Powell, Dana and Julie Maldonado, eds. (2017) Just Environmental and Climate Pathways: Knowledge Exchange Among Community Organizers, Scholar-Activists, Citizen-Scientists and Artists. Workshop report. Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting. 28 March 2017. Santa Fe, New Mexico. Climate-Pathways-Workshop-Report_Santa-Fe_March-2017
Protecting History and Nurturing Economic Development in Benham and Lynch, Kentucky By Mary Hufford
America’s environmental laws guarantee its citizens the right to participate in public conversations about alternatives to large-scale development projects. Yet too often, when, as citizens, we exercise this right to participate in the visioning of futures for our communities, we are labelled “activists,” accused of threatening the jobs that come with environmentally destructive forms of…
LiKEN’s Stories of Place project was featured on Tuesday, February 12 at an event in the Kentucky State Capitol rotunda in Frankfort, sponsored by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). Sheldon Clark High School Students from Allison Leip’s English classes and Christin Roberson’s Air and Space science class presented posters illustrating their documentation of stories…
Preventing the Preposterous: Kinder-Morgan Pipeline Unpurposed
By Craig WilliamsProject DirectorKentucky Environmental Foundation In February 2015, Kinder- Morgan, Inc., one of the nation’s largest energy infrastructure companies, proposed the re-purposing of 964 miles of their 70+ year old 24 inch pipeline from transporting Natural Gas (NG) to transporting Natural Gas Liquids (NGL). One needn’t be a genius to realize it would take more pressure to move a liquid through the pipeline than to move a…
“Stories of Place Project: Martin County, Kentucky leads the Way”
By Mary Hufford, Director for Stories of Place “Working with youth to gather and present the stories of elders, Stories of Place engages multiple generations in the discovery and renewal of places that matter most to Central Appalachian communities” The Stories of Place Martin County team, photographed during a field trip to Appalshop in Whitesburg.…
By Hannah Ornellas I am currently two weeks away from finishing my final quarter of my undergraduate career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and am becoming more and more excited to use what I have learned here to do what I am most passionate about, which is using my education to support others.…
Blueprint for Balance Part Three – Wider Implications
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant July 4, 2017 The below critiques delve into various proposals that stood out to me amongst other sections of the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Balance. I specifically selected the first two proposals, as they highlight a desire for US politics to become more isolationist by halting support for…
Blueprint for Balance Part Two – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant July 4, 2017 In terms of energy pollution, the vast majority of the adult population understands the dire effects that the burning of fossil fuels has on both the environment and human health. When reading through the Energy and Water Development section of the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for…
Blueprint for Balance, Part One – Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and Related Agencies
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant July 4, 2017 Reading the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Balance, which proposed budget guidance for the Trump administration, was like reading a contemporary political thriller novel. There were unanticipated plot twists at every corner and the whole time I was increasingly hopeful someone accidentally placed it in the…
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant June 7, 2017 As an environmental studies student perusing recent media headlines, one of the myriad of issues that stands out to me is the contested future of the Environmental Protection Agency. Several newly-elected figures wish to dismantle the EPA, while 60% of Americans believe that the EPA…
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant June 7, 2017 Historically, the force of change has been social movements starting from the bottom up, advocating for laws and policies that reflect notions of justice, grounded truth, and firmly-held beliefs. These political and social changes are often fueled by younger generations who strive to create a…
Conceptualizing “Facts” in the Current Political Landscape
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant Over the past century, news media has been in a continuous state of evolution, accelerated in recent years by the introduction of social media. With the public virtually drowning in information from social media, news now has to elicit feelings of excitement akin to those of soap operas…
Section 1504- The Wall Between Corruption and Transparency
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant Anti-Fracking Protest – Photo by Julie Maldonado, Cape Town, South Africa, October 2012. While the expediting of the Dakota and Keystone Pipelines by President Trump made global headlines, many other important actions have gone by undetected. One important example is Representative Bill Huizenga’s bill to abolish…
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant In the past eight years, global society has made great strides towards a more environmentally conscious international community. Just recently in 2016, 131 countries of diverging ideologies and backgrounds came together to sign the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. Yet, as President…
“Curating Time’s Body: Elders as Stewards of Historical Sensibility,” in The Expressive Lives of Elders: Folklore, Art, and Aging, ed. Jon Kay. Indiana University Press. Published in October 2018, explores the role of elders in tracking multi-generational stories and shaping these into enduring worlds, bridging to common ground across modern spatial, temporal, and technological divides.
