Category Archives: Ecology

The Marxian Theory of Value: A Response to David Pena (Part Three)

Read Part 1 here;  Part 2 here

Perhaps Pena does not see this because he does not appear to grasp the point that in the Marxian concept of socialism (aka communism – unlike Lenin, Marx never differentiated between these two terms), the question of “exchange value” becomes completely redundant (and, with that, the preoccupation with ensuring “equivalent exchange”).  This is because in socialism, as Marx saw it, commodity production would completely cease to exist.

The “actually existing socialisms” that Pena refers to have nothing in common with Marxian socialism.  In all of these, commodity production and wage labour prevails.  From a Marxian perspective what is called “actually existing socialism” is simply another name for state-administered capitalism and I would highly recommend Paresh Chattopadhyay’s book The Marxian Concept of Capital and the Soviet Experience (1994) which very persuasively argues this point. The Soviet Union was predicated upon fundamentally capitalist economic categories.  It was actually Lenin who was primarily responsible for the shift in the meaning of the term “socialism” away from how Marxists had originally defined it as an attempt to garner political support for the Bolsheviks’ state capitalist agenda.

Thus, in 1917 Lenin declared that “socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole” (The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It).  The enormous impact that the Bolshevik Revolution had on world affairs meant that this Leninist definition of “socialism” – identifying it with the activities of a state rather than the stateless society Marx envisaged it to be — came to prevail in popular discourse while the original Marxian definition faded from sight.   I suspect that it is through the prism of the former that Pena views the latter and that it is this that goes a long way towards explaining the many egregious errors he makes when analysing the latter.

Since Pena’s critique is supposed to be against Marx, he would be better advised to direct his comments to how Marx defined socialism, not Lenin.  In Marxian socialism, goods would be produced solely and directly for use, not for sale on a market, and would be made available to the population on the basis of free appropriation (“free access”).  Needless to say, this presupposes the technological potential to produce enough to meet the basic needs of the population and socialists assert that this potential has long been around (as I will later explain).  We no longer require the “productive forces” to be “increased” (as Marx thought) in order to establish the kind of society he called socialism-cum-communism. All that we need is a working class majority – not some Leninist vanguard acting in its behalf – to consciously and democratically bring this about.

As a logical corollary of “free access” in Marxian socialism, the cooperative labour required to produce the goods we need would take the form of “freely associated” (to use Marx’s expression), voluntaristic, unpaid work where the very notion of “compensation” for work done would completely fall away. Wage labour, or any other form of coerced labour, for that matter (and by “coerced” I mean economic coercion not just physical coercion) would no longer exist since it cannot logically be reconciled with a socialist mode of appropriation based on free access.  The Gordian knot between what one consumes and what one contributes would be severed and the antagonism of interests that this presupposes would cease to apply.

That antagonism is embedded in the very institution of market exchange itself and finds expression in the conflictual relationship between buyer and seller (including the buyers and sellers of labour power). The buyer seeks to secure the lowest possible price for the commodity in question; the seller, the opposite.  So they haggle.  Exchange value is the impersonal market-imposed outcome of this haggling, mediated through the interplay of supply and demand but ultimately responsive to the Marxian law of value.

Pena does not seem to have much of a clue about any of this and you have to seriously wonder how familiar he is with Marx about whom he professes to write so authoritatively.   He continues to dogmatically assert that “the labor theory of value promotes ecocide and is therefore fatal to ecological socialism”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Marx did not intend that his theory would apply to socialism.  This is because it is inextricably bound up with, and only makes sense in the context of, a system of commodity production which would cease to exist in socialism.

Pena’s attempts to deny this point are risible. He comments:

He further argues that I “totally miss the point” that the labor theory of value is an explanation of how capitalism works, not socialism. This is related to an earlier insinuation that I do not understand that the law of value applies only to capitalism. Since capitalism is the only sphere in which the law operates, Cox reasons, it is impossible for Marx’s labor theory to have any ill effects on socialism. Therefore, in addition to my ridiculous physical reductionism, my claim that the labor theory is bad for ecological socialism is false and patently absurd.

Pena then proceeds in his attempt to refute my claim that “labor theory of value is an explanation of how capitalism works, not socialism” by means of a two-pronged attack.

The first prong involves an arcane discussion on Aristotle’s analysis of value in the Nicomachean Ethics.  The point of the exercise is presumably to demonstrate that commodities existed long before capitalism – as if I was not aware of this and needed to be condescendedly enlightened by Pena on the subject.  Of course, commodities predate capitalism and I have not denied this.  My argument was, rather, that the “law of value” is really only applicable to a society in which commodity production has become generalised and, above all, where labour power has itself been generally transformed into a commodity, not just the products of labour themselves.  In other words, where there is in place a system of generalised wage labour.  In fact, Marx himself treated the term, the “wages system” as a synonym for capitalism as in Capital where he spoke of “capitalistic production, or the wages system” (Vol 1, Ch.1.)

To ram home the point, I refer the reader to the opening sentence of that book with its ringing declaration that “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities, its unit being a single commodity.”  Thus, what distinguished capitalist from non-capitalist, or pre-capitalist, societies, in Marx’s view, is precisely the fact that most wealth did not take the form of commodities in the latter – that is, it was not produced for sale on the market.  This is why it is incorrect to say that production in these societies was “governed by the law of value” which has to be a society-wide phenomenon in order to function as such, in my view.

Pena avers that this was not the “settled view” of Marx and Engels and patronisingly commends me for “showing signs of intellectual independence” if I intend to take a contrary position – an odd comment from someone who earlier claimed I see Marx as some sort of “guru”.  The Engels quote that Pena provides certainly seems to suggest that he (Engels) thought the law of value had universal application, applying also to those pre-capitalist societies in which there was a limited degree of commodity production.  For the record, I don’t agree with Engels but endorse instead the position adopted by others such as the (recently deceased) Marxist economist, John Weeks, that the law of value is unique to capitalism.

Marx’s position is a little more complicated in that he thought that, though the law of value did indeed predate capitalism, it “develops fully only on the foundation of capitalist production”. (Capital Vol 1.)  Here Marx was alluding to the law of value governing “simple commodity exchange” and the transformation of this law under capitalist conditions where “more labour is exchanged for less labour (from the labourer’s standpoint), less labour is exchanged for more labour (from the capitalist’s standpoint)”. (1863, Theories of Surplus Value, Ch 3. Section 4.)

The second, and more significant, prong of Pena’s attack is to assert that “the law’s applicability to socialism also means that the anti-ecological effects of the law apply to that system” and that Marx’s labour theory of value promotes “anti-socialist hierarchies and an anti-ecological economy within socialist society”.  This further illustrates the point I made earlier – that Pena does not understand that, for Marx, socialism entails the complete abolition of commodity exchange.  If there is no commodity exchange then the question of exchange value cannot logically arise, in which case it is nonsensical to talk of the law of value applying in socialism (at least as Marx defined this term as a synonym for communism).

To say that Pena’s attempt to justify his assertion is feeble would be an understatement.  He asserts “I would argue there is nothing in Marx to prevent the law functioning under any conditions in which workers own the means of production, including socialism”. Really?  If he referring here to worker cooperatives, then he is quite mistaken in thinking this. Marx did not consider co-ops to be an instantiation of “socialism” but, along with the capitalist joint stock company, a transitional form from the “capitalist mode of production to the associated one”.  Though he had positive things to say about co-ops as pointing the way ahead, he saw them, nevertheless, as operating fundamentally within the constraints of capitalism:  “The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system”. (Capital, Vol 3, Ch 27.)

To justify his claim concerning the law of value being allegedly applicable to Marxian socialism, Pena refers us to Marx’s distinction between simple and complex labour under capitalism as an illustration of how the law of value differentially impacts on the remuneration of workers under capitalism.  Labour power is a commodity and, like any other commodity under capitalism, its value is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour time required to produce and reproduce it. Skilled workers, for example, require more training and this will be reflected in the price of their labour power – the relatively higher wage they command compared to unskilled workers.  At the same time, skilled workers tend to be more productive than unskilled workers – that is, they generate more value.

