Stephen Jenkinson On Death, Community, and Elders

Stephen Jenkinson On Death, Community, and Elders

In this episode of Resistance Radio Derrick Jensen interviews Stephen Jenkinson. They discuss grief, trauma, history, death, community, living well and everything in between.  


Stephen Jenkinson is a culture activist, teacher, author and ceremonialist. He is the author of numerous books, including Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble and Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.

In this episode:

  • 1:08 Derrick talks about our relationship with death in this culture
  • 5:45 Stephen talks about death phobia in our spiritualism and culture
  • 14:35 On grief illiteracy that has arisen from death phobia
  • 22:36 Need of a community to take care of a dying person
  • 31:33 On being based on our landbases
  • 35:34 How do we learn to grieve: rehabilitation
  • 45:08 The Orphan Wisdom school

Browse all of Resistance Radio interviews

What Does the Earth Want From Us?

What Does the Earth Want From Us?

Editor’s Note: The Earth wants to live. And she wants us to stop destroying her. It is a simple answer, but one with many complex processes. How do we get there? Shall I leave my attachments with the industrial world and being off-the-grid living, like we were supposed to? Will that help Earth?

Yes, we need to leave this way of life and live more sustainably. But what the Earth needs is more than that. It is not one person who should give up on this industrial way of life, rather it is the entire industrial civilization that should stop existing. This requires a massive cultural shift from this globalized culture to a more localized one. In this article, Katie Singer explores the harms of this globalized system and a need to shift to a more local one. You can find her at katiesinger@substack.com


What Does the Earth Want From Us?

By Katie Singer/Substack

Last Fall, I took an online course with the philosopher Bayo Akomolafe to explore creativity and reverence while we collapse. He called the course We Will Dance with Mountains, and I loved it. I loved the warm welcome and libations given by elders at each meeting’s start. I loved discussing juicy questions with people from different continents in the breakout rooms. I loved the phenomenal music, the celebration of differently-abled thinking, the idea of Blackness as a creative way of being. When people shared tears about the 75+-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I felt humanly connected.

By engaging about 500 mountain dancers from a half dozen continents, the ten-session course displayed technology’s wonders.

I could not delete my awareness that online conferencing starts with a global super-factory that ravages the Earth. It extracts petroleum coke from places like the Tar Sands to smelt quartz gravel for every computer’s silicon transistors. It uses fossil fuels to power smelters and refineries. It takes water from farmers to make transistors electrically conductive. Its copper and nickel mining generates toxic tailings. Its ships (that transport computers’ raw materials to assembly plants and final products to consumers) guzzle ocean-polluting bunker fuel.

Doing anything online requires access networks that consume energy during manufacturing and operation. Wireless ones transmit electro-magnetic radiation 24/7.

More than a decade before AI put data demands on steroids, Greenpeace calculated that if data storage centers were a country, they’d rank fifth in use of energy.

Then, dumpsites (in Africa, in India) fill with dead-and-hazardous computers and batteries. To buy schooling, children scour them for copper wires.

Bayo says, “in order to find your way, you must lose it.”

Call me lost. I want to reduce my digital footprint.

A local dancer volunteered to organize an in-person meeting for New Mexicans. She invited us to consider the question, “What does the land want from me?”

Such a worthwhile question.

It stymied me.

I’ve lived in New Mexico 33 years. When new technologies like wireless Internet access in schools, 5G cell sites on public rights-of-way, smart meters or an 800-acre solar facility with 39 flammable batteries (each 40 feet long), I’ve advocated for professional engineering due diligence to ensure fire safety, traffic safety and reduced impacts to wildlife and public health. I’ve attended more judicial hearings, city council meetings and state public regulatory cases and written more letters to the editor than I can count.

In nearly every case, my efforts have failed. I’ve seen the National Environmental Protection Act disregarded. I’ve seen Section 704 of the 1996 Telecom Act applied. (It prohibits legislators faced with a permit application for transmitting cellular antennas from considering the antennas’ environmental or public health impacts.) Corporate aims have prevailed. New tech has gone up.

What does this land want from me?

The late ecological economist Herman Daly said, “Don’t take from the Earth faster than it can replenish; don’t waste faster than it can absorb.” Alas, it’s not possible to email, watch a video, drive a car, run a fridge—or attend an online conference—and abide by these principles. While we ravage the Earth for unsustainable technologies, we also lose know-how about growing and preserving food, communicating, educating, providing health care, banking and traveling with limited electricity and web access. (Given what solar PVs, industrial wind, batteries and e-vehicles take from the Earth to manufacture, operate and discard, we cannot rightly call them sustainable.)

What does the land want from me?

If I want accurate answers to this question, I need first to know what I take from the land. Because my tools are made with internationally-mined-and-processed materials, I need to know what they demand not just from New Mexico, but also from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Chile, China, the Tar Sands, the deep sea and the sky.

Once soil or water or living creatures have PFAS in them, for example, the chemicals will stay there forever. Once a child has been buried alive while mining for cobalt, they’re dead. Once corporations mine lithium in an ecosystem that took thousands of years to form, on land with sacred burial grounds, it cannot be restored.

One hundred years ago, Rudolf Steiner observed that because flicking a switch can light a room (and the wiring remains invisible), people would eventually lose the need to think.

Indeed, technologies have outpaced our awareness of how they’re made and how they work. Technologies have outpaced our regulations for safety, environmental health and public health.

Calling for awareness of tech’s consequences—and calling for limits—have become unwelcome.

