Restoring Sanity, Part 2: Mental Illness as a Social Construct

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Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, DGR Southwest Coalition

In 2004 the World Health Organization ranked Major Depressive Disorder as the leading cause of disability in the US among people aged fifteen to forty-four.  MDD afflicts about 14.8 million adults, 6.7 percent of the U.S. population aged eighteen and older in a given year.[1]  The US National Institute for Mental Health estimates that one in four US adults “suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.”[2]  Many see only one way out: nine in ten suicides—33,000 total in one year in the US alone—had one of these disorders.[3]  How can we explain this?  If the life of privilege and material wealth in the US and other consumer nations is so desirable that every living thing must pay the price for it, why kill yourself to escape it?  What if statistics like these were taken seriously, as a sign of preventable social malaise, not human frailty?  Suppose someone cared enough about all this misery to uncover a cause, and take steps to alleviate some of this pain.  Might that look like the same effort to end poverty, global warming, and the extinction crisis?

Sorting through these questions takes a lot of effort.  It’s hard to excise cultural training from our minds, banish it from our hearts, and fight it in the material world.  In our last essay,[4] we proposed naming the problem: civilization.  Civilization is thought to be synonymous with humanity, but we insist that it is not.  Instead, it is simply one of many possible cultural strategies, one that enables settlements too populous to sustain locally.  It requires agriculture, which itself can never be sustainable because it destroys topsoil.  To continue, civilization must constantly expand with economic and military domination, and will eventually consume the whole of the earth.  Virtually all injustice and environmental destruction is caused by this system.  Because of its total dominance over our lives, regardless of economic or social class, civilization is also the basis for our mental and emotional conditions.

To confront something so abstract and immense is very difficult, mostly because the required will is destroyed by the isolation, loneliness, and hopelessness this power structure creates in the first place.  The most destructive demand is perhaps work—the need to spend the majority of our waking time acquiring food, shelter, and any other necessities.  This is far more exertion than, say, when bird builds a nest and searches for seeds; it requires economic coercion, a way to police the workforce and the unemployed, and constant investments of effort unprecedented in the history of our species.  We didn’t invent this system and most of us wouldn’t willingly participate in it, given an authentic, noncoercive choice.  Yet we are still beings who make mistakes, can be emotionally volatile, and are prone to crippling addictions.  Just as civilization dictates our food, shelter, and productivity, it also explains our personal troubles and prescribes solutions.  These solutions generally serve the needs of civilization—of productivity—not people.

Disease Modeling and the DSM-5

It is widely believed that depression is a disease, a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Though this is only a theory with no physical evidence, it provides the basis for much of the available treatment.  The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification handbook, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5, or DSM-5, lists eighteen disorder categories, such as depressive disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, gender dysphoria, substance use and addictive disorders, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

Under these headings are more specific diagnoses, like “oppositional defiant disorder,” which is a “frequent, persistent pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness exhibited over the course of at least six months, and with at least one non-sibling, and should exceed normal behavior for the individual’s age, gender and culture.”[5]  Since the APA is not interested in reforming culture, the categories outlined in the DSM-5 are by design things that are wrong with people.  Disorders, diseases, pathologies—however they’re labeled, they are considered problems of the individual, not society.  When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, they are burdened with an authoritative, biased decision about what it is and how to treat it.

Commenting on the institutional view of depression as an illness best treated with medications, psychologists Allan Leventhal and Christopher Martell note that “psychiatry has a strong incentive to believe in the disease model and in the efficacy of drugs.  The pharmaceutical industry, like all corporations, has capital as its bottom line with the need for executives to report profits to investors.  Not only do we maintain that the disease model has created confusion by accounting for human distress as ‘medical illness,’ the increasingly corporate structure of the health care system, including pharmaceutical and managed care companies, has often favored profit over people.”[6]  The baseline isolation of the dominant culture makes us vulnerable to medical modeling, since it’s easier to explain away emotional pain as having a physical cause than to discuss it openly.  Leventhal and Martell point out that additionally, behavioral change is hard and psychotherapy “rarely progresses in a straight line.”[7]  The shortcut of a pill is an appealing alternative.  Rather than truly helping people to heal from the effects of negative experiences, disease modeling can create lifelong “mental patients” with a firmly embedded concept that they have something permanently wrong with them.

This is not, however, meant to invalidate or minimize the pain of those afflicted with depression, or any of the various conditions outlined by the DSM-5. Though neither of the authors have ever experienced severe depression, we have both felt the dismal, seductive edges of it.  We have never taken psychiatric medications, though we’ve both spent a lot of time in various methods of therapy.  Fortunately we both found relief, in Carter’s case from moderate depression and chemical dependency, and in Hyatt’s, from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Carter’s daily thoughts of suicide—though never any attempts—were related to routine decisions and habitual, repetitive thinking, not a disease.  He needed no medications, but rather a new approach to managing his thoughts and actively engaging with situations and relationships.  Hyatt was offered supplemental anti-depressants as a matter of course for a completely unrelated autoimmune disorder, on the assumption that depression is an expected result of a distressing medical diagnosis.  Refusing the drugs, she lived with her feelings instead of chemically suppressing them.  They taught her their lesson and eventually passed.

There is no doubt that psychiatric drugs can be helpful in some situations.  But the often-lifelong prescription of a substance chemically related to rocket fuel[8] is something to be scrutinized.  That antidepressants are commonly found in drinking water[9] should also be reason to reconsider them.  Medicine is a wealthy business, and treatments are prescribed by doctors who may be strongly influenced by the primacy of pharmaceuticals in the medical industry (including education); these factors are often lost on those who can barely gather the energy to leave their darkened rooms.

Identifying the cause of the misery is hard, perhaps impossible—there may never be a way to disprove the disease hypothesis—but that doesn’t mean that other hypotheses can’t be made, and successful, non-drug treatments can’t be found.  As the Coalition for DSM-5 Reform, critics of the manual and its approaches, point out: “…clients and the general public are negatively affected by the continued and continuous medicalization of their natural and normal responses to their experiences; responses which undoubtedly have distressing consequences which demand helping responses, but which do not reflect illnesses so much as normal individual variation.”[10]

The Coalition also alleges that the DSM-5 misses “the relational context of problems and the undeniable social causation of many such problems,” and that the “[diagnostic] criteria are not value-free, but rather reflect current normative social expectations.”  In other words, if a psychiatrist says you have a problem, that’s a subjective judgment based on cultural conditions—for example, that most people are obedient to power.  To treat our feelings—of depression, of defiance, of hopelessness—as strictly physical or biological conditions to be chemically erased if uncomfortable is to dishonor our instincts.  There are other, durable solutions that don’t involve the unknown risks and unpleasant side effects[11] of psychiatric drugs.

