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Embracing a New Earth: Response to Uranium Mining in Ontario

By Angel Hamilton

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us, ‘the universe’; a part limited in time and space. He/she experiences themselves as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affections for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

I am a descendant of the European colonizers, my grandpa’s family has a home in New Brunswick and my Auntie Alma at the age of 85 still lives on the family homestead and my grandmother’s family is rooted here in Lakefield for a hundred years or so. They are descendants of Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and Germany; my mother refers to us as Heinz 57. I however, have a bit of Mohawk in me, at least that is what my mother had told me since I have not yet met my father however, she tells me that his family is off the reservation near Kingston, Ontario where I was born. I am a middle child in my family and I feel I have been a mediator all of my life and have always been a critical questioner and keen learner especially about the environment. I grew up in Mallard’s Bay near Emily Park with my family in the early eighties reading National Geographic’s and The Lorax, watching Dr. David Suzuki and Billy Nye the Science Guy and learning for myself through direct experiences what it was like to spend time outside with the great outdoors and have always felt a keen desire to spend time near the water, growing food, fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and hiking were my favourite past times despite the fact that garbage littered the beaches and there were always signs saying ‘swim at your own risk’. I was one of those Lisa Simpson children who made homemade projects about the ozone layer depletion or the Exxon Valedez oil spill in my grade three classroom in Omemee, Ontario. At the time my intentions were good and honest and I remember being very upset about these issues but gradually, over time, I forgot about my passion about nature and moved on with my life as a teenager completely self absorbed in my drama and eventually living in cities with an urban lifestyle. My family moved away from the area but I never forgot my first experiences in life living near a marsh with wildlife and fresh water near by, it was here that I first learned the joy of feeling connected to nature but more importantly these early experiences fostered an understanding of the interconnectedness of my spirit, body and mind to all that is and I learned at this time how to be compassionately present with nature and those around me despite the craziness.

I have attended university for over eight years, off and on and lived in many cities across this country. I am finally graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Archaeology after all this time but it has been a very multidisciplinary degree as I first pursued International Development and Politics, Sociology, Psychology, History, Geography, Environmental Sciences and eventually I found myself in the program I am graduating in. I have learned that the ‘ideas’ of university are not what I have been searching for, it’s the experiences and wisdom that I have been searching for and I feel I would be better suited to have been in the Natives Studies, Woman and Cultural studies programs that focus on hands on environmental awareness that bring discussions of oppression and exploitation in to the exploration of pressing issues in environmentalism such as Uranium mining. However, it has been in the program of Anthropology and Archaeology that I have learned about colonization and control and the environmental racism because of the reality that this discipline represents the dominant paradigm of thinking that operates in the worldview of the times that ultimately perceives nature as something to control and dominate instead as of an extension of ourselves as I perceive Mother Earth.

The dominant paradigm assumes that progress and development are the highest priorities in an ideology of cultural resource extraction by multinational corporations and governments and ultimately archaeologists have played a role in this process as they have been the ones to work for cultural resource management. The dominant paradigm seeks Uranium mining in order to meet the energy needs of a growing global corporate economy. These greedy values trump the alternative ideology that the ‘environment’ is more than a means to an end, that the biodiversity and sacred aspects of Mother Earth are devalued and ignored. This I feel is environmental racism and contributes to the negativity collectively on our planet and in order for us humanity to evolve and survive, we must learn to critically question these values and reconceptualize ‘nature’ as something more than what we can consume. We need to ultimately go beyond concepts, ideas, and logic and move in to the realm of emotions and compassion in order for us to see that what we define is more than historically culturally constructed through a language or a biological reality of geography and geology, rather something like ‘environment’ is more than an abstract concept but a tangible reality for people living off the earth. It is home to rural indigenous populations all over the planet and home to thousands of species and it is our androcentric, Eurocentric and ethnocentric and ultimately racist ideological framework of the dominant paradigm that lock humanity in to a relationship where culture is pitted against nature and this is ridiculous because they are interconnected.

I grew up in a culture of consumption where consumerism and technology and excessive garbage were my reality. I experienced it first hand each and every day living with a shopaholic mother who loves Wal-Mart, Zellers, and Loblaw’s and anywhere else she can get a cheap deal, bless her heart she recycles and does her best but ultimately buys in to the propaganda from advertising companies that she needs more than she needs and she’s not the only one, thousands of us, including myself buy in to every day. The propaganda of these large multinational corporate advertising companies that want us to believe in the idea of consumerism that posits that in order for us to be happy, we need to have a gluttonous lifestyle of more and more and more. When is it enough? The consequences on nature are horrendous but its also consequential for our collective spiritual experience as humanity because of the level of karma that is building up is turning in to despair and disease because ultimately peace, joy, happiness, and love do not come from associating yourself with brand names and buying the latest manufactured ‘cool’ products and services, though it can make you happy to a point, after that it just causes depression.

The clash between the dominant view and the alternative view of the ‘environment’ is that the values of profit and greed are more important than family, community, accountability, justice, truth, responsibility, integrity. Globally as countries industrialize and globalize there is a greater demand for electricity and ultimately at the rate that we are all excessively consuming energy we will not as a global species live very long. I propose a holistic framework that encompasses interconnected linkages that perceive ecosystems as living, vibrating energy and recognizing that this land that we use has been colonized by Europeans and their dominant ideology has and continues to decimate indigenous peoples and their culture. Wade Davis suggested that instead of always discussing the bio-sphere that we also think of ethno-spheres when thinking of how billions of impoverished rural people and their unique cultural spheres are being assimilated in to the culture of consumption mindset in the urban setting at an incredible rate. The racism that pervades this logic of capitalism blatantly disregards aboriginal culture like the Ardoch Algonquin because in many European’s view they are innately superior because of their technology and their wealth, power, and status and justify this by believing that somehow Europeans are biologically more intelligent because of their dominant position in the world when in fact it has more to do with history of how the disease decimated 95% of the Indigenous population than with innate intelligence. Its also the disproportionate unequal access of key resources that make it difficult for peoples in absolute poverty that contribute to this insane hyper capitalist economy that is unsustainable and does not make any sense to a grandmother or mother who is trying to provide for her family. It makes more sense to spend that energy in to growing food and ultimately if we all cut down the scale of consumption of food and grew local organic foods here in Canada and learned alternative ways of cultivating energy and cut down our energy demands by consciously living our lives with voluntary simplicity, collectively humanity wouldn’t need uranium to supply our energy needs. I have quote that means a lot to me that I want to share with you... It goes like this: “We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” by Andre Bide.

Thank you for listening and have a wonderful spring day!