Pena contends:

Marx and Engels’ position on the applicability of the law of value to non-capitalist societies suggests the labor theory of value, with its distinction between simple and complex labor, applies to post-capitalist society as well, including what Marx called the “first phase” of communism.25  The distinction between simple and complex labor colors Marx’s vision of socialism.26  This is dangerous to socialism because it lays the foundation for a hierarchical post-capitalist society in which individual social position and access to goods and services is determined by one’s status as a simple or complex worker, which is in turn decided by the worker’s level of education and training. Marx’s labor theory of value is the basis of a social hierarchy in the Marxist conception of socialism that undermines both socialism and ecology.

Firstly, it does not follow at all that, even if the law of value was applicable to non-capitalist societies, it must also be applicable to post capitalist societies “including what Marx called the “first phase” of communism”

In his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), Marx wrote in highly speculative terms of this first phase of communism (socialism) thus:

Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase “proceeds of labor”, objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning.

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after the deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.”

This calls for one or two comments. To begin with, it should be mentioned at the outset that neither I, nor the SPGB, support Marx’s proposal to institute a scheme of labour certificates to compensate workers for their labour contribution.  Such a scheme is unnecessary and superfluous inasmuch as we have long moved away from the era of unavoidable material scarcities in which Marx lived and in which he penned this particular proposal as a way of coping with these scarcities in the early days of socialism.  Today such scarcities are no longer unavoidable but, on the contrary, have to be artificially imposed and rigorously reinforced for the sake of the system we all still live under – global capitalism.

Not only that, the labour certificate scheme proposed by Marx would be bureaucratically cumbersome and wasteful inasmuch as it would require a very substantial amount of administrative labour to operate it and to maintain an appropriate level of labour surveillance for the scheme to work on its own terms. Furthermore, there are intrinsic technical difficulties associated with the scheme such as how one might go about valuing different forms of labour which would make it very difficult to implement.  Also, it is not just people’s labour contributions that would need to be directly measured for the purpose of distributing these certificates; the goods produced by this labour would need to be measured too in terms of the amount of concrete labour time it took to produce them – a truly daunting task given the socially integrated nature of modern production and its incredibly complex division of labour.

I mention this only to once again illustrate just how wide of the mark is Pena’s silly jibe about Marx being my “guru”.   Marx was fallible like everyone else and I consider this to be one of the many errors he made. His proposal was informed, as I suggested, by the belief that a socialist society would initially be handicapped by the problem of material scarcities inherited from capitalism and so would have to institute some form of rationing which is precisely what his labour certificate scheme amounts to. But, even if this was the case, there are other far more effective, and better targeted, ways of rationing scarce goods than the hugely unwieldly approach he advocated.

Having said that, it is pretty clear from what Marx wrote about this first phase of socialism that he did not envisage the law of value operating within it and that Pena has completely misread what Marx was saying.  For a start, the producers, Marx said, “do not exchange their products” so consequently we cannot possibly be talking about a society in which exchange value exists (and therefore one in which the law of value would apply). There is “exchange” of course – notably the performance of a certain amount of labour in exchange for a certificate — but this is not what exchange value or the law of value is about.  These certificates do not in themselves constitute money since they do not circulate and cannot be used as a means of accumulating wealth.

Moreover – and crucially — it should be noted that what is measured here for the purposes of distributing labour certificates is concrete labour, not abstract labour which, as we saw earlier, is the fundamental metric of value in Marx’s theory.  This fact alone destroys Pena’s absurd claim that Marx envisaged the law of value continuing in socialism.  The worker in Marx’s first stage of socialism receives back in the form of a labour certificate exactly what she has contributed to society in terms of her own labour – not some hypothetical social average.

Marx goes on:

Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption.

So this resembles the exchange of equal values in commodity exchange inasmuch as it involves an equality of exchange — you get back exactly what you contribute to society (allowing for the various social deductions Marx refers to).   But there the resemblance ends since what is happening here is that “content and form are changed”.  This is because it is not abstract labour that constitutes the basic metric of this transaction but concrete labour.

Secondly, there is indeed more than a hint in Marx that workers would be differentially compensated in this first phase of socialism according to the duration and intensity of their contribution:

But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor. It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. (Ibid.)

Pena makes great play of this and contends that this is dangerous to socialism because it “lays the foundation for a hierarchical post-capitalist society in which individual social position and access to goods and services is determined by one’s status as a simple or complex worker, which is in turn decided by the worker’s level of education and training”.  I would accept that this does indeed entail a hierarchy of sorts but I think Pena grossly exaggerates its likely consequences.  After all, we are not talking about a class-based hierarchy but rather one based purely on one’s work contribution.  As Marx says “everyone is only a worker like everyone else”.  So the hierarchical aspect of this arrangement is likely to be far less pronounced than anything one is likely to encounter in a class-based society where sectional or class ownership of the means of production massively amplifies the asymmetrical distribution of power and status.

Moreover, there is nothing to suggest there might not be a significant degree of social mobility within this hypothetical first stage of socialism, as Marx conceived it.  What is to stop individuals moving up this hierarchy by, for instance, undertaking the requisite education and training, thereby boosting their status within the hierarchy?

We also need to take into consideration Marx’s views on the division of labour by which he meant the compulsory division of labour that compels a worker to do a particular kind of job but prevents her from simultaneously doing some other job.  Marx was very much opposed to this. He saw socialism as presupposing or being dependent on what might be called the polytechnic or multi-skilled worker and (rather over-optimistically) speculated that the trend in work patterns in late Victorian Britain was moving in that direction.   He could perhaps be forgiven for not “predicting” the rise of Fordist style assembly production in the early 20th century

Nevertheless, his views on the division of labour likewise help to undermine the claim that what Marx was advocating would result in some sort of rigidly oppressive social hierarchy.  Insofar as workers would be far more free to undertake a variety of jobs, rather than confine themselves to just one kind of job as is normally the case under capitalism, the effect of this would be to further flatten or soften the aforementioned hierarchy Pena refers to.

However, once again, let me reiterate that this should not in any way be construed as meaning that I somehow defend Marx’s labour certificate proposal (which I don’t). It is merely an attempt on my part to put criticism of the scheme in some sort of reasonable context.  Pena’s criticism, in my view, is unreasonable and way over the top.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I come back to the point that all Marx’s speculations concerning this lower or first of phase of socialism (communism) were predicated on the assumption that the productive forces were not yet fully developed to permit the introduction of full socialism – or more precisely, its higher phase.  Pena talks loosely about the “Marxist conception of socialism” in this connection but this is misleading because in this particular context Marx was only talking about its first or lower phase.  He was not talking about socialism or communism, per se, as Marx himself makes abundantly clear:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

In this higher phase all of the objections Pena raises against Marx, needless to say, would – or, rather, should – perforce, fall away.  In this phase, as in the first phase, commodity production (and hence the law of value) would be done away with.  But also in this phase, concepts such as “compensation for work performed” that applied only to the first phase would likewise fall away.  Meaning the grounds on which Pena bases his spurious argument about the application of the labour theory of value in socialism laying the foundation for a hierarchical post-capitalist society, cannot possibly be true, even by the logic of his own argument, of the higher phase of socialism in which there is no “compensation for work performed”. Consequently, there is no reason for Pena to say the “Marxist conception of socialism” must necessarily be “hierarchical” since this conception also includes as well the idea of a higher phase of socialism.

Indeed, in this higher phase the very fact that goods and services would be universally available on the basis of free appropriation is what would deprive any individual or group of the social leverage by which they could exert power over others and coerce them to do their bidding.  Contrary to the claims of anarcho-capitalists and other exponents of the free market, the material basis of a truly free society would be precisely Marxian socialism.

Anarcho-capitalists may routinely claim they have no objection to others operating a socialist society, providing they themselves should be allowed to produce for the free market. Well, let us extend this hypothetical possibility to them and see how far they can run with it. How would they persuade others to relinquish the freedom of voluntary associated labour and submit to the economic coercion of wage labour instead? How would they entice them to buy what they had to sell – and with what? – in a society in which what individuals wanted would be available for them to freely take? Free access trumps free markets every time!

