Something to be told or talked about

Submitted by 

Billy Allen


Jegos 2021 – might be time to “think outside the box.” When jegos/dust storm walked over, knocking out vepgi/electricity, it got too hot to stay inside the home boxes. Some O’odham and Piipaash went to bigger box service centers or hotels for relief. Some slept “al fresco,” as I fondly—somewhat—recall doing decades ago.


Still, even with all this summer’s rain, climate change and a 20+ year drought, forced Central Arizona Project cut-backs to Pinal farmers. Maybe there will be some retro-empathy for what our hahajuñ went through when the akimel flow was taken from them.


 How to tackle climate change? I am no expert I just throw stuff out there now and then. I have written about this before, but thinking outside the box – maybe going back to basics could help.


What are the basics of our desert, besides being hot and little water? While the saguaro cactus comes to mind, the prickly pear (i:bhai) has possibilities to explore. Plastic is a culprit in climate change. Plastic production requires a lot of oil that emits greenhouse gases, further warming our Earth. A research team in Mexico has developed a “bio-plastic” made with prickly pear cactus.  What if we had fields of prickly pear growing on our lands? 


There’s debate about whether cow flatulence (polite way of saying cow farts) contributes to global warming, but numerous scientific studies show cattle contribute to global warming.  Their feed also requires a lot of water. 


Extreme drought has turned some Sonoran desert cattle ranches into boneyards. Cattle are not Sonoran desert natives, Huhukam never ate beef. For the most part, they were “plant” eaters: corn, beans, squash, and seasonal desert plants. But since a lot of O’otham now regard beef chili stew as part of “our” culture, change won’t come easily.


Much of community acreage is true desert. The prickly pear could be a dependable resource on those lands.   If prickly pear became a bigger part of O’otham/Piipaash diet, we might get healthier. Studies show it helps reduce blood sugar. And “those jujkam” even came up with a way to make “vegan leather” from prickly pear. If beef consumption did go down, the fashion industry could go green with prickly pear leather instead of cow hide. 


Climate change is threatening forests, especially rainforest rubber trees. I don’t know if our Huhukam ancestors would have jumped on the Phoenix Suns bandwagon, but a lot of sweat went into building their wooden basketball courts. If it’s hard for readers to imagine a world without chile stew in plastic bowls, imagine a world without rubber. 


The Flintstones come to mind.  The Hohokam played a game with a ball coated with guayule to give it some bounce. Guayule is a desert plant with an interesting recent history. In 1910 about half of the rubber imported to the USA came from Mexican guayule plants. Guayule cultivation was on the rise, and investment stock rose quite a bit in the 1920s.


Industry giants like Firestone, Ford, Edison, and Rockefeller were on the guayule bandwagon, but the Great Depression stalled further development. During WWII, rubber imports from SE Asia were cut off and so the government turned to guayule as a substitute.


After the war we returned to an attitude of over consumption. Conservation much less rubber alternatives was not on any one’s radar. However in 1988, Sacaton and the farms grew about 400 acres under a Navy-sponsored program, GRIC was guayule central. Lately Bridgestone and Cooper tire companies once again are working with guayule. Growing prickly pear and guayule could be big long-range endeavors involving the community.


We might wonder, what can hemako/one O’otham or Piipaash do? Back to basics: reduce waste—products and energy.  Consumerism adds unnecessary fossil fuel burning, makes more garbage, and harms our himdag/way of life. (It bugs me to see people sitting in cars running the AC while eating, recharging a phone, or waiting while another is shopping.


This happens on the rez now.) Unplug some of your electric devices when not in actual use. “Standby electricity” or vampire electricity wastes power, so more power has to generated, using more fuel to cause more global warming. Think: Do I really need that cold sugary drink in that plastic cup/bottle, eat two of everything, or buy that new whatever when the old one still works?


It is good to see tribal government limit flying to conferences at swanky hotels. Zoom worked, why not a partial continuance? Stipends for GRIC employees to use vanpools –including non-members who are on the same warming planet—would cut down on the traffic in and out of the community.


Today’s world is full of choices. Climate change will have a greater effect on our children and grandchildren. You might joke about it, think/say that keli “doesn’t know what he’s writin’ about,” or use this page for kindling. Think outside of the “me/you” box. 


Information was taken from Scientist In Mexico Creates Biodegradable Plastic From Prickly Pear Cactus ; https://desserto.com.mx/; https://azbigmedia.com/business/environment/guayule-drive-arizonas-economy/ and https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-10-06-ve-4368-story.html