Editor’s note: The mining industry is one of the most significant human rights violators in the world. Mines are one of the most dangerous and hazardous places to work. People do not willingly let go of their subsistence economies to work in mines and quarries. They have to be forced to do so. One of the ways mining companies do that is by taking away the means of a subsistence economy. This is the story of many mines across the world. In this piece, we bring to you a story from Tuscany, Italy. It traces out the history of marble quarrying in the Mountains of the Moon (Apuan Alps), and the struggle by local communities against the quarries.
Four of us set out from Florence, with dawn beginning to light up the waters of the Arno, for Carrara, city of marble, sea, quarrymen and anarchists.
Where the global marble business has stolen the ancient commons of the local inhabitants with the complicity of political forces of the right and left, and every year extracts five million tons of irreplaceable limestone: some 80% is scrap used as calcium carbonate CaCo3, a filler in paper, glass, plastics, paint, beauty creams, but above all, toothpaste.
We are going to attend a crowded conference to which every local councillor had been invited, yet not a single one had the courage to show up.
You may not know that in the northwestern corner of Tuscany there is a mountain range, unique in Europe, a mere 55 kilometres long, that has nothing to do with the nearby, smooth Apennines: the range is that of the Mountains of the Moon, known today as the “Apuan Alps“, because of their craggy peaks – from the Pania della Croce I looked over the Tyrrhenian Sea from Elba on the left to Corsica to beyond Genoa on the right, nearly to France.
Picture by Claudio Grande
Those mountains were raised from the bottom of the sea floor, by countless billions of tiny uncelebrated lives of creatures with calcareous shells, corals, molluscs, and fish with their bones. It took them some three hundred million years, till all their seaworld was thrust up into the sky.
“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.”
Those flickering underwater lives became the world’s most renowned source of marble.Marmo di Carrara…
A world of peaks and caves and underground cavities like the Antro della Corchia, but like many others no one has yet explored, something like what Gimli spoke of in the Lord of the Rings:
“My good Legolas, do you know that the caverns of Helm’s Deep are vast and beautiful? There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them, if such things were known to be. Aye indeed, they would pay pure gold for a brief glance!’
‘And I would give gold to be excused,’ said Legolas; ‘and double to be let out, if I strayed in!’
‘You have not seen, so I forgive your jest,’ said Gimli. ‘But you speak like a fool. Do you think those halls are fair, where your King dwells under the hill in Mirkwood, and Dwarves helped in their making long ago? They are but hovels compared with the caverns I have seen here: immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-zâram in the starlight.”
The law that has been cast over the world in the last centuries knows only the faceless stateon the one hand, and privateproperty on the other: where private stems from the Roman idea of someone de-priving everybody else of something.
Both the state and private property were alien to the Commons of those who were bold enough to live in the mountains: shepherds, farmers and quarrymen of the marble that could be used for a pillar in Rome, then for a statue by Donatello or – much more often – for a gravestone to remember the dead: a friend of mine has a house at Minazzana, where Michelangelo, just 22, used to stop over, to select the right marble for the Pietà.
Some ninety years ago, one of the greatest and least remembered poets of the English language, Basil Bunting, came to live under the shadows of the Mountains of the Moon:
White marble stained like a urinal
cleft in Apuan Alps,
always trickling, apt to the saw. Ice and wedge
split it or well-measured cordite shots,
while paraffin pistons rap, saws rip
and clamour is clad in stillness:
clouds echo marble middens, sugar-white,
that cumber the road stones travel
to list the names of the dead.
There is a lot of Italy in churchyards,
sea on the left, the Garfagnana
over the wall, la Cisa flaking
to hillside fiddlers above Parma,
with light bow blanching the dance.
Marble quarrying is by its very nature irreversible destruction. Basil Bunting could already hear the “well-measured cordite shots“, but before that came two thousand years of pickaxes hewing the rock.
The countless thousands of quarrymen who fell to their deaths, who were crushed as they rolled gigantic blocks of marble down the lizze, wheels made of tree trunks, could never regrow what they destroyed.
The first change came in the eighteenth century, when Tuscany’s most beloved ruler, the enlightened Pietro Leopoldo, suppressed the ancient custom of the death penalty.
But while he was at it, he also began to suppress the ancient custom of democracy; and started the privatisation of what had once been Commons, usi civici, domini collettivi, as they are still called today.
