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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Penokee Hills

When we begin to define the world around us, it is well to consider what we really need for survival versus what we need to thrive. The way many westerners approach information is to use a technique  that is akin to dissection. We see this process at work in what are called the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) for the variety of identified essential nutrients. We try to tease out the magic bullets within the foods we eat and the herbal medicines of native people, seeking the magic bullet that we call the active ingredient. The scientific method is excellent at refining the "most important" part of organic compounds, but in that process we diminish the importance of the host of other ingredients that are not appreciated for their nutritional value, their healing qualities or the benefits that they provide. The same can be said for ecosystems and the planetary relationships between all beings as well. It seems that when our analysis teases out a specific thread, we forget what was sifted and winnowed away and that which lent strength to the web of life, the stability that supported the abundant life cycles withing which a living could be made.

Trying to place a value on one part of the system without understanding the relationships between all aspects of the world around us is like poking around in the dark with a laser beam. The intensity of the light can wash out the detail, texture and true nature of whatever it falls upon and the surrounding dark only seems to intensify our ignorance of the fabric of life that surrounds the object of our interest. We need to begin to understand the true nature of Sacred Space. Trying to change the way we think about the world around us will not be possible if we continue to look at the world around us the way we have up until now. Each part of the whole is essential, once dissected, the organism cannot be brought back to life.

I was raised completely within a tradition, some call white, others call it that of the oppressor, the colonizers, the culture of extraction. I cannot tell you why I never bought into the basic assumptions of that culture, but perhaps I just understood deeper truths than those around me. Perhaps, when my grandfather told me, "Kid, shut yo' mouth. One day you gonna be trouble." My immediate response was to ask myself how this man, who was supposed to be the strong one in the family, could knuckle under to powerful interests who concerned themselves not with his life, but only about their own? How could I be expected to respect his teaching now that I understood that standing up for what was right would always take a back seat to trying to eke out survival under rules that even he did not believe in? I understand now that he was trying to save me from years of pain and hardship that would inevitably be caused by my raising my head or hand and being the one who would nearly always stick out as different, ask the wrong questions or point out the fallacies upon which the lies were founded, but in my young mind I knew that there were better ways, more complete understandings of the world that could only come if we asked the right kinds of questions.

How might we survive? How might we respect the life of all organisms upon which ours rest? How might we leave the planet whole and intact for future generations? How might we show our respect for our grandchildren without throwing them into the maw of capitalism and the war/ industrial machine? How might we show our respect for all beings?

This is certainly the case, and the series of questions that we need to be asking ourselves about the Penokee Hills of Northern Wisconsin. What has brought them to the fore in recent times is low grade iron ore that lies within the crystalline structure of the hills themselves. The sulfide bearing rock that holds the iron in a matrix, along with asbestos and other minerals, has sustained atop its great protuberance, a myriad of organisms that have no other place to call home. Even the people who reside in and around the Penokee Hills rely on the water holding capacity of the organisms, the millions of life forms, the complex food webs for their health and survival. There is no magic bullet in nature, all must thrive, or repercussions shake the very footings upon which life sustains itself. We cannot take away the water, we cannot poison it, we cannot dam it or pump it out without affecting the entire region negatively. We cannot remove the deer or the fish, or the mosquitoes without drastically crippling the entire food web that creates the abundance of nature that lives there now.

The destruction has begun already. Test holes have been drilled. Topsoil that took thousands of years to build up have been excavated and tossed aside, left to flow into pristine river systems. The greed of far off interests has begun to tear at the fabric of life in the Penokeees. All of this life is sacred. The humans, who have been embittered and set one against the other in the "fight" over the "resources" (sacred gifts) don't even matter to those who would despoil the land. Those who continue to squander our planet for their own enrichment have never cared about jobs, the people or the land they rape. They do not only want the magic bullet of copper or diamonds or iron ore, they seem to be interested only in their power over people and the planet control of other people's lives and changing the environment. This is what we, the people, must learn and stand against.

A friend who has spoken eloquently about these and other issues has said that he still considers himself pro-life. It is the one thing that he learned as a Catholic that he feels on the soul level. What he points out is that to be truly pro-life, you need to support life which you do not understand or have dominion over. You cannot be pro-life if you do not extend your compassion to babies that are out of the womb. You cannot be truly pro-life if you are willing to practice genocide against people that you deem "primitive". You cannot be pro-life while purveying nothing but death in your wake. Life is a sacred gift, these hills are completely covered with abundant, sacred, life and living organisms that are gifts of the gods. Throwing the entire region into the hopper for some buggers bottom line is, in fact, raping the entire Mother Earth that we are beginning to see holds the key to our survival. Without a moment's hesitation, our Governor and State Legislature have caved in to interests that would destroy the entire region for a few millions in their pockets and the destitution, the death and poisoning of the land would remain for centuries, long after the last few pennies left behind were spent.

