ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Talk vs. Action

I used to wonder why so many people treated one another with contempt. As I have written before, when I was young I imagined that when I became old enough to vote, people would finally take me seriously, or at least listen to what I had to say. Later, when I realized that this was not going to happen, I thought, maybe when I go to college, have children, own property, turn forty. Each time I upped the ante I was disappointed. What I failed to understand is that ideas hold virtually no water amongst those who have got us by the balls. Change does not serve their interests, so whatever good ideas come along are simply quashed through painting the do-gooders with the broad strokes of "Communists", Socialists", "Queer" or whatever the fashionable term for those we do not want to listen to is at the moment. Failing that, the buy out, stealing of patents and/or police or military "crack-down" can be used to shut down any opposition to business as usual.

There have been sentient beings for centuries that could see through the sham perpetrated by our leaders. There have been teachers, artists, scholars and philosophers that have had great ideas and valid ideas about how to improve the lives of the most people at relatively low cost and over long periods of time. It is not a true reckoning of the value of these ideas that has led us to turn our heads away or to demean the idea generators, call them idealistic or dismiss the solutions as impractical or unworkable. Talk is cheap. The powerful elites can tolerate us talking about what needs to be done. Talk never changed a flat tire, nor has it ever collected fire wood, created anything useful, nor has it carried any weight with those who decide what is good by how much they can make off the backs of the rest of us.

This sort of talk sounds radical until you start to look critically at history, economics and social conditions worldwide over the span of time. Talk is cheap and because of this, the ideas behind the talk are considered even cheaper. This is why there is more impact when a Hippie places a flower in the muzzle of a gun than there is when the same Hippie holds a sign that reads CORPORATE WELFARE IS CLASS WARFARE. It matters little how well an idea is expressed. It matters not at all that it may be the best course of action. Even the most important ideas of our time can be smashed to smithereens by a few well chosen words from our overseers, or a single lash of their whip. We have all seen the course of good ideas, many have just not paid very much attention. The radical part of my statements is that they hint at actions that have been taking place for at least one lifetime, my own. I am sure that millions of others are motivated by the same good ideas that I have had, the same love for humanity, the same selfless concern that we leave the planet a little better than we have found it. Action speaks far louder than words and since childhood I have been an activist.

The pace of change has seemed infernally slow, things we protested for and against are still haunting us if we wanted them to stop and still elusive if we wanted to create them. We were able to stop the war in Indo-china, but war continues. We were able to secure better education for millions, but that has been under assault ever since. We called for the clean-up of the environment, but more people die each year from environmental catastrophes, some which date back to before the first Earth Day. The idea generators are necessary and the teach-in can be a great way of getting large numbers of people on the same page, or the right track so to speak, but if we do not move forward, we will still be steamrolled by the social and political inertia which is dead set on keeping things exactly the same as they are now.

I have planted many thousands of trees, enough to reforest a couple dozen acres (9ha), but the multiplication of my own efforts through direct action has caused millions of trees to be planted and these rapidly growing forests are reclaiming larger acreage than I could ever hope to plant alone. Many of us learn by doing, not just talking about things. When we act, we create muscle memory, we experience a dance of doing, not just an electrical storm in our heads by thinking. Our ECO-Tours are designed to talk a little and act a lot. When we started planting trees thirty years ago, we would shape balls of clay into delivery packets for tree seeds and either drop them in denuded areas or shoot them in with sling shots. Remarkably, the hours we put in to make this happen was always a time to laugh, talk and enjoy one another in a relaxed environment. Sometimes hours of effort would get distributed across the landscape in just a few minutes, but it was good to know that we were accomplishing things in spite of the constant din of the media telling us gloom and doom stories about how bad things were getting. Even when you take action, there will be detractors and naysayers who seek to negate you or try to steal the wind from your sails, but just knowing that you are part of a solution to our environmental crisis can overcome any and all assaults.

The rich and powerful may question our sanity. They may fear our ideas and they may strive to vanquish any power that our words may hold, but they cannot change our deeds. Take action today and tomorrow will never be the same. Just make sure that your actions reflect the deepest beliefs, the most sacred commitments and the deepest feelings that you wish to express. If we do not take a stand for what is important in our lives, no one will do it for us.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Peeling back the rotten layers of onion.

Our culture has made great haste in covering up that would reflect badly upon us, that which would require effort to fix properly and what has allowed us great power and wealth amassed off the backs of both future generations and faraway people. The essential quality in dominion, it to dehumanize those you trade with, your colonies, your slaves, your enemies and those you foist the shackles of environmental assault upon. Once the oppressor dehumanizes or de-sanctifies whatever being or creature stands between "just business" and the true aim of their pursuits. There have always been those who sought to dominate others. This is not new to the human condition, but the great power of the oligarchs, technologically advanced warfare and behemoth industrial production capabilities has placed exponentially more power in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals whose "investments" and "policies" reach into the lives of nearly every citizen on the surface of the planet.