This was when a young man from Wakefield in England, William Walton, embodying the whole New World, arrived in the village of Serravezza:
“An active young man well versed in commercial and financial practices, young Walton is also gifted with a remarkable aptitude for solving organisational and technical problems and in this early period of his stay in Italy he looked around
in search of the most profitable industrial or commercial activity.”
“By 1866 Walton headed an industrial and commercial empire which covered all the aspects of marble production, quarrying, transport, sawmills, and sea transport to the customers”
British and French fought each other in a senseless war that led to the death of millions; but found themselves together in exploiting the Apuan Alps.
More on marble quarrying
Jean Baptiste Alexandre Henraux, a Napoleonic soldier charged with the task of stealing works of art out of Italy and bringing them to the Louvre, took the fine title of “Royal Superintendent of the selection and acquisition of white and statuary marble from Carrara for public monuments in France“.
In the very same years when the colonizers of North America were stealing land from the Native Americans, Henraux and his heirs opened 132 quarries, seizing possession of the commons belonging to the Comunità civica della Cappella “Civic Community of the Chapel”, so named for one of those places of worship where mountain people looking at the skies and feeling the icy wind, thank the saints for still being alive.
Today, the Henraux have faded out: in 2014, the company was bought out by CPC Marble & Granite, based in Cyprus,
“the major supplier of all finishing material to Makkah and Madinah Holy Mosques Expansions”
but above all, a member of the Binladen Group Global Holding Company: in 2018, Osama‘s less famous brother, Bakr, while in gaol for corruption, transferred his share to the Saudi government. So today, Anròas the locals quaintly call the Henraux company, is actually a part of the worldwide network of Saudi power.
People from Riomagno, Azzano, Fabiano, Giustagnana, Minazzana, Basati, Cerreta Sant’Antonio and Ruosina, to cite ancient names, dispossessed like the Sioux and Mapuche: it is curious to note how many Italians stand for distant peoples, yet know nothing about their neighbours. And how other Italians, who complain of Islamic invasion when a few immigrants come to pray together, fall silent when the Saudi government takes over slices of Italian land.
Fragments of Italian laws still recognise the basic principle underlying the Commons: that there is not only the bureaucrat versus the individual, but that what existed before both, also has rights: not the ‘it’ of the state versus the ‘I’, but we-our-people.
Today, the Comunità civica della Cappella is claiming back the stolen land.
And it has won cases in court.
So, the centre-right mayor of the municipality of Serravezza invented an agreement with the landrobbers, to give them almost everything, while leaving some woods in the hands of the Civic Community.
This decision required the approval of the representatives of the Civic Community, who of course were not willing to sign.
Then the Regional Government, in the hands of the centre-left party, found a way to prevent the Civic Community from regularly electing a board which could object to the decision of the centre-right mayor.
Corporations, faceless global acronyms, can today exploit not only the lands the commoners once owned, but also public lands, with what are called “grants“. Grants are for a limited period, but as they expire, the Regional Government has devised a creative way of greenwashing.
The commoners’ pickaxes left minimal waste; but the well measured cordite shots turned most of the marble into waste, currently 75% is allowed, in some cases, 95%.
However, if companies, instead of just leaving the waste on the ground in the great ravaneti which mark the territory, turn even that waste into profit for themselves as calcium carbonate for toothpaste and beauty cream, their grants are extended for years.
The rest of the waste becomes marmèttola, a fine white powder which enters the mysterious underground cavities of the Apuan Alps, where rainwater flows in becoming springs and lakes, and renders these waters undrinkable.
As everywhere else, global corporations seek local complicity.
First of all, speaking of employment. The local newspaper, reporting the conference we went to (or rather, “ecologists march on the Apuan Alps“), quoted a marbledealer in its title, “If we close down, we’ll all die here”.
Actually, the global corporations have cut every possible workplace, through technological innovation. With production at a level never seen before, employment is down to a few hundred people, against 20.000 employed some decades ago.
At the same time, marble blocks, instead of being processed locally, are shipped directly to China. However, the first cut is made in Italy, which is enough to make patriotic rightists feel all is well.
The Fondazione Marmo, the Marble Foundation paid for by the global dealers, pays for many local initiatives where a park becomes “green” and “inclusive” through planting some trees, marble statues speak of “peace“, “marble is on the side of women“, “marble for health“. And other Orwellian words which make every left-leaning heart beat happily.