2012.“Who Knows? Who Tells? Creating a Knowledge Commons“ by Anita Puckett, Elizabeth Fine, Mary Hufford, Ann Kingsolver, and Betsy Taylor Published in (Eds) Steve Fisher and Barbara Ellen Smith, Transforming places: lessons in movement-building from Appalachia. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, pp. 239-251
Maldonado, JK. 2018. Seeking Justice in an Energy Sacrifice Zone: Standing on Vanishing Land in Coastal Louisiana. London/New York: Routledge Press.
Cernea, M and JK Maldonado. 2018. Challenging the Prevailing Displacement and Resettlement Paradigm: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, and Solutions. London/New York Routledge Press.
Maldonado, JK, R Pandya, and B Colombi, eds. 2014. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions. Cham, Switzerland, Springer Publishing International. Reprinting of Maldonado, JK, R Pandya, and B Colombi, eds. 2013. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions. Climatic Change 120(3).
Journal Articles (peer-reviewed)
Maldonado, JK. 2016. Considering Culture in Disaster Practice. Annals of Anthropological Practice. AJ Faas, editor, Special Issue.
Maldonado, JK, B Taylor, and M Hufford. 2016.The Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network: Grow Where You Are. Practicing Anthropology, Special Issue: Activism, Agency and Engagement with Extraction, J Simonelli and S Fiske, co-editors. 38(3).
Maldonado, JK, TMB Bennett, K Chief, P Cochran, K Cozzetto, B Gough, MH Redsteer, K Lynn, N Maynard, G Voggesser. 2016. Engagement With Indigenous Peoples and Honoring Traditional Knowledge Systems. Climatic Change 135: 111-126.
Maldonado, JK. 2014. A Multiple Knowledge Approach for Adaptation to Environmental Change: Lessons Learned from Coastal Louisiana’s Tribal Communities. Journal of Political Ecology 21: 61-82.
Maldonado, JK, C Shearer, R Bronen, K Peterson and H Lazrus. 2013. The Impact of Climate Change on Tribal Communities in the US: Displacement, Relocation, and Human Rights. Climatic Change 120(3): 601-614.
Maldonado, JK. 2012. A New Path Forward: Researching and Reflecting on Forced Displacement and Resettlement. Report on the International Resettlement Conference: Economics, Social Justice, and Ethics in Development-Caused Involuntary Migration, The Hague, 4-8 October 2010. Journal of Refugee Studies 25(2): 193-220.
Book Chapters (peer-reviewed)
Hiza Redsteer, M, I Krupnik, and JK Maldonado. Forthcoming. Native American Communities and Climate Change. In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 1 – Introduction. Igor Krupnik, ed. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
Faas, AJ, R Barrios, E Marino, and J Maldonado. Forthcoming. Disaster and Climate Change-related Displacements and Resettlements: Cultural and Political Ecologies of Space, Power, and Practice. In The Angry Earth, second edition. A Oliver-Smith and S Hoffman, eds. Informa UK, Limited.
Maldonado, JK and K Peterson. 2018. A Community-based Model for Resettlement: Lessons from Coastal Louisiana. In The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration. R McLeman and F Gemenne, eds. Routledge Press.
Bronen, R, JK Maldonado, E Marino, and P Hardison. 2018. Climate Change and Displacement: Challenges and Needs to Address an Imminent Reality. In Challenging the Prevailing Displacement and Resettlement Paradigm: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, and Solutions. M Cernea and JK Maldonado, eds. London/New York Routledge Press.
Cernea, M and JK Maldonado. Forthcoming. Social Science Knowledge and Normative Systems in Involuntary Population Resettlement. In Challenging the Prevailing Displacement and Resettlement Paradigm: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, and Solutions. M Cernea and JK Maldonado, eds. London/New York Routledge Press.
Maldonado, JK. 2017. Corexit to Forget It: The Transformation of Coastal Louisiana into an Energy Sacrifice Zone. In ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements and Alternative Futures. K Jalbert, A Willow, S Paladino, and D Casagrande, eds. London/New York: Routledge Press.
Maldonado, JK. 2016. The Practical and Policy Relevance of Social Network Analysis for Disaster Response, Recovery and Adaptation. In Social Network Analysis in Disaster Response, Recovery, and Adaptation. E Jones and AJ Faas, eds. Pp. 255-268. Elsevier.
