Working with Carpe Diem over the years has been energizing and empowering for the multiple ways in which our programs facilitate reconnection and raise awareness. For many of us born into a US lifestyle, we take for granted so many aspects of it—water coming out of our faucets, electricity at the flip of a switch, food consistently available at grocery stores. But to what extent are we aware of where this all comes from? Asking these difficult questions, rather than choosing to remain ignorant of their answers, is part of a larger process of stepping into harmony with oneself and the world around us. And what is powerful about the way in which Carpe Diem goes about the process of awareness-raising is that we experience that connection, through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Shortly after moving south to Tucson for continued elaboration of the Indigenous America (IAM) semester, I stepped into an eye-opening lesson about realities of energy production in the Southwest that reminds me of this process of reconnection. Through members of the Hopi and Navajo communities to which we will travel on the IAM semester, I learned that from 1971-2005, Peabody Coal used water from the Navajo aquifer to slurry coal along a 275-mile pipeline to the Mohave Generating Station for the purpose of providing electric power to burgeoning cities and towns in southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
For Hopi and Navajo people in the coal-producing region, the results were dislocation, deleterious health effects, drying up of springs, and disruption of sacred sites, though it did provide employment opportunities. For city residents in the southwest region, the result was consistent access to low-cost electric power and all aspects of ‘development’ that such power permitted. Though these populations were connected through the natural resources being utilized, few who benefited from electric power in the southwest region were aware of what the impact of their use of it was, and has been, for Navajo and Hopi people in the Black Mesa region.
I present here a very skeleton explanation to illustrate of the essence of disconnection between our use of power and awareness of its source. During the Indigenous America semester we will bridge that gap of understanding by bringing alive, and making tangible, these issues that form the roots of matters we otherwise might consider as simple as flicking a switch. It’s not about declaring a ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy,’ but rather having the courage to understand how our lives connect with one another.