Posted by: rachelbr86 | November 6, 2010

Renewable energy, renewable profits

American Indian reservations in the United States are often cited as locations with high unemployment, low high school educations, and generally stuck in the cycle of poverty.  Additionally these communities have relied on revenue from coal mining, hazardous waste disposal, or have been susceptible to environmental injustice. In the last few years one of the attempts at ending economic inequality has been  the building of casinos- which has been controversial and has had varied effects.  Recently, some tribes and nations are beginning to get creative, and using resources they have- land, wind, and other elements of the earth to change their destiny.

The Campo Kumeyaay Nation, a small tribe in the desert east of San Diego, originally opened a casino, and saw results, but when the recession hit the United States it also hit the casino’s profits.  Out of the ashes of this entrepreneurial experiment another more sustaining economic opportunity has emerged in the forms of renewable energy. The Campo Kumeyaay Nation has leased land to a utility company to create Kumeyaay 1, a wind farm of 25 turbines servicing San Diego.  While with the first farm the tribal nation is just a land lease holder, they are in negotiations to invest in a second larger wind farm.

Since the success of the Campo nation, others are jumping on board with renewable energy as a source of income and life.  The Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the US, has also decided to get involved.  The Navajos have traditionly relied on coal mining, but recently the mines have been shutting down.  The community is left with degradation of the land, water, and risks to human health caused by the mining.  As more of these risks come to light members of the Navajo Nation are feeling a stronger commitment to ending their relationship with coal mining, and coal energy. Out of this has emerged a plan to start

Renewable energy will not be able to make up for all the jobs lost because of the coal mine closures, but the wind turbines, and solar panels will have other benefits. In places where homes are isolated and without electricity or running water, solar panels are able to provide local power. This is a local power source that does not put the family’s health at risk, and is a renewable sustainable resource.

The wind  and sun offer a new chance for these reservations, and might be acting as the breath of life for these communities. The use of natural resources might be a reminded of our interconnectedness.

Each of us can honor this connectedness with creation by thinking about ways we can offset our impact on the environment, and the NCC has great suggestions about how you can get involved with climate change and energy justice. For instance, you might consider getting your energy from wind, or solar power from InterFaith Power and Light.

If you are particularly interested in the plight of the American Indian people please look at our resources on Environmental Justice, and consider starting a dialogue in your community about how communities of color, low income communities, and generally those on the margin usually experience more of the negative impact of environmental pollution and health risks than the rest of the global population.



  1. Very good post on transitioning from dirty coal power to clean energy that isn’t toxic to everyone and everything. The first stages of green jobs may not provide for everyone BUT as the rest of our lifestyle transforms many things will change and the people resources will be immense from conceptualization to implementation to maintaince, education and training.

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