Saturday, October 11, 2014

On Science, GMO's and Philosophy....

It is all the rage these days to accuse a few segments of the population that deny the efficacy of some things as being "Anti-Science". We throw those words around a whole lot when we talk about those who deny Climate Change. Or those who deny the value of vaccines. I've used the words myself when in debate with these two groups.

But the other day I was called "Anti-Science". Why? Because I don't want to eat salmon that have eel genes in them. And I don't want to eat vegetables or grains that have been engineered to withstand Roundup. It was the standard GMO debate and I was lumped into the category of those who don't believe in science. And since, in their view, there have been no studies that demonstrate GMO foods as being unsafe, well, then we have an obligation to feed the starving millions by using such crops en masse, right away, as soon as possible.

Of course, science is just a tool, often of whoever pays for it---but a tool. It should be a part of how we argue points with each other, but not the only, or even the best, points to be made in an argument.

There is still room for Philosophy. And I mean Philosophy in its best sense: the love of Wisdom. And there is still room for Morality.

Or as Saint Ed once said: “Though men now possess the power to dominate and exploit every corner of the natural world, nothing in that fact implies that they have the right or the need to do so.”

Amen, Ed.

And that's where I politely part company with those who have a magical belief that Science is the one thing that sets us apart from the Natural World. It has to do with Dominion, which is as much a part of a Monsanto Scientist's belief system as it is the holy roller Pat Robertson who believes the world was put here for our exploitation and that when we are done, Jesus will rapture us away to some other place, where, I assume the exploitation will continue.

Thus far, we haven't seen good science that demonstrates that GMO foods are bad. And there are those who argue that Three Mile Island wasn't terrible and that Chernobyl didn't kill a million people. But the parallels with Nuclear Power and GMO's are much the same for me. The manipulation of the atom is the same as the manipulation of the gene. Both frightening ethical territory. And the will to proceed with both technologies, I think, stems from what your world view is regarding our Dominion over Creation.

It is a Religious Argument. A Philosophical Argument. An argument that frames science but doesn't rely on science as the end of the argument.

When I call somebody "Anti-Science", I have to think a bit before bringing that arrow out of the quiver. Because I can be Anti-Science too. And I am Anti-Science when it comes to a few issues.

Reason and Science are not the same. We should never forget that.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

80 Things I don't believe in or don't like

1. The invisible hand of the market.
2. Buildings with windows you can't open.
3. Anthony Watts.
4. The Chico ER.
5. Urban Enviros who love cannabis more than the integrity of the rural areas of Butte County.
6. Left Hand Turns.
7. UPS
8. Tabouli.
9. Tofu.
10. Applebees.
11. Chili's.
12. Marie Calendars
13. Any restaurant that uses a microwave and doesn't have a knife in the kitchen.
14. Generic Mac and Cheese.
15. Generic Cereal.
16. Advertisements for Cialis and Viagra.
17. Sitting through advertisements for Cialis and Viagra with teen-aged granddaughters.
18. Fox News.
19. Most MSNBC shows before Chris Mathews at 16:00.
20. Getting dressed up.
21. Clothes made out of anything other than cotton.
22. Trekking poles.
23. Store bought bread.
24. The Koch Brothers.
25. The Oil and Gas Industry.
26. Japanese Whaling.
27. Norwegian Whaling.
28. Russian Whaling.
29. Cell Phones.
30. Taiji Japan.
31. Warren Buffet.
32. Steven Jobs.
33. Apple products.
34. Silicon Valley.
35. Smart Phones.
36. Anthropocentrism.
37. Adrenaline Sports in Wilderness Areas.
38. Rock Climbing.
39. Private Health Insurance dependent upon who your employer is.
40. New Agers who believe they construct their own positive, joy joy reality.
41. Dollar Stores.
42. The New CNN
43. Dan Logue.
44. Rand Paul.
45. Logging Shows on the Discovery Channel.
46. Most everything on cable TV (so we got rid of it).
47. Most Music Since 1980.
48. Dancing.
49. Sheet Rock (the stuff walls are made of).
50. Suburban Housing Developments.
51. John Updike.
52. The Nation Magazine.
53. Most Magazines that originate on the East Coast.
54. GQ
55. Vanity Fair
56. NPR
57. Any car that costs more than $20,000 new (possible exception: Prius).
58. McMansions.
59. Gated Communities.
60. No Trespassing Signs.
61. Quads.
62. Pickup Trucks that go off roading.
63. Guns.
64. Tread mills.
65. Texting.
66. Walmart.
67. Plastic bags.
68. Coal fired electrical plants.
69. Cameras on Lap Tops.
70. Skype.
71. HughesNet.
72. Domesticating Wolves as pets.
73. Fashion Magazines.
74. Suburban Pop Churches.
75. Doug LaMalfa
76. Joel Olsteen.
77. Homeschooling.
78. Anti-Vaxxers.
79. Scott Walker.
80. Rick Warren.