There is hardly an area of the planet which is not facing a similar plight, but I know that I could not live with myself if I did not stand up and raise awareness about how backward this approach is. Lying across the northern tier of counties that surround the Penokee Hills are the giant machines that crushed ore over century ago, the several generations of cars and farm implements made of iron that are now rusting in the fields of the region. In total, there are many times more iron available to be picked off the landscape than could be wrested from the proposed giant hole that the mining interests want to blast to powder and leave behind, forever tainting the largest freshwater ecosystem on the North American continent. If they truly want the magic bullet we call iron, plans need to be made to recycle what our forefathers took out of the ground rather than ruining the last bit of what they left undisturbed for the profit of men who will never step foot in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This Past Moon

We have had both round one and round two with the Polar Vortex. The Jet stream has gone haywire and routinely, temperatures in Anchorage and even Barrow, above the arctic circle, have been warmer than Green Bay, Wisconsin. I remember one day reading that it would still be two weeks before sunrise in Barrow and they were twenty degrees warmer than us.

PEOPLE! Please try to understand that the radiation from Fukushima seems minute when imagined relative to the entire Pacific Ocean, but wafting ribbons of fallout are vast and dilute, that certainly can't eliminate their energy footprint. That will literally take forever. With the huge amount of radiation that has been released, it is hard to convey the worldwide effects. The particular isotopes that are from the immediate area around the disaster, especially the heaviest, settle onto plant life and are consumed, putting them on their way to the top of the food chain. The vast dust bowl, or dry lake bed (playa) that is Burning Man, black Rock City, NV. is slightly radioactive from nuclear testing during early days of the cold war. Some of this stuff never goes away. Imagine half a million years to cut the hazard in half and you have an idea of what we are up against.

Background radiation has climbed ever since Madam Curie made her discoveries and they were put to "use" through the E=mc2 enlightenment. The only reason that nuclear energy was ever made to sound appealing to the public was because they needed enriched material for bomb making. Even today, we are spreading the risk. Depleted uranium is used to make the projectile tips of armor piercing bullets and anti-tank weapons. They begin this pernicious concentration through the food chain as well, leaving a legacy of radioactive contamination wherever they fall. For peace or destructive ends, splitting the atom has grave consequences that are only beginning to be understood. If you think that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific, the next few years we are going to see a continuing release of long-lived radiation whose impacts will be felt for millennea.

In spite of the immense sadness and hopelessness that has been engendered by this fiasco, we must go on and making plans for the coming growing season has commanded the lion's share of our time. We are still actively fund raising for some important projects, presentations and tools. First and foremost, we are working to raise money for our school/retreat center. We are ready to begin introductory bio-char classes and are working toward having a traveling show that can showcase the material and bring the knowledge about it to a wider audience. finally, we are seeking funds for a broad fork or three so that when we do get into areas that need to be reforested, we can jump start the recreation of soils that will ultimately support the trees we bring to them.

Beyond trying to stay warm and alive, there was little forward progress, although I have been working on designs for pedal power devices to help with making char powder quickly and easily, our designs for a sustainable resort/retreat center that operates as a living laboratory of sustainability continue. Whatever green energy you can share is greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 7, 2014


As with many movements, those of us who are ecologically aware find that our cadre of Earth aware individuals has grown into a very real force across the face of the planet. The groups that we have formed have been poked and prodded, provoked and infiltrated by agents provocateur,  perhaps understood better from outside the movement by those who are threatened by our success than we could ever do to others whitin our various groups and movements. Wedge issues have been created by think tanks, injected into our ranks and files have been amassed on those who sympathize or empathize with every group imaginable. Part of the ruse that has been foisted upon us is the "fact" that all environmentalists are part of a vast and shadowy sub-culture that believes in Zero Population Growth (ZPG). Again, if you are at all astute, the ZPG crowd feels that the growing population equates to or accounts for the biggest threat to our survival as a species or the continued balance of the ecosystem. In my own exploration of an eco-friendly life-style, I have only met a few individuals who were of this persuasion. Having only two children over the lifetime of any woman would, in fact, reduct our need for many resources, but that alone cannot heal the damage that has already been caused to climate, our natural resources or the bio-sphere.

It is not hard to understand why these events take place. The wealtihiest and most powerful agents want things to stay pretty much the same, without threat of change. Pitting one "extreme" group against another is the oldest trick in the book of exploiting the largest number of people for the benefit of the fewest. I want to remind my readers of just a couple examples of this sort of demonization. I first heard of MOVE because the Yippies wanted everyone to know about the police brutality and arbitrary prosecution of people who were living the revolution that will not be televised. MOVE, if you are not familiar, were folks who were attacked for being members of a group that had successfully created an inner-city, ecologically sustainable compound of sorts. They tore out their yards, and planted organic produce and grew rooftop gardens in a neighborhood of Philly (Philadelphia, PA) where even police had written off. Instead of knowing their place and being subservient to the powers that be, they stood proud in their self-sufficiency, living in ways that later became known as "off the grid". Ironically, there is a current fascination within the "Prepper"/survivalist groups that believe in end-times scenarios and apocalyptic events that will require us to be completely responsible for ourselves. The MOVE was doing that a generation or more ago.

