The San Rafael Swell is one of the most remarkable places I have seen in Utah. Its formations induce a sense of awe and wonder and it stands out as one of the most unique places on our planet. I’m captivated by its geology, it biodiversity, and the connection I feel to spirituality and creation.
I know many people are upset about the bill proposed that on the surface seems to protect some areas of beauty, but upon further analysis does not adequately protect the landscapes that we care about most. In fact, many of us are deeply troubled with how destructive uses may permanently alter the area leaving it unapproachable to people for the rest of time.
I wish to convey a more broad perspective about how we should view policymaking and how that can then be applied to the San Rafael Swell.
There are certain set of values and ideas that inform the basis of what our society should look like and the kinds of rules, both formal and informal, that will help us maintain our values. These are democracy and democratic participation, stewardship, humility, social and mutual responsibility, reciprocity and relationality, a connection to the divine, protection, empathy, respect, and connection to each other and the environment.
The values seem to have been given little thought and superficially at best. When looking at the process, I cannot help but ask, “Who have been the stakeholders that have the most say and power in setting policy? How have this power arrangement helped to advance democracy or hinder it? And are there other motives for how this arrangement looks that supersedes the value set I have outlined earlier?
The process has been limited to a few set of people who have motives to exploit the region and reallocate public resources for personal enrichment. One of the first rules to grow power and maintain inequality is to limit democracy and our participation in it. While we have seen certain stakeholders invited to state their views and interests, like some local leaders and mineral extraction industries, the people at large have been vilified. Where is our voice? Where is the voice for the indigenous peoples whose land was illegally stolen? Where is the voice who see this land as something sacred?
The value system that seems to be employed is one based on exploitation, selfishness, and greed, where economic pursuits are privileged over the rest of society’s institutions.
In my Navajo philosophical beliefs, we are living upon the Fourth World. Our earth is a living being. She gives life to all things. The land is her flesh, from it sprouts food. The air is her breath. The water is her blood. These give life to us human beings and we have a responsibility to maintain a balanced relationship with her, that when we care for her, she will care for us. She has the ability to heal herself, but her perception of time is not always synchronized with the human perception of time. Depending on the gravity of harm we inflict upon her, it may take thousands or millions of years to recuperate, long after the human race has passed. In essence, we are mere guests upon her and our existence is very much predicated upon how well we can adapt to the environmental conditions that we have to confront.
Currently, our postindustrial and consumerist-based society is quickly depleting the resources of the earth faster than we can replenish them. We leave giant scars upon the face of the earth, leave toxicity in our wake, and threaten the existence of not only our lives as human beings, but all of life on this earth. Creation can be a very fragile thing in the vastness of the universe.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold the environment and all of creation as one of our most sacred teachings. In our temples, where we learn our most sacred truths, the Creation of the Earth and all life upon her, and indeed the whole universe, is the first topic we learn about. That is why I find it so perplexing that my co-religionists in Congress have so blatantly cast aside those foundational teachings.
Church leaders, present and past, have spoken strongly about our relationship with the environment:
Spencer W. Kimball : “When I pass through the lovely countryside or fly over the vast and beautiful expanses of our globe, I compare these beauties with many of the dark and miserable practices of men, and I have the feeling that the good earth can hardly bear our presence upon it. ... The Brethren constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord: against pollution of mind, body and our surroundings.”
Ezra Taft Benson: “Surely you can see the inconsistency in the individual who insists that we be good stewards and not pollute our environment, and yet who is unscrupulous in his personal life. Again, physical and spiritual laws are interrelated. Pollution of one's environment and moral impurity both rest on a life-style which partakes of a philosophy of ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ — gouge and grab now, without regard to the consequences. Both violate the spirit of stewardship for which we will stand accountable.”
“Stewardship in the Church is a very important matter. The Lord has mentioned it in the revelations. We are stewards over these earthly blessings which the Lord has provided, those of us who have this soil and this water. We have no moral latitude, it seems to me. In fact, we are morally obligated to turn this land over to those who succeed us — not drained of its fertility but improved in quality, in productivity, and in usefulness for future generations.”
Russell M. Nelson, current President of the LDS Church: “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another.”
It is my contention that we use our government, that is by us, for us, and of us, to protect this beautiful land, that we maintain its status as public, that we guard and care for our Mother Earth and use her resources in a measured way that gives succor to the poor and needy, not to enrich the pockets of greedy and selfish men. We must live up to the promise of democracy and ensure the blessings of these lands to ourselves now and to the seven generations to come.
Change is coming, this is our movement. We are standing to defend our rights and the rights of all creation. We reject this bill and are taking the power back to the people.
For Media Inquiries
James in the News
Here you'll find articles about James' work in the community and news on his political endeavors.
Aug. 17, 2018 | KZMU Moab: News Earful with 3rd District Candidate James Singer
Aug. 16, 2018 | Moab Times-Independent: Meet James Singer
Aug. 16, 2018 | Moab Sun News: James Singer campaigns in Moab
Aug. 15, 2018 | KUER (NPR Affiliate): Navajo Candidate James Singer Highlights Bears Ears In Run For Congress
Aug. 1, 2018 | KBOO Portland: From Shrinking Bears Ears, Approving Pipelines, and Pocahontas: What Trump Means to Indian Country
Jul. 23, 2018 | Millennial Politics: These Three Indigenous Democratic Congressional Candidates Want to #AbolishICE
Jul. 16, 2018 | Two Broads Talking Politics: The Utah Democrats
Jul. 16, 2018 | Millennial Politics: James Singer: Indigenous Environmentalist Democratic Socialist for Congress in Utah's 3rd
Jul. 12, 2018 | Indian Country Today: A plan for Indian nations and democracy in the 21st century: Indian Country should have fair representation in Congress; that's the democratic promise.
Jun. 24, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: As the Democrat in the race, I'd rather debate Curtis.
Apr. 9, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: Sexual violence and harassment are men’s issues. And they’re leadership issues. Rep. John Curtis shows a lack of leadership on a serious issue.
Mar. 6, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: To ‘help forge our path of healing forward’ after Bears Ears, Utah tribal leaders are asking for a place on the governor’s cabinet.
Mar. 6, 2018 | KUER: Tribal Groups, House Dems Call For Creation Of Indian Affairs Cabinet Position
Oct. 9, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: American Indians gather to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Salt Lake City
Oct. 3, 2017 | City Weekly: SL Council Welcomes Indigenous Peoples Day
Sep. 18, 2017 | UPR: The Wellsville Sham Battle On Monday's Access Utah
Sep. 6, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It’s 2017, but people in Utah still put on ‘redface’ for an inaccurate re-creation of an American Indian vs. Mormon battle
Jun. 8, 2017 | The Daily Universe: Navajo man seeks Senate diversity, challenges Hatch
May 5, 2017 | KUER: Navajo Candidate Latest In Young, Progressive Democrats Running For Congress
May 4, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: Navajo candidate announces bid as Democrat for Hatch's seat
Apr. 27, 2017 | Cache Valley Daily: Navajo candidate announces bid for U.S. Senate
Jan. 27, 2017 | City Weekly: "Make America Smart Again" Water protectors congregate to denounce Trump's DAPL reignition
Jan. 17, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It's 'more than just clean water now': Utah activists protest Dakota Access Pipeline
Oct 31, 2016 | FOX 13: Police make several arrests in Dakota Access Pipeline protest in SLC
Oct. 12, 2015 | UPR: Cultural Appropriation on Monday's Access Utah