How do we grieve the death of a river? — Spotted Horse Press by Winona LaDuke

How do we grieve the death of a river? Written by Winona LaDuke   “Our people blocked the road. When the troops arrive, we will face them .”– Ailton Krenak, Krenaki People, Brazil  This eighteen months saw three of the largest mine tailings pond disasters in history.  Although they have occurred far from northern Minnesota’s pristine waters, we may want to take heed as we look at a dozen or more mining projects, on top of what is already there, abandoned or otherwise. These stories, like many, do not make headlines. They are in remote communities, far from the media and the din of our cars, cans and lifestyle.  Aside from public policy questions, mining safety and economic liability concerns, there is an underlying moral issue we face here:the death of a river. As I interviewed Ailton Krenak, this became apparent. The people in southeastern Brazilian call the river Waatuh or Grandfather. “We sing to the river, we baptize the children in this river, we eat from this river, the river is our life,”  That’s what Ailton Krenak, winner of the  Onassis International Prize, and a leader of the Indigenous and forest movement in Brazil, told me as I sat with him and he told me of the mine waste disaster. I wanted to cry. How do you express condolences for a river, for a life, to a man to whom the river is the center of the life of his people? That is a question we must ask ourselves. November 2015’s Brazilian collapse of two dams at a mine on the Rio Doco River sent a toxic sludge over villages, and changed the geography of a world.  The dam collapse cut off drinking water for a quarter of a million people and saturated waterways downstream with dense orange sediment. As the LA Times would report, “Nine people were killed, 19 … listed as missing and 500 people were displaced from their homes when the dams burst.” The sheer volume of water and mining sludge disgorged by the dams across nearly three hundred miles is staggering: the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools or the volume carried by about 187 oil tankers. The Brazilians compare the damage to the BP oil disaster, and the water has moved into the ocean – right into the nesting area for endangered sea turtles, and a delicate ecosystem. The mine, owned by Australian based BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world, (and the one which just sold a 60-year-old coal strip mine to the Navajo Nation in 2013) is projecting some clean up. Renowned Brazilian documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado, whose foundation has been active in efforts to protect the Doce River, toured the area and submitted a $27 billion clean-up proposal to the government.  “ Everything died. Now the river is a sterile canal filled with mud,” Salgado told reporters. When the mining company wanted to come back, Ailton Krenak told me,  “we blocked the road.” They didn’t get the memo. – Read more at:

Source: How do we grieve the death of a river? — Spotted Horse Press by Winona LaDuke

Why The Paris COP21 Agreement Could Make Disaster Inevitable

“…The agreement concluding the recent COP21 in Paris could be the turning point toward saving the world from a climate disaster. But it could also breed the complacency that will make this disaster inevitable. The agreement as such solves nothing. The hard work lies ahead. The great positive about the agreement is the shared realization that we must keep the average global surface temperature of our planet from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. The great problem is that there was no agreement on any division of responsibilities toward achieving this task. However much states may emit in the future, none of them will be violating the Paris agreement. How much heat from the sun our planet absorbs depends on how much greenhouse gas is in the atmosphere. The most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), has already increased by 50%, from 270 to over 400 parts per million, and this increase has already raised the average global surface temperature by 1 degree. Even if humanity were to emit no more greenhouse gases at all, the elevated level would continue to heat our planet beyond the 1.5 degree target. But then of course we will emit more greenhouse gases. In fact, global annual emissions may continue to increase even if – improbably – all states were fully to keep their voluntary pledges (their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) toward averting a climate disaster. It seems inevitable now that atmospheric carbon dioxide will break above 450 parts per million, thus substantially increasing the extra heat our planet will absorb from the sun. One cannot banish a danger simply by agreeing that it won’t materialize. But governments can mollify the world’s citizens with such agreements. This propaganda trick has worked before. At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, governments agreed to halve hunger, for instance, without agreeing on any specific efforts or division of responsibilities. When the number of undernourished people rose, they repeatedly diluted the promise (in the Millennium Declaration and again in the first Millennium Development Goal). And then, when they were still way off-track in 2012, they revised their method for counting the hungry so as to greatly raise the historical baseline and greatly lower the current count. Last September governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, promising by 2030 to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” This sort of agreement benefits present power holders by producing public appreciation: the widespread feeling that they have solved the poverty problem. The agreement will put some pressure on future power holders, who will predictably resort to creative interpretations of those pledges and to creative accounting gimmicks. We can expect the same to happen with the INDCs. At worst, the COP21 agreement may produce consent and complacency, allowing governments to postpone hard choices until the climate disaster is inevitable. At best, this agreement may inspire action toward formulating and implementing a common plan for averting this disaster. To achieve the latter outcome, citizens must keep up the pressure and insist on a determinate division of responsibilities that will definitely suffice to accomplish the task….”

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Source: Why The Paris COP21 Agreement Could Make Disaster Inevitable