fragile communities continue to live amid the poisoned wells and contaminated earth, and the uranium riddled sagebrush flats are home for the next generation of Navajo children.
Abandoned Uranium Mines Plague Navajo Nation, Earth Island Journal BY SONIA LUOKKALA – MAY 5, 2015 Mining companies left behind a legacy of poisoned wells and contaminated earth
We are in Diné Bikéyah, land of the Navajo. “………The incidence of Navajo neuropathy is five times
higher on the western side of the Navajo reservation than on the eastern side. Some researchers believe this discrepancy is linked to the land: On the western side, the mines were mostly tunnels, whereas in the west they were primarily open pits. After the uranium companies left, the unfilled pits started to fill with water. Some, as deep as 130 feet, eventually formed into small lakes. Unsuspecting Navajos and their livestock use the contaminated water for drinking.
A 1990 study of Navajo neuropathy ruled out water contamination as a possible cause of the disease………As the Los Angeles Times also reported, in 1986, Thomas Payne an environmental health officer for Indian Health Services, along with a National Park Service ranger, took water samples at 48 sites surrounding Cameron, AZ, a town in Navajo Nation. These samples revealed uranium levels in wells as high as 139 picocuries per liter. In abandoned pits, the levels were as high as 4,024 pinocuries. The EPA limit for safe drinking water is 20 picocuries per liter. ….. Continue reading
U.S. to evaluate uranium mine cleanups on Navajo land -Justice Dept http://news.yahoo.com/u-evaluate-uranium-mine-cleanups-navajo-land-justice-221208324.html By Sandra Maler WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government will put $13.2 million into an environmental trust to pay for evaluations of 16 abandoned uranium mines on land belonging to the Navajo Nation in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, the Justice Department said on Friday.
The Justice Department said the agreement was part of its increased focus on environmental and health concerns in Indian country, “as well as the commitment of the Obama Administration to fairly resolve the historic grievances of American Indian tribes and build a healthier future for their people.”
The investigation of the sites is a necessary step before final cleanup decisions can be made, it said in a statement, adding the work would be subject to the approval of both the Navajo Nation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The site evaluations focus on the mines that pose the most significant hazards and will form a foundation for their final cleanup,” Assistant Attorney General John Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in the statement.
The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 27,000 square miles (70,000 square km) within Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
The region’s unique geology makes it rich in uranium, a radioactive ore which has been in high demand since the development of atomic power and weapons at the close of World War Two.
Some four million tons of uranium ore were extracted during mining operations within the Navajo Nation from 1944 to 1986, the department of justice said.
The last uranium mine on the Navajo Nation was shut down in 1986.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said in a statement he welcomed the agreement. “We have always said the U.S. is responsible for the cleanup of uranium legacy sites,” he said.
Ghillar Michael Anderson, leader of the Euahlayi people and ambassador of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, wrote an open letter to the United Nations on March 3, in which he states that the proposed closures of remote communities are to open up the land for mining.
“For the Western Australian government to now dispossess and displace the peoples of these homelands is designed to facilitate an expeditious expansion of mining interests and other developments,” he wrote.
The announcement of the closures coincides with the introduction of the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill by the Barnett government last November. The bill, which is about to be debated in state parliament, proposes changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. These simplify the process of gaining permission to develop Aboriginal sites, as the chief executive of the DAA will have sole discretion over whether to deem heritage protection. This would continue a DAA trend over recent years of site assessment which is beneficial to industry.
Are Mining Interests Behind Western Australian Remote Aboriginal Community Closures?http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/are-mining-interests-behind-western-australian-remote-aboriginal-community-closures March 20, 2015 by Paul Gregoir Yesterday, 18,000 people turned out at rallies across Australia in protest of the Western Australian government’s proposal to close up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities.
