INTERVIEWEE: Susan Curry (SC)
INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT) and David Weisman (DW)
DATE: April 5, 2001
LOCATION: Alpine, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Robin Johnson
Please note that videos include roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” typically refers to miscellaneous off-camera conversations or background noise.
DT: My name is David Todd and I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas, it’s April 5th, 2001. And we’re at a beautiful spot west of Alpine, Texas and we have the good fortune to be visiting with Susan Curry, who is an editor locally here and has been involved in a number of environmental issues, including Sierra Blanca and nuclear waste issues, related to that, clean air and Big Bend Sierra and a recent proposal to widen and develop a road to Mexico to improve NAFTA related commerce and probably many other topics that I don’t know about but I want to take this chance to thank you—spending time with us.
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SC: Thank you for coming.
DT: Oh good. We usually start these interviews by asking people if there were early influences in their live that might of gotten them interested in the outdoors or in conservation and if so if it led them to the kind of activity they have now.
Can you tell about your experiences?
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SC: Well my—my family life, I grew up in Colorado and my dad was quite an outdoorsman and we spent a lot of time staying in my grandfather’s cabin up in Buena Vista, Colorado and just learned to love being outdoors. And—and as little children, my sister and brother and I ran around an awful lot playing urban gorilla, or I don’t know, rural gorilla, I don’t know, we just played fort and Indian camp—encampments and—and such and—and just learned to really enjoy the beauty of nature. And—and I think that was my original influence.
DT: Oh I understand that—that you grew up—you mentioned in the sort of sandwiched between rocky flats and the rocky mountain arsenal.
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SC: Yes we grew up in a suburb of Denver, called Westminster, and if you look—you know—if you look at a map one direction northeast you’re going to find the flats and the other northwest your going to find the arsenal whatever—it’s one way or the other. I can’t remember which one’s which, but we were in an area that had wheat fields all around us but—and it looked pristine but there were times that—although it was all very secretive later in life, we’ve all learned that’s there’s, you know, there are probably a lot of complications to a lot of people who lived in that area. And—and as it is now there still is, as they’re trying to figure out what to do with all the massive amounts of waste that are in both of those locations.
DT: This was a radioactive waste and chemical waste?
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SC: Yes a lot of it’s toxic waste. I’m not real sure exactly because it’s all been confidential, what’s—you know, what—what was going on in those areas—but at the time, of course, we just played in the wheat fields. We didn’t know, you know, that there might be contamination too from—from those areas, but there were large releases that were done. I—I do remember reading about in the newspapers and all as a teenager, you know, at different times there would be different problems. It’s just they were just far enough removed from us, they weren’t in our immediate back yard, but—yes—yes, growing up in Colorado, I think there were a lot of people that are a bit concerned about what was going on in locations that they didn’t know about.
DT: Did that sort of introduction to radioactive waste and—and other kinds of chemical waste give you some background and introduction to the issue you later became involved with out here in West Texas, the Sierra Blanca site?
