Dune Lankard, a native fisherman turned environmental activist the day the Exxon Valdez sank in Prince William Sound, speaks in Halifax, NS on Saturday, Oct. 23. See details at end of story.
Dune Lankard, a member of the Eyak native band in Alaska, grew up in the family commercial fishing business. Committed to this way of life, as a young man he bought more licenses and bigger boats. Then one day in March 1989 the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to leak oil in Prince William Sound.
This sparked a quick change in Lankard. Today he is a high-profile activist promoting sustainable economies and native cultures around the world.
“It was flat calm for three days and we prayed for the best,” he remembers, “but no responders arrived.” Then the weather changed. The oil spill moved rapidly; eventually 30 million gallons of oil covered 3,500 miles of jagged coastline.
“This was the day the ocean died, but something inside me came to life,” says Lankard. “Something was churning inside. I wanted to preserve my way of life.”
With the pollution, the native fishermen saw the size and value of their catches plummet. Many wanted to start clear cutting the timber on their lands to make up the income. But Lankard saw another way. “Not on my watch,” he says. “I didn’t want to see us cut every tree on one million acres of salmon habitat.”
He proposed suing Exxon for a billion dollars to create a restoration fund and to purchase additional timber rights. His plan, which would take years to implement, wasn’t popular and he was sued by his own band.
Eventually, after years of negotiation, his plans fell into place, bringing a large settlement for the native people and saving 750,000 acres of forest. It also allowed the shareholders of the native corporations to vote on key issues for the first time, instead of having them decided by a few at the top.
Still, the resources and culture of Alaska remain threatened, says Lankard. There is a movement within the government — and including some native leaders — to create a new “oil spill response port” that will encourage more resource extraction and tourism. There is a plan to build a road through the Copper River, prime salmon habitat, and for native corporations to build missiles and other military gear.
Lankard and his allies want to restore the fishery and keep the land as pristine as possible. “This will take bold, courageous and visionary leaders,” he says. “Preservation is the key to restoration, otherwise the environment and the economy will fail.”
Today Lankard is an international figure with a big agenda. He sees a link between environmental degradation and destruction of cultures and essential human values. “Working together, our combined hearts and voices can save the last wild places on Earth and the freedoms that sustain us as a free thinking people,” he says.
Lankard is lobbying to see the fisheries of the world managed on the principles of conservation. He wants to change “the business model in the oceans” so fishermen catch fewer fish but make them more valuable in the marketplace. To this end, he has formed collectives in Alaska that keep the seafood fresh until they are sold directly to the consumer.
“We are building operations that accommodate both for-profit and not-for-profit operations,” he says. “They have an R&D component and are powered by green energy. In these hybrid companies non-profit plus for-profit equals social profit.”
Lankard has also started a native conservancy land trust “to protect people and culture, not just nature,” as well as RED Oil (short for Resist Environmental Destruction on native land) and Redzone, dedicated to preserving wild salmon.
Globally, he wants “to get the trawlers off the seas to protect fish habitat and reduce fish farming, which weakens the gene pool and creates fish with a lot less taste and texture.”
As a globe-trotting lobbyist and spokesperson for multiple causes, Lankard has to watch himself. He’s careful to he leave enough time to spend in his beloved natural world.
An Evening with Dune Lankard
Why Conservation Based Economies are the Future
Saturday October 23, 2010
7:00 p.m at Ondaatje Auditorium, Halifax, NS
Reception at the HUB to follow.
Tickets available at ticketatlantic.com
A co-presentation of the Autopoetic Ideas Festival and Atlantic Ground Control, Dune’s presentation is also on the program for the 2nd annual 4Days Unconference.
The activist and social entrepreneur dedicates his life to the protection of human rights and the environment. He was selected by Time magazine as one of its Heroes of the Planet and recently offered the position of Spokesperson for National Geographic’s ‘I Am the Ocean’ and ‘Mission Blue’ campaigns.
Dune will explore:
- Why conservation based economies are the future.
- Lessons and unresolved long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez disaster.
- Teaching effective models of change to empower people to influence their local economy, protect endangered homelands and provide solutions for energy and pollution challenges.
The event will explore environmental issues facing Nova Scotia today, with presentations by local speakers Mark Butler, Policy Director at EAC and Pam Cooley, Owner and President of CarShare Hfx.