Redefining Healthy Behavior in a Toxic System

Depression indicates a serious lack of confidence in a worthwhile life, a powerlessness over one’s prospects.  It is not so much the opposite of happiness but of vitality.  Leventhal and Martell propose that depression “is the result of life events, negative responses to life events, avoidance of negative emotion, and the limitations on life that avoidance creates.”[12]  There are even some mainstream notions that depression may actually be beneficial.  One 2012 health magazine article reports that symptoms of depression may be evolutionary adaptations that force people to focus on problems and solve them.  J. Anderson Thomson, MD, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, compares depression to pain, a signal that part of you needs help.  If the pain is bad enough, you will cry out, a call for help from others.  Depression may also be a way of calling for help.  “Depression tells you there’s a problem, tells you where the problem is, stops business as usual, and signals others that you are in distress,” explains Thomson.[13]

It is helpful to remember that our lives are arranged by institutions that are based on power, not care, and psychiatry is one of them.  The aim of power is to control—by force or coercion, or even better for us to control ourselves.  For example, labels affect our behavior; if we think our brain is imbalanced or defective, we will tend to behave that way.  If we consider ourselves diseased, we’ll act diseased, and may instinctively isolate ourselves from others.  Buying into the disease label for depression can exacerbate the problem by driving our isolation deeper and fostering a desperate faith in drugs.

Behavior that is considered normal by civilization—predatory self-interest, say—is considered insane outside of the context of civilization.  This behavior is created by the denial of basic human nature, such as a desire to feel a part of a mutual-interest culture.  If we consider the idea that many symptoms of so-called mental disorders are natural responses of our minds and bodies to an unhealthy, isolating social system, we can then redefine healthy behavioroutside of civilization.  We can start to make a conscious effort to reconstruct healthy behavior, remembering that the definitions of healthy, normal, and abnormal behavior have been made by those who have power over us.  We can begin to work according to our interests and not theirs.  We can reclaim control over our lives and restore confidence and trust in our human nature.

 

Susan Hyatt has worked as a project manager at a hazardous waste incinerator, owned a landscaping company focused on native Sonoran Desert plants, and is now a volunteer activist.  Michael Carter is a freelance carpenter, writer, and activist.  His anti-civilization memoir Kingfisher’s Song was published in 2012.  They both volunteer for Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition.

 

Bibliography and Further Reading

Allan M. Leventhal and Christopher R. Martell, The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006.

American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

Awais Aftab, MD, MBBS, “Mental Illness vs Brain Disorders: From Szasz to DSM-5,” Psychiatric Times, February 28, 2014,http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5-0/mental-illness-vs-brain-disorders-szasz-dsm-5#sthash.hA4QwWSp.wptbyJ4M.dpuf

Bruce E Levine, “Psychiatry Now Admits It’s Been Wrong in Big Ways – But Can It Change?” Truthout, March 5, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22266-psychiatry-now-admits-its-been-wrong-in-big-ways-but-can-it-change

Ethan Watters, “We Aren’t the World,” Pacific Standard, February 25, 2013,http://www.psmag.com/magazines/magazine-feature-story-magazines/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135/

John Read, Claire Cartwright, and Kerry Gibson, “Adverse emotional and interpersonal effects reported by 1829 New Zealanders while taking antidepressants,” Psychiatry Research, February 18, 2014, http://www.psy-journal.com/article/S0165-1781%2814%2900083-3/abstract

Madeline Vann, MPH, medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH, “Is Depression Good for You?” Everyday Health, April 4, 2012,http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/is-depression-good-for-you.aspx

Michael G Conner, “Privileged Children at Greater Risk,” InCrisis, December 13, 2008,http://www.crisiscounseling.com/Articles/PrivilegedKidsAtGreaterRisk.htm

Endnotes


[1] “The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America,” National Institute for Mental Health, accessed February 8, 2014,http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Intro

“The global burden of disease: 2004 update, Table A2: Burden of disease in DALYs by cause, sex and income group in WHO regions, estimates for 2004,” The World Health Organization, accessed February 6, 2014,www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GBD_report_2004update_AnnexA.pdf

[2] Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.

[3] “More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.  The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85.  Four times as many men as women die by suicide9; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.”  “The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America,” National Institute for Mental Health, accessed February 8, 2014, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Intro

[4] Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 1: An Inhuman System,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, February 6, 2014,http://dgrsouthwestcoalition.org/2014/02/06/restoring-sanity-part-1-an-inhuman-system/

[5] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013, pp. 461–480.

[6] “Americans [spend] 200 billion dollars a year on prescription drugs.  In 2001, while the median net return for all other industries was a little more than 3 percent of sales, it was more than 18 percent for the drug companies.  Dr. Angell points out that the combined profits of the 10 drug companies listed in the Fortune 500 was more than the cumulative profits of the other 490 companies listed…these companies spend more on marketing and administration than on research and development.”  Allan M. Leventhal and Christopher R. Martell, The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006, p. 27-28.

[7] Ibid, p. 28.

[8] Ibid, p 34.

[9] Harvard Medical School, “Drugs in the water,” Harvard Health Publications,June 2011,http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2011/June/drugs-in-the-water

[10] “Summary of Concerns Regarding the DSM-5 as Currently Proposed,” Coalition for DSM-5 Reform, accessed February 17, 2014, http://dsm5-reform.com/summary-of-concerns-regarding-the-dsm-5-as-currently-proposed/

[11] “[Researchers] concluded that neither [tri-cyclic antidepressants and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)] demonstrated greater efficacy than placebo in the treatment of depression for children and adolescents.  Yet until recent alarming reports on the induction of suicidal behaviors by SSRIs, prompted by the urging of the drug industry, primary care doctors and pediatricians increasingly prescribed antidepressants to children and adolescents.  Between 1988 and 1994, there was a three- to fivefold increase in antidepressant medication treatments for children ages 2 to 19.”  Allan M. Leventhal and Christopher R. Martell, The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006, p. 44.  Other side effects of the medications include sexual dysfunction, increased agitation and homicidal urges, diarrhea, nausea, insomnia, and headaches (pp. 51-52).

