Friday, 3 April 2009
Sarah Palin and environmental racism
Tracy Glynn, in a February 2009 article regarding the treatment of local residents in the El Cerrejon coal mine area in Colombia by the mining giant Anglo American, wrote:
Environmental racism has long been recognized as a problem. It has worsened in many ways as a result of government cutbacks in environmental enforcement and of softening of environmental protection regulation, also known as streamlining or deregulation. The "war on terror" has also been used to shut down groups that confronted environmental racism.
The term "environmental racism" was coined by American Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chaviz, Jr. over twenty years ago during a church commission on racism.
Environmental racism occurs when
- racial discrimination is used to determine the level of environmental regulations or enforcement.
- polluting industries are situated in marginalized communities.
- marginalized groups are excluded from decision-making bodies that determine the fate of their environment.
What a coincidence! The group most affected by the Pebble Mine development happen to be Alaska Natives and we can check all three of the above.
-The level of regulations and enforcement have already been compromised with the defeat of Ballot Measure 4, which counted with timely assistance from Sarah Palin.
-The polluting industry is situated in a native area, as already established.
-Alaska Natives are definitely excluded from the decision-making process regarding their future.
The environmental damage caused by Pebble Mine would be widespread because only a huge mine, benefiting from economies of scale, is economically possible at Pebble due to the low-grade character of the ore. The number of villages affected would be greater in a project of this nature than in a more contained one. An open pit mine the size of Pebble would cause major disruption to the area, regardless of the ethnicity of the population. The fact remains that in this case the local population is native.
Pebble and the Governor have been covering their bases quite cleverly. Together they defeated measures regarding the Clean Water Act. Now Pebble has started dispensing beads and trinkets to the native communities under the guise of "grants". And Sarah Palin has appointed an anti-native Attorney General.
Sarah Palin, in usual form, shields herself from criticism by claiming that her husband and children are part native, therefore she doesn't discriminate against natives. Apart from drawing dividends from two Native Corporations, they have very flimsy ties to native communities. They all live in Wasilla, in a nice, warm home and will not be displaced or inconvenienced by any of the mining operations in question.
Sarah Palin's "native" family will never find themselves at odds with her Attorney General in questions of subsistence and economic survival.
Some past governors had a bad attitude towards Alaska Natives. Too many people in Alaska have a bad attitude towards rural, native communities.
Sarah Palin had the opportunity to address many of the problems facing them: low representation in government bodies, exclusion from the decision-making process, inadequate infra-structure in remote villages, inadequate schools, under-investment in their economies, disregard for their subsistence needs and so on.
The way I see it, not only is Sarah Palin anti-native and racist, the "nativeness" of her family is just another political prop.