In the last session of We Will Dance with Mountains, a host invited us to share what we’d not had a chance to discuss. AI put me in a breakout room with another New Mexican. I said that we’ve not discussed how our online conferences ravage the Earth. I said that I don’t know how to share this info creatively or playfully. I want to transition—not toward online living and “renewables” (a marketing term for goods that use fossil fuels, water and plenty of mining for their manufacture and operation and discard)—but toward local food, local health care, local school curricula, local banking, local manufacturing, local community.

I also don’t want to lose my international connections.

Bayo Akomolafe says he’s learning to live “with confusion and make do with partial answers.”

My New Mexican friend aptly called what I know a burden. When he encouraged me to say more, I wrote this piece.

What does the land want from us? Does the Earth want federal agencies to create and monitor regulations that decrease our digital footprint? Does the Earth want users aware of the petroleum coke, wood, nickel, tin, gold, copper and water that every computer requires—or does it want these things invisible?

Does the Earth want us to decrease mining, manufacturing, consumption—and dependence on international corporations? Does it want children to dream that we live in a world with no limits—or to learn how to limit web access?

Popular reports from 2023

Telecommunications

A longer-lasting Internet starts with knowing our region’s mineral deposits

Digital enlightenment: an invitation

Calming Behavior in Children with Autism and ADHD

Solar PVs

Call Me a Nimby” (a response to Bill McKibben’s Santa Fe talk)

Do I report what I’ve learned about solar PVs—or live with it, privately?

E-vehicles

Transportation within our means: initiating the conversation overdue

Who’s in charge of EV chargers—and other power grid additions?

When Land I Love Holds Lithium: Max Wilbert on Thacker Pass, Nevada

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

The Electric Vehicle ‘revolution’ and Forever Wars

The Electric Vehicle ‘revolution’ and Forever Wars

Editor’s note: The US military is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution in the world. It is through the allocation of over half the federal government budget that this is made possible. So when companies say that the destruction of the environment must be done to save the planet, this fact is never mentioned. We are in fact in an existential situation and yet ending the war machine is never on the table. The evil empire will do what it has always done, which is to extract the wealth of the land to the determinant of those that live there. And this will not end until it collapses. If we are to have anything left before this happens we must fight to save it.


By Katie Fite/Counterpunch

Critical Minerals Propaganda

In early summer, Vale BLM (Bureau of Land Management) held a Resource Advisory Council meeting in McDermitt, ground zero for the critical minerals rush on public lands. Lithium driller Jindalee HiTech got to talk about the company’s horrifying new exploration drilling proposal for 267 more drill holes, wastewater sumps, and 30 miles of new “temporary” roads. The project would tear rip apart irreplaceable Sage-grouse Focal habitat, as a prelude to open pit strip mining for lower grade lithium. The BLM geologist showed a video, How Critical Minerals are Vital to the Climate Fight, that had appeared on ABC news.

One narrator, Reed Blakemore, was from the Atlantic Council think tank known for never seeing a War or US-backed coup it wouldn’t propagandize and cheerlead for. The other narrator works for an organization called SAFE. Their mission appears to be strident propaganda shaping policies, perceptions and practices and support for wresting control of critical minerals and energy, no matter how unsafe it makes the world or how much environmental damage is caused. The two harangue viewers about the need to get “shovels in the ground”. It includes a clip of Biden bragging about the Defense Production Act.

SAFE’s Website boasts about working with retired 4 star generals. A scroll through their Twitter account shows them pushing for streamlining environmental analysis–like the type of NEPA and tribal consultation short-cuts which contributed to the Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh) controversy that rages on. SAFE screeches about mineral laundering by China, adores high voltage transmission lines, and my favorite: SAFE believes the Biden admin must take an aggressive approach that raises strong walls around foreign entities of concern while lowering drawbridges for our allies, like South Korea”. And hurl pots of burning oil down on the enemies of Fortress America from the castle keep?

This energy transition and critical minerals crusade on public lands is very much about retaining a corporate iron grip on energy, and increasingly seems to be about feeding the Military Industrial Complex. Watching the video, it belatedly dawned on me that critical minerals and green energy Neocons are driving much of the agenda. It’s certainly neocolonialist, but with the added twist of the Neocon global control freaks, and no dissent is allowed. We’ll grab what we want, anywhere, no matter if we break it all apart, no restraints tolerated, and we and our friends will make a fortune. The McDermitt caldera encapsulates the clash between supposed clean energy and the dirty reality for public land, water, communities, biodiversity, and a sane path to sustainability and energy change.

The EV “revolution” is being carried out with the same mindset, hubris, lies, greed, propaganda and war mongering that plunged us ever deeper into the fossil fuels mess and Forever Wars. The public is being propagandized by the Atlantic Council, SAFE, and others to blindly accept the sacrifice of any place, anywhere – under claims of saving us from climate change (as we continue to guzzle energy without limits). It’s also about domination and empire. Just like with oil, they won’t be content with a “domestic supply”, and instead seek to control all of it. Leadership of big green groups often appears captured by these critical minerals and energy Neocons – witness those dead serious Sierra Club outreach e-mails with a tangle of high voltage transmission lines portraying NEPA short-cuts as a good thing.

War Contractor Bechtel Selected to Build the Thacker Pass Mine, Mine Costs Double

Environews provides a whirlwind summary of some 2023 Thacker Pass events. Lithium Americas contracted with Bechtel Mining and Metals for engineering, procurement and execution of the mine. Bechtel is an industrial contractor and war profiteer who reaped massive government contracts during our Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve already signed a reconstruction agreement with Ukraine, a tad prematurely. They go way back, having built Hoover Dam and infrastructure for the Manhattan atomic bomb project at Hanford and elsewhere. Hanford plutonium was used in the nuclear bomb the US dropped on the people of Nagasaki Japan. To this day, Bechtel is involved in Forever Clean Up at nuclear facilities, including the most toxic place in America, and helping work on new nukes, keeping the gravy train going. The International Committee for Investigative Journalists summarized:

“Bechtel has been heavily involved in both commercial and military nuclear activities. These have included some of the most notable nuclear mishaps in U.S. history, from California’s San Onofre reactor installed backwards, to the botched clean up of Three Mile Island … Bechtel is finding ways to profit from the radioactive mess its projects have created.”

