At 30 miles long and around 8 miles wide, Guam is currently home to over 100 toxic sites. The island and surrounding regions use as a military dumping ground since World War II is evidenced today in the record high cancer rates among the population. The military currently occupies 1/3 of the island and now proposes additional land takings. Guam has lived under US administration since 1898 and remains a US colony, one of 16 non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations.
The proposed Defense Department plan involves moving 8,600 Marines and their 7,000 dependents from Futenma Marine Air Station (Okinawa, Japan) to Guam by 2014; the acquisition of 2,200 additional acres for military use, including live fire training, the expansion of Andersen Air Force Base, and the dredging of 71 acres of vibrant coral reef in Apra Harbor.
Large numbers of contracted workers would also be sent to actualize the Guam buildup, boosting the U.S. territory’s population by 45 percent — adding another 79,000 people to its current 180,000 residents
(Greenwire Feb 25).
Since the release of the DEIS on November 30, 2009, community groups in Guam have been organizing to have their concerns be heard. One such organization, the We Are Guåhan coalition, recently collected over 10,000 signatures to petition President Obama to step off the base and hear the concerns of the local people when he visits there in June. We have not been able to say yes or no to this (buildup),” says Jon Blas, resident of Guam and member of We Are Guåhan. “Hawaii said no. California said no. But we were never given the opportunity. It’s not fair, especially because it is looking like this is going to hurt us more than help us.” We Are Guåhan’s growing membership felt that a strong message must be sent to Washington DC. The petition states: “The military buildup will permanently change our island and our lives. The needs of all Guam’s people must come first, for this island is our home. It is critical that President Obama hear our concerns.”