At one point in the film an exasperated woman explains, “Ruining things to go ‘green’ is an oxymoron.”
That is pretty much the theme of Robert Lundahl’s documentary film “Who Are My People,” which had its Nevada premiere earlier this month, the same evening after Harry Reid’s perennial Brother Reid traveling planet salvation show, otherwise called the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0, in which a gaggle of government and industry luminaries touted the value of renewable energy projects, mostly on federal public land.
Unlike Reid and company, Lundahl, who grew up in the desert Southwest, sees something wrong with literally paving over hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine desert — which has been home to Native Americans and countless species of wildlife for thousands of years — with solar panels, solar mirrors and windmills, which in 25 years will be so much hazardous waste to be abandoned or hauled off, further scaring the landscape.
The hour-long film is a pastiche of desert scenes and running commentary from archeologists and scientists, as well as tribal leaders who point to various sacred sites that could be destroyed or despoiled by the industrial-scale “green energy” projects.
Some of the more striking footage in the film is aerial footage of the Intaglios — giant figures carved into the desert floor near Blythe, Calif. The largest of these prehistoric figures, or geoglyphs, measures 171 feet from head to toe.
Earlier this summer, BrightSource Energy permanently ended plans for its Rio Mesa project near Blythe after 740 fossils were found on the site. The project would have been similar to the company’s Ivanpah project, using mirrors to heat water in 750-foot-tall towers. These can be seen just west of Interstate 15 across the state line in California.
“Ultimately it’s simple,” says Lundahl, who describes himself as an environmentalist and is an advocate of roof-top distributive solar panels, “you can’t destroy things to ‘go green,’ and that includes the traditional practices and life-ways of Native American communities who were here long before the United States was even an idea, and the environment and traditional, indigenous landscapes which support those communities. You can’t have ‘green’ without social justice.”
But the Interior Department has already set aside 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in six states — including 60,395 acres in Nevada — where permitting for utility-scale solar projects will be streamlined. Perhaps railroaded is a better term.
The Nevada land alone has the potential to generate 6,700 megawatts of power, in 2012 NV Energy had a peak generating capacity of only 6,000 megawatts. Just who needs all that new power is a question not being asked by anyone.
If you or I were to dig up a single Joshua tree or pick up a desert tortoise, even to move it out of harm’s way, we would be subject to serious fines.
But “green” projects rip up thousands of Joshua trees, agave, sagebrush, several varieties of cactus and assorted weeds and flowers, which provide food and shelter for tortoises, snakes, lizards, rabbits, coyotes, wild sheep, rats, mice, roadrunners, grouse, ravens, quail, jays, hummingbirds and much more. They also grade up the desert patina and leave the disturbed earth subject to massive and blinding dust storms.
No heed is given the hazardous waste created during manufacturing or left behind at the end of their life cycle.
Lundahl also points out in the film that huge amounts to taxpayer money is propping up these “green” projects in the form of grants and tax credits.
And much of that money going to cronies of Obama and Reid. According to the Energy Department’s own figures, by the end of 2011 $16 billion of $20 billion given out in one loan guarantee program alone went to Obama backers. Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, testified that contracts were steered to “friends and family.”
Costs, of course, are never addressed. At last year’s “green” summit, Reid bragged that solar panels on Nellis Air Force Base save the Air Force $1 million per year. He neglected to say the panels cost $100 million and will last no more than 30 years.
Nor is it ever mentioned that public land is being transferred to private hands for a tiny fraction of the revenues that would be generated if the land were simply sold at public auction.
Lundahl hopes eventually to air his documentary on public television and perhaps screen it in desert communities.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may share your views with him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.