Winona LaDuke is perhaps best known for her two campaigns for Vice President on the Green Party ticket with Ralph Nader. But when she’s not running for office, being a water rights activist or giving lectures at Kenai Peninsula College, she’s working to change the economy where she lives on the Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota, with a focus on local food and light manufacturing, like processing hemp a business LaDuke is working on now.
“I feel like what we want is we all want to do the right thing. There are people transitioning everywhere and some of it is small and some of it is larger scale. My point is to start somewhere. A place like this, Kenai, this is a nice community. A place like this could provide training and jobs for a transitional economy.”
She says it isn’t the convenience the modern economy offers that makes it difficult to move to something more sustainable.
“I think it’s greed. I think it’s some decisions made by some people who want to keep things in a certain status quo. We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. The same thing is going to happen with the fossil fuel era. There will be fossil fuels some place, and those things are going to have to stay in the ground. And we’re going to move into an economy that is far more efficient and (with) far less risk. That’s what half of Europe is doing right now. Why would I want to be in North America, being the last people in the world to do something cool, when I could be at the front end of this and figuring out how to make good technology that is appropriately scaled, that makes sure that there’s energy and food security in times of catastrophes.”
Continuing the transition that is already underway in a lot of areas and with a lot of individuals, will take a broader culture shift, she says.
“I think that it’s a quality of life change. In the bigger picture, there are a number of countries looking at the fact that gross national product is not an indicator of happiness. Countries, like Bhutan, are using something called gross national happiness indexing, which is to say money doesn’t buy you love, money doesn’t make you happy. Money is a way to get some things easier in your life. I think every American at some level wants to have some quality of life at home where you eat good food and you drink good water and you’re not worried about your health and you’re not worried about how you’re going to heat your house. That’s our opportunity, to figure out how to limit some of the stress people are facing and become leaders. Not the last people dragged in there. My community is going to do leadership because, as you gathered from an evening with me, I don’t need to wait for someone to figure it out. The answers are very clear.”
This week’ number: 6.2
That number represents the unemployment rate for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. That’s down more than a full point from the same time last year, according to the November issue of Alaska Economic Trends, put out by the state Department of Labor. The Kenai’s unemployment rate is still higher than that of the statewide rate of 5.6. The nationwide unemployment rate is two points lower still at 3.6