The move will see municipal and essential services provided by the government cut. Premier Colin Barnett announced the closures in November last year, claiming many of these communities are economically unviable. Continue reading
Manitoba First Nation leader criticised – accepted money from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization
Harper, who is head of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), recently signed a $312,689 agreement with the NWMO. Harper told CBC the money is going toward educating his citizens about the risks involved with nuclear waste, and was not accepted in an agreement to store it.
“As a matter of fact there is legislation that was put in place in 1987 that there will be no nuclear waste in Manitoba,” Harper said.
But a group of chiefs from the Swampy Cree Tribal Council (SCTC) — which is politically aligned with MKO — said just signing the agreement contravenes a 2014 moratorium against the storing of nuclear waste in Manitoba.
In a March 11, 2015 press release, the Swampy Cree chiefs said they’ve “lost all faith in MKO Grand Chief David Harper. His signing of this deal with NWMO without our knowledge or consent is a major breach of trust.”
Those chiefs say they’re pulling out of MKO until the grand chief has been removed from office — something Harper refuses to do.
“I’m doing my job to protect First Nations,” said Harper.
Since 2000, the NWMO has been trying to find sites to store radioactive waste produced by nuclear electricity plants in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. They want to store the nuclear waste deep under the ground, in the rock of the Canadian Shield.
The NWMO recently ruled out Creighton, Sask. as a potential host site.
“The Pueblo felt so strongly about the issues surrounding uranium mining that it issued its own Resolution in 2008 declaring a moratorium on any further uranium mining activities on Pueblo lands from that day forward,” emphasized Laguna Governor Siow.
“Why should we be talking about opening new mines when we have more than 500 abandoned mines?” questioned one Native American man. “New Mexico needs to go with renewable energy; it’s about time we start doing that.”
Concerned Community Members Attend Uranium Workers Day http://www.cibolabeacon.com/news/concerned-community-members-attend-uranium-workers-day/article_d3db641a-be87-11e4-8ac5-7bf4a188c6cf.html
PROCLAMATION AND LEGISLATION By Rosanne Boyett 27 Feb 15
CIBOLA COUNTY – “We can’t plant cornfields anymore because the water is contaminated on our homestead, which has been in the family for four generations,” said one Native American woman. “We used to plant one of the largest cornfields in the area.”
She addressed an audience of more than 200 people who participated in the Feb. 20 “Uranium Workers Day” at the Rotunda in Santa Fe and urged people to contact legislators about their concerns.
Another area suffering from contamination is the Pueblo of Laguna, which was once the site of the largest open pit uranium mine in the world. Residents “know first-hand the challenges associated with uranium mining and its aftermath, especially when it comes to the severe impacts it has had on the health and welfare of our community members and the environmental impacts is has had on our lands,” wrote Virgil A. Siow, Pueblo of Laguna governor, in a letter supporting MASE in its activities to raise awareness about mining issues. Continue reading
the National Academies of Sciences have found conclusively that any exposure to ionizing radiation will increase the risks of developing cancer.
Calls for baseline and epidemiological health studies on the impacts of uranium mining and milling on nearby communities have gone unanswered by both government and industry since the 1970s.
Indigenous Canadians Are Fighting the Uranium Mining Industry, VICE February 11, 2015 by Michael Toledano On November 22, 2014, a small group of Dene trappers called the Northern Trappers Alliance set up a checkpoint on Saskatchewan’s Highway 955, allowing locals to pass while blockading the industrial traffic of tar sands and uranium exploration companies. On December 1, officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police descended on the site with an injunction from the province and forcibly dismantled the blockade.
Eighty days later, the trappers remain camped on the side of the highway in weather that has routinely dipped below -40 C. They are constructing a permanent cabin on the site that will be a meeting place for Dene people and northern land defenders.
“We want industry to get the hell out of here and stop this killing,” said Don Montgrand, who has been at the encampment since day one and was named as one of its leaders on the police injunction. “We want this industry to get the hell out before we lose any more people here. We lose kids, adults, teenagers.”
