By Kathy Bancroft
Spring is always a time for renewal, but today we have been offered a chance to renew the way we live our lives and treat the Earth. With the Covid-19 shut down, we have had the opportunity to slow down and take a look at what is really important to our daily living. More importantly, we have seen the skies turn blue, the waters turn clear and plants and animals return with abundance.
I look at the projects I have to be involved with that are supposed to be making a better way of life for us all. The Olancha-Cartago 4-Lane Project is rerouting Highway 395 for safety reasons, but at the price of destroying miles of pristine desert. They would have removed about 200 Joshua trees before they became listed as a threatened species, if a few caring people weren’t paying attention. The Haiwee Dam Project will replace the existing earthen dam in order to ensure it will not fail if an earthquake hits. But why do they have to make the reservoir so much larger to take more water, faster to the south? The Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Project has found ways to relieve us of the dust that has been affecting our health, but at the price of destroying what was once an enormous, beautiful lake. Now they want to use less water in order to take more of our water south. How do we make them see that if they don’t leave some water here, there will be none for the future?
I watched life in the Alabama Hills very quickly return when the closure was finally enforced. Within a week, the vegetation was healing scars left by campsites, off road vehicles and people behaving badly. Within a month it seemed as though balance had returned. Birds, lizards and larger animals again thrived where they once had. Signs protecting damaged areas or restoration projects seem pointless because there was no evidence of previous impacts. I felt as though I could die happy because I knew that the Hills could return to the way I remembered them not so many years ago. Now we are starting to watch our lands open back up and the invasion returns. How can we stop the destruction? How can we reach out to visitors to make them appreciate our lands and understand why we worked so hard to have them designated as a National Scenic Area?
My hope is that we do not waste this opportunity to witness and remember how little it takes for the Earth to heal itself. It just needs for us to take a short break from destroying it. The Earth does not need us to fix it. The Earth can take care of itself if we just let it. And if we’re paying attention to all it has to offer, it will take care of us also.
Kathy Bancroft is an Elder of the Lone Pine Paiute Tribe and serves as both the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Representative, among many other duties.