Protect the Peaks
December 11, 2012 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Environmental and Native American activists in Flagstaff, AZ face federal charges for allegedly "interfering with a forest officer" after a protest action in which they "quarantined" the Coconino National Forest Service lobby to protest a decision permitting the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort onto the San Fransisco Peaks – a site regarded as sacred by the Navajo, Hopi, and Havasupai people. The proposed expansion entails the use of treated sewage effluent, aka reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking operations. These events occurred on the same day that the USDA and Forest Service issued a final report (pdf) which outlines recommendations for working more closely with Native representatives surrounding sacred sites issues.
posted by Scientist (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, Arizona has a long history of problematic relations with Indians.

Perhaps someday the image of White people handing smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans will be replaced by the image of White people skiing down Native American sacred sites on snow made from their own piss.
posted by anewnadir at 8:01 PM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Wow, this raises questions. How common is the use of reclaimed sewage water in making snow for ski resorts? And I had no idea that Kachina spirits are believed to come from this one place.
posted by mediareport at 8:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have never seen the phrase 'piss all over someone's traditions' so literally applied.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:20 PM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

This post needs a disclaimer, here, I'll contribute:

*Not from The Onion.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:28 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hey anewnadir, that Black Mesa Peabody Coal wikipage you linked is a real trip. I like this at the end, though:

The Office of Surface Mining approved Peabody's permit request to continue operations at the mine on 22 December 2008. However, in January 2010, an administrative law judge, on appeal of that approval, decided that the Final EIS did not satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act because it did not take into account changed conditions, and vacated the approval.

They actually got their mining permit revoked due to filing a shoddy Environmental Impact Statement. The system kinda worked. I mean, it took 50 years and only happened because of an appeal, but still. That's a better track record than normal.

...why am I still depressed?
posted by Scientist at 8:59 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have never seen the phrase 'piss all over someone's traditions' so literally applied.

Don't forget 'shit all over...' :/
posted by sexyrobot at 9:06 PM on December 11, 2012

isn't all water reclaimed waste water by this point?
posted by GuyZero at 9:34 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Scientist: because he just vacated the approval; Peabody can file a new EIS and get the ball rolling again, and once state political leaders get involved (hey! what about the jobs!), it'll probably go Peabody's way.
posted by anewnadir at 10:01 PM on December 11, 2012

Uh... This probably didn't help them not-get arrested.
After protesters exited the lobby, an unknown individual tipped over a 5 gallon bucket full of treated sewage effluent, flooding the Forest Service lobby floor.
Also, I believe retreated sewage water is used at the resorts in the Northeast, but I am not certain.
posted by maryr at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2012

If in doubt, just remember - never eat yellow snow.
posted by maryr at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2012

isn't all water reclaimed waste water by this point?

It's also well-agitated and contains miniscule dilutions of most sibstances, so every glassful is a powerful homeopathic remedy for all ailments.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:57 AM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Shit: you're skiing on it.
posted by scruss at 4:19 AM on December 12, 2012

The moment people start whinging about using recycled water is the moment I begin to doubt them. Stirring up germophobes is weak and unhelpful.

Rain is recycled piss.
posted by pompomtom at 4:37 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Four devil's advocate questions:

Isn't "Forest Service Kills Native Culture" a ridiculous overstatement?

Isn't it superstitious to have a problem with reclaimed waste water in this day and age, given modern technology and federal requirements?

Wasn't it a bad idea to wear gas masks, goggles, and white hazmat style suits, and then dump out a large bucket of clear liquid marked "HAZARDOUS" in a federal facility while running out the door?

Would the MeFites above have the same indignation if it were any other religious tradition that sparked these protests?
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:01 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

This isn't even comparable, as Christianity doesn't have an equivalent to a holy site as important and central to their religion as the Peaks are to these tribes... but yeah, even as an atheist I would be very upset if some company got the okay to tear down, say, St Luke's in order to expand a golf course.

We instinctively know that some cultural or historical sites are important to protect. Except, it frequently seems, when they aren't our cultural or historical sites. That is the result of a lack of empathy, plain and simple.
posted by gilrain at 6:08 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Snow making with treated water is used all over; the only thing that seems notable about the Snowbowl setup is their plan for 100% of snowmaking water to be treated water.

Using treated waste water for irrigation is also extremely common. My city uses it to water the grass on a golf course and actually stores treated water generated over the winter (because river volumes are low) for use in the summer. Hard to see why it would be any more problematic if used for snow making considering the alternative is to just dump it into a river.
posted by Mitheral at 6:36 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, the focus on the source of the water is unfortunate and irrelevant. The problem is turning an already-oppressed culture's holy site into a for-profit recreational area for wealthy people.
posted by gilrain at 6:43 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wait, what? Again? There were arguments about using treated wastewater for snow a decade ago when I was living in AZ. Or was it 15 years ago when I was living there the first time? Or maybe both?

Northern AZ is particularly difficult when it comes to Native sacred sites and non-Native interest in using the local resources and land. I remember when I was living in Sedona, more than once I got an earful about Enchantment resort, which is a lovely top-end resort that also happens to be built in the canyon which some believe is the place where the incarnation of the Earth Mother spirit dwells and is where the Yavapai/Apache emerged.

On some level, these kinds of cultural issues are capitalist rhymes with the Islamist destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
posted by hippybear at 6:46 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I wanted to comment about people's (I think valid) criticisms of the tactics the Protect the Peaks activists are using since I think it's a really interesting issue. Suffice it to say that activist groups in this country (and in general) have to walk a fine line between raising awareness of their cause and raising sympathy for it. Tactics like theatrical protests, making a mess, and getting charged and/or arrested are valid protest techniques but they do have to be used with caution. They are good for raising awareness of your cause and for making yourselves a nuisance to the people who you are trying to fight, but they can reduce the sympathy that people have for your group at the same time because most folks don't like to see other people causing a scene and challenging authority even if they agree with the underlying statement being made.

It's a tactical decision that needs to be made with care. I don't know if it was the right decision to make in this context, but I do know that if these activists hadn't managed to get themselves brought up on federal charges (federal misdemeanor charges, you may or may not have noticed – it's possible that Protect the Peaks would've preferred something more outrageous that they could wave around as a real injustice, but they're working with what they've got) then I never would've heard about this and I never would've made the post, so their tactics worked on that level. On the other hand, this post is currently sitting at #6 on Google's ranking for "protect the peaks" so it's not as if the story has been picked up by any big news organizations or even, depressingly, any local mainstream news groups.

Whether they're able to go the next step (assuming they succeed in raising awareness) and raise actual sympathy and understanding and motivate more mainstream people to join their fight such that the tide of public opinion might sway the USDA and Forest Service and get them to put a stay on the development permit (hopefully followed by eventual revocation) is sort of yet to be seen. I've seen a fair number of folks on Facebook and here on MetaFilter expressing what would seem to be sympathy, but a fair number as well who are turned off by the disruptive and theatrical tactics being used by the activists. It's a hard call to make even for an experienced and calculating activist group, and while I know the outlines of the dilemma I don't know enough history or enough specifics about this particular situation to be able to make an informed guess as to how it'll fall.

Of course, they still have to succeed at raising awareness first. It's no good having everyone's who's ever heard of your cause be a fervent supporter if the only people who've heard of it are you and your friends.
posted by Scientist at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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