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A third of the Navajo Nation is now covered with sand dunes — the result of climate change…Roads, corrals, entire homes have been buried in sand, creating what President Obama calls “climate change refugees.”
Thirty-foot-tall sand dunes the color of flower pots flank the road to the now dry Tolani Lake on the Navajo Nation.
At one time, streams flooded the road. Today it’s sand. The community has frequently bulldoze the dunes, but they creep back as much as 40 feet a year.
“It’s a losing battle, unfortunately,” said Margaret Hiza Redsteer, a research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “They have to plow the road quite frequently to keep the road open so they can get in and out to their house.”…
Hiza Redsteer said the Navajo are not simply victims of something happening hundreds of miles away. Many Navajos work at the largest coal-fired power plant in the West, on the reservation itself. The EPA said such power plants are responsible for almost 30 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change.
When you add up sand, heat, water scarcity and dust storms you can see from space, you start to hear terms like “uninhabitable.” That’s the word Carletta Chief used to describe parts of the Navajo Nation. She’s a member of the tribe and an assistant professor at the University of Arizona…
For the Navajo, the land where you are born is sacred. And generations ago the federal government allotted each family a parcel, a permanent homeland.
“And even to move from one community to the next is nearly impossible because your ancestral land is where your family has lived for many, many years,” Carletta Chief said.
Navajo ties to nature are beyond the experience of most Anglos. When the spirit voices of your ancestors call to you in high desert winds, it’s tough and frustrating to try to grow crops with no water where those same ancestors survived for centuries.