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.
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.