NATIVE AMERICAN GARBAGE LEAGUE

The singular landfill in Hawaii is along the Leeward Coast in Oahu, an area that houses a poor community of indigenous, or native, Hawaiians.  So, when you want to relieve your country of inordinate amounts of garbage, why not parallel dump it near an Indian reservation in the United States?   Makes perfect sense, right?

Honolulu officials had been contemplating sending 100,000 tons of plastic-wrapped bales of garbage every year to the state of Washington.  Hawaii Waste Systems, a Seattle-based firm, had the audacity to authorize the waste-dumping on land overseen by the Yakama Indian Nation.  Needless to say—or it must be said!—the insensitivity to indigenous peoples is alarming and the ostensible imperviousness to issues of environmental justice is simply mind-boggling!

Hawaii’s Big Island has enough land, but there is an ordinance barring any dumping of garbage hailing from outside the island.  Heaven forbid if another landfill would block the beautiful scenery that brings in millions of dollars from the tourist industry each year!  Rather, since certain folks already are used to being put upon and oppressed, what would be wrong about continuing such discriminatory practices by putting a landfill by or on an Indian reservation?

Congratulations on the restraining order that the tribe won against the U.S. Department of Agriculture before the first bale of garbage would be sent to Washington!  After all, the potential dangers to individuals’ health is astronomical, albeit it is not known exactly what type of spillage and corrosive effects could eventuate.  The USDA has become a bit notorious regarding some of its decisions as of late.  Add this one to the list!

I guess there is a positive side to this near-debacle.  A group of citizens, usually ignored, was able to win a federal court case against the USDA!  A tribal group empowered and somewhat vindicated in the USA?  That’s news!  That some people of conscience were able to expose the irony and injustices involved in this transfer of stuff—fantastic!  There is still hope in judicial system, despite its unseemly record with regard to natives and people of color.  A large percentage of Hawaiians are people of color, but, apparently, those in positions of power could overlook their history and unwittingly, perhaps, make policy discriminatory to their racial ancestry and to other folks of color who have been mistreated and underserved.  A bit confusing, to say the least!

Four decades ago, a group of sanitation workers wanted to be treated as adult human beings.  Today, sanitation workers are able to make decisions whether other human beings are going to be treated fairly!  Ah, the more things change, the more things stay the same!

About mdbwell

Pres., Project for the Beloved Community B.A.--Wesleyan University M.Div.--Yale University Ph.D.--Boston University Summer Study--Harvard University Advocate for the poor
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