Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Guam responded to the U.S. request to 'Please print clearly'

The only thing worth reading in the EIS are the letters and comments from individuals. Decades from now, when the era of flying saucers and teleporting (as in 'Beam me up, Scotty') arrives and the military's idea of "force projection" has moved off planet and from Guam, people will still read these letters to discover what the island thought at this turn in its history.

The EIS isn't a planning document; it's a emotional trigger. The emotional response can appear in almost any issue affected by the buildup.

A good number of people, for instance, cited a fear of crime from this concentration of troops and the off-island populations arriving to support them. (There were 274 letters out of 10,000 on this topic, says EIS comment summary in Vol. 10).

The EIS seeks to mitigate risks, but each risk it addresses compounds fear that the buildup brings too many threats. The mega-risk are geo-political: "Guam’s higher military profile could increase its potential as an American target for terrorists and adversaries during a possible conflict," wrote the Congressional Research Service this year. The EIS answers that concern with an entire chapter that considers a missile defense system for Guam.

The military isn't taking Guam to a prosperous future, it's taking the island back in time, specifically to the Cold War era of the 1950s-1960s when elementary school students were trained to 'duck and cover' and react like turtles in the event of a Soviet attack.

There was a turtle by the name of Bert

and Bert the turtle was very alert; when danger threatened him he never got hurt ...

One Guam, Green Guam or Isle of Fear. Take your pick. Guam is being turned into the new century version of Dr. Strangelove, with missile defenses and sirens against the unknown enemy. A diorama of the planet's future.
If the vision for Guam is one of increasing external and internal threats, what then best describes this world? For an answer, we have this EIS letter by a Guam high school student.* It immediately disarms the reader into believing one thing, and then quickly moves to its real point. It’s the work of a talented writer.
We the people of Guam can benefit from the military build-up. From the jobs, new stores opening, and roads being paved. But the destruction from the build-up will soon eat our island, no more scenic views, beautiful trees, the sky will soon turn to black clouds, we will no longer have oxygen, we will no longer be able to access the ancient Chamorro sites, people’s lands homes, land will be taken away, memories of their childhood, years of hard work maintaining their lives on their lands. We will soon be an island known for being covered with buildings, animal wildlife will fade-away, traffic will only get worse. Crimes will rise drastically. There’s nothing more I can say, but we’ll know when the military is here, their destruction will begin. -- Vol. 10, Individuals Part 11, Page 786
Here is the EIS response to the letter’s most sweeping point (EIS comment reference: I-1929-003): “Potential air quality impacts due to the proposed action are considered to be less than significant. The sky will not turn to black clouds, nor will oxygen be depleted as a result of the military build-up.”
A literal response to black clouds and oxygen depletion are exploding missiles, but in the student's essay the arrival of black clouds is about disappearance and loss. It reminds of this beautiful post by Drea of Waiting for Wonderland about the legend of a very big fish that was eating the island and what the women of Guam did to save it.
The next EIS letter is simply incredible. Here is the whole of it:
I feel like the ko ko bird, who, after thousands of years, lost its ability to fly because there no predators for them in Guam. Natural selection does that to us sometimes, clips our wings even though we may need them in case of invasion centuries later
Thousands of brown wing bodies with underbelly white stripes moves as flashes across the beds of forests, and their shallow nests were built into the ground. Think of open mouths and morning sunlight.
I know two things about Guam. One is that right after World War II the U.S. “accidentally” let the brown tree snake into a cargo ship on its way to Guam. Since the ko ko couldn’t fly they were devoured – nests, chick, origin and all.
The other things I know about Guam is that Spain imported carabao, a species of water buffalo, in the seventeenth century. They have been a national symbol and the herds were plentiful. They are used to pull carabao boats, are ridden in festivals and are silent creatures unless startled. Since they dwindled the U.S. Naval base came to the rescue and offered a preservation “protected” by the military but really ended up serving as a field of extermination. They were contaminating the water supply on the U.S. occupied Naval Base which doesn’t belong where it is to begin with.
I feel like the ko ko bird. My nest was on the ground. I was a flash in the forest. I took to the water. You came in accidentally and saw my natural habitat as a feast, now the nest is decimated and you’re perched in the highest tree looking out over a land you know nothing about but claim with pride – Volume 10, Individuals Part 1. Page 32.
This following letter makes more expansive detailed points about the buildup, but it’s introduction is stirring. The last line is near the end of the letter.
Whenever I got to the beach and take my dog for a walk I cannot help but to admire the beauty that lies right in front of my eyes. The beautiful soft white sand that glimmers when the rays of the sun shines down on them, the magnificent horizon that seems like it never ends and the playful waves that say hi to me whenever I come around. These wonderful creations make me feel like I am living in a paradise. A paradise that the next generation would not be able to see anymore if I let the military buildup take everything away to the place I called my home. … the military buildup is not the hope the island has been waiting for. -- Vol. 10, Individuals Part II, Page 1229.
End Notes:
* Even though these comments are part of a published public record, I left the names out to keep from sending the authors into the search engines. That may be an easily fixed mistake. But because this material is difficult to locate, something ought to be done to improve access to the hundreds of other letters that deserve a wide audience. References at the end of each letter should make it easy to see the original.

These letters were typed from the pdfs, so any errors are mine.

To find PDF files, see Guam EIS Final Documents. Click on Vol. 10 and individual sections will appear. PDFs are large, more than 100MBs each and it's why I didn't link to them directly.

Photo at the top of the page is from: Vol 10, Part 3, Page 124. It is a work by Anonymous, titled: "Please Print Clearly."

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