Returning to Pena’s argument it is ironic that it is Pena himself who wants to keep intact, and indefinitely perpetuate, the principle of compensation in the name of “fair distribution”.

He states:

Justification of differences in compensation among workers must cite measurable differences in energy expenditure during the labor process or in legitimate needs, such as medical condition, size of family, etc. This replaces Marx’s standard of labor time and the hierarchy of complex over simple labor. Compensation hierarchies based on differences in the quality or complexity of different forms of work are unjustified in these terms of energy expenditure or legitimate individual need. Societies might be tempted to use compensation differences to encourage quality improvements or the acquisition of complex skills, but the principle of socio-ecological worthiness must take precedence over perceived utility. In an ecological society, the priority of distribution is to return to individuals the amount of energy they have invested in society, minus unavoidable deductions for social purposes, and to meet legitimate, basic needs in a manner that is socio-ecologically sound.

So, apparently, it’s all right for Pena to accuse Marx of wanting to establish a social hierarchy resulting from the differential compensation of complex and simple labour in the first phase of socialism. But when Pena talks about the need to justify differences in compensation among workers in terms of his own preferred criterion of “measurable differences in energy expended by workers during the labor process” suddenly and rather mysteriously and conveniently, all talk of “social hierarchies” disappear from view.  Why, if Marx’s proposal for compensating labour lays the foundation for a hierarchical post-capitalist society, would that not equally be true of Pena’s?  On that score, Pena’s silence is deafening.

To reiterate — what is needed is to do away with the very principle of quid pro quo compensation itself with all the simmering tensions and seething antagonisms it embodies and entails.  It is this principle that separates the individual from her fellows and covertly or overtly places her in a conflictual relationship with them over the relative magnitude of the compensation she receives. It encourages comparison and the ensuing conflict to which that give rises.

Marxian socialism, by contrast, operates according to a completely contrary principle — generalised reciprocity.  Instead of separating out individuals who then confront each as buyers and sellers in the market place with opposed interests, generalised reciprocity brings them together.  It serves to cement the social relationships that bind us to each other.  It highlights our mutual inter-dependence and reinforces our sense of mutual obligation to one another.

Marxian socialism is what the anthropologists mean by a “moral economy” in the sense that the transactions between individuals would not simply be self-interested (as in Adam’s Smith mechanistic model of the market) but other-oriented as well – although one might quibble with notion that socialism might be called an “economy” at all.  In fact, the very idea of something called an economy arose out of the emergence of capitalism itself and the identification by Smith and others of a distinct economic realm within society which was subject to certain economic laws pertaining sui generis to this realm.  In traditional pre-capitalist societies, by contrast, the different facets of social life — morality, politics, religion and “economics” — were much more closely intermeshed and one suspects the same would be true of a future socialist society – further grounds, one might add, for rejecting the claim that the Marx’s law of value would operate in such a society.

The emergence of a distinct disembedded economic realm in capitalism was accompanied by, and mirrored in, emergence of distinct concept of the individual as sovereign and free floating – cut adrift from the ties that bound individuals to each other in earlier traditional societies.   It is this market economy of capitalism that atomises individuals and interposes between them the cold nexus of cash payment.  When money mediates everything, our essential human sociality is rendered opaque. We objectify and separate ourselves from our fellow human beings in much the same way as soldiers in a war seek to dehumanise the enemy in order to more effectively liquidate it.

It is this kind of thinking that underlies the idea that workers should be compensated for their work which is really another way of saying that they should be externally coerced and cajoled into working which tells us a lot about the nature of work and by extension the nature of the society we live in that requires its citizens to be thus coerced.  It is nor for no reason that Marx spoke of labour becoming “not only have a means of life but life’s prime want” in higher communism.  Human beings have a fundamental need to creatively express themselves in work.  Though we tend not to call it work under capitalism (where work tends to be equated with employment) it is highly significant that even under capitalism people work more hours without any kind of monetary “inducement” than they do with such an “inducement” and there is ample evidence that so called money incentives can negatively impact on what industrial psychologists call our intrinsic motivation to work.

In Marx’s first phase of socialism the need to compensate workers for their labour in the guise of labour certificates was rationalised on the grounds that in this phase society would still be subject to material scarcity which he envisaged would eventually give way of abundance. But on what grounds does Pena rationalise his system of compensation?

Pena maintains that in his ecological society the priority of distribution is to return to individuals the amount of energy they have invested in society”. What can this possibly mean?  If the more energy you “invest in society” means the greater your reward how would this apply in the case of , say, the operator of JCB digger who uses her machine to dig a hole, compared to a manual labourer who uses merely a pick and shovel?  On the face of it one might be inclined to say that the former invests more energy in accomplishing this task than the latter – particularly if you take into account the fuel costs of the machine and amount of energy required to manufacture it (as distributed over the life time of the machine itself).  But (as we have already seen) this is not at all what Pena has in mind:

That some forms of work involve manipulation of higher quantities of energy than others does not entail that workers in these fields expend more of their own metabolic energy during their work or as part of their labor in acquiring and maintaining their skills; nor does it entitle them to more abundant and higher quality material expectations. The view that they “create” or manipulate higher energy fields is not a badge of entitlement.

So it is the amount of metabolic energy expended by workers which we referred to earlier — how many calories you burn up — that is essentially Pena’s criterion for compensating workers.  Sweaty, back-breaking, manual toil associated with digging a hole with a pick and shovel is to receive preferential treatment over, and rewarded more highly than, operating a JCB digger in Pena’s world.   I don’t know if David Pena has ever done hard physical labour – as a landscape gardener I actually do it for a living – but I can’t help noticing that this romanticising of physical labour tends to be a trait of “middle class” intellectuals who seem to do precious little of it themselves. It kind of reminds me of Jerome K Jerome’s witticism: “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours”.

Frankly, I see no problem with using machines providing one doesn’t go overboard with this.  For instance, there is a strong case for applying small scale “appropriate” technologies, like rotavators and strimmers, to relieve the burden of back breaking toil and at the same time increase productivity , for instance, in the case of millions of peasant producers in the Global South.

But all this is by the by. If Pena wants to use the expenditure of an individual’s own metabolic energy as the criterion of compensation — though how he proposes to apply this criterion in practice is anyone’s guess — then he needs to be aware of the likely consequences of what he is advocating.  Above all, he needs to understand that it will encourage the substitution of more productive forms of labour using machinery by less productive and more labour intensive forms of production not least because of the greater incentive the latter has to offer insofar as it commands a higher level of compensation.  If so, that will in all likelihood mean a quite a significant decline in output.

We can see how this links up with the argument about material abundance being a precondition of Marxian socialism.  Without the technological potential to produce enough to satisfy people’s basic needs, the establishment of a socialist society becomes problematic if not downright impossible. Marx’s labour certificate scheme was predicated on precisely this insight.  In the early days of socialist society he speculated there would be not quite enough to go around to adequately meet the needs of everyone.  It was only when “all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly” that society could abandon this scheme and move on to implement fully the socialist principle of “from each according to ability to each according to need” – the system of free access and voluntaristic labour we associate with the higher phase of communism.

These speculations on Marx’s part relate to a possible future post-capitalist socialist world.  But the world in which Marx made these speculations was one in which the socio-economic system we call capitalism was still developing and had not yet fully matured.   Indeed, in contrast to today’s global capitalism vast chunks of the world back then in the mid-19th century still remained relatively untouched by the spread of the capitalist market economy.

It was in this context that the 1848 Communist Manifesto’s talked in such glowing terms of the way in which capitalism was developing the productive potential of society. It spoke candidly of the need “to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible” precisely because Marx and Engels believed this would hasten the day that a communist society could be established.  That was not an unreasonable argument to make given the circumstances of the times in which Marx was writing.  If the productive forces were not sufficiently developed to allow society to meet the needs of the people the result would be scarcity.  This would unleash a competitive scramble for goods – and greed as the inevitable product of a scarcity mind-set – that would likely undermine the entire communist project even assuming it could even be realised under these circumstances in the first place.