“They’re willing to stay as long as it takes to get the point across that any of this kind of development is not going to be welcomed,” said Candyce Paul, the alliance’s spokesperson and a member of the anti-nuclear Committee for the Future Generations. “It’s indefinite.”
“We don’t want to become a sacrifice zone. That’s where we see ourselves heading.”
The trappers say an unprecedented rise in cancer is the legacy of contamination from nearby uranium mines. With significant tar sands and uranium deposits in their area, the trappers are developing a long-term strategy to halt the industrial growth threatening to deform their surroundings and scare away the wildlife they depend on for food, income, and culture.
About an hour north of the alliance’s location, a recent discovery by Fission Uranium Corp. could lead to the development of one of the world’s largest high-grade uranium mines.
Further north, abandoned and decommissioned uranium mines already host millions of tons of radioactive dust (also known as tailings) that must be isolated from the surrounding environment for millennia, while no cleanup plans exist for the legacy of severe and widespread watershed contamination that is synonymous with Uranium City, Saskatchewan. To the east, “an integrated uranium corridor spreading over 250 kilometers” hosts the largest high-grade uranium mines and mills in the world, with their own stockpiles of radioactive tailings and a decades-long history of radioactive spills…….
The province is looking to indigenous lands in the north for new bitumen and mineral mines, a high-level nuclear waste dump site, and the construction of nuclear reactors to encourage “environmentally responsible” tar sands extraction by exporting energy to Alberta.
“We know the government really doesn’t care about the northern people. They would rather see us move out of our region,” Continue reading
The studies have found considerably increased rates of death by lung cancer and other lung or related diseases
“Navajo is a non-smoking population. That’s why the Navajo underground miners were such an important sub-unit of the cohort,” Shuey said. “The Navajo cohort debunks the whole notion that the uranium miners’ lung cancer relates to smoking.”
Radon’s Deadly Connection With Uranium Mining As Seen From Navajo Nation, Indian Country, Konnie LeMay 2/2/15 Where you live may increasingly become as important as how you live in determining your health as we continue to recognize how environmental factors affect our lives and may hasten our deaths.
“No longer can we just kind of sit back and say those are all just lifestyle (influences) … just stop eating frybread and throw some vegetables in there,” said Chris Shuey, director of the Uranium Impact Assessment Program for theSouthwest Research and Information Center.
For more than three decades, Shuey has tracked the environmental influences on long-term health for the Navajo people linked to the region’s past uranium mining. He foresees growing acknowledgment of how human-caused environmental changes and naturally occurring threats may affect our health. Continue reading
In her book of poems, Love Dreaming, aboriginal writer Ali Cobby Eckermann from Australia writes, “Every grain of sand in this big red country is a pore on the skin of my family.” Her writing and her new book, Too Afraid to Cry reflect the alienation of the ‘Stolen generation’ of children who were selectively taken away from their families and raised by white people and also the plight of her people who are waging a war over land rights.
Thousands of people from indigenous communities plan to hold massive protests over land issues on Australia Day on January 26, she says. Protests are continuing in various parts of Australia over mining uranium and minerals and even Kakadu National Park, on the UNESCO World Heritage Site is under threat.
In New Delhi to deliver the annual Navayana lecture, she told The Hindu in an interview that a serious lack of understanding between cultures persists in Australia at a political level and with mining it has expanded. “We worry for our children. Now the Western Australian government wants to use bulldozers and close 150 or 180 small aboriginal communities — they say it is not sustainable to keep these communities going. Where do these people go? They can wander to the city to become a makeshift community under tarpaulin as they are not going to rehouse them,” she says.
The sudden move, she suspects, is to do with mining and removing people from the area so that even that little bit of resistance is gone. That’s the scary part but the aboriginal people will survive. It’s all about land, the war is over land, she says and no one really articulates it like that. “Why would they want these remote areas which are mineral rich to be emptied of people. Western Australia is among the richest mining areas but why is not the government saying some percentage of that mining rights should go to the community. That doesn’t happen, the miners don’t pay tax and we watch the money fly away,” she points out.