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SC: Well I really—as, you know, as an adolescent, I did a lot of debate in high school and I—I got just a few elements of what was going on and—and learned about it there and went off to college in—in Wisconsin, started a family after getting married and continued in school with—with children under arm. And—and there was not a lot of time to take for—for the environment, for conser—for conservation issues at that time. And it really wasn’t until we moved out to Alpine that I truly got involved with the environment and—and trying to protect it more. And it does happen that—that my introduction into the—the movement so to speak was because it happened to be on my birthday that Hal Flanders came to us and said, we’re going to be going to Sierra Blanca
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to the hearings, their public hearings because they’re thinking about putting a radioactive waste dump in Sierra Blanca. And so a group of us from Alpine went and we sat and it was about a 106 degrees in a—in a school gymnasium that was stifling and flies everywhere and unusual smell and when we asked about it, we realized it was the way the wind was blowing. We were actually smelling New York sludge. So that didn’t sit real well on my birthday, but—but the fact that my birthday is August 6th and the fact that I was born in Japan, my mother is Japanese, my dad was a service man who was stationed there in occupied Japan right after World War II. It started to bring home the importance of what that day was and how insulting it was for our state to begin hearings where they were going to dump radioactive waste in a largely Hispanic community, where they basically didn’t have a voice and even if they did have a voice, it would be spoken in a different language. And—and it seemed to me that the legislators who were
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doing this did not care. In fact, it was easier for them to get it done because of those obstacles. And I just felt that there was an importance to all of the people out here in West Texas to get involved. And my husband, Tom, and I talked about it and we realized what a hardship it would be, because we didn’t know how long the hearings would last, but we knew that they were going to go on for awhile. And if one of us was to step in and say, I want to be a party to these contested hearings, that it would take a lot of dedication and it would take time away from our own business. And yet we—we made that decision that yes, we were going to do that. And I was the person mainly because of
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my tenacity and big mouth, I think, I was the one that stepped up at—to the plate and said, I want to be a party in these hearings. And that began a four year period of learning an awful lot more than I wanted to about radioactive waste. And since getting involved in radioactive waste issues, I’ve also realized that the issue for West Texans and—and our environment is far greater than that one problem, that there are many problems that are being inundated into this area mainly because of our lack of voice, our lack of ability to go to where the decisions are being made and say we really are here. There are people here. We are not expendable commodities. And—and those issues beyond radioactive
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waste have to do with the very air we—we breathe and the water we drink and—and the—and the, you know, they’re far out reaching into lots of areas, whether it’s pollution from traffic—truck traffic or whether it’s—it’s from the maquiladoras or whether it’s, from New York sludge that is polluting we need to—we need to work on all of those issues and—and to continue to let people know that we’re here.
DT: Could you maybe talk about how the lack of representation out here—the environmental injustice of the issues play out say with the radioactive waste issue, how did that develop?
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SC: I think the parties—becoming involved in the hearings—in a hearings process like this is something that it’s—it’s one of the most time consuming and energy consuming things I have ever had to become involved in. It’s not something that your regular citizen would even want to get involved in, let alone are able to, because of the—the massive numbers of hours that you have to dedicate to—to it and it’s hours of—of—stressful hours where—where you feel like you are actually working against those very same entities that are supposed to be here to protect you. And—and—and when I say that, I don’t mean to sound very—as negative as it probably comes across because in each of those entities, there are also very good people who—who are either just taking
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orders or would like to have the system changed. It’s just that the system is in motion and there’s ver—there’s oftentimes very little that you can do. But within a hearings process where you’re going through a licensing process, it’s important to realize that that process can work. And, in fact, with Sierra Blanca it did work but it was definitely an uphill battle. I think that those parties or those of us who were in it oftentimes felt not only that the ball field that we were playing on was not equal but we were trying to figure out what kind of ball we were playing. And we’d look up—and look up to the other end of the field and we would think well, is it going to be basketball? Maybe it’s going to be
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soccer. And then you realize what they’re doing is they’re rolling the ball out onto the field and you realize the—the ball is as wide as the field itself and they’re about to unleash it on you. And that—that is how oftentimes we felt it—it seemed at times that it was a David and Goliath story and yet that was, I think, what made it maybe a little bit easier at times to just throw caution to the wind and say, you know, sometimes you have to just rely on the fact that miracles can happen and just keep on going because on a day today I think it was—it was often a formidable task that you just wanted to have go away.
DT: Well considering how long the odds were, what why do you think the opponents to the Sierra waste site were successful? How did you make the miracle happen?
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SC: I think it was—I think the miracle happened because there were enough wonderful people who were working together on this. If it—you know, I think about the many grandmothers that I met, Maria Mendez from Alamore, Gloria Guerrero Addington from Sierra Blanca and the many others that are—are now nameless but who were there marching when—when we would have a candlelight vigil or, you know, we had grandmothers coming in from California with the Grandmothers For Peace to just give inspiration. And it was just a wonderful—a wonderful grouping of —and not just grandmothers but of people—of people from all over who realized that what was happening was not right and it needed to be—be fought and—and I think that that’s—whenever anything like this happens and it works, it’s because of the dedication of not just a few but many who are working together.