Friday, October 3, 2014

80 Things I Believe in or Like:

Things I believe in or like:

1. Baseball.
2. Buying simple, bottom of the line, basic cars.
3. Hiking.
4. Reading before bed.
5. Writing.
6. Statins.
7. Vaccines.
8. Inexpensive housing.
9. Dogs (best love money can buy).
10. Living in beautiful places.
11. Climate Change.
12. Cheap Housing.
13. Love.
14. Working less (this one I'm not living up to right now).
15. A really good bottle of wine.
16. Spending time outdoors everyday (again, I'm not living up to this one lately).
17. Pomegranate Juice.
18. Cinnamon.
19. Fish Oil.
20. Niacin.
21. Public Education.
22. Public Lands.
23. National Parks.
24. Solar Panels.
25. A Progressive Tax System.
26. More Taxes.
27. Less Defense Spending.
28. Oxford Button Down Collar 100% Cotton Shirts.
29. Blue Jeans.
30. 70's Singer Songwriters.
31. Road Trips Avoiding Interstates.
32. Non-Chain Restaurants.
33. Not Shopping.
34. Keen Hiking Boots.
35. Living in the country.
36. San Francisco.
37. Restaurants in the Napa Valley (Yountville and all points north of there).
38. Being skinny (been awhile since I've been this).
39. Being Active.
40. Getting Published.
41. Sloth.
42. Backpacking.
43. Political T-Shirts.
44. Ed Abbey.
45. Simplicity.
46. Facebook.
47. Passionate Discussion.
48. Donuts.
49. Public Investment in almost everything except bloated defense budgets.
50. Art Museums.
51. Gitane Cigarettes (which I will never imbibe in again).
52. Drinking a Latte' on a Sunday Morning while reading the New York Times.
53. Opinion pages of all newspapers.
54. Listening to Coyotes Sing.
55. Libraries.
56. Free Time.
57. Keen Sandals.
58. Having enough money.
59. Weekends by the ocean.
60. St. Orrs and weekends in Gualala.
61. Joshua Trees.
62. The big Cedar Tree on my walk.
63. Making a difference at work.
64. Having a Goal.
65. Sleeping under the stars.
66. Campfires.
67. The Pacific Crest Trail.
68. Frugality.
69. Houses made of mud.
70. Sleeping in.
71. Sea Shepherd.
72. Visiting the houses and graves of famous people.
73. Everything in the US west of the Rocky Mountains.
74. Norwegian Socialists.
75. Environmentalists.
76. Bumper stickers.
77. That breeze that flows down from the mountains about 11pm on summer nights that cools everything off.
78. Socialized Medicine.
79. Bike Trails.
80. The Ancient Burr Oak on top of Maggelson's Bluff in Rushford, Minnesota (see photo above).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

For Chris and Michael...