Maldonado, JK, H Lazrus, B Gough, SK Bennett, K Chief, C Dhillon, L Kruger, J Morisette, S Petrovic, K Whyte. 2016. The Story of Rising Voices: Facilitating Collaboration between Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing. In Responses to Disasters and Climate Change: Understanding Vulnerability and Fostering Resilience. MCompanion and M Chaiken, eds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Peterson, KJ and JK Maldonado. 2016. When Adaptation is Not Enough: Between Now and Then of Community-led Resettlement. In Anthropology and Climate Change, 2nd edition. S Crate and M Nuttall, eds. London/New York: Routledge Press.
Maldonado, JK, AP Naquin, T Dardar, S Parfait-Dardar and B Bagwell. 2015. Above the Rising Tide: Coastal Louisiana’s Tribal Communities Apply Local Strategies and Knowledge to Adapt to Rapid Environmental Change. In Disasters’ Impact on Livelihood and Cultural Survival: Losses, Opportunities, and Mitigation. M Companion, ed. Pp. 239-253. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Gonzalez, P, G Garfin, D Breshears, K Brooks, H Brown, E Elias, A Gunasekara, N Huntly, J Maldonado, N Mantua, H Margolis, S McAfee, and BR Middleton (forthcoming, 2018) Chapter 25 “Southwest.” In Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States. US Global Change Research Program.
Maldonado, J and K Cozzetto. 2018. Gila River Indian Community Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Project: Workshop Series Summary Report.
Maldonado, J, N Cooley, and K Cozzetto. 2018. Navajo Nation Climate Change Adaptation Planning Workshop: Establishing Natural Resource Priorities. Summary Report.
Cozzetto K, J Maldonado, S Fluharty, J Hostler, C Cosby. 2018. Yurok Tribe Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Water and Aquatic Resources. 1 Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP), Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ. 2 Yurok Tribe Department of Environmental Quality (YTEP), Klamath, CA.
Bennett, TM B, NG Maynard, P Cochran, R Gough, K Lynn, J Maldonado, G Voggesser, S Wotkyns, and K Cozzetto. 2014. Ch. 12: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources. In Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. JM Melillo, TC Richmond, and GW Yohe, eds. Pp. 297-317. U.S. Global Change Research Program. http://nca2014.globalchange.gov
2014 “A Journalistic Selfie: An urban reporter’s cure for rural poverty tells us more about her own bias than it does about what might work for distressed communities suffering from the ‘resource curse’”, op-ed inThe Daily Yonder. July 8.
I am currently two weeks away from finishing my final quarter of my undergraduate career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and am becoming more and more excited to use what I have learned here to do what I am most passionate about, which is using my education to support others. Working with LiKEN this past quarter has given me a taste of what it is going to be like to very soon be contributing to projects and working outside of the university setting.
Many coastal populations, including Native American and Indigenous tribes in low lying areas are at risk of losing their land due to climate change and sea level rise. In response, LiKEN, through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant award to support the Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Science program, hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR) in partnership with LiKEN, has facilitated the development of a Rising Voices Relocation Task Force Team. To support this work, myself and two other LiKEN research assistants were assembled to investigate government documents to better understand what is allowable under existing policies, laws, and regulations in relation to community relocations.
My first role while working on the first part of the Task Force was to comb through government documents and national and state policy to find essential pieces of information and legal definitions. I specifically looked through the policies and projects of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Flood Insurance Program (NIFP), and the United States Army Corp of Engineer document 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Governmental documents and policies are a navigational maze. Having spent the last four years focusing on learning research skills, I still struggled to find the specific information I was looking for in these policies and documents. This assignment made me realize how difficult it must be for people who are not native English speakers or those who do not have secondary education to try and find governmental policies that can help them. It illustrated how difficult it must be for disaster survivors trying to deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims.
This project has confirmed my desire to use my education to support others. It is my responsibility in the fight for climate justice and a post-carbon world to use my education and my acquired skills to stand with communities and together, rise up and advocate for policies in favor of sustainable changes. We are running out of time to slow down the rate of climate change, and the work that LiKEN and other organizations are doing is essential for a sustainable, just future for all.
