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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Emotional in Wonderland: And I don't care who likes it or not.

Warning: This post is emotionally charged.  If that bothers you, I don't really care.  Thank you.

Recently people , including our dear Governor, who have been commenting on the news, in blogs and in articles, are saying some sad things about the activists, who've been speaking out against the build up.  They think that people shouldn't get emotional at the public hearings.  They feel it is disrespectful and unproductive.

If your land was being looked at, by the Department of Defense, as a site to be used as a firing range, wouldn't you be emotional?  I'd be pissed off.  I'm pissed off and it's not even my land.  I'd be especially upset because it does not seem as if the Department of Defense has really looked in to using the land they already have.  They keep saying they can't use their land, because it's a preserve , yet they'll put the hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, and the spinner dolphins at risk so that they can park their big-a$$-nuclear-boat at Apra 63 days out of the year.  The land in Pagat is a preserve.  It preserves families.  It preserves a latte site.  It is the home to many plants and animals, that can't speak up to save their habitat.  The Guam Raceway Park is also important, in my mind.  It keeps our roads safe from the dangers of illegal drag racing.  Many families visit the park on the weekends and it is also a venue for car shows.  Wouldn't you want to preserve that?

And what about our environment?  For decades DOD has been pumping toxins in to our land and oceans.  For years they've been attempting to clean it up, but to be honest with you, I think the only reason they attempt mitigation is because of agencies like EPA, Fish and Wildlife, and Department of Agriculture.  The individual soldiers may care about the environment, in fact I'm friends with many who do, but in my opinion, DOD cares only about efficiency and convenience.  We see many soldiers volunteer in the community.  When I went with Nel on the extreme tree planting expedition, there were soldiers helping out.  They, along with us, nearly got struck by lightning, only to plant a couple trees.  And yet DOD will willingly take what those soldiers worked hard at preventing, soil erosion, and increase it by destroying mangroves.    That doesn't upset you?  And again, what about the turtles, dolphins and coral reef?  U.S. laws dictates where the people of Guam can't fish, but those same laws don't prevent the military from wreaking havoc on an already strained eco system?  This doesn't make you emotional?

Aren't you worried about our island one day running out of fresh water, and having to rely on the military and their proposed desalination plant, for our most basic neccesity?  Does that sound like the vision you have for your children and grand children?  You want them to be at the mercy of the military for water?  This thought makes me extremely prone to emotional break downs.

And is it really that irrational , that every once in a while, when our community is confronted with such extreme issues we get down right mad, or sad?  When our manamko are forced to plead so that their families' land will not be leased or sold by force, should we calmly stand by and wait and see?  When we read, in the DEIS, that our cost of living will continue to rise faster than our incomes, even when the Chamber of Commerce says our lives will be better, should we not question them?  Is it disrespectful to be concerned?  Is it disrespectful to worry about our health care?  Is it disrespectful to put our essential needs before the convenience of a nation that considers us as possesions?  When a Nobel Peace Prize winning president, is unaware that his nation's military is going to displace families, endangered species, ancestral remains, and a culture already ravished by colonizers, should we not try to open his eyes?

And lastly, shouldn't anything worth fighting for also stir some emotion in you?  We are not robots.  We are living beings.  And we should not judge or be judged for just caring enough about something that it may bring us to tears or cause us to raise our voices, in desperation just to be heard.

To the various activists groups and individuals, who continue to fight past the judgement, thank you.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you for protecting our land, ocean, culture, and people.  Thank you for educating the youth.  Thank you for being an inspiration to those who were silent, including myself.  Thank you for reminding us how strong our community can be, if we just stand together. 

And to those in silence, who fight to hold back tears, who can't speak through sobs, remember all that this island has been through and know that as long as there is still one heart that beats to protect our home, there will be hope.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sleepless in Wonderland: The Real Big Fish