[12] Ibid, p. 131.

[13]  Madeline Vann, MPH, medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH, “Is Depression Good for You?” Everyday Health, April 4, 2012,http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/is-depression-good-for-you.aspx

The article suggests “7 Ways Depression Makes You Stronger”: You’re a better problem-solver; you learn how to cope; you have better relationships; you’re more compassionate; you buck stress; you’re a realist; you can detect deception. “‘Depression is part of the design of human nature, and just because it’s painful doesn’t mean it’s bad or without its uses,’ Thomson says.”

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Restoring Sanity, Part 1: An Inhuman System

  Screenshot of Amanda Todd's YouTube video, My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm posted before her suicide in October 2012.

Screenshot of Amanda Todd’s YouTube video, My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm posted before her suicide in October 2012.

by Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, DGR Southwest Coalition

The environmental crisis consists of the deterioration and outright destruction of micro and macro ecosystems worldwide, entailing the elimination of countless numbers of wild creatures from the air, land, and sea, with many species being pushed to the brink of extinction, and into extinction. People who passively allow this to happen, not to mention those who actively promote it for economic or other reasons, are already a good distance down the road to insanity. Most people do not see, understand, or care very much about this catastrophe of the planet because they are overwhelmingly preoccupied with grave psychological problems. The environmental crisis is rooted in the psychological crisis of the modern individual. This makes the search for an eco-psychology crucial; we must understand better what terrible thing is happening to the modern human mind, why it is happening, and what can be done about it.

—Glenn Parton, “The Machine in Our Heads”

A thesaurus entry for “inhuman” includes cruel, brutal, ruthless, and cold-blooded. If one is merciless, callous, and heartless, one is the very opposite of human, the antithesis of what it means to be a standard example of Homo sapiens sapiens. If being human means we are for the most part kind-hearted, compassionate, and sensitive creatures, then the destruction of the planet—“the deterioration and outright destruction of micro and macro ecosystems worldwide…the elimination of countless numbers of wild creatures from the air, land, and sea,” goes against humanness. It’s a product of something against our nature, an anti-human system.

We propose a name for this system: civilization. While civilization connotes nurturing, safe, and supportive conditions synonymous with humanity itself, we maintain that the great paradox of this age is that civilization is the opposite of all these things. Civilization must consume whole biomes of living things—including humans—to concentrate the material wealth needed to support human populations too large to be sustained by their immediate surroundings. Because the planet’s resources are finite and there are no perpetual means of running the modern economy—no replacement for the fossil fuels needed for industry, no New World of topsoil to extract agricultural food from—we are living in a time when a single way of life, a particular cultural strategy is based on eventual total consumption. This culture isn’t widely perceived as being fundamentally reckless or harmful, but for our purposes here the negative effect of modern, industrial civilization on the biosphere is a given.[1] Our aim is to examine the mental and emotional health of civilized people, how this drives the cultural strategy of civilization, and how those who oppose it might best fortify their mental and emotional defenses.

Individualism as Isolation

In the US, where most resource consumption takes place,[2] the overarching importance of the individual is a hallmark myth. Not that US citizens don’t enjoy a comparable amount of political and personal freedom—though this is eroded day by day—but rather it’s a part of our national consciousness that US citizens are free to do what they wish within a very reasonable framework of Constitutionally balanced rules. The effect of being alone to fend for one’s self, though, has much more to do with insecurity and dependence than it does personal liberty.

By isolating individuals and glamorizing independence, people can then be easily groomed for fealty to power. We grew up pledging allegiance to a flag and can name the tune of the national anthem in three notes; more immediately most of us depend on someone else writing a paycheck for our sustenance. Nevertheless we like to think of ourselves as a nation of individualists. This is easy to believe. It allows us to feel good about ourselves regardless of accomplishment or character by the expedient of being born here.

Yet our material well-being requires a tremendous amount of power over other nations, peoples, and species; this power can only be exerted by institutions whose behavior isn’t governed at all by our own personal sense of justice or fair play. We have nearly no say in the conduct of states and corporations, and so long as we can pretend our inherent merit as US citizens, their conduct can usually be denied or ignored. They do our job, we do ours: that’s the American Way. Keeping this order is relatively easy; just laying claim to an abstract, inspirational word can suffice. The company responsible for the January, 2014 chemical spill in West Virginia’s Elk River was named “Freedom Industries.”

Image credit: Ty Wright for the Washington Post
Image credit: Ty Wright for the Washington Post

Nationalism is only an example of this wider condition. The arbitrary advantage of US citizenship can be compared to the advantages of being male, or white, or wealthy; they all depend onpowerful organizations that exist for their own reasons, and mine our lives for their power as surely as they mine mountains for coal. Notions of individual, national, race, or gender virtue serve their goals (of accumulating wealth and power) by masking our exploited condition with a sense of deserved good fortune. Those in power hide behind emotionally potent ideas like freedom that relatively privileged groups are eager to protect. It’s only chance to be born a white male American, yet plenty of them volunteer for militaries that supposedly defend freedom. Far fewer would volunteer to die for oil company profits, though many of them inadvertently do.

Individuality is a valuable trait, especially in a culture devoted to cultivating oblivious consumer and sacrificial classes.[3] But its value in overcoming blind conformity and vacuous rewards can become idealized as an end unto itself—individualism. When civilized power is essentially inescapable, a foundering ship, individuality seems to restore a sense of personal worth and even social sanity. Yet individuality is more like a life preserver than the sailboat of a sustainable and independent culture—perhaps useful, but doing little to affect the power over our lives. When it becomes indoctrinated as individualism, it can actually benefit those in power because of its mistrust of group belonging that stifles organizing. The demonizing of labor unions is a classic example.

Our mostly unrecognized dilemma is that we’re physiologically “primitive” social animals living under the rule of a dictatorial, isolating, extraction culture. Unless we are able to participate in it, we’re shunted into extremely uncomfortable conditions of poverty and wretchedness, scavenging the carcasses left by agriculture and industry. The authors, Hyatt and Carter, are relatively wealthy by global standards, with our access to the resources that civilization has up for sale. Yet we live mostly hand to mouth. There is very little in the way of socially stabilized security in our lives. If we stop working for a month or two the kitchen cabinets quickly empty; stop work for a while more and we’re evicted from our homes. Because we aren’t allowed to fashion a comfortable dwelling from the wild and freely hunt or gather our food, we must join in working for it, which means we must consume gasoline, industrial food, and electricity. None of these things will remain available forever. More urgently, there is about forty-one years of topsoil left,[4] and without topsoil, there will be no food for anyone or anything. Ultimately, civilization has undermined all security, for everyone.

