Tuesday, October 28, 2014

North Dakota, Jackpot and Early Grieving...

I am back home. That was quite an exciting week. Last Wednesday, I went into the belly of the beast to argue for stricter controls on cannabis gardens. Going on the local Liberal Radio in order to argue a point that has very little support amongst the Herd of Liberals, well, that just isn't a wise thing to do. Nobody wants to hear anything negative about wonder weed. To do so is Liberal Blasphemy.

I was there to support my piece in ChicoSol and also to support Measure A here in Butte County (which severely limits the amount of pot that can be legally grown). My point? Our current method of managing cannabis has led to the environmental and social destruction of the rural areas of California. And in those areas you are seeing a backlash against it. Next month there will be ballot measures for tighter controls of marijuana in Lake County, Shasta County, Nevada County and Butte County. Even the emerald green counties of Humboldt and Mendocino have seen a backlash against cannabis production--with their County Supervisors starting to raise a stink about it. The pro-cannabis people present an image of Jeffersonian Farmers heroically raising a vital product out of unselfish concern for their fellow humans. Greed is never mentioned. Nor the fact that the Pacific fisher is about to be put on the endangered species list because of cannabis farming.

I hope it did some good and got a few people to think. I favor a form of Cannabis Socialism, with the licensing of the production, distribution and sale of legal weed.

And then off I went to Minnesota for a quick visit with my Dad, brother and a grueling, lonely van trip back to California via the long way: through North Dakota.

I spent four days driving back to California. I slept in a compartment of the van (it was full of furniture from my childhood home) just outside of Mordor (Bismarck, North Dakota). The Dakotans are happy with fracking; they are getting rich. And they say the boom will last 35 more years.

Of course, I got caught in the rain/snow traveling through the Rockies and the high desert. My window wiper motor burned out just outside of Jackpot, Nevada---leaving me stranded for a bit until it stopped raining/snowing. Never thought I would spend a night in a trashy casino in Jackpot, Nevada.

It was in Jackpot, sipping on my fourth Bloody Mary (weakly poured) that a waitress from Russia told me she was born in Leningrad.

"Don't you mean, St. Petersburg?", I asked.

"No", she said. "I was born in Leningrad". Then she said something in Russian which I think probably had something to do with a yearning for those heady years of Brezhnev---who, to this day, remains Russia's most popular leader.

There is nothing like a road trip across the American West that will wet your appetite for more travel and adventure in the American West. We are so very lucky to live in a part of the world that still has something wild left in it. Fly over Iowa and look at the domesticated grid like pattern of industrial agriculture and you really start to appreciate just how wonderful it is to have some wilderness left to explore. It is all I can do to not quit my job and pack Joni and the dogs into the van and head on out for a few years. I guess we think of such things when we are in our 50's. We become Kerouacs. Wannabe Beatniks.

I drove by so many places I want to explore. Like the Valley of the Moon Monument in Idaho. What is that about? I want to wander about the battlefield at Little Big Horn. So much to do.

And so now I am home and in my Pre Election/Post Election Depression. I fully expect Measure A to lose; the Growers just have too much money for radio and TV spots and not one television truck has managed to leave the confines of Chico/Oroville to take a look at the huge number of grows that have sprung up out here. Nobody will investigate the allegations of environmental damage. I think they are too scared to venture out here.

I fully expect the Senate to go to the Republicans. And you know damned well we are going to have a few more years of LaMalfa for comic entertainment. Except it isn't funny. It stings all the more knowing that Heidi Hall is such a good fit for the job. It would be progress if her vote takes Butte County. She wins if she comes within 8 points.

So what to do for the next two years? Withdraw. Create my own sanity with my own small tribe of humans and dogs. Take small trips. Hike. Throw out the TV. Escape.

And then, later, go back to work to fight for all those good things we need: wild lands, economic justice, peace and real freedom. But first, a bit of wound licking and some much needed quiet time.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dispatch from the Bakken Shale

I'm sitting in a Perkins Restaurant on the edge of the Bakken Shale someplace west of Bismarck, North Dakota. There are "Hiring Now" signs everywhere. The Interstate Freeway billboards advertise things like "safe ignition flare" devices for oil derricks. Yesterday, I drove across Minnesota and most of North Dakota; making a trip to my boyhood home to bring back a couple items from my Father's home which is on the market. It is being sold to help defray the cost of the memory unit where he resides.

I'm driving home with my inheritance: A lazy boy love seat, an antique saw, a rocking chair (for my old age) and a table chair.

I slept last night in a Rest Stop squished kitty korner fashion amongst the loot in this rusty van I'm driving.

The radio ads across Minnesota were mostly attacks on Mark Dayton trying to explain why Minnesota is doing so well, despite raising taxes and investing in public education. Dayton is gonna win this thing in a breeze---having salvaged his career after getting a reputation for being a flake while he served in the US Senate. Over across the Mississippi, Scott Walker struggles to win re-election despite a separate strategy of austerity and tax cuts. If Scott Walker survives, we are certain to see his brand exported to the national level. Keep your fingers crossed that he will lose.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are case studies in what works and what doesn't work.

Here in North Dakota the residents are trying to salve their collective guilt with a ballot initiative that would take 5% of the profits from the oil money from the Bakken Shale and invest that into wildlife habitat. I wish they would put the money into ReWilding the place. These prairie hills need bison. About a million of them. That would make the drive across North Dakota much more interesting; I'd like to wait for about thirty minutes for a hundred thousand bison to cross the road.

There is no protest against fracking here. The place is awash in money. North Dakota has no income tax and they have no clue what to do with all the money they are taking in. There are some wind turbines visible. That'd be one place to invest it. North Dakota had a choice as to what to invest in, Green Energy or Increased Global Temperatures. They chose to have a warmer climate.

While in Fargo, I saw hundreds of new rail tank cars rushing by, all filled with the liquid gold. My brother tells me that the oil companies say there is at least 35 years of oil to be pumped out of the ground on this wind swept prairie. This oil boom is going to last, the locals say. Of course, no one wants to live here and someday it will return to the bison as they march past the collapsing boom towns of manufactured housing. That is, if the grass and the bison can handle increased temperatures.

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.