Newspaper column: Documentary asks why desert must be destroyed to save the planet

The theme of Robert Lundahl’s documentary film “Who Are My People,” which had its Nevada premiere earlier this month, is that it makes no sense to destroy the desert in order to try to save the planet from global warming.

Lundahl, who grew up in the desert Southwest, sees something wrong with proposals to literally pave over hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine desert, mostly federal public land — which has been home to Native Americans and countless species of wildlife for thousands of years — with solar panels, solar mirrors and windmills, which in 25 years will be so much hazardous waste to be abandoned or hauled off, further scarring the landscape.

Photovoltaic array near Boulder City

As reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press, the hour-long film is a pastiche of desert scenes and running commentary from archeologists and scientists, as well as tribal leaders who point to various sacred sites that could be destroyed or despoiled by the industrial-scale “green energy” projects.

“Ultimately it’s simple,” says Lundahl, who describes himself as an environmentalist and is an advocate of roof-top distributive solar panels, “you can’t destroy things to ‘go green,’ and that includes the traditional practices and life-ways of Native American communities who were here long before the United States was even an idea, and the environment and traditional, indigenous landscapes which support those communities. You can’t have ‘green’ without social justice.”

But the Interior Department has already set aside 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in six states — including 60,395 acres in Nevada — where permitting for utility-scale solar projects will be streamlined. Perhaps railroaded is a better term.

The Nevada land alone has the potential to generate 6,700 megawatts of power, in 2012 NV Energy had a peak generating capacity of only 6,000 megawatts. Just who needs all that new power is a question not being asked by anyone.

If you or I were to dig up a single Joshua tree or pick up a desert tortoise, even to move it out of harm’s way, we would be subject to serious fines.

But “green” projects rip up thousands of Joshua trees, agave, sagebrush, several varieties of cactus and assorted weeds and flowers, which provide food and shelter for tortoises, snakes, lizards, rabbits, coyotes, wild sheep, rats, mice, roadrunners, grouse, ravens, quail, jays, hummingbirds and much more. They also grade up the desert patina and leave the disturbed earth subject to massive and blinding dust storms.

Lundahl hopes eventually to air his documentary on public television and perhaps screen it in desert communities.

Read the entire column at Ely or Elko.

8 comments on “Newspaper column: Documentary asks why desert must be destroyed to save the planet

  1. Thanks, for the catch. I know better.


  2. Rincon says:

    Big deal. Nevada’s going to have to destroy a whole lot more desert to catch up with Illinois: “With more than 99% of the tallgrass prairie gone and the few small parcels that survive under threat of vanishing, a number of Midwest states have made a commitment to prairie reconstruc-tion….”

    We decided long ago that farms are better than prairie. The environmentalists are criticized for trying to preserve the few remaining scraps. They (we) long ago accepted that man has and will continue to change the land. It’s all about cost (including nonfinancial cost) and benefit. If no one questions paving the desert with cities and highways, why are we all worked up about solar panels? Aren’t you the one that criticized environmentalists for trying to regulate off road vehicles? They can destroy hundreds of acres for the plaesure of a few individuals. Does this mean that off road vehicles benefit mankind more than solar panels?

  3. Thomas Mitchell says:

    At least they are cost effective amusement.

  4. Steve says:

    In quite a few places OHV’s are the primary means of travel.
    In reality OHV’s do not do permanent damage to “hundreds of acres” OHV’s makes backwoods areas accessable and when people stop traveling the trails they go back to nature within a very few years. Pavement sticks around for decades.

    Additionally OHV’s use very little gas. Which should please the environmentalists considering the alternatives in those places. Namely paving those trails and using trucks.

    Solar panels should go on roof’s and the owners should be compensated for the placement. The reasons for industrial size solar farms are money, power and greed.
    You know the type. Those big oil greedy bastards so many on the left love to hate. Now they cultivate.

  5. Wendy Ellis says:

    I went to see the film, “Who are My People” at the Flamingo Library. I had never heard of geoglyphs before, and the arial footage is great. The film is worth seeing, and documents a worthy cause. We have heard nothing but propaganda about how great solar and wind energy is, but very little about the true costs: financial, environmental, and historical.

  6. Film offers an alternative that is seldom heard.

  7. Rincon says:

    I agree with you Steve. Off road vehicles are useful and do little damage when in routine use. I was actually referring to off road tracks, where enthusiasts race over large areas at high speed, often in full size vehicles. I don’t even have a problem with them as long as their use is restricted to a reasonable area. Lots of courses within reasonable driving distance for enthuisiasts are fine, but carte blanche would be a little much.

    I actually don’t support large scale solar farms except for bona fide research purposes. Rooftop solar is worthwhile in isolated areas – or if a citizen desires it.

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