Regarding Bechtel’s endless Hanford work and profiteering Joshua Frank describes “they have a really bad track record and are well known for reaping the spoils of U.S. military ventures all over the globe. In October they had a test facility up and running that was going to do a run of vitrification for low-level radioactive waste. They basically had a ribbon cutting for this big machine and it ran for a week, then overheated, and they had to shut it down”.

Tribes consider this land to be a Traditional Cultural Property. Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Tribe submitted a Traditional Cultural Property Eligibility Statement, (Peehee mu’huh: A Living Monument to Numu History and Culture District. September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass Massacre Site) to the BLM. It seeks official Interior Department recognition. Now it’s reported that BLM is sitting on the document, and never transmitted it to the National Park Service who oversees National Historic Register sites. Meanwhile, site integrity is being obliterated. Time after time – in local, national and international media – elders and tribal members have said that lithium mining desecration and destruction at Thacker Pass is like digging up Arlington Cemetery.

A recent deluge of news articles, many appeared planted, hyped a geological study that largely rehashes long known geological information. This helps fuel speculation and increase political pressure on agencies to rubberstamp projects. Following weeks of media gushing about the overblown study, the Nevada Current exposes what’s going on:

“The study was funded by Lithium Americas, and includes research from Lithium Americas employee and shareholder, Thomas Benson”. He was the lead author, but most media stories skipped right over that inconvenient fact.

“John Hadder, the director of the Great Basin Resource Watch … said while the study may be helpful in pitching mining in the area, his organization has heard claims of “largest lithium deposit” from places around the world.

“I am concerned that this report will be used to advance more lithium mining in the region, and pressure the frontline peoples to accept mine plans,” said Hadder. “Regardless of how much lithium may be extractable, the sloppy permitting process that led to the Thacker Pass mine must not be duplicated. Indigenous ancestral lands that have cultural values must be protected, and Indigenous communities should have the right to say no”.

The publicity also bumped up Lithium Americas stock that had sagged a bit. And it seems there was another purpose, too. Lithium Americas is angling for a $1 billion DOE (Department of Energy) loan handout, the largest amount ever. The same outlets that hyped the geological paper are all agog, casting this as “an historic 1 billion”. Reuters now reports Lithium Americas had raised its budget for the first phase of the Thacker Pass project to $2.27 billion, from $1.06 billion, reflecting changes to its production plans”. The loan is claimed to be 50 to 75% of the mine cost. Is this price explosion due to estimates of production linked to the hyped study, or is there a huge mine cost over-run right out of the starting gate? Lithium Americas did choose a contractor with long experience profiting off the US’s trillion-dollar foreign misadventures and nuclear mess. If the lithium mine gets this obscene DOE handout, will dollars evaporate, like four Hanford whistleblowers exposed:

“It is stunning that, for a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort,” Assistant US Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a news release …The case started after four whistleblowers came forward in 2016, telling federal prosecutors about alleged time-card fraud in which the companies billed the U. S. Department of Energy for work that was never completed. The companies hired hundreds of electricians, millwrights, pipefitters … to build the plant … and then over-charged for the workers even when those workers had no duties to perform …”.

The Department of Justice Press release on the Hanford deception is here. The time-card fraud involved DOE funds. Now DOE appears on the verge of lavishing a billion-dollar loan on Lithium Americas who uses this same contractor.

GM Thacker Pass Lithium in Ultium Batteries, GM and War Machines

GM is now implicated as a major player in Caldera lithium mania. In January 2023, GM announced it would invest $650 million in Lithium Americas and use Thacker Pass lithium for its Ultium batteries:

“Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells. … GM is launching a broad portfolio of trucks, SUVs, luxury vehicles and light commercial vehicles using the Ultium Platform, including the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV, GMC Sierra EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Cadillac CELESTIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV, BrightDrop Zevo 400 and BrightDrop Zevo 600”.

But these aren’t the only GM vehicles using Ultium batteries. Clean Technica headlined, “The US military is buying Ultium Battery Packs from GM Defense”. Get ready for the Green Wars, folks, including the Green Wars for Green Minerals. Are wild and sacred places of the McDermitt Caldera going to be destroyed not only for bloated GM pick-ups, street Hummers and virtue signaling about the climate crisis, but also for War machines too — gutting the West for critical minerals so we can waste untold amounts of energy and minerals on more Forever Wars?

GM Defense proclaims it’s driving the future of military mobility, with a five-passenger All-Electric Military Concept Vehicle, and working on energy storage for the tactical warfighter. Ultium batteries are also used in armored diplomatic vehicles that look like a sure hit with narco kingpins. Other monstrosities like this tactical truck, don’t yet appear to have EV batteries, but GM does promise they’re fuel efficient. How long until US troops de-stabilizing South American countries to gain control of their lithium, or maneuvering to grab foreign oil, are cruising around in EVs? At the end of a Reno KTVN Channel 2 video full of land destruction images and lithium company spin, the reporter says “lithium is a hot commodity”. The lithium company’s spokesman replies “it’s essential for national security”. Note that lithium is also used in designs of some nuclear reactors and in the nuclear weapons industry.

