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LaDuke: Cut Oil Dependency by Gardening

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“We are a severely oil-addicted country,” the author, activist and economist Winona LaDuke told the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, Oregon on February 28, reported the East Oregonian. “America does not have a plan B. We have a plan A—consume more oil.”

LaDuke, Anishinaabe, founded Honor the Earth to address the Native environmental movement and the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which protects heirloom crops and the traditions and knowledge of indigenous and land-based communities. The Harvard- and Antioch-educated LaDuke may be best known as Ralph Nader’s two-time running mate on the Green Party ticket. The subject of her talk was the steps her tribal community is taking to move beyond petroleum. The declining and destructive energy source is a short-term solution bound to end and backfire, she explained.

“It’s like a bubble, a hiccup,” she told the Tamástslikt audience, the East Oregonian said. “People think of it as a whole era, but it’s really a quick fix.”

LaDuke encourages tribal communities to pursue alternative energies, including wind and solar, and to use less oil by gardening or buying locally grown produce. “‘Efficiencies of scale’ is a lie repeated so often it feels true,” LaDuke said at another convention, the annual Winter Gathering of Fishtrap, the Oregon-based writers group, reported the Wallowa County Chieftain. “We need to rethink our food system. We should eat more foods like squash that take less energy to transport and store and give more energy to the eater. Food builds relationships, makes people happy. We have a spiritual relationship with food that does not come from shopping,” she said, criticizing the American “empire mentality” that attempts to commodify the sacred.

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Creating small gardens and four-by-eight-foot grow boxes, LaDuke argued, can reduce grocery store trips. “The average meal travels more than 1,400 miles from farmer to table,” she told Tamástslikt attendees. “Food and energy leaks can be plugged with gardens.”

On LaDuke’s White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, the White Earth Land Recovery Project plants and restores diverse local food varieties resistant to global warming. For LaDuke’s community, corn varieties like Seneca Pink Lady, Pawnee Eagle and Bear Island Flint, rise tall, reported the East Oregonian. “They have tough stalks, so tough the wind blows through.”

And preserving the wild rice fields running across the White Earth Reservation was an uphill battle for LaDuke, who fought against the genetic modification of her tribe's sacred food. University of Minnesota scientists discovered how to cultivate the crop through altering its natural makeup. “We fought to protect our rice from genetic engineering,” she said, reported the East Oregonian. “Genetic engineering should not be associated with the word ‘wild.’ We battled them and we won.”