suggests native law approach
Environmental Law Conference featured 15 keynote speakers on a
variety of issues
March 10, 2003
As the time approached 1 p.m. Saturday, the EMU
Ballroom rapidly filled with students, environmental activists,
lawyers and community members, who had gathered to hear the
Honorable Robert Yazzie speak. Seats filled quickly, and people
entering late were resigned to sitting on the floor or leaning
against the wall.
"I miss the days of heavy winter snows," Yazzie said. "When I
see, feel and taste the declining quality of our water, life and
earth, I worry what my grandchildren and future generations will
Yazzie -- the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court -- was
one of 15 keynote speakers involved with the 21st annual Public
Interest Environmental Law Conference, which took place during the
weekend. As he spoke Saturday, Yazzie focused on the Navajo's view
on the environment and how it should be treated.
"All creation from mother earth and father sky have their own
independent freedom to exist," he said. "We should obey the laws of
nature because it is there for a purpose, and we must respect it for
what it is."
Standing in the doorway of the entrance to the ballroom, Land Air
Water passed out a transcript of the fundamental laws of the Diné,
which means people. LAW hosted the event, which started Thursday and
ended Sunday. Yazzie referred to the transcript throughout his
speech, pointing out ways western culture differs from the Navajos
in treatment of the environment.
"The end goal of life is not me," he said. "While Navajos are
known as the people in English, it is a mistranslation. We are not
the people, but one of many. There are rock people, tree people ...
we depend on each other."
While Yazzie spoke on the Navajo views of environmental
injustice, other speakers focused on topics such as ecofeminism or
genetic engineering. There were also various workshops,
presentations and panels that took place during the weekend,
focusing on a variety of environmental issues.
Jennifer O'Donnell was another keynote speaker, and she centered
her lecture on corporate responsibility as well as her involvement
in Ohio Citizen Action.
"(O'Donnell) has spent more than 20 years kicking ass in the
trenches," LAW treasurer Jason Klein said in his introduction of
O'Donnell. "She's a wonderful, passionate individual."
OCA, an environmentally aware group that prides itself on taking
on issues which affect the lives of citizens in Ohio, is currently
working on a campaign to keep the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant
O'Donnell took the stage and explained to her audience that
Davis-Besse was originally shut down one year ago because of a
football-sized hole in the reactor head. There was less than half an
inch of stainless steel liner keeping the radioactive and
pressurized internal environment from blasting into the reactor
containment building, which could have damaged safety equipment, and
possibly set into motion a core melt accident.
"It's like a horror movie," O'Donnell said.
The owners of Davis-Besse, First Energy, planned to have the
plant running again within months of the shut down, but a reopening
has yet to happen. O'Donnell said OCA is working to keep the plant
from reopening at all.
"Nuclear power is not clean, it is not cheap, and it is not
safe," she said. "We will prevail."
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