Human beings tend to want consistency, and their organizations tend to conserve the status quo. The idea of “behaviorally modern” humans, creatures on a progressive trajectory, has no real physical evidence.[5] We are creatures of the Paleolithic, identical to people of at least 190,000 years ago.[6] Our brains and bodies are those of people who hunted animals with stone-pointed spears and lived in clan or tribal groups. There was no spontaneous human revolution that changed that. Cities and the industries needed to support their regionally unsustainable appetites did not arise simultaneously from the sum of individual impulses for toil and control, but rather spread by resource warfare.[7] What we see now is the global dominance of a single, war- and extraction-dependent social strategy. Paradoxically this seemingly unifying strategy instead isolates us, picking us apart from the close-knit and small scale cultures our ancestors evolved to form. Even if we’re lucky enough to have a close family or uncommonly good friends, we are all expected to more or less make it on our own. Our health can’t help but be affected by that dramatic change. It is critical for anyone working for social justice and sustainability to recognize this.

Defying Social Order

Because of the inherent injustice involved with work, where lower social and economic classes must be maintained to do dangerous or menial labor, it takes denial and silence to keep civilization running. Confronting social and environmental injustice necessarily begins with breaking denial and silence. This can be very hard to do, as anyone who has broken free of any abusive situation knows. Our own avoidance tendencies can be strong and impossible even to see, and our human animal selves shy from the fear of standing up to those with power over us. The elaborate structures of power now in place are so immense and deeply embedded that defiance of them seems ludicrous and foolhardy, the very definition of quixotic. The system’s many dependents and hired goons stand behind them, no matter how atrocious its actions. Attack Freedom Industries, you may as well attack freedom itself. So of course most people never will.

For those who are willing to fight back, anger at injustice can make us think we can defy unjust systems by social transgression, such as alcohol and drug abuse, promiscuity, petty crime, and other self-destructive practices. In reality, these are enactments of civilization which encourage us to hate ourselves and to reproduce our own subordination. Self-harm and isolated disobedience does the police work of oppression, essentially for free, as a kind of safety valve. Just as it’s too much for individuals to be burdened with systemic problems, defying social order is an overwhelming task for one person. Serious resistance requires a community, and a healthy community requires us to make internalized oppression visible. It is helpful to remember that many of our troubles aren’t our own fault, but are necessary creations of civilization, meant to keep us enslaved.

The contrived circumstances we live under are full of paradoxes and confusion; it’s easy to fall into despair and apathy. The dominant culture that is consuming the world—and any chance of a sane and intact society—demands our time and loyalty, and it’s far easier to give them up than to fight. A paradox that can help is realizing we must take care of ourselves to be ready and able to take care of anything or anyone else. This seems counter to the impulses of altruism that often drive activists, but it really isn’t. Warriors must eat, they must have some sense of support and approbation; if this doesn’t come from their toxic society, it must come from somewhere else. The energy, endurance, and courage it takes to stop a coal mine cannot itself be mined from our bodies and spirits, leaving us empty, but rather must be cultivated and maintained as living things.

In his early years of activism, Carter spent a great deal of time and money fighting National Forest timber sales in a conservative Montana community where environmentalists were mostly ridiculed and hated outright. His colleagues were scattered and remote, usually also alone. He believed himself an appeal-writing machine, and fueled his effort with alcohol and a carbohydrate-heavy vegetarian diet. Eventually the pressure and isolation exhausted his ability to keep up his work, and the self-abuse didn’t become visible for years.

Civilization, based on power-over, undermines our sense of self and our meanings for existence. Nearly every child is raised in some form of domestic captivity under civilization, and many continue to be victimized by control and dominance, resulting in what psychiatrist Judith Herman calls Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).[8] Traumatic events make us question basic human relationships; we lose a sense of belonging, and our lives fill with stress and loneliness. Women in this culture often experience further trauma as the victims of male violence. In Hyatt’s case, male violence left her with undiagnosed PTSD for over three years; the medical industry offered pills and relaxation techniques to cover up the symptoms. This is the typical solution offered by modern medicine: one that blames the individual and isolates us further. No one has to be passively victimized by institutional pressure, though; people can be responsible for themselves, for the predictable consequences of their actions and choices. This doesn’t mean anyone has to take on what isn’t theirs—a recovery plan that favors pharmaceutical companies, for instance.

A healthier strategy is to value our response to trauma. The symptoms of PTSD, such as avoidance, emotional numbing, self-blame, and helplessness, are reasonable reactions to an inhuman system. PTSD sufferers have been so traumatized that we often blame ourselves for our symptoms. Active resistance reduces the feeling of despair and helplessness. Resistance even reduces the feeling of humiliation brought on by toleration of abuse and the humiliation in feeling we are to blame for the trauma. Recovery requires that we retell our trauma stories and engage with a healthy community, which can be hard to find. Support groups such as Al-anon and Alcoholics Anonymous may be a helpful place to start.

Remember that civilization is the root cause of trauma. By contrast, non-coercive cultures have few mental health disorders. Bruce Levine notes that “Throughout history, societies have existed with far less coercion than ours, and while these societies have had far less consumer goods and what modernity calls ‘efficiency,’ they also have had far less mental illness. This reality has been buried, not surprisingly, by uncritical champions of modernity and mainstream psychiatry.”[9]

Building a resistance to fight for social justice and sustainability might begin with attentive self-care and a dignified, gentle, and supportive culture. In the essays that follow, we’ll examine the effects of civilized society on mental and emotional health, and explore ways of bolstering our health and well-being so we may ready ourselves to fight. Addiction, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all conditions Hyatt and Carter have personally experienced and emerged from intact. It is our hope that our history and study will aid resisters in their own personal engagement and public struggle, that they may emerge intact and successful.