A man I never met died yesterday. He was the husband of a person that I admire. The husband of a woman who works tirelessly for peace. The husband of a woman who works tirelessly for the forest and the environment. The husband of a woman who is a very caring Nurse Practitioner. That husband also was an RN.

I never met Michael Pike, but I wanted to. I feel like I do know him because I read about him in Chris Nelson's blog: Veggie Voyagers. Chris writes eloquently and ever so honestly about her life and adventures, so when Michael came down with cancer, she wrote about it with style and dignity. The blog developed after a cross country adventure in their Veggie Mobile--a trip they turned into a book. Chris and Michael would take trips in their veggie wagon, always to lovely outdoorsy locations. Michael kept this old camper, held together with duct tape and chewing gum, running with veggie fuel he processed himself. The sense of adventure in their blog is infectious.

Michael was off cross country skiing up in Lassen National Park just a day after finishing a chemotherapy treatment. He was that sort of man. He never quit. I have never seen a man die so elegantly. Living so ferociously---canoeing, backpacking, traveling to remote locations all the way up to the last week of his life. He wrung and appreciated every last moment he had. I want to live and die like Michael did.

My heart goes out to Chris. Chris has read almost every nature book there is. Whenever I want to know something about a nature writer, I always ask Chris. She always knows the answer. I don't know when Chris will be able to write about this awful loss, but when she does write about it, I know it will be beautiful. These are two beautiful people.

Chris is grieving now, as all of us who knew (and didn't know) Michael are grieving. There will be a silent vigil for peace next Saturday in Chico to honor Michael Pike. Although I never met the man, I intend to be there. I only wish I had been able to meet him when he was still walking the planet. What a man. A hero.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Letter to Chico Liberals and Environmentalists: Yes on A; No on B.

Last month, the Butte County Central Committee of the Democratic Party voted to endorse a "No" vote on Measure A (which restricts the size of marijuana gardens to a very small scale) and a "Yes" vote on Measure B (which creates a commercial industry for cannabis). I was told by a person who attended the vote that it was the urban Chico contingent that pushed the party to make the endorsement. Rural Democrats on the Central Committee were against this endorsement.
It is the politically correct position these days to be “Pro” anything having to do with Cannabis. We rightly see legalization and decriminalization as a way to end the war on drugs that has led to so many people getting rap sheets, and not treatment, when it comes to the abuse of drugs. Yes, I agree. The war on drugs must end.  

But as a person who has been both a life-long Lefty and an Environmentalist who lives in rural Butte County, I do not see how endorsing Measure B protects rural Butte County from the ravages of greed. Let me explain.

In the past few years a new industry has sprung up in one of the most environmentally sensitive eco-systems we have left in California. The late environmental writer, Philip Fradkin, estimated that 75% of the wildlife in California lives within the environmental sweet spot between 1,000 and 4,000 feet in elevation. The great valleys of California have mostly been taken over by agriculture. Wildlife has been extirpated to what little habitat they have left.

The Foothills is what they have left. We should be very careful about letting any large scale commercial enterprise develop in that zone. Up until the cannabis boom, settlement in the rural Foothills was limited for a number of reasons: zoning, commute distances and the difficulty of the terrain. What little settlement there was in the far rural areas was limited to recreational cabins and a few “Mountain People”.
That has changed. Suddenly, just like the Gold Rush, the Green Rush made it economically viable to live in the Foothills. The fuzzy legal status of the Cannabis Industry has pushed it into the nether, unpopulated regions. Out of the way and mostly out of sight of Chicoans. In Butte County, the number of grows burst overnight to around 5,000 gardens. More are created every year. And these aren’t the Cartel Grows--- these are the Grows that are encouraged by a much too generous Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance such as Measure B.

So what has the impact been? Untrammeled growth in a sensitive environment. New roads going in. Water being diverted from streams. Wildlife are shot on sight by paranoid gardeners who want to protect their million dollar grows. Pit bulls and wolves are being reintroduced to the area, killing critters and menacing any recreational hiker. It has become a dangerous place to live, not because of the mountain lion or rattlesnake, but because of the need to protect grows (that can be worth up to a million dollars) with guns and aggressive canine.