Indeed, the recent and continuing tragedy at Fukushima, reaches across the Pacific ocean and touches North America's West Coast in just a little over a week. We can, if we are so inclined, go to the most remote islands completely cut off from the Great Lakes by their being perched on islands well above the surface of Lake Superior. We can test the fish that swim amongst this relatively pristine environment and find Aldrin and Dieldrin, carcinogenic compunds that have been banned for thirty or more years, chemicals only used to kill pests on cotton crops in the tropics, thousands of miles away. Remember the food web that we all learned in school? We exist within the fibrous and filamentous reality of a giant web of association that spans the biosphere. We are one organism, one being, only as healthy as the world around us, only as capable of making a living as the creatures which we share our planet with.

This week, I have been peeling up three layers of flooring. Each one in it's time was billed as "modern, high tech and the best you can get" for running a sanitary kitchen and bathroom, each in succession covering up dirt and dust, and encapsulating the moisture of a thousand spills. First, probably after the original builders were forced to sell during the 1938 crash, the asphaltum-based linoleum was installed. With waxy, built up edges, to keep the moisture where you could sop it up. Thirty years of dirt later, the whole mess was put under a primitive vinyl flooring that had asbestos backing, ready to absorb any water that made it either around the edges or through the seam running down the length of the kitchen, but also, through any holes that inevitably occurred through use and eventual coverup. Finally, a very cheap luan plywood was laid down, crown stapled to the old floor with a vengance and a more "modern" version of vinyl was laid atop that. In addition to making it virtually impossible to remove the nearly hundred years of dirt and encapsulating whatever moisture got through the leaks this time, the ultimate failure only exacerbated the problems with all the earlier floors. Peeling back all the rotten layers of onion revealed a nice wood floor which has no problems other than that air can make it both under and over the boards, drying them out and allowing a conscientious home economist to actually keep them clean. With responsibility come freedom (don' cha know?) The only real problem with the old floor now is the thousands of staple holes in the hardwood. they have done more to wreck the floor than any amount of sweeping and mopping ever could have done.

People frequently forget the most powerful option when they engage in decision-making. The decision to do nothing is still a choice. We do not have to solve every crisis by doing something. Often taking a broader view requires us to do nothing. This course of action may make sense at times and not others, but by not looking deeply into the possibility of making this all important choice can yield many benefits. The media that formerly made up the floor in this neglected house harbored so much dirt and nasty biological activity, that it certainly could not have been healthy to live amongst. At least dirt floors can have beneficial bacteria and fungi. I wish that the people who have owned this building over the years would have just chosen to do nothing, the cover-up truly stinks. Just the top layers of luan and vinyl was two hundred pounds of stink.

If we look into our current state of affairs, globally, much dirt has been swept under the collective rugs of our nations. Nowhere can we truthfully say are we isolated from a raft of bad decisions, cover-ups and festering nastiness that really should be taken out. We are often sold false promises of a better life and have to watch as all that we have invested our lives in is cast into the trash bin of history. The great mass of humanity that has fallen victim in the recent global depression must find the strength to face yup to the ugly messes that have been plastered over for decades. In some cases, the better part of a century. The oppressors didn't do this by themselves, we all helped, through our silence, to build the cage that we need to break out of. Perhaps it is too late to break out, but imagine if it isn't. If we all stop feeding the oligarchs, they will have to eat either their young, or their dollars.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deniability Is No Longer Plausible

Back as far as the Nixon Era, although, to be true, that is just when I began paying attention, plausible deniability was crucial if one were to survive politically. What who knew and when take up the lion's share of political discourse. Many forget that while we waste time fighting about the minutia of interpersonal drama and risque tripe, the bigger issues are left unaddressed. I don't really care what candidate "X" has to say, We have come into an age where I wish I could find out who is paying him or her to espouse such drivel. This week, a representative from Wisconsin made a statement about how climate change is made up by those who want to wage an "environmental jihad". Now, we have to understand that in the world that we all share, jihad means a specific thing. It is a holy war based on beliefs, not truth, not justice, not harmony or tolerance. The things we share as human beings, rely on humanity first, exploitation, never. The art of preserving plausible deniability requires "proof" of something not existing, which anyone who studies science knows is patently impossible. We have to want it to be true so hard, that it overcomes any and all doubt.

Let us deconstruct. Mr. Johnson must believe that the "holy war" that science, environmentalists and ecologists are waging is a threat, or he would not use such inflammatory rhetoric. Normally, when something poses no threat to you, it is easily ignored and often passes attention-free across our visual cortex, nothing more. The linking of jihad with ecology is ironic, because in the environment, it can be said that Spring and Fall are the result of a war between Winter and Summer, but you would be wrong, the seasons facilitate one another as a result of their mutual existence. It would be hard to find a war, declared or otherwise within the realm of interdependent species. Is there a was between the salmon and the bear? No, the salmon goes willingly up into the hills and dales of the watershed, carried in spirit by the great healer, the most human, here in North America, of our animal cousins. Is there a war between bat and mosquito? Of between anteaters and the ants? No, each is simply attending to what needs to be done for survival.