Referring to the civil nuclear deal between India and Australia, she said, “Please consider when you support nuclear energy in India what happens to our culture. There will be a slow erosion of human rights but we will fight for the right of our children to have rights of lands.”
The government has given approvals for uranium mines in western Australia. Hailing from South Australia, she said this was a place of ancient knowledge. “In aboriginal culture we do not own the land, we belong to the land and the land does not belong to us, the land is our heart, “she says.
The struggle for land in the mid 70s when people drove to Adelaide and demanded their land back had resulted in some rights being restored. There was a strong law in place on mining but unknown to many communities the government in 2008 has sneaked in amendments which do not provide for negotiations as in the past. “So if a community agrees to exploration it has virtually given away the right to mining as well,” Ms. Eckermann adds.
In Northern Territory some ten years ago the government had proposed nuclear waste storage sites but a group of women pensioners living in old age homes got together with support from Friends of the Earth and fought the government and managed to convince them that this was not a good idea. Ms Eckermann who has learnt a lot from what she calls the “struggle of my grandmothers”, says the women essentially told the government from a cultural perspective their aversion to the nuclear waste dump on their lands and part of that was because they were young girls when the Maralinga atomic testing took place by the British in the 1950s. Many had lost their family in the nuclear fallout and for these women, it was an environmental war- and a cultural war and they were so dignified in their protest, she says.”I don’t know how they did it. They said never raise your voice except to sing traditional songs and they told the government to “get your ears out of your pockets.” It was a such a grass roots victory and there was no more room for lying and deceit. This was a jury of traditional women, against younger white men and the women won,” she grins.
Thousands of people from indigenous communities plan to hold massive protests over land issues on Australia Day on January 26 which many also call Invasion day for that’s when Captain Cook arrived on the country’s shores. ……..
“Land is like my family, that rock is like my grandfather and that sand dune is my mother. We have our ways and they can be customised to modern life but the core wisdom won’t change. We have to stop the intergenerational social impacts but every time the government meets us they have no concept of land or the people. And then we are called ungrateful, “she concludes. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/waging-a-war-over-land-rights/article6800001.ec
The Aboriginal peoples of Quebec stand together against uranium at the final hearings of the BAPE in Montreal theturtleislandnews.com/daily/mailer_stories/dec162014/The-Aboriginal-peoples-of-Quebec-stand-together-against-uranium-at-the-final-hearings-of-the-BAPE-in-Montreal-pr1121614.html MONTREAL, Dec. 15, 2014 – At the final public hearings of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) on the uranium industry in Quebec, to be held today in Montreal, the James Bay Cree Nation will deliver a resounding and united message of opposition to uranium development in their territory, Eeyou Istchee. The Cree Nation, which has led the charge against uranium development, has been joined in this position by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Inuit of northern Quebec, who will also make presentations to the BAPE today.
“A powerful message has been sent by all of the Aboriginal peoples of Quebec. Together, we have said NO to uranium,” said Matthew Coon Come, the Grand Chief of the James Bay Cree Nation. “Today, we show that the Cree Nation speaks in one voice – united with the other Aboriginal peoples of Quebec – when we insist that our lands remain free of uranium mining and uranium waste.”
The Cree Nation Youth Council’s StandAgainstUranium march, which began in Mistissini on November 23, arrived in Montreal today to attend the BAPE hearings. The marchers have travelled on foot over 850 km in 23 days, to share the Cree Nation’s message and to encourage other Quebeckers to stand with them against uranium development. Overwhelmingly, those they met along the way have agreed that uranium mining should be banned in Quebec.