America’s environmental laws guarantee its citizens the right to participate in public conversations about alternatives to large-scale development projects. Yet too often, when, as citizens, we exercise this right to participate in the visioning of futures for our communities, we are labelled “activists,” accused of threatening the jobs that come with environmentally destructive forms of extraction such as clear-cutting, fracking, and mountaintop removal mining. We have a right to engage public conversations that consider the long-term costs and benefits of alternative pathways to development. To insist that these conversations take place is nothing less than patriotic.
Citizens of Benham and Lynch, in Harlan County Kentucky, have stepped forward to hold their representatives accountable to beneficiaries, past, present, and future, of Eastern Kentucky’s world-class public trust of fragile, forested, mountain ecosystems. They have identified resources on which they are already building alternative pathways to development. These historical, cultural, and ecological resources with economic potential are likely to be greatly diminished in value by strip mining in proximity. We support the citizens’ demand for an honest and thorough look at alternatives to extreme extraction that nurture and sustain human communities throughout the Central Appalachian region. As it stands, this requirement, though set forth explicitly in Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, has not been met.
Recently, Dr. Maldonado and the LiKEN Research Assistant (RA) team based out of University of California, Santa Barbara, met to discuss progress regarding all of the ongoing projects such as the Land Study in collaboration with Dr. Deborah Thompson. I have been mostly working on the Land Study for the past few weeks. In preparation for the land study project, Hannah Ornellas and I, as part of the research team are reviewing the software required to help code interviews conducted for the land study. We are learning different ways to use it and researching its capabilities. We are working on familiarizing ourselves with the intricacies of the software so that we can optimize its utility in helping organize and understand the study. By assigning specific numbers to words in a systematic way, we will be able to observe trends in the data and further our knowledge as a team. I really look forward to continuing with this project and seeing the final outcome because I find it very interesting to understand how communities feel as a whole, and by conducting and dissecting interviews, it is a really good way for us as researchers to find out qualitative details about the sentiment of the communities. In conjunction with that, Dr. Maldonado, Hannah and I have a meeting with Dr. Thompson to discuss the Land Study and exchange ideas on how to exactly code the interviews. I look forward to the next meeting and moving along further in the project!
LiKEN’s Stories of Place project was featured on Tuesday, February 12 at an event in the Kentucky State Capitol rotunda in Frankfort, sponsored by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). Sheldon Clark High School Students from Allison Leip’s English classes and Christin Roberson’s Air and Space science class presented posters illustrating their documentation of stories of elders in Martin County and a trip to map favorite fishing holes in and around Petercave Lake. More than 400 students from 22 school districts in Eastern Kentucky participated.
Stories of Place students and faculty on the steps inside the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda.
Photo by Mary Hufford
During the day, Sheldon Clark students presented their projects to Kentucky legislators Rocky Adkins and Chris Harris. Throughout the spring, students will be continuing their documentary research in order to produce podcasts, videos, and updated maps featuring Martin County’s special places.
Brandon Matthew, shaking hand of Kentucky State Delegate Chris Harris, who stopped by to meet the Stories of Place students and faculty and learn about their projects.
Photo by Mary Hufford.
KVEC videographer, interviewing Andrea Davis about her Stories of Place Poster, based on her interview with Remona Ward Estep.
Photo by Mary Hufford.
Stories of Place in Martin County, a project of the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network in partnership with the University of Kentucky, is co-directed by Mary Hufford and Karen Rignall, with funding from the Whiting Foundation.
By Craig Williams Project Director Kentucky Environmental Foundation
In February 2015, Kinder- Morgan, Inc., one of the nation’s largest energy infrastructure companies, proposed the re-purposing of 964 miles of their 70+ year old 24 inch pipeline from transporting Natural Gas (NG) to transporting Natural Gas Liquids (NGL). One needn’t be a genius to realize it would take more pressure to move a liquid through the pipeline than to move a gas. But, that was just the beginning of our concerns.
Upon digging a little deeper, it became apparent that there were many additional risks associated with this proposal, such as leaks, explosions, water and land contamination and the like. The pipeline company also wanted to reverse the flow from South to North using this antiquated line, so fracking materials destined for export could be moved to the Gulf from PA and OH. People began to question the potential risks associated with this proposal.
Photo by Robin Hart
It didn’t take long for them to recognize this was a plan that prioritized profit over people and to begin organizing against it. Efforts were initiated to bring citizens, organizations, governments, and institutions out in opposition to this plan in an organized fashion. Legal strategies were developed as an additional tool to protect communities along the route. The Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), a project under LiKEN, worked with local, city, and county governments, academic institutions, and economic development organizations to educate, and to urge vocal opposition to the proposal.
