Category Archives: deforestation

Lighting up the Elite’s Solutions will Still Smell of Sulphur

I also know that one must do what one can do. No matter how little it is, it is nonetheless a human testimony and human testimonies, as long as they are not based on greed or personal ambition for power, can have unexpected positive effects.…I believe in local action and in small dimensions. It is only in such environments that human creativity and meaningful identities can truly surface and flourish.

Manfred Max-Neef

There are many-many gross things in the news every nanosecond of anti-social media’s and mass mainlining media’s dead from the navel up “stories.”

Imagine, now, the Great White Hope, the Sir David and the Prince William doling out a few million bucks here and there for, drum roll, individuals, companies and agencies that come up with solutions to the world’s environmental problems.

Imagine that, the deeply steeped in eugenics Attenborough, and the DNA-mutated mentally inbred royalty, having people jump through hoops to help move forward the powers that be in capitalism.

Here’s a doozy from this insipidly wet milquetoast PR spin — “We can’t cut down rain-forests forever and anything that we can’t do forever is by definition unsustainable,” says Attenborough. Adding that “if we act now we can yet put it right,” how amazing would that be? We must all act now.

Oh, cry for me, Military Industrial Complex. Nary a word about the Prince’s jets and missiles. Nothing about the deeply embedded complex that holds up the war lords. Again, to repeat – that’s Silicon Valley, that’s fast food, that’s paint, hardware, clothing, IT, telecom, med, media, pharma, oil, gas, nuclear, wires, plastics, satellites,  technical writers, office supplies, water, air, soil suppliers, engineering outfits, lumber, milling, smelting, big earth movers, drone makers, all of those grand pieces and bits that put together this zombie squid of war war war.

You will not hear that in the Attenborough line – no more war machines, soldiers, flyovers, Kings Guards, air-naval-ground-moon bases. Imagine, he states how he was 11 years old with a world population of, drum roll, 2.3 billion (1937).

And, now it’s 7.8 billion, and huge parts of the globe are dead of wild lands and are invaded by, well, you guessed it (but not coming from the Prince’s or Knight’s mouths) – capitalists and empires running their criminal operations for the banks, the investors, the elites. Oh, mining, ag, metals, fossil fuel, minerals, fish, water, data, human lives for the operation that gets old Attenborough flying around the world in his jet-setting ways.

Let’s see, since 1937, hundreds of trillions spent on missiles, NASA/aerospace, satellites, war-war-war; and what else has occurred since wee David grew up to be 94? No mention of the amassing of chemicals, industrial farms, the huge consumer-capitalist bases of seizing power, products, resources and people from other countries, all for god, country, queen, and Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and, pick your bank poison here  ____________! He will not speak of the accumulation of wealth and land and power by his own Anglo-Saxon greedy men of war-debt-slavery.

He wants birth-control, forced sterilization for the dark people, and LEED and zero waste third and fourth homes-castles-island enclaves for the beautiful people. No limits on the beautiful people’s families and 5.6 earths for their lifestyle Earth Footprint.

This is more of the same bizarre stuff – five prizes, $1.2 million each, for 10 years. This is the infantilism of the globe and the great super hero rescuer narrative for the beautiful people who want nothing more than capitalism that pays, has returns on investments and smells-tastes-feels-looks-sounds like green porn.

“We rely entirely on this finely tuned life-support machine” says Sir David Attenborough when describing our little blue planet, in his recently released book and documentary “A Life on Our Planet.” The legendary naturalist and broadcaster, now 94, has spent his entire life traveling the world documenting wildlife, for us to enjoy from the comfort of our living rooms. He is thought to be one of the most well-traveled people on the planet, for The Life of Birds documentary alone, it is estimated he traveled a whopping 256,000 miles. That is the same as traveling around the world ten times. And this was only for one of the eight series he has made for the BBC over the course of almost 30 years. He now joins forces with Prince William with whom he shares a passion for the environment, to help launch the Earthshot Prize. Aiming to be the most prestigious global environment prize, it will be awarded to those who come up with extraordinary ways to help tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges of our planet. [source]

Prince William and Sir David Attenborough launch Earthshot Prize

Quaint. Bad writing. It is like a Jack and Jill nursery tale. Not journalism.

Here’s my email – contact me ASAP, Sir David and Prince Billy. No millions spent on techno fixes, on big giant scoops for ocean plastic, seed storage projects for the moon or mars. No 29 million studies and 29 white papers and a hundred million sad-sack pretzel logic to save the planet. I got the idea, man, and we can distribute that $60 million to sue the shit out of the main perpetrators of poisons. Outfits like British Petroleum? Uh?

Simple stuff, so again, my contact email, Davey and Willie,  is below. Here

Here, my idea — I can think of a massive one weekend event – how about a thousand or 10,000 thousand two-day charrettes. Globally. Giant brainstorming sessions. Giving young people the facilitation tools to come up with a 10-part or 100-part plan to save people, planets, plants, populations of animal species.

Easy, man – with all the shit-show tools of Zoom and satellite feeds and computers and, well, you think that maybe 10,000 teach-ins and brainstorming sessions simultaneously might produce a few common threads, in the countries on the African Continent, North, Middle and South America, Middle East, Far East, Island nations, and more.

Let’s see – I bet with the right engagement, those young students and their tag-along parents and uncles and aunts might be coming up with this:

  • immediate end to military spending
  • utilizing the equipment militaries have for restorative natural, agro-ecological, and community projects
  • no more billionaires
  • no more men and women ruling from the top down
  • no more corporations dictating the size, shape, limits, lifespans of individual humans, ecosystems, bio-regions, nations, and hemispheres
  • massive collective agro-ecological farming to feed the world
  • massive eminent domain for empty buildings, second, third, fourth homes
  • microhome villages served with intergenerational diverse people healing minds-bodies-earth-natural systems
  • a collective and massive global year of strikes
  • the new framework for producing food, producing goods, producing small-locally owned businesses
  • colleges for all, and all departments engaged in connected and holistic teaching . . .
  • no more economy over anything thinking
  • deep ethics taught in all those subjects
  • community schools led by students and people in the communities
  • native and indigenous led governance, land ethic, air ethic, and cultural engagement
  • arts, culture, intergenerational housing, and, alas, no more shit jobs (RIP David Graeber!)

And, more, and can you imagine all those 10,000 community-based charrettes, where people – the young and the very old and the most vulnerable – are not just at the table, but are the facilitators. Sure, the concepts of global heating will be tantamount as well as restorative cultural-economic-spiritual-racial justice.

I am convinced that these youth forums will produce manifestos so similar, so tied to the very idea of “an injury to one is an injury to all” that all the retrograde, violent, and colonized war lord and banking lovers would be pushed out of the realm. Join us, sure.

But imagine now this Earth-Shot prize being something completely different than the old model of “who has the best ideas to fit into the capitalist paradigm to play around with some of the major issues earth and people are facing.”

Solve microplastics? Well, first, now, stop the plastic’s industry and yank them all out of the hands of felons and profit gougers. The packaging industries? Done. The clear cutters, strip miners, mountaintop removers – gone, out of business.

The commodities trading? Gone. The stockholders, the monopolies, the BlackRocks, gone. I believe those 10,000 or 100,000 charrettes and youth-led think tanks and solutions cabals would produce the tools, the language and the spirit of structural global change. Email me, Dave and Billy.

Oh, I know it will be a lot of work, but the young and the very old and the vulnerable are up to the task. There is really nothing else on earth to do but working for the human/animal/plant family and natural world and working collectively so people in the next county don’t suffer while the other county doesn’t suffer.

Precautionary principle, life cycle analysis, and much more-more for an ecosocialist world. Whoops, did I use the term, Socialist?

The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change,
and the disease is the capitalist development model.
— Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007,

The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

Youth who are not completely damaged by consumerism/anti-social media/drugs/epigenetics/Breaking Bad parents are naturally connected to other peoples, and given the space and chance, they are the solutions makers.

No more TED Talk white bread talkers, no more mass mainlining media info-tainment, no more celebrity culture dominating everything, no more-no more.

Again, utilize this shit-show Zoom Doom and media platforms to get these 10,000 or 100,000 teach-ins/charrettes up on all platforms. Imagine, even all those colonized millionaire media fakes, all those prune headed politicians, all those stem-cell sucking CEO’s like Bezos and Zuckerberg, well, they will have to watch, man.

Old Knights and Princes are not the future. The rich and the white race rampaging throughout history in their empires of greed, religion, conquistadors of rape-pillage-theft-murder; those manipulators, those penury-creators, those bamboozlers, the smoke and mirror charlatans, the debt holders, the criminal injustice purveyors, all those blood diamond types, I know for a fact that two day teach-in and charrette, they will be tossed out as anything more than thieves and destroyers.

Give peace a chance? Give the youth the platform, the facilitation, the attention, the manifestos to change this world.  Coming up with some bio-mimic paint that self cleans will not cut it. Global shit in who is at the table, who writes the rules, who brings forth the ideas. N O  M O R E  white guys setting the stage and making the rules.

Oh, what a world it would be, and what would it take to get those 100,000 global charrettes working? Technology. Computers? Some WIFI connections? Email me now, sirs and princes!

Let the youth, the young from lower economic communities, the people of the so-called developing or less developed world make their mark now. Forget about the compostable toilets and home-sited wind turbine.

And this is what the Earthshot Prize aims to do. Just as the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s was a catalyst for new technology such as the MRI scanner and satellite dishes that helped us go to the moon, this prize aims through Earthshot challenges to create a new wave of ambition and innovation around finding ways to help save the planet. The committee has announced it will spend the next 10 years $60 million, awarding annually five, $1.2 million prizes to individuals, organizations and those around the world who are working to provide solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems.

It is no surprise that the dominant global system which is responsible for the ecological crisis also sets the terms of the debate about this crisis, for capital commands the means of production of knowledge, as much as that of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Accordingly, its politicians, bureaucrats, economists and professors send forth an endless stream of proposals, all variations on the theme that the world’s ecological damage can be repaired without disruption of market mechanisms and of the system of accumulation that commands the world economy.

But a person cannot serve two masters – the integrity of the earth and the profitability of capitalism. One must be abandoned, and history leaves little question about the allegiances of the vast majority of policy-makers. There is every reason, therefore, to radically doubt the capacity of established measures to check the slide to ecological catastrophe.

Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

The post Lighting up the Elite’s Solutions will Still Smell of Sulphur first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes

The very idea of War Being a Racket penetrates so deeply into capitalism’s flair for murder by a thousand cuts, a thousand miles in a Corvair, a thousand sips from diet Coke, a thousand sucks from Nestle baby formula, a thousand hours on the video screen, a thousand seconds inside the nuclear core, a thousand nanoparticles chewed, a thousand days living under high tension power lines, a thousand slices of mercury-cured tuna, a thousand puffs of the e-cigarette, a thousand days in law school, a thousand clicks hiked in clear cut, a thousand bombs bursting in air, a thousand doses of any one of millions of drugs or chemicals, a thousand seconds of a presidential debate, a thousand launches from NASA, a thousand bullets into Black bodies, a thousand spent uranium laced shells, a thousand drips of PCBs in our water supply, and, on and on, the drumbeat plays, a thousand cuts.

I just finished watching the documentary, The People versus Agent Orange. Carol Van Strum (here and here) is the American contingent and Nga To Tran the Vietnamese contingent. Like so many other documentaries, this one cuts to the chase – the liberation of humankind and ecologies from the death ray of capitalism is the ONLY way forward.

Veterans, Survivors Unaware of Agent Orange Benefits

The origins of Agent Orange lie in an obscure laboratory at the University of Chicago where, during World War II, the chairman of the school’s biology department, E. J. Kraus, discovered that direct doses of 2,4-D can kill certain broadleaf vegetation by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth not unlike that of cancer cells in the human body. Kraus, thinking his findings might be of use to the Army, informed the War Department, which initiated testing of its own but found no use for the stew of hormones prior to the end of the war. But experiments with 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T continued through the 1950s. — Orion Magazine

Ad nauseum the bantering back and forth with deplorable MAGA and shallow democrats on mainline TV/Cable, is much ado about nothing when we put into perspective every single action the corporation makes to not only rip-off each and every customer, but to delimit free speech, to eviscerate participatory democracy, to use their hit squads of lawyers to obfuscate and obliterate the righteous people up against these Titans of Tyranny – chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, fossil fuel, mining, data, prison, space, industrial, food, medical, media, education, criminal justice, banking, insurance, investing thieves and manslaughter experts.

The entire farm has been sold down the river a million times, so when we look at Agent Orange, the USA government, the US Air Force, the Dow corporation, the endless legal deaths by a thousand motions against some sort of reparation for the millions of Vietnamese, Americans and dozens of others in Vietnam during the tyranny of corporations and the French and the USA in fighting in another person’s land. Vietnam!

Carol Van Strum’s story is linked to my neck of the woods – the Central Oregon coast range. She is just a few dozen miles up the road, in Five Rivers. For more than 45 years, she has been both victim of, and battler against, the chemical spraying operators here where timber companies clear cut vast thousands of square miles of forest, and then deploy the markers of Agent Orange and other brews to include Glyphosate and atrazine, among others.

The film is understatement, but thorough and clear – some of us knew early on that the herbicide Agent Orange was more than a Ho Chi Minh Trail defoliant. It was part of a plan by the despotic South Vietnamese president Diệm ’s worldview – supported and supplied by the USA – that the Viet Cong should not have jungle cover and that the rice crops in the North should not only be destroyed but contaminated from the soil up.

Opinion | The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange - The New York Times

Tran is an amazing voice for Vietnam and the millions of victims of Agent Orange – many dead, by the millions, and many by several million surviving in varying levels of debilitation, and for her and millions of other women, giving birth to deformed, sick and dying babies.

