Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Environmental woes started 10,000 years ago

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The book Consulting the Genius of the Place came to me right off the Watkins Glen Public Library shelves a couple of weeks ago.

The writing is excellent, the topic compelling. I couldn't put it down.

The book is all about agriculture, sustainability and ecology and how by adopting an agricultural model for civilization - a model that eventually led to the industrial revolution and the petrochemical-industrial nightmare we live in now - the game was up before it started.

Agriculture is about 10,000 years old. The Earth (and the environment we live in), oh about 3 billion years give or take.

And look what we have done to the Earth in a blink of time's eye.

I didn't realize until I was well into the book that the author - Wes Jackson of the Land Institute - is the rock star of soil conservation and the leader of a movement to get us to stop continually #$^&#&ing up the planet.

He writes so smoothly and convincingly that you almost believe him when he says the planet can be saved as a habitat for humans. The book is peppered with data, good quotes and enough personal anecdotes to make it as good a read as many novels.
Wes Jackson

No, make that better than many novels.

One of his key themes is that agriculture, particularly as practiced in the western world with chemical fertilizers and machinery (all reliant on oil pulled from the ground), is destructive and not sustainable. In a way, he says, we have been spending our environmental bank account for 10,000 years, each generation faster and faster as we have more people, more demand more resources and more ways to pillage the environment.

(Can anyone spell hydrofracking?)

But the bill for all of this profligacy is coming due.

His solution - one the Land Institute is working on with others - is to create and/or find a perennial grain that can be harvested to replace the grains now seeded every year. It is that endless seeding, fertilizing, harvesting cycle in a mostly monoculture of plants that is so destructive, he says. And today's agriculture is way too tied in with oil and oil-related industries.

"By starting out where our split with nature began, we can build an agriculture more like the ecosystems that shaped us, thereby preserving ecological capital..." he wrote.

Amen to that.

Consulting the Genius of the Place is recommended reading, even if the closest you usually get to agriculture is the produce aisle at the grocery store.

Inergy preps U.S. Salt site for natural gas storage

TOWNSHIP OF READING, New York - The drill rigs can be seen from all the way across Seneca Lake. It's seems clear that Inergy Midstream - the Kansas City, Missouri mega-company that bought U.S. Salt - is most likely getting ready to store natural gas in the salt caverns below the lake - not just propane.

Right now Inergy is trying to get the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to approve a plan to store a massive amount of propane in nearby caverns as well as build a rail-car terminal and construct huge brine ponds. That project has been held up by persistent local protests over the inherent dangers posed by the storage. People also are concerned it will negatively affect the tourist and wine industries.

Inergy's Moler
But in various documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Inergy has also referenced that it plans on storing natural gas on the same site.

So much for assurances from Inergy Midstream's president, Bill Moler of Kansas City, that his company has nothing to do with hydrofracking for natural gas.

In the video below, Moler speaks at an April 2011, Inergy-orchestrated community meeting in Watkins Glen, trying to sell the audience on the propane storage project. But there's not a peep about natural gas being stored on site, too. In fact, Moler denies that Inergy has anything do to with hydrofracking for natural gas. Technically, that might be true. Inergy doesn't frack. But it will store the natural gas, some of which is likely destined to be shipped to overseas markets via LNG ocean-going tankers.

Below the video is photo taken of the U.S. Salt site, just north of Watkins Glen, where a drill rig is boring down into a salt cavern.

Not exactly pretty like a winery...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How desperate is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker?

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Political and informational emails flow into this computer like water into the Colorado. It's my own fault (or design, perhaps). I subscribe to various lists, like Michele Bachmann's, and then get a crapload of emails from other whackadoodles to whom she had lent (or sold) the contacts.

So today it was quite amusing to read a plea for support from Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) who is facing a recall.

He probably wasn't aware that I am a registered Democrat and one of the many people (many!) across the country who want to see his small-minded butt kicked out of office.

Here's part of the plea:

"This is it. The Wisconsin Recall election is less than four weeks away.
The liberal special interests and Washington insiders have sworn to spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat me. I need your help right now to beat back this senseless Recall.
Will you stand with me today? "

 He neglects anywhere in the email to mention that his anti-union, billionaire patrona, Diane Hendricks is loading him with cash. She's featured in the amusing video at the bottom.

After acting more like a Soviet bureaucrat than a democratically elected governor, Walker's email plea seems to indicated he is surprised that people are trying to get him removed?


The only thing missing from the email was a way to email him back so he could receive a link to this blog.

But that's ok.

I am sure within the hour there will be a followup email with the plea for a specific dollar donation.

Those always have a way to respond.

While I while away the hours, conferrin' with the flowers in my garden waiting, I think I'll reread some of the stories that explain why now-Gov. Scott Walker needs to go back to being a county politician, or better yet, joining the Fox News talking heads. I am sooooo tired of the old ones.

Ohhhhh.... And check out the video. It's about Walker's divide-and-conquer strategy. Plus it has some great music.

Walker recall: Even Fox News knows
Mother Jones Take: Oh Mother!
Dems Finally weigh in: Fundraiser for Walker opponent

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The film 'Living Downstream's' message very clear

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The crowd at the tiny Glen Theater to watch the film Living Downstream and to hear Sandra Steingraber (on whose book the film is based) was mostly true believers who think our environment is being polluted by uncaring (and greedy) corporations, poisoning us in the process.

And sometimes that poisoning results in cancer from contact with weed killers, pesticides and whatever-the-hell the chemicals are in that toxic cocktail used in hydro-fracking for natural gas.

But any people on the edge about this heard a very compelling case that most people are looking in the wrong direction.

Wrong direction?

Most efforts when it comes to cancer are aimed at curing people who already are symptomatic. But Living Downstream says we need to look at how people are contracting cancers and try to stop things at that juncture, particularly when it comes to environmentally caused cancers.

The 55-minute film lays out the case using Dr. Steingraber's story of cancer as a template. And it contains some great punchlines.

My favorite comes from Steingraber's mother, who at one point says, "Don't let them bury you until you are dead."

Sandra Steingraber
Steingraber talks about how many in her family suffer - and have suffered - with cancers. She talks about how many doctors focus on genetic predispositions to cancer. If your mom died of cancer (mine did), well, the likelihood of you getting cancer is greatly increased.

In her case, when bladder cancer was diagnosed, she pointed out to her doctors that she was adopted.

Whoops. Nurse! Pass me a new theory, please.

But the townspeople where she grew up in Illinois have an astoundingly high rate of cancer. Coincidence? Hmm.. Perhaps it might have something to do with the factories spewing chemicals into the air and the vast stretches of farmland where a toxic stew of unpronounceable things are sprayed on crops, find their way into the water table and/or are served right with family meals. Or, I suppose, at a supermarket right where you shop.

(I'll be rolling up my car windows when I see anyone spraying fields, or one of those damn crop dusters comes swooping over. Oh, and probably hitting the organic food section more now, too.)

Steingraber is shown in the movie speaking to several groups - as she did last night following the film. And in most of the speeches, she says what we need to do is launch and environmental human rights movement.

With high-quality films like this one - and her two books, Living Downstream and Raising Elijah - it's  a movement that is already well underway.