Over the course of the following three and a half years, KEF was able to get more than fifteen of these types of entities to not only vocally come out in their respective communities, but, also, to send letters directly to the Kinder-Morgan President and CEO urging them to cease and desist. All were copied to the appropriate Congressional officials, as well as the federal agencies responsible for issuing permits to begin the project. Two counties went so far as to pass their own ordinances requiring conditional permits be issued by them prior to the project moving forward. (See joint Press Release for a list of entities who made public statements against the pipeline re-purposing).
It didn’t take long for them to recognize this was a plan that prioritized profit over people…
Meanwhile, grassroots efforts to educate the general public were vigorously undertaken to provide the underpinning needed to increase the political pressure objectives. In addition, legal actions were taken to challenge the pro-project decrees issued by the federal agencies along the way. These efforts were bolstered by presentations by scientists and documentation of problems associated with similar proposals. This multifaceted approach eventually tipped the scales in favor of communities. On October 2, 2018 Kinder-Morgan filed a request to vacate the certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity previously issued, that would have allowed the project to proceed. KEF and LiKEN are proud of the role they played in achieving this victory on behalf of the public’s health and safety and the protection of our collective environment.
“Working with youth to gather and present the stories of elders, Stories of Place engages multiple generations in the discovery and renewal of places that matter most to Central Appalachian communities”
The Stories of Place Martin County team, photographed during a field trip to Appalshop in Whitesburg. Photo by Willa Johnson
In August, with the support of a Whiting Fellowship awarded to Karen Rignall (faculty member with the Community and Leadership Development program of the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment ) LiKEN launched its Stories of Place program at Sheldon Clark High School, in Inez, Kentucky. As director of LiKEN’s Stories of Place program, I have been working with Karen Rignall, project coordinator in Martin County, Ricki Draper, a fellow with the Highlander Institute, and Sheldon Clark faculty members Allison Leap (English) and Christin Roberson (Science). Our community advisor is Nina McCoy, who formerly taught biology at Sheldon Clark High School. Twenty high school sophomores gather each week for Stories of Place meetings. They are developing the skills needed to conduct documentary interviews with elders in the community. They are also learning GIS mapping skills, and in the spring they will meet with Willa Johnson, of Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute, for training in editing and producing podcasts.
Nina McCoy, Ricki Draper, and Mickey McCoy reviewing a map of Martin County that is
used during Stories of Place Meetings with students. Map courtesy of Aaron Guest.
Photo by Mary Hufford.
Thinking of Stories of Place as applied narrative ecology, we approach “place” as an ecosystem that depends on the stories we tell for its ongoing renewal. What are the environmental and social conditions that sustain storytelling in our communities? And how does storytelling nurture environment and society together? Working with youth to gather and present the stories of elders, Stories of Place engages multiple generations in the discovery and renewal of places that matter most to Central Appalachian communities. Our curriculum introduces students to the unique legacies of the mixed mesophytic forests of the region, as they identify and explore landscapes and histories shaped by more than a century of coal and timber extraction. Through discussions of the work of Appalachian writers and filmmakers, students learn to tell the stories of their communities. On the way they meet with and learn about key figures and institutions in the region’s cultural history, including a field trip to Appalshop in Whitesburg in October, and an upcoming visit from Gurney Norman, who grew up in the coalfields of southwestern VA and eastern KY, and who from 2009 – 2010 was Kentucky’s poet laureate.
Stories of Place students locating their homes and special places on a map of Martin
County during the first meeting. Photo by Allison Leip.
Poster at the entrance to Sheldon Park High School advertising Stories of Place. Twenty
sophomores signed up. Photo by Mary Hufford.
Talking with community partners in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, as well as with members of Indigenous communities in Western U.S., we hear a persistent refrain: Distracted by technologies of the digital age, we pay less attention to our local surroundings, and to the communications between young people and elders that strengthen communities of land and people. Stories of place uses digital technology to address both rifts, and to engage youth and elders in planning for the future of their communities.
Rising Voices is a program that facilitates “cross-cultural approaches for adaptation solutions to extreme weather and climate events, climate variability and climate change.” It brings together Indigenous community members and physical scientists, social scientists, and engineers to establish conversations and plans to help communities who are adversely affected by weather and climate impacts. However, RISING VOICES is much more than that. It is a place for Indigenous community members to speak of their struggles, their fights, and the need for Western science to acknowledge them and their knowledge. And for me, it is a program where I found the representation and empowerment from people of color who could be my mentors – people who I do not often see in an educational system that is predominantly white.