DT: How did you—see your opponents—how would you characterize the whether—whether it was the opponents for the waste site or—or the maybe some of the people with the waste disposal authorities or with Texas Natural Conservation Commission?
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SC: Well I think it was Mark Twain who made a comment, and I’m probably going to massacre it, but basically that it’s very difficult to find fault with whatever is bringing in your paycheck. And—and I think that bureau—bureaucracy breeds this in people. When you’re—when you’re wanting to have something done and you’re getting paid for it, it makes it a lot easier if you realize—and you if realize it’s wrong it’s easier to—to put the blinders on and not realize that it’s wrong. And—and, you know, if it’s in your own backyard, it’s a lot easier to see when—when something is—is not the way it’s supposed to be. But when—when your income depends on it, I think—you know, I guess that is the excuse that I can use for them. I would think that they should know better but, you know, people do have to make a living. And that’s—I—I don’t see them as ogres. I
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don’t see any of them as—as bad people. I just think that they’re grossly misinformed, you know, and I’m very happy in the case of Sierra Blanca that they weren’t competent enough to do their job and they did have eighteen years to do it. However, I do see a lot of worrisome issues that have come about since that and that is they’ve had since 1983 to try and do—to put nuclear waste somewhere. They haven’t come to the realization that most of us who have been fighting it have—that the issue itself isn’t that old. It is only four years older than I am and there has never been a solution to it. For them to think that they can dig a hole and put it in there and forget it about it is just, it’s just so grossly wrong because all proof has shown that that has never worked and what’s more, it is
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never going to work. Whether they have an entity that says that they are going to guarantee that for the next twenty years they’re going to be there to make sure that nothing goes wrong, that is what every area such as Sheffield, Illinois, such as—such as Hanford, Washington, such as—as Barnwell, South Carolina, they all get told the same thing. And if you talk to the citizens around those communities, what you will find is they will say we believed our government when they came and said this would be safe. We allowed this. Had we known what was going to happen, we would never have allowed this in the first place. And that’s why it’s so important for those of us out here in West Texas to say, we know from history it’s a very short history but we can see, from
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the history that nothing has worked. So why would you have us believe that this one is going to work? Now if you were truthful with us and said, we need to have a place that is going to be a sacrifice zone and we’ve picked you, that is more like what they should be telling us, but that is not the case because they probably are as in denial as well on it—on the issue.
DT: How did you educate yourself about what I think was a sixty thousand page proposal to site this waste and what I think is in some ways a very technical argument?
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SC: It was—it was quite a challenge and—and I know that there—there were times that there would be, you know, we had many meetings where we would each tackle a volume, there were twenty-six volumes that were between three and three and a half inches thick each. I think that whoever told you sixty was being very gracious. I believe it was seventy-eight thousand pages. A lot of it obviously could not be read. There was no way that in the—the period of time that it was going to be that we needed to get caught up with it, we couldn’t but we did take the most important issues, the environmental issues, the—the aquifer water issues. The very fact that it was in disagreement with the La Paz
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Agreement, those were points that we investigated and wherever we could, we then tried to get people involved. And one of the blessings was we had leadership in Mexico whereas we didn’t have it here. We had leadership in Mexico who looked at what was presented to them in these massive volumes and realized that it was not a good issue for the border. And—and I do believe that that was one of the key points that our government chose not to put the license there. And that was because they would have been stepping on—on another nation’s toes. And—and I—I’m very, very thankful to the Mexican officials who came and spoke in Washington with us and who spoke in Austin with us and spoke in Sierra Blanca with us. I was very saddened that they were not able to get party status, but even without it, they were instrumental and they went out of their way many times to—to be of good assistance.
