|The view from my front porch.|
BLUE GAP, Ariz. — For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.This is definitely good news for my family, as we notice that pollution coming from the Four Corners power station. The Navajo reservation would be ideally placed for solar generation, and the investment climate created by a significant push toward clean energy would be a big benefit to them and the surrounding communities.
But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.
In Navajo culture, some spiritual guides say, digging up the earth to retrieve resources like coal and uranium (which the reservation also produced until health issues led to a ban in 2005) is tantamount to cutting skin and represents a betrayal of a duty to protect the land.
“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources,” said Anthony Lee Sr., president of the Diné Hataalii Association, a group of about 100 healers known as medicine men and women.
But the shift is also prompted by economic realities. Tribal leaders say the Navajo Nation’s income from coal has dwindled 15 percent to 20 percent in recent years as federal and state pollution regulations have imposed costly restrictions and lessened the demand for mining.