hawaiian garbage, literally

Indians to U.S.: Take Out Trash – Washington State Tribe Sues to Keep Hawaiian Garbage Off Ancestral Lands” demonstrates our seeming disregard for the environment. Rather than find a long-term solution that benefits the planet and future generations, we prefer the less diligent response of wanting to hand it off to someonelse. Just as this particular dilemma isn’t new, neither is the solution. But will we ever resolve it once and for all?

The Yakama Indian tribe sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt “shipment of municipal waste from Honolulu to a private landfill by the Columbia River.” A temporary restraining order by a federal court in Spokane on 7/29 prohibited the first shipment. Judge Edward Shea concurred with the Indians that the waste posed a potential threat to their use of neighboring land in the preservation of their cultural heritage. “In their complaint…the Yakama cited fear of invasive plant species from Hawaii, as well as microbes, insects and other pests that could attach themselves to the trash cargo and contaminate Yakama lands.” The 60-page diatribe went on to say that “future fishing stocks” would be threatened and that ” ‘Yakima citizens gather huckleberries and chokecherries and roots like lammush and bitter-root and pick various flowers and plants from the lands surrounding the Landfill–all for use as food or medicine,’…”

Beginning in 2004 landfills on the mainland offered to accommodate municipal waste from Honolulu, strapped for landfill. Eventually settling upon a site in Klickitat County, Washington “along the Columbia River dividing Washington from Oregon”, Hawaiian Waste Systems began “bailing tons of trash in anticipation of the 2,600-mile voyage from Hawaii. From the port of Longview, Wash., the bales of trash were to be taken by rail to a landfill in Roosevelt. While that route skirts the 1.4-million acre Yakama reservation, it would pass through the ‘ceded area’ the Yakama claim as a result of an 1855 peace treaty ending hostilities between the tribe and the federal government.” Rather than concoct a solution that expends so much time, effort and money in its logistical maneuvering, wouldn’t it make better sense to apply as much, or more, man hours and dollars in delineating a permanent resolution, like recycling?

Where we live in Washington State, we are required to recycle into jumbo bins, all plastics coded #1 and #2, all glass, and paper, as well as food garbage and yard waste designated for composting. What’s left that can’t be recycled is emptied into a small trash can. Our daughter is also required to recycle where she lives, as I’m sure people in other states are forced to do as well. Why then is Hawaii still exempt?

It’s hard to imagine that one of the loveliest states in the Union sends its ugly garbage hither and yon, in search of a dumping ground. It is  difficult to justify preserving the land of one native people who, consciously or unconsciously, irretrievably destroy the land of another native people. The Law requires travelers between the islands and  elsewhere, declare the transportation of fresh foods and plants. The concern, of course, being the infiltration of insects and other life forms which might destroy native species and their habitats. Shouldn’t the same consideration extend to the Yakama and their native species and their environs? 

Western civilization seems adept at pondering deeply the preservation of our capitalist society, but gives so little thought to the preservation and prosperity of the earth and its natural resources. Are we a narcissistic people, only concerned with ourselves and our needs? Is it inevitable that unless we change our ways, we may ultimately “pull the plug” on ourselves?

here’s hoping we don’t…hugmamma.