GM Greenwashing, Thacker Pass Lithium, Social Injustice

A Mighty Earth report, GM Wants ‘Everybody In’ on Greenwashing, tells how GM’s human rights policy conflicts with its investment in Thacker Pass, how they’re building hulks while smaller cars sold may largely be from China, a continuing dirty supply chain, a poor score in indigenous rights protection, and how often GM makes commitments but doesn’t follow through. In the report, the People of Red Mountain Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu explain that “the entire landscape of the McDermitt caldera is sacred to Nevada, California and Oregon tribal nations”

The brutal 1865 US cavalry massacre of a Paiute camp at Thacker Pass was part of the memory-holed Snake War of Extermination. The massacre was not revealed by BLM in the mine EIS. During litigation, Tribes presented resounding evidence – US surveyor records, contemporaneous newspaper stories, and survivor Ox Sam’s own account from Big Bill Haywood’s Autobiography. The Biden-Haaland BLM brushed it all aside, to the anger and dismay of Tribes and many other people. The stalled Traditional Cultural Property document contains the records. Perhaps doling out a $1 billion loan for the destruction of an officially recognized massacre site might be a bridge too far, even for Jennifer Granholm’s DOE.

In spring 2023, the Ox Sam women’s protest camp was set up at Thacker Pass by a gaping water pipeline trench the company had ripped past sacred Sentinel Rock. The camp was raided after a protest action. Now Ox Sam descendants and white activists associated with the camp are being sued in a vile SLAPP suit: After getting hammered with lawsuits aimed at halting development of a lithium mine at Northern Nevada’s Thacker Pass, a Canadian-based mining company has turned the tables and is suing the mine’s protesters … the protesters and an attorney representing them counter that the lawsuit is similar to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing their free speech”.

How’s that for upholding ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, and the other social responsibility jargon Lithium Americas and the mob of Caldera miners use to lull investors?

Aurora Schemes of Yellowcake and Green Uranium

Aurora Energy Metals is trying to resurrect a uranium project long thought dead. Promotion videos show Greg Cochran, an Australian “uranium veteran” leading the Aurora charge. Before alighting in the Caldera, Cochran had been with Australian uranium miner Deep Yellow. Here’s Friends of the Earth Melbourne on Deep Yellow, “The Mulga Rock uranium project east of Kalgoorlie is now under the leadership of a team with a track record of over-promising, under-performing and literally blowing up cultural sites”. And this from the Conservation Council of WA (West Australia),“We’ve gone from the inexperienced and cash-poor Vimy Resources to Deep Yellow who are led by a team with a track record that highlights why uranium mining does not have a social license”. 

Aurora drilled a few exploration holes in fall 2022 extended a bit of drilling into a winter exclusion period. Now they seek to expand drilling under a NEPA-less, no public comment Notice, which is how the Jindalee sagebrush killing drilling to date has been done.

Aurora’s mining scheme, where some lower grade lithium overlays uranium deposits, is explained in a Proactive Investors video. Cochran envisions the mine of the future with a conveyor belt or pipeline jetting lithium or uranium slurry or crushed rock from Oregon across the state line down onto private land in Nevada, where a processing plant and waste heaps would be located. The video interviewer asks: “Tell me more about this property you bought in Nevada”. Cochran replies:

“Yeah, we kept that under wraps for quite a while because we wanted to make sure that nobody else kind of gazumped us. … We had this strategy of identifying suitable locations within Nevada for the processing plant … because… we know that they understand mining a lot better than Oregon … Nothing is a free pass, but it would allow us, we believe, to permit quicker. Private land to boot is even more attractive. … We discovered that one of the landowners was looking to sell. So, right place, right time. I’m already … envisioning … the mine of the future. Where you develop this mine. You’ve got a crusher, you run a very fancy overland conveyor – or pipeline for that matter – across to Nevada which as the crow flies it’s only 8 or 9 k’s – so there’s no tracking, no footprint … negligible CO2 emissions …’.

He says the Aurora project would be ticking all the boxes in terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) approval – right after detailing a plan to evade Oregon regulations on uranium pollution by moving the hot rocks across the state line. Apparently, radioactive material infiltrating air, groundwater, plants, wildlife, and contaminating the community, doesn’t count when you’re ticking ESG boxes. The same plan is repeated in a Mining Network video here, with Cochran talking about Nevada land enabling Aurora to “permit a quarry in Oregon”, which he describes as fairly straightforward, while siting the processing plant and waste heaps in Nevada. In a Thacker Pass state permitting meeting, Nevada Department of Environmental Quality staff admitted they couldn’t recall not permitting a mine.

Aurora’s Nevada land is around 4 miles west of town, right by the state line south of where the Disaster Peak county road starts. In an Australian publication, Aurora, described as a “shining light”, says that because there’s some hydropower at the site “we have the potential to deliver green uranium”, in a “uranium friendly mining jurisdiction”. Welcome to Nevada – the Uranium Waste Heap State. No Rocks Too Hot to Handle. You can already envision more billboards sprouting up on Highway 95.

A past effort to wrest uranium from Caldera earth fizzled when Fukushima grayed up the miner’s blue sky on uranium. Back then, Oregon mining activist Larry Tuttle warned in Read the Dirt about yellowcake production, water use, the toxic waste stream, tailings ponds and Oregon’s very own Lucky Lass superfund site experience near Lakeview:

Sulfuric acid in the tailings also dissolves and leaches heavy metals – mercury, molybdenum, arsenic, lead, manganese, and cadmium – as well as uranium. (The Aurora site has already been extensively mined for mercury, which pose additional health perils; sulfuric acid easily bonds with and transports mercury to waterways.) Residual uranium elements in the tailings decay and release radon; heavy metals also continue to interact within tailings and other wastes.

For communities as diverse as Moab, Utah, and Jeffrey City, Wyoming (often called yellowcake towns), the effects of uranium mining on public services and resources; ground and surface water; and, air quality are serious and dramatic”.