As they put in The German Ideology“This development of the productive forces is an absolutely necessary practical premise [of communism], because without it want is generalised, and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and that means that all the old crap must revive.” (1846, Vol 1.)

I, for one, would be interested to learn what, if anything, Pena has in mind to put in place that might avert a revival of all that “old crap” in his version of an “ecological socialism”. For material scarcity is bad news for socialism and bad news for the environment as well.  Yet one gets the distinct impression that Pena scorns the need for a developed infrastructure and the opportunity to take advantage of the best that modern technology has to offer in favour of us all wearing hair shirts.

For scarcity is what Pena is urging us to embrace with all the stoicism of a Tibetan monk.  At least Tibetan monks have the charity of others to fall back upon for their means of subsistence but a whole society cannot depend on this.

We have already seen how the logic of what he is arguing for would result in a profligate waste of resources through the application of his own version of the law of value which he recommends for an “ecological socialist” society. Now we see how a decline in output is likely to be assured through the preferential treatment or compensation he proposes to accord sweaty manual labourers like myself based on our comparatively greater “expenditure of metabolic energy”.

What better inducement can there be for us to abandon the machines that lighten our toil than the fact that we would get paid more? But in abandoning the machines we also diminish our productivity and what we are able to produce. He should not be surprised if his hair-shirted proletarians rise up in protest as times get progressively harder.  Come back Pol Pot, all is forgiven.   There will seemingly be little need, or call for, desk-bound scientists, doctors and engineers, and little attraction for such occupations anyway, in David Pena’s utopia.

However, paradoxical though it may seem, the one thing that can kill off greed and the competitive scramble for goods that drives it, is abundance – or, to be more precise, the possibility for individuals to freely appropriate what they need without the barrier of market exchange.  Let me illustrate this with a practical example.

Some years ago I lived in a small spa town in southern Spain.  The water that flows non-stop into the numerous fountains dotted around the town is to all intents and purpose the same water that is bottled by the bottling plant located just outside the town that is then sold on to various supermarket chains throughout the region and beyond. The former is freely available to take without limit but you, frankly, don’t find the good citizens of the town frenetically rushing to the nearest fountain to fill up every available container they can lay their hands on.  There is simply no need to.  They know the water is always going to be available for them to take whenever they need to.  Curiously (under the circumstances) the bottled version of the same water is stocked in the local supermarket and, needless to say, comes with a price tag.

The free access to potable spring water that the town’s residents and visitors alike enjoy might well be taken as an exemplar of the principle of distribution in Marx’s higher phase of communism.  The point is that it works.  And there are multiple other examples of the same principle that can be found to work even under capitalism today.  People do adjust their behaviour to fit the material circumstances they find themselves in.

However, when Marx talked about all the “springs of co-operative wealth” flowing more abundantly in his higher phase of communism this should not be taken to mean that he had in mind some unlimited cornucopia of absolute abundance.  That particular gloss on the term is an idealised abstraction or reflex that springs from the basic precept of bourgeois or mainstream economics – the dogma that human wants are insatiable.  Given the allegedly insatiable nature of such wants abundance is unobtainable – unless you mean this idealised version of “absolute abundance” of literally everything and we all know that that is unobtainable. Therefore, goes the argument, “socialism is impossible”.  Case closed.

But is it? “Scarcity” according to this argument is built into the very concept of opportunity costs – namely, to do or to have X we must necessarily forego Y.   But this particular construction of scarcity is a trite truism.  It is what you might call “psychologically empty”.  Nevertheless it allows our budding undergraduate economist in the rarefied world of bourgeois economics to smugly maintain that socialism is a pipe dream since it presupposes that we will be able to do or to have both X and Y in order for socialism to be possible. In short, the disappearance of opportunity costs altogether.   Since this is indeed impossible then so too must socialism be impossible.

But this is not what socialists mean by “scarcity” or “abundance” at all.  The fact that I choose to play tennis in the afternoon does indeed mean I have to forego the opportunity to take a walk in the park at the same time or any other of the countless activities I could be doing. But in what sense, pray, is this going to present a problem?  Am I going spoil my game of tennis by fretting over the opportunity I have thereby foregone to engage in some other activity? Any reasonable person would surely think not.

Returning to Pena, it strikes me that his interpretation of how Marx viewed things is based on a complete caricature. Implicitly he seems to go along with reasoning of our bourgeois economists. Thus, he seems to think that the passage from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme describing the higher phase of communist society implies “the continuation of productionism and consumerism (and why suppose any limits on procreation?) under communism, while the environmental implications remain unacknowledged”.  Note well that this marks him off as a critic of both Marx’s higher and lower phase of communism.  In short, communism (or socialism) as such.

He contends that the “ecocidal development” of the so called “socialist countries” exposes “environmental practices under socialism as no better than under capitalism overall”.  How he imagines these state capitalist regimes in any way resemble Marx’s conception of socialism I cannot say but, in any case, if he believes that environmental practices “under socialism” are so environmentally destructive, why then advocate for “ecological socialism”? The “socialism” part of this construction will surely be at odds with the “ecological” part, according to Pena’s logic.  Why pretend, then, to be an ecological socialist? Why not drop all claim to be a socialist if that is what you truly think of socialism?

It is an all too wearily familiar refrain from (some) environmentalists unfamiliar with Marx’s writings that he was sceptical or disbelieving of the notion of ecological limits and was religiously devoted to some promethean goal of unlimited “production for the sake of production”. However, there has been a veritable spate of books and articles published in recent decades that have utterly debunked the idea that Marx was unaware or unconcerned about the destructive impact of capitalist economic activity on environment.  I refer the reader to books such as Howard Parson’s Marx and Engels on Ecology (1977), Paul Burkett’s Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective (2014) and more recently still Kohei Saito’s Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy (2017).

Engels, Marx’s collaborator, was no less passionately committed to the environmental cause. In his Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (1843) he observed how the private ownership of the land, the drive for profit and the degradation of nature all hang together. “To make earth an object of huckstering — the earth which is our one and all, the first condition of our existence — was the last step towards making oneself an object of huckstering” 

Forty years later in his The Dialectics of Nature (1883) he penned what is arguably one of the most beautiful and compelling passages of environmental prose one is likely to encounter:

Let us not, however,  flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture. When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were … thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that they were at the same time spreading the disease of scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.

Yet, astonishingly, Pena uncharitably dismisses such talk as a set of “disconnected ad hoc comments” that “do not amount to a mature theoretical treatment of and comprehensive policy toward ecological issues

But did not the Communist Manifesto argue for the need “to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible” you might ask.

Certainly it did. But in no way can this be construed, as Pena attempts to construe it, as a rallying cry for unlimited production for the sake of production and consumption for the sake of consumption.  In fact, that claim makes no sense at all.  The whole point of the exercise was to raise the productive potential of society to the point at which the reasonable needs of the population can be adequately met, at which point the competitive pressure on our natural resource arising out of material scarcity can then begin to ease off. The notion of “limit” is implicit in the very logic of the argument itself. Arguing for the need to increase production up to a certain point cannot be squared with the idea of unlimited production or production for the sake of production.

Unless we can increase production up to that point where our basic needs can be adequately met it is inevitable that, in the words of The German Ideology, all “the old crap must revive” and Pena has singularly failed to demonstrate in any way whatsoever how the revival of the old crap can be averted in his scenario and thereby doom his own version of “ecological socialism” to failure.  A truly ecological socialist society has also to be a post scarcity society.

As stated, in Marx’s time the prospect of a post scarcity was not on the cards. This perhaps helps to account for some of the more questionable ideas he put forward – like his labour certificate scheme — which socialists today are under no obligation to go along with.  Nevertheless, he and Engels were sensitive to ongoing developments in their time and not dogmatically attached to what they had previously written. Thus, in the 1872 Preface to Communist Manifesto we find them saying:

The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated

The mention here of the “gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848” is a reference to the growing productive potential of modern industry to supply the population with their means of subsistence.  Socialists today would argue that this productive potential to create a post scarcity society has been around for at least a century.  Consequently, there is no need to defer socialism on the grounds that that productive forces need to be “further developed” as Marx and Engels had argued in their time.