Thousands of local people, in a small community, can be bought over this way, blending the donation of minor hospital equipment, with the mirage of jobs, with the idea of continuing the work of Michelangelo.
While the cancer rate in the area, unsurprisingly, is the highest in the region, as is the unemployment rate.
And of course, there will be no water in a few years, when all the springs have been poisoned, and no jobs when artificial intelligence has taken over even the job of the people who write obedient titles in the local press.
Editor’s Note: The successful Irish struggle against fracking by multi-national gas company Tamboran offers key insights on community power building for anti-extraction movements across the world.The Australian corporation paints its international natural gas projects as ‘green’ with words like “Net Zero CO2 Energy Transition”. But people in the Beetaloo Basin in Australia and Leitrim in Ireland don’t fall for their lies.
Read about how local people, farmers, fishers and artists – deeply intertwined with their land – unite to fight for what they hold dear: rivers and streams, peat lands and hills, villages and work on the land.
Resistance movements of the past, both successful and unsuccessful, are a good lesson in organizing and strategy. DGR supports resistance against renewable energies as well, but as we see, the struggle against fossil fuels continues in every country.
The reality of the climate crisis makes it clear that we must leave the “oil in the soil” and the “gas under the grass,” as the Oilwatch International slogan goes. The fossil fuel industry knew this before anyone else. Yet the industry continues to seek new extractive frontiers on all continents in what has been labeled a “fracking frenzy” by campaigners.
In Australia, unconventional fossil gas exploration has been on the rise over the last two decades. Coal seam gas wells have been in production since 2013, while community resistance has so far prevented the threat of shale gas fracking. The climate crisis and state commitments under the Paris Agreement means that the window for exploration is closing. But the Australian economy remains hooked on fossil fuels and the industry claims that fossil gas is essential for economic recovery from COVID, “green growth” and meeting net-zero targets.
The Northern Territory, or NT, government is particularly eager to exploit its fossil fuel reserves and wants to open up extraction in the Beetaloo Basin as part of its gas strategy. The NT recently announced a $1.32 billion fossil fuel subsidy for gas infrastructure project Middle Arm and greenlighted the drilling of 12 wells by fracking company Tamboran Resources as a first step towards full production.
Beetaloo Basin community struggle
Gas exploration is inherently speculative with high risks. The threat of reputational damage is high enough that large blue chip energy companies like Origin Energy — a major player in the Australian energy market — are turning away from shale. This leaves the field to smaller players who are willing to take a gamble in search of a quick buck. This is precisely how Tamboran came to prominence in Australia. After buying out Origin Energy in September 2022, Tamboran is now the biggest player in the Northern Territory’s drive to drill.
NT anti-fracking campaigner Hannah Ekin described this point as “a really key moment in the campaign to stop fracking in the Beetaloo basin.”
For over a decade, “Traditional Owners, pastoralists and the broader community have held the industry at bay, but we are now staring down the possibility of full production licenses being issued in the near future.”
Despite this threat, Tamboran has been stopped before. In 2017, community activists in Ireland mobilized a grassroots movement that forced the state to revoke Tamboran’s license and ban fracking. Although the context may be different, this successful Irish campaign has many key insights to offer those on the frontlines of resistance in Australia — as well as the wider anti-extraction movements all over the world.
Fracking comes to Ireland
In February 2011, Tamboran was awarded an exploratory license in Ireland — without public knowledge or consent. They planned to exploit the shale gas of the northwest carboniferous basin and set their sights on county Leitrim. The county is a beautiful, mountainous place, with small communities nestled in valleys carved by glaciers in the last ice age.
The landscape is watery: peat bogs, marshes and gushing rivers are replenished by near daily downpours as Atlantic coast weather fronts meet Ireland’s western seaboard. Farming families go back generations on land that can be difficult to cultivate. Out of this land spring vibrant and creative communities, despite — or perhaps because of — the challenges of being on the margins and politically peripheral.
The affected communities first realized Tamboran’s plans when the company began a PR exercise touting jobs and economic development. In seeking to understand what they faced, people turned to other communities experiencing similar issues. A mobile cinema toured the glens of Leitrim showing Josh Fox’s documentary “Gasland.” After the film there were Q&As with folks from another Irish community, those resisting a Shell pipeline and gas refinery project at Rossport. Out of these early exchanges, an anti-fracking movement comprised of many groups and individuals emerged. One in particular — Love Leitrim, or LL, which formed in late 2011 — underscored the importance of a grassroots community response.