The Moab Times just reported on resistance to uranium mining and processing at the La Sal Complex near Moab and the Pinyon Plain mine near the Grand Canyon, in “Ute Mountain Utes march against White Mesa as Energy Fuels prepares to reopen uranium mines:

“Some White Mesa residents have long been concerned that the mill, which lies four miles north of the community, is contaminating nearby groundwater, air and wildlife with radon that allegedly blows and seeps off the mill’s tailings impoundments”.

While uranium miners attempt to tamp down dangers, Ute tribal members monitoring past mining effects have measured whopping levels of uranium in spring water, there’s a sulfur odor in the air with re-processing taking place, and animals are disappearing from the mesa. For the record, uranium was recently shifted from the critical minerals list, and is now a fuel mineral with friends in Congress. Caldera uranium is found in uraninite and coffinite ore. No, someone didn’t have a morbid sense of humor, it’s said to be named after a geologist.

Trying to track the serial land destroyers and speculators who’ve descended on the Caldera is quite confusing. It’s unclear who now controls FMS claims. On-line sources show conflicting information. An Aurora prospectus said they control Oregon FMS “CALD” claims. A company named Chariot now appears involved with Oregon and Nevada FMS claims – all located in terrible places for wildlife. Lithium Americas holds a north-south block of claims in extremely sensitive wildlife habitat up in the Montana Mountains. They repeatedly told the public during the Thacker Pass EIS process that the project was sited to avoid those Sage-grouse conflicts, and that they wouldn’t mine up there because wildlife values were so high.

Puzzlingly, a 2016 SEC Report map shows Lithium Americas then controlling much of the current Jindalee claims block in “Miller” [Malheur] county. Why would they let go of Oregon claims while gearing up for Thacker? FMS Nevada claims lie in critical sagebrush by the east face of the Montanas. LiVE, another company, also has some Nevada claims. This month, there were mining press articles and a video about Jindalee drilling again this November. I contacted Vale BLM, and BLM says No. If you’re out in the Caldera, keep your eyes on what’s going on.

Jim Jeffress, a retired NDOW biologist (so he can speak his mind) describes how ideal for Sage-grouse Caldera lands are. He says what happens in the Montana Mountains with key sage grouse habitat “will define the resolve of the state of Nevada and BLM in the recovery of Sage-grouse in Nevada”. He extols the high bird abundance, the ideal habitat configuration, calls the Montanas exceptionally important, the gold standard for Sage-grouse, and a critical bridge between populations, writing:

“My primary concern is focused on ANY mine site or extraction areas on top of the Montana Mountains in the area commonly referred to as Lone Willow, now or in the future. That concern extends into Jordan Meadows in the east that serves as wintering grounds for the Montana Mountains sage-grouse population and those in southern Oregon”.

The Caldera is a unique inter-connected ecosystem, spanning Nevada and Oregon, with irreplaceable habitat for Sage-grouse and other wildlife. It must be protected from a mad, rapacious minerals rush.

Photo Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu in prayer at Peehee Mu’huh from Protect Thacker Pass website


Event Alert

Environmental Advocates and Groups To Protest Latest Proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Near Shuttered Indian Point Nuclear Plant

On Tuesday, activists will rally outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan in protest of the latest proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion in the area. The protest will occur blocks from where, in 2016, three activists were arrested for blocking the last Algonquin Pipeline expansion of an added 42-inch high-pressure pipeline. In addition, two older 32-inch and 23-inch pipelines run underneath the plant. Decommissioning at Indian Point houses over 2,000 tons of irradiated fuel rods in addition to other radioactive waste.

Protestors will call on Governor Hochul to stop pipeline owner Enbridge’s latest “Project Maple” proposal. Project Maple was noticed by Enbridge HERE.

WHAT: Rally calling on Governor Hochul to stop Enbridge’s “Project Maple” fracked gas pipeline expansion

WHEN: Tuesday, November 14 at 4:30pm ET

WHERE: Outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant on the corner of Bleakley Ave & Broadway in Buchanan, NY

WHO: Activists representing Food & Water Watch, United for Clean Energy, Safe Energy Rights Group, and more

SIGN-UP HERE: https://www.mobilize.us/fww/event/592008/

“Project Maple” would significantly expand the amount of gas transmitted through the Algonquin Pipeline which runs from the Hudson Valley through Connecticut to Massachusetts. Enbridge anticipates its proposal to come on line as soon as November 2029.

The proposal to expand fracked gas in the region comes despite New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act which mandates greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 85 percent by 2050 and the state’s nation leading ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, which will go into effect in 2026.

Lithium Mining Will Supply Nuclear Weapons and Reactors

Lithium Mining Will Supply Nuclear Weapons and Reactors

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published in 2021, but is timely today as the new Christopher Nolan film “Oppenheimer” has just been released. As people are coming to realize the Bright Green Lies of “renewable” energy, they are looking for other ways to continue their unsustainable lifestyles. Many people are seriously considering risking more nuclear reactor accidents, waste and nuclear winter as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.


By Max Wilbert/Substack

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our thinking. Thus, we are drifting toward catastrophe beyond conception. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

― Albert Einstein

At 8:15am on August 6, 1945, cameras began to click on board the Necessary Evil, a military flight over southern Japan. Necessary Evil’s mission was to photograph the first atomic bombing in history. Nearby, on board another plane, the Enola Gay, bombardiers opened hatches on the belly of the plane and pulled levers to release the bomb.