Back in Oregon, the mothers and then the doctors came together to compare notes, and alas, the number of miscarriages/spontaneous abortions experienced by local women always coincided a month after helicopters working for the timber companies unloaded thousands upon thousands of gallons of the toxic brew, a mix of hormone disruptors and growth inhibitors that scour animals, plants and humans to the point of genetic mutations and untold physical ailments as adults.

We see the coughing “chemical guy” in Oregon, who is cell phone filming himself loading up the helicopters with the brew. He hacks up blood at night. He is another victim of better living through chemistry. His story is vital to the telling of the Agent Orange story back home, in Oregon.

Tran’s case seeks accountability for “the deadliest use of chemicals in the history of warfare.” The case is still held up in court.

Why the United States Won't Admit Guilt Over Agent Orange

Tran was told by her heroic mother, captured by the South Vietnamese, in 1953, “If I don’t come back, you will replace me.” Tran ended up writing news for the National Liberation Front. She met her husband in the forest, who was part of the Foreign Relations Commission. “We spent our youth engaged in war.”

In June 1968 their daughter was born, and three days later the infant’s skin  began falling off. She had difficulty breathing, and she had major heart issues. “I always blamed myself thinking I was the reason for her illness and the cause of her death. Even though I have my other two children, it is the face of my first that remains anchored in my soul,” Tran states.

Tran says she carried that guilt for 40 years. “Until I found out what killed my daughter, the poison Agent Orange.”

Her second daughter was born with alpha thalassemia, a major defect of her pancreas. Same with Tran’s third daughter, and a granddaughter. Thanks, Agent Orange and the Boys at Dow!

Back and forth the documentary travels from Carol’s and Oregon’s battle against the chemical companies and the university forestry guy who was in the back pocket of Dow, and with Tran, who has several lawyers working to “put an end to the eternal impunity,” as French barrister William Bourdon calls it.

That was Operation Ranch hand, from 1962 to 71, approved by JFK and his henchmen in the DoD and military. The idea was to take away the forest cover but also to be part of a food-denial program, which under any auspices of international conventions, is an act of genocide, and a war crime.

Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was ordered to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.

“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”

Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”

However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunities weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.

Dr. Clary tears up on the film, showing a deep regard for the Vietnamese. He cried at the sight of the deformed children. The filmmakers state: “He is not a typical war monger, and never said that. He became a whistle-blower to expose such attitudes. They are the opposite of how he feels.

“They went back and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we need the quantities. Besides it’s going to be sprayed on the jungle over there. Not gonna be any people there and if they happen to get into it, so what? We’re at war.'”

Oregon Community Rights Organizer Featured in New Documentary 'THE PEOPLE vs. AGENT ORANGE' | CELDF

Carol Van Strum reiterates that the half-life of a dioxin molecule is 2 billion years. Dioxin, the forever chemical and the gift of cancer and birth defects and mutagenic ailments that keep on giving. Tran is now fighting for the fourth generation of people affected by the millions of gallons of this poison sprayed on her homeland. She has breast cancer.

Dr, Clary breaks down emotionally, saying he never thought his government would betray all the veterans who directly were affected and whose offspring were/are still affected. The judge in the Agent Orange case is a pure case of misanthropy that infects all chambers of the judicial and legal class.

Andre Burny, author of Agent Orange: Apocalypse Vietnam, makes it clear that this is a “crime against humanity, an attack on the human genome.”

It’s telling that one of several scientists featured in a clip, Dow’s Dr. Cleve Goring, says, “The attack on the chemical is entirely emotional. 2,4 5-T is about as toxic as Aspirin. We have not done a good job with our PR campaign.”

As benign as Aspirin! You haven’t heard this before, right? Farmed chemical-laced salmon, safe as mother’s milk. Oh, antibiotic-laced meat and poultry are safe for all consumers. You know, it would take a bathtub of the stuff a day for twenty years to cause cancer. Or, lab rats are not humans . . . no comparison. 5-G is like an apple a day. Violent video games are A-Okay. Genetically Engineered crops are better than those old fashioned heritage crap. What’s a little used motor oil dumped into the pond.

Oh, dear reader, you have as many of these “it’s safer than the alarmists yammer about” stories, I am sure. Imagine, the bottom line of Dow is to cover up, drag court cases on and on until the plaintiffs are six feet under. What a little rebranding won’t fix. Or some heavyweight like Brad Pitt or Betty White endorsing the product bringing people all together now.

The documentary, The People versus Agent Orange,” delves into many of the treatment centers for victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are dozens. I have been to two of them, years ago, and they were not even tied to Agent Orange. Like Tran, most of the mothers blamed themselves for children coming out twisted, stunted, without limbs, craniums asymmetrical or ballooned out.

This is how capitalism works – lies, deceit, murder, cover, cover-up, blame the victim, pass on the diseases and poisons and clean up costs to the people. This is the price of capitalism, many Americans will say. This is the price of convenience. This is the price of Low Prices and instant soup, instant turkey, instant husband/wife.

Blame the child for the crimes of consumerism. Blame the fetus for the mother taking the advice of western medicine. Blame the communities for the sprayed hog blood-urine-shit in their backyards.

Capitalism is more than some giant smoke and mirrors game, bigger than some house of cards, bigger than snake oil salesmen/women grifting, bigger than shoveling up billions into the debt (poor) house. It is a system of rackets, and while Gen. Butler may have written War is a Racket about the MIC, we have to transpose that military industrial complex to Banks/Hospitals/Insurance Companies/Courthouses/Police Stations/Law Firms/Colleges/Mining Companies/Drug Manufacturers/Big Ag Outfits/Media Conglomerates/So-Called Liberal Press and the like are the very definition of Rackets, certainly perfect actors for Dante’s Circles of Hell.

We are the fodder for that inferno, and if anyone of any political stripe doesn’t end up being pissed off after watching The People versus Agent Orange, then they are misanthropes, cult followers, colonized zombies. And I can say that about any number of hundreds of righteous documentaries — bear witness and then what? Retreat to stupidity, retreat to the capitalist’s see-speak-hear no evil while the evil eats your soul from the inside-out!

Please note that I was in Vietnam in 1994 and in 1996. I worked first with several biological teams doing a huge transect of the forest near the Laotian border. I met amazing Vietnamese scientists. I revisited places my military father was at as a CW4 cryptographic guy. His stories were my stories.

I was in Vietnam in 1994 the same age my father was there, shot twice. That was age 36.

I made a point of getting into many villages after the science report was done. I drove a motorcycle down Highway One. I met amazing people there, and had two Vietnamese who helped me navigate the language.

I was embraced by men the same age as my father. Men who fought as Viet Cong, and those men, of course, did not do an eight-month and then a 12-month set of tours like my Army father. They spent more than a decade or more fighting the French, fighting the Americans.

I met a woman in Hanoi who was bombed as a child in an orphanage. I met people studying the breast milk of lactating women, in 1996, with 16 times the level of PCB’s (US standards) in their systems.

Vietnam came to me again, as I worked with many veterans, and some Vietnamese back in Texas putting on the 20th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon (April 1975). I had Le Ly Hayslip at the event, and she blessed my daughter who was still in her mother’s womb. Den Yen was the vice mayor of Saigon, and he too showed up. John  McAfee, A Slow Walk in a Sad Rain, was just one of many writers, historians, artists who were in this historical event in 1995.

I worked with then Thomas Daniel, now taking on his mother’s name, Vu, who was both my student and friend and we worked together on art projects. My play, Tiger Cages, was partly written after I ended up in London after watching the bad play, Miss Saigon. My short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, tells the story of people somehow connected to the Vietnam war.  I have taught college courses for US military, even at the Sergeants Major Academy at Biggs Field. Vietnam, “Never another Vietnam,” the “tragedy of Vietnam War,” and more is in my DNA. I even worked as a social worker helping homeless veterans and their families secure housing and benefits.

This film is powerful in that it tells a simple story of ecocide and American hubris. Several million Vietnamese were killed directly by US bombs. Many more died later from injuries and chemical death. The trauma on a country is also part and parcel of this illegal and unethical war.

Ecocide as a military practice was first coined for the war against the Vietnamese the US conducted. This documentary and Dr. Clary discuss this heinous war crime, of destroying the crops, the food sources, the soil as part of military stratagem.

As a note, my piece here was in my blog, and at first I thought I covered all bases. One of the filmmakers, Alan Adelson, made it clear to me some of my juxtapositions of quotes were wrongly attributed. I was writing this “review” as I watched the documentary, The PEOPLE versus Agent Orange. I let my passions and zeal overtake my editor’s calm and thorough copy-editing.

I appreciate Alan’s email, and I know this sort of review is not mainstream, and probably not usable for the director. I am able to take off one revolutionary cap and put on a more traditional journalist’s cap. I hope the film shows in Portland and if so, that I can have a crack at talking with the filmmaker. I have other gigs, including Street Roots, in Portland. While my column, Finding Fringe, is not textbook newspaper “objective” reporting, it still provides a look into people like Carol and her son, Jordan Merrell — A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

War is a Racket – Major General Butler, 1935 | Creative by Nature

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. — Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

+–+

I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective. — Rachel Libert, co-producer of film, Semper Fi

 

 

The post Eternal Impunity of Capitalism's Crimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kiss the Amazon Rainforest Goodbye

Photo:  Rainforest Trust

As of September 29th, Brazil’s Bolsonaro government has fired the civilian-run National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which has monitored the Amazon rainforest for the past three decades. INPE is being replaced (drumroll please) by the Brazilian military as the new watchdog over the world famous rainforest. Voila, worldwide concerns about deforestation are… ah… indeterminate, vague, unspecified.

All along, the spectacularly bountiful rainforest has increasingly come under heavy attack and definitively at risk of turning into a degraded savannah. A warning put forward by world-renowned Amazonian scientist Carlos Nobre, as two powerfully destructive assaults are simultaneously underway: (1) global warming is pounding the rainforest repeatedly every 5 years, ever since 1998, with severe droughts lumberingly reinforced by (2) massive deforestation (cutting down and burning trees) for commercial logging, farming, and mineral exploitation.

Right before the eyes of the world the most legendary rainforest on the planet goes up in smoke (See previous article: “Brazil’s 63,000 Fires”, September 8, 2020).

Brazil’s vice president Hamilton Mourão, a retired general, announced, as of September 29th, creation of a new agency with “full authority over Amazon deforestation and fire monitory satellite alerts.” As mentioned above, the new agency is now in charge of collecting and analyzing scientific data for 60% of South America’s rainforest.

A telltale indicator to this sudden change of guard took place almost one year ago when science minister Marcos Pontes fired the former chief of the INPE agency Ricardo Galvão, August of 2019, over a public disagreement with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on the validity of data about deforestation. According to Bolsonaro, the data had been altered to attack his government. In response, Galvão labeled the president “a coward.”

In response to Galvão’s release, Philip Fearnside, an ecologist at INPE, informed Eos news that “deforestation under Bolsonaro is exploding.” He already “had done a tremendous amount of damage in the environmental area just in 7 months… things are falling apart very quickly.”1

Carlos Nobre, who worked at INPE for 35 years and who is currently senior researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo indignantly commented:

If deforestation exceeds 20-25% of the Amazon, calculations indicate the region will turn into a degraded savannah.2

Along those lines, according to INPE data, since 1970: “Forest cover as a percent of pre-1970 cover” equals 82.7%. 3  Hmm.

Using words reserved for cat fighting, Bolsonaro informed complaining European countries in 2019 to mind their own business because “they have already destroyed their own environment,” as he claimed his own government’s satellite data showing an alarming rise in deforestation as “lies.”4

Bolsonaro went on to say he was “fulfilling a mission from God.”

He also sharply criticized foreign press for complaining about his plans to open up indigenous reserves to mining, stating that the press lacked respect for human rights of Brazil’s indigenous people:

You want the indigenous people to carry on like prehistoric men with no access to technology, science, information, and the wonders of modernity. Indigenous people want to work, they want to produce and they can’t. They live isolated in their areas like cavemen. What most of the foreign press do to Brazil and against these human beings is a crime. 2

During America’s presidential debate, candidate Joe Biden commenting about Brazil, said Trump had “no relationship with foreign policy… The rainforest of Brazil are being torn down.” He suggested a solution:

I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t then you’re gonna have significant economic consequences.5

Bolsonaro responded to Biden’s jab: “What a shame. Mr. John (sic) Biden! What a shame!”2

Indeed, what a shame that Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is within reach of turning into a degraded savannah.

  1. “Ousted Head of Science Agency Criticizes Brazil’s Denial of Deforestation Data”, Eos, 20 August 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Calculating Deforestation Figures for the Amazon”, Mongabay, January 4, 2020.
  4. Bolsonaro Declares ‘the Amazon is Ours’ and Calls Deforestation Data ‘Lies’, The Guardian, July 19, 2019.
  5. “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Slams Biden for ‘Coward Threats’ Over Amazon”, US News, September 30, 2020.

The post Kiss the Amazon Rainforest Goodbye first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kiss the Amazon Rainforest Goodbye

Photo:  Rainforest Trust

As of September 29th, Brazil’s Bolsonaro government has fired the civilian-run National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which has monitored the Amazon rainforest for the past three decades. INPE is being replaced (drumroll please) by the Brazilian military as the new watchdog over the world famous rainforest. Voila, worldwide concerns about deforestation are… ah… indeterminate, vague, unspecified.