I was introduced to LiKEN and RISING VOICES through Julie Maldonado in 2017 when I was taking her course in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which focused on the impacts of governmental policies and projects on communities across the globe. This class is where I first learned about Shishmaref, Alaska and how this community is suffering from island erosion, and how our government is not supportive enough – if at all – of relocating or financially supporting this community. Later I became a research assistant for Julie and LiKEN and had the amazing opportunity to attend the 6th annual Rising Voices workshop in 2018, held in Duluth, Minnesota as a notetaker and aid in writing the workshop report. I say amazing because I found in RISING VOICES much needed inspiration, role models, and revelations that I had not quite realized I needed.
The majority of participants were Indigenous. They were people of color completing their Masters degrees, running for public office, working in STEM fields, running their own companies, and so much more. Most of all, they were people who were fighting battles against a system that has primarily aimed to colonize our minds and taught us that the Western way is the only way – that being light skinned is the only way to get ahead. And it was being in the presence of all these people that made me realize this was the first time I had ever been surrounded by so many people of color at once and see just how lacking all of our systems are of these kinds of conferences, discussions, and people to represent us.
RISING VOICES made me realize just how much I needed to see people who looked like me in higher positions so I could know just how much I am worth and how much I can do. We need to continue growing so we can have our voices heard; so communities of color can get the help they need and not be pushed to the back of the agenda because they are not considered important enough to put first; and so that the younger generation can have more role models who look like them and who can help them navigate the system. Especially given the current political context, programs like RISING VOICES are more important than ever.
I was invited to attend my first Rising Voices workshop this year as a note-taker and research assistant for the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN). In April 2018, I traveled to Duluth, MN, to participate in Rising Voices 6, Rising Together: Mobilizing and Learning from Local Actions.
Bob Gough, Heather Lazrus, and Julie Maldonado established the Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences program to facilitate cross-cultural approaches to climate chaos. The first annual convergence was hosted in 2013 in Boulder, CO. Since then, Rising Voices has grown into an active network of individuals and organizations dedicated to deconstructing the various barriers to effective climate research and action and creating pathways for sustainable solutions. Participants from across the United States and globe come together to address the complexities of climate change and its unequal impact facing Indigenous peoples. Although each annual RV workshop varies in its specific focus, the overall goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue regarding current climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, protection of Indigenous knowledges, sustainable Indigenous practices, and political and institutional barriers to protection and stability. The theme of Rising Voices 6 (RV6) was “Rising Together: Mobilizing and Learning from Local Actions.” RV6 was hosted in Duluth, MN, and thus we focused on the resiliency of Indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region and the mobilization of local partners.
My priority throughout the three-day program was to listen and to learn from and about others, so I spent most of my time listening, thinking, reflecting, and feeling. I was continuously reminded of the importance of relationships, responsibility, respect, and resiliency in enhancing life on this planet. One of the most notable things we discussed was the necessity of giving Indigenous wisdom, science, and knowledge of place the same credibility and legitimacy as Western science. Although decolonization is the only definite way to address reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination, creating new research processes from both old and new forms of knowledge and knowing is one way to move forward from where we are today. Cross-cultural collaboration, learning from those with different backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of knowing, and collective mobilization are essential to create stronger solutions to climate change.
The overall goals and major successes of Rising Voices are rooted in decolonization, thus establishing the necessity of such a program. Rising Voices facilitates constructive collaboration between Indigenous peoples, allies, and potential allies, while centering Indigenous voices throughout. Priority is given to Indigenous-led efforts for climate research and the return of land and resources; Western scientists and agencies are then challenged to deconstruct their colonial mindsets and commit to supporting tribal sovereignty. Participants in the Rising Voices program—especially White and non-Native participants—are encouraged to take a critical lens to colonization, capitalism, and all marginalizing practices, and to take action based on their knowledge.