John Trudell said, “We understand the pollution of the air, of the water, we understand the pollution of the environment has come from this plundering and mining of the planet in an irresponsible manner. But you think about every fear, every doubt, every insecurity, every way that we ever beat ourselves up inside of our own heads — that is the pollution left over from the mining of our spirit.” As activists, we must question not only the logic of a culture that consumes its own future—eradicating the soil, water, and atmosphere needed for life—we must question the system and culture that leads to addiction, abuse, and hopelessness; the destruction of our very living self.

Susan Hyatt has worked as a project manager at a hazardous waste incinerator, owned a landscaping company focused on native Sonoran Desert plants, and is now a volunteer activist. Michael Carter is a freelance carpenter, writer, and activist. His anti-civilization memoir Kingfisher’s Song was published in 2012. They both volunteer for Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition.


[1] Madhusree Mukerjee, “Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?” Scientific American, May 23, 2012, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=apocalypse-soon-has-civilization-passed-the-environmental-point-of-no-return

“Has Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?” University of California—Berkeley, as reported in Science Daily, March 5, 2011, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302131844.htm

These are only approximately representative examples; many more can be found with the most casual perusal of the daily news. Because it’s so continual and overwhelming, it tends to escape public attention.

[2] “While the consumer class thrives, great disparities remain. The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent.” “The State of Consumption Today,” Worldwatch Institute, January 8, 2014, http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

[3] Stephanie McMillan, “Strengthen Collectivity: Combat Individualism,” New Ideas Proletarian Ideas, March 30, 2013, http://koleksyon-inip.org/strengthen-collectivity-combat-individualism/ for further reading on the subject of individuality and individualism.

[4] John B. Marler and Jeanne R. Wallin, “Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food and Sustainable Farming Systems,” Nutrition Security Institute, 2006, accessed January 13, 2014, http://www.nutritionsecurity.org/PDF/NSI_White%20Paper_Web.pdf

[5] “There are no such things as modern humans, Shea argues, just Homo sapiens populations with a wide range of behavioral variability. Whether this range is significantly different from that of earlier and other hominin species remains to be discovered. However, the best way to advance our understanding of human behavior is by researching the sources of behavioral variability in particular adaptive strategies.” John J. Shea, “Homo Sapiens is as Homo Sapiens was: Behavioral Variability vs. ‘Behavioral Modernity’ in Paleolithic Archaeology,” Current Anthropology 2011; 52 (1): 1, as reported in Science Daily, February 15, 2011, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214201850.htm

John J. Shea, “Homo Sapiens is as Homo Sapiens was: Behavioral Variability vs. ‘Behavioral Modernity’ in Paleolithic Archaeology,” Current Anthropology 2011; 52 (1): 1, http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658067

[6] “Fossil Reanalysis Pushes Back Origin of Homo sapiens,” Scientific American, February 17, 2005, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fossil-reanalysis-pushes

[7] Thomas B. Bramanti, W. Haak, M. Unterlaender, P. Jores, K. Tambets, I. Antanaitis-Jacobs, M.N. Haidle, R. Jankauskas, C.-J. Kind, F. Lueth, T. Terberger, J. Hiller, S. Matsumura, P. Forster, and J. Burger, “Europe’s First Farmers were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-gatherer Forerunners.” Science 2009, DOI: 10.1126/science.1176869, as reported in Science Daily, September 4, 2009, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm

This is one reference among many that underscores that agriculture and the cultures it supports did not “arise” worldwide as of some spontaneous awakening, but rather was spread by conquest.

[8] “What happens if you are raised in captivity? What happens if you’re long-term held in captivity, as in a political prisoner, as in a survivor of domestic violence?” Judith Herman, M.D. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic Books, 1997. See pages 74-95 for more information on captivity and C-PTSD.

[9] Bruce Levine, Ph.D., “Societies With Little Coercion Have Little Mental Illness,” Mad in America, August 30, 2013, http://www.madinamerica.com/2013/08/societies-little-coercion-little-mental-illness/

 

Originally published by DGR News Service and DGR Southwest Coalition

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Open Meeting

Blue Palo Verde tree in the Saguaro National Park.

Blue Palo Verde tree in the Saguaro National Park.

Deep Green Resistance Sonoran is holding a meeting that is open to the public. This is a great way to connect and share ideas as we build a culture of resistance against empire. Discussion will be on diverse topics ranging from industrial civilization, patriarchy, capitalism, the state of the environmental movement, underground promotion, direct action, skill shares, local issues, and more! All are welcome to attend!

Resistance is fertile. Please join us!

To learn more about Deep Green Resistance, see our website: http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/who-we-are/about-dgr. You can also follow our local chapter webpage at http://deepgreenresistancesonoran.org/.

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Jaguar tracks found in the Santa Ritas, says conservation group and UA geneticist

Original post by Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star

It’s been known for well over a year now that a jaguar has been photographed in the Santa Rita Mountains, near the proposed Rosemont Mine site. But only a little more than a week ago, volunteers for the Tucson conservation group Sky Island Alliance found and photographed the first jaguar tracks to have been spotted in that mountain range in recent times. The tracks were seen on Jan. 4, by two volunteers.

The volunteers found these tracks along a trail where there were also mountain lion tracks, which allowed for a better comparison and more accurate identification, the alliance said. However, the alliance doesn’t know if these tracks belong to the same jaguar that has been repeatedly photographed in the Santa Ritas.

Last week, the alliance showed photos of the tracks to Melanie Culver, a University of Arizona geneticist. Culver, who is part of the team of UA researchers working on a federally financed, remote camera study of jaguars, confirmed to the Star that these were jaguar tracks. Culver is the jaguar camera project’s principal investigator and a geneticist for the U.S. Geological Survey and the UA’s School of Natural Resources.

“Nobody on my team who looked at the tracks believed they are not of a jaguar,” Culver said.

The tracks were found in a steep, rugged area, about three to four miles south of the proposed Rosemont Mine site — “a day hike for a jaguar, or a person,” said Sergio Avila, a biologist who is the alliance’s Northern Mexico conservation manager.

The track was found along a well traveled hiking trail that is part of the Arizona Trail. The area is steep with thick vegetation and with water and wildlife literally everywhere that day, the alliance said. The trail was muddy after the last rains and the tracks were naturally outlined and casted in the soil, the alliance said.

The tracks provide continued evidence that this area is still jaguar habitat, and that non-invasive methods such as this to track jaguars are useful tools, Avila said.

“Regardless of the mine, it’s important that the public knows about this,” Avila said. “For many years, jaguars have been sending us a message, saying they want to live in Southern Arizona, that the Sky Islands are their home.

