The Watering Hole; Thursday April 14 2016; Public Lands

More than a decade ago, I penned the following in my attempt to summarize the fears of environmentalists everywhere concerning the future of public lands — courtesy of right wing politicians — in this country:

It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to . . . well, it’s critical to the existence of life itself. That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species’; tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.

I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.

[. . .]

In any case, the environment is under attack by this administration. Whether one speaks of global warming, or destroying wilderness, polluting the air and water, strip mining, logging, the further endangerment of endangered species, “junk” science (altered) in order to justify/sanctify misdeeds, drastic reductions in Super-Fund appropriations and hence in cleanups, or just plain selling out to business, to corporate campaign contributors – the verdict is guilty, guilty as charged, guilty before all the gods that be or don’t be.

Sadly, the current destruction is only the half of it; it’s very likely that the other hammer will drop one day in the not too distant future. The ultimate atrocity remains: the conversion of public lands into saleable assets, into that single most valuable of all earthly commodities, money. All arrows are slowly beginning to point in that general direction. Could it really happen? Could the Grand Canyon be sold and opened for development? Sadly, the answer is very likely ‘yes.’ Consider:

There are upwards of 100,000,000 acres of wilderness set aside in the United States, along with hundreds of National Parks and monuments which protect and preserve tens of thousands of square miles of the nation’s most awe-inspiring lands. From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone and Glacier, from Yosemite to Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park, places unlike anywhere else in the world are protected for perpetuity – or so we’re told. Denali, Big Bend, Petrified Forest, Haleakala – each and all are jewels in the American crown. And we must not forget, too, the National Forests, National Grasslands, wetlands, wild rivers – the list goes on and on and on – multiple-use lands which themselves enjoy at least a modicum of protection from private business interests. Altogether, the dollar value of America’s public lands must be nearly inestimable, and to think said lands are not coveted by speculators and developers, both foreign and domestic, perhaps even by other nations as the most solid possible investment, would be naive to say the least. As Will Rogers said, “Invest in land, they’re not making it anymore.”

[. . .]

At one time, the American currency was the world’s standard, backed by the word, the resources, and the robust economy of the United States. For foreign investors, the dollar was as safe a haven as a mother’s arms. But no longer; today it is not. Today the dollar is a risky investment at best, and apparently is destined to become riskier and riskier with every passing month. What if America has one last asset, and it’s a big one. Imagine the boom if:

✓ Wilderness areas were offered for purchase by private developers?
✓ National Parks were sold to the highest bidder?
✓ Forests were to become the property of timber companies and/or land developers?

Those are just three aspects of what may well become a reality, a way to bail out an otherwise heavily indebted America, plus a way to spur development (read: create jobs) on prime and pristine lands especially across the west and in each Alaska and Hawaii. The travesty is unimaginable – perhaps that’s why it just may happen, why it may even be part and parcel to an already-existing plan. “Starve the beast” – turn America over to the private sector. Could this be what George Bush means when he speaks glowingly of his “ownership society”? A nation where even that which we today call Public Land is destined for private ownership? Remember, today’s current head of public lands is a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional.

We can hope for sanity to reappear, but dare we hold our breath in anticipation?

That was written WAY back in April 2005, just months after G.W.Bush began his second term as the POTUS whose aberrant first term fiscal policies had already completely reversed the financial debt-reduction progress his predecessor had initiated. Bush had also made it clear that land preservation and environmental issues including designation of wildlife refuges, of Wilderness, of National Monuments would not be on his docket because, after all, there’s no money, no profit, in ANY of that, so why the hell bother? And as Reagan’s Interior Secretary (and fundamentalist Christian) James Watt reportedly once noted, “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”

So that was then. THIS is NOW:

Tea Party Wave Washes Up ‘Anti-Parks Caucus’ In Congress

A group of 20 senators and representatives has formed a de facto “anti-parks caucus” in Congress and is waging the most significant legislative and ideological challenge to America’s national parks in decades, says a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress. The analysis finds that this anti-parks caucus is composed of less than five percent of Congress but is responsible for introducing dozens of bills to block the creation of new national parks, end America’s most effective parks program, and sell off public lands.

Eight anti-parks caucus members also participate in the Federal Land Action Group, a group formed last year with the sole purpose of developing land grab legislation that would transfer federal land to state and local control.

[. . .]

Such partisan politics ring true with the 20-member anti-parks caucus which includes Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Surprise surprise. Right? Yeah, right.

I personally find that to be the most vividly disgusting anti-intelluctual and anti-American Congressional premise I’ve run across in the roughly 64 years I’ve been paying attention to their collective nonsensicals, and I find it to be insurmountably incomprehensible that ANYONE would ever vote FOR such a treacherous and treasonous voice for ANY elective office, POTUS and DOGCATCHER included.