It was called Little Boy. Ten feet long and 28 inches in diameter, it weighed 9,700 pounds, 141 of which were enriched uranium. The bomb dropped out of the plane and began falling. It took about 12 seconds to reach terminal velocity, which, for a big oblong object like Little Boy is around 1,000 feet per second. But the extra 12 seconds of time for spend accelerating meant that it took 53 seconds to fall from 31,060 feet to 1,900 feet, where it detonated.

nuclear

Hiroshima shortly after the city was bombed in August 1945. 

 

The explosion began directly above a hospital, Shima byōin. Within a fraction of a second, the 80 residents and staff of that building, and perhaps 20,000 other people, were dead. The first died from thermal radiation, which travels at the speed of light and causes “flash burns.” Within seconds, the blast wave followed, traveling at 300 meters per second, rupturing eardrums, shredding lungs, tearing blood vessels, and flattening buildings.

Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on another city in southern Japan, Nagasaki. Within 4 months, as casualties from radiation burns and firestorms mounted, the death toll from these two bombs reached 200,000, with as many again injured.

Mass destruction was not new. Earlier that year, in March, 325 U.S. Air Force planes bombed Tokyo with napalm, igniting a firestorm that destroyed a quarter of the city and killed 100,000 people. But Hiroshima marked the beginning of the nuclear age. Now, the same destruction could be executed with a single plane and a single bomb.

Ever since, historians have argued over whether or not these bombings were necessary. The U.S. Military’s own review concluded “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts… [that] prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.”  Many have concluded that the bombings were, as Nobel-prize winning scientist Patrick Blackett wrote, “the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia.”

That Cold War began with 200,000 deaths, and the atrocities would continue over the coming decades, all around the world: coups, assassinations, political purges, gulags, McCarthyism, proxy wars, and brutal economic combat.

While World War II and The Cold War have ended, the threat of nuclear war has not, and neither has the danger posed by nuclear power generation. And while the dangers of Three Mile Island, Fukushima, and especially Chernobyl [and the risks around Zaporizhzhya, today] cannot be underestimated, nuclear waste is perhaps a bigger danger than accidents.

This trifecta of horrors—nuclear war, nuclear accidents, and nuclear waste—still haunts our world today.

Immediately following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists from the Manhattan Project created a non-profit organization called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists dedicated to educating about the dangers our world faces “at a time when technology is outpacing our ability to control it.”

In 1947, members of the Bulletin launched “The Doomsday Clock” — a metaphorical representation of the likelihood of global catastrophe. Each year, a team of scientists, Nobel laureates, and others experts meets to consider the current state of man-made global threats from nuclear weapons, global warming, and disruptive technology, and set the time on the clock accordingly. The closer to midnight, the higher the level of danger.

The doomsday clock currently is set 90 seconds to midnight.

This is the direst warning the Bulletin has ever issued.

In explanation, the Bulletin’s scientists write that “Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory [over the past year]… Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension… Nuclear nations… have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war—an ever-present danger over the last 75 years—increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats… tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.”

Last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world has entered “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.”

The link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is long established. The enriched uranium and plutonium, as well as other so-called “fissionable material” used in nuclear weapons, can be sourced from nuclear reactors, which is why Iran’s creation of a civilian nuclear power program has been so contentious over the past decade.

Proponents of nuclear power argue that it is a safe, low-carbon energy source. There are nearly 500 nuclear power reactors in the world today, with more under construction. But beyond the risks of nuclear accidents and the nightmare of nuclear waste (who thinks it is a good idea to intentionally unearth and enrich materials that will be highly toxic for billions of years?), each of these reactors is a potential vector for dangerous weapons-grade nuclear materials to be lost, stolen, or knowingly redirected into weapons programs.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there were 46 cases of nuclear materials being stolen between 2010 and 2016, as well as 57 cases of lost material, and dozens of other concerning incidents. There are already nearly 900,000 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium stored around the world, most of it in Russia and the United States.

Thacker Pass before the destruction began; September 2022. Photo by the author. 

 

You may wonder how this is connected to Thacker Pass (Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language). For the past 31 months, I have been working to protect this part of remote Northern Nevada from a proposed 28-square mile lithium mine. The mainstream environmental organizations weren’t doing anything about it, so I decided I had to.

Joining with my friend Will Falk and working to find other allies, we set out to stop the Thacker Pass lithium mine. Supporters of lithium mining believ it’s an essential mineral to help move away from fossil fuels and help, global warming. We disagree. Lithium is dangerous, for many reasons.

Climate change is, indeed, a serious threat to our planet. But that changing climate is a symptom of our consumeristic, earth-destroying culture—not the root of the problem. Electric vehicles won’t save the planet because a typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car. The truth is, producing both electric and gas-powered cars is incredibly harmful to the planet. And lithium isn’t even possible to extract without massive quantities of fossil fuels. For example, oil from the “tar sands,” the world’s largest and most destructive industrial project, would be required for processing the lithium from the Thacker Pass mine.

Electric cars are not eco-conscious planet saving gadgets; they are luxury goods destined only for the wealthiest people on the planet.

I’ve explained in previous essays how this mine is actually about the money; how a greed so deep it is like lust underlies projects like this one. Similar feelings underlie community concerns about missing and murdered indigenous women and a rise in drug abuse that’s projected to accompany the mine. I’ve written in the past about the golden eagles who nest near Peehee Mu’huh, the meadowlarks, and the other wildlife who live in the pass and are threatened by this mine proposal.

In February 2021, we began to uncover the history of “Thacker Pass.” Over the spring, elders from the Fort McDermitt Tribe began to share with us the oral history of a massacre that gave the place it’s Paiute name, Peehee Mu’huh. And in August and September, evidence began to emerge documenting an 1865 massacre of Paiute men, women, children, and elders committed by the US Cavalry directly adjacent to the mine site. Two years ago, I challenged Lithium Americas CEO Alexi Zawadski’s characterization of his company as a good neighbor, asking if good neighbors usually dig up ancestors’ graves?