DT: Do—do you think there is any sort of a reason they chose this part of Texas to dispose of the waste, after you had read the eighty-seven thousand pages, what do you think was the reason that stood out in your mind?
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SC: Well I don’t think that it was well reasoned let’s put it that way. I believe that—that the benefits that—by—by isolating it somewhere, are far less than what the problems that are going to be created by that so-called solution. And—of course, the primary reason that they used is because their—they need to have an area that has twenty-six inches of rain or less, which is really—not—scientifically I think that that should be challenged, mainly because it doesn’t really matter whether it’s in a dry, arid climate, or if—I—I imagine that if they put it underground in a wet area, that would—you know, there might be some serious problems with that, but what they do need to look at is they need to
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contain it as close to the areas that it’s actually produced. If it’s a nuclear reactor that is creating the waste, they ought to cap that waste there with the reactor when they close it down instead of breaking it apart, shipping it when—when it’s highly toxic and—and deadly emitting, not just—not just because of the accidents and—and the dangers just in transportation of it, but because when it gets to the ultimate end that’s—it’s never been proven that an underground solution is going to work anywhere. I mean, we’ve got them in the deserts and they—they leak just as much as those in—in humid areas. So—so the reasoning that—that our officials are using, I think should be challenged. The other thing is they use the fact that there is a compact, a regional compact, with Maine and Vermont that Texas has been—been put into, which when you go to Vermont and speak to the people, and they cry and tell you in a public hearing that they are so very sorry. Had they
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known what environmental justice they had done to the people of West Texas, they would of fought it so that their leaders would not have put the compact into effect. You know that there’s something wrong in the state of Denmark at that point. The compact that—that we are in which is supposed to be a regional compact, has twenty-four hundred miles stretched in between us. That right there is a major flaw but if you looked at the compact system itself, you realize the whole entire situation is flawed. We’ve been trying to put this into effect, out of the ten compacts that there are now, there are none that have opened up a site. What we’re looking at is the fact that whatever site gets opened first, will be the first and probably only, it will become a sacrifice though. And that is what we’re fighting.
DT: Do you think the site was chosen for more political reasons than for geo-technical reasons than for geotechnical reasons?
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SC: Well if you look at how the sites, in general—the—it—Sierra Blanca was not the first site. It will not be the last site. There have been others. There was one in Fort Hancock, there was one in Dell City, there was actually one in East Texas, but—but it was in the precinct of a very well known politico who axed that one immediately. It actually probably would have been the best site, because it is sort of midway between the two major reactors that will give ninety-seven percent of the compact waste from Texas, the Texas waste—by—by the—not necessarily by volume but by the amount of radioactive isotopes in it. And—and that is one of the other things that we hear from our
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leadership is that we have to have this is because of all of the hundreds of places all over Texas that have this waste, well when you realize that most of it is medical waste and it is very true that if you take the number of spots and put them together you’re—there are many spots that have radioactive waste that have very short lived isotopes where maybe after a hundred and eighty days, it could actually be put into a landfill but it’s not that that we are so concerned about. It’s the ninety-seven percent not by volume but by the amount of radiation that we have to—to be dealing with and the danger of that. And that is—is where West Texas is not the solution to it. We do not create it here. It should not be shipped to us because we’re at that part of the neighborhood on that back line, the—the neighbor’s back fence line. That’s what so often happens and when you get to the border, well it ends up being the border that—that nimbi attitude stops at and that is wrong.
DT: I was wondering if you could talk a little about your role as being a leader and taking a party status for trying to find Sierra Blanca and what sort of position that puts you in, I understand one woman came up to you once and said “habla por me”.