“That is a message that we need to hear, loud and clear,” Avila said.

The continued presence of jaguars in southern Arizona is testament to the healthy habitats, prey populations and wildlife corridors across the region, the alliance said in a statement.

The tracks were also found four years to the week when remote cameras run by the alliance photographed a jaguar for the first time in northern Sonora’s Rancho El Aribabi, about 30 miles south of the U.S. border. A jaguar was photographed on Jan. 2, 2010 and again on Jan. 10.

 

 

 

 

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Altar Valley ranchers believe gas pipeline will destroy way of life

Richard Schultz points to land-clearing work across the border from Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, which he co-owns.

Richard Schultz points to land-clearing work across the border from Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, which he co-owns.

Original article by Joe Ferguson, Arizona Daily Star

Sasabe residents in the Altar Valley are nervously watching as construction crews bulldoze land just across the Mexican border.

They believe, or more accurately fear, the corridor the size of a football field being carved into the Mexican desert is evidence that approval of a proposed 59-mile Kinder-Morgan pipeline through their area is little more than a formality. With a decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the actual route of the pipeline not expected until next year, Altar Valley residents are left to wonder how the 36-inch natural-gas-pipeline extension expected to cut through a path through their ranches and sensitive wildlife corridors will affect their lives.

The sound of heavy equipment clearing desert can easily be heard from the historic guest ranch that Richard Schultz runs a few hundred feet from the international border.

While walking through a thick grove of mesquite trees between the 90-year-old ranch once frequented by Hollywood stars and Washington, D.C. politicians, Schultz says he can only guess as to where Kinder Morgan wants to put the pipeline in relation to his ranch.

He points to some small hills just west of his guest ranch, noting his sole communication with Kinder Morgan has been a single postcard notifying him of a public hearing.

Schultz worries that a massive, denuded section of land near his ranch will hurt his business, which has for decades attracted people from around the world looking for a true taste of the Old West.

Sarah King can trace her husband’s ranching roots in the Altar Valley back to 1895.

Fences crisscross the 55,000 acres her herd of roughly 300 cows graze on.

Her worries focus on smugglers who might use the north-south path of the pipeline to bring drugs into the county.

History, she says, has taught her that criminals use the path of least resistance, cutting a fence even if there is a gate 20 feet away. A cut fence might not seem like a big deal, she said, but it impacts her bottom line every time a cow escapes.

Kinder Morgan, she said, has told her that it won’t be responsible if an increase in smuggling leads to problems on her ranch.

King said it is impossible to know how much the pipeline will threaten her family’s century-old ranch.

A small pond fed by seasonal rainwater on one end of the Sierra Vista Ranch has provided Melissa Owen with countless hours of enjoyment.

Her motion-activated camera has caught bobcats, javelinas, deer and even a jaguar getting a late night drink. She is concerned the earth-moving equipment will destroy the precious watering hole.

“This is an extremely important area for wildlife, not just my ranch, but for all the nearby ranches,” Owen said.

She faults the draft version of the environmental impact statement for not looking at the hydrological impacts the pipeline would have in the area.

History is on her side, pointing to the surveying stake put in the ground a few years ago when El Paso Natural Gas — now known as Kinder Morgan — wanted to build a pipeline to send natural gas from Mexico to Tucson.

Officials offered to route the pipeline around the pond, but the new route would essentially cut off the runoff from nearby hills after the monsoons.

With the eastern edge of her property bordering the Buenos Aires Natural Wildlife Reserve, Owen believes Kinder Morgan is playing politics with the route of the pipeline.

The preferred route was moved out of the boundaries of the wildlife reserve because the pipeline did not meet its goals or mission.

Owen, who said her property isn’t for sale at any price, wonders why Kinder Morgan won’t listen when she says the denuded no man’s land created by the pipeline doesn’t meet the core mission of her ranch.

“What happens to me is a microcosm of what happens to the entire Altar Valley,” she says.

 

 

 

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Proposed Sierrita Pipeline continues causing controversy

Original post by Danielle Lerner, News 4 Tucson

 

TUCSON- The controversy surrounding the proposed Sierrita Gas Pipeline continues as local ranchers, county and state organizations share their concerns about the project. The $204 million international pipeline would stretch about 60 miles, starting west of the Tucson Mountains and connecting with lines across the border to deliver natural gas to Mexico.

The comment period for the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, just closed on Monday. Kinder Morgan Incorporated owns the project and says it will create jobs, boost tax revenue and local business. However if you look at some of the comments submitted, it is obvious not everyone sees it that way.

In his comments, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry calls the DEIS “significantly and fatally flawed,” citing public safety and environmental damage as two of the county’s concerns.

Game and Fish submitted seven pages worth of concerns and proposed mitigations, while the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance said, “the social and environmental damage the proposed pipeline would cause, far outweighs the temporary benefits of employment the construction of the pipeline would provide.”

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection finds, “the project’s purpose and need is unclear, and public benefit and necessity is unsubstantiated.”

Local cattle ranchers at King’s Anvil Ranch expressed their concerns too and summed it up by telling Kinder Morgan to “focus on making decisions based on the needs of the valley, and recognizing that trust is gained by actions.”

Kinder Morgan’s Communications Director tells News 4 Tucson this is the exact reason the DEIS is so important, so stakeholders can share their comments and Kinder Morgan can integrate those into the final EIS. As of right now, the company is hoping for final approval in mid-2014, to be up and running by next September.

Sierrita Gas Pipeline map

 

 

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Major tree clearing and timber sale planned for Rosemont Mine

Site of Rosemont copper mine (Photo credit: Arizona Mining Reform Coalition)

Site of Rosemont copper mine (Photo credit: Arizona Mining Reform Coalition)

Original article by Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star

Close to 300,000 trees, mostly junipers and oaks, would likely be cleared on public land in the Santa Rita Mountains if the proposed Rosemont Mine is built.

Clearing those trees will be controversial, but at this moment, it’s not known what will happen to them afterward. The U.S. Forest Service will charge Rosemont Copper for any cut trees removed from the site, and those proceeds will go to the federal Treasury. The trees, which are common, aren’t legally protected.

The Star learned the amount of trees slated for clearing last week after obtaining Forest Service documents on the subject under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The service estimates 23,261 cords of wood, or roughly 66,000 tons, are on public land slated for clearing. A cord measures 4 feet deep by 4 feet high by 8 feet long.