Even in their time they were able to detect the growing contradiction between what society was able to produce and what it profitably allows to be produced.  Even as early as 1848 they noted in their Manifesto that in the guise of economic crises “there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of overproduction”. Increasingly, the problem that capitalism has to contend with is its ability to produce too much, not too little, by its own yardstick of what is “too much”.  An oversupply of commodities in relation to what the market demands causes prices to fall and along with that, profits.  Pena may dismiss the concept of a contradiction as metaphysical mumbo jumbo but for the workers laid off when it is no longer profitable to employ them in the face of glutted markets, that contradiction is all too tangible.

Since Marx the contradiction between what society actually produces and its potential to adequately meet human needs has, if anything grown exponentially.  In fact, the existence of such things as empty homes alongside homeless people or the destruction of food to boost prices in the face of starvation is only one small aspect of the sheer waste of capitalism.  More significant still is the fact that the bulk of economic activity carried on in capitalism today has nothing to do with meeting human need at all.  It has simply to do with meeting the systemic needs of capitalism itself and with enabling this system to tick over.

The entire financial sector is one among many examples of capitalism’s steadily growing, and already enormous, “structural waste” which diverts vast quantities of materials and labour into activities that are completely irrelevant and useless from the standpoint of meeting human needs.  Yet you will never grasp the full extent of this waste unless you view it through the prism of a perspective informed by Marx’s notion of full communism – a society in which individuals produce directly to satisfy their human needs rather than for sale on the market.

The ecological implications of this argument are absolutely huge yet Pena seems to have not the slightest inkling of any of this.  He does not understand that simply by virtue of fundamentally changing the mode of production to a fully socialist or communist one (in the Marxian sense) and thereby eliminating the enormous structural waste of capitalism we can, in one stroke, significantly increase the output of socially useful wealth and, at the same time, significantly reduce the pressure we currently exert on the environment.  We can produce more with much less by diverting all those massive quantities of material and human resources that we currently waste on socially useless production into socially useful production.

However, it is not just a question of supply.  Scarcity – or abundance – is a function of both supply and demand. I am reminded of Marshall Sahlin’s seminal work Stone Age Economics: the original Affluent Society (1972) in which he talked of there being two possible routes to affluence:

Wants may be “easily satisfied” either by producing much or desiring little. The familiar conception, the Galbraithean way, makes assumptions peculiarly appropriate to market economies: that man’s wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited, although improvable: thus, the gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity, at least to the point that “urgent goods” become plentiful. But there is also a Zen road to affluence, departing from premises somewhat different from our own: that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty-with a low standard of living.

I would argue that Marxian socialism represents a kind of dialectical fusion or interplay of both these approaches to achieving affluence.  Marx’s humanism is predicated on the belief that we are fundamentally social animals at heart and that we are capable of recognising our basic interdependence as individuals and act upon this in ways that encourage responsibility to each other and towards our natural environment upon which we all depend. Our attitude towards nature is conditioned by our attitude towards each other.  As C S Lewis once said: “What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument”.  The Abolition of Man, 1843.)

The kind of society we live in today, however, makes it difficult for such an outlook to take hold and gain a footing.  When a multi-billion dollar global advertising industry relentlessly eggs us on to buy yet more stuff and insidiously drip feeds into us a sense of personal inadequacy that can only be assuaged through that curious ritual that goes by the name of retail therapy, we know we are in the presence of powerful forces bent on shaping and moulding our view of the world to fit its own particular agenda — the maximisation of profit.

Such is the expansionist dynamic built into a system of market competition.   Capitalism is a zero sum game in which one business enterprise must seek to capture a larger slice of the market at the expense of another or go under. This is the material basis of Pena’s “productionism” — production for the sake of production — in a profit driven economy in which the overriding imperative is to accumulate more and more capital out of profit in order to stay ahead of the competition.  Its natural corollary is “consumption for the sake of consumption”.

Consumerism, as this is called, is inextricably intertwined with the very existence of capitalism, with the very existence of production for sale on the market.  Individual business desperately seek to increase what they can sell on the market even if the contradictory nature of capitalism is such that in their individual effort to produce and sell more they collectively bring about a state of affairs in which the markets for what they blindly produce become glutted.

Notwithstanding Pena’s claim that if we “cannot understand and measure value, then we cannot implement the principle, and if we cannot do that, then we cannot have socialism” it is only in the context of production for the market that the need to “understand and measure value” arises.  It arises because of the need to ensure that market exchanges are the exchanges of equivalents – to go right back to what was said at the outset of this article. Value in the specific economic sense of exchange value has no purpose in a society without market exchange. So what Pena is saying in effect is that we need a market economy.  He would do well to remember what that entails.

Production for the market, as we have seen, nurtures individualist values just as it undermines collectivist values.  But if we put ourselves at the centre of the universe and have little or no regard for the wellbeing of others what is there to restrain us from seeking to accumulate without limit and in the process inflict damage on the environment?

In the acquisitive society that is market capitalism the status of an individual, the esteem in which she is held, tends to boil to her wealth and her conspicuous consumption of such wealth.  No amount of moralising against the “consumerism” of the average citizen is going to prove effective when we live in a world in which a tiny handful of multi-billionaires — the very exemplars of “capitalist success” which we are urged to look up to and strive to become — own more wealth than half this world’s population combined, this grotesque inequality being the very product of market capitalism itself.

In stark contrast, Marx’s vision of a socialist society renders such a notion of “status” completely meaningless simply by virtue of the fact that each and every individual has free access to those goods and services she requires.  Actually, the only way in which you can earn the respect and esteem of your fellows in such a society would be through what you contribute to it, not what you take out of it.

This is yet another point that Pena has completely overlooked in his assault on Marxian socialism and I suspect that is because he has not really grasped what this entails. If he seriously wants to address the problem of consumerism he needs to get the root cause.  It is not by stridently lecturing the ordinary man or woman in the street struggling to make ends meet, on the moral virtues of abandoning consumerism that you will make progress,  Rather, it is by organising collectively in our own interests to create a different kind of society that we will achieve that.

Thus,  it is both from the standpoint of supply as well as from the standpoint of demand that Marxian socialism recommends itself as the most appropriate and most direct route to a truly ecological society that Pena doubtless desires but has no way of realising if his ill-informed critique of Marx is anything to go by.

The post The Marxian Theory of Value: A Response to David Pena (Part Three) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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.

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.

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Depth of Experience

While in her office overlooking the entrance to Lincoln County’s most popular attraction, she’s like a child in a candy store — she watches trees and shrubbery get yanked out to make way for a new admissions and ticketing station. “Wow, what a change.”

Then a nuthatch alights on the feeder suction cupped to her office window. “Spring’s coming early.”

Keiko put us on the map': Oregon Coast Aquarium turns 25 | KVAL

Now the show really gets going — Carrie E. Lewis lugs into her second-floor office 10 large architectural design images for the aquarium’s five new capital improvement projects and one program improvement.

In the brochure, “Our Ocean, Our Coast, Your Aquarium” she states: “Since opening in 1992, the Oregon Coast Aquarium has immersed over 15 million visitors in the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean.”

Sleepover - Oregon Coast Aquarium

Lewis is showing me the remodeling and new construction phases:

  •  new ticketing area-offices
  •  remodeling the entrance, great hall and café
  •  creating a children’s nature play area
  •  improving three indoor galleries
  •  building a marine rehabilitation center

We are talking about $18 million and some change for these huge improvement and enhancement projects for the aquarium. They’ve raised almost $14 million toward this adventure in expansion.

“As we grow toward our vision of serving as a trusted resource for ocean education and conservation in the Pacific Northwest, it is more important than ever that our facility reflects that,” Lewis said.