Youth Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff has led the StandAgainstUranium march and will be making submissions to the BAPE on behalf of the Youth Council. “One of our community’s favourite fishing spots, Gobanji, is on Mistissini Lake, downstream from Strateco’s Matoush project. My grandma’s goose camp is there too,” reflected Youth Chief Iserhoff. “I’ve had lots of time on this walk to think about how important this land is to me, my family and our entire community. I will be telling the Commissioners, on behalf of Cree Youth, that uranium mining, and the radioactive and hazardous waste it will leave behind, are not welcome in Eeyou Istchee.”
“The courage and resolution shown by the StandAgainstUranium marchers over the last few weeks speaks in a powerful way to the determination of our people to protect Eeyou Istchee from the risks of uranium mining and uranium waste, today and for future generations. We give our thanks to the First Nations who offered support and encouragement along the way,” noted Grand Chief Coon Come. “We have been gratified to see that as they learn the facts about uranium, Quebeckers are joining with us in our stand.”
The BAPE’s final hearings will be held in the Salle Ovation at the Hyatt Regency Montreal, at 1pm and 7pm. The evening sessions will be co-chaired by the BAPE Commission, the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment and the Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee.
More information about uranium and the Cree Nation’s position can be found at www.StandAgainstUranium.com, on Facebook (James Bay Cree Against Uranium) or on Twitter (@JBCAUranium). SOURCE The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
The group braved blizzards and temperatures as low as minus-28 C as they marched 850 kilometres across the province to take part in environmental hearings on uranium mining.
They fear the waste from mining would contaminate the land and water of Cree communities and encroach on trap lines, and want a ban on uranium exploration.
A hearing by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) on uranium mining wrapped up on Monday, with a final report expected next May.
“The potential risks associated with uranium mining, which leaves behind thousands of years of radioactive material, that’s what concerns our people,” Chief Richard Shecapio of Mistissini told reporters shortly before the hearings began.
The Cree Nation Youth Council argues that uranium mining would affect tourism, as the region is a popular getaway for fishers………
There’s a moratorium on uranium exploration in Quebec, imposed last year by the previous Parti Québécois government. Before that time, the only uranium project seeking an exploration permit was Strateco Resources Inc.’s Matoush site in the Otish mountains, about 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau.
Yves-François Blanchet, the environment minister at the time, said no permits would be issued for the exploration or mining of uranium until an independent study on the mineral’s social acceptability and environmental impacts had been completed.
Last week, Strateco Resources filed a $190-million lawsuit against the Quebec government for blocking its project after years of ground work.
Cree Youth Walk 850 km To Protest Against Uranium Mining In Quebec, Huff Post. CBC 14 Dec 14 About 20 young Cree people have walked nearly 850 kilometres to Montreal’s South Shore from their village in northern Quebec, protesting against uranium exploration in the province.
The youth left Mistissini, Que., northeast of Chibougamau in the James Bay region three weeks ago. On the way, they stopped in Quebec City to share their message. They arrived in Longueuil, just across the bridge from Montreal, Saturday.
Their final destination is downtown Montreal, where they will deliver that message to the province’s environmental protection agency, known as the BAPE, when it holds the last of a series of public hearings on uranium exploration tomorrow.
The Cree young people have endured frigid temperatures and wintry conditions, walking an average of a marathon a day. “We’ve lost a couple of toenails on this journey,” said Joshua Iserhoff, chair of the Cree Nation Youth Council.
But according to Iserhoff, it’s been worth it.
He said uranium exploration near his community could cause irreparable damage to the watershed………
Now the province is holding public hearings on uranium mining. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/12/14/cree-uranium-mining-protest_n_6322934.html
Makivik President Jobie Tukkiapik says the consensus is clear: Nunavik Inuit fears for radioactive contamination of the land trump any economic windfall they might reap from uranium mining.
“Uranium is a controversial topic, and must be considered separately from conventional mining activities exploiting other minerals in Nunavik,” Tukkiapik says.
Makivik Corporation, the land claims organization, teamed up with the Kativik Regional Government in stating their case to Quebec’s environmental consultation office.