We have come to a distinct phase of existence, wherein we are faced with conditions far beyond the realm of "normal"
This diagram cataloging CO2 trends in the atmosphere show with astounding accuracy the ages that have come and gone over more than four hundred thousand years. I try to think of fossil fuel as a gift, laid down over half a million or so years, almost like a giant solar battery, getting "charged" by layers of topsoil, plants or critters that efficiently absorbed carbon and eventually died, and were incorporated into the planet, insulating us from the core as well as slowing the absorption and dissipation of energy from space. Now, we have done our best to burn through that storehouse of captured solar energy and there are those who claim that we have "four hundred more years of coal", "a hundred more years of natural gas" or "fifty more years of oil", before the wells and mines play out.

What they do not tell you is that every single gallon of oil, every cubic foot of gas and every ton of coal will be more expensive than any we have ever produced before. The sheer cost of extraction, as the resources are depleted further, as we need to expend more and more energy to extract less and less viable store, as we put more and more technology into recovery efforts for harder to reach deposits, the price will continue to escalate. In addition the costs of pushing the graph further into new territory is becoming more and more frightening with each study and report. There is no way our leaders cannot know. Albert Einstein was pretty smart. In his wisdom he said that he didn't know what World War III would be like, or what weapons it would be fought with, but World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones. It seems that the ultra-wealthy and their lap dog politicians, which by the way came extremely cheaply, have waged the ultimate class war against both the vast majority of the human population, but wreaked havoc on the biosphere as well. Remember Mr. Johnson, mother nature always bats last.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Geographic Literacy

This ECO-Tour involves getting to know your unique ecotone. There are several ways that you can explore what I am talking about. On foot you can walk a sort of rosette around your neighborhood. I am lucky, I have a Cartesian coordinate system surrounding where I live. To the South, I can go three ways, along a Parkway, bordering the East River and I can go out one, two or three blocks, same to the West, same to the North. Like petals on a flower, walk out and back all around the series of blocks surrounding your home. In the country, it may be fewer routes with longer blocks, but explore them on foot, or bicycle if it seems too far. Go slow, appreciate, the breaks and hollows, where the terrain is lush. Where it is not. What aspect influences each slope? What native trees live around you? What name is given to your climate and why? Are some areas in your neighborhood more abundant with water? Or shade? Which places are sunniest and dry? How have human impacts changed the amount of moisture, heat and wind protection is available? Getting to know the immediate area around us can change our lives, the lives of other organisms that share our space.

These first ten questions are mostly about the physical features and a few of the life forms who inhabit the area. Investigate albedo, the reflectivity, of different surfaces keep in mind that grass is usually about 15% grey. Black absorbs the most energy, white reflects the most (Barring reflections from glass, mirrored surfaces and water at the proper angle.) Homes, buildings, paved areas as well as anything with a combustion engine exudes heat energy. Begin to understand the predominant airsheds and associated conditions and how they differ from place to place in your immediate area as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Begin to see that watersheds begin at the peaks of each local roof top and follow the path from sky to whatever the local lakes or rivers may be. Start thinking through the delivery systems for food, water, energy and consumer goods. Try to get a grasp of waste disposal as well. Where does all the waste water go? how many truckloads of garbage are produced in how long a time. If people still burn their garbage, how often do they do it and are they properly sorting to eliminate all plastics? Are metals recycled in your area? Those second ten questions fill out the understanding of what is going on in your immediate area.

Asking such a large battery of questions and getting to really understand the answers to these sorts of questions could take as little as an afternoon, but most likely will take months, if not years. Finding out as much as possible about where you reside can help you to see other places more clearly as well. Starting from your home, try to build the most accurate map possible in your own mind. Really look at the place closely. What creatures reside nearby? How easy is it for them to find what they need to sustain them and how can that carrying capacity be enhanced? If the population of any single organism is limited, what is the limitation and can it be addressed? Are any species existing in too much abundance? Really delve into the area that you can walk to and back in an hour, or half hour if that is all the time you can spare. Just this simple practice, entered into with attention and determination can yield a great deal of satisfaction and can be the basis for further knowledge of a wider area. More on that later.

 This is one of the first shelterbelts that we planted with ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. Prior to this we planted smaller groups of trees in smaller numbers and areas. This was over three hundred trees on two acres. It protects the property from prevailing Westerlies as well as the north winds of winter. The trees are now large enough to shelter a two story building and create a cool shady area along a large farmhouse in the middle of a treeless windswept plain. It also helps stabilize water levels in a local stream by both sucking up some of the peak flows of rain and snowmelt as well as slowing the release of runoff that used to flow unimpeded to a nearby muddy stream. Before planting, we did this same ECO-Tour on just the ten acre parcel that included the two that were remediated. Our assessment was that the landowner needed a similar area utilizing different species on the downstream side of the property as well, but they opted to save the open wet area for possible development. To date, nothing has been planted along the running part of the stream that opens up on the opposite side of the parcel.