August 2017

OP-ED: Chili Yazzie

Extractive Energy Addiction Is Killing the Planet


Stephen Hawking, regarded as one of the greatest modern day scientific thinkers on the realities of Earth and space, says the human race has only 100 years to find a new planet and to relocate. He suggests that life on this planet will come to an end because of climate change, nuclear war and viral genetic diseases. So according to Hawking, there are only four generations left.


Going to a new planet sounds so far out there, science fictional and unrealistic, but science and technology say it’s possible. Who will be on the spaceship to the new world? It is not going to be us “regular folks.” If it happens, it will be the millionaires and billionaires.


America, as much of the civilized world, is hooked on extractive energy development. This addiction is fatal, as it is killing the planet. And just like with any addiction, it craves more and more. The physical addiction is further driven by the gluttony to make more money profit. The Navajo Nation, as an energy state, is also hooked and contributing to the reality of climate change. Our Navajo leadership demonstrates that addiction by frantically looking for ways to keep Navajo Generating Station running and also appearing to be in favor of the dastardly business of fracking.


I understand that the current level of extractive energy development around the globe is already beyond the limits of what was considered “safe,” in terms of realizing the opportunity for extended life of the Earth, and that any new development will only accelerate the end of life of the Earth. The advocacy of opposition to new development is not against the livelihood of people; it is advocacy for the extended life of the planet.


From a traditional Native perspective, we have some understanding of the actual physical and spiritual damage that is being done to the Earth with massive mineral extraction. We willingly take part in hurting the Earth, and then we talk about honoring the Earth Mother and how we should walk in beauty on her. This makes me wonder how those who pray with the corn pollen or sit at the sacred fireplace justify their support for hurting the Earth and for those that do. The other great contradiction is: We say the future belongs to our grandchildren and generations to come. By participating in killing the Earth, we are also killing the future of our children.



Duane “Chili” Yazzie, a farmer and champion of indigenous peoples’ rights, is president of the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation.



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