The land claims organization made the announcement following three years of consultations throughout Nunavik’s 14 communities. They also did consultations in Montreal and some neighbouring Cree villages. KRG chair Maggie Emudluk says the key concern is the health of country food.
Inuit rely on hunting wildlife for sustenance, and Emudluk says the impact of radioactive material getting into the food chain could be deadly.
“The psychological effects cannot be underestimated,” she says. “People are afraid of uranium in general, but when a population is so dependent on locally sourced food, the fear and uncertainty escalate.”
It remains to be seen whether the declaration is legally enforceable under Quebec law
Northern Quebec Cree start 850 km trek to protest against uranium mining By Caroline Nepton, CBC News Nov 21, 2014 “……this weekend Iserhoff, who is the chair of the Cree Nation Youth Council, will join a group of Crees walking to Montreal to hand deliver a message to the province’s environmental protection agency’s (BAPE) commission on the uranium industry in Quebec.
The group has a message for BAPE: There will be no uranium exploration and exploitation on the Cree territory of Eeyou Istchee.
“We are the stewards of the land, therefore we have this responsibility to protect for the generations to come,” Iserhoff said.
The walkers will be leaving Mistissini this Sunday to travel over 850 kilometers to reach Montreal by Dec. 15, the last day of the BAPE’s public hearings on the uranium industry in Quebec.
They want other nations and other Quebecers to join the walk. “Innu’s are coming, Algonquins are coming and maybe Atikamekw,” Iserhoff said. ‘The Crees are only one voice and so we are seeking allies.’– Matthew Coon Come, grand chief of Cree Grand Council
The trek is one of the many strategies used by the Crees to protest against uranium mining in their territory.
The Cree Nation government firmly opposes all uranium exploration, mining and waste storage in Eeyou Istchee, Cree territory in northern Quebec. A couple of weeks ago the Cree government launched a website and a social campaign: #StandAgainstUranium. They are still asking people to take selfies with the Stand Against Uranium sign.
The government also sponsored The Wolverine: The Fight of the James Bay Cree, which was presented at the Uranium Festival in Germany last September.
“The Crees are only one voice and so we are seeking allies,” saidMatthew Coon Come, the grand chief of the Cree Grand Council.
One of the most advanced uranium projects in the province is the Strateco Resource Matoush project in Otish Mountain, north ofMistissini.
In 2013, Quebec became the third Canadian province, after Nova Scotia and British Columbia, to establish a moratorium on uranium development. In light of that moratorium, Quebec’s environment minister refused to grant Strateco the permits it had requested to go ahead with the project. http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/northern-quebec-cree-start-850-km-trek-to-protest-against-uranium-mining-1.2844050
http://www.pozible.com/project/187985 The story of the project At the ANFA (Australia
Nuclear Free Alliance) meeting in Oct 2014 Indigenous Elders called for documentation of the health effects from the Maralinga and other atomic bomb tests in the 1950’s and 1960’s. See https://ausnukefreealliance.wordpress.com for the meeting statement.
Permission was never sort from the Aboriginal nations.
“Just remember that the fallout at Maralinga affected the whole lot of us. Black, white, brindle; we all breathe the same air, and we’re all being affected in various ways, even though that happened a long time ago. It’s still around.” Sue Coleman-Haseldine (Kokatha Mula – Ceduna)
From 1952 to 1963 atomic testing covered vast areas of South Australia including Maralinga and Emu Fields test sites.
In November 2014 there will be a 3 week road trip to archive the stories of the people from Arabuna, Walitina, Ceduna, and Yalata country to produce film, audio and digital documentaries. We will begin a data base of the families affected, the geographical distributions of fall out and detrimental health repercussions of these unconsented tests.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in the scale of the devastation they cause, and in their uniquely persistent, spreading, genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they are unlike any other weapons.