All along, the spectacularly bountiful rainforest has increasingly come under heavy attack and definitively at risk of turning into a degraded savannah. A warning put forward by world-renowned Amazonian scientist Carlos Nobre, as two powerfully destructive assaults are simultaneously underway: (1) global warming is pounding the rainforest repeatedly every 5 years, ever since 1998, with severe droughts lumberingly reinforced by (2) massive deforestation (cutting down and burning trees) for commercial logging, farming, and mineral exploitation.

Right before the eyes of the world the most legendary rainforest on the planet goes up in smoke (See previous article: “Brazil’s 63,000 Fires”, September 8, 2020).

Brazil’s vice president Hamilton Mourão, a retired general, announced, as of September 29th, creation of a new agency with “full authority over Amazon deforestation and fire monitory satellite alerts.” As mentioned above, the new agency is now in charge of collecting and analyzing scientific data for 60% of South America’s rainforest.

A telltale indicator to this sudden change of guard took place almost one year ago when science minister Marcos Pontes fired the former chief of the INPE agency Ricardo Galvão, August of 2019, over a public disagreement with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on the validity of data about deforestation. According to Bolsonaro, the data had been altered to attack his government. In response, Galvão labeled the president “a coward.”

In response to Galvão’s release, Philip Fearnside, an ecologist at INPE, informed Eos news that “deforestation under Bolsonaro is exploding.” He already “had done a tremendous amount of damage in the environmental area just in 7 months… things are falling apart very quickly.”1

Carlos Nobre, who worked at INPE for 35 years and who is currently senior researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo indignantly commented:

If deforestation exceeds 20-25% of the Amazon, calculations indicate the region will turn into a degraded savannah.2

Along those lines, according to INPE data, since 1970: “Forest cover as a percent of pre-1970 cover” equals 82.7%. 3  Hmm.

Using words reserved for cat fighting, Bolsonaro informed complaining European countries in 2019 to mind their own business because “they have already destroyed their own environment,” as he claimed his own government’s satellite data showing an alarming rise in deforestation as “lies.”4

Bolsonaro went on to say he was “fulfilling a mission from God.”

He also sharply criticized foreign press for complaining about his plans to open up indigenous reserves to mining, stating that the press lacked respect for human rights of Brazil’s indigenous people:

You want the indigenous people to carry on like prehistoric men with no access to technology, science, information, and the wonders of modernity. Indigenous people want to work, they want to produce and they can’t. They live isolated in their areas like cavemen. What most of the foreign press do to Brazil and against these human beings is a crime. 2

During America’s presidential debate, candidate Joe Biden commenting about Brazil, said Trump had “no relationship with foreign policy… The rainforest of Brazil are being torn down.” He suggested a solution:

I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t then you’re gonna have significant economic consequences.5

Bolsonaro responded to Biden’s jab: “What a shame. Mr. John (sic) Biden! What a shame!”2

Indeed, what a shame that Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is within reach of turning into a degraded savannah.

  1. “Ousted Head of Science Agency Criticizes Brazil’s Denial of Deforestation Data”, Eos, 20 August 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Calculating Deforestation Figures for the Amazon”, Mongabay, January 4, 2020.
  4. Bolsonaro Declares ‘the Amazon is Ours’ and Calls Deforestation Data ‘Lies’, The Guardian, July 19, 2019.
  5. “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Slams Biden for ‘Coward Threats’ Over Amazon”, US News, September 30, 2020.

The post Kiss the Amazon Rainforest Goodbye first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Boundless Dying Trees

Global warming is ravaging forests throughout the world.

New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today. 1

According to Bill Anderegg, a forest researcher at the University of Utah:

Global warming has pushed many of the world’s forests to a knife edge… in the West, you can’t drive on a mountain highway without seeing how global warming affects forests.2

Similar to corals and reefs, trees are slow growing and long-lived but cannot easily move to escape newly emerging rapid heat. Regrettably, both systems have inflexible damage thresholds. Corals experienced a tipping point from 2014-16 of record-breaking ocean heat as reefs around the world bleached and died in unprecedented numbers.

The Great Barrier Reef suffered its worst coral bleaching on record in February of 2020 from the most extreme ocean temperatures since records began in 1900. That’s global warming at work, overtime. Not only that but consider the egregious fact that the world’s largest living organism has been hit by three devastating bleachings in only five years. This year, for the first time in recorded history, severe bleaching, which kills coral outright, hit all three major regions of the famous reef. Scientists were awestruck.

Similar to no predictions of coral-bleaching disasters (what a big surprise!) nobody is predicting a similar disaster for forests, but it’s already underway right under everybody’s nose. It’s here now!

Giant Sequoias, the Grand Daddy of the world’s trees, are “dying from the top down.” This has never been documented before.  According to Christy Brigham, chief of resource management for parks: “We’ve never observed this before.”3

The loss of Giant Sequoias is but one example of a worrisome worldwide trend that’s nerve-wracking.

Trees in forests are dying at increasingly high rates – especially the bigger, older trees.2

According to Nate McDowell, an earth scientist at the US Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the lead author of a major worldwide study:

We’re seeing it almost everywhere we look. 4

The numbers are staggering. From 1900 to 2015 the world lost more than a third of its old-growth forests. Ever since, the numbers are accelerating enough for calls of extra-alarm.

The causes are mostly anthropogenic, meaning logging and land-clearing, plus the biggest impact of fossil fuel emissions that bring forth rising global temperatures significantly magnifying the rate of dying, as droughts extend longer and harsher, resulting in extremely brittle tinder, leading to massive wildfires. The upshot is a world on fire like never before. Dead trees burn easily.

According to Henrik Hartmann of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemisty, in central Europe:

You don’t have to look for dead trees… They’re everywhere.”2

For example, in northern Europe one week of extreme heat resulted in hundreds of thousands of beech trees dropping leaves. The trees could not handle the heat.

In the US Southwest emerging mega drought conditions have already weakened and killed hundreds of millions of trees, including Rocky Mountain lodgepole and piñon pines, as well as aspens.

As it happens, the massive numbers of tree deaths are newly unique to the entire world. African cedars and acacias are dying. The majestic Amazon rainforest is struggling under severe drought conditions exaggerated and super-charged by tens of thousands of human-generated fires undercutting the entire ecosystem. Junipers are rapidly declining in the Middle East. In Spain and Greece oak trees are shriveling because of intense global warming. In Siberia massive wildfires have erupted within a virtual tinderbox of excessive heat conditions. Ancient African Baobab trees, some thriving for 2,000 years, have all begun decline or outright dying as their ecosystems suffer from global warming.

The integrity of trees is compromised by excessive heat, which not only kills them outright, but also makes them more vulnerable to tree-burrowing insects, especially as normalized winter temperatures crank up way too high too soon during the season.

Meanwhile, climate denial charlatans theorize that rising levels of CO2 feeds enhanced growth for trees and flora as a positive. They’re dead wrong. It’s one more dishonest position taken by right-wing politicians.

Rising levels of CO2 blanket the atmosphere, thus trapping more heat, as the planet gets ever-hotter, causing the atmosphere to suck excessive levels of moisture thereby causing trees to shed leaves and/or close pores to hold in as much moisture as possible, thus curtailing CO2 uptake. It’s a vicious cycle that reverses the carbon uptake cycle that is key to maintaining all life on the planet.

Even more odious, along the way, trees die outright. There is no silver lining to increasing levels of fossil fuel CO2 emissions. It’s bad, it’s dangerous, and it’s a killer. “Stop fossil fuel CO2 emissions or die” should be the motto of responsible political campaigns. But, that’s a pipe dream without enough funding to support it.

Forest ecologist Diana Six (University of Montana) has always been skeptical of claims of projected beneficial effects of excessive levels of CO2 triggering photosynthesis in plants:

I was always amazed by the early predictions for enhanced growth of forests, especially in the West. Many of the models only included warmer temperatures or higher CO2 effects. The projections were made mainly by economists who assumed that only temperatures and CO2 affect tree growth… No one seemed to consider water. With warmer temperatures and a longer growing season comes greater demand for water and we are getting less, not more, in most cases. That should have been a big red flag.2

In the final analysis:

Forests are our last, best natural defense against global warming. Without the world’s trees at peak physical condition, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. 5

The message behind the boundless death march is simple: Stop fossil fuel emissions!

  1. “We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests”, Inside Climate News, April 25, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Craig Welch, “The Grand Old Trees of the World are Dying, Leaving Forests Younger and Shorter”, National Geographic, May 28, 2020.
  4. Nate G. McDowell, et al, “Pervasive Shifts in Forest Dynamics in a Changing World”, Science, Vol. 268, Issue 6494, 29 May 2020.
  5. Eric Holthaus, “Up in Smoke”, Grist, March 8, 2018.

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Fish Do Grow on Trees

You’ve got to start thinking about this as an ecosystem. All these plantations might as well be growing corn. But if you want clean water, salmon, wildlife, and high-quality lumber, you’ve got to have a forest.
— Mike Fay, a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence

Seeing a pair of bald eagles, a possum and a black bear just minutes into my trip to an interview is, to say the least, icing on the “Eco Cake.”

Especially now, with so many people in various stages of isolation and paranoia — restricting time outdoors has a double-whammy effect on our mental health, but also on the health of a community who expects in-person participation and face-to-face debate.

Virtual bird watching and online hikes just don’t cut it.

My assignment is to catch a 30-something scientist — coordinator of a non-profit — doing what he loves best: hands-on, in-the-field work, coordinating with landowners on projects to restore river refugia.

I met Evan Hayduk, 35, with Mid-Coast Watershed Council when I first moved to the coast from Portland. That was Jan 2019 at Oregon Coast Community College for a dual presentation as part of the Williams Lecture series.

“Shedding a Scientific and Humanitarian Light on Climate Change” was a one-two punch featuring Hayduk alongside Bill Kucha, well-known artist and founder the 350 Oregon Central Coast.

That night unfolded as a contrast in personalities, age and emphases. Kucha is a 70-plus-year-old two-and three-dimensional artist who also composes and performs his music, guitar in hand. Hayduk opened up the talk with a detailed PowerPoint that emphasized the power of natural tidelands/wetlands to not only purify water for species like salmon, but also as natural mitigation for carbon dioxide absorption from fossil fuel burning.

Tidal wetlands are important habitats for salmon and a diversity of other fish and wildlife species. They also trap sediment, buffer coastal communities from flooding and erosion and perform other valued ecosystem services. — Hayduk

This is a story about a man, about his passion, about his vision to see a better world through several lenses, not exclusively through biology.

The first personality to greet me on the private land near Lobster Creek was Hayduk’s loyal two-year-old Australian shepherd, appropriately named, “Tahoma.”

“The original name for Mount Rainer,” Hayduk emphasizes. In fact, “Tahoma” is the Puyallup word for “Supreme Mountain,” and according to others, Tahoma translates to “the breast of the milk-white waters.” Or as Hayduk has heard, Mother Mountain.

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Before his gig here with Mid-Coast Watershed Council (MCWC) starting 2016, Hayduk worked on Tahoma (Mount Rainier National Park) running the restoration crew at its native plant nursery.

Today, we are on one of four adjoining 40-acre chunks whose landowners have granted Hayduk and MCWC access to flood plain habitat and Little Lobster creek to “help restore once was a healthy complex riparian ecosystem.”

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All water flows downstream

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. — John Muir

While the Alsea River is the mainstem of salmon runs, tributaries like Lobster Creek play a crucial role in salmon health. We are in an area known as Five Rivers, 25 miles east of Waldport. Alder, Cougar, Buck, Crab and Cherry creeks make up those five tributaries.

Within the Alsea Basin, the Lobster/Five Rivers watershed provides an important contribution to the populations of native fish. However, water quality problems, relating to stream temperature, have been documented in several sub-watersheds and along the main stems of both Lobster Creak and Five Rivers. The level of disturbance in the watershed has contributed to the degradation of quality habitat. [So states a 227-page scientific paper, from the Bureau of Land Management, “Lobster/Five Rivers Watershed Analysis.]

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Hayduk is “eyes, ears and feet/hands on the ground” coordinator of this project. The day I show up, he has 164 home-propagated lupines and a couple of dozen Camus bulb starts. Zach and Casey from Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District (LSWCD) soon arrive as part of their regular brush-clearing duties to fight back the canary grass and Himalayan blackberry bushes, both pernicious invasive species in our ecosystem.

They have an auguring machine to dig holes for all these pollinating plants Hayduk and his wife, Jen, grew in their Waldport home garden. Jen is the interim director of LSWCD.

Team players

The husband-wife team met in 2008 when they both worked for a backcountry conservation crew near Port Angeles. She’s from Pennsylvania, and Hayduk grew up in Woodinville (near Seattle) with his two older sisters and parents.

My dad was a general contractor in Seattle. My family had 1.5 acres and turned it into a formal English garden, so I spent a lot of time with plants.

He tells me he always knew he’d be working with plants as he got older. He did an undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University. He graduated from the Evergreen State College in 2012 with a master’s in Environmental Studies. One of his more unique programming experiences as a student was contributing to the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) in school in Olympia.

I gravitate toward the prison work he did more than eight years ago. On SPP’s website, the goal is clear: “SPP brings together incarcerated individuals, scientists, corrections staff, students, and program partners to promote education, conserve biodiversity, practice sustainability, and help build healthy communities. Together, we reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prisons.”

Hayduk’s work now is all about conservation, restoration and replicating the natural systems that contribute to streambeds and streambanks gaining structures that make them prime refuge for young salmon and other species to blend into a natural ecological community, or web.

Stream Fish, Flora

Now there are some things in the world we can’t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and wellbeing. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere, for example.

–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki

It goes without saying rehabilitating an ecosystem like a Coastal Range temperate forest is much more complicated (and complex) than sending a projectile into space.

Evan Hayduk is one of these “forest triage experts” — he sees what 150 years of headstrong resource exploitation, unchecked razing of ecosystems and overharvesting have done and how difficult it is to put it all back together.