“Rosemont has agreed to buy them. … Some will be left on site for reclamation. Whatever is left over, then it’s their call what to do with them,” said Mindy Vogel, the Coronado National Forest’s geology and minerals program manager.

Mine opponents say the tree clearing would symbolize Rosemont’s ecological damage. They say the trees offer good habitat for many bird species in the area.

“Trees serve an important function — for carbon sequestration, for erosion control, for wildlife, for visual resources,” said Brian Powell, program manager for Pima County’s Office of Sustainability and Conservation. “There is cultural significance for the oak trees (for) the Tohono O’odham (tribe). They are just a very important, compelling part of the landscape.”

Rosemont officials won’t comment on the trees until the Forest Service releases a draft decision on the mine. Officials of Tucson businesses that sell firewood and wood for furniture making say a market exists for timber sold from the site, although there isn’t a shortage of it.

“The most environmentally sensitive way to do it is to bring in a company to chip it and leave behind the brush for erosion control, and the wood would be harvested and moved,” said Rick Westfall, owner of Arizona Cordwood, whose company has used these techniques on other projects. “If they push it over with a dozer, once it hits the dirt, it can’t be processed in an economically feasible way.”

Forest Service officials say tree remnants can be mixed with soil for reclamation, which is slated to begin when mining starts. The trees can stabilize soil and promote a variety of vegetation, the service said in its final Rosemont environmental impact statement.

Until final reclamation plans are approved — which won’t happen until after the service decides on the mine — it’s impossible to say how many trees will be used that way, Vogel said.

New trees will be planted for reclamation, but their locations aren’t worked out and have been a source of disagreement between the Forest Service and the mining company, records obtained by the Star show.

In its Rosemont environmental report, the Forest Service said 20 to 25 tons of “large woody material” per acre can be used for reclamation. Some material suitable for reclamation could be stored in temporary stockpiles, but no large-scale stockpiles would be maintained on public land, the statement said.

In July, Coronado official Michele Girard wrote in an email that while Rosemont Copper’s draft revegetation memo said the company will use all the woody debris on-site, since most of the area will be cleared and only a few hundred acres reclaimed in the first couple of years, “there will be way too much wood initially to use as it is generated.

“Then what do you do with what is left over? … ,” wrote Girard, the Coronado’s watershed program manager.

Nancy Freeman, a mine opponent in Green Valley, said that while leaving trees behind can stabilize slopes and stream banks, “it’s not going to make trees grow. We have stable slopes at the Mission Mine and the Sierrita Mine in Green Valley, and nothing’s growing.”

The Coronado Forest is scheduled to release a draft decision on the mine Friday.

The federal government charges $5 per cord for firewood to the public and $300 per cord for commercial sale.

In a statement, Rosemont Copper said until the draft decision appears, “and we know which alternative has been selected, and we know what the conditions of approval are, it would be inappropriate for us or anyone else to make assumptions, to speculate or to comment on the issue,” said Jamie Sturgess, the company’s senior vice president for corporate development and government affairs.

Last August, Coronado National Forest surveyors on foot found about 92 trees per acre on 3,171 acres of forest on the proposed mine site. While the company could ultimately decide some trees won’t need clearing, the service assumes in its environmental report that “they’re going to all be gone,” Vogel said.

Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity said the tree clearing shows how destructive the mine will be, even though “the company wants us to think it’s an environmentally friendly mine and it’s going to not do that much damage.”

Arizona Cordwood’s Westfall said the mine is a badly needed project. “People are screaming for $15 an hour for jobs at McDonald’s, but it looks to me like Rosemont is going a lot further than that in an environmentally sensitive way. The project needs to move forward. If you are not growing jobs, you are dying.”

Rosemont Copper Mine Site

 

 

 

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Is the US Forest Service Trying to Help a Cash-Strapped Canadian Mining Company?

Santa Rita Mountains

Photo by Nate Merill
The proposed mine site in the Santa Rita Mountains is part of an important wildlife corridor that connects southern Arizona’s sky island mountain ranges — isolated mountains that rise up from surrounding lowlands — that are home to unique plant and animal species.

Original post by Maureen Nandini Mitra, Earth Island Journal

Agency has been attempting to speed up decision-making on proposed Rosemont copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest, say activists

The US Forest Service seems to have been unusually eager to help a Canadian mining company with a dubious track record and financial troubles set up an open pit copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest. The agency’s efforts, however, might be in vain.

A Vancouver-based mining company, August Resource Corporation and its Arizona subsidiary, Rosemont Copper Company, plan to blast a one mile-wide and half-mile deep mine on 4,000 acres of the Santa Rita Mountains, 50 miles southeast of Tucson. The proposal is being fiercely opposed by environmentalists, local citizens, and Indigenous groups who say the mine would damage the environment, deplete the arid region’s water supply, and hurt the tourism industry that relies on the mountains’ unique “sky island” ecosystem. (Read my April 2013 report about the proposed mine and how it underscores the need to reform federal mining laws.)

Despite serious environmental concerns about the project that need careful study, the US Forest Service released an incomplete draft of its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the proposed mine on July 1 and asked the more than two dozen local, state, and federal cooperating agencies to send in their comments within 30 days.

Read more…

 

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State Board Sued for Upholding Rosemont Water Permit

This photo of a rendering at the Rosemont copper visitor center, shows what the proposed mine would look like at full production. Photo Credit: Inside Tucson Business

This photo of a rendering at the Rosemont copper visitor center, shows what the proposed mine would look like at full production. Photo Credit: Inside Tucson Business

Original article by Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star.

Opponents of the proposed Rosemont Mine have filed suit, seeking to overturn a state decision awarding a groundwater protection permit to mine owners Rosemont Copper Co.

The permit allows the company to discharge materials if it can show it’s using the best available technology to keep pollutants from reaching groundwater.

The suit, filed last week by 14 individuals and groups, challenges the July decision by the State Water Quality Appeals Board to uphold issuance of the permit by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in April 2012.

Filed in Superior Court in Maricopa County, the suit alleges that the board’s 2-1 vote in favor of the permit was “arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law, an abuse of discretion and not supported by substantial evidence.”

As it stands now, the state permit should be called the “Rosemont aquifer pollution permit,” said Gayle Hartmann, president of the mine opposition group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, which is one of the plaintiffs.