That’s entertainment — and science

This proposed state-of-the-art, behind-the-scenes veterinary facility for marine wildlife rehabilitation and resident animal medical care is only one of three in the Pacific Northwest. Providing care for injured and sick marine animals is vital to a coast where ship, boat and beach traffic is increasing exponentially as people realize coming to the Central Oregon Coast is both affordable and adventurous.

Lewis and I talk about how education is the cornerstone to conservation and getting youth to understand the threats not just to our area of the Pacific Ocean, but to all oceans due to warming, acidification and loss of habitat and species.

One recent presentation of the American Cetacean Society-Oregon Chapter echoes Lewis’s belief how the aquarium incubates an interest in science and conservation among young visitors.

“My belief is that every person getting out of high school and the community college be able to stand before any city council or board of commissioners and communicate why preserving these forests and rivers are vital goals to protect wetlands, and our oceans,” said Paul Engelmeyer, The Wetlands Conservancy Coastal Land Steward and Conservationist at Audubon Society of Portland.

For Lewis, more is better. She wants outreach to be expanded, as the aquarium currently has a van with an inflatable, true-to-scale whale and a staff member traveling to outlying communities to present marine facts and science.

Sleepover with the sharks | Georgia aquarium, Sleepover, Aquarium

CEO with a history

Lewis has worked in several capacities at the aquarium, beginning in 1998. As the backhoe is digging up earth, she is transfixed momentarily. “It’s like updating your house,” she says while observing stumps being ripped up. “It’s like remodeling your old home where all the marks the kids have made get covered up.”

She has worn a number of hats: planning events, marketing, crisis communications, business development, director of marketing and then, in 2010, she became the CEO. That’s significant institutional memory of 28 years of the aquarium’s existence. “I am pretty blessed to be in this industry … one where I get to give back. We really make a difference in people’s lives.”

She’s 52 and talks about how she is asked by many groups to talk about her “amazing life” and “profession representing women.”

She’s quick to poo-poo the “unique” biography, but she realizes the aquarium/zoo field is quickly being dominated by female professionals, volunteers and staff.

She also honors coworkers and board members associated with this landmark. Did I say volunteers? That’s more than 400 aquarium volunteers ranging in age from 15 to 90.

All volunteers have been in limbo from doing their magic at the aquarium since COVID-19 lockdown. More than 80 percent of staff has been furloughed, though still paid through a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

She’s jazzed about even the smallest details — like a new backlit glass design for the front entrance — showing me a rendition of the aquamarine glass sculpture from Bullseye Glass Company out of Portland. “It represents beach glass.”

Total person, total experience

Her emphasis is on “enhanced total experience” for the more than 500,000 annual visitors.

It’s a simple formula — a family drives in from the Valley with the kids; they have this amazing view of Yaquina Bay and the bridge; then they come upon this inviting and lush entrance way and path; and they leave all their worries in the car.

More ADA-accessible walkways and paths are also part of the design improvements.

All those details add up to a 39-acre wonderland, with a coastal forest landscape design, a new and improved great hall with a jellyfish exhibit and articulated whale skeleton; a modernized café through new furnishings and facelift; and a playground that includes more climbing structures, an eagle’s nest and better interpretative signage.

“In our zoo and aquarium industry, we are all about getting kids outside and off their phones,” she emphasizes.

For the two or three hours a family might spend at the aquarium, proverbial lightbulbs go off in young people’s minds. Families share knowledge in an unstructured but intentional space. Newport and surrounding locations realize a huge economic boost — an annual economic impact of over $100 million.

The woman at the helm, Carrie Lewis, who was raised in Maui and came on board to help with crisis communication when Keiko was at the aquarium has been CEO for a decade.

“If I inspire one youth to think about going into the zoo or aquarium industry, I would be happy.”

Keiko Orca, Oregon Coast Aquarium Pat Hathaway© | Keiko, Ore… | Flickr

Killer Whale Problems

A simple answer to a tough question: What is one big negative lesson you have learned during your tenure? “The decision to house a large cetacean at the aquarium.”

Those were the “Free Willy days,” and while there was a movie, and lots of press, Lewis said it was “not a positive move.” She rolled her eyes and moved onto the next questions.

It doesn’t take a marine biologist to understand capturing and then moving a huge apex carnivore like a killer whale is highly stressful on the individual orca and those in the pod from which it was removed. Add to that the international protests against aquariums like Sea World for putting an intelligent and social mammal like a killer whale into the equivalent of a bathtub does not make for a positive marketing model.

The aquarium built the tank for Keiko; the orca was housed in Newport from January 7, 1996 until September 9, 1998, when he was eventually shipped to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.

The largest exhibit is “Passages of the Deep,” in Keiko’s former tank, and features a walk-through acrylic tube surrounded by deep water marine animals such as sharks, rays and rockfish.

Orford Reef displays rockfish and other smaller Pacific-Northwest fish. Halibut Flats is all about halibut, ling cod, small rays and other large fish. The Open Sea exhibit is the last section in the tunnel, holding sharks including seven-gills, as well as rays, mackerel, anchovy and salmon.

The aquarium hosts sleepover events in the tube.

Oregon Coast Aquarium asks for support during closure | KVAL

Growing up on a Pacific island

Lewis and I talk about her upbringing in Hawaii: her father who was a conservationist who went to developing countries to assist with setting up garbage/waste-to-energy renewable projects. Her stepfather was a lawyer.

Hawaii’s Saint Anthony was her high school alma mater. She attended and graduated from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga. She liked the small campus, as she majored in communications. She thought she might go into conservation writing. One year back in Hawaii, then four years in Palm Springs, one year living in Seattle.

“I fell in love with the beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, the water, and the mentality of the people — I just loved it all.”

How she ended up in Newport is attributed to her mother who had a house here. She took Lewis to this “little aquarium.” And, viola, there was an opening in the marketing department.

Keiko: The Untold Story - Wikipedia

Stories from old connect to the future

In her book, The Kid from Valsetz, about Don Davis, first city manager of Newport, Deborah Trusty credits Davis with a large legacy in our area — arts and sciences.

“When Don and I talked about the aquarium, I noticed that even he was a bit astonished that the plan had actually come to fruition,” Trusty writes. “As the city worked through this project, Don said he experienced some of the most extensive and far-flung collaborations in his career.”

Carrie Lewis ramifies the collaborative process by pointing out the facility’s large number of benefactors and the diverse membership base — more than 7,000 household members. There’s the Rockfish Society. And the foundation support, including the Siletz Tribe, Oregon Foundation, Meyer Trust. “Every museum, aquarium and zoo is struggling in this financial climate.“

Collaboration and a vision toward the future through deep research on many aspects of the aquarium are what Carrie Lewis emphasizes. “Our aquarium has been voted in the Top 10 consistently by USA Today.”

It’s all in the details

Little things count like how signage might be improved — deciding upon static designs in some parts of the facility versus digital signs in other areas.

Lewis is proud of including new features such as “sensory inclusion” areas where the aquarium addresses the sensory needs of children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Weighted blankets, quiet spaces and sound-reducing headphones are just a few of the new accommodations.

She’s aware expanding exhibits and activity areas — not increasing the site’s footprint — can require more staffing. Currently, there are 80 full-time staff as well as a cadre of part-time workers, interns, practicum students at OCCC and volunteers.

She explains the aquarium is contracting with a Canadian firm to redesign the playground. The original (1990) Portland landscape designer — Walker/Macy Landscape Architects — is on board for the Five Phase upgrades.

Right now, Lewis thinks long and hard about updating the three-year strategic plan which was undertaken in 2015. They were operating under a basic business plan whose impetus was “to get out of debt.” A Pennsylvania firm that advises zoos helped identify strategic and financial goals, as well as messaging, conservation and communication goals.

Soon afterward, Lewis spearheaded a feasibility study to increase visitor experience and more educational programming. Again, an expert company — this time out of Houston — helped with the feasibility study.

Lewis is proud that “even when we were in financial straits, we did not go to the state for help.”