I’m reminded of the words of Author John C. Van Dyke who, more than a century ago, wrote this excellent summation:

“…with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers. Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert – the desert made by the tramp of human feet – begins to show itself, Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization…”

When, I wonder, will enough people figure all that out and take steps to curtail the greed and idiocy that’s come to define this country?
Not until it’s too late, I’d guess.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 23rd, 2015: NatGeo, Take Me Away!

I can’t deal with “Ugly Americans” [of course, “Ugly Americans” = “Republican Presidential Candidates and their Fans/Supporters”] anymore; we keep thinking, “How can these guys sink so low?”, then, the next hour or day or week, one or two or several of them come out with such outrageous shit that we really need a new word to define what circle of hell lies beyond “outrageous” or “horrific” or “despicable” or “abhorrent” or “inhuman” – sorry, I need more words!

And I’ve had it up to HERE with the holidays being turned into meaningless “shop-’til-you-drop” commercialism [how about if “Black Friday” could be turned into “Black Lives Matter Friday” – hell, make every day of the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday shopping season a day of protests]. So I’m going with some beautiful photos from National Geographic to start the week.

Here’s some pretty birds, from “A Flight of Birds”, a section of NatGeo’s Photo Ark, including a photo capturing the iridescent plumage of the Purple Glossy Starling, such as seen below,
purple_glossy_starling
and a more close-up shot of the Javan Rhinoceros Hornbill, like the one seen below:
javan rhinoceros Hornbill

And if you prefer a larger gallery for leisurely viewing, here’s more from NatGeo’s 2015 Photo Contest. The “Week 10” group includes a brooding sunset photo of Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland – here’s a chilly winter shot of the falls, just to start the calming process:
waterfall-godafoss-iceland

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy the views or rant away – or you can do both!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 5th, 2015: Mixed Bag Monday

Let’s start off with a bang:  According to Foreign Policy magazine, the same idiots in Congress who tried to stop the Iranian Nuclear Agreement now want to ‘make it up to Bibi’ by giving Israel bunker busters.  An excerpt from this excellently-written article by Jeffrey Davis:

Since the battle over the Iran deal was largely fought over the question of whether proponents loved Israel or not, both sides are talking loudly about providing the country with a big arms package. Those who supported the deal are eager to make it up to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while those opposed have to find ever more extreme proposals to prove they love Israel more.

This absurd competition — which is primarily about political posturing, not Israeli security — has reached an almost perfect level of absurdity. There is now a growing chorus of people arguing that the United States should give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a huge conventional bunker-buster bomb — and a fleet of heavy bombers to drop it.

Israel’s air bases don’t even have runways that can accommodate heavy bombers, though apparently one base — Nevatim — could be modified.**

[**Personal note:  the engineer for whom I used to work had earned the money that enabled him to buy a nice house and start his own business from a contract constructing the Negev Air Base runways.]

Next, let’s go back to the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis.  Although most news reports agree that the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, arranged the visit, so far none seem to have specifically asked or answered “Why?”  Was it solely Reverend Vigano’s idea?  Or – yeah, I’m the suspicious, cynical type – did someone with a stake in a Papal stamp of approval of Kim Davis and her ilk, someone perhaps running for the Presidency, arrange this very, very quietly?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Huckabee.

Only the Washington Post appears to be curious about the backstory of this now infamous meeting:

Church leaders in the United States and in Rome have been resolutely tight-lipped about the meeting, perhaps concerned about the prospect of appearing to publicly rebuke or challenge the pope, particularly on such a sensitive issue. At the same time, church-watchers have debated and swapped rumors about who set up the meeting, whether it was at the behest of the pope himself, or whether it was an idea pushed by other bishops or religious freedom advocates or donors.

Among those who declined to comment was the Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, at whose residence the meeting took place.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Associated Press. “And in the pope’s characteristic kindness and warmth and hospitality, he shook people’s hands and gave them rosaries. We should understand it as that. In terms of why this person was invited, you have to ask those questions of the nunciature.”

A controversial figure both in Rome and in the United States, Viganò has gone further than other church leaders in his campaign against same-sex marriage. Among other things, he appeared at an event this year with the National Organization for Marriage, a group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage and with which U.S. bishops typically don’t publicly ally.

And, of course, Liberty Counsel, and through them Kim Davis, are more or less calling Pope Francis a liar.  According to Christian Today’s article, “Kim Davis denies Vatican account of her meeting with Pope, says she was invited”:

“Disturbed by statements coming from the Vatican, gay marriage nemesis Kim Davis would like to set the records straight that it was the Vatican that extended an “unsolicited invitation” for her to hold a “private meeting” with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. last Sept. 24.

Liberty Counsel, the group representing Davis, said the Kentucky county clerk—who spent six days in jail for defying a court order for her to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples—had spoken with papal representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before she met the Pope.

“This meeting was a private meeting. No other members of the public were present,” Liberty Counsel said.

Davis, accompanied by her husband Joe and lawyer Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, arrived in Washington on the night of Sept. 23, the Liberty Counsel statement said.

