Last weekend, Micah, Caris, and I went into Anchorage to the Dena’ina Center to visit the Alaska Federation of Nations conference. There were many booths with things for sale and social services agencies with handouts about their services. We perused the conference center for a while to enjoy the sights and arts on display. Then, we walked outside and grabbed a reindeer dog for lunch and then returned to the Dena’ina Center to enjoy some singing in the lobby. Overall, it was a great day.
While we were there, a peaceful march ensued to prevent Pebble Mine (the name of a company desiring to mine) from mining in southwestern Alaska near Bristol Bay. I was given a sticker to help support the cause (seen below) and decided to check out the website. Some information quoted from that website is listed below as well.
The Pebble deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper and molybdenum, located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. If built, Pebble would be one of the largest mines in the world. Because of its size, geochemistry and location, Pebble runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay, one of the world’s most productive wild salmon strongholds… (The Pebble, 2017, p. 1).
Apparently, this Bristol Bay area has millions of pounds of gold almost a mile thick (Warrick, 2015). Can’t you see those big capitalists getting saucer-like eyes at the thought of the greenback exchange from all that gold? (Eyes rolling…) However, the area is also important for much more legitimate reasons than gold, nourishment. The mine’s location is in the Bristol Bay watershed which apparently is, “the headwaters of one of the most productive salmon fisheries in Alaska” (Pebble Project, 2010, p. 1.) In fact, Warrick (2015) mentions the area is the “spawning ground for the planet’s biggest runs of sockeye salmon…. that generates $500 million a year” (p. 1). Did you get that? The PLANET’s biggest producer of sockeye is located there. The ripple effects of this decision will be felt for generations and long after the gold has been mined.
Of course, there are two sides of this debate. There are people that say there will be jobs generated from the mining. However, as I have already mentioned, many say it will destroy the area’s salmon supply, not to mention pollute the land and deprive some of the natives living nearby of a much needed resource too. Does this story sound familiar? We have heard these types of stories so many times. Big (fill-in-the-blank) company says they will do (x-y-z) to help a local economy but won’t destroy the land in the process. I don’t believe it. This sounds like another problem that can easily be described by the sociological perspective, the conflict theory. Those wanting that gold see pollution and destruction of the area as business-as-usual to make a profit. However, there is a precious resource being destroyed that is way more valuable than gold. How about attempting to eat a 24 kt nugget with a side salad covered in copper sprinkles, Mr. Gold Digger? Before long, we are going to destroy our food supply even more than it has already been destroyed. This impacts you. This impacts all of us. This doesn’t seem logical. Where is Leonardo Dicaprio, environment activist extraordinaire, when you need him? (After I wrote that last line I looked online to see if he really is working on this environmental social problem and, guess what? His agency wrote something about it. Thanks Leo…)
Lastly, I have a video on the ride home from the center and protest. It is below.
Haddad, K. (2017). Grantee spotlight: United tribes of Bristol Bay. Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/grantee-spotlight-united-tribes-of-bristol-bay/
Pebble Project. Northern Alaska Environment Center. Retrieved from http://northern.org/programs/clean-water-mines/hardrock-mines-in-interior-and-arctic-alaska/pebble-project/pebble-project
The Pebble Proposal. Save Bristol Bay. Retrieved from http://www.savebristolbay.org/pebbleproposal/
Warrick, J. (2015). Pebble mine debate in Alaska: EPA becomes target by planning for rare veto. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/internal-memos-spur-accusations-of-bias-as-epa-moves-to-block-gold-mine/2015/02/15/3ff101c0-b2ba-11e4-854b-a38d13486ba1_story.html?utm_term=.893f8369e973