Other plaintiffs include Richard Walden and Nan Walden, who are executives of the pecan growing Farmers Investment Co.; environmental groups Sky Island Alliance, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and the Center for Biological Diversity; and eight residents of Tucson, Green Valley and Vail.

Mark Shaffer, an ADEQ spokesman, noted that the department’s decision granting the permit was upheld “independently and unconditionally” by the water appeals board after nine days of testimony before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. ADEQ has said its review evaluated Rosemont’s pollution control technologies in relation to the mine site’s environmental surroundings in the Santa Rita Mountains, 30 miles southeast of Tucson.

“We are confident the permit, as issued, will be protective of the state’s water quality,” Shaffer said Tuesday.

Kathy Arnold, a Rosemont Copper vice president, said the law judge ruled on 500 findings of fact and reached 33 conclusions in support of ADEQ’s work. She said she’s confident the permit will survive and that the suit won’t delay Rosemont’s permitting and construction timelines.

“These last-minute actions have been anticipated as it is a common opposition tactic. They seek delays,” Arnold said, in part.

Among the lawsuit’s allegations:

That the water board and the judge failed to consider the mine’s potential impacts to surface water, as required by state law. Opponents are concerned that if the mine were to contaminate groundwater, its pollutants could rise into surface water because the two are connected.

The mine plan has changed since ADEQ issued the permit. Rosemont has since decided to eliminate heap leaching of copper oxide and increase production of copper sulfide.

The appeals board failed to require ADEQ to consider impacts on plants and animals from groundwater pollution, which the suit says is also required.

Opponents say they’re concerned that Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon near the mine site could be contaminated by groundwater pollution rising to the surface, impacting a source of Tucson’s groundwater and imperiled wildlife such as the Gila chub and the Chiricahua leopard frog.

“This permit should be sent back to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality so that it can do what it should have done in the first place — thoroughly analyze the potential harm that the Rosemont copper mine would do to people, plants and wildlife,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

ADEQ’s Shaffer countered, “ADEQ issued the aquifer protection permit to Rosemont Copper Co. after independent and rigorous analysis of the plan for the mine. It also was issued following a public hearing and consideration of nearly 250 comments from the public.”

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Public Interest Versus Private Greed (Rosemont Copper Mine)

Site of Rosemont copper mine (Photo credit: Arizona Mining Reform Coalition)

Site of Rosemont copper mine (Photo credit: Arizona Mining Reform Coalition)

Original post by Frances Causey, The Huffington Post

The refrain is all too common these days. The democratic and regulatory process circumvented in favor of big business interests at the expense of practically everything else. Think “Too Big To Fail Banks” — the big banks produced record profits last quarter and yet our banking system, regulated with a weak Dodds-Frank bill, has never been at greater risk of collapsing in a heap — with taxpayers picking up the tab if these behemoths fail.

Closer to home, southern Arizonans are dealing with a Canadian mining company, Augusta Resource Corporation, that is using its investors’ money to buy political support to acquire permits that would allow it to blast a one-mile wide, half-mile deep, open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. If the mine gets all of its permits and is approved, Augusta’s subsidiary, Rosemont Copper Company, will dump billions of tons of toxic mine waste burying some 4,000 acres of canyons, streams and prime wildlife habitat on the Coronado National Forest.

Rosemont is rushing to get its permits and a Record of Decision from the U.S. Forest Service before it runs out of money. But it’s not just money at stake in this fight but the public’s health. Two of the most contentious permits would allow Rosemont to pollute southern Arizona’s air and water supplies. Local ranchers, residents and business owners have long suspected that Rosemont has had, and continues to have, undue and inappropriate influence over the issuance of these permits.

And it’s no wonder. In 2011, a federal judge in Tucson confirmed those suspicions when he found that Rosemont and the U.S. Forest Service had been meeting secretly to discuss the critically important Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that is suppose to analyze the mine’s environmental and economic impacts. In a written ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Frank R. Zapata found those meetings presented at the least an “appearance of impropriety.”

In recent weeks, new information has emerged revealing that Arizona regulators, ostensibly charged with protecting public health and safety, exchanged nearly three dozen emails with the governor’s office that could show inappropriate and impermissible political influence in deliberations over Rosemont’s air pollution permit. While that decision is supposed to be based only on technical and scientific public health information, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has admitted that it had been engaging in a “deliberative process” with Governor Jan Brewer’s office about the Rosemont air pollution permit — and that those deliberations had nothing to do with protecting public health. On the contrary, descriptions of the emails provided in legal briefs suggest they appear to deal with jurisdictional issues, drafting press releases, a briefing memo, and news articles.

Hearings recently began on an appeal by opponents of that air pollution permit. Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, the southern Arizona coalition that filed the appeal, will present experts and evidence showing that Rosemont received their air pollution permit by manipulating scientific data to hide potential violations of state and federal air pollution standards. If the previously secret emails show that the governor’s office and ADEQ violated the law that too will be introduced in evidence at the hearing.

But it doesn’t stop there. More evidence has emerged that when it comes to Rosemont Copper, an “appearance of impropriety” is business as usual. Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch, whose staff was participating in those closed-door meetings that a federal judge found suspect, admitted in a recent newspaper interview that he is trying to meet “the needs” of Rosemont Copper by rushing out an incomplete environmental impact analysis in order to issue its final Record of Decision before addressing public concerns about the mine.

The “needs” that Upchurch is trying to meet appear tied to Augusta Resource’s admission that if it doesn’t receive its permits by September 30, the company could run out of cash and its “ability to continue as a going concern” would be in jeopardy.

If it isn’t improper for the Forest Service — whose mission is to protect public lands, not foreign mining companies and their investors — to be cutting corners to meet Augusta’s “needs,” it’s hard to imagine what is.

However, one public agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is doing the right thing. In a 2012 letter to Forest Supervisor Upchurch, the EPA called the Rosemont DEIS one of the worst it has ever reviewed and that the document underestimates the project’s negative environmental effects. The EPA says it believes the mining project should not proceed as proposed.

Across this country, Congress and state legislatures continue to gut the budgets of agencies that were created not only for the protection of our health but also to protect the public from unscrupulous and predatory companies like Rosemont Copper. As Arizonans, we ask every day why the rights of a speculative, foreign mining company are more important than the air we breathe? We would like to hear an answer on this issue from our public officials, whom we have entrusted with so much.

 

 

 

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