The purpose of this course is to provide students with a solid understanding of crucial issues linked to Environmental Justice including mining, dumping and storage of toxic and radioactive waste. Indigenous communities around the world have been disproportionate targets of activities that damage or destroy their local environments and lower their quality of life. Students in this course will focus on case studies that address such issues from the perspective of multiple stakeholders, e.g. mining and military interests, as well as other economic interests, contrasted with the perspective emerging from the cultural traditions and beliefs of Indigenous peoples and communities. This should help students develop a knowledge base that will assist them in future work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and cultural practices, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and improving the relations among various groups and institutions.
Environmental Justice is a relatively new concept that has arisen largely from people demanding that their interests be considered along with those emerging from the military and economic interests. Many reserves, reservations, or homelands of Indigenous peoples are located in remote areas where the dominant culture has felt that it could act as it wished, because the land was “not being used”. As a consequence such “empty” areas are often considered available for use as bombing ranges, sites for disposal of nuclear and toxic waste, and nuclear test sites. Virtually every nuclear test site in the history of such programs has required the removal of indigenous peoples from the area of testing. This course will emphasize how indigenous perspectives and demands influence environmental justice and security. We will deal with 7 or 8 case studies detailing how resources are managed in various Indigenous communities. These Case Studies may include 1) Land appropriation in Canada and the US, 2) Disposal of nuclear waste on Indigenous lands including Yucca Mountain and the Mescalero Apache, 3) Mining for coal, uranium and other metals on Indigenous lands around the world, 4) the location of major dams and how these are allowed to flood Indigenous lands, e.g. Missouri River, Katun River in Siberia, James Bay hydropower in Quebec, etc. 5) Use of the lands of Numic peoples in Nevada as a missile and bombing ranges, 6) Destruction of the way of life of the Masai people in Kenya and Tanzania, 7) Removal of indigenous peoples to create “wilderness” areas and National parks, and 8) Destruction of Indigenous Fisheries in New Zealand, Norway, and Canada.
Emphasis on these case studies will serve two primary functions: 1) This will allow students to understand how Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous lands are important and must be taken seriously, 2) Empowering indigenous students to stand up for themselves and their traditions both in their research and in the academic environment.