As a child growing up on Guam, I heard many legends.  Some I learned at school and some my parents told me.  One legend that has been on my mind this past month, is the legend of thebig fish that ate Guam.  You remember the legend, don't you?  It explains why Guam is so narrow in the middle.  As I was told, many many years ago a very large fish was eating away at our island.  Many strong men tried to stop the fish, but none succeeded.  At this time, the young women of Guam had beautiful long hair.  One day the women decided to weave their hair in to a net.  With the net made from their hair the women caught the big fish and saved the land and people from the monstrous fish.
The reason this legend has been on my mind, is because I've been looking at many maps of Guam recently.   Yes, our island is narrow in the middle, but I've also noticed that there are many parts of our island that is innaccessible to the people of Guam.  It's as if the big fish has returned.  This big fish is feasting on the graves of our ancestors and land that is lush and beautiful.  Sometimes this big fish spits out the the land, returning it to us, but by that time much of the land is contaminated. 
What will our island look like 4 years from now?  How much of it will be contaminated by the big fish?  Where will we be 20 years from now? Will we be telling our grandchildren the story of the fish that annhilated our island? 
We must gather together, like the women in the original legend, to defend our home, before there is nothing left to defend.

This is an image of Guam, with the areas our new big fish has eaten photo shopped out, by Nella.  Remember much of the "eaten land" is coastal.  This was created from a map of Guam that showed DOD land as of 1991.  I had a hard time finding a more current map.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nightmare in Wonderland: Lost and Found in the D.E.I.S. - Part 1

"Long-term changes affecting water resources would include the alteration to the dredged depth of Apra Harbor wharf berths, navigation channel and the creation of a turning basin that would remain subject to subsequent siltation and maintenance dredging." (Volume 8, Chapter 5)

I assumed the dredging was a one time deal, during the construction process. But as I have found out here, that is not so. So my question is, how often will maintenance dredging be done? Where will that material be dumped? How will the siltation and dredging continue to effect our water quality?

Long-term changes to the environment include changes in dredged depths in Apra Harbor, including: the federal navigation channel; aircraft carrier turning basin and new wharf; Inner Apra Harbor Entrance Channel; and Inner Apra Harbor Wharves (Sierra and Tango). New depths would remain as such and be subject to subsequent siltation and maintenance dredging. Additionally, long-term uses of the environment include in-water or nearshore land-based operational activities (e.g. increased frequency of Marine Expeditionary Unit ships and fueling vessel transport movement and CVN aircraft carrier visits in Apra Harbor), including recreation and recreational activities (specifically Haputo Ecological Reserve Area) that would affect marine biological resources through decreased water quality (i.e. increased ammonia nitrogen levels in wastewater discharges, increased turbidity, sediment deposition, increased potential for pollutants and debris in the water, and affects on water chemistry), increased vessel strikes, and noise and in-water reverberations. Lastly, there would be long-term uses of the coastal waters on the east coasts of Guam and Tinian where the training ranges surface danger zones extend off-shore. These long-term uses of the environment would affect Endangered Species Act-listed species and sensitive management unit species present in the essential fish habitat of Apra Harbor and Guam, and possibly Tinian. Therefore, the long-term productivity of marine biological resources may be compromised."(Volume 8, Chapter 5)

That one speaks for itself.

"Long-term changes would include the direct loss and disturbance of archaeological sites and historic buildings on both Guam and Tinian from construction and demolition, and the long-term restriction from potential traditional cultural properties as a result of training and safety requirements relating to firing ranges. With the implementation of mitigation measures, there would be a long-term benefit from the increase in knowledge of the past and the distribution of this knowledge to the public. However, the long-term productivity of cultural resources may be compromised. "(Volume 8, Chapter 5)


To read and comment on the D.E.I.S. go to:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Threatened in Wonderland: Site attached species

This pretty fish here is the yellow crowned butterflyfish. Although they do well in captivity, they are endemic to Guam. This species of butterflyfish live in the black coral at the Orote Peninsula, an ecological reserve area. It became a reserve as a mitigation measure by the Navy for the Kilo Wharf construction, in 1984. When we were at the 3rd D.E.I.S. meeting Nella was asking about the Apra Harbor expansion project. They told us that the turtles would not be harmed, but when I asked for one of the biologists' opinion on the negative impact it would have, he said site attached fish, like the butterflyfish would most likely die. Orote Peninsula is apart of Apra Harbor. Whether that area will be affected isn't clear to me at the moment. I've emailed several marine biologists at the University of Guam to ask them. I have received one response so far. Ms. Laurie Raymundo says, "As far as I know, Orote Pt is not part of the planned dredge site. We are finding that areas inner to the point are currently affected by silt from the Kilo Wharf dredging, but we are still completing our surveys and have not processed data at this time; these are just observations."

These butterflyfish are a threatened species! I think the reason I'm so taken by these fish is that they, like myself and many locals, are site attached. Guam is my coral head and if it is destroyed, what will I do? What will we do?

