Who Owns the Water, Air, and the Land?

As the people gather in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the voices of Native American and justice activists are heard, I want to consider the issue at hand as fundamentally a land ethic issue.

Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access LLC are in the process of hooking up an extended pipeline that will connect existing crude oil pipeline to a tunnel pipeline to shunt crude oil to Illinois. The tunnel pipeline is planned to go underneath the Missouri River, and Lake Oahe–near the point where the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s reservation uses the water for drinking water and irrigation. They are a poor nation whose water infrastructure is aging and constructed in such a manner that if a leak were to occur, it would essentially shut down the water supply for the people at Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Read More: dakota-pipeline-article from Inside Climate News.

The truth is that water, land, wildlife and people can not be owned. Each has the inalienable right to exist free by virtue of our common creation. What we can do is equitably share and protect resources to ensure that all people and wildlife have basic needs fulfilled within the limits of the land to provide them. In other words, human needs have to work within the ecological ability of the land and waters to provide them. This requires an ecological awareness.

Aldo Leopold advanced a land ethic in his writing, as he grew in his understanding of what a community really is:

Leopold understood that ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. One of his philosophical achievements was the idea that this ‘community’ should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals, “or collectively: the land.”  Aldo Leopold Foundation

Should the Energy Transfer Partners and the Dakota Access Pipeline operation have the right to build a pipeline underneath Lake Oahe and near the Missouri River that flows past the land  of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation? And will flow through four states and other communities?

The 1134-mile pipeline will carry 500,000 gallons of crude oil each day to Illinois. Seventeen banks stand to profit and are advancing money to make it happen.

Three U.S. agencies warned against it, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used a corporate report from Dakota Access Pipeline to rule in favor of the construction. After a federal judged ruled in favor of the pipeline going forward, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Interior, and the Army together enacted a stay on that decision so that the EPA can reassess the original assessment of its safety.

As climate change impacts the world, should our society support continued drilling and transportation of crude oil to be burned and thereby increase warming of the planet and acidification of oceans? Of course not.

In the Southwest, where access to precious water will bring municipalities, tribal nations, corporate interests, and the U.S. government into negotiations over water rights, what values and ethics will we use to determine who gets what?

It is a question we must answer now.

Read about the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline


When the rains come!

Tucson and Southern Arizona are getting a soaking from Hurricane Newton as it passes over them. With this rainfall, the area will receive its normal rainfall for the year.

Living in Tucson, I recall what a blessing rain is in the summer. You can bet the flora of the desert is soaking up rain. The fluted trunks on the tall saguaros will swell outward as its long-reaching roots soak up precious water gushing over the desert pavement (fine particles of sand and pebbles that form a mat on the surface). Some Tucson residents who harvest rain into cisterns will also collect hundreds of gallons of water they can use later to water their gardens.

Brad Landcaster is a local leader of water harvesting, has been for decades.


Climate change is not the problem: it’s the symptom

IMG_8235In Threshold, Carla Connor – a climate scientist – is on a quest to change the minds of local leaders to respond to what she perceives as a life threatening path.  She is haunted by a terrifying nightmare. Her focus is about how to make things happen to save her hometown.

We learn that Carla’s Irish ancestors taught her the value of family. Yet, Carla is singular in her approach to her life and work, preferring to keep relationships at arm’s length. Over the course of the novel, Carla begins to feels the need to be in a more intimate relationship. She struggles with commitment.

Through the novel, we see the forces of climate change disrupt the lives of all the characters, causing each to explore what is most important in their lives.

Climate change focuses us on relationships–with each other, with the earth, and with life itself. Perhaps this precarious time may lead to greater awareness and a new set of values and ethics that are not only durable but joyful.