I met up with him on the land where he is rehabilitating riparian and river systems. This article was precipitated by my interest in Hayduk’s association with Mid-Coast Watersheds Council, most notably the monthly guest speaker series, “From Ridgetop to Reef.”

He also has just received an impressive laurel: American Fisheries Society’s 2020 Rising Star Award. This is a recognition of Hayduk’s work as someone early in his career through a partnership with NOAA and the National Fish Habitat Partnership:

“Hayduk was recognized for the quantity and quality of his restoration projects and his cooperative work with agencies and landowners.”

He sent me the entire package — the award, the letters of recommendation, projects he has worked on, his college transcripts. As I’ve learned in the Deep Dive column reporting/writing, we have some real gems on the coast. Hayduk could be a superstar in a larger non-profit and in a bigger demographic.

His job with MCWC — promoting freshwater and coastal fish conservation — is one-part grant writer, one-part field expert, one-part people manager, one-part public engagement/relationships impresario. He told me that he goes to landowners with those streams, creeks and rivers run through their properties in order to find ways to encourage stream health and restoration mitigation.

My time with him in early June focused on the process of dropping 60-foot trees into streams, crisscross fashion. This might seem counterintuitive as a best practice for stream health, but in fact, it’s a dynamic natural way to rebuild stream beds and create a functioning healthy floodplain and wetlands cohesion.

He tells me this replication of an ecosystem’s natural hydrodynamic process creates these weirs and in-stream structures that “spread the creek out,” keeping gravel beds intact all the while connecting cold water refugia to the floodplain.

The most challenging aspect of these projects comes down to humans.

“We need to work with land owners,” he tells me. “I sort of see myself as the glue between everybody.”

He shows me this riparian floodplain near the Upper Little Lobster Creek where he and his crew of volunteers have planted conifers, including cedars, and other plants to help revitalize the power of those trees to hold in soil. When the deciduous alders age out (around 60 years), they have a tendency to fall. Conifers live longer and they too will fall and act as natural “damming structures” to replicate what a natural stream should be: a haven for salmon and other aquatic species.

I study all these saplings growing inside “cages” that protect their early growth from deer.

Wood Wide Web

“The wood wide web has been mapped, traced, monitored, and coaxed to reveal the beautiful structures and finely adapted languages of the forest network. We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trespass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community. These discoveries have transformed our understanding of trees from competitive crusaders of the self to members of a connected, relating, communicating system. Ours is not the only lab making these discoveries-there is a burst of careful scientific research occurring worldwide that is uncovering all manner of ways that trees communicate with each other above and below ground.” ― Peter Wohlleben, “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World”

The connection between healthy rivers, functioning floodplains, and healthy fish, Evan emphasizes while putting planting riverbank lupine (Lupinus rivularis) in clusters of four, is trees. I learned much of these interlinked processes while teaching and living in Spokane, working on issues around the Spokane River, a highly urbanized and suburbanized river. Those forested watersheds have much higher water quality. Trees also provide a wide variety of ecological services.

Hayduk sources logs from many places, including Georgia Pacific other for-profit outfits, land owners and from projects on BLM, State and National Forest lands.

While the tree canopy lessens the erosive impact of rain and slows the velocity of stormwater flowing towards the river, trees trap sediments that build the floodplain while the roots stabilize the riverbanks.

I jump into some “ponding” water just below one of the crisscross tree structures Evan and his volunteers had dropped into this moving water refugia, Little Lobster Creek. I was presented with nice stretches of fine sand and cul-de-sacs of great pebble beds, perfect habitat for salmon redds. Hayduk showed me fresh water mussels. Crayfish were scrambling in the shallows piercing the shadows underwater.

Hayduk emphasized that there are some healthy stream systems in our area where past disruptive logging practices and snag clearing have not been so impactful and permanent. However, the cost for this sort of project Hayduk is heading up tallies to $28,000 per acre, with invasive species, brush clearing and salvage log/wood placement as the large chunk of the bill.

The tree species that best work for the log weirs and dams are conifers, like Doug firs and cedar, that latter species having the added benefit of not rotting for decades while submerged.

It’s a no-brainer trees also provide shade for maintaining water temperature. To carry the analogy to the end point, we see fallen leaves, limbs and branches support food webs by providing food and habitat for insects that are food for fish, Hayduk states. Clean, cool water with more food equals bigger fish.

Nuances like growing alders on the flood plain or marsh plain encourages other species of trees to grow on the decaying fallen alder.

Looking at the ecosystem from a centuries-versus-a-few-decades perspective is important in understanding what Evan and others of his ilk are attempting. “Big conifers that fall help with grade control. Water tables rise. Conifers in the riparian areas can grow from 100 to 200 years before they fall into the creek.”

This concept of a “messy” stream refugia as being the most healthful for all species is anathema to the way most humans have thought about rivers. Scientists like Hayduk know fish get through any of the hurdles a natural stream environment presents them — even with huge logs and entire trees with root balls integrated into the water flow.

Big enough wood simulating log jams buy time to get refugia back to an interconnected vibrancy. Thus far, in this area, 28 structures have been laid on 2.4 miles of stream, Hayduk stated.

Fragility in a huge forest

He shows me areas where logging trucks came in and now the stream is bare of trees and also where channel incision had “down cut” incisions into the bedrock, not a healthy Coho or chinook refuge.

Again, this is a fragile complex system Hayduk and his cohorts work on. The flood plain is many yards beyond the actual stream channel. So, a 30-foot creek flood flow necessitates a 60-foot log or fallen tree.

The connection between fish, trees and rivers is now poised emerging in our urban areas as sound ecology and ecosystem management. Many cities, large and small, are recognizing the benefits of reestablishing the physical and emotional linkage between river, trees and the human community. For instance, San Antonio has its iconic River Walk, Chicago has just completed its riverfront, Washington DC has its Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, and Pittsburgh has reconnected neighborhoods to its three rivers via a network of urban trails.

We talk about the high turnover rate for positions like his own, as well as his wife’s at the Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District.

His wife Jen knows the connection of little things put back into an ecosystem having global ramifications. She obtained her master’s degree at OSU in marine resource management.

Back to the glossary: Jen Hayduk could explain the power of blue carbon, which is elegantly illustrated by this marine plant species she was studying — seagrass (Zostera marina). These seagrass habitats provide important “ecosystem services,” including their ability to take up and store substantial amounts of organic carbon, known as “blue carbon.”

Again, the couple not only understands the fragility of homo sapiens as an individual species in a time of COVID-19, but how the cultural and economic activities can so easily be disrupted.

No more volunteers out in the field, Hayduk tells me, and many projects are on hold and grants stalled/delayed because of the lockdown.

The lack of human traffic might be temporarily beneficial to such threatened species as the Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) and Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa), but Evan Hayduk would rather spend time in the field with people throwing in to help him with his work with river and wetlands restoration.

His background in human rehabilitation through ecological health started with people locked out of society, in tiny prison cells.

“The effects of nature on incarcerated individuals is powerful,” Hayduk tells me. His mentor was Nalini Nadkarni, Ph.D., Founder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project. “Prisoners spend limited time outside. But the program demonstrated they are good with plant stuff. It’s a powerful therapeutic tool, working with the Oregon spotted frog raising them from tadpoles all the way to adult frogs and releasing them into the wild.”

For individuals like Hayduk, “the cure” is being outside, working with/within nature, and with people (Homo sapiens), who are also part of the ecosystems, whether we recognize it or not.

Right now, Jen and Evan are tending a huge Waldport home garden, pickled goodies like carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Jen has even gotten into exotic plant growing, selling one of her “children” on etsy.com for a pretty penny.

They are self-sufficient, well-traveled, share visions and know how to grow food. Traits we all might need when the you know what tied to global warming hits the fan.

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Q&A: Evan Hayduk Style

Hayduk is a busy fellow, having put in 63-hour work weeks and rushing to harvest tons of garden produce and preserving them, an undertaking he and his wife Jen have been doing for several weeks. Still, though, Hayduk put down some compelling responses to my intrusive queries.

Paul: What are the three things you suggest citizens can do to help folks like you and nonprofits like MCWC do what you have to do to protect salmon habitat/refugia?

Evan: A. Help and protect beaver on the landscape. This is #1. Beavers do a better job to create and maintain salmon habitat than we could ever hope to. Tolerate beavers if you live on a property that has a stream. There are beaver solutions that make it easier to “live with beaver.” Inform your neighbors about the importance of beaver and join efforts to stop trapping and killing of this ecosystem engineer.

B. Get involved! Volunteer your time helping at a MCWC event (when we bring them back after COVID-19). If you live on a river or stream clear invasive species and plant natives. Or give us a call and we can help.

C. Donate! Donations to the MCWC are tax deductible! They go directly to helping us get projects on the ground that protect and improve salmon habitat. For a non-profit like ours, just a little goes a long way.

Paul: Who are two of your biggest influences in this work, in your life?

Evan: I think I’ll separate that out into two categories life/work.

Life: My parents. I grew up observing an absolute model of love, hard work and kindness. My dad worked his way from a carpenter to owning his own construction company. This instilled a work ethic that I couldn’t shake even if I tried. I spent weekends growing up working in our 1.5-acre garden, working with my dad to turn bare land into formal English gardens. If I don’t put in a good amount of time in any given weekend now, I feel like my weekend was wasted.

Work: I’ve been lucky along the way to have some great mentors. I mentioned to you Nalini Nadkarni, who I worked with at Evergreen with the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Nalini is the most amazing person I have ever been around. Her energy is contagious, and when she is in a room there is an electricity that is undeniable.

During my time at MCWC, I also have had amazing support from some Oregon Coast legends. Before retiring in November 2018, Wayne Hoffman was an absolute encyclopedia of information. I could walk into his office, ask about any given creek on the midcoast, and Wayne could ramble on forever about the stream, current conditions, past projects, habitat potential, etc. Fran Recht and Paul Engelmeyer, who started the MCWC back in the late 1990s, are both dedicated stewards of the environment and have devoted their lives to the midcoast. My success at MCWC is due in large part to Wayne, Fran and Paul, and the rest of the active MCWC board and community.

Paul: If you were to present to a high school class, what would your elevator speech introduction be to them.

Evan: Salmon and people aren’t that different. We all need cool, clean water to survive. The actions we take to restore salmon habitat — replacing bad culverts, placing large wood in streams, planting native trees and shrubs — all do more than just restore salmon habitat. These actions restore the natural systems and processes that give us idyllic images of cold-water streams rushing through lush, green mountain terrain. We are focused on salmon, but the work we do touches everything that lives on the landscape — from birds, to bees, to you and to me!

Paul: Ocean forest range here and Olympics are some of the best places on earth to capture carbon. What makes your work out here so vital to that part of the picture?

Evan: Carbon storage is story of our lifetime. We have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that we have offset the balance of the system. Protecting and restoring old growth forests, sinks for carbon, is vital. Restoring salt and freshwater marshes and wetlands is also crucial. We can keep carbon locked up in estuary mud or in a 10-foot diameter cedar tree, but if these systems that support these processes are not protected and restored, we are headed down a bad path.

Paul: What are two of your most observable successes thus far in your work here?

Evan: In the last couple years we have tackled some very big projects, though any large wood placed in a stream, any tree planted, or invasive species removed is a success. By far the most observable success was the North Creek culvert project. This project was completed in 2019, restoring full aquatic organism passage to 13 stream miles of pristine habitat on US Forest Service managed lands in the Drift Creek (Siletz) basin. The undersized culvert, installed in 1958, not only blocked adult and juvenile salmon from accessing habitat upstream, but also ceased river processes and degraded habitat above and below the culvert site. The complex project in a remote location was difficult, and 60 years of “Band-Aid” solutions failed because they didn’t address the real problem: the culvert itself.

Paul: A “land ethic” by Aldo Leopold says a lot — riff with it, as in these two quotes:

“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Evan: We as people often see ourselves as other, as separate from nature, but this couldn’t be more incorrect. We not only breathe the same air as all other beings on this earth, we have by every measure had a greater impact than any.

Paul: Again, if you as director got a $5 million check from nonprofit for your work, no strings attached, what would you use that for?

Evan: Well, a boy can dream, can’t he? I think acquisition of important habitat areas would be high on the list (other than just hiring other staff to help!). Though, giving a better wage and benefits package to our staff and work crew would be a no-brainer.

Paul: Give the young reader some spiel on why they might want to pursue a degree or degrees in the general field of environmental sciences tied to ecology during a time of COVID-19, dwindling budgets for these sorts of jobs and more and more tuition expenses.

Evan: I had a professor at Evergreen (Gerardo Chin-Leo) who liked to say one of my favorite expressions: “Science is the painful expression of the obvious”. He also liked to say “Ecology isn’t rocket science; it is way more complicated than that.” Everything in this world in inextricably connected, the clues are in the interactions of flora and fauna on the landscape. Uncovering these connections and understanding how the work we see today has evolved through millennia of interactions is incredibly enthralling (to me!). These times are hard (COVID), budgets are being slashed in this field, salaries in this line of work have never been great. However, the folks that choose this line of work have a greater calling. Understanding this complex world which we are a part of and working to restore ecosystems is more rewarding that any paycheck could ever be.

Paul: Wood wide web — In your own words, explain this concept, if you have any input around how this concept ties to what you are doing in the “preservation” field.

Evan: This gets at the complexity (it isn’t rocket science!) of the natural world. Above ground we see large trees, growing individually across the landscape. What we don’t see, is the complex system of roots, fungi and microbes below the soil that supports this vast forest. Tree talk to each other, conspire when drought is near, and share resources/nutrients through the fungal networks that have co-evolved with them over millennia. This is the original “community”, and our communities could get a lot of good out of better understanding how to work together towards a shared goal.

