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LaDuke and Indigo Girls talk up renewable energy

by Amy Kingsley

Guilford College will host environmental activist Winona LaDuke and Grammy Award-winning duo the Indigo Girls for an event dedicated to raising awareness about renewable energy sources Friday, Sept. 23.

All proceeds from the event, which coincides with the kickoff of the school’s homecoming weekend, will benefit Honor the Earth, an organization headed by LaDuke. Honor the Earth raises awareness and funds for energy justice, the implementation of renewable energy sources as a means of generating income for native communities in the Americas. Native American reservations have long been exploited for the mineral resources and used as storage sites for nuclear and other energy waste, according to Honor the Earth literature.

Former vice-presidential candidate LaDuke campaigned with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and again in 2000. She has written extensively on Native American environmental issues. Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have supported Honor the Earth since the organization formed in the early 1990s.

‘“Once we heard Winona we realized we couldn’t be environmentalists without looking through the indigenous lens,’” Saliers said.

Income from the Guilford College show will exclusively fund efforts by Honor the Earth to buy and install a wind turbine on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Native nations in the Midwest hold the potential for generating up to half the United States’ current electrical output through wind energy, LaDuke said in a press release.

The program will feature a short video about renewable energy, a speech by LaDuke, short speeches by Ray and Saliers and a 45-minute acoustic performance by the duo. Although the Indigo Girls are touring, the Guilford College appearance is a special performance for Honor the Earth.

‘“There is a connection between North Carolina and Native Americans when you work it all out,’” Saliers said.

In particular, the speakers want to address proposals by Duke Power and Progress Energy to build nuclear power plants. Duke Power has filed a preliminary inquiry with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the first nuclear power plant constructed in 20 years. The company already owns land in Davie County, within 40 miles of Greensboro, which has been approved by the commission as a site for a nuclear reactor.

North Carolina is the 12th-most carbon dioxide polluted state, according to a fact sheet provided by the Indigo Girls. Combined with Tennessee and Georgia, the region is ranked the sixth largest carbon polluter in the world.

‘“Our strong message now is that nuclear power is not the answer,’” Saliers said.

Honor the Earth is visiting Greensboro, they say, because of the recent history of progressive movements in the region. The state was the first in the Southeast to pass a Global Warming Act, in August, and is home to North Carolina Green Power, a nonprofit that collects money to invest in renewable energy.

The Indigo Girls have been involved with environmental politics since their inception in the early ’80s. Their political activities extend to other causes as well. The duo has performed at pro-choice and anti-death penalty rallies and have spoken out about women’s and queer rights.

‘“We’re basic lefties,’” Saliers said.

Although they have worked with LaDuke and Honor the Earth for more than a decade, their activities stopped short of campaigning in the 1996 or 2000 elections. Instead, they stick to raising awareness about issues.

‘“My favorite shows are benefit shows because there is such a strong sense of hope and a feeling that we are all in this together,’” Saliers said.

‘“I think there is mixed feelings about musicians speaking out,’” she said. ‘“But it is our duty as citizens. People are also very mistrustful of politicians right now and I believe people know when they’re being lied to.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com.

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