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Native Sun News: Winona LaDuke addresses energy addiction

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Cutline : Winona LaDuke speaking in Pierre.

From the tipi to the Tesla
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– Anishinaabe tribal member Winona LaDuke, the only Native American ever to run for vice president of the United States of America and an economist by training, called for a “transition from the tipi to the Tesla,” during a speaking engagement in the South Dakota state capital on Nov. 7.

LaDuke’s 20-year-old non-profit Honor the Earth aims to raise public environmental awareness, preserve land-based economies of scale, and enable grassroots efforts to promote Native American communities’ resilience in the face of climate change.

One of the components imperative for resilience is appropriate technology based on renewable energy sources, according to the award-winning author of eight books, activist, orator, mother, and grandmother.

Tesla Motors, she noted, is an example of a business contributing to the transition to a clean energy future, with its electric car production and this year’s announcement by CEO Elon Musk that “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

Musk informed shareholders that the company is joining the open-source movement because “it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day,” he said.

LaDuke charged oil-shale hydro fracturing and tar-sands oil mining operations, such as those of Syncrude Canada Ltd., together with their supporting crude pipeline projects, such as those of TransCanada Corp. and Enbridge Inc., with doing “crazy stuff,” adding, “That’s not what normal people do.” It’s a reflection oil addiction, she said.

“The era we are in is an era that reflects our addiction. I’ve lived with addicts; they rationalize; they lie; they do bad stuff, and that’s what we do as a country,” she said.

“I’m a child of the fossil fuels era – I want a graceful transition out of the fossil fuel era,” she said. “What Transcanada, Enbridge, and Syncrude want is to go crashing out of the fossil fuel era.”

LaDuke said she saw the face of that graceful transition earlier this year when she was among numerous Native Americans and other Great Plains residents protesting TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL Pipeline route, proposed through Lakota Territory.

She and others had braved sirens and flashing lights to ride horseback onto the Washington Mall, where she was resting inside one of several tipis staked out there, when a stranger peeked inside and asked her if she wanted to go for another ride.

She and her sons were apprehensive until they learned that she would be taking a test ride in a Tesla that was charged with solar energy collectors at the driver’s home.

“I want the transition from the tipi to the Tesla,” LaDuke told the audience made up of members of the statewide non-profit family-farm organization Dakota Rural Action.

There’s not a lot of political will in the politicians,” she said. The United States has no national energy plan. But she added, “There are a lot of people like you and me. We have the brains. We are going to stay strong.” The key is to “re-localize your food economy and your energy economy,” she said.

“First of all, you decouple your agricultural system from fossil fuels. You cannot slather fossil fuel all over your fields,” she advised.

LaDuke conducted an analysis of the food and energy spending on her White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. She found that $7 million invested annually in groceries was spent outside the reservation and that the remaining $1 million was spent on junk food at convenience stores.

“Our ancestors were totally food self-sufficient. Now we’re totally dependent,” she observed.

“You cannot import food from everywhere around the world and pretend that the price of food is not gonna effect your security,” she said. “If you go organic and local you can reduce CO2 emissions 20 percent,” she added.

LaDuke has been advocating a national energy policy since the 1970s, when she was on the debate team at her alma mater of Harvard-Radcliffe.

Her studies found that 50 percent of the energy from transmission lines was being wasted between the fossil fueled generating station and the delivery point.

A 25-percent savings was realized in heating energy at one dwelling on her reservation by installing solar panels. Small-scale windmills that local people can maintain themselves were another attempt to rationalize energy consumption and create down-home “intellectual capital” in renewable technologies on the reservation, she said.

“People say renewables are not gonna work, because you can’t meet present demand,” she said. “We don’t wanna meet the present demand. We wanna be the people that are wise, not wasteful. We want efficiency.” The United States consumes one-quarter of the world’s resources, she noted. Among problems with that are that it “requires constant intervention into other people’s territories and violations of their human rights,” she said.

“Our ancestors were not wasteful. They lived well and knew how to live,” she added, citing the energy efficiency of the traditional Mandan earth lodge homes and structures.

“We’ve got some structural problems. As an economist, I believe that is what we really have to address,” she said. “The Keystone XL Pipeline reflects a systemic problem. Pipelines are for countries that lack imagination, lack vision. I’m pretty sure we didn’t sign up for it.

“TransCanada comes in, or Enbridge, and promises rural communities new jobs. Indian Country needs infrastructure. Money should be spent on building infrastructure for all of us,” not pipelines, which is a “stranded asset,” “a waste of money” and “will really be of no help to Americans,” LaDuke told the Native Sun News.

She referred to ancestral teachings to characterize the state of the transition to an economy that provides security in food, energy.

“In our Anishinaabe prophecies, this is called the time of the Seventh Fire. This is a time when our people will have two roads ahead of us - one miikina, or path, which is well-worn - but scorched - and another path, which is green. It will be our choice upon which path to embark. That is where we are.”

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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