Ms. Raymundo goes on to say, "I have not read the EIS completely, but I would not agree with the statement that mobile animals will not be harmed simply because they are not site-attached. Turtles will certainly lose habitat if reef is destroyed. It is my opinion that it is difficult to estimate the damage that will be caused and I believe that projected damage is currently being underestimated. There will be an enormous amount of damage from silt alone if the plans to dredge Western and Jade Shoals are carried out. Without a more thorough reading of the EIS, which I plan to do before the Feb. 17th deadline, I hesitate to comment on any more detail." I'd like to thank Ms. Raymundo for her honest opinion, free of the sugar coating we got from the D.E.I.S. biologists. To add on to her opinion of the turtles being affected, the D.E.I.S. does in fact state that the lights from the construction projects at Apra Harbor may disorient the turtles. Turtles nest in the same place they are born. So if they can't find that spot they may end up discarding their eggs.

I'll keep you updated on any responses I receive from the marine biologists.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nightmare in Wonderland: Holding on to my sanity and my island

signs Nel and I made.

My mom speaking up for the health care system!

I've been finding it harder and harder to rest. Tomorrow is the first day I will be stepping back in to a college class after a very long break, and instead of being excited, I still can't pull my thoughts away from the build up. Last night I spent an hour awake in bed, just trying to get to sleep. My first thought in the morning was about how I didn't get to ask all the questions I wanted to. This is completely insane!

Instead of an adventure in Wonderland, I'm trapped in the absolute nightmare that is Wonderland. But really, after hearing what I've heard and reading what I've read, how could I possibly push the issues aside. I cried today thinking about the families that will lose their land and how one day our hospital will be even more crowded. What if one of my family members is hurt or sick? I cried because as helpless as I felt, I knew that giving up is not an option. If we allow this to go on as the preferred alternatives state than we will be way beyond helpless. And as emotionally and physically tired as we get we can't stop fighting. There is so much at stake. This is our lives and our home.

And what really got me was the lack of attendance, of our legislators. Can you believe our governor and Lt. governor weren't there, either? What f-en planet are they living on? It's so upsetting. So to calm myself down I wrote them a letter.

Hafa Adai,

My name is Andrea Grajek and I am a concerned constituent. I attended the last two D.E.I.S. meetings and was greatly disappointed in the lack of attendance from our local legislators. The military build up is obviously an issue that will greatly affect our island. Many people took time out of their lives to attend these events. There were families with children and also students. They went to increase their awareness and speak their minds. I think it would've been greatly appreciated if more of our elected leaders were in attendance. I think it would've made the whole experience a little less overwhelming for myself and my fellow Guamanians if, instead of being surrounded by military personnel and their "experts", we were greeted by the warmth of our own officials.

I find it very disheartening that the people of Guam stood up and spoke, some breaking down to tears, and you were not there to hear their concerns. After all, isn't the very essence of your job, to listen to the people?

To the few senators, who were in attendance, si yu'us ma'ase. Your presence was greatly appreciated and I wish you all the best. Also, I'd appreciate it if someone could forward this email to our governor, Lt. governor, and our congresswoman. I was unable to find their email addresses on their official websites.

Andrea Grajek

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Testifying for Wonderland: Hope is not lost!

I wish I wasn't so emotional. I would not be able to stand up there and speak coherently. I'd be sobbing too hard and people who know me personally, know that my frustration comes out in tears and gasps - or anxious laughter. Neither of those would get my point across properly. I do have something to say though.

When I was young, about middle school age, I'd go with my mom, aunts, and grandmother to gatherings. They were gatherings of many families who were ready to stand up and ask for their land. The land I'm talking about is the cliff line property in Harmon. This was acres and acres of land that the military had taken after the war. And even as a young girl I knew how important this was. I could see it in the eyes of the people at these gatherings. You could hear it in their voices as the english mixed with chamorro. They were catching up on what's been going on in each other's lives. They were being reintroduced to the families who once shared a community and now shared a longing to have what was taken from them. They collectively longed to reclaim their history along with their land. So they marched and protested.

Now years later, our island gathers. We will march, protest, and testify. And I am an adult. This time I will not sit and watch. I will be involved. My eyes and voice will be apart of the collective, letting the younger generations know that this is important and that land should not be taken or bought against our will. They will know that there are people who are standing up to protect their coral reefs, their history, their culture, and their future. One day it will be their task to defend Guahan and they will have the spirit of their ancestors in them.