From talking to the Fish and Wildlife employees in the area, the number of deer are plummeting, just like they have been plummeting in the marijuana rich counties of Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt. Population pressure and poaching are taking their toll.
We are mismanaging the Foothills and injecting a large commercial industry into an environmentally sensitive zone that should be left to the raccoon, squirrels, ring tailed cats, bear, deer, mountain lion, badger, marten, fisher, rattlesnake, wild turkey, quail, trout, salmon.

A vote for Measure B ensures that we will have less wildlife. Less wild space. More pit bulls and guns and mismanagement of rural areas. I know. I live there. I’ve witnessed the growth and the loss of habitat.

And so, dear Chico liberals and Environmentalists, please vote to limit the size of gardens. Vote Yes on Measure A. There are limits to growth. Let’s vote to limit our impact by maxing out the size of the gardens. We don’t need another commercial industry in the Foothills.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The State of Jefferson, Logging and the Confederate Mindset...

All across rural northern California you can find evidence of a growing secessionist movement.  The feeling I get when I look at all these billboards and flags (yes, flags) that are sprouting up everywhere  like measles spots as I drive around Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties for my job---the feeling I get is that I'm looking at the northern California version of the Confederate flag. And that's what it is essentially.

The State of Jefferson has been adopted by mostly extremist Tea Party types who pine for the days when there were no rules regarding resource extraction. They blame city people for most of the problems in rural areas, and they long for the days when resource extraction didn't come with all those "regulations". They mostly blame Environmentalists for their problems and most would shoot a spotted owl if they saw one.

However, if you look at time sequenced shots of the forests in northern California, you will see that there has been no shortage of resource extraction. The number of clear cuts is sickening and to watch them on time sequence shots is apalling. There is no shortage of logging. Mechanization has created a world where logging takes a couple of people to clear a forest---as seen on those horrid logging television shows. And what happens to the wood? Factories are more efficient, more mechanized and require fewer people. Plus much of the wood is shipped raw to China.

There has been no reduction in cutting of our forests. Ten minutes on Google Earth is all that is needed to prove that assertion. The reduction in work force has come from mechanization and global trade. The Third Worldization of rural California. Yet, it is so much easier to blame an Enviro. Or a spotted owl.

Ban shipping raw logs to other countries and rural California would immediately see an increase in jobs. Ban all clear cutting of forests and move to selective logging of the forests and  you would see an increase in jobs in California. Selective logging is much more labor intensive.

But for those who want to see an end to the onerous regulations that Sacramento supposedly imposes on rural California, well, it is much more fun to blame a bureaucrat or an Enviro for your problems.

Of course the State of Jefferson is a pipe dream. Can you imagine two more US Senators from Glenn and Siskiyou Counties? Can  you imagine two more Senators who would be like Doug LaMalfa and Dan Logue?  It is bad enough that we have to put up with the undue over representation of rural areas like Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Political clout is already skewed towards unpopulated rural States.

But these Tea Partiers are convinced that a new State of Jefferson that would look and behave much like Texas would be the answer to all their woes. Well, their woes have been caused by a lack of vision in their elected Representatives for the past 40 years. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a decent plan for reintegrating rural areas into a functioning economy.

But at least the Tea Partiers have a plan. The Democrats have presented no ideas as to how to help rural California. Hence, without a competing vision, the people have bought the lies of the logging and the extraction industries and continue to elect politicians who are tied to the teats of these industries.

