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The art of clean air


First, I would like to extend my thanks to all those who supported the “Connections: Earth + Artist= A Tribute Artshow in Resistance to Desert Rock.” And too, to all the area artists and artists from Minneapolis, Phoenix and Tucson who submitted their art on behalf of the environment, ahe’he. I was inspired. 

Months before the Connections art show, I searched and searched for a venue to host this exhibit, but what I found was that people in Farmington would have nothing to do with speaking out against the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant. In fact, I was shunned by many who told me that I should “be quiet” and “stop making trouble.” And my response was, “I have a human right to clean, pollution-free air.” As I trekked the streets of Farmington and surrounding towns to find a possible venue for the exhibit, many doors were basically slammed in my face. No one wanted to stand up and have the courage to say they care about the environment. But, I moved on.

I headed north to Durango, where people give a care. As a child, my family frequented Durango to shop, to eat and to camp in the beautiful forested lands. For the Navajo, Mount Hesperus is our sacred mountain to the north, so many still hold reverence for the area and many still make holy pilgrimages to the area to collect the sacred earth. I knew that in Durango someone would support my efforts as an artist and environmentalist. And so it turns out that the light at the end of the tunnel was Fort Lewis College’s Center for Southwest Studies. The director of the CSWS listened to my cause as an artist, and agreed to let me carry out my artistic vision in the “Connections: Earth + Artist= A Tribute Artshow in Resistance to Desert Rock.”

And, artists showed up. Pretty much all of the art that was initially submitted to the show was powerful and no doubt made with the Earth in mind, and for that I was empowered. And as the art jury and I reviewed all of the work, this phrase entered my mind: Artists are often described as prophetic visionaries and poetic shapers of the world – one step ahead of humanity. Artists, I believe we are ordained by the Creator to carry out the artistic gifts given to us, and with it we will fight the battles to keep our Earth, our home4

clean and free of pollutants as a way of saying, “Ahe’he, thank you Creator for what you have given us.” Our voices as artists make the difference, so Art on!

As the ending date of the exhibit approached and passed, I was very humbled to see that there are people who still care about their environment, for it is you who still carry compassion for all living things. As a lifelong resident of this area, I have been witness to the decline of good air quality in the Farmington area. These days as I walk along the San Juan River and the Animas in the early mornings, I can see the ugly ochre string of airborne pollutants pumped out daily from the two power plants grow wider and wider. But also, I can see how the disease of apathy has left many residents of Farmington and the Navajo Nation numb and tuned out to the discussion of keeping the air quality clean, and resisting a third coal-fired power plant to our beautiful San Juan Valley. The topics of renewable energy and sustaining a healthy, pollutant-free environment have become alien terms for them to use in their daily conversation.

So, I commend you Durango, Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Ignacio, Mancos, Hesperus, Dove Creek, Cortez and others for giving a care. Your efforts in supporting the Connections Art Show showed me that what I do as an artist, and what I say as an environmentalist in talking about sustaining a clean environment for the Four Corners area and speaking out against Desert Rock Power Plant, is worth it!

– Be good, take care! Venaya Yazzie, Farmington

Driving unions into oblivion

Dear Editors,

Appreciation to theDurango Telegraph for providing guidance on the upcoming amendment issues. I’m particularly interested in the trio of amendments that would affect Colorado’s work environment. Modifying the state’s constitution should not be taken lightly. Such a change cannot be easily modified if it happens to have an unforeseen impact. In particular, Amendment 47 promises sweeping changes in the ability of working people to organize to protect their rights. In short, the amendment makes organizing unions or other workers’ organizations more difficult.

But there’s something about Amendment 47 that readers ought to be aware of. In the text of the Amendment, and in promotional messages, Amendment 47’s proponents state or strongly imply that working people are sometimes forced to join unions. In fact, federal law explicitly states that union membership cannot be required.

Why would proponents of Amendment 47 make such a claim? It seems likely that this is a tactic intended to create outrage among working people, thereby generating support for the proposal.

The real situation is a little complicated. Unions are required by law to represent members of the “bargaining unit,” whether they are members of the union or not. In return for services rendered – negotiating wage agreements, establishing a grievance procedure, instituting safety programs, and securing benefits such as health care – a nonmember may be required to pay a small fee “in lieu of dues.” Amendment 47 would make these fees optional, but would not release the union from its federally mandated obligation to provide the service. Thus we would have an organization that is required by federal law to spend money providing services to individuals, but is prohibited by state law from collecting fees for those services. The permanence of such a constitutional change as Amendment 47 means that we don’t know how the resulting conflict between state and federal law would be resolved.

One of the frequently heard objections to paying union dues relates to the tendency of unions to support union-friendly officials in their election campaigns. This becomes a hot-button issue for some working people, who again may be susceptible to agitation over being “thus coerced.” But those who object to such practices already have the ability to avoid such contributions via a mechanism called “Beck Rights.” Thus, the expenditure that should be optional – having one’s contributions go to elect public representatives – already is optional.

The main part of a represented employee’s dues or nonmember fee pays for federally mandated services that all members benefit from – negotiating better wages, hours and conditions.

