"Environmental activist and former Green Party vice presidential
candidate Winona LaDuke spoke at the University of Massachusetts Campus
Center last night on the topics of global warming and environmental
LaDuke, an Ojibwe activist and author of the 1997 novel "Last Standing Woman," as well as several non-fiction books, is a self-described "rural economist by training" who got her degree in native economic development from Harvard University in 1982. The speech covered issues ranging from the effects of western capitalist policies on the environment to sustainable living and human rights with regards to resources.
"A lot of people think that climate change is a 'new' problem," she said. "The reality is that it is a symptom of a larger set of problems."
She stressed the importance of tackling the "daunting challenge" presented by global warming.
"We have combusted ourselves pretty much to the brink of oblivion," she said.
LaDuke placed the blame of many of the economic and environmental problems faced today on the forces of western imperialism.
"A society based on conquest is not sustainable," she said. She added that food sustenance becomes an environmental liability when the "average food product travels 1,546 miles - and I'm not talking about kiwis from Australia.
"Part of what I think we need to think about in this millennium is how to make a society that has a resonance on this earth, and not one based on empire," she said.
"We are the most wasteful society anyone has ever known," said LaDuke. "We produce 50 trillion pounds of waste each year - and that's not including waste water."
She went on to point out that over 1.7 billion people - including many in the European Union - are deprived of clean water.
"This should be a basic human right; it should not be something you have to buy," she said. "It should not be something owned by Nestle in Massachusetts."
LaDuke also addressed the overburdening of the nation's prison systems and what she described as a lack of funding for education and school meal plans.
"We need to create an industry in this society that is not based on human misery," said LaDuke, in reference to the nation's prisons, which she described as "a growth industry."