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: http://americanindiansandfriends.com/news/how-do-we-grieve-the-death-of-a-river-written-by-winona-laduke#sthash.oVTqm8uZ.dpuf
Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot The locale of one of today’s greatest real estate development grabs might surprise you. It’s not Dubai, Las Vegas, or Shanghai, but the frozen continent that rests at the end of the world. Writing in The New York Times in late December 2015, Simon Romero describes increased activity from various global players, including Russia building its first Orthodox church (with logs imported from Siberia), China’s plans to operate five bases (complete with indoor badminton court in its Great Wall Station), and India’s spaceship-looking Bharathi base, built on stilts and interlocking shipping containers. “An array of countries is rushing to assert greater influence here,” Romero writes, “with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now.” Why the race to the bottom? “The newest players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” University of Canterbury School of Social and Political Sciences Professor Anne-Marie Brady told the Times. A treaty banning mining in Antarctica—which shields coveted reserves of iron ore, coal, and chromium—is expected to come up for review by 2048 and the continent’s mineral, oil, and gas deposits are all highly prized. The Times article details how researchers recently found deposits that hint at the existence of diamonds in the region and geologists estimate the area holds at least 36 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. Rather than the desolate, monolithic icescape of popular imagination, Antarctica is shaping up to be a 21st century geopolitical hotspot. Professor Brady is perhaps the world’s foremost scholar at navigating Antarctica politics. Editor of The Emerging Politics of Antarctica (2012, Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics), a volume that examines the post-Cold War challenges facing the continent’s governance, Professor Brady specializes in subject matter related to the power and influence of China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner and the nation that arguably has the fastest-growing operations in Antarctica. Prof. Brady has published groundbreaking research in the field, covering China’s modern propaganda system and the nation’s relationships with Antarctica and the Pacific, as well as major revisionist histories of the Long March and of New Zealand’s national icon, Rewi Alley.