Rant and Rave
by New Times Staff - Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
(Rant and Rave) Beyond the West Shore Trail and a message about #bringbackourgirls

So, you’ve found the Rant & Rave corner.

What goes here? You go here.

If you are passionate about what’s right or wrong about Central New York, here is a corner for you to vent. Rant in poetry. Rant in prose. Rant against the bad. Rave for the good.

Here are the rules: No anonymous essays. Have a point-of-view, express it like you mean it and know what you are talking about. We are not looking for “on the other-hand” essays. Be civil. No personal attacks. No libel. No slander. Topics? Your choice: culture, policy, politics.  There are two (and only two) essay lengths: 350 words, and 740 words.

EMAIL YOUR RANT or RAVE HERE

LOOK BEYOND THE WEST SHORE TRAIL

By Joe Heath

Last week’s photo essay on the West Shore Trail painted a lovely vision: verdant woodland against the backdrop of the blue, open expanse of Onondaga Lake.

Unfortunately, the environment portrayed in this photo essay is only skin deep. The Onondaga Nation has a vision for a fully healed and restored Onondaga Lake. Sadly, reality does not match the Nation’s vision. Perhaps we should be calling this newly opened trail what it is: the “Waste Bed Trail.”

As general counsel for the Onondaga Nation, after more than three decades of learning from the Onondagas, I see things differently. I see the sacred lake where the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed, but I also see its devastation into a hazardous waste landfill that is being capped and entombed beneath the lake. I see multiple industrial waste sites throughout the landscape, filling wetlands that once supported a biologically rich and diverse community of plants and wildlife central to the Haudenosaunee way of life.

In 2009, the Onondaga Nation insisted that regulators look at the human health risks posed by the waste material underneath and around the Waste Bed Trail. The fences and signs posted along the trail remind us that there are risks to adults and adolescents who go off trail, from the cadmium, hexavalent chromium, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese in the dust that they might kick up. We worry about the young children and infants visiting the trail, who were not included in the risk assessment.

Looking down at the temporary Visitor’s Center constructed by Honeywell, I reflect on the disrespectful way the Nation’s concerns about the design of the Lake Bottom Remedy were ignored. In 2005, the Nation called for a complete dredging of all contaminated sediments. Now, the barrier wall and groundwater treatment system stand as a testament to the plume of dichlorobenzene and other chlorinated solvents that extends under Interstate 690 and will never be completely removed.

Looking beyond the highway, I am baffled by the vast amount of mercury that  regulators have allowed to remain at the LCP Bridge Street site – mercury  measured in tons and not pounds or parts per billion, mercury going 55 feet down into the soil. Mercury is a neurotoxin which in infinitesimal amounts can harm wildlife and humans.

Walking towards Ninemile Creek, I remember the Crucible landfill site, where industrial waste with hazardous levels of chromium was deposited for 10 years. Will the benzene, toluene, xylene, phenols and naphthalene that were dumped in these waste beds along with the Solvay waste be adequately controlled once a remediation plan is adopted for this area?

The effect of industrialization and contamination on reptiles and amphibian communities at the lake was devastating. Populations struggled or died off. In painful ways, this is reminiscent of what has happened to the Onondagas in the last two centuries: Their original homelands, with abundant habitat, were taken illegally and then polluted heavily and their health, culture and well-being have suffered as a result.

The Onondaga Nation takes its role as stewards of Onondaga Lake seriously. Watching, listening and taking time to understand the complex effect of over a century of industrial activity on this sacred landscape is painful.

As it is, the Nation views this superficial change with a sorrowful eye. There is still so much work to be done. With a vanishing point of reference, it’s difficult for some to imagine what Onondaga Lake was like before industrialization, making it hard to see what it could and should be in the future, but we can and must do better. Our great-great-grandchildren deserve it.

Read the Nation’s vision for the lake at www.onondaganation.org.

Joe Heath is general counsel for the Onondaga Nation.

#BRING BACK OUR GIRLS

By Godriver Odhiambo

The abduction of the 276 girls in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants is a tragic event of our time and an evil that should be condemned and stopped at all costs.

This is a terrorist group hiding under the cloth of Islam. First, the Bornu area and some parts of northeastern Nigeria are populated by many Muslims. This was caused by the 19th century Islamic jihads of Uthman dan Fodio, Seku Ahmadu Lobbo, al-Hajj Umar and Muhammed al-Kanemi that carried his revolution in Bornu. The result was the creation of the large Sokoto caliphate.

These jihads revolutionized the area, politically and socially, as so many people became Muslims. However, this area lagged behind during the colonial period as the British used indirect rule in the Sokoto caliphate, while the south, where the colonial administration was based, saw implementation of socio-economic projects which possibly led to the disparity between north and southern Nigeria.  It’s unfortunate that the independent state did not do much to bridge this disparity.

However, if there are socio-economic and political issues, these should be addressed with the government, instead of using religion or our girls as leverage.

Be that as it may, Boko Haram’s assertion that education is harmful is contrary to the teachings of Prophet Mohamed, who emphasized issues such as stopping of injustices to the poor, orphans, widows and women in general. What they have done to the girls is the very injustice condemned by the religion they subscribe to.

Moreover, the Prophet taught about women’s rights to property. Threatening to sell the girls reduces them to mere items of trade, besides denying the girls their rights. This seems like modern slavery. And if this be the case, again, there is no logic, as the area is full of Muslims who have lived peacefully with their Christian neighbors for many years.

The fact that majority in the northern region are Muslims itself proves that this is a terror gang, not puritans at all. This is because Islam forbids the enslavement of a fellow Muslim. So how can they claim to sell the girls even after claiming they have converted some?

That being the case, Boko Haram is just a terrorist group, and its action has nothing to do with Islam, since it’s an antithesis of what Islam stands for. As such, this group must be stopped like any other terrorist group. They are not only dangerous but cowards who abduct girls who are brave enough to venture into dangerous zones in their pursuit for education.

As an African woman, my heart goes out to these girls who dared change their destiny through education.  I see myself in these girls and wonder sadly and quietly where I would be if I didn’t take the same steps years ago. In Africa, education is a means out of poverty, hence the saying, “If you educate a girl … you educate a village.”

Godriver Odhiambo, Ph.D., is assistant professor of African history at Le Moyne College.

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