The Green New Deal is catching people’s attention now because it is a practical plan to quickly begin to address the problems of a fossil fuel based corporate economy, and the consequences of that including environmental chaos, poverty and hopelessness. Monday over 1,000 young people from the Sunrise Movement which is working for the Green New Deal, flooded Capitol Hill. Around 150 were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience.
On December 7th, Winona LaDuke was interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW! Part of what they talked about was what an Indigenous led Green New Deal would look like. https://www.democracynow.org/2018/12/7/winona_laduke_calls_for_indigenous_led
Meanwhile, incoming Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers are calling for a Green New deal to revolutionize the U.S. economy to combat climate change.
Well, earlier this week, I spoke with climate activist Winona LaDuke, Native American activist with the Ojibwe Nation, executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works in the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. I began by asking her what an Indigenous Green New Deal would look like.
WINONA LADUKE: Well, indigenous people obviously have a lot of experience with sustainability, a lot of years of it. And so, if you look across the country, it turns out that the windiest places in the country are Indian reservations. For those of us who were at Standing Rock, Class VII wind. You know, one reservation in North Dakota, the Fort Berthold Reservation, has 17,000 times more wind than they could ever use. So, you start hooking those tribes up to the grid, which already crosses our land with some bad dam projects—look at places like the Navajo Nation, with five coal-fired power plants and four coal strip mines; look at their transition to new solar, for instance, the Kayenta Solar Project—and you’ve got kind of like a cornerstone. You know, we could call it energy justice, or we could just call it the enlightened economy—you know, really where we need to go. And then you look at the issues of agriculture.
I mean, you know, so I come from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, and we have a plan. You know, my plan is—first of all, I’m looking down the barrel of a very big pipeline, which is a $7 billion boondoggle of stranded assets. We’ll talk about that later. But I’m looking down the pipeline, you know, at the barrel of this pipeline, and I’m looking: What could $7 billion do in Minnesota? What could it do to make a New Green Deal?
So, in my territory, for instance, on the Iron Range, there’s a new solar plant that has gone in to make solar photovoltaic panels. And on my reservation, we are just beginning—and in February we should be operational—a solar thermal panel manufacturing facility to make solar thermal panels that you can put on the south side of your house and reduce your heating bill by about 20 percent. We have solar going in at 20 kilowatts and 200-kilowatt projects.
And then we have this larger vision, which, you know, it’s not just renewable energy. It’s efficiency, and then it’s also local foods and the next economy. Our interest in the next economy—I mean, to be honest with you, Amy, I didn’t really like this economy too much. Didn’t work out too well for my people, you know. So the next economy has to be something that reaffirms our relationship to the Earth and gives us a shot. That, to me, looks like a lot of local food, organic food. If you actually went organic in most of your agriculture, and, for instance—I just read an article—if you ate beans, you know, if we just upped the beans and diminished the cattle, you’d end up with sequestering the carbon in the soil. You know, you don’t need some guys to put something in the sky to keep the carbon out of the sky. You need to put it in the soil. And so you need organic agriculture. That’s what we’re doing in my community.
And the other thing that I’m working on is hemp. I have, for three years, been growing industrial hemp. And what I’m interested in is the next textile economy. This country, in the 1980s and the 1990s, offshored all of our textile manufacturing to Asia. And we don’t produce anything in this country. And I am a hemp grower. Hemp has three times the tensile strength of cotton. Hemp doesn’t use all the water, like 5,000 gallons of water for a T-shirt and jeans, doesn’t use all the chemicals. And, in fact, the word “canvas” comes from “cannabis.” And so, what I want to do is to rebuild the hemp industry in Indian country. And I want us at the table, not on the menu. I want us to be in the leadership of this next economy, because we have a lot of territory upon which you can grow hemp. And we can rebuild the light manufacturing industry in this country.