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SC: Yes, actually it was—it was written up in an article in—in a magazine, and it was interesting because it actually took two instances and put them together, the “habla por me”, speak for me, was actually a neighbor. When I went to pick up one of the other folks who was driving the waste route with me, Gary Oliver, his neighbor next door came out and—and gave us a little package of stuff for us to nibble on and—and said to us, “habla por me”, speak for me too. And—and gave us big hugs as we went off. And I think that was the neighbor who watched all his many cats for him. And then there were several times where I would be either in the grocery store or the post office and people who had read editorials that we had—that I had written in the papers and knew that we were getting ready to go, would come up and they would actually give me their change out of, you know, they would open up their purse and pull out any money that they had and put in my hands and—and just give—give me a hug and say this is for your trip. And so
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it’s just—it was just such a heartwarming thing. I knew that the citizens themselves felt very strongly about the fact that I was doing this. And it was one of those things that once you get involved in doing that and you don’t want to give up because you realize there are people who are—who are rooting for you back there. So—so that was one of the things and I was really especially surprised after the fact when the Chamber of Commerce actually awarded me with their Citizen of the Year after the—the Sierra Blanca hearings were over. And that was—that was quite a humbling experience.
DT: Tell me about that I understand that—that both of you and Gary Oliver got recognized by the local Chamber of Commerce
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SC: Yes, yes. Marfa did the same.
DT: I think one of the other members who’s very involved in the fight, Bill Addington, had a very different experience in his home town. Can you explain the difference, in one town you’re awarded…
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SC: I think maybe that the distance, because from a perspective of Brewster County or Presidio County we weren’t the home county. We weren’t living in the community itself and I must say that Bill has been outspoken for many, many years on this and on the sludge that’s being dumped in Sierra Blanca too. It’s sixty-seven percent Hispanic. When you realize that that is the reason that area has been targeted—Bill and his mother have been fighting on the environmental front for quite awhile. There are people in those communities though that directly are benefited by this. I mean you can take a concrete concession, for instance. If you can imagine, you know, what’s—if they’re going to need to—to cap or—or—or encase this, somebody is going to get extremely wealthy on it. There are people in the community who—who actually wanted to have the site be there because economically it would be to their benefit. So whenever a situation like this happens, you’re going to see a divided community. And that is what I have a feeling happened in Sierra Blanca and that—and while I know Bill has many, many supporters there he probably has as many opponents there too.
DT: Lets talk about another issue…
DW: The person who might of said “habla por me” we’ve also heard that people who fight this kind of fight face things like death threats and intimidation towards their businesses and so forth. And I was wondering if you have had to hold up under any kind of that pressure as well.
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SC: Well I—I think—I never have taken a threat directly except not—not in the Sierra Blanca issue. I’ve been told I was as tenacious as a Pit Bull which I took as a high compliment. I was told that I probably didn’t understand because I didn’t have a scientific mind. It was a good time to be able to retort that, you know, it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to realize that burying it in the ground isn’t going to work when it hasn’t worked six times. So—so those yes, you do have to take a bit of it. I’ve been very fortunate in that Brewster County and the citizens here have been as op—as opposed to it as I have. So I don’t, you know, I don’t have to take that as much as others who I know have had to deal with it. I know Bill was directly at issue with people directly at times. And that’s—that’s a very difficult position to get into when you’re fighting it because it is very emotional and—and oftentimes you have to step back and—and try get your wits about you so that you don’t—you don’t step over the line with something that—that you’re going to regret later on because you do have to stay within the system to have to the system be able to work. Let’s see.
DT: Do you still have faith in the system despite the difficulty of wading through all the paper and—and sitting through the hearings?
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SC: Well my most recent ven—venture into trying to make a difference was with the TNRCC, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, which was the licensing party for the Sierra Blanca site and for any subsequent site. And that—that commission itself was in dire need of reform. And it came up for (?) review with the legislature this year. And in that period, I did go and testify. And while I feel like there were many, many things that should have been done, I do realize there were a number of good key points that were made to try to—to protect citizens’ rights. And I think that those are those things that we need to keep fighting for is—is the right for citizens to be heard.