The following day, the Davis couple were met by people with “heavy Italian accents” who led them to the Vatican embassy.

“Kim and Joe Davis were placed in a room with no one else present. Later Pope Francis arrived with only Vatican or Embassy personnel and security,” the Liberty Counsel statement said.

“He stretched out his hands. Kim clasped his hands, and he asked her to pray for him. She said she would, and she asked the Pontiff to pray for her, to which he said he would.

“Pope Francis then thanked Kim for her courage. They embraced. The Pope said, ‘Stay strong.’ He then presented Kim and Joe with two rosaries. There was no line of people or other members of the public seen anywhere,” the statement said.

Liberty Counsel said the Vatican requested Davis to keep the meeting a “secret” until the following Tuesday.”

Really?  In this particular case, I have to say that, since Liberty Counsel and Kim Davis are already proven liars, I tend to doubt their account of the “meeting”, which seems to be just another pathetic attempt to keep Liberty Counsel’s pet martyr for Christianity in the limelight.  But I still want to know, who really arranged this on Davis’s behalf with the Papal Ambassador?

Last, a belated birthday present for our resident Turtle:  from National Geographic, glowing sea turtle!

“The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence—the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.”

This is our daily Open Thread–go on, discuss things!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday April 21, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

The good times are here. Well, let’s say there is some good news this week with respect to the environment. The first two have to do with the importance of biodiversity and resiliency in nature. Who could be against that? The last shows that we can have clean energy and jobs. In Georgia, of all places. Who could be against that?

1. Stinging nettle chemical improves cancer drug

Yes our common weed that itches like crazy when you brush against it also has the same effect on cancer cells.

2. Plastic-Eating Corals Discovered on Great Barrier Reef

A way too early study, with more research to come.

3. Georgia’s clean energy industry provides nearly 20,000 full-time jobs

Open thread, discuss.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday December 16, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Supposedly MIT scientists have found new insight as to what killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The more important question is why are there still Republicans around?

 

Open thread. Discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 12th, 2014: BREAKING into WIND power

Last week at the grocery store, I noticed a couple of men standing behind a table near the pharmacy section. They had some large tri-fold posters standing on the table, but, since my first view only encompassed the back of the posters, I didn’t know what they were pushing. I avoided them for a bit, but I had to pick up a prescription so I covertly checked them out from the safety (and better viewing angle) of the pharmacy counter. Once I realized that the posters showed wind turbines, my interest was piqued and, after I finished getting my prescription, I went directly over and said, “Hi, whatcha doing?”

The two men were from Green Mountain Energy, and the tall, bearded man named Gregory explained that they were offering NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas) customers a choice to opt for electricity generated solely by wind power. New York State has a number of wind farms providing electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers, enough to offer an approximate $.02/killowatt-hour savings over traditional, multi-source electricity ($.089 versus $.11+.) However, even if it was the same price, just the idea that we would not get our electricity from oil, natural gas, coal, and other polluting sources made me feel that it would be worthwhile to switch. While New York State does produce hydroelectricity, the vast majority of our electricity comes from oil and natural gas. Ewww. Well, not anymore for us at least!

From Green Mountain Energy’s website:

In 2013, our customers had the largest annual impact ever, avoiding more than 6.1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2)! Over the past 15+ years, our customers collectively have avoided 30.6 billion pounds of CO2 by choosing cleaner electricity and carbon offset products. To put that into perspective, that’s like:

Taking 2.9 million cars off the road for a year
17.6 million households turning off their lights for a year
Planting 3.6 million trees

At first, of course, I hemmed and hawed about it, thinking that Wayne would be furious with me if I just blindly signed up and we got stuck in something we really didn’t want. Gregory assuaged that fear a bit by telling me that even if I signed up then and there, the contract would not be etched in stone. I was given a booklet about the company for us to review, along with Gregory’s phone number. We arranged to have him talk to Wayne, and, after a phone call the following day, a little research, and a visit back to the store to meet with Gregory, Wayne agreed to it. So we’re finally breaking into renewable energy sources.

Wayne and I have often said that, when we can eventually afford to have our roof fixed, we’ll go solar (our back yard is big enough and open enough to fit a small solar array, too.) But until then, I feel a little bit better about lessening our carbon footprint.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole Tuesday May 6, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics – Open Thread

Here is a sad statement about our last unexplored places:

“Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans, and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us.” stated one researcher from an international study team.

Trash before we get there.

Staying with our ocean theme, we seem to be slowly but steadily destroying the food chain, starting with the largest organisms first (think whales, tuna, sharks) and now right to the bottom of it, where acidification of the ocean melts the shells of tiny marine snails. Dare to dream of a fishless ocean.

Will fish farming be the only way to obtain seafood in the future?

And now for the good news: Vermont Legislature passes GMO labeling law, and the governor is expected to sign it.

Finally, a state with courageous politicians.