By Don Corrigan
Fresh off a story about flooding and pollution on the Upper Mississippi River, photojournalist Randall Hyman of St. Louis is using a journalism award to fund an investigation into travails of the Navajo fighting oil companies wanting a piece of their native lands.
Hyman won a coveted Society of Environmental Journalism Award to cover expenses on a project entitled, “Betrayal in the Fog of Viral War,” a story on oil and gas companies exploiting native lands in New Mexico with the help of the White House and the Interior Department.
“This Administration’s Bureau of Land Management has been trying to give away drilling rights and fracking permits on the native lands of the Navajo Nation,” Hyman explained. “It’s a little crazy now because the fracking industry is dead in the water in this economic downturn.
“The oil and gas industry has bankruptcies right and left,” said Hyman. “The fracking industry has never been profitable and it’s collapsing now with the lack of demand for oil in this pandemic economy.”
Read more of the article below.
Nevertheless, the Bureau of Land Management held public hearings this spring on permit requests on Native American lands. No Native Americans participated in the hearings because of the “fog of viral war” – they were not represented.
“Our government decided to hold the public hearings using the internet, ostensibly because of the pandemic,” said Hyman. “There is no Wi-Fi or internet receptivity on the New Mexico reservation, which meant the Native Americans did not have a voice.”
Nevertheless, the Native Americans are fighting back with the help of the National Resource Defense Council. They cite air and water pollution from drilling activities on the lands of New Mexico, and they are fighting to reverse approvals of previous drilling permits.
“It’s an interesting story,” explained Hyman. The Navajo regard these lands as sacred, because they have lived on them for hundreds of years. The Chaco Culture National Historical Park area has been in the bull’s eye of the oil and gas industry, because the oil and gas reserves are larger than Saudi Arabia’s.
“Even so, I think Native Americans are going to win this fight,” said Hyman. “Americans want clean energy and the bottom has fallen out for oil and gas. And fracking shale deposits is unprofitable, and it’s a dirty process that’s highly polluting and it’s tied to increasing earthquake activity.”
St. Louis Environmentalist
The Gateway City’s globe-trotting writer and photographer on environmental issues has logged many miles in the lower 48 and beyond. His website, www.randallhyman.com, features photo work from the ends of the Earth, including wildlife below the oceans’ surface and Northern Lights in Arctic Skies.
Hyman does get asked why he chooses to live in the landlocked Midwest when his projects take him on worldwide jaunts. He said it’s because he has family here, but there are other reasons.
“I’ve lived in South America and in Europe, but I like living in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood and being near the Ozarks,” said Hyman. “I like the fact that here are four seasons and the weather throws just about everything at you here, so you’re prepared for anything around the world.”
Hyman’s work in recent years has focused on the effects of climate change. He lectures and gives shows on his findings. A photo exhibition featured at the St. Louis Zoo entitled “Shattered Arctic” provided evidence of dramatic ice melts and was sponsored by the Academy of Science.
His most recent piece for the National Wildlife Federation Magazine covers the effects of climate change on the waters and wildlife of the Mississippi River. He also notes the constant debate and battle over whether the river should be managed for its ecological value or navigational profits.
“I know environmentalists can be a little depressed right now,” said Hyman. “There’s good cause with the Administration dismantling the EPA and tearing up the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
“I am still an eternal optimist,” said Hyman. “I think this situation has to turn around. In the end, people are going to realize that they want clean air and clean water and a green earth.”
See Hyman’s website to view his amazing collection of photographs HERE.