Resisting fracking by celebrating the positives about Leitrim life was a conscious strategic decision and became the group’s hallmark.
In LL’s constitution, campaigners asserted that Leitrim is “a vibrant, creative, inclusive and diverse community,” challenging the underlying assumptions of the fracking project that Leitrim was a marginal place worth sacrificing for gas. The group developed a twin strategy of local organizing — which rooted them in the community — and political campaigning, which enabled them to reach from the margins to the center of Irish politics.
This combination of “rooting” and “reaching” was crucial to the campaign’s success.
5 key rooting strategies
The first step towards defeating Tamboran in Ireland was building a movement rooted in the local community. Out of this experience, five key “rooting strategies” for local organizing emerged — showing how the resistance developed a strong social license and built community power.
1. Build from and on relationships
Good relationships were essential to building trust in LL’s campaign. Who was involved — and who was seen to be involved — were crucial for rooting the campaign in the community. Local people were far more likely to trust and accept information that was provided by those they knew, and getting the public support of local farmers, fishers and well-known people was crucial. Building on existing relationships and social bonds, LL became deeply rooted in local life in a way that provided a powerful social license and a strongly-rooted base to enable resistance to fracking.
2. Foster ‘two-way’ community engagement
LL engaged the community with its campaign and, at the same time, actively participated as volunteers in community events. This two-way community engagement built trust and networked the campaign in the community. LL actively participated in local events such as markets, fairs and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which offered creative ways to boost their visibility. At the same time, LL also volunteered to support events run by other community groups, from fun-runs to bake sales. According to LL member Heather (who, along with others in this article, is quoted on the condition of anonymity), this strategy was essential to “building up trust … between the group, its name and what it wants, and the community.”
3. Celebrate community
In line with its vision, LL celebrated and fostered community in many ways. This was typified by its organizing of a street feast world café event during a 2017 community festival that saw people come together over a meal to discuss their visions of Leitrim now and for their children. LL members also supported local renewable energy and ecotourism projects that advanced alternative visions of development. Celebrating and strengthening the community in this way challenged the fundamental assumptions of the fracking project — a politics of disposability which assumed that Leitrim could be sacrificed to fuel the extractivist economy.
4. Connect to culture
Campaigners saw culture as a medium for catalyzing conversations and connecting with popular folk wisdom. LL worked with musicians, artists and local celebrities in order to relate fracking to popular cultural and historical narratives that resonated with communities through folk music and cultural events. This was particularly important in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, which ultimately led to Irish independence from the British Empire. Making those connections tapped into radical strands of the popular imagination. Drawing on critical counter-narratives in creative ways overcame the potential for falling into negative activist stereotypes. Through culture, campaigners could present new or alternative stories, experiences or ideas in a way that evocatively connected with people.
5. Build networks of solidarity
Reaching out to other frontline communities was a powerful and evocative way to raise awareness of fracking and extractivism from people who had experienced them first-hand.
As local campaigner Bernie explained, “When someone comes, it’s on a human level people can appreciate and understand. When they tell their personal story, that makes a difference.”
Perhaps the most significant guest speaker was Canadian activist Jessica Ernst, whose February 2012 presentation to a packed meeting in the Rainbow ballroom was described by many campaigners as a key moment in the campaign. Ernst is a former gas industry engineer who found herself battling the fracking industry on her own land. She told her personal story, the power of which was heightened by her own industry insider credentials and social capital as a landowner. Reflecting on the event, LL member Triona remembered looking around the room and seeing “all the farmers, the landowners, who are the important people to have there — and people were really listening.”
4 key reaching strategies against fracking
With a strong social license and empowered network of activists, the next step for the anti-fracking movement was to identify how to make their voices heard and influence public policy. This required reaching beyond the local community scale to engage in national political decision making around fracking. Four key strategies enabled campaigners to successfully jump scales and secure a national fracking ban.
1. Find strategic framings
Tamboran sought to frame the public conversation on narrow technical issues surrounding single drilling sites, pipelines and infrastructure, obscuring the full impact of the thousands of planned wells.
As LL campaigner Robert pointed out, this “project-splitting” approach “isn’t safe for communities, but it’s easier for the industry because they’re getting into a position where they’re unstoppable.”