The real intent of Amendment 47 appears to be putting the union in a financial bind, forced to spend money on services and yet receiving no income to pay for the outlays.

In point of fact, the backers of Amendment 47 intend to drive unions into oblivion. For those of us who acknowledge that unions are in large part responsible for the 40-hour work week, improved wages and safer working conditions, that is a daunting prospect. I hope that the Telegraph’s readers will vote no on Amendments 47, 49, and 54.

There is additional information about the possible impact of Amendment 47 at this website: www.voteno47.com.

– Thanks, Richard Myers, IBEW retired, via e-mail 

Beware, Colorado

Dear Editors,

Thanks Durango for turning out last Friday evening at the Open Shutter gallery to support 10 years of Colorado Wild’s great work protecting our Colorado public lands. To that end, I have some thoughts about public lands and the Nov. 4 election that I hope you will consider:

The savings & loan crisis of the ’80s,  the dot.com bubble burst of the ’90s, and now the collapse of the securitized mortgage market of the ’00s might be dismissed by some as mere bloodletting to keep a free market healthy. I see them as symptoms of an inexorable march toward turning a beautiful device, capitalism, into a mechanism for short-term gain. What happened to our ancestors’ ethic for investing for the long term, for caring about the future of our children, for conserving our public lands? Greed and ego may be in our nature, but they are impediments to maintaining a healthy society.

We Coloradans have a grand opportunity to continue the process of renewing our commitment to American ideals on Nov. 4, a process that began in 2006 with the election to Colorado public offices so many thoughtful and unselfish individuals. These are people who believe in the innate goodness of human beings yet realistically know that there will always be those who seek to hurt others, who learn from the past but are not constrained by it, who know that open, curious minds unencumbered by dogma can usually find a better, more efficient, less costly way to conduct our lives without compromising the future.

Don’t be fooled, Coloradans, by what you see advertised in the media. Recognize the enmity of those political campaigns and their managers that seek to lower already low standards of civility as smoke screens with which to hide the weaknesses of their candidates and their ballot initiatives. It’s easy to do … the worst of the bunch are conspicuous for their animosity and hyperbole. This year one issue more than any other begets the fear that fuels their invectives and funds their campaigns: oil and gas exploration.

The hard-rock mining industry helped make Colorado great in the 19th century. Yet for all that we gained, we lost much more from what was left behind: billions of dollars in environmental damage to a beautiful and biologically rich place. The short-term gain from 35 years of boom was not worth the long-term economic, social and environmental costs. Similarly, the oil and gas boom of this century is no ticket to our future success and security. As one who has made his living photographing Colorado from one end to the other, who has tried to step gently upon much of its sublime 65 million acres, and who has witnessed the accelerating destruction of the very things that define the Colorado quality of life by inappropriate exploration, I beseech you to see oil and gas exploration for what it delivers: short-term gain accompanied by costly consequences.

Colorado’s future depends upon her “attractive” not “extractive” assets. If we preserve the Colorado we love now, we ensure both a healthy economy and ecology. The two are inextricably connected: societies with healthy economies tend to protect their natural environment and functional natural systems are the foundation for sustainable economies. When other states, other nations, have damaged their back yards beyond repair, people will continue to flock to Colorado, and pay us a pretty penny to see open spaces and bucolic ranches; to hike, photograph, fish and hunt in wilderness; to breathe clean air and drink pure water; to raise families and create clean-operating businesses. Beware Colorado. With unprecedented political monies, the oil and gas industry is funding the defeat of the very people and ballot initiatives that will lead us into a sustainable future. Tell it on Nov. 4 that our destiny is not for sale.

– John Fielder, Silverthorne

Ridiculous rhetoric

Dear Editors,

“Drill, Baby Drill:” Such rhetoric is ridiculous for, by the time the gas gets to the pump, we could have alternative and innovative transportation such as electric, natural gas and hydrogen to run our cars. More importantly, we might still have air to breathe. As for nuclear power, do we not remember Chernobyl and the suffering and deaths that followed? It is a well-known fact that radiation causes cancer. Is not our health more important than our wealth?

Why do we need to “win the hearts and minds” of everyone around the world (connotation: control)? Common sense demands that we (1) suspend our taxpayer money to all countries until we get our house in order; (2) pull out of Iraq, now, because it is an illegal and immoral war that was preempted by false information and fear and far too costly in lives and wealth; (3) retrieve our stolen money from fraudulent CEO’s; (4) close the tax loopholes for the wealthy who do not need or pay their fair share of taxes; (5) stop the credit card interest abuse; and, (6) return the bail-out money to the taxpayers. Sufficient funds would then be available to correct the failing house market which precluded the fall of the stock market, as well as restarting the auto industry and helping small business and the middle class survive with dignity.

Finally, the topics of “race and religion,” which are being interwoven into political discussions, have no place in our so-called enlightened society. The despicable behavior of those who would use the “race card” as a last resort is not acceptable and should not be condoned. However, young people who want change will possibly offset those who have been indoctrinated with discrimination, voting on the basis of image, intelligence and common sense.

– Evelyn Stacer, Mancos



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows