We Are Guahan

In 2009, I was tasked by my boss to read 11,000 pages of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in order to comment on the proposed military buildup's impact on the Chamorro people and culture. Of course, it was not an easy assignment. In order not to get overwhelmed, I concentrated on the many summaries and a section titled "Socio-Economic Impact Study" or SEIS. This section foretold immediate cash infusion for construction and buildup-related activities. However, the SEIS also foretold strains on infrastructure, rising cost of living and challenges to social and educational programs.

I was lucky (or unlucky) to be afforded the time to read this mammoth document. Unfortunately, most people were not able — or had the desire— to read the document, and only relied on media reports and other sources to understand the buildup. I ran across sections that mentioned "de-salination" as a proposal, meaning to remove salt from seawater to produce drinking water. I thought this idea sounded like some science fiction movie: Our ocean water will be siphoned; salt will then be extracted; drinking water will be the end product.

My favorite part of the DEIS (yes, I found a favorite part!) were the many pictures of coral and sea life in Apra Harbor. There was a picture of a beautiful blue fan coral at the bottom of the harbor. It almost looked painted. I didn't realize that Apra Harbor still has an active and thriving underwater environment. It is so deep that ecosystems can still survive. Of course, if the proposed dredging of Apra Harbor happens, then I am not sure if we will continue to appreciate one of the world's most environmentally blessed natural harbors.

Armed with probably too much information about the DEIS, I attended (and testified at) the public hearings for the buildup. I was impressed with an active group of young professionals who were vocal at the hearings. Many of them were part of a group called “We Are Guahan.” They are part of a new generation of "activists"— a term that should be synonymous with the words "positive" and "proactive" in any vocabulary. I befriended many of them. Some were even my relatives.

As a result of my appreciation and involvement with “We Are Guahan,” I included many of the group's members in my book "tropical art, GUAM" – Fanai, Andrea, Jocelyn, Therese, Victoria, Marie, Desiree, Leevin and Michael. I even titled an image in the book called "We Are Guahan.” In the image, a carved, wooden tray represents our beautiful island of Guam. I filled the tray with water, representing the ocean that surrounds us. I added the tips of a heliconia, representing the people, the animal life, the environment, and everything else that calls Guam "home.” The image shows the delicate balance that exists in Guam. "We Are Guahan" and other groups exist to ensure that the balance is maintained, and our quality of life is for the betterment of all.

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