Addressing the impact of the entire project at a policy level became a key concern for campaigners. LL needed framings that would carry weight with decision makers, regulators and the media.
Listening and dialogue in communities helped campaigners to understand and root the campaign in local concerns. From this, public health and democracy emerged as frames that resonated locally, while also carrying currency nationally.
The public health frame mobilized a wide base of opposition. Yet it was not a consideration in the initial Irish Environmental Protection Agency research to devise a regulatory framework for fracking. LL mobilized a campaign that established public health as a key test of the public’s trust in the study’s legitimacy. The EPA conceded and amended the study’s terms of reference to include public health. This enabled campaigners to draw on emerging health impact research from North American fracking sites, providing evidence that would have “cache with the politicians,” as LL member Alison put it. Working alongside campaigners from New York, LL established the advocacy group Concerned Health Professionals of Ireland, or CHPI, mirroring a similar, highly effective New York group. CHPI was crucial to highlighting the public health case for a ban on fracking and shaping the media and political debate.
2. Demonstrate resistance
Having rooted the campaign in local community life, LL catalyzed key groups like farmers and fishers to mobilize their bases. Farmers in LL worked within their social networks to organize a tractorcade. “It was all word of mouth … knocking on doors and phone calls,” said Fergus, the lead organizer for the event. Such demonstrations were “a show of solidarity with the farmers who are the landowners,” Triona recalled. They were also aimed at forcing the farmer’s union to take a public position on fracking. The event demonstrated to local farmers union leaders that their members were opposed to fracking, encouraging them to break their silence on the issue.
Collective action also enforced a bottom line of resistance to the industry. Tamboran made one attempt to drill a test well in 2014. Community mobilization prevented equipment getting to the site for a week while a legal battle over a lack of an environmental impact assessment was fought and won. Reflecting on this success, Robert suggested that communities can be nodes of resistance to “fundamental, large problems that aren’t that easy to solve” because “one of the things small communities can do is simply say no.”
And when frontline communities are networked, then “every time a community resists, it empowers another community to resist.”
3. Engage politicians before regulators
In 2013, when Tamboran was renewing its license, campaigners found that there was no public consultation mechanism. Despite this, LL organized an “Application Not to Frack.” This was printed in a local newspaper, and the public was encouraged to cut it out and sign it. This grassroots counter-application carried no weight with regulators, but with an emphasis on rights and democracy, it sent a strong signal to politicians.
Submitting their counter application, LL issued a press release: Throughout this process people have been forgotten about. We want to put people back into the center of decision making … We are asking the Irish government: Are you with your people or not?
At a time when public sentiment was disillusioned with the political establishment in the aftermath of the 2011 financial crisis, LL tapped into this sentiment to discursively jump from the scale of a localized place-based struggle to one that was emblematic of wider democratic discontents and of national importance.
Frontline environmental justice campaigns often experience procedural injustices when navigating governance structures that privilege scientific/technical expertise. Rather than attempt an asymmetrical engagement with regulators, LL forced public debate in the political arena. In that space, they were electors holding politicians to account rather than lay-people with insufficient scientific knowledge to contribute to the policy making process.
The group used a variety of creative tactics and strategic advocacy to engage local politicians. This approach — backed up by a strongly rooted base — led to unanimous support for a ban from politicians in the license area. In the 2016 election, the only pro-fracking candidate failed to win a seat. Local democratic will was clear. Campaigners set their sights on parliament and a national fracking ban.
4. Focus on the parliament
The lack of any public consultation before exploration commenced led campaigners to fear that decisions would continue to be made without public scrutiny. LL built strategic relationships with politicians across the political spectrum with the aim of forcing accountability in the regulatory system. A major obstacle to legislation was the ongoing EPA study, which was to inform government decisions on future licensing. But it emerged that CDM Smith, a vocally pro-fracking engineering firm, had been contracted for much of the work. The study was likely to set a roadmap to frack.
Campaigners had two tasks: to politically discredit the EPA study and work towards a fracking ban.
They identified the different roles politicians across the political spectrum — and between government and opposition — could strategically play in the parliamentary process.
While continuing a public campaign, the group engaged in intensive advocacy efforts, working with supportive parliamentarians to host briefings where community members addressed lawmakers, submitted parliamentary questions to the minister, used their party’s speaking time to address the issue, raised issues at parliamentary committee hearings, and proposed motions and legislative bills.
