What happens to electronics when people don't want them anymore? The economics and environmental impact of e-waste disposal weighs heavily on minds all over the globe. (Photo by Michael Manger)
China is banning the import of scrap electronics. That eliminates one place where some U.S. companies were selling broken computers and electronic junk under the guise of “recycling.” The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
China is banning the import of scrap electronics. That eliminates one place where some U-S companies were selling broken computers and electronic junk under the guise of “recycling.” The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Each year, more than 60-million desktop computers are taken out of service in the U.S. About 85-percent of them end up in landfills. But some people take their old computers, electronics and appliances to be recycled. Unfortunately, that sometimes simply means being shipped to China and other Asian countries where the electronic gear is burned to retrieve the metal such as copper and steel. Burning the electronic gear releases all kinds of toxic chemicals. Now, China’s main English language newspaper, CHINAdaily, reports the government there is banning the imports of scrap electronic goods. The newspaper reports this marks a change in the Chinese government’s policy of always putting economic conerns in front of less tangible needs such as the environment.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray has this story:
Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern
Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s
reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe
was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray
has this story:
(students playing outside school)
It’s a sunny day in Salamanca, New York. Young Seneca students lurch and lunge in a game of
(students playing game: “Let go! Let go!”)
Although they look like any group of kids
at recess, they share a big responsibility.
(kids playing ball outside)
“My Indian name is Gayanose. My English name is Brooke Crouse- Kennedy. I’m here because
I’m trying to be one of the ones to preserve our culture and just learn.”
Brooke and 12 other students are here at the Faithkeepers School to learn the Seneca language
and the teachings of the Longhouse religion. The health of these cultural benchmarks declined
after the Kinzua Reservoir flooded one-third of the Alleghany Reservation and scattered tribal
families. The cedar wood school now rests on the upper reaches of the reservation – a narrow strip
of land that follows the Allegheny River from Pennsylvania to New York.
(Dowdy and kids in classroom)
“What kinds of things do you need that’s growing on earth?”
This morning, longtime teacher Sandy Dowdy, works with very young students. In 1998, she and
her husband Dar rallied the community and started the school. They’re two of only 200 Senecas
who can still speak their language.
“Now do you see why Yoedzade is so important? Everything we need is on Yoedzade.”
Thanking Yoedzade, the earth, and its creator for the bounty of nature is the building block for
learning the Seneca language and ceremonies. Today, this handful of students learns a shorter
version of the thanksgiving speech. The speech stresses the interconnection between the natural
world and the well being of individual people.
(Dowdy and kids recite thanksgiving speech in Seneca)
“We cover just the ceremonial part and the giving thanks part in the morning and then in the
afternoon, we study things. We look into erosion and pollution and all of those things
that we can do to protect those things we just gave thanks for.”
These lessons have a real life application in the school’s small gardens. The early Senecas
depended on gardens to survive. Fruits and vegetables were so important to the tribe’s existence
that they appear in many of their stories and ceremonies. Senecas continued to farm until their
fertile bottom land was flooded by the Kinzua reservoir.
Following the traditional cycles of their
ancestors, Landon Sequoyah and the other kids now help with planting and harvesting.
“The corn’s right there. A long time ago they used to have big things of corn and beans and squash. That’s the Three
Sisters. That’s the Three Sisters. Guindioth and the Three Sisters. He was going back
up to the Skyworld and they grabbed onto his legs and they told him not to go or
they could go with them but he was like,’No, you have to stay down
here to feed our people.'”
Murray: “If you hadn’t been in school would you ever had a garden?”
“I don’t think so cause I was going to a public school and I didn’t know hardly anything about our
Many Senecas on the Alleghany Reservation believe their culture was nearly lost when the
Kinzua Dam was built. The Senecas and others strongly protested this project. But their
arguments were turned down in the courts and the U.S. Congress. Tyler Heron is an elder and
Seneca historian. He says that the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 guaranteed that Seneca land
would remain untouched by the United States government.
“But the politics change over 200 years. We weren’t the threat. We weren’t the political power
any more. The threat, I guess, was the river itself to Pittsburgh …the flooding. It was the
threat to the economy.”
Major floods along the lower Allegheny prompted the federal government to act. To make way
for the dam, 600 Senecas were moved from their homes along the riverbanks. In 1964,
contractors burned and bulldozed Seneca houses, trees and public buildings. Churches and
cemeteries were moved. Heron, who was 17 at the time, says life as he knew it has changed.
“Even the ecology of the river itself has changed. My wife, for instance, used to make her extra
money as a teenager by catching soft-shelled crabs and selling them to the bait companies
but I don’t think there’s a soft-shelled crab in the river anymore.”
Aquatic plants were lost as well. The reservoir also inundated hardwoods used for carving
ceremonial masks and many medicinal plants. Heron, whose grandchildren attend the
Faithkeepers School, says these children are learning to identify the remaining plants. They’re
learning to speak the language and lead the ceremonies and carry on for a community that lost its
ancestral home along the Allegheny.
“Our existence is dependent on us …dependent on us only. And we have to keep our identifiers.
How do we keep our identity? Well,language. It starts right here.”
(Kids playing in front of Faithkeepers school. One child speaks in seneca. Fades into traditional
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Ann Murray.
A Republican congressman is calling for stricter control of mercury emissions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A Republican congressman is calling for stricter control of mercury
emissions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
In Representative Mark Kirk’s congressional district on the
north side of Chicago, samples of rain water have shown mercury
levels as much as 32 times higher than the mercury levels that the
Environmental Protection Agency considers safe
Mercury is a naturally occurring element, but much of the
mercury in precipitation comes from coal-burning power plants.
Mike Murray is with the environmental group National Wildlife
which supports Congressman Kirk’s legislation. Murray says forms of
mercury are taken up into the food chain, where its toxic effects multiply.
“Fish concentrations can be millions of times higher than the
in the surrounding water, and that’s where it becomes a problem.”
Mercury contamination can cause neurological damage in fetuses and
children, leading to decreased intellect and problems with language
skills, among other things. High levels of mercury have been found in a
number of areas throughout the Great Lakes states.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.