The major elements required for human survival—earth, wind (air), fire, and water—are often central components in activities that can be categorized as religious, or at least of significant cultural value. On a bluff where a Native American group may have camped ten thousand years ago to survey the landscape and watch for buffalo, a modern community might like to install a picnic ground and, in the process, would likely disturb artifacts from the prehistoric occupants of the site. On a river characterized by rapids and waterfalls where a Native American group may have gone for spiritual empowerment and enrichment over the last two thousand years, a modern entrepreneur might like to construct a facility for power generation. In a volcano worshipped for millennia as the source of creation and destruction by Native Hawaiians, a developer might seek to extract heat for electric power. It is not surprising that, because of the centrality of the four elements in both biological and cultural survival, these valued resources become foci of political mobilization.

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