Thacker Pass, spring 2022. Photo by the author. 

 

This work hasn’t been easy. We’ve endured winter storms, blistering temperatures, physical and legal threats, three years of long days and late-night work sessions, and the BLM is attempting to fine me and my friend Will Falk $49,890.13 for defending this land. Now, we’re being sued for defending the land. The forces arrayed against us are powerful. But we persist.

The booming demand for lithium is mainly driven by the electric vehicle industry, and demand for massive “grid-scale” batteries to store electricity from intermittent sources like wind and solar energy generation facilities. But lithium is also used in a wide variety of other industries.

This includes chemical propellants for rockets and torpedoes used by militaries and in spaceflight; in glass production; in metallurgy such as aluminum smelting, alloy production, and welding; in the production of fireworks and flares; and in the production of synthetic rubber and other plastics.

But here, I want to focus on a problem that I have not seen discussed before in regards to the Thacker Pass mine: the links between lithium and the nuclear industry.

There are two stable isotopes of lithium: lithium-6 and lithium-7. According to the World Nuclear Association, “Lithium-7 has two important uses in nuclear power today and tomorrow due to its relative transparency to neutrons. As hydroxide it is necessary in small quantities for safe operation in pressurised water reactor (PWR) cooling systems as a pH stabilizer, to reduce corrosion in the primary circuit. As a fluoride, it is also expected to come into much greater demand for molten salt reactors (MSRs).”

PWRs, or Pressurized Water Reactors, are a type of nuclear reactor that can be found in exactly two thirds of the world’s nuclear power plants. Engineers at these facilities, most of which are quite old at this point, are constantly dealing with corrosion in the components of their radioactive water cycling systems. Highly purified lithium-7 hydroxide is used in these systems “as an additive in PWR primary coolant, at about 2.2 ppm, for maintaining water chemistry, counteracting the corrosive effects of boric acid (used as neutron absorber) and minimizing corrosion in steam generators of PWRs.”

Lithium-7 is also used directly in nuclear weapons, where the reaction itself can produce the necessary tritium to fuel a runaway nuclear reaction. In 1954, the largest atmospheric nuclear weapons test in US history took place over the Bikini Atoll. Due to a shortage of lithium-6 (which is less common and hard to produce), the “Shot Bravo” nuke was built with lithium-7 instead. The bomb was projected to yield a 10-megaton blast. But due to lithium-7’s incredibly explosive features, the yield was 15 megatons—equivalent to every bomb dropped by the allies in World War II exploding at once.

One account describes the effect of the bomb: “An entire island turned into radioactive dust and the fallout seriously contaminated Bikini and two neighboring atolls. The ships of the Operation Castle task force steamed at flank speed away from the mushroom cloud, their decks covered with radioactive coral shards. The Japanese fishing vessel Fifth Lucky Dragon, sailing well outside the safety zone, suffered one death and several casualties from radiation. The bomb’s firing crew retreated to a closet in their concrete bunker for 12 hours while their Geiger counters roared.”

Lithium-6 is more rare than lithium-7 in nature, but is widely used in the nuclear weapons industry. When used as a target element in a reactor or a nuclear weapon, it reacts with a neutron to produce tritium (T), the most important thermonuclear material for weapons. According to the Institute for Science and International Security, “Lithium 6 is a critical raw material needed for the production of single-stage thermonuclear and boosted fission weapons.”

In the United States, the Tennessee Valley Authority operates three nuclear reactors. One of these, Watts Bar, uses lithium as the feedstock for producing tritium for use in nuclear weapons. This tritium is a key component in those weapons, but it needs to be constantly replenished. Tritium has a half-life of only 12.3 years and decays at 5.5% annually. That’s why tritium sourced from reactors using lithium is currently being used to rebuild and replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal as part of a 30-year, trillion dollar nuclear weapons plan launched under Obama.

Many critics of the nuclear weapons industry believe that nuclear power is, in general, little more than a civilian cover for the production of nuclear weapon material.

Meanwhile, advocates of nuclear power such as Bill Gates argue that next-generation reactors will address the problems that have plagued nuclear power—safety issues, radioactive waste, weapons proliferation, and high cost. But the Union of Concerned Scientists calls this “wishful thinking,” noting in their most recent report that serious concerns remain unresolved.

Modular Salt Reactors (MSRs), for example, produce massive amounts of radioactive waste that is exceptionally dangerous from a nuclear proliferation standpoint (U-233), and they are extremely difficult to clean up at the end of their relatively short lifespans. Current prototypes also depend heavily on lithium. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both on the verge of activating MSR reactors (perhaps with illegal assistance from the Trump Administration and U.S. corporations), which may lead directly to them becoming nuclear powers. And fusion reactors, for the foreseeable future, consume far more energy than they produce, amounting to nothing more than an exceptionally expensive and dangerous experiment (an experiment in which lithium is being used to control plasma).

The bottom line here is that the dangerous nuclear power industry, and the nuclear weapons that depend on it, require a steady supply of lithium. As nuclear tensions once again escalate, the Department of Energy is moving toward 100% U.S. sourcing of uranium in order to bypass international treaty obligations, which require the disclosure of locations and volumes of highly enriched uranium a country possesses. By cutting out foreign sourcing, the supply chain is kept more obscure. A similar consideration no doubt underlies, in part, the swift permitting of the Thacker Pass lithium mine. This mine is a part of the nuclear supply chain, and given that most U.S. lithium is now sourced overseas, war hawks no doubt prefer that this place is sacrificed.