Rising Voices initiates dialogue that is rooted in pain, mistreatment, and historical trauma. The tension that stems from historical injustice can be palpable at times, and I was happy to see that nothing is swept under the rug for the sake of cooperation. Rising Voices provides the opportunity to discuss shortcomings in past partnerships and warnings for future collaboration, and participants feel comfortable voicing their concerns. This sense of comfort comes from the platform of respect that Rising Voices is founded upon. While the tension between participants coming from different perspectives and worldviews was at times palpable, I also felt a lot of love in that room in Duluth, MN, and throughout the entire Rising Voices community. In addition to being an educational experience, I felt that Rising Voices creates a foundation for future healing based upon the love and support I witnessed during the three days we spent together.
I met many wonderful people at the 6th annual Rising Voices workshop. Thank you all for welcoming me and inviting me to participate in such an essential program. Some of my most memorable moments were during our time spent learning from the local communities, and the times we shared together outside of the workshop’s schedule. I hope to attend Rising Voices in future years, knowing how much more I will learn and grow as an individual and as part of this beautiful community.
It is almost dark. The sky is a dusky blue, and meets the murky waters of Lake Superior at the horizon line. Elongated grey waves approach me, and their foamy resolution echoes sweetly in my ears. The professor guiding my research group bends down to touch the water. He smiles.
“You can drink it,” he says. “It’s that pure.”
I visited Duluth, Minnesota in April 2018, my junior year of high school. The waterfront city was hosting the 6th annual Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences workshop, and I attended as a research assistant for Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), the co-organizer. Both my father and brother had been involved with Rising Voices, but this was the first year I was actively participating in the workshop, compiling information for the public workshop report. My job was to listen and observe. I spent three attentive days with individuals at the forefront of climate advocacy, and a month later, when I sat down to write the report, I had no shortage of material to expound upon.
When I think of Rising Voices, I am reminded immediately of its warmth. People laughing and hugging, enjoying food and company, sharing stories and wisdom. I have little experience with professional workshops, but from what I do know, the atmosphere of Rising Voices is distinctly welcoming. It gathers together activists, scholars, and scientists, and most importantly, enables a discussion where Indigenous voices are heard and heeded. Indigenous knowledge is the pillar of climate knowledge, and it is fittingly the focus of Rising Voices. The conference takes a widespread and publicized issue–the impending threat of climate change–and presents adaptive solutions through a lens of traditional ecological knowledge. It is truly a revolutionary approach, because it combines both Western and Indigenous knowledge in a single exploratory event.
Rising Voices is an enlightening experience, but its greatest value comes in its wisdom. I remember Daniel Wildcat, Acting Vice-President for Academics, Haskell Indian Nations University, musing that perhaps “society has developed too much.” To listen to the speakers of Rising Voices is to take a pause from a fast-paced and urban approach to life and science. To listen deeply is to understand that climate resiliency and prosperity comes from honoring the Earth, as indigenous communities have done for centuries. Rising Voices is almost narrative in its nature, because so many of its speakers reflect on their personal connection to the land. Such a personal interest, in turn, prompts strengthened and consistent action.
I touch a finger to the water, and it is frigid. The professor bends down next to me, and takes a handful in his palm. He raises the seeping water to his mouth and drinks. Behind us, other members of the group marvel at the waves and walk slowly along the black rocks. As I watch them quietly delight in the view of Lake Superior, my stomach swells with gratefulness. I realize how grateful I am to be here, along Lake Superior, with people from the Rising Voices workshop, a gathering that cherishes a personal connection to the natural world and encourages a traditional ecological approach as the first combatant to climate change.
By Dr. Simona Perry, Director, LiKEN Civic Professionalism Program
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The Elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a screeching halt. Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.” (Indigenous teachings from ChoQosh Auh’Ho’Oh’)
These medicine words are attributed to the Iroquois Elder, Uncle John. And in my work and relationship with communities and families on the frontlines of unconventional oil and gas energy developments, Uncle John’s medicine, more than any other teaching I have found, captures the paradoxical feelings of fear, expectation, and at the same time, hope that grips these communities. It is also a teaching for each of us about each of our roles in overcoming prejudice and fear of the unknown, celebrating and cultivating collective action, and fostering resilience and hope in what sometimes feels like a hopeless situation.
From the fractured shale fields of rural Appalachia to my work with the Pipeline Safety Coalition, I have walked along the right-of-ways, driven along the rail-lines and roadways that transport hazardous materials and natural gas across the mountains and farm fields, under the rivers, across the suburbs, and into metropolitan cities and ports. I have followed the lives of local citizens and communities as they experience a variety of painful and sometimes life-changing lessons. Lessons about water and food security and access to appropriate health care. Lessons on right-to-know laws and what it means to expect (and demand) more from your government at the state, local, and national levels. We’ve learned lessons about the power and at the same time the fallibility of Western science and scientific methods. And there have been critical lessons on how our civil and human rights, current well-being, and future prosperity are so intimately linked with ecological processes and environmental protection.