Paul: You are working in restorative ecology. Explain that.

Evan: We are working with a degraded landscape. We are also dealing with shifting baselines. Bad enough is the direct impact on habitat over the last 200 or so years, this has gone further to disrupt ecosystem processes that maintain what we think of as a functioning system. Restoring these processes is difficult, but if successful, process-based restoration can reset these systems to be self-sustaining. Though the impact can be quick, the restoration can take centuries. When we plant a tree for long-term recruitment of wood to a stream, it’s full impact won’t be felt for 100 or 200 years.

Paul: Then, you were working in a sort of restorative justice program at Evergreen tied to sustainability in prisons. Expand.

Evan: This is where I lean on the words of Nalini: the power of nature. Everyone who works with SPP sees the power of fresh air and getting your hands dirty. Working in a prison can be a dismal setting — windowless cells, limited outside time, fluorescent lights. This is not a restorative situation. There are major problems with the criminal justice system in this country, I don’t claim to be an expert on this. But I have seen the impact that building a greenhouse in a prison yard can bring. What the nurturing of a tiny plant from seed to flower can do for a person. We worked with prisoners to captive rear Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies and Oregon spotted frogs in Washington. Watching these “hardened” criminals hand feed and raise these tiny creatures in a prison setting was restorative, for me, and for those individuals. The guys that raised the frogs made hats with “Cedar Creek (Prison) Frog Crew” printed on them, they wore them around the prison like badges of honor.

Paul: Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Location-wise, intellectually speaking, emotionally, and politically?

Evan: Oof. I’ve been so busy lately I’ve just been able to take it day by day. In 15 years, I’ll be 50. I have no idea where this world will be at that point, so I really can’t say where I’ll be either. Long term dreams are important, but right now I’m just thinking about how to get my projects on the ground for this summer…

Note: First appeared in Paul’s column, Deep Dive, in Oregon Coast Today.

Evan Hayduk3.jpg

Amazon Rainforest Hit By Killer Droughts

Over the past 20 years, like clockwork, severe droughts have hit the Amazon every five years with regularity 2005, 2010, 2015. Of course, droughts have hit the Amazon rainforest throughout paleoclimate history, but this time it’s different. The frequency and severity is off the charts.

Recent data is starting to show 2020 as another dire year. “The old paradigm was that whatever carbon dioxide we put up in [human-caused] emissions, the Amazon would help absorb a major part of it,” according to Sassan Saatchi of NASA’s JPL.1

But serious episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are causing researchers to rethink that idea. “The ecosystem has become so vulnerable to these warming and episodic drought events that it can switch from sink to source depending on the severity and the extent,” Saatchi said. “This is our new paradigm.”2

According to a detailed study:

Several studies indicate that the region has been suffering severe drought since the end of the last century, as in 1997/1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015. The intensity and frequency of these extreme drought episodes in the AB during the last years, approximately one episode every five years with a significant increase in the coverage area, is remarkable.3

This year 2020 is shaping up to be a repeat performance, another “remarkable event.” Recent studies indicate: “The data suggests 2020 could be a particularly dire year for the Amazon.” 4

All of which begs the question: How much more abuse can the magnificent rainforest handle for how long?

However, hard-hitting droughts are not the only negative hitting the Amazon rainforest. Failure by political forces is also pounding the rainforest, as the Bolsanaro regime gooses abuse and overuse.  As a result, people are striking back. Civil society groups and public prosecutors in Brazil are taking President Jar Bolsonaro’s government to court for failing to protect the rainforest.

The Amazon rainforest — 60 percent of which lies in Brazil — is one of the world’s great carbon sinks. Preserving its trees and plants is crucial to meeting international targets that limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.5

Meanwhile, hydrologic studies clearly indicate the Amazon rainforest is “drying out.” Nothing could be worse.

Matthew Rodell, a scientist and hydrologist who works with NASA’s GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On) satellite system monitors water levels stored deep beneath Earth’s surface. The data is important for predicting droughts on a worldwide basis.

Based upon current images, GRACE’s satellite shows an Amazon that is in tenuous condition in an unprecedented state of breakdown.

Within only the past few months, the world’s two leading Amazon rainforest scientists made a startling announcement. Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and Carlos Nobre (University of Sao Paulo) reported: “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” 6

Tipping points are equilibrium between life and death.

Of recent, GRACE’s images detected large areas of Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado biomes in what’s classified as “Deep Red Zones,” meaning severely constrained water levels. According to Rodell: “If we see normal to low precipitation this year, then there is potential for drought… I would be concerned.” 7

Rodell’s statement “If we see normal to low precipitation, then there is potential for drought,” is like a slap to the face, a wake up call, implying “normal precipitation” by itself will not get the job done. Problem: Precipitation has been way below normal for way too long.

Today’s potential for a fourth major drought within only two decades magnifies into a virtual horror show when conjoined with the recent record. According to NASA, damaging episodes of three-100/yr droughts back-to-back-to-back, 2005, 2010, 2015 have already undercut and damaged the stability of the Amazon ecosystem. Of major concern, it’s already starting to lose its special “carbon sink” status. That’s unprecedented.

The rainforest doesn’t react like it used to. It does not have enough time between droughts to heal itself and regrow. Throughout all of recorded history, this has never been witnessed. In a word, it’s a horribly dreadful discovery.8

In many respects, the Amazon ecosystem is a facsimile of the larger biosphere but more sensitive to climate change, similar to the Arctic. In other words, some ecosystems are ultra-sensitive to changes in the climate system and thus serve as proxies or early warning signals prior to recognition of the looming threat by civilization at large. Meantime, whilst climate change disrupts ecosystems on the fringes of civilization, society comfortably exists in artificial complexities of concrete, steel, glass, and wood within a vast chemically induced world that only recognizes the danger of collapsing ecosystems after it’s too late. Then, it is too late!

Because of fabricated/artificial life styles, humans are the last living organisms to see and feel, and indeed, truly comprehend the impact of climate change. Artificial life styles masquerade the bigger issues. Artificiality thus breeds ignorance and stupidity, as reflected in political elections. It’s the “Steel, Glass, Wood, Chemically Induced Syndrome,” and it’s deadly.

Meanwhile, Amazon deforestation is on a bender. According to INPE (National Institute for Space Research in Brazil National Penitentiary Institute) it’s up 40% since January.

The rise in deforestation troubles scientists who fear that the combination of forest loss and the effects of climate change could trigger the Amazon rainforest to tip toward a drier ecosystem which is more prone to fire, generates less local and regional rainfall, sequesters less carbon from the atmosphere, and is less hospitable to species adapted to the dense and humid forests of lowland Amazonia. 9

The question arises what is the impact of deforestation?

For starters, hands down, it’s the leading cause of extinction on the planet. Secondly, forest loss contributes approximately 15%-20% to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions as loss of forests mass removes one of the planet’s natural carbon sinks. Additionally, forests play a critical role in the hydrological cycle, all the way north to Iowa’s cornfields with remarkable “rivers in the sky.”

A long list of additional major benefits could be enumerated, but suffice it to say that, of significant interest, scientists have discovered up to one-half of all trees greater than 4 inches in diameter in the Amazon are more than 300 years old, some 1,000 years old.

Ergo, artificial life supplants hundreds and thousands of years of nature with one quick cut of a buzz saw, but in all honesty, 300-year-old trees take quite a bit longer than one quick cut.

  1. “NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, NASA Earth Science, August 9, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Beatriz Nunes Garcia, et al, “Extreme Drought Events Over the Amazon Basin: The Perspective from the Reconstruction of South American Hydroclimate”, Departamento de Meteorologia, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, November 7, 2018.
  4. “14 Straight Months of Rising Amazon Deforestation in Brazil,” Mongabay, June 12, 2020.
  5. “To Stop Amazon Deforestation, Brazilian Groups Take Bolsonaro to Court’, Deutsche Welle, June 13, 2020.
  6. “Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, no. 12, December 20, 2019.
  7. “Satellite Data Show Amazon Rainforest Likely Drier, More Fire-Prone This Year”, Mongabay, April 23, 2020.
  8. “NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage”, NASA Earth Science News Team, August 9, 2018.
  9. Rhett A. Butler, “14 Straight Months of Rising Amazon Deforestation in Brazil”, Mongabay, June 12, 2020.

America’s Great Greenwashing

Celebrating 50 years of Earth Day, Michael Moore, executive producer and the director Jeff Gibbs re-released their daunting and alarming documentary about the heart and soul of America’s Green Movement in a compelling film: Planet of the Humans (2019).

According to Michael Moore: “This is perhaps the most urgent film we’ve shown in the 15-year history of our film festival.” (Traverse City Film Festival)

Director Jeff Gibbs, a tree-hugger since birth, who has received high praise from the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall, has inspired countless thousands of people over the decades to protect indigenous cultures and ecosystems. He is one of a few “rare blessings” for the planet.

Planet of the Humans is a very, very important film. It’s an explosive exposé of the Greening of America, a must-see film especially for people who care deeply about the planet.

Solar, Wind, Biomass, 350.org, the Sierra Club, Chevy Volt, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Van Jones, Michael Bloomberg, and Goldman Sachs have cameo appearances in Gibbs’ eco documentary about “going green.” Especially true as it exposes new pathways to multifarious failings within a horribly misguided and vastly misrepresented Green Movement. It is well documented by Gibbs’ boots on the ground.

The film has one surprise after another gusto of actual events littered with scenes of hypocritical environmental big name heroes and billionaire buddies.  Blatant examples of hypocrisy are exposed in scene after scene. Diehard environmentalists and hard core eco warriors are certain to be broken-hearted!

The film has powerful impressions of the green movement, in some instances, successful, but in far too many others soured within a vortex of deceit and misguided principles sorrowfully awash in greed showered with sprinkles of enriched iconic personalities, like Richard Branson and Al Gore.

Once the curtain is pulled back, the brutal truth about green energy hits like a hard slap to the face. Early on in the film a massive “green solar concert” in Vermont purportedly “powered 100% by green solar and biomass” is phony. Hidden behind the stage, the lights and instrumentation is connected to the state’s electrical grid powered by coal, not solar, not biodiesel.

Moving on, the film encounters a Chevy Volt at a car show. Kristin Zimmerman of GM responds to a question: “What is charging the electric car?”  She’s not sure but thinks maybe it’s natural gas.

Meanwhile, a bystander named J. Peter Lark of Lansing Board of Water and Light explains: “They’re charging the car off our grid which is about 95% coal.”

Back to GM’s Zimmerman, awkwardly smiling: “I don’t think coal is bad.”

Director Gibbs, frowning, suggests: “Mountain top removal?”

GM’s Zimmerman, stammering, not smiling, responds: “Oh, yeah, yeah…” holding hands out in a push-back expression of “we can’t have that!”

Which segues to a mountain top removal scene, but the mountaintop removal is to accommodate turbines for wind energy, not to mine coal. The scenario parallels wind turbines and mountaintop coal removal.

This film is full of surprises, especially for people that do not like getting their hands dirty, don’t hit the streets, or the back country, and thus do not experience real life scenes like the scenes throughout this invaluable film. In other words, cell phones and PCs research tools will never supersede the nitty-gritty value of experiencing the world in the flesh, in person like Jeff Gibbs.

During his travels, Gibbs encounters a hydrogen car exhibit that claims: “This car has a perpetual energy battery.” In turn, Gibbs asks where the hydrogen comes from. The reply by a representative of the hydrogen car company: “Hydrogen is sourced from any hydrocarbon material. So, ah-ah, you can get it from natural gas. You can get it from any petroleum oil-based product.” (Footnote: 90% of hydrogen fuel comes from fossil fuels) Hmm.

An underlying theme throughout the film is exposure of powerful interlinking connections between renewable energy and fossil fuels; effectively fossil fuel interests have “consumed the green movement” in various unorthodox ways, including the capture of name brand not-for-profit 501(c) orgs that “pretend” to reject fossil fuel interests. The film thus exposes a wholesale abandonment of ethical standards at the highest positions, although hidden from public view, inclusive of influential players in America’s celebrated Green Movement.

Along the way, ethanol production is exposed as dependent upon two things: (1) a giant fossil fuel based agricultural system to produce corn (whilst emitting tons of CO2) and (2) more fossil fuels (more CO2 emissions) in the form of coal and/or natural gas as significant quantities of fossil fuels are needed for direct production of ethanol, which is a massive, expensive complexity that supposedly “replaces fossil fuels.” Really?

Still, ethanol has a cameo appearance in the film compared to biomass as a renewable energy resource throughout the world.  But, there’s a problem called “trees.” For example, when initially introduced in the film, Bill McKibben of 350.org fame, delivers a speech to a public forum wherein he insists upon “biomass to save the planet”; yet later in the film, when interviewed by Gibbs, he awkwardly tries to distance himself from the massive, destructive biomass force “taking down the world’s trees.”

Burning wood emits CO2, same as all fossil fuels. An equal amount of heat or electricity produced by coal or natural gas requires burning wood that emits more CO2 on a pari passu basis. Green energy? Wrong!

How long does it take a forest to regrow?

There are 2,000 biomass power plants in the world chopping down trees much faster than rates of regrowth. It’s insane. The southern United States is home to a manufacturing industry that clears forests, grinds the trees into wood chips and recognized as the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets, mostly to Europe. That’s stupid!

After all, forests enhance quality of life well beyond the experience of humans hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. All species like native animals, plants, and other assorted species have nowhere to go once their habitat is destroyed.

Planet of the Humans ends on a similar note as the films shows a family of disoriented orangutans in a lonely barren tree in the middle of a vast open field cleared of forest cover.