Hope is not lost. I witnessed it in my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and their peers. I witness it now, in my peers.

The harmon cliff line properties were eventually returned to original land owners. My grandmother was not alive to see her ancestral lands returned. Now, whenever I think of that land I think back to the day when our family gathered there, before it was returned. I remember how happy my grandmother was watching her grandchildren run and play on the land that she last knew as a child. I'm thankful she will not have to witness what is happening now, but I'm sure she'd be proud that we have not stopped fighting for the rights of our people.

Viewed in Wonderland: This made me cry

While we were on the Pagat hike my friends and I were talking about this. Our people are the endangered species!

Viewed in Wonderland: NO DEAL!

I was unable to attend this meeting, but thankfully this was shared on Facebook and You Tube.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Indoor hobbies can't replace the experience at Pagat.

Military to hikers: Take up indoor hobbies

Written by by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff
Friday, 18 December 2009 04:21

SINCE boonie stompers are likely to lose access to jungles and cultural sites on island, the
military is suggesting that hikers switch to indoor hobbies.

The Marine Corps Community Service has proposed various quality of life facilities such as
hobby shop, indoor physical fitness centers, indoor recreational resources such as bowling,
skating rink, youth center, theater and recreational pavilion.

These are among the alternative recreations cited by the military in the draft environmental
impact statement.

“By presenting alternate recreational options to the potential users, impacts to the recreational
resources on non-DoD lands in north Guam could be lessened,” the study cited.

A significant portion of nonmilitary acreage on the east coast of the island, in addition to the loss
of some of the island’s recreational and cultural sites, may be confiscated as a result of the
training range complex construction alternatives proposed within the draft environmental impact statement.

According to the impact study, “There are several recreational resources that the public would
lose the access to, and the use of the features if the proposed action were implemented: Guam
International Raceway, Marbo Cave, Pagat Trail and associated trails near it, cultural gathering
activities (suruhana), and off-shore fishing near Marbo Cave.”

Through the possible implementation of Training Complex Alternative A, the U.S. military would
look to acquire 921 acres of nonmilitary land located east of both Andersen South and Route
15. This alternative would also require 1.7 miles of Route 15 to be realigned. Alternative B could
possible would see the military take 1,129 acres with no realignment to Route 15.

If conducted, both of the training facility options would consist of live fire ranges under the
classifications of known distance, unknown distance, pistol, square-bay, and machine gun; in
addition to range control, range roads, range towers, and proposed special use airspace.

Additionally, the study cited that “Implementation of [Main Cantonment] Alternative 1, regardless of the Training Complex Alternatives A or B, would cause the cessation of the present activities at all the resources mentioned because the Known Distance Range Complex is proposed in that location. The loss of Guam International Raceway land and use would be an adverse impact. Therefore, [Main Cantonment] Alternative 1 would result in significant impacts to recreational resources.”

“Heightened awareness and education about environmentally sensitive areas,” will contribute
toward “minimizing deterioration of resources,” the draft study says. “The general wear and tear
of the amenities available and the conditions of the recreational resources would likely be
accelerated due to the presence of potential users.”

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Community in Wonderland: Pago na ha'ane. Today.

Welcome 2010. Your coming brought on a wonderful night. The full moon was directly above us as we enjoyed the company and view at the cultural center. The fireworks display at midnight was amazing and the laughs and love shared was appreciated greatly.

This year I will enjoy Guam more. I won't allow myself to be too busy to appreciate the sunsets and sound of the waves. I will take in my surroundings and etch it in to my soul. I won't make excuses to skip out on a day at the beach or a hike through the jungle. And I will do my best to speak up for my island home. I will join in the chorus of the voices acting on our pledge to her.

Today, the first day of the new year, we went to Pagat Caves. This area is desired as a future firing range for the military build up.

ladera cliff

liyang cave

tasi ocean

halom tano' jungle

Yayas yu'. Maipe yu'. Malangu siniente-ku.
I'm tired. I'm hot. I feel sick. :P

So much fun, but I was soooo tired at the end of the hike. I barely made it out on my own.

Oh and I tried to incorporate Chamorro in the captions. I used a couple sites for simple words and phrases. I hope they're accurate. :P