One must step outside the halls of power to find sanity. The nuclear industry has been an unmitigated disaster from the beginning. I say this as someone who grew up in Washington State. We have seen the horror that is Hanford. And Nevadans know the perils of nuclear weapons and waste better than almost anyone else on the planet.

If the Thacker Pass lithium mine is built, lithium produced there may end up inside nuclear reactors and inside nuclear weapons. How would you feel if you were involved in a project that supplied critical material to power the next nuclear disaster?

Yes, Nevada has a bleak history of nuclear weapons testing and waste storage. Yet from the Nevada Test Site to Yucca Mountain, there is as long and as rich a history of resistance. Of sanity. Of desire for peace. I would like to invite all the activists, politicians, and regular people who fought nuclear testing and nuclear waste disposal across this region to join the fight against lithium mining as well.

Ceremonial tipi at Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun “Indigenous Women’s Camp” in May 2023. Myself and others associated with this non-violent action are being sued by Lithium Nevada Corporation. 

 

There are many ways of laying waste to the Earth, and to our future. Nuclear technologies and strip mining are two of them. And in this case, they are firmly linked. That is why we must stand up against lithium mining and nuclear catastrophes alike.

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
― C. S. Lewis


The 2023 DGR conference is scheduled for late August in northern California. This annual gathering is an opportunity for our community to share skills, reflect on our work, strengthen our connections, and plan for the future. While this conference is only open to DGR members, we do invite friends and allies on a case-by-case basis. If you’re interested in attending, please contact us, and if you’d like to donate to support the conference, click here.

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

Tribal Nations and Wild Buffaloes

Tribal Nations and Wild Buffaloes

Editor’s Note: Roam Free Nation’s cofounders traveled to Gardiner, MT recently to attend the Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting and speak on behalf of the buffalo. The meeting gave an overview of the recent “hunt” that killed over 1,200 wild buffaloes. The meeting was also attended by a few representatives of tribal people who participated in the “hunt”. Many of the represented tribal people there were satisfied at how “smooth” the “hunt” turned out to be for them. Read the Roam Free Nation’s full report on the meeting here.

Yet not everyone believes that the “hunt” was what could be the best for the wild buffaloes. The following piece is an opinion piece by Jaedin Medicine Elk, a co-founder of Roam Free Nation and a member of the Cheyenne tribe.


By Jaedin Medicine Elk/Native News Online

I expected the recent meeting of those involved with the Interagency Bison Management Plan to be highly emotional given the national and international outrage over the indiscriminate killing of so many Yellowstone buffalo this year. Instead, it was business as usual with no remorse from anyone for killing over 25% of the herd as state and tribal hunt managers talked about how well it went and claimed there were no problems.

If you considered the 1,250 dead bulls, pregnant females, and calves from the buffalo’s perspective, however, the conversation would have gone much differently. But none of the “managers” or tribal representatives did that.

The dominate, colonized culture has made its way onto our Tribal Nations. But we can’t live as tribal people when all we think about is ourselves and our rights and not Mother Earth or the wildlife our ancestors loved and depended on.

Killing hungry, pregnant female buffalo at the Park’s border isn’t what we should be doing. We need to allow these matriarchal family groups – mainly pregnant females and grandmothers – to teach the young ones the migration corridors so more buffalo can establish themselves on the lands that are their birth right.

The buffalo know what to do, they just need our help to allow them to do it — it’s the humans who need to be managed. As buffalo culture tribal people, when we see things like Blood Creek at Beattie Gulch in the new documentary by Yellowstone Voices: A Path Forward for the American Bison, we must speak up, not participate in the massive kill.

We have to stop treating these buffalo like they are just meat animals that don’t have a right to roam free on Turtle Island. We’re treating the Buffalo Nation as the Veho (whites) want us to, controlling and destroying these buffalo to appease Montana and the livestock interests – with our help! They want us to forget our ancient relationship and obligations to the Buffalo Nation.

When first joining this issue, I expected powerful native voices who see what is going on to say something. But I came to find out the reality is, people are afraid to say anything as tribal members. We don’t want to fight our own people, but at the same time when it’s our people helping facilitate the destruction of a wild buffalo population, what are we supposed to do? Sit by and let buffalo keep dying because Tribal people have been brain-washed to believe humans are everything and we matter the most? This ‘hunt’ isn’t the right way to reconnect with the Buffalo Nation. They’ve had our back since we made that spiritual connection. Now it’s time we had theirs.

The older I get, the more I understand why our elders tell us to learn our language and culture. When I started being with wild buffalo, things became more clear as to how our ancestors lived their ways of life, copying the Buffalo Nation that kept them going for thousands of years.

Today the Buffalo Nation is like our own Tribal nations…forgotten. Our relationship and connection to them is likewise forgotten — because tribal members are killing pregnant female buffalo and preventing the next generation 0f buffalo from seeing the sun, moon, grass, blue skies, rain, and everything this beautiful Turtle Island has to offer. The Buffalo Nation is looking to tribal nations to help them, not just kill as many as we can because we have treaty rights to do so.

The laws made by men can be unmade by men and now is the time to “un-make” the “management plan” that is decimating wild Buffalo Nation and allow them to once again roam free.

Jaedin Medicine Elk is a co-founder and board president of the Montana-based Roam Free Nation. Jaedin is Northern Cheyenne, a Sundancer and Sacred Pipe Carrier from a traditional Buffalo Culture family.


Videos of reports from public on the meeting

Jaedin Medicine Elk (Roam Free Nation)
Stephanie Seay (Roam Free Nation)
Bonnie Lynn (Yellowstone Voices)
Dagmar Riddle (Earth advocate)

Banner Photo by R Gray on Unsplash