December 20, 2010

Unsung hero of Nixon administration

Doug George-Kanentiio:  Navajo man helped save environmentLes Lobaugh is, according to Mary Louise Uhlig of the Environmental Protection Agency, the most "influential, important and anonymous Native lawyer in America."

At the event to mark National American Indian Heritage Month at the EPA held in Washington, DC on November 4 Lobaugh was the featured speaker. His presentation followed a performance by Joanne Shenandoah whose music celebrated the the great influence Native people have had on environmental issues.

Ms. Uhlig told the assembly of EPA workers that Mr. Lobaugh drafted the Endangered Species Act, followed by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act which in turn led to the formation of the EPA; all of which took place during the Nixon administration.

Literally millions of animals, plants and fishes can attribute their survival as specific species to the protection given to them by the federal statutes initiated by Mr. Lobaugh.
And:In his remarks following the introduction Mr. Lobaugh spoke with passion about the natural world. He cited Christopher Columbus as an example of the great differences between the Europeans and the Native people with regards to the earth.

While aboriginals viewed the earth as a living organism upon which sustainability was a key principle Columbus saw the land from a purely economic perspective Lobaugh said. The European explorers carried with them not only a conflicting philosophy about nature they also brought diseases which killed millions of Natives and made the colonization of the Americans possible Lobaugh observed.

Lobaugh noted that the "attitude of conquest and subjugation extracted a heavy price" which began to change a generation ago a change began in what he said was a "reevaluation of our relationship to the environment" which in turn has brought the US closer to the native ideals of sustainability.

But, he warned, there was cause for concern, noting that there are many who now want to retreat from the environmental standards set by law. He said that there are politicians and developers now claiming that environmental protection rules are an "attack upon our basic freedoms" which may well lead to a return to "conquest, subjugation and exploitation." Some, he warned, have gone so far as to demand the dismantling of the EPA.
Comment:  For more on Richard Nixon, see Iron Eyes in Frost/Nixon and "Dickie, Don't Forget the Indians." For more on Western vs. Native values, see Columbus the Cannibal and Why We Believe in Columbus.

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