While the politicians were also not environmental experts, their position as elected representatives meant that regulators were accountable to them. Political pressure thus led to the shelving of the compromised EPA study and paved the way for a ban. Several bills had been tabled.
By chance, the one that was first scheduled for debate was from a Leitrim politician whose bill was backed by campaigners as the most watertight. With one final push from campaigners, it secured support from lawmakers across parties and a government motion to block it was fought off.
In November 2017, six years after Tamboran arrived in Leitrim, fracking was finally banned in Ireland. It was a win for people power and democracy.
Pacifist-anarchist folk singer Utah Phillips described folk songs as “bridges” between past struggles and the listener’s present. Bridges enable the sharing of knowledge and critical understanding across time and distances. Similarly, stories of struggle act as a bridge, between the world of the reader and the world of the story, sharing wisdom, and practical and ethical knowledge. The story of successful Irish resistance to Tamboran is grounded in a particular political moment and a particular cultural context. The political and cultural context faced by Australian campaigners is very different. Yet there are certainly insights that can bridge the gap between Ireland and Australia.
The Irish campaign shows us how crucial relationships and strongly rooted community networks can be when people mobilize.
In the NT, campaigners have similarly sought to build alliances across the territory and between traditional Indigenous owners and pastoralists. This is crucial, suggests NT anti-fracking campaigner Hannah Ekin, because “the population affected by fracking in the NT is very diverse, and different communities often have conflicting interests, values and lifestyles.”
LL’s campaign demonstrates the importance of campaign framings reflective of local contexts and concerns. While public health was a unifying frame in Ireland, Ekin notes that the protection of water has become “a real motivator” and a rallying cry that “unites people across the region” because “if we over-extract or contaminate the groundwater we rely on, we are jeopardizing our capacity to continue living here.”
The Beetaloo is a sacred site for First Nations communities, with sacred song lines connected to the waterways. “We have to maintain the health of the waterways,” stressed Mudburra elder Raymond Dimikarri Dixon. “That water is alive through the song line. If that water isn’t there the songlines will die too.”
In scaling up from local organizing to national campaigning, the Irish campaign demonstrated the importance of challenging project splitting and engaging the political system to avoid being silenced by the technicalities of the regulatory process. In the NT, the government is advancing the infrastructure to drill, transport and process fracked gas. This onslaught puts enormous pressure on campaigners. “It’s death by a thousand cuts,” Ekin noted. “We are constantly on the back foot trying to stop each individual application for a few wells here, a few wells there, as the industry entrenches itself as inevitable.”
In December 2022, Environment Minister Lauren Moss approved a plan by Tamboran Resources to frack 12 wells in the Beetaloo as they move towards full production. But campaigners are determined to stop them: the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance, or CAFFA, is taking the minister to court for failing to address the cumulative impacts of the project as a whole. By launching this case CAFFA wants to shift the conversation to the bigger issue of challenging a full scale fracking industry in the NT. As Ekin explained, “We want to make the government listen to the community, who for over a decade now have been saying that fracking is not safe, not trusted, not wanted in the territory.”
On Tuesday, December 5th, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm, following a federal judge’s dismissal of their latest lawsuit, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) will hold a press conference on their court cases against the Thacker Pass lithium mine.
Members of the media are invited to attend the press conference, which will be held at RSIC’s Multipurpose Room, 34 Reservation Road, Building A, Reno, NV. The press conference will also be available by zoom and will be live streaming on the RSIC Facebook page.
Speakers will include Chairman Arlan Melendez, who has led the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for 32 years and is poised to retire at the end of this year; Michon Eben, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for RSIC; and Will Falk, one of the attorneys who has represented the tribe in the Thacker Pass court cases.
“We invite you to join us, as we continue our efforts to protect our sacred and culturally important site; considering it’s being destroyed right now,” said Chairman Melendez. Melendez is a nationally-respected Tribal leader and Vietnam war veteran who guided the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony through previous mining controversies, advocated for Tribal land protection and consultation rights, and helped coordinate the Tribe’s Thacker Pass strategy.
For two and a half years, Native American Tribes including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony have been speaking out about the cultural importance of Thacker Pass, a remote mountainside in northern Nevada which Lithium Nevada Corporation plans to turn into a massive open-pit lithium mine to supply batteries for General Motors’ electric vehicles.
Thacker Pass is known as “Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language, and is home to sacred sites, harvesting and hunting grounds, ceremonial areas, and the locations of two massacres of Paiute children, women and men.