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And I do fear that with the new way—the direction that the radioactive waste issue is going now, by privatizing it and a by allowing DOE waste in, the whole entire state of Texas is going to be in for a huge surprise when they realize what their legislature is about to do. If it happens, we will become a national waste dump, I have no doubt about that. I have no doubt that there will people fighting it all the way along the line. And I hope that it does not happen and—and I—and I do know that the one point that—that most environmentalists continue to try to stress is that we want to tell our leadership that the environmental movement is not going to go away. We are always going to be here and if it’s not us here at the front of the line with the flag, there will be somebody who picks it up when we stagger away and there will be somebody else there. And that, I think, is the key point that we want to, as environmentalists, we want to stress to those who are—are there in Austin or there in Washington making decisions about a place that is very far away from them and that they would like to think is totally uninhabited.
DT: Speaking of being involved in these issues for a long time and wondering how long you can bear up under the pressure of trying to answer for all these issues that might come across, do you ever feel like burnout is an option or a problem for you?
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SC: Burnout has been and will probably continue to be a problem for not just me but for anybody who’s—who becomes active in environmental issues or any issue that you feel just—just very strong about, I think you can burn out. And—and the blessings of that in the environmental movement is everybody who’s in it understands that and allows you the grace to take time off. And—and there are places I know—I know environmentalists who’ve been at it much longer than me and to see them as—as the inspiration they are, it’s great. But yes, I do—do think you need to take time off for good behavior. And if you’re going to work hard, you need to play hard. And that’s, you know, one of the things I think we try to balance in—in the work that we do.
DT: There are a couple of other of pieces of work I wanted to talk to you about, one is I understand you have been involved in air quality issues here, in addition to the radioactive waste work you have done, tell us about that and the efforts to get Big Bend Sierra started.
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SC: Okay. Well the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club was started, I guess, it was 1996, I want to say. It might have been a little bit earlier and Tom and I were at the first meetings and have been involved in it for—since its in—inception and Fran Sage, Fran and Jim Sage have been the front runners with this—with this organization that has just really been one of the leaders in the environmental out here. And they have taken on many issues, the primary one—I think the reason so many people got involved in the Sierra Club at that time was because it was an issue that was so very visible in that the clear skies that we were having in the summer we were realizing, wait a minute, maybe there is something to this—this carbon one and two is going to cause pollution. Of
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course, the studies that have been done, although they haven’t been completed and—and this is one the things that we get very frustrated by is that, you know, the—those agencies that are supposed to be there to protect us, start with their bureaucracy and then it continues on and the sa—very same problems still exist and they are ongoing while—while there are no solutions to them and—and no reasons for them. And so, you know, those are issues that we are needing to work on. But I think that the air quality was what brought us all together and then when we started realizing there was much more than just that, it—it became a full fledged movement. And from there, we’ve had a spin off organization because we realized that not everybody had the same out—especially out in West Texas, had the same feel for the Sierra Club as—as those of us who are members. And there—there are those that might get involved in air quality issues if they weren’t directly related to the Sierra Club. And actually there were people who were not in the
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Sierra Club who formed another organization which is a bi-national organization. It’s the bi-national Big Bend Chihuahuan Desert Clean Air Alliance. And one of the things, I was on the steering committee for this organization too and we realized that the successes in Mexico in the air and environmental issues always started out by working with the children. And so we felt like educating our children and having them learn that cultural diversity is really good and that working with children across the border together and—and building partnerships and coalitions especially at a younger age, would probably be a good way of starting something that would be solid. And so we’ve been working in that area with—with this new clean air alliance.
DT: I think you also mentioned speaking of the bi-national aspect of air quality that environmentalists in this area have become concerned about NAFTA and road development, can you talk a little about that?
