fatigues. They were taken to a white building on the other edge of Mercury. When asked who they were and why they were there, the women replied, "We are mothers and we have come to reclaim the desert for our children."
The soldiers arrested them. As the ten women were blindfolded and handcuffed, they began singing:
You can't forbid us everything You can't forbid us to think... You can't forbid our tears to flow And you can't stop the songs that we sing.
The women continued to sing louder and louder, until they heard the voices of their sisters moving across the mesa.
Ah nenah, nah nin nah nah ... Ah ne nah, nah nin nah nah ... Nyaga mutzi oh ne nay ... Nyaga mutzi oh ne nay ...
"Call for reinforcements," one soldier said.
"We have," interrupted one woman. "We have ...and you have no idea of our numbers."
On March 18, 1988, I crossed the line at the Nevada Test Site and was arrested with nine other Utahns for trespassing on military lands. They are still conducting nuclear tests in the desert. Ours was an act of civil disobedience. But as I walked toward the town of Mercury, it was more than a gesture of peace. It was a gesture on behalf of the Clan of One-Breasted Women.
As one officer cinched the handcuffs around my wrists, another frisked my body. She found a pen and a pad of paper tucked inside my left boot.
"And these?" she asked sternly.
"Weapons," I replied.
Our eyes met. I smiled. She pulled the leg of my trousers back over my boot.
"Step forward, please," she said as she took my arm.
We were booked under an afternoon sun and bused to Tonopah, Nevada. It was a two-hour ride. This was familiar country to me. The Joshua trees standing their ground had been named by my ancestors who believed they looked like prophets pointing west to the promised land. These were the same trees that bloomed each spring, flowers appearing like white flames in the Mojave. And I recalled a full moon in May when my mother and I had walked among them, flushing out mourning doves and owls.
The bus stopped short of town. We were released. The officials thought it was a cruel joke to leave us stranded in the desert with no way to get home. What they didn't realize is that we were home, soul-centered and strong, women who recognized the sweet smell of sage as fuel for our spirits.
nin nah nah ... How gently they walk on the earth Ah ne nah, nah ... Consider the rabbits nin nah nah ... How gently they walk on the earth Nyaga mutzi ... We remember them oh ne nay ... We can walk gently also Nyaga mutzi ... We remember them oh ne nay ... We can walk gently also
Bolivia's law enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth & her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled
[Law of the Rights of Mother Earth (Spanish: Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra) is a Bolivian law (Law 071 of the Plurinational State), that was passed by Bolivia's Plurinational Legislative Assembly in December 2010. This 10 article law is derived from the first part of a longer draft bill, drafted and released by the Pact of Unityby November 2010. The law defines Mother Earth as "a collective subject of public interest," and declares both Mother Earth and life-systems (which combine human communities and ecosystems) as titleholders of inherent rights specified in the law. The short law proclaims the creation of the Defensoría de la Madre Tierra a counterpart to the human rights ombudsman office known as the Defensoría del Pueblo, but leaves its structuring and creation to future legislation.]
The law enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth and her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled:
To life: It is the right to the maintenance of the integrity of life systems and natural processes which sustain them, as well as the capacities and conditions for their renewal.
To the Diversity of Life: It is the right to the preservation of the differentiation and variety of the beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetically altered, nor artificially modified in their structure, in such a manner that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential.
To water: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its componentsTo clean air: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its componentsTo equilibrium: It is the right to maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes.
To restoration: It is the right to the effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities.
To live free of contamination: It is the right for preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities.
The law is considered to be the first instance of environmental law that gives legal personhood to the natural system, and may also allow for citizens to sue individuals and groups as part of "Mother Earth" in response to real and alleged infringements of its integrity.
The law defines Mother Earth as "...the dynamic living system formed by the indivisible community of all life systems and living beings whom are interrelated, interdependent, and complementary, which share a common destiny; adding that "Mother Earth is considered sacred in the worldview of Indigenous peoples and nations.
In this approach human beings and their communities are considered a part of mother earth, by being integrated in "Life systems" defined as "...complex and dynamic communities of plants, animals, micro-organisms and other beings in their environment, in which human communities and the rest of nature interact as a functional unit, under the influence of climatic, physiographic and geologic factors, as well as the productive practices and cultural diversity of Bolivians of both genders, and the world views of Indigenous nations and peoples, intercultural communities and the Afro-Bolivians. This definition can be seen as a more inclusive definition of ecosystemsbecause it explicitly includes the social, cultural and economic dimensions of human communities.