Carrie Lewis is a case study of a woman in a significant leadership role demonstrating sustainability and success. She talked to groups about the obstacles they could face and how to overcome them. There are 27 accredited aquariums in the US, and Lewis points out that her time in the industry has seen more young women and men getting into the profession. This was before the COVID-19 lockdown, which has realized thus far $3 million loss in revenues.

Her confidence in the aquarium weathering the lockdown and huge loss of visitors and revenue bespeaks her years in the trenches.

“We’re trying to get through this together because when we re-open, and I believe that we will, it’s going to look very different. The landscape in our community, in our state, in our country is going to be very different,” Lewis said. “But the aquarium will get through this. We’ve had an incredible amount of support from people all over the world that believe in what we do and want to see our animals healthy and happy and taken care of.”

One of the more recent statements by Aquarium Communications Director Julie Woodward speaks to both the dire results of the pandemic closure and the work that has had to continue:

“We are struggling as are many non-profits. We have no revenue coming in as the majority of our revenue comes from ticket sales,” Woodward said in a May 18 news release. “Unlike most other non-profits, we still have to care and feed our 15,000+ animals each and every day. We are still looking for support.”

Lewis took over as president and CEO from Gary Gamer September 2010. The outgoing CEO’s statements reflect the confidence he had in her abilities.

“Working at the aquarium has been an incredible experience,” Gamer said. “Leading the staff has been an honor. They and the legion of volunteers working alongside them are very committed to the well-being of our ocean and the life within it. I’m confident the Oregon Coast Aquarium will remain a great place to visit in Pacific Northwest.”

Oregon Coast Aquarium unveils $18m expansion plans | blooloop

Note: From Paul’s column, Deep Dive, Oregon Coast Today, with permission.

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

A Real-life Toxic Avenger

If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed whether by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.
— Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

One might think running across a 78-year-old woman living in a cabin on 20 acres near Five Rivers is not unusual. Add to the biography: this activist’s menagerie of a Patagonia parrot; Archie the cockatiel; Patience, a blue-footed Amazon; two Sicilian donkeys, one of which is named Oakie; 25 chickens; two crippled pigeons; her double-barrel shotgun; and a large vegetable garden … and you get Carol Van Strum.

I’m talking with Carol in Debra Fant’s Waldport, Oregon, dining room while she puts away two dozen free range eggs Carol sold her and while I am leafing through Carol’s two penned books that she’s giving me — “my interrogator,” as she jokingly calls me.

At a glance from a typical visitor to our coast, Carol’s appearance (and life) might seem to embody “just one of those quirky (kooky) California transplants who is all into that back-to-the-land philosophy, living out in the boonies to get away from civilization, progress.”

This statement is both true and false as applied to Carol Van Strum.

One book written by Carol is a fictional novel, The Oreo File, concerning protagonist Molly Matthissen, who has been arrested for murdering an FBI agent. The thriller is set in the Pacific Northwest; there are penguins involved (climate refugees); and small-town justice played out.

However, the real meat and potatoes of this profile is Carol’s other book, a nonfiction gem: A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights, written in 1983 (updated in 2014), which follows the case of Carol, her husband, four children, neighbors and residents of Lincoln County and their battle with the state of Oregon, chemical companies, the EPA and the Forest Service.

The stories Carol unfolds are dynamic as they cascade through many labyrinths. She has been in the Siuslaw Forest for 45 years, but her origins start in 1940, the start of World War II. Her roots were first set down in Port Chester, Westchester, New York, with a father who went to Cornell and a mother who supported the whims and avocations of their five daughters.

My mom grew up as ‘Shanty Irish.’ She never went to college. When women at cocktail parties from Smith, Radcliff and Bernard colleges asked her where she went to college, my mom said, ‘Barnum and Bailey university.

Carol laughs loudly like a native of County Cork, Ireland.

Carol Van Strum

Her mother trusted her daughters so much that she loaned the family car the summer of 1957 and let three of the girls embark on a road trip across the USA. “We went everywhere. We went camping. Oh, we did our hell raising, but our parents had absolute trust in us.”

Imagine a life well lived, and then jump to 1974 when she, her then husband Steve, their three sons and daughter, and a menagerie of animals moved from the Mendocino area of California to a homestead in Lincoln County — Five Rivers, specifically.

Her presence here, precipitated by what happened in 1975, has literally changed the narrative around the toxic herbicides timber companies, tree farms and road crews spray both by air and land.

Early in A Bitter Fog:

Where the road skirted the riverbank, overhanging shore and water, they directed their hoses into the water, inadvertently spraying the four children fishing down below. The truck moved on, leaving the children gasping in a wet mist that clung to their skin and clothing. With smarting skin, tearing eyes, burning mouths, throats and noses, they stumbled home. By nightfall, all four were sick.

Carol is clear and unyielding when she recalls the beginning of an uphill battle to fight the Forest Service spraying chemicals akin to the Agent Orange infamously used during the Vietnam conflict.

The garden plants died, “their leaves twisting and wilting in grotesque configurations.” Weeks following the herbicide spraying, chicks, geese and ducklings were born deformed. Some were hatched with misshapen wings, clubfeet, crossed beaks. Their family dog developed oozing sores, and his hind legs became paralyzed.

Readers might have a tough time imagining living through that first spraying of 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T on their own children with noses bleeding and guts hemorrhaging. However, the mettle and inspirational fortitude of locals who have lived here for decades embody the power of democratic principles at both a local and global level.

The very idea of individuals and communities having a right to security from poisons and pollutants is being played out daily in this county and state, as well as worldwide. What Carol Van Strum, her neighbors and the citizens of the Oregon Central Coast and Coast Range have had to battle is the very foundation of existence — the right of informed consent.

Poisons 101

I am confronting Carol with the proposition that we have always been Guinea pigs — that no real scientific studies have been done (or can be realistically accomplished) to ferret out the harms any individual chemical/toxin can do to us as humans because so many other Post-Industrial Revolution chemicals are working synergistically in our industrialized bodies.

Carol agrees, and what unfolds is hour upon hour of recalling the vagaries of life during and before Lincoln County — starting college, a marriage and family in California after growing up in New York State. She says she picked the University of California-Berkeley “because that was the only university that had a five-dollar application fee … I didn’t have the money for all the other schools’ fees.”

That was in the early 1960s. Soon, the FBI is surveilling their house because she is involved in an underground railroad for returning Vietnam vets who want to go AWOL in Canada and because she is writing articles for a newsletter under the auspices of the Port Chicago Vigil. This anti-war group — started August 7, 1966 by peace activists — gathered at the main gate of the Naval Weapons Station in an attempt to block trucks carrying napalm bombs for shipment to US pilots flying incineration missions over Vietnam.

Carol has all sorts of asides to flavor her narrative — she lived at 2608 Derby Street in Berkeley while the W.E.B. Du Bois Society was located at 2806 Darby. The FBI got the address wrong, and instead of staking out the members of the politically active Du Bois Society, they watched Carol and her family.

Here, history intersects with Carol Van Strum — Du Bois (1869-1963) was an African-American writer, teacher, sociologist and activist whose work transformed the way that the lives of black citizens were seen in American society. Du Bois was an early champion of using data to solve social issues for the black community, and his writing — including his groundbreaking “The Souls of Black Folk” — became essential reading in African-American studies.

She tells me how she wrestled an alligator at the Steinhart Aquarium to assist a veterinarian with the sick reptile. She talks about Twiggy the Toucan, who she rescued as an emaciated dying bird but was brought back to life with Carol’s recipe of “rich pound cake and blueberries mashed up.” Even the vet at the aquarium asked her secret when one of the zoo’s toucans was suffering.

She co-owned Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley. They had moved a few times in California in attempt “to get away from city life,” but finally they answered a for-sale ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for a 160-acre homestead in Oregon. Steve, Carol and the four children had never been out here on the Oregon Coastal Range, but the family bought the forested farm sight unseen.

“It was part of the original Homestead Act. There at the spring in concrete I found his name, Elihu Buck, crudely written with a finger. It had the first telephone line in the valley. The old posts were still there.”