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SC: Well you know…
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SC: …yes this is—a movement by industry to really push the NAFTA trade through this area. Of course, what—the reason it is—it is being brought up is because Mexico is trying to build its infrastructure to bring goods up through the United States. We already have areas where they are directed through to—through across the border in El Paso and in Del Rio, or I’m sorry in Laredo. And Del Rio is—is also an entry spot as well as Presidio. And so—and those are much lesser spots. So what we’re looking at is different groups in communities further North such as in San Angelo and in Midland, Odessa, who like to see their areas get these goods. And so they’re promoting different highways. So there’s the ports to planes highway system, there’s the La Entrada el Pacifico which is—is being spearheaded by an organization called MOTRAN. I—I thought it was amusing
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that before they—they knew their Spanish very well, it’s—it’s the Midland Odessa transportation alliance and they were calling themselves the Mota highway at first which had a lot of the Hispanic folks just laughing an awful lot because indeed, as the—you could ask the border patrol, they would say yes indeed that is because Mota is the slang for marijuana in—in—on the Mexican side. So I—I thought that was interesting that they would call themselves the Mota Highway. They did change to Motran when they realized their—their error. So I do know that, you know, that mar—things do change when error is found. And so perhaps that is one of those guiding lights that I use is things can change and they can change and they, you know, they can change for the better. And I think the environmental movement is continuing to grow and it’s becoming younger and younger. When you look at the green party you can see that.
DT: Maybe you can touch on the Green Party and its start out here.
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SC: Well we are very young as a party and—and not wholly congealed into a strong unit yet but—but a lot of very willful—willful personalities involved. And we started out last August. We all met at the swimming pool because we figured what better way to bring people out in the middle of August than to have a pool party. So we—we rented the city pool and everybody brought food. And boy it was—it was—it was great because we had about a hundred people show up and it was the birth of a party. And from that, we—we moved into really working on the presidential campaign, realizing that eventually for our success to go, we would probably need to look at local and regional party positions too but at this point, we really haven’t had anybody who has been able to stop everything else that they’re doing to—to take on politics as—as their—their venture. And—and I quite frankly don’t know anybody who is—is willing to step up to the plate on that one, because it’s—it’s—it’s a hard one and—and we’re—we’re still, you know, looking at different people and—and hoping that we can persuade them to—to step up there and be the punching bag for awhile.
DT: Besides the swimming pool and the nice food you had in August, what do you think drew people to the Green Party? What sort of dissatisfaction with the other party options?
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SC: Well, you know, it’s—I had been a Yellow Dog Democrat till last August. So for me to change parties, it was almost painful. It was very difficult for me to—to be able to even say, I belong to the Green Party. It has become less so after the presidential election because I—I feel that what happened was the Democrats weren’t listening to the people and—and until they do they’re not going to get their—their—the reason why their candidate didn’t win wasn’t because of the Green Party spoiling it. It was because they didn’t meet the needs of the people. And I do believe the Green Party does and that’s why I—I think while anything has to start small, I think the roots are pretty strong with the Green Party, with their ten points. They have a—a—a ten point system of—or a ten point, what do you call it, their—their missions statements, their platform, is one that I think a lot of people, when they sit and look at those, they go yes, yes of course. Why didn’t I think—of course, yes, yes, yes. And then—then they eventually from that,
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realize that that is the party that stands for what they want and that is why I believe the Green Party is—is going to be able to make it, that and—and being able to get qualified candidates that—that will run and put—put their own personal satisfactions and—and ways of life maybe to a back burner so that they can follow a policy for a party and be there in the leadership of it. And—and it is a very difficult thing for somebody to—to come up and do.
DT: Tell me, you have told us about radioactive waste and air quality and road development I was wondering if among these or other things you may have in mind, which do you think are the most serious environmental problems we’re facing?