For more information on nuclear weapons, including an article on Yami Lester, one of the survivors of the nuclear tests in South Australia, see http://www.icanw.org/au/
Many Aboriginal people in South Australia still rely on bush foods – plants and animals sourced from land that still is contaminated. The possibility of bioaccumulation is very real. Certainly the stories of early death from cancer, thyroid disease and congenital deformities are continuing.
“I’ve lost a lot of my family members through early death – and a lot of it was through cancer, and I do blame the Maralinga fallout.”
Aunty Martha – Arabana (Lake Eyre) Contact us at: email@example.com
Tony Abbott’s ambition to become the “Prime Minister for Aboriginal affairs” doesn’t align with his position on climate change, with First Nations communities the most vulnerable to the disastrous effects of global warming, according to a young Bundjalung environment warrior.
Abbott drew condemnation last week after he dodged a United Nations climate change summit attended by 120 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama. Abbott jetted into New York a day later to attend UN Security Council talks on the situation in Iraq and Syria, and Western responses to militant Sunni group the Islamic State.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Abbott fudged on the threat to the world posed by climate change, instead elevating the “murderous rage” of the Islamic State, the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the situation of the world’s economies above it.
It came in the same week President Obama labelled climate change a greater threat to the world than terror and pointed the finger at Abbott and other heads of state absent at the talks, pointedly noting “no-one gets a pass”.
Abbott also came under fire earlier this year for taking climate change off the agenda at key G20 talks in Brisbane in November, despite the issue being on the agenda of the past three G20 meetings, which bring together the heads of the world’s 20 leading economies.
While Abbott claims to be a champion of Aboriginal rights, 20-year-old Bundjalung climate change activist Amelia Telford says the Abbott government needs to understand the situation facing First Nations communities, many of whom will be most adversely impacted by the effects of climate change.
“Abbott hasn’t connected the dots,” Ms Telford told New Matilda.
“The government is taking us backwards compared with the rest of the world. We are living in a country where Indigenous people have barely contributed to what is causing climate change….
“(But) the most vulnerable communities within Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – are going to be impacted more than any other community and we need our government to recognise that.
“We aren’t seeing that leadership and so there is an opportunity to stand up for ourselves and begin a movement lead by our people.”
Ms Telford was speaking ahead of a historic summit organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which will bring together 50 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth from around the country to talk about climate change. Dubbed the ‘Seed summit’, it will kick off in Melbourne this weekend.
While Aboriginal youth have largely been voiceless in climate change talks and activism, Ms Telford says it is critical our young people are at the forefront. She says it’s been hard to raise awareness because of the dire social issues afflicting First Nations youth, and the influence of the fossil fuels industry within First Nations communities.
“We know that Indigenous people across Australia have been looking after our lands for tens of thousands of years and it gives us hope that we can do it again. But there are so many structural issues within our communities so it’s hard for young people to prioritise it.
“… There are more and more of us coming out and talking about climate change, sustainability and caring for country but there are so many things competing for our attention.
“It can be a tricky issue because of the fossil fuel industry and the massive impact and stress of that on our land and culture for decades.”
It becomes hard to advocate for solutions to climate change if you are forced to rely on the mining industry, Ms Telford says.
But she says rather than just targeting government, the Seed summit also hopes to put a declaration to the four leading banks asking them not to invest in coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef.
“We need to get climate change on the agenda of our politicians, but it also involves engaging with business leaders, rather than specifically government,” Ms Telford says.
“… We are calling on the CEOs of the four big Australian banks which are considering whether to fund coal ports on the reef. In this time in politics, where we are not seeing leadership from governments, we have to find ways to counteract that and figure out how we can make a difference.”
Ms Telford says she was surprised at the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth who wanted to get involved in climate change advocacy. The summit received 30 applications within a week of opening registrations.
“The young people are the ones with the most at stake,” Ms Telford says.
“Indigenous youth have to be at that forefront and the great thing is we are backed by thousands of young people all across the country.
“Knowing we are a part of that movement is pretty great.”
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