Once upon a time in the West, Indians and cowboys came together to defend
the Black Hills of Western South Dakota from destruction of various kinds.
In the late 1970s, Union Carbide, along with several other corporations,
and even the Department of Defense, wanted to carve out pieces of the Black
Hills - for uranium mining and for places to bomb and strafe for targets
and firing of munitions of all types. Lakota families began the drive to
stop such desecration and before a year, 10,000 people were marching
through the Black Hills, concerts were organized with artists like Bonnie
Raitt and Jackson Browne and ranchers, churches, chambers of commerce and
all manner of informed and concerned citizens came together in alliance to
protect both place and way of life.
Among mobilizations, the Black Hills Alliance could claim some modest
victories. In some ways it helped spawn other Native environmental
alliances in Wisconsin, Washington, and even in New York. It was something
of a model for such alliance building throughout Indian country, with many
events spilling onto campuses and the national gatherings of many other
movements and concerns.
Early in the 21st century, Indians and cowboys (ranchers, farmers) must add
Inuit as the common dread of drought - and of changing and altered climate
and extreme weather, and of inordinate heat and of fires and fierce storms
- confronts all peoples in a potential catastrophe.
In most Native Alaskan villages now, erosion gives way to dangerous floods.
The Arctic ice pack, or permafrost, now breaks off in huge chunks as
temperatures rise to heights never before recorded or remembered. Out of
213 Native Alaskan villages, flooding and erosion threaten 184, about 20 of
them very seriously, according to the Government Accounting Office. The
global warming trend is quite palpable for the Native Alaskan villages.
Places such as the Inupiat village of Point Hope, established 2,600 years
ago on the northwestern Alaska coast, are reporting flooding with chunks of
permafrost and even whole houses now in danger of being thrown into the
sea. Residents of Shishmaref, a coastal village of 600 also with severe
erosion problems, are abandoning their ancestral homeland with its
traditional food supply. They have already moved 18 homes and two
government buildings. These climate-change problems will likely force
thousands of Alaska Natives to abandon their ancestral villages.
In the meantime back at the ranch (the first week in July), Associated
Press reported that, "the drought gripping the (U.S.) West could be the
biggest in 500 years," with effects in the Colorado River basin
considerably worse than during the Dust Bowl years. The scientists, from
the U.S. Geological Survey, are "completely convinced" of their study. In
fact, water for millions, including Southern California, is in jeopardy as
the severe drought is now going on 10 years.
Using a tree-ring reconstruction method of Colorado River flows for the
time before record keeping began in 1885, the lowest five-year average of
water flow was 8.84 million acre-feet in the years 1590 - 1594. From 1999
through last year, water flow has been 7.11 million acre-feet. During the
Dust Bowl years, (1930 - 1937), the Colorado River annual flow averaged
about 10.2 million acre-feet at Lees Ferry, Ariz. The present drought has
lowered that flow to only 5.4 million acre-feet during the period 2001 -
Denying the reality of global warming is a badge of honor these days among
neo-conservatives. It is the most horrible lie of this administration and
of its whole dubious intellectuality, which takes its lead from the likes
of Rush Limbaugh in challenging and diminishing the actual international
near consensus by overwhelming numbers of respected scientists.
Well, enter now both the Pentagon and the insurance companies, warning of
the increasing "catastrophic consequences" of climate change. We submit the
administration must look at the issue of global warming with more urgency.
When both the Pentagon and the insurance companies tell you that a coming
risk may have catastrophic consequences, you tend to believe their science.
This is after all as conservative a pair of sectors as you will find in the
United States. Both sectors are talking about global warming and climate
change and their predictions, based on the methods they use to analyze
other phenomena, are dire.
Firstly, a declassified Pentagon report, first suppressed and later
formally released to Fortune Magazine, stated that, "Climate change over
the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of
lives in wars and natural disasters." Allegedly suppressed by U.S. defense
chiefs, the report warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath
rising seas as Britain could be plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020.
Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt
across the world, the authors, including a legendary CIA analyst, warn.
A threat of catastrophic climate change is "plausible and would challenge
United States national security in ways that should be considered
immediately," the authors (Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head
of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the
California-based Global Business Network) conclude.
Then this, not from radical "enviro-kooks" of Rush Limbaugh's imaginings,
but from Fortune Magazine. The article, titled "The Pentagon's Weather
Nightmare," quotes from the Pentagon report: "Abrupt climate change may
well occur in the not-too-distant future. If it does, the need to rapidly
adapt may overwhelm many societies - thereby upsetting the geopolitical
balance of power." It goes on: "Global warming, rather than causing
gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping
point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls
the world's climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a
decade - like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over.
Scientists don't know how close the system is to a critical threshold."
Worth paying attention? Here is just a bit more:
"Climate researchers began getting seriously concerned about it a decade
ago, after studying temperature indicators embedded in ancient layers of
Arctic ice. The data show that a number of dramatic shifts in average
temperature took place in the past with shocking speed - in some cases,
just a few years."
Finally, the insurance companies are weighing in. From a report on "Planet
Ark," a respected Web page, March 6: "GENEVA - The world's second-largest
re-insurer Swiss Re warns that the costs of global warming threaten to
spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own
making." Swiss Re reports that the economic costs of global warming
threaten to double to $150 billion (81 billion pounds) a year in 10 years,
hitting insurers with $30 - 40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one
World Trade Centre attack annually."
Enough for these purposes? There is a lot more, from quite serious and
unlikely sources. Look for it, you will be surprised.
We have stated before that this is a serious environmental issue that must
be confronted immediately. It is one where scientific research confirms
spiritual and prophetic tradition, of the time of purification, when the
Earth's creative capacity would be affected by human ignorance and
thoughtless greed. A huge alliance is needed, one that may yet require the
skills and creativity of a new generation of world leaders before it will
be seriously considered.
Today, we urge all American Indian leaders and, indeed, all world leaders,
particularly United States presidential candidate John Kerry and his vice
presidential partner John Edwards, to vigorously take up the issue of
global warming and climate change. They are singularly important to the
survival of our whole species and the creative life systems upon which we