Prayer Rocks overlooking the Susquehanna River. Photograph by Simona Perry.
I have witnessed alongside these communities the disregard for environmental laws on hazardous wastes, the gaps in our country’s drinking water and air regulations, how national security threats and demands for patriotism are used as tools for silencing and criminalizing dissent, the ways that corporate corruption has infected our democratic processes, and the disgraceful lack of moral grounding among politicians and decision-makers. However, what I have also learned is that there is a strength and contagious power to the voices of these courageous citizens and local leaders who have let me into their lives… the mothers, fathers, grandparents, and grandchildren… who have chosen to speak up against corruption and moral and scientific bankruptcy that have allowed for permits to be issued and developments to take place without consideration to the complex and intertwined environmental, health, labor, cultural, and social consequences of oil and gas extraction and transportation and all the related industrial developments. Even farmers who swore up and down to not be environmentalists or activists are now crying out for a new way. As Paul Hawken put it so eloquently, the environmental movement is humanity’s immune response. We are activating healing by speaking out on the part of the earth. Maybe that is what humans being the stewards of all life on earth is really all about.
Spirit Lake. Photograph by Simona Perry.
As an applied environmental scientist and ethnographer, I have conducted research that seeks to understand human-environment relationships, how everyday lived experiences relate to environmental changes, and what this can tell us about social and psychological change as it relates to the places where people live, work, recreate, procreate, grow up, and find solace. In my applied work with frontline communites, this has become a life’s calling. Hand-in-hand with landowners, students, farmers, and some brave local leaders, we have activated grounded knowledge and that wide and deep grassroots network to better inform how we educate and facilitate dialogue around our common struggles regarding local development projects, energy transitions, disaster preparedness, climate change, and long-term planning and public policy, and importantly how we can turn these struggles into strengths.
Remember– banish that word Struggle!
Personally, what drives me beyond the struggle is an intellectual curiosity to understand and document human culture and behavior, and what keeps me driven is the engagement of the emancipatory and empowering potential of simply asking individuals and groups, whom are rarely asked, what is YOUR story? What is important to YOU? What is the glue that holds you personally to your community and place? What does this glue, these connections, say about how the social fabric of your community holds together? And, what does this mean for understanding how this social fabric can become frayed or unravelled? And, here today what does this all mean to US in imagining solidarity across issues, maybe even solidarity beyond issues?
Neponset River Clean up Hyde Park 2013- image from Neponset River Watershed Association. Photograph by Martha McDonough, Neponset River Watershed Association.
Take the case of just one octogenarian farmer and his family from Bradford County, Pennsylvania. When this 80-year old gentleman signed a subsurface and surface lease with a gas company out of Oklahoma for a Marcellus shale gas well and associated infrastructure to be developed on his property he did it for the good of his family, the future of the farm that had been in his family for more than a century, and what he believed to be his own financial best interest. After the gas well was drilled, neighboring families living on the road where the gas well was located found their tap water turning black and producing a smell they said was “hard to describe.” When his adult daughter, who had recently returned from the West Coast to start an organic operation on the farm, found out that there had been problems with the construction of the gas well she wondered, and worried, that the changes in their neighbors’ water could be the result of the drilling of the gas wells on her farm. During an interview she told me, “I mean even neighbors whose wells have been contaminated by our well pad they are so gracious. They don’t even say anything. I would be so angry. I was worried about that. Like I started telling them I am so sorry. They said ‘You didn’t do it. It’s not your fault.’ But, I am so sorry. Our families have generation-after-generation relationships.” These are moments where the struggle is articulated. But they are also the moments when it becomes clear that we are all in this together. That it is about US not ME. And it is about learning from these collective struggles to create a more thriving and resilient collectivity. These very personal and sometimes heart-breaking realizations that what appears to be so good for one person or family can end up being so harmful to other people or an entire neighborhood and place bound together across generations has been a recurring theme throughout my seven years of work on this issue. And, I believe in this work lies one of the other critical teachings from Phillip Deer, an Arapaho Elder, that we all must heed: “The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!”
It is time we let go of the river’s bank, look around and see who is here with us… and I dare you to say, “Celebrate US!”