On November 9th, Northern District of Nevada Chief Judge Miranda Du dismissed a second lawsuit filed in February of this year by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for allowing the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine to destroy sacred sites in Thacker Pass without concluding tribal consultation. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony was joined by the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe , and Burns Paiute Tribe in the suit.
“We are very disappointed that the court is allowing Lithium Nevada to destroy the site of an 1865 massacre of Paiute peoples and a whole Traditional Cultural District before the Bureau of Land Management finished consulting with tribes about ways to avoid or mitigate harm to these sites,” says Will Falk. “While climate change is a very real, existential threat, if government agencies are allowed to rush through permitting processes to fast-track destructing mining projects like the one at Thacker Pass, more of the natural world and more Native American culture will be destroyed. Despite this project being billed as ‘green,’ it perpetrates the same harm to Native peoples that mines always have.”
Thacker Pass is located in northern Nevada near the Oregon border, where Lithium Nevada Corporation is in the first phase of building a $2 billion open-pit lithium mine which would be the largest of its kind in North America. The lithium is mainly destined for General Motors Corporation’s electric car batteries, which the corporation claims is “green.” Mine opponents call this greenwashing and have stated that “it’s not green to blow up a mountain.”
Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming. The Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass as part of the president’s climate policy.
Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. They say that electric cars are harmful to the planet and a different approach is needed to address the climate crisis.
To request the zoom link or to learn more about the RSIC community, culture, departments, economic developments, business opportunities and services, contact Bethany Sam, Public Relations Officer.
Protect Thacker Pass and several named defendants are fighting a lawsuit filed against them by Lithium Nevada Corporation. We are seeking monetary donations to their legal defense fund. You can donate via credit or debit card, PayPal (please include a note that your donation is for Thacker Pass legal defense), or by check.
Image by Max Wilbert of the landscape at Thacker Pass before mining construction began.
Editor’s Note: The following events are not organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity with both of these and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Radical Resilience and Restoration for Wetland Rights
On June 28th CELDF’s Kai Huschke will be presenting at the Society for Wetland Scientists annual conference. Joining Kai on the panel Socio-Ecological Resilience and Adaptation: Implementing Rights of Wetlands will be Senior Ecologist/Natural Climate Solutions Specialist Gillian Davis from BSC Group, Inc. and Tufts University Global Development & Environment Institute, Matthew Simpon, Director from the UK based organization 35percent, and Bill Moomaw, Tufts University Professor Emeritus. The four have been active as part of a global collective working on the community and national levels for the legal rights of wetlands.
Globally for the last 200 years the prevailing directive governmentally, legally, economically, scientifically, and culturally has been to extract and exploit the natural world for the wants and needs of a single species – humans. Colonization has never stopped; it has merely changed its stripes and patterns of speech but behaviorally it continues to conquer into submission and extinction the life forces of the planet with wetlands receiving a disproportionate amount of abuse.
The emergence of legal rights of nature efforts over the last 20 years in North America and across the globe is a potent force for the cultural shift necessary to actualize living from, in, with, and as nature. Wetlands restoration efforts in the name of rights of wetlands can only occur if there is a restoration of the human species on a massive scale that would allow for the healthy and harmonious balance of living from, in, with, and as nature. Science along with other aspects of the culture must reject colonizing systems of law, economics, governance, and even science itself and develop methods and systems outside the dominant one.
Many books have been written about wealth, power and politics in the United States. Most of them make intuitive sense. Wealthy people use their power to influence and control politics. But Ben Price’s new book is often counterintuitive as he explores how wealth itself is imbued with power.
CELDF is making available, a serialization of Ben Price’s book. You can read this award-winning book in free installments of downloadable pdf files and join Ben Price for monthly webinars to discuss the book in the sequence of shared chapters.
Editor’s Note: The following events are not being organized by DGR. We may not agree with all of the content on the events. Yet, we encourage you to attend these events to learn more about the amazing kangaroo.
Back to Country, Save Kangaroos on Mornington Peninsula and Kangaroos Alive have developed a special program to introduce communities to their local kangaroo mob.
A Kangaroo Walk and Talk allows communities to build appreciation and understanding of kangaroos. By observing and learning from our kangaroos we are able to connect to Country. The Kangaroo Walk + Talk Kits will provide logistical, promotional and legal advice to help you set up a Kangaroo Walk and Talk in your area.