The police showed up to "assist" the health department in presenting the MOVE members a letter about code violations. Monday, May 13th 1985, surrounded by heavy weapons, riot gear and the thin blue line of secrecy that was present within the Philadelphia police at the time, the residents of the MOVE compound were surrounded and barricaded themselves inside. It seemed to me at the time that any reasonable person would have taped the letter to their door and withdrawn. Instead, the police called in a helicopter which dropped a bomb, which the police asserted was just teargas canisters onto the fuel depot that the MOVE had for emergency fuel needs like lighting, heat and generators. During the conflagration that took out more than an entire city block, guns drawn, the police rushed the building and several MOVE folks were gunned down in cold blood by over-ambitious cops. The police that were killed had .38 cal. holes in them, but my understanding is that the MOVE folks had small caliber weapons, mostly for shooting pigeons and ill critters. As the circle of fire was drawn like a noose around the compound, some were caught in their own crossfire.

MOVE made it back in the news this week because one of their members who stood trial for murder and who was incarcerated for his "crimes" got his sentence reduced from execution down to life in prison by a recent appointee to high office. The Rethuglicans, urged on by "conservative" voices in Philadelphia have used the fake news of mayhem perpetrated by peaceful loving people as grounds for keeping a well respected person from serving the public.

Similarly, The American Indian Movement was called out for their "radicalism" in a similar series of events. With only what can be called an utter paucity of evidence, Leonard Peltier was convicted and sentenced to life imprison as part of the FBI smear campaign against native peoples who were also demanding their rights to live peacefully and without molestation in a manner that can be in harmony with nature. I seemed to many at the time that the ecological crisis identified in the mid sixties would force much needed change into the political and social spotlight, but instead we had trotted out for us a series of "radical" groups that grew ever more harsh in their rhetoric and ever more violent in their orientation. The Earth First people came under fire as did deep ecology movements across the nation. Greenpeace was demonized and the many local groups which were spawned in the wake of people moving with conscience away from total annihilation of the ecosphere for profit were also described as radical.

Earth's population has continued to rise. As "environmentalists", we have become much more savvy to the methods of our oppressors and the exploitation that they seek to wreak upon us. This whole population issue has always been a tough nut to crack because it represents a double edged sword on many different levels. First, the corporate outlaws, let us call them corporados, took the moral high ground right away. They wanted us to look at them as saviors of those less fortunate. Where was the highest concentration of  needy folks? Africa and Asia, so they concocted what was once called the green revolution. In the name of feeding the world, these mega corporations, which by today's standards were rather small, sent expensive hybrid seed to nations that faced starvation. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund spread the debt to pay for said seed. Then the agricultural chemical and fertilizer companies which the seed producers were mere subsidiaries of lined up, taking their share of the money. finally, the implement manufacturers lined up for their subsidies. Two thing then happened. First, there was no infrastructure to get food to markets and therefore no infrastructure was available to bring in fuel or spare parts for the expensive machinery. Second, the seeds could not be saved season to season which had always facilitated long-term stability amongst the native farmers. Mass starvation ensued.

The quandary we have faced since then is that for economic security, many "underprivileged" people the world 'round produce far more children than they can afford to care for in the hopes that one day, they will each help the parents to live a better life by caring for them. Many "liberals" who are far more likely to be branded as "environmentalists", are now without any respectable base on which to build a movement. If they claim that Zero Population Growth is important to save the planet, they can be said to be culturally insensitive, racist or worse anti-humanitarian. If they say to the undeveloped regions of the world, "Don't do what we did. Learn from our mistakes." they can be told that they are being capricious and not letting other parts of the world enjoy the freedoms and privilege that we enjoyed during our industrialization. The table was set with falsehood before environmentalists ever got invited into dinner. The exploitation of third world countries continues today. Child slavery is rampant in every country that looks for it, human trafficking is now the largest source of illicit income on the planet, yet we cannot figure out why. People have been dehumanized by watching the other folks who sacrificed their humanity for economic security not only become disgustingly rich, but insulated from responsibility as well. Crimes against humanity are rarely prosecuted and as I believe Joseph Stalin said, "A thousand deaths are a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic." The scale of deaths attributable to Nestle', are unimaginable, but as they always claim, it is either just business or they were actually trying to help. The level of deceit is just as incomprehensible as the actions that have been taken to derail any viable political or cultural campaign for change.

The biochar science is proving to those who learn of it that twice as much food can come out of the arable land that exists on the planet. Our concern need never have been how to limit population, but how to live a better quality of life using less energy, less resources and less waste. all of these things threaten the wealthiest individuals on the planet because as we get more efficient and live better life styles, they have less and less wealth, which they equate with power and control over the rest of us. Even their claims that we want to depose them as our rulers is a bit disingenuous because the real goal is to find a way to have more people capable of getting their needs met with less effort and expense. Asking the ultra wealthy to actually do some sort of meaningful work other than exploiting their fellow humans and abusing the planet is more about their actions than themselves as people. The 1% as they have come to be known, the oligarchs and their minions seek to derail any meaningful change out of hand because they are comfortable with the current state of affairs. We must learn to see through the smoke screens that they throw up every time their authority is challenged.