There is no end in sight.

Zooming Newport’s Climate Awareness Earth Day 2020

Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day brought out 20 million Americans across the land –  to parks, schools, college campuses, stadiums, the Mall in DC,  and for hundreds of river/beach/trail clean-ups.

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“Our Space Ship is Burning” From the series XR #7
( XR – Greta Thunberg’s movement Extension Rebellion)
20”x30” Oil, college and gold leaf on canvas. See more art at : www.AnjaAlbosta.com

In 1970, I was 13, still living in Europe with my military family. But from age 17 on, however, I have been a North American environmental activist. Fighting for whales, entire ecosystems, human and animal communities.

In addition, I’ve organized several Earth Day celebrations with thousands showing up in Spokane. I have been the Earth Club faculty advisor at two colleges where I taught.

River clean-ups, outdoor guerrilla banner drops on buildings, and young and old creating bird houses and bat boxes while listening to live bands and eating sustainable food from a pop-up farmer’s market.

This should never ever be the new normal – on-line education, on-line activism, on-line earth awareness.

“We’re trying to make this one an upper rather than downer,” says Otter Rock artist Bill Kucha. “We want to invigorate folks.” Kucha directs 350.org Central Oregon Coast.

It is more than surreal that we are exiled from one another and nature. This year’s Newport Earth Day (last year’s was held at the Newport library, inside) is virtual, on Zoom. There will be 100 slots for people to sign up and listen to/watch musicians, speakers and youth.

I asked Lincoln County Community Rights activist, Debra Fant, about her first Earth day:

I was in high school for the first Earth Day and joined my peers in picking up roadside trash (a whole winter’s worth of it as the snow had just melted leaving behind all sorts of mushy cardboard, bottles and stuff) for miles out of town.  We were freezing cold and wet by afternoon, and I headed home for a hot shower instead of picking up the tenor drum to join the marching band in a parade through our down town area!  I’m not sure we knew what Earth Day meant or who we blamed for harming nature . . .  surely that ‘someone else.’   We’d likely grown up believing that like us, nature was invincible and would be there forever to satisfy our needs.

For the one of the main organizers of this April 22 Earth Day, Martin Desmond, he is blunt about the lack of youth activism in local environmental and climate change planning and discourse: “The truth of the matter is that people over the age of 60 come to our Lincoln County climate change presentations.”

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www.AnjaAlbosta.com
Anja Albosta
Waldport, OR 97394

He posits there are maybe six or seven climate change organizers in our county.

The first Earth Day actually precipitated legislative action — the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were created in response to the first Earth Day in 1970, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other countries soon adopted similar laws.

Last year’s Earth Day in Newport and this one on Zoom are what we call “aspirational events.” Celebratory, self-congratulatory.

I asked Jane Siebert, who is with Our Just Peace Action Team from the Congregational Church of Lincoln City, her reaction to the virtual day. The Church was planning to sponsor an Earth Day April 18, but too many conflicting community events quashed that, she said.

For me, this time of quarantine brings me out in the garden to appreciate spring and its slow unfurling of new life once again. This slow time of closely noticing the miracle of the earth can deepen our commitment to its future. I hold to the idea that Earth Day is every day and we must stand up to assaults on the natural order.

I’ve lived on the Coast/Lincoln County for a year and four months. I definitely feel this place is more chill than chutzpah when it comes to activism.

I am used to in-your-face rallying, even as a college instructor. Massive environmental-themed teach-ins and huge turn outs to city and county councils to demand better urban planning tied to real sustainability. I’ve interviewed heavyweights – Al Gore, David Suzuki, Winona LaDuke, Howard Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, and Bill McKibben – for both my print gigs and radio broadcasts.

If you miss it, Martin says it will be recorded for posterity.

Presentations are 5 to 8 minutes. It’s a pretty one-way communication event: sit back and listen and watch.

Ironically, I have had students research the energy use for each Google search, and I’ve led youth to do ecological footprints and check out the water foot print of some of the major items in our consumer society.

Life cycle analysis, embedded energy, cradle to cradle manufacturing, negative carbon architecture, tragedy of the commons, and more get my juices going.

Just following the energy used/consumed of the coffee bean plant grown in Costa Rica as it gets picked, shipped, roasted, reshipped, repackaged, and then brewed, is telling of every step we make in planet earth. Students are jazzed about exactly how much oil (plastic, transportation, fertilizer, packaging, production) is used to produce the various products they have come to rely on.

“Most of my life I have lived sequestered as an artist,” Kucha states. “I am more politically active now. I think this (coronavirus) could be a tipping point.” Living slower, more intentionality, and, for Bill Kucha, the pandemic in his mind is making us more egocentric. “In one fell swoop, we are all left with each other.”

For at-home insights, reading and films:

  • Go to “Story of Stuff
  • Ecological Footprint
  • Water Foot Print
  • See Tim DeChristopher’s amazing activism in the flick about his life, Bidder 70
  •  Read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), mother of the environmental movement
  • And a  plethora of green websites, from Grist, RealClimate, Yale360; and the usual suspects: Greenpeace and National Geographic.

Here’s the Zoom Earth Day Newport line-up:

Musicians

Bill Kucha
Chris Baron
Dave Orleans
Robert Reuben

­Elected Officials

Arnie Roblan
Dave Gomberg
Mark Gamba
Kaety Jacobson
Claire Hall

Non-profits/other speakers

Mike Broil
Mitch Gould
Robert Kenta
Ari Blatt & Paul Engelmeyer
Martin’s two grandkids
Paul Haeder

BIG end NOTE: It has to be made clear that the new normal should not and will not be Zoom. It will not be this bullshit world of throwing trillions at high tech companies. It will not be this world of staying compliant in our homes and gardens and tents.

Earth Day 50 years later should be a celebration of the heroes who have fought against the killers of culture and jungle and rain forest and species. Instead, after 50 years, in this shit-hole quarantine mentality, we have people who want to celebrate the Great First Extermination event, what some have called the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is really the Seventh Extinction.

Every year, more than 100 environmental activists are murdered throughout the world. 116 environmental activists were assassinated in 2014. More than two environmentalists were assassinated every week in 2014 and three every week in 2015. 185 environmental activists were assassinated in 2015.

A new report from Global Witness found that three environmental defenders were murdered every week in 2018 and many more were criminalized for working to protect the land, water and other vital resources.

chart on killings per country

chart on killings per country

“People are being killed because they are demanding their basic rights, in particular, the rights to access to land and to be free in their territories,” Luis Gilberto Murillo, the former governor of the predominantly Afro-Colombian state of Choco and former minister of environment and sustainable development, said on “Democracy Now!” “The way to avoid these killings is the full implementation of the peace process. There is a national commission to guarantee the protection of social leaders in the country [which] has not been convened regularly by the current government.” Source — “Disturbing Report Shows How Many Environmental Activists Are Killed Each Week”.

Joel Raymundo Domingo, 55, photographed in April, holds smoke bombs, tear gas canisters and other projectiles used by Guatema

Joel Raymundo Domingo, 55, photographed in April, holds smoke bombs, tear gas canisters and other projectiles used by Guatemalan state forces to disperse a peaceful blockade against the San Mateo Hydroelectric Project, in October 2018.

So, I have to say that celebratory events like Earth Day are long in the tooth. We need action. We need tools. We need fire in the belly. We need role models. We need recruitment. We need the new tools of the modern post industrial Anarchist Cookbook. We need to celebrate our own eco-warriors, and the fact that Green is the New Red. We have to fight the industries that most Americans support by stuffing their faces with cheese, swine, chicken, beef, lamb who are on a witch hunt, getting more and more Gestapo laws against peaceful protest. We have to tell young people how to fight the systems of oppression. We don’t need no stinking Earth Day kumbayah.

We need Tim DeChristopher pre-incarceration for protesting illegal land lease sales in Utah. Nine years ago, here he is speaking to youth:

Tim DeChristopher | Power Shift 2011 Keynote

Remember, if you toss a can of paint or pool acid on an SUV or Hummer, you could face 25 or more years in federal prison. Remember, if you get on the radio and attack McDonald’s burgers or attack the swine industry, or if you take photos from a public road of a High Fructose Corn Syrup plant, or if you protest with signs outside a slaughter house, or if you go to the state capital of your choice and do a little street theater about timber industry killing babies with their Agent Orange spraying, or if you put your body and life in the way of a bunch of construction machines for a telescope siting in Hawaii, well, you get the picture. This is, of course, not the Earth Liberation Front or Animal Liberation Front, but we all should be those people, like all people on Turtle Island who can’t trace their lineage back to Native Tribes should ALL be illegal aliens.

Earth Day is about celebrating the warriors, those that exposed Love Canal, or people like Rachel Carson who was spied on and wire tapped and tailed by feds and industry pigs. Or Ralph Nader, Dangerous at Any Speed, who was the target of mafia hit men hired by GM, Ford, you name it, just for demanding safer death trap vehicles.

Celebrate the fighters in fence-line communities:

Environmental racism is real. As documented in Richard Rothstein’s 2017 book, ‘The Color of Law,’ extensive federal, state and local government practices designed to create and maintain housing segregation also assured that polluting facilities like industrial plants, refineries, and more were located near Black, Latino and Asian American neighborhoods,” said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for The Greenlining Institute, a public policy advocacy group in Oakland. “Extensive data show that low-income communities of color still breathe the worst air and have excessive rates of pollution-related illnesses like asthma and other respiratory problems. These problems won’t fix themselves. As we move away from oil, coal and gas to fight climate change, we must consciously bring clean energy resources and investment into communities that were for too long used as toxic dumping grounds.

In the end, if we do not push back hard and shut down the country — The Industrial Continuing Criminal Enterprises of Wall Street, Banking, Real Estate, Military, Prison, Chemical, Pesticide, Fossil Fuel, Logging, Surveillance, Hi-Tech, Medicine, Pharma — then we are just Nero Fiddling While the Entire Ranch is Razed, Logged, Polluted and Immolated by the system that most “earth days” hate to bring up — CAPITALISM.

There ain’t no new green deal if the billionaires and corporations are leading the charge, creating the conduits for profit, paying the bills of the so-called environmental movement. Green is the New Black is a book like Green is the New Red.

Environmental Racism in America: An Overview of the Environmental Justice Movement and the Role of Race in Environmental Policies

Black Lives Matter: Environmental Racism Is Killing African-Americans

In the end, we are all expendable, so why not think the earth is expendable.? We are all — the 80 percent — in sacrifice zones: food deserts, box store hell, road and highway infernos, clear cut landscape, smokestack gulags, chemical spray prisons.

Sacrifice zones: This leads to sacrifice zones, places where people, mostly of color and low wealth, live beside hyperpolluters and in harm’s way. In Houston, for example, an oil refinery, chemical plant and Interstate 610 surround the Manchester neighborhood, home to roughly 3,000 people. Not surprisingly, the cancer risk for people living in Manchester and neighboring Harrisburg is 22 percent higher than for the overall Houston urban area, according to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. Robert D. Bullard is a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University and is often called the “father of environmental justice.

Environmental Activists Have Higher Death Rates Than Some Soldiers

164 Activists Were Killed Defending Land and Water Last Year

My “earth day” is about taking it to the streets. It’s not about John Denver and Melissa Etheridge or Darrel Hannah or Al Gore or Bill McKibben. It’s about getting younger and younger people to the table, to the trenches. It’s about the old giving it up to the not-so-old. It’s about inviting families of loggers, miners, ranchers, aerospace trucking to the table and showing them the value of deep ecology, food systems that are localized and regionalized, showing them the value of nutrition versus consumption. Radical means root, and we need radical change, radical activism, and monkey-wrenching and celebrating those who already “got this” earth and cultural justice years ago.

Ten years ago, man, taking it to the streets, in Spokane!

Spokane’s Earth Day ‘takes to the streets’ to reach people

Spokane’s 40th anniversary Earth Day celebration will be on Main St. downtown rather than on grass at Riverfront Park.

This was about getting people who normally do not do these self-congratulatory and aggrandizement to the table — the poorer folks, who came to this event because we had 2nd Harvest there giving out food boxes AND because of all the family activities. We had school kids making bat boxes, bird houses, and bird feeders with an army of volunteers, even from Kohl’s donating some community service time. We shut the street down (like a huge thing with Police and Fire department honchos), put up a main stage, and we had the even go into the night with local musicians playing. We had the even live on the radio KYRS-FM. We had in your face people like me, and others (though greenie weenies unfortunately predominate the so-called “nice earth day” gigs); and then the mayor of Spokane, and other politicos spoke while the main stage was powered with solar panels. We had that friction between those who believe in hope and those who fight for change and not for hope. We also made sure that Earth Day would continue in Spokane at the colleges and at public events the entire year afterwards. that was a whole other series of events a few years before that I organized, many, a year of sustainability for ALL of the city. We made sure that this one day was just the tip of the iceberg. Action, action, action. Grow, grow, grow the leadership and the army of young people.

But, alas, that was a decade ago, and alas I have gone on some really bumpy miles (thousands upon thousands of miles) away from that outpost — from English faculty, radio show host, columnist, urban planning graduate student; to union organizer in Seattle, DC, Mexico City, Bend, Oregon, to Occupy Seattle teacher; to social worker for adults with developmental disabilities, to memory care facility engagement counselor, to social worker for homeless in downtown Portland, to social worker for homeless veterans and their families, to counselor for foster teens; now a decade later — to the Oregon Coast as author, columnist, substitute teacher, and site director for an anti-poverty project in Lincoln and Jefferson counties. And more. Ten Years, a marriage, a divorce, another marriage, to Lisa, here in Waldport scratching out a living. New book out, quashed public readings, and now, five minute April 22 on the Zoom Earth Day. Crazy ass changes, and yet, at age 63, I have always predicted that if lazy ass consumer USA Murder Inc. continued to do what it always had since end of WWII, then, we would end up here — complacent, fearful, colonized, co-opted, in the belly of the beast, collectively enmeshed in Stockholm Syndrome, and more.