It wasn't always this way. Northern California was solidly in the Democratic camp up until 1980. What happened? The Unions were busted and local economies were destroyed in the previous 20 years as economies of scale brought cheap products in and moved the small manufacturers and the mom and pop shops out. Agriculture has been in a free fall from mechanization for seventy years and now is essentially controlled by a few corporations and a few rich families. Local examples of that would be the Butte County Rice Barons found in the LaMalfa family and the Lundbergs.  A tale of those two families would make a pretty interesting contrast: the organic, progressive Lundbergs who sit (and profit) on the same water district as the right wing, reactionary LaMalfas.

What is needed is a competing plan/vision for rural California. A plan that doesn't rely on extraction but on sustainability. A plan that markets beauty. Adventure. Local economies. All the benefits of rural life that creates good jobs without creating rural sprawl.

One thing is for certain: creating a State of Jefferson is not the answer, even if there was a snowballs chance in hell of being created.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Return of the Weekend Warrior

A weekend off.

I haven't had weekends off on a regular basis since about 1998. Its taken a little time getting used to this 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday normal life schedule. I kind of dreaded returning to working full time after working only part time for the last six years. 40 hours a week seems like a lot of time to do any one task. And it is. Actually, this new job is turning into the work-from-8 am-until-10 pm sort of job. I like the independence and the ability to set my own schedule. I don't like the hours and the low pay. Home Health, especially Home Health Psych., is more of a calling than a job. Be prepared to tarry long hours for little pay.

But at this point of my career, I don't really care. The job is fun and I don't have to worry about being bludgeoned to death by a patient--although I guess it is possible that I could be shot, mistaken for being a burglar by some paranoid with a rifle. There's always something to worry about.  I do miss the ability to spend lots of hours just reading what I want to read. Taking long hikes with my dogs and spouse. Spending lots of  time just plunking on this laptop while I read articles suggested by all my brilliant friends on Facebook. Facebook is fun for people who like to read and have friends who are intellectually curious. I miss the unstructured time.

Back to weekends. I haven't had them off for decades. For the past couple years I've shied away from doing any household projects. Last year I was recovering from a severe work injury that laid me up for the better part of 11 months. I still have problems, the chronic pain hasn't gone away, but I've just kind of gotten sick of babying myself so I med up and do stuff. Norco is my friend.

For the first few years we worked so hard to build this place that when we got it semi-inhabitable, we just sort of bonked. We were so sick of building this homemade mud and strawbale Hobbit Home that we just took a break. The break lasted a few years.

The break has ended.

This weekend I had help from a young buck. Kylie has a 16 year old boyfriend, a good redneck kid who loves guns, pickup trucks and constantly wears a baseball cap---he is eager to please us--- so he has been my helper. He worked hard. I've been meaning to rebuild a back wall on the cabin. Got it done. We hung rain gutters that I've been meaning to get around to for half a decade. Got some of them hung. I cut up a winter's worth of kindling while the young buck painted some trim that badly needed some paint before it rots away. Progress has been made. I purged and cleaned  up the yard---creating a large junk pile of unused, broken and outdated implements of housholdness that needs to be hauled to the dump.

We bought this homestead to be able to do things like this. It is intended to be a retirement cabin with enough space to putter and tinker and garden and build the off-grid life. Scott and Helen Nearing were our inspiration. It is hard work. And like many cerebral nerds, I'm more of an idea person than a person that actually completes non-cerebral building projects. Besides that, my handyman skills aren't particularly handy. That's part of the fun.

It probably isn't the sort of life Joni should be living with her disabilities. The bumpy road to get to our place is torture for her to endure. Just getting in and out of here pretty much consumes her energies for a day. When other people who have disabilities like her live in adaptive apartments and have caregivers show up to do the household chores, Joni wrestles with starting a generator and struggles with raising a teenager off-grid, far from civilization.

And yet, I think living like this is important for both of us. It keeps us connected to earth. Nature. The important stuff. I don't mind aging off-grid where a short walk out my door leads me down to my own private canyon. I look forward to the next 20 years of plunking around on this endless project. Maybe we will actually finish it. Doubtful.

My memory card for my camera malfunctioned so I couldn't load any photos of our work.