Host Kate Clere will speak to special guests: Mick McIntyre will present the example of Whale Watching and how that can be used in the development of Kangaroo Watching. Dr Anthony ‘Macka’ McKnight on Connection to Country and the Yuin Kangaroo Declaration. Craig Thomson will talk about the success of the pilot program on the Mornington Peninsula and will answer all your questions on the practicalities of running a Walk and Talk.
If you want to organize a local Walk and Talk, you can find resources here.
World Environment Day Kangaroo Forum
Another exciting event is World Environment Day Kangaroo Forum which will be held from 10am Sunday 4th June 2023 at Boneo Community Hall on the Mornington Peninsula. This interactive forum will include short 5-10 minute presentations and then brainstorm break-outs, with the goal of raising awareness on kangaroo conservation and to develop a draft of a tailored wildlife protection plan for the peninsula kangaroos.
This is a free and catered event so please RSVP the number of people and dietary requirements by 22 May to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: None of the events are being organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Kangaroo: A love-hate story (Film Screening)
Kangaroo reveals Australia’s relationship with its beloved icon, uncovering disturbing scenes behind the largest mass destruction of wildlife in the world. Using investigative techniques such as interviews, citizen footage, and research, Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story shows how the kangaroo meat industry and the Australian government put profits ahead of animal welfare, native species protection and the environment. In addition, farmers who are guided by misinformation and profit take whatever steps they deem necessary to eradicate the species.
A free community screening presented by Woolgoolga Regional Community Gardens and Kangaroo Advocate Yurpia McCafferty, at 6pm (AEST) Tuesday 7th March, on 79 Scarborough St, Woolgoolga. You can find out more about the event here.
Violence Against Rural Indigenous Women: Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States
Throughout the Western Hemisphere, indigenous women and girls suffer extreme and disparate levels of gender-based violence. For those living in rural and remote communities on their own indigenous lands, these problems are even more pronounced. Our event will feature a panel of indigenous women from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States, who will discuss how violations of indigenous peoples’ land rights and right to self-government expose their women and girls to racial discrimination, gender-based violence, and other human rights violations and how living in rural communities intensifies these problems.
The webinar will happen on March 8, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST).
Black Summer Vigil
This online and offline event is being organized in the three-year anniversary memorial for the three billion animals who died in the Australian bush fires. The event will bring together stories from first responders across wildlife rescue, rural fire service, photojournalism, Aboriginal custodianship, veterinary medicine, ecology, and more. Speakers include:
Greg Mullins, Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW; Climate Councillor and founder, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. Greg warned Australia’s then–Prime Minister in April 2019 that a bushfire catastrophe was coming. He pleaded for support and was ignored, then risked his life dealing with the ramifications on the ground.
Internationally recognised ecologist and WWF board member, Professor Christopher Dickman oversaw the work calculating the animal deaths from Black Summer. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Dickman already wore the heavy task of being an ecologist during the sixth mass extinction, in the country that has the worst rate of mammalian extinction in the world. On 8 January 2020 media around the world shared his finding that Black Summer fires had killed one billion animals. Sadly, the fires continued for two more months, and his team’s final count was three billion. This does not include invertebrates: it is estimated 240 trillion beetles, moths, spiders, yabbies and other invertebrates died in the fires.
Coming up from the South Coast, owner of Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary Rae Harvey, as seen in The Bond and The Fire. She is in the sad position of having personally known and cared for a number of Black Summer’s victims: many of the orphaned joeys she cared for were killed in the fires. (She nearly died herself too.) For three years, she has been unable to even speak their names. Now, for the first time, she will tell the story of the joeys she lost.
Cultural burning practitioner and Southern NSW Regional Coordinator with Firesticks Alliance, Djiringanj-Yuin Custodian Dan Morgan. Dan practises using Aboriginal knowledge to heal Country. He has worked for 18 years with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and is on the board of management for the Biamanga National Park, a sacred area home to the last surviving koalas on the NSW south coast – which was partly destroyed by the fires of Black Summer.
Head of Programs & Disaster Response at Humane Society International (HSI) Evan Quartermain, who was one of the first responders on Kangaroo Island where nearly 40% of the island burnt at high severity.
The physical event will happen in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park (Sydney) at 2pm Sunday 2 April 2023 (AEST). You can also attend it online. You can find more information here.