Support my recent work, now that the hysteria and complete lack of mental, intellectual, and spiritual acumen has occurred in the United States of Amnesia. Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, short story collection.

April 22, Newport, Oregon, Zoom Day, Earth Day. Not the new normal. This is a one-time deal for me. Newport celebrates Earth Day via Zoom on April 22.

Give me Chris Hatten any day, over the self-important people who think Earth day is only about feel-good, celebrating a few more birds out on the shore because we are all sheep in this collective lock-down!

In the eye of the eagle

One-Minute Q & A with Chris Hatten

Paul Haeder:  What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten:  Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH:  How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH:  We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH:  Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH:  Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH:  I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH:  In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH:  If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

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Lincoln County, Oregon celebrates 50 years of Earth Days

Category: General Earth Day Event4/22/2020 19:00 Oregon

Public  — Go to Earth Day

Length: 2 hours  About:

Our two-hour live presentation on the Zoom platform will include local and statewide musicians, five elected officials, Siletz tribal members, young kids under 10 years of age, non-profit organizations, and other speakers talking about the positive accomplishments of our environmental activities on the Oregon Coast and the challenges ahead with climate change.

Organizer: Martin Desmond

Online: moc.liamgnull@tropwenlcc

RSVP link: https://zoom.us/j/3505677534

New Indonesian Capital in Borneo:  From Rural Misery to Grody Dreams of Urban Glory

Indonesia’s new shining city of the hill

An old road between Balikpapan and Samarinda passes through the poor villages, through rural slums, as well as stalls selling second-rate local fruits. The cheap, unhygienic eateries are now half-empty. While the traffic is still heavy here, the ‘real action’ is somewhere else; a few kilometers away, where the new motorway is being constructed; a motorway which will eventually connect Balikpapan, Samarinda and potentially the new Indonesian capital city which is expected to rise somewhere around the now dirt poor Sepaku Village in the area of Penajam Paser Utara.

The government of President Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) is promising that the new capital will touch the skies, eclipsing places like Brasilia, Malaysian Putra Jaya, or Canberra. Nothing short of Dubai or Manhattan, in the middle of the logged out, monstrously scarred, poisoned island of Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia).

While virtually all Indonesian cities could easily be defined as urbanistic disasters, the new capital is supposed to be totally different, boasting green wide avenues and impressive architectural masterpieces that would be envied by the entire world.

Indonesia has already made one such an attempt in its recent history – it promised to convert its island of Batam which is located just a stone’s throw from Singapore – into something much more impressive than Singapore itself (a city-state with one of the highest quality of life on Earth). Two years ago, I travelled to Batam, where I discovered a grotesque, bitter reality. I reported it in my essay “Batam Island – Indonesia’s Sorry Attempt to Create Second Singapore“. The island had been thoroughly destroyed. Nothing public was left, and nothing, absolutely nothing was built for the people. Precisely just as in all other parts of Indonesia. The ugliness of the urban areas of Batam was unimaginable. Corruption was omnipresent. The feeble attempt to turn the island into an industrial, productive area, collapsed. What survived, at least for some period of time, was the prostitution and gambling. Eventually, the gambling ‘industry’ collapsed, too. Only prostitution, together with some sand exports to Singapore, prevailed.

Presently, there is not one single city in Indonesia which could be defined as livable. Not one. Even the Island of Bali is heavily polluted, full of traffic jams, with ruined and privatized nature, including beaches.

Why would the new capital be any different? Why would Indonesian people believe the government, which has been known for lying, for building sand castles, and for many long decades of absolute ineptness?

There is not one elegantly built sidewalk anywhere in Indonesia. So why should there suddenly be hundreds of kilometers of beautiful avenues and promenades in the middle of Borneo?

All public places in all the Indonesian cities have been commercialized, privatized, or outrightly stolen. Why would it be different now? What is this talk about big parks, green areas? Every big project in Jakarta, Surabaya or Bandung begins like that: endless promises of “city walks”, of malls overflowing with green areas. In the end: nothing! A concrete sprawl, parking lots, and nothing public whatsoever. Maritime cities lacking promenades, urban centers without public parks, concert halls, or first-rate museums. There is no place like this on Earth: absolute extreme corruption, and spite for the people.

So, is there any reason why the new capital would change the entire culture of graft, or lack of productivity and imagination? It will be, after all, constructed by the same individuals, same developers, same companies and the same government as in all other parts of the country.

*****

Along the old road on which we drive, most of the people live in poverty, or if international standards were to apply: in misery.

At Bukit Suharto (Suharto Hill), a peripheral area of the planned new capital, Ms. Niah, an old woman living alone in her shack, selling traditional rice cakes for a living, is not hopeful about her future. Here, as elsewhere in Indonesia, governments have come and gone, dropping empty promises, leaving people with basically nothing, just wooden walls, stained mattresses, and pasrah, which can be loosely translated as ‘submissive melancholy’.

Ms. Niah living an Indonesian-style ‘middle class’ life

Ms. Niah is not afraid to speak:

I did not know about the plan to move the capital here, by the government. They tell us nothing. What I know is that I have never felt the benefits of development carried out by the government. For decades, there was no help that I’d receive. I don’t even get that proverbial subsidized rice delivery, which each and every poor Indonesian is entitled to, at least in theory. I get nothing. On the contrary, I actually feel disadvantaged by what is called development. Since the government built the toll road not far from here, the traffic of the vehicles on this road has been reduced, and as a result, my rice cakes do not sell.

A few hundred meters away, Mr. Abdul Gani, a retired civil servant actually worries about his future. The government may force him out of his home, if it felt that his land may be at least of some use for the new capital project.

A few weeks ago, an officer came to the houses in our village to collect information on the ownership deeds for land, buildings and fields, without giving us a hint of what reasons the data collected is for. Then, there were rumors circulating in this area, that our land would be taken, confiscated by the government, because we do not have ownership certificates. Everything is vague for us. We don’t know what to expect.

Dubai? Manhattan? Really? Please be serious. No, we don’t believe that the government could build a city like Dubai here.

All along the road, we hardly encounter any native people of Borneo. The entire area is now populated by so called trans-migrants – individuals and families that were injected here, mainly from Java, South Sulawesi and Bali, after the 1965 military coup orchestrated by the West and by the Indonesian right-wing elites and religious cadres. Trans-migrants have been historically placed along the important roads, effectively fragmenting Kalimantan/Borneo. The right-wing, in fact, fascist dictator Suharto considered Dayak native people of this island to be ‘Communist’, because of their traditional, communal culture and way of life. He did not trust them. In fact, he busied himself destroying their “long houses”, and their philosophy of life.

Trans-migrants have also been playing an extremely important role in Borneo, which is one of the wealthiest, in terms of natural resources, islands on Earth: their increasing presence has guaranteed that the local people would not be able to one day unite and demand independence from the colonialist Java.

The entire island is now ruined as a result of Jakarta’s rule, as well as the “trans-migration”. It has been devastated, burned, deforested, poisoned. Once resembling paradise on earth, it is now scarred and humiliated. Its original inhabitants are subjugated, kept divided and badly informed, and uneducated on purpose.

Then comes the new capital project.

Map showing relocation of the new Indonesian capital to the island of Borneo (Map: Caitlin Dempsey using Natural Earth Quick Start)

In an unusually bold report, the Jakarta Globe wrote on December 18, 2019:

A study has revealed the names of numerous national and local politicians who would reap profits from the capital city relocation mega-project, including the brother of defense minister Prabowo Subianto, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, and the coordinating minister of maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.

The study, “Who Is the New Capital City For?” was conducted by a coalition of civil organizations; Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Trend Asia and Forest Watch Indonesia, and took three months to complete.

It studied the oligarchic connections in the mega-project and its environmental and societal impacts.

The report revealed names of people who have assets and concessions in the extractive industries such as coal, palm oil and lumber as well as energy plants in the area of East Kalimantan where the new capital is going to be built.

It also suggested the project could be used as a smokescreen to brush off the corporations’ dirt for the environmental damage they have done there.

Within the 180,000-hectare area for the new so-called smart city, there are 162 mining, forestry, palm oil, coal and property concessions.

Around 158 of them are coal mines that have left at least 94 deadly-deep holes in the area…

*****

Indonesian girl and phone in a typical village in the area – pollution and misery

We met two leading researchers from the Institut Dayakologi (“Dayakology Institute”), Richardus Giring and Julianto Makmur, in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan.

Mainly, we wanted to know, whether the relocation of the capital to Borneo would benefit or harm the local people.

Mr. Giring elaborated:

Since the issue of relocation of the capital was endorsed by the Jokowi government, I have never come across any open and transparent analysis. All the studies tend to show positive aspects, without considering the risks and negative impacts of the relocation; ignoring the interests of the Kalimantan people. There should be a serious study, analyzing what the relocation of the capital would do to the locals.

Aside from seeing the relocation of the capital as a solution to what is happening in Jakarta, this plan should also be seen from the perspective of the impacts on Kalimantan and its people. We do not want this capital relocation to be a kind of escape from the problems that Jakarta is facing; we don’t want to move those problems to Kalimantan.

The ecological injustice and the destruction of the social structure of the people of Kalimantan have been occurring since a long time ago. Consistently, various government sectoral (forestry, energy, etc.) have only made Kalimantan an area of plunder, be it its forests or other natural resources. The Kalimantan that we see today is a dreadful legacy of the past and present. Although there are still few areas of pristine tropical forests left on the island, they are only small remnants.

Working all over the island, filming and writing about the dreadful situation for years, we could only agree. And Mr. Giring continued:

What’s the point of promising a big, beautiful and magnificent new capital, if it is not preceded by proper and careful planning and study? So far, what they have done is only feasibility studies based on positive predictions. No studies on the risks, or on the negative impacts that may arise. If it is not done carefully, the whole thing will definitely turn out to be a blunder. We know that this is not just a plan: a lot of resources have already been spent. But still, the important thing is to anticipate beforehand what lies ahead; to study risks, the environmental impacts.

If not, people will have no sense of ownership. The new capital will only belong to Jakarta’s elites, and to Jokowi. And in the end, it will only move the problems from Jakarta to Kalimantan. It’s beginning to look like a beauty contest, where the important thing is how things look. As long as they appear to ook magnificent, great! Short video clips created by designers/architects are shown everywhere by the mass media. But it is irrelevant to the people of Borneo and for the entire Indonesia.

I imagine that there will be many potential conflicts that will arise, such as land-grabbing caused by the politics of the state administration. There will also be an exodus of people to the new capital which will certainly trigger conflict with local people.

Well, this is our paradigm of development, which tends to sacrifice the interests of small people for the sake of the elites. On many occasions, here, development means sacrificing the poor/small people. In this case, they are being sacrificed solely for the sake of an ‘image or impression,’ as if they were not human beings with dignity.

*****

While the propaganda that is promoting the new capital is all over the Indonesian mass media, here in Kalimantan there is hardly any information, even about the precise location. The area designated by Jokowi’s regime is enormous. Everything has been hushed up, camouflaged, covered in secrecy. We ask, and people tell us where to go, but they are not sure. We drive back and forth, frustrated and tired.

On the second day, we finally came to a security post. Behind, the enormous and devastated land can be seen. We are told that it belongs to the retired General Prabowo Subianto, a man who ran against President Widodo in the last elections, in 2019, and after being defeated, was elevated to the post of Minister of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia. A former Lieutenant-General, he was accused of countless violations of human rights in the territories occupied by Java, and in Jakarta itself, where his troops were involved in kidnapping and torturing student protesters.

Several security guards man the post. One of them is called Hambali, a gate security officer employed by the company PT. ITCI, which is owned by Prabowo Subianto himself.

Behind the barrier and the post, there is the vast location of the planned city center of the new capital.

Although in theory, this place is supposed to be “public”, after spotting us, the security personnel immediately go to work, asking us questions, checking IDs, making phone calls to some undisclosed locations. Our documents are photocopied.

“So, is this going to be an Indonesian Dubai?” We ask. “Or perhaps Manhattan, or Canberra?”

The senior guard utters laconically, before lifting up the barrier and letting us pass:

I just hope that the new capital will be built as planned, although I am not sure that the new city will look like Dubai or Canberra or Manhattan.

*****

What follows is a nightmare, combined with Kafkaesque, grotesque images. Indonesia always manages to surprise and to shock me.

he Grandeur: entrance to the new Indonesia capital site

First, on the road shoulder, there are several broken trucks, full of timber. The drivers and helpers are busy fixing their engines and tires. Flies and other insects are everywhere. Indiscriminate logging is obviously going on up to now.

Pay as You Go: A new privately owned toll road

Our car moves on; begins climbing the rolling hills. The devastation is appalling, even by the standards of Borneo/ Kalimantan. Entire hills have been deforested, scarred. Huge, monstrous stubs of enormous trees line up the road. There are all sorts of makeshift ‘reforestation’ projects, obviously conducted to impress the local media. The result of all this is terrifying. The higher we get, the greater the scale of destruction: the total ruin of the island can be seen for tens of kilometers, in every direction. If this was once, decades and centuries ago, a paradise, it is now hell.

On top of all this, stands a small metal structure, called Sudarmono Tower, put together in the most amateurish manner. It is supposed to resemble the Eiffel Tower. Local people drive here; they climb it; adults, children, even grandmothers. There is nothing else to do, in this part of the world: the villages are encircled by palm oil plantations, mines and other commercial ventures. Now they have new entertainment – me. They stare, point fingers, repeating, as they always do when they see a foreigner: “bule, bule” (derogatory for “albino”).

