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Why Is Neighborhood-Based Discrimination Still Acceptable?

Neighborhood-based discrimination seems to be the socially acceptable means to exercise our unconscious and conscious biases.

With the recent anniversary of the March on Washington, we're reminded that the civil rights era fought racial injustice that was codified into law. White Americans carried undeniable privileges that blacks and other ethnic groups did not share. Today, however, the battle lines can be more easily drawn on a map than on a person skin. According to a series of health equity reports generated by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, place-based discrimination may replace race as the primary unit of analysis in our examinations of social progress.

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The Solar Trailer That Could: Energy Innovation Inside Navajo Nation

In Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, one young man leads the Navajo Nation into the energy game with a mobile solar plant.



It’s early afternoon and Brett Isaac, a barrel-chested 27-year-old whose soft-spokenness gives the impression of a gentle giant, is explaining the purpose of the solar trailer hitched to the back of his truck.
“One thing we never think about is that each of us produces energy,” Isaac, renewable energy Project Manager for the Shonto Community Development Corporation in Navajo Nation, tells a group of adolescent summer campers gathered against a middle school wall. “We produce heat and we produce activity. There’s no reason why we couldn’t produce energy in our own homes.”
We’re in Zuni, a small town within the Zuni Pueblo reservation just south of Gallup in Western New Mexico. As part of a weeklong Zuni Enrichment Project Summer Camp, the elementary and middle schoolers will be camping on a remote ranch for a few days, during which time the solar trailer will be their only source of electricity. Meant to promote a healthy lifestyle and provide valuable education for Zuni youth who otherwise would lack access or means to attend summer camp, the time on the ranch will primarily be used to familiarize them with Zuni traditions. The Zuni, a Pueblo peoples, have lived in their present location along the Zuni River for over 3,000 years. Currently they number around 10,000—the vast majority live on the reservation.
“I know, coming from a Navajo community, that we all live in spread-out areas,” Isaac continues, his brow glistening in the mid-day sun. “It’s hard to put lines to every single house. This provides that option for people to live and practice in traditional ways. They can live far away from everyone else, herd their sheep, ride their horses and still go home and be able to have lighting.”
The kids have started to drift off and Lea Lewis, a program staff member, interjects to regain their attention.
“Have you ever heard your mom say, ‘Turn that thing off. It's using all the electricity. What’s the matter with you?’” The wilting children stiffen up as Lewis continues. “I hope that when you grow up you’ll have a solar system like this because is doesn’t cost you any money.”
The Navajo and other Native American tribes in the Southwest have been getting by for a long time by using less energy and paying more for it—but not for want of resources. Even though the biggest coal-powered generating station in the Southwest, the Navajo Generating Station, is located on Navajo land, the power goes either to Las Vegas or to Arizona’s metropolitan areas. Many of those living in the vicinity of the NGS or other Navajo power plants, often employees of the plants, don’t have power themselves, and when they do, it’s exorbitantly priced because of transmission and utility fees—think peak energy price multipliers of up to 40 times.
In response to Lewis’ reminder to the children that electricity is costly, I overhear a Zuni staff member talking about her recent $300 monthly electricity bill (average reservation households use far less electricity than other American households).
Aside from being blessed with valuable energy resources under the ground they’ve called home for centuries, the Navajo also have an exceptionally abundant energy source shining down on them—they get a lot of sun. If exploited correctly, this moment could represent a golden opportunity for people who have been subjected to a long history of resource exploitation. Minerals like coal and uranium were notoriously taken from Navajo land by outside mining companies in the second half of the 20th century without any account for the resulting environmental or archeological damage.

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Up In Smoke: Electric Cigarettes, Bark Beetles, and New Mexico's Environmental Challenges

With wildfires, water shortages and deforestation plaguing the state, New Mexico might want to look into that "Land of Enchantment" motto.


It’s easy to see why Eastern New Mexico is referred to as “Little Texas.” The same proliferation of pump jacks dot the landscape here as it does in its neighboring state and gas is cheaper than anywhere in the country outside the greater Texas region. After five days in Odessa, West Texas I’m anxious to cover some new ground, and I can’t seem to stop tinkering with the AC or scrolling through music until I settle into the flat, shrubby southeastern expanse of the "Land of Enchantment."
Just outside of Roswell, a deep, lush valley cuts west and into the picturesque mountain town of Ruidoso before tumbling back over the peaks into a distilled vision of the Southwest. I finally opt for the new Walkmen album and relinquish the AC in favor of the cool breeze coming through the windows.
The recent scars of the Little Bear Wildfire are the only things complicating my desire to zone out to the sound of Hamilton Leithhauser’s warbling voice. One of the most destructive wildfires in New Mexico’s history, it burned 44,000 acres and destroyed 254 structures, the most of any one fire in the state’s history. Heading into Socorro, I pass over the now less-than-formidable Rio Grande, referred to by my father even in rainy years as the “Rio Pathetic.” Currently dammed to a halt upstream, this nearly 2,000-mile river defining most of the Texas-Mexico border is overtaxed by demographic and precipitation upsurges in the region.
I’ve arranged for an interview at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, a renowned birder’s paradise and bird migration hub. I pull into a nearly empty visitor’s center and a park volunteer swooning over his recent sighting of a rare roseate spoonbill entertains me as I wait for Gina Dello Russo, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ecologist.

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Photography: The Value of a Dollar

A new photo series "The Value of a Dollar" showcases a dollar's worth of various foods.

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