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SC: I think locally, our situation is we’ve got to have clean air and clean water. I mean, just—so all of them kind of roll in together because when you look at—at the transportation issue, it is going to pollute our air with the diesel fumes but all of the stuff that then becomes run off that goes into discharge and all. It becomes a problem for our water. It’s the same way with—with all the issues. They’re all interrelated with each other but keeping standards so that our health and our—our safety and that of our children is not—not hurt, that’s I think where the primary emphasis needs to be. And it may be that one week it is going to be carbon one and two that we’re going to have to put our emphasis on but it may be in the next month we’re going to be having to deal with what the legislature is going to do to us if they allow DOE waste to come to West Texas. So it’s—it’s really, you know, when you look at the big picture, you can see it by clean air, clean water but on a day-to-day basis, it’s individual issues that we’re going to have to tackle on individual basis.
DT: You say that in the big picture, it’s an effort to protect the health of our children, grandchildren.
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DT: What sort of advice would you give to children and grandchildren to help them protect themselves?
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SC: Well I don’t know, I think—I think it’s one of those things that all citizens have to do, if—if it’s the teachers in the schools or the parents or grandparents, I know this last summer when I went and spoke at hearings, the first hearings on the TNRCC, I—I was—I actually went to visit my—my mother in Alabama and I took my granddaughter with me. So we took a road trip and then we ended up in Austin and we met Tom and we, at that time, we stayed for the hearings. And after the first day, we—there were twenty hours of hearings, by the way, over a three day period. And my granddaughter is eight years old. And after the first day of sitting there, she was actually reading A Wrinkle in Time, which I thought was very appropriate while—while she was sitting and listening to the politicals go on. And after the first day, she asked Me Ma, would it be okay if—would they let me speak? And I said, let’s sign you up. And so she did. She signed up and she walked around out in the halls practicing what she had to say and we were actually I think there may have been two or three speakers after us, but we were there at the end of a very long third day at ten thirty at night and they called those of us from Brewster and Presidio County up. And Gary Oliver, Tom and my granddaughter and I
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got up. And she was the one that got written up in the national news with Gallery Watch because of what she said. Her statement was very simple and basically she sat there and said, you know, grownups put you here to be our leaders and our leaders should be here to listen to what the people say and do what the people ask them to do. And I know that when I grow up and I’m able to vote, I’m going to vote for people, for—for leaders who actually listen to the people. And she got an ovation and even the—the chair of that committee was actually clapping. And she did get an accommodation from one of the senators who was in that hearing and a very nice letter stating how—how, you know, what
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she said made so much sense. And I think that that’s what we need to do, is to teach our children from a very young age that it is nobody’s responsibility but their own to take care of—of what is happening. And that if we can teach them that collectively their voice is important, but collectively with other voices saying the same thing, we can make change. I think that’s what we have to do.
DT: One last question, we often ask people if there is a favorite spot outdoors that keeps them focused and encouraged to work on these environmental issues.
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SC: Oh yes, there are. It’s hard to put just one spot. I think the south rim of the Chisos mountains is pretty special.
DT: Could you describe that?
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SC: Well it’s—the first time I went with Tom, I ended up putting way more in my backpack than I needed to have. Tom kept saying you’re not going to need that, don’t take that, oh well we may need this extra can of tomato juice. And so I had much more than I really should of carried on my back but the experience is definitely worth it. It’s a—a hike of—of, oh, almost a full day with a backpack and then the site itself, you’re looking out over a horizon that encompasses two nations. And it’s just truly one of those wonderful sites and to wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise is pretty spectacular or to be there and to watch a storm come in is pretty good. Sunsets aren’t bad either. It’s definitely worth putting the pack on your back and—and stretching out those knees so
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that you, you know, you can do it. I mean, as I get older and being a grandmother, I—I don’t want that to go. We’re going to need to take another trip before too long so I can say I can still do it but that is one of my special places. And I guess the other is sitting in the evenings on our stretch of land out on the side of the mountain over there and realizing we’re going to have another—another house that we’ve built by hand and we watch the sunset and watch the deer watch us. And those are the reasons why we do this and—and that’s, you know, that is what rejuvenates you too to make you be able to do it more.
DT: Continue on. Thanks very much. Okay. Great
[End of reel #2156]
[End of interview with Susan Curry]