Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tribes See Bright Future, Better Lives Via Renewable Energy

Here's some good news about how renewable energy development is on the verge of starting to lift America's Indian Tribes out of poverty:

The 3,000 members of the Jemez Pueblo are on the verge of building the nation's first utility-scale solar plant on tribal land, a project that could bring in millions of dollars.

Experts say tapping into the sun, wind and geothermal energy on Indian land could generate the kind of wealth many tribes have seen from slot machines and blackjack tables.

Indian tribes control more than 55 million acres of land across the nation, and those lands are capable of producing an estimated 535 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year from wind power, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Tribal Energy Program. Solar has even greater promise, at 17 trillion kilowatt hours per year, or more than four times the amount of electricity generated annually in the U.S.

That's sure a lot more in line with the values of most indigenous communities than gambling casinos!  I'd love to see tribes rejuvenate their communities and cultures via clean energy.   Better for the earth and better for their economies and, hopefully, their cultural survival.

We have so much to learn from indigenous cultural perspectives, and it's always saddened me to hear of their disappearing knowledge and languages.  Conversely, I've always enjoyed the times I've spent on reservations, the conversations I've had -- from Oirabi over at Hopi to Akwasasne up in Mohawk country.  As a conservation biologist with a deep reverence for and attachment to the natural world, I often feel that my values are more in line with theirs than with those of Western Civilization.

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