Le Tower de Kalimantan Nouveau – at the very center of the new capital

We approached Ms. Imah, who was visiting the tower together with her family. She is from Sepaku Dua. She has no idea about politics, or about the ‘colonizing and then plundering’ of Kalimantan. If anything, she is one of the ‘colonizers’, but definitely not one of those who improved their lives by moving to the island. She knows nothing about the ‘grand plan’. Or, she knows very little. All she worries about are insignificant details: noise and possible overcrowding:

This is my first time visiting the location of the planned center of the capital. Personally, I am worried about the relocation of the new capital to our village. Now, we live in a quiet and peaceful environment. I am sure there will be more and more people coming and it will become crowded.

She does not know that she is living in thorough misery. Almost nobody around here, or even in the middle of the monstrous Jakarta and Surabaya slums, realize their conditions. ‘Quiet and peaceful’, she describes her environment. Wooden shacks, a medical and education system near the hard-sub-Saharan African bottom, an entire island robbed, with more than 100% of its land (yes, you are reading correctly) sold to private businesses.

Ms Ponadi, a shop owner, from Sepaku Village, thinks only about the possible compensation. But she is not even sure that the compensation will be provided by the government:

We came to this village decades ago, as trans-migrants, who started a new life from scratch. Now I already have enough land to pass on to my daughters and sons. Honestly, I would not be willing if we were told to move, to another place. If we had to move, the government would have to provide adequate compensation, for the hard-earned lives we have built here for decades.

This land she is talking about used to belong to this island, and to the people of this island. But she does not understand. First, the fascist government sent them here, to spread their culture and religion all around this island, which used to be inhabited by enormous, advanced and clearly socialist cultures. Now, the Javanese regime wants to cash in on its ‘investment’. Ms. Ponadi concludes, somehow sarcastically:

How could they possibly be able to build a city like Dubai here? I am not convinced at all. Tall buildings will immediately collapse to the ground.

She laughs, loudly. We don’t. All this is not funny. It is, somehow, damn serious.

*****

We drive through Borneo, exhausted, depressed, and with the feeling that something terrible is once again taking place here.

For almost three years we have been filming and talking to people all over this tremendous island, the 3rd largest on Earth, after Greenland and Papua. We have been documenting mighty rivers like Kapuas, now poisoned by mercury, hills leveled to the ground by mining companies, tremendous sprawls of land deforested, and converted into palm oil plantations. Chemicals, black carcinogenic creeks, and filth, are everywhere. Coal barges exporting the bowels of the island to all corners of the world. Villages and towns surrounded by monstrous commercial enterprises. Beaches covered by concrete, and then abandoned. Children playing in the middle of the roads. Sick people running, escaping to the Malaysian part of the island, where the medical care is much better and cheaper.

For almost three years, we have been collecting material for a huge documentary film, and a book.

The world knows nothing about Borneo; or almost nothing. Yet, its demise is as important as that of Amazonia. And the destruction is much more rapid here than anything recorded in Brazil.

Our nerves are stretched. It is all one big insanity, and we are alone, totally alone in this: no support and no backing. And this huge, enormous country all around us, choking us. The Fourth most populous nation on Earth, totally indoctrinated by the pro-Western, pro-business regime, with hardly any diversity, with no mercy, no production and hardly any enthusiasm. A country that only consumes, and which lives off cutting down trees, polluting rivers and selling its riches to multi-national companies.

A Balinese thinker, Gung Alit, wrote a comment for this report:

I do not agree with moving the capital to Kalimantan, because I prefer the forest to be sustainable. Even now they are already destroyed, so what would the forests look like if they really move the capital? Kalimantan Island would be more devastated. And once it gets more devastated, they will move again. That is ridiculous.

Yes, they always move again. They come like locust, from Java, supported by Western, foreign, companies. They stay for as long as there is something to plunder. Then, they move again. It is because Indonesia does not produce, it only plunders, and buys toys for the rich, after selling the loot. It is a terribly frightening sight. Everything is make-believe: statistics lie, planners lie. The country has been ransacked, by less than 1% of the population.

Deforestation and desolation marks the new center of the future capital city

And now, the Indonesian President, a megalomaniac, little businessman from Surakarta (Solo) is dreaming about something really huge. He is like some African king who drains his national resources in order to build a useless, huge palace or a cathedral in the middle of the jungle.

Rain forests are still being clear cut, with no end in sight

The Diplomat published an article on April 3, 2020, by By Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Dimas Permadi. It contains two interesting paragraphs:

It is also important to note that domestically Jokowi’s plan to move the capital has been a contentious issue, which has taken a toll on the president’s image. In fact, a survey carried out by the KedaiKOPI survey institute revealed that 95.7 percent of Jakartans reject the plan. Scholars have also argued that the plan is not feasible and would not solve the underlying issues the government aims to address.

Naturally, to “elevate” the project, Jokowi selected several unsavory individuals:

To realize this gigantic plan, Jokowi formed a new capital steering board consisting of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In the area of the new Indonesia capital – a palm oil and chemical apocalypse

95.7 percent or not, the project is being criticized, increasingly, by all sectors of Indonesian society. On 7 April 2020, RMOL.ID published an essay by Marwan Batubara, Executive Director of Indonesian Resources Studies (Iress):

The ambition of relocating the capital city, which is said to be promoted as a driver for economic growth, is a program that is burdensome to state finances, is not pro-equal distribution, is not a priority, is not supported by objective studies and considerations, will increase the weight on state debt, as well as the potential for moral hazard.

Jokowi’s ambitious attitude to move the national capital has been reflected in the establishment of the 2020 state budget, on September 24, 2019. Although it is still in the initial stage and does not yet have a legal basis in the form of a law, the government has allocated a budget of 2 trillion rupiah for the relocation of the national capital, which is spread throughout the ministerial sectoral budgets.

The arrogant attitude and breaking of the regulations were adopted by the government amid the growing state budget deficit, and as a result, the burden of the country’s debt is getting heavier year after year.

Jokowi says he loves business, and he is enamored with the U.S. president Donald Trump. He can hardly believe that from a furniture seller he has gone ‘so far’, meeting the most notorious leaders of the West, shaking their hands, telling them how much they are wanted in Indonesia.

He talks big. He shuts up his critics. Journalists and activists are disappearing, or outright getting murdered. Laws muzzling any criticism are being introduced, gradually and consistently. Nobody dares to guess what may come next. New Order (“Ode Baru”) — the fascist pro-business regime of General Suharto, is being re-introduced.

In this political climate; in a climate of fear, intimidation and corruption, the new capital city of Indonesia is expected to rise.

*****

As we sit in a car, in silence, driving towards Balikpapan City, my left eye begins to ache. It is just the beginning of a horror which I will have to face in just two weeks from now. My stomach has been destroyed, as always when I work in Indonesia, particularly in Kalimantan. Soon, both eyes, attacked by a local parasite, will collapse. It will happen in Hong Kong. And I will have to fly home to Chile, half-blind and ruined after working in Kalimantan. My journey will take 8 days; from Hong Kong to Bangkok, to Seoul, Amsterdam, Surinam, Brazil and Peru.

In a few weeks, COVID-19 will come to Indonesia, but instead of mobilizing, Jokowi’s regime will tell its citizens to pray and drink herbal medicine. A tremendous amount of people will die, silently, and as always in Indonesia, unreported.

On board Lion Air – the world’s most crammed and deadliest airline

But now we are slowly progressed towards the main regional center, and its airport. Ahead of us, there will be a horrid flight to Pontianak, in two days, on a filthy and overcrowded Boeing 737, so filthy that it resembles an old bus in some collapsed country. Then, a flight to Jakarta on the national carrier Garuda Indonesia, where several people sat around us would be emitting dry, persistent coughs. Unlike in the Philippines, Vietnam and, of course, China, no temperature checking, no medical checkpoints, until much, much later.

Indonesia is a collapsed country. I depicted it in my recent huge documentary film DOWNFALL! The fact that it has crumbled is a well-hidden secret. If it does something really well, it obstructs the truth, tricking its own citizens and the world. It shows its true face only when emergencies strike, as basically nothing works there: rescue operations, the medical system, or transportation.

Before leaving Balikpapan, we talked to several individuals there. Although in Indonesia, more than half of the population lives in misery (if international statistics were to apply), people here apply standardized neocon “logic”. Even in the slums, all over the archipelago, people use stock market jargon. It looks unnatural, terrifying, perverse.

Lusi (known, like most people in Indonesia, by only one name), a housewife, a visitor to the Mall Pentacity, in Balikpapan, readily offered her “analyses”:

I agree and support the relocation of the capital. It will boost economic development, especially in the property businesses.

Would she, personally, participate in the “economic development and property business”? When asked, she did not know what to say.

*****

Mr. Arip Harahap, a senior architect based in Jakarta, declared for this report that moving the capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan is “immoral”. He elaborated:

First, it is not based on a proper planning and design process. All technical, socio-cultural studies are still too shallow. Second, considering the country’s economic situation, it is such a wasteful way of spending a budget. Third, it seems that there are the interests of groups close to the central government that will benefit from the project.

Apparently, there are many such interests of many groups close to the government. As the government and such groups are intertwined, forming one system, a regime, which has been for long decades cannibalizing the nation.

The Jakarta Globe continued its damning report, naming names:

The corporations and the oligarchs have a chance to ensure their investments are safe with this project. Meanwhile, they ignore the fact the indigenous Paser Balik tribe had their land taken away by ITCI Hutan Manunggal in the 1960s,” Jatam coordinator Merah Johansyah said at the report’s launch in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The names mentioned in the report include lumber businessman Sukanto Tanoto, the owner of ITCI Hutan Manuggal; Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo’s younger brother; Rheza Herwindo, the son of corruption convict and ex-House speaker Setya Novanto; Thomas Aquinas Djiwandono, the treasurer of the Gerindra Party and Prabowo’s nephew; lawyer and ex-Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra; and the ubiquitous Luhut.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced the location of the new capital city, at Penajam Paser Utara in East Kalimantan, on April 29, only 12 days after he won the presidential election.

The government never asked for approval from the people of East Kalimantan. The decision [to move the capital there] was taken 12 days after the presidential election without consulting the public. That was a crime as far as public participation in politics is concerned,” Merah said.

Investigating oppression against the indigenous people in Indonesia, as well as the destruction of the environment all over the archipelago by the collusion of local oligarchs, foreign multi-nationals and Indonesian government, is an extremely dangerous job, particularly now under Jokowi’s administration. People get hunted down, killed, arrested and in the case of foreigners, regularly deported. Recently, Philip Jacobson, 30, was arrested and imprisoned in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, after attending meetings of the indigenous people of Kalimantan and reporting for Mongabay.

The Environmental science website, Mongabay, is an outspoken publication, that is persistently critical of the situation in Indonesia. Regarding the new capital, it reported on 6 January, 2020:

The site of the new capital on the island of Borneo is home to 162 existing concessions, most of them for coal mining, according to a report from a coalition of NGOs. This contradicts the government’s claim that the city will be built on vacant land, and raises the prospect of the concession-holders exploiting the opportunity for profit, said Merah Johansyah from the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), one of the NGOs in the coalition.

If the government says it’s going to be the public who will benefit [from relocating the capital], that’s a big lie,” he said at the launch of the report in Jakarta. “The ones that will benefit are these companies.

*****

And so, the story goes. Six decades of attempts to move the Indonesian capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan, Borneo Island. First, the enthusiastic effort by President Sukarno, to raise the socialist, Soviet-style city of Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, literally in the middle of nowhere. Then, the U.S.-backed fascist coup put a full stop to all the progressive aspirations and people-oriented development. Recently, after getting re-elected, Jokowi announced his grand plan to abandon the polluted, embarrassingly poor and ‘sinking’ Jakarta, and move the capital city to Penajam Paser Utara in East Kalimantan.

Unlike the left-wing vision of Sukarno, Jokowi’s design is nihilistic, and if implemented, it will benefit only big business and the oligarchs. The great majority of the Indonesian people will gain absolutely nothing.

The great migration of morally and economically corrupt bureaucrats and their butlers from Jakarta to East Kalimantan would further damage the already extremely devastated island. Native people there will get more and more marginalized and oppressed. If this happens, there will also be very little chance for them to ever regain control of their own island.

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Container ships ready to take away loot from Kalimantan to richer waters

As this report is being written, the Indonesian economy is collapsing due to the COVID-19 epidemy. Even before the lockdowns, the commodity-based economy of the fourth most populous nation was not doing well. Now the situation is truly shattering.

Statistics in Indonesia are manipulated; totally incorrect. In reality, the majority of the nation lives below international poverty lines, living in urban and rural slums, lacking basic sanitation, access to clean water, decent medical care, healthy and nutritious food, education and housing.

Can Indonesia afford to waste 33 billion dollars on moving its capital city? And everyone knows that 33 billion will at some point inflate to 50 billion, then perhaps to one trillion, until we will all lose count. If the project goes ahead, it will be nothing more than yet another re-distribution of the national wealth – delivering billions of dollars into the hands of very few corrupt oligarchs and so-called “elites”.

The ‘project’ should stop. It has to stop, but can it still be stopped?

In Indonesia, the greed of the rulers is much greater than logic. Most of the citizens are uninformed, lethargic and submissive. People are resigned.

Will the new capital ever get built? So far, there is only the tiny fake Eiffel Tower sticking up towards the sky, surrounded by plundered nature. Almost nothing moves. There is almost total silence there, as if it were the silence before the storm.

• Originally published by 21 CENTURY WIRE

• Photos by Andre Vltchek