Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sustaining Sustainability: Getting the Message Out? Senate Bill 2109 and Haskell Conference on the Rights of the Mother Earth

What is the matter with Kansas? Such was the title of a book that pointed out the paradox of support for large agri-business by a state whose farmers were being put out of business by the large agri-business concerns. The title itself, “What is the Matter with Kansas” itself refers to an 1896 essay by William Allen White, that parodied events of the day and shot Mr White to national prominence.

Sustainable agricultural practices are a concern of many in the state, such as author Wes Jackson, who wrote the book, “Becoming Native to this Place.”

A previous post to TK Totem noted the on-going litigation over the “Haskell Wetlands” which are a sacred space linked to the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. These wetlands are under threat due to desired construction of a new road that would skirt the south end of Lawrence, with proponents of the road claiming it would save commuting time.

In the face of these events, it is all the more heartening to see reports of the recent conference that was hosted at Haskell: “The Rights of the Mother Earth Conference: Restoring Indigenous Life Ways of Responsibility and Respect.” The conference was held April 4-6, 2012. The conference was not only about experts presenting information, but on community participation in solving and resolving issues as reported by the Native News Network: “During the morning sessions panelists spoke of the issues affecting their homelands. From the drilling in Alaska, to the Keystone XL pipeline issues in Canada and to how the Wakarusa wetlands in Kansas are being endangered. In the afternoon, all the conference participants broke up into groups to define the rights of Mother Earth and how it could be used in their own communities. Each group then presented their ideas to all the other participants.”

Perhaps ironically, at the same time, a meeting was being held over water rights of the Hopi and Navajo nations on April 5, 2012. The subject of the meeting was Senate Bill 2109 which is intended to settle “water rights claims of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the allottees of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe in the State of Arizona” The full text of the bill is available at this link.
Native News Network commentary by Ed Becenti sums up the concerns about this bill and its the devastating consequences it would have:

“2109 and the "Settlement Agreement" deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to assess comprehensive long-term water needs of every community, village, and watershed; and deny the resources and means to plan for, and develop sufficient domestic, municipal, industrial and agricultural "wet water" projects essential to the permanent well-being, prosperity and health of their homelands and children's children.”

Additional internet resources on the bill and an online petition to oppose the bill can be found here .

One wonders how much of the message of conferences such as the one held at Haskell and the need to restore practices of the sustainable use of resources has reached the ears of those who stand to profit from the extraction and exploitation of these resources, when increasing scarcity means increased prices and the chance of increased profit.

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