Sunday, February 8, 2009

Impacts to Indigenous People's Lands from Development Projects

Barbara Adam’s book Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazardsargues that many of the most fundamental problems modern (often understood as Western) society faces are due to government decisions that are often made based on short-term and spatially narrow impact decisions. As she argues in her book, these decisions are being made when long-term and spatially wide impacts are involved. These long-term and spatially wide impacts, it is further argued, disrupt the timescapes of the human and natural environment. Timescapes, as Adams defines them are the timings and tempos – the changes and contingencies – of the human and natural environment (Adam, 1998: 11). Timescapes, in essence, are the physical and cultural embodiment of practiced approaches to time in space; they are the traditional lifeways of indigenous peoples.

In a recent article entitled “Timescapes in Conflict: Cumulative Impacts on a Solar Calendar,” anthropologists, researchers, and Native Americans discuss how the timescapes of a solar calendar, along with traditional lands in which it is located, have been impacted over the last 200 years, with a special focus on recent gas and electric developments. Their article and case study prove to be a valuable example of how governments, agencies, and others should look at impact assessments and other methodologies used in modern development projects, as it clearly demonstrates the consequences of multiple impacts over time.

The headwaters of the Tunakwint River, known today as the Santa Clara River, begin in the upper reaches of the western flanks of the Pine Valley Mountain range in southern Utah. This watershed is the focus of hundreds of special Native American Indian places, especially of the Paiute, including ceremonial, religious, and cultural sites and resources. It is also an area full of water and puha (a kind of creation energy), deriving from the tall volcanic mountains and small lava flows that constitute the headwaters, the boundaries, and the topography of the Tunakwint River basin.

Read more on the Long-Term Impacts to Indigenous People’s Lands from Electric, Gas, and Energy Corridors and Projects: A Case From Native North America here.

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