The law also establishes the juridical character of Mother Earth as "collective subject of public interest", to ensure the exercise and protection of her rights. By giving Mother Earth a legal personality, it can, through its representatives (humans), bring an action to defend its rights. Additionally, to say that Mother Earth is of public interest represents a major shift from an anthropocentric perspective to a more Earth community-based perspective. (source)
Environmental person-hood: Domestic rights of Nature
New Zealand: Te Urewere an environmental legal entity – owns itself; Whanganui River a legal person
In 2014, Te Urewera National Park was declared Te Urewera, and an environmental legal entity.4 Area encompassed by Te Urewera ceased to be a government-owned national park and was transformed into freehold, inalienable land owned by itself.5
Following the same trend, New Zealand’s Whanganui River was declared to be a legal person in 2017.6 This new legal entity was named, Te Awa Tupua, and is now recognised as “an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea, incorporating the Whanganui River and all of its physical and metaphysical elements.”7 The river would be represented by two guardians, one from the Whanganui iwi and the other from the Crown.8
India - Ganges & Yamuna Rivers legal persons – rights, duties & liabilities of a living person; polluting rivers legally same as harming someone
The Ganges and Yamuna Rivers are now considered legal persons in an effort to combat pollution. The rivers are sacred to Hindu culture for their healing powers and attraction of pilgrims who bathe and scatter the ashes of their dead.9 (Rivers are heavily polluted by 1.5 billion litres of untreated sewage and 500 million litres of industrial waste entering, daily.10
High Court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered in March 2017 that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be assigned the status of legal entities. The rivers would gain “all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.” This decision meant that polluting or damaging the rivers is equivalent to harming a person. The court cited the example of the New Zealand Whanganui River, which was also declared to possess full rights of a legal person.11
Ganges & Yamuna now 'living' entities
This development of environmental person-hood has been met with scepticism as merely announcing that the Ganges and Yamuna are living entities will not save them from significant, ongoing pollution. There is a possible need to change long-held cultural attitudes towards the Ganges, which hold that the river has self-purifying properties.12
There is further scrutiny that the guardianship of the rivers were only granted to Uttarakhand, a region in northern India which houses a small part of the rivers’ full extent. The Ganges flows for 2,525 km through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, with only a 96 km stretch running through Uttarakhand. Only a small section of the 1,376km Yamuna tributary runs through Uttarakhand – which also crosses through the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.13
Environmental & cultural rights protection
Regardless of scepticism surrounding the decision of the Uttarakhand High Court, proclaiming these vulnerable rivers as legal entities invokes a movement of change towards environmental and cultural rights protection. The decisions may be built upon as a foundation for environmental legislative change.
United States – Ten States have local laws codifying rights of Nature
In 2006, a small community in Pennsylvania called Tamaqua Borough worked with a rights of nature group called Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Together, the groups drafted legislation to protect the community and its environment from the dumping of toxic sewage.14 Since 2006, CELDF has assisted with over 30 communities in ten states across the United States to develop local laws codifying the rights of nature. CELDF also assisted in the drafting of Ecuador's 2008 constitution following a national referendum.15
Ecuador – State gives incentives to natural persons & legal entities to protect & advocate Nature
The rights of nature to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles” have been proclaimed under Ecuador’s 2008 constitution.16 This occurred after a national referendum in 2008, allowing the Ecuador constitution to reflect rights for nature, a world first.17 Every person and community has the right to advocate on nature's behalf.18 The constitution proclaims that the “State shall give incentives to natural persons and legal entities and to communities to protect nature and to promote respect for all the elements comprising an ecosystem.”19
Vilcabamba River sues construction company, wins
The first successful case of the rights of nature implementation under Ecuador constitutional law was presented before the Provincial Court of Justice of Loja in 2011. This case involved the Vilcabamba River as the plaintiff, defending itself with its own rights to ‘exist’ and ‘maintain itself’ – as it attempted to halt construction of a government highway project interfering with the natural health of the river.This case was brought before court by two individuals, Richard Frederick Wheeler and Eleanor Geer Huddle, as legal guardians acting in favour of nature – specifically the Vilcabamba River. A constitutional injunction was granted in favour of the Vilcabamba River and against the Provincial government of Loja, attempting to conduct the environmentally-harmful project. The project was forced to be halted and the area was to be rehabilitated.20
Bolivia - Law of the Rights of Mother Earth gives Person-hood to Natural environment
The constitution change in Ecuador was followed legislatively by Bolivia in 2010, passing the ‘Law of the Rights of Mother Earth’ (Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra). This legislation designates Mother Earth the character of ‘a collective subject of public interest’21 with inherent rights specified in the law.22 The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth give aspects of legal personhood to the natural environment. Judicial action can be taken for infringements against individuals and groups as part of Mother Earth as ‘a collective subject of public interest’.23 The legislation states that “Mother Earth is the dynamic living system made up of the indivisible community of all living systems, living, interrelated, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.”24
Colombia – Court rules Atrato River gains rights to protection, conservation, maintenance & restoration
The Colombia Constitutional Court found in November 2016 that the Atrato River basin possesses rights to "protection, conservation, maintenance, and restoration." This ruling came about as a result of degradation to the river basin from mining, impacting nature and harming of indigenous peoples and their culture. The court referred to the New Zealand declaration of the Whanganui River as a legal person holding environmental personhood. The court ordered that joint guardianship would be undertaken in the representation of the Atrato River basin. Similarly to the New Zealand declaration, the representatives would come from the national government and the indigenous people living in the basin.25
New sociopolitical reality – Time to protect the planet & its resources before it is too late
The court stated: “It is the human populations that are interdependent of the natural world – and not the opposite – and that they must assume the consequences of their actions and omissions with the nature. It is a question of understanding this new sociopolitical reality with the aim of achieving a respectful transformation with the natural world and its environment, as has happened before with civil and political rights. Now is the time to begin taking the first steps to effectively protect the planet and its resources before it is too late.”26 (Source & references, here)