This is an idyllic life until the four children are sprayed. Then the court battles, the scientific investigations (and backtracking and cover-ups) of the real effects of these herbicides. We are talking about neighbors throughout the area, up to a mile away from each other, collectively having multiple miscarriages, children born with genetic defects, adults suffering cancers and other ailments.

The dedication in her non-fiction book is emblematic of the struggle Carol has undergone:

For my children, Daphne, Alexey, Jarvis and Benjamin Van Strum.

I asked her what gives her hope.

The death of our children left me with what they loved — this farm, this dirt, these trees, this river, these birds, fish, newts, deer, and fishers — to protect and hold dear. These became my anchor to windward, keeping me from just drifting away with every wind that blows.

Even that tragic story isn’t simple — there is evidence the four children, old enough to babysit each other, perished in a house while Carol was next door at a neighbor’s house. The fire marshal indicated it was suspicious, potentially the result of arson. Carol has her suspects.

All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

Carol’s life on many levels, including her work to prevent chemicals entering into our watershed, as well as her personal physical and spiritual peaks and valleys, could be made into a movie. I asked Carol what she gathers from these trials and tribulations.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

Readers of my work might be surprised at the level of inquiry and seriousness of some of the stories I write, especially in a magazine dedicated to people enjoying our coast’s amenities and landscape (originally published in Oregon Coast Today). However, it does take a village to raise a family, and it also takes individuals and groups in a community to make it safe for everyone.

Carol might be impugned as being a “character,” but residents and tourists alike must respect that we in small rural and coast communities make up the fabric of how the place ticks and where the history is both created and memorialized.

Finally, finishing off where this essay stared — the following words from President James Madison make a fine book mark for Carol Van Strum’s life:

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. — James Madison, 1822, cited by William Douglas in EPA v. Mink, 1974

A Bitter Fog

Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change

Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Continuously, discussions focusing on degraded ecosystems and tipping points forcing climate change to ramp up to chaos many times center around the “C” word.

Not “c” as in “cancer.”

“Capitalism is destroying the planet,” said Pat DeLaquil, an energy policy expert working with various governments, NGO’s and the private sector to “help achieve economic development and combating climate change.”

He was one speaker in a two-guest gig at the Newport Library on January 27 as part of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350 Oregon Central Coast.

The other person presenting is director of a plastics to road recycling non-profit headquartered in Toledo.

Twenty people listened to DeLaquil as he zoomed through his data-filled Power Point. His SOP is working with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and other groups to lobby for passage of a new version of climate change policy during this state’s short legislative session.

No matter how many details behind the framework of HB 2020 are aired, convincing Oregonians of all stripes to get behind this cap on statewide carbon emissions is a technical, legal, intellectual, PR, and emotional challenge.

Two Newport City Council members attended Monday, as gale force winds buffeted the library. Interestingly, kicking off the double header was a video clip from a January 13 Senate National Resources and Environment Committee.

Arnold L. “Arnie” Roblan, in a droll voice, stated how he’s visited all parts of Oregon listening to youth. He emphasized it’s been 16 years since he was a school principal, but now he’s seeing like never before a huge shift in how PK12 students are viewing the world.

“There’s been a big change,” Roblan stated in the video. “Kids are extremely anxious about the climate.”

Kicking off the 2-hour event was Bill Kucha, Otter Rock artist and head of 350 Oregon Central Coast. He strummed guitar and sang his song, “There’s Music All Around Me.” The message is one of hope in a world with thousands of ecosystems collapsing.

While Sen. Roblan stated the counties along the coast are at the “epicenter of ocean acidification and beach erosion caused by climate change,” one audience member, Michael Gaskill, asked Pat DeLaquil if he gets frustrated with each year increasingly watered-down of environmental bills get passed.

Gaskill was in attendance to listen to the speakers and to sign up attendees interested in the Congressional campaign of Hillsboro Democrat Mark Gamba, who’s vying for the 5th district position in November.

Another audience member wanted immediate response to her comment that “capitalism is the problem hurting the poor” was exasperated by the lack of social justice apparent in the discussions.

The C word was bandied about much in DeLaquil’s opening remarks:

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

The dichotomy is common in discussions about male domination in business, industry, militarism, and monetizing seemingly every single human transaction. Women, on the other hand, are seen “only “as mothers, nurturers put on earth to support the family and keep the peace by not speaking out against environmental, cultural and community degradation and destruction.

DeLaquil carried that allusion further saying capitalism and socialism can be reformed to support a clean, safe, market-centered society with social safety nets like education, health care, other entitlement programs that are part and parcel of Social Democratic countries like Norway or Denmark.

Don Quixote Fighting the Plastics Monster

“The window is closing faster on plastics than climate change, I really believe,” Scott Rosin of Plastic Up-Cycling told the gathering.

Knowing Rosin from Surfrider beach clean ups, and for an upcoming Deep Dive column, I don’t see him as Chicken Little “the sky is falling” fellow.

He’s fought forest fires in the 1970s and ‘80s. He’s been high up in the trees as a forester, and he knows the value of hard work – taking down entire stands of forest in for many years as an area logger.

He and his co-lead, Katharine Valentino, are looking for partnerships and financial backing for their project to get most of Lincoln county’s plastic waste stream into our roads in the form of new thoroughfares, repaved ones, potholes, driveways and parking lots.

The stats on the ground and in the water are staggering: “Think about it. Predictions of a billion tons of plastic produced each year by 2025. Compare that to 1.5 million pounds produced in 1950.”

He went on to punctuate this staggering stat: “Predictions about current rates of plastic waste state by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

As a surfer and lover of the ocean, Scott reminded the audience every time they read about a whale beached and dead, guts filled with plastic, that mammal represents less than 10 percent of the actual death rate of whales since most die offshore and sink to the benthic zone.

Rosin and Valentino see innovators in Scotland and in California, as well as other places, coming to the rescue. TechniSoil out of Redding California is taking recycled plastic, bitumen, asphalt substrate and integrating it into a flexible and long-lasting paving mixture (up to 15 percent of the total volume for paving roads could be plastic).

Then there is MacRebur and Scottish CEO Toby McCartney who was working in Southern India helping people at landfills gather potentially reusable items and sell them. Scott Rosin tells us McCartney observed some of the plastics the pickers culled, putting it into potholes and setting it on fire.

Instant melted plasticized pothole filler.

“Not the most environmentally friendly way to fill potholes,” Scott said. “However, those plastic filled potholes outlasted the actual roads.”

Carbon, Global Heating, Resources Plummeting and Us v Them?

Some of the buzz words coming from the 2-hour talk include “decarbonizing the economy” and “carbon budget.”

Add to those – renewable energy; trade exposed; energy intensive.

Pat DeLaquil, with doctorate in nuclear engineering from MIT and who’s worked with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and large companies like Bechtel (not a green company), wants people to relate to what they are seeing in the news – flooding, wildfires,, degraded ecosystems, increased rain events, droughts – as applicable to their own communities and states.

“The artic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,” he said showing us maps of that ice world. He’s also warning us about methane clathrates releasing a greenhouse gas more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide; and the warming tundra with millions of tons of frozen greenhouse gasses – ancient carbon. “The carbon that’s locked in the permafrost in the Arctic is thousands . . . millions of years old.”

He also brings to light the terms “runaway climate change” and the “albedo effect” – white snow and ice reflect back the sun’s rays. Less white, means more ocean warming.

DeLaquil and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters are pushing hard a Clean Energy Jobs bill.

[This] is one step in a continuing process of increasing climate change ambition in Oregon and by example the rest of the US. Just as the Renewable Portfolio Standard was followed by the Clean Fuel bill, then the Coal to Clean program, the Clean Energy Job (CEJ) bill will need to be followed next year with Agriculture and Forestry measures and elements of the Green New Deal. We are in this fight for the long haul and our strategy is to win one step at a time.

He mentioned Time magazine’s 2019 person-of-the-year Greta Thurnberg who just attended the most recent Davos, Switzerland, gathering of the World Economic Forum. DeLaquil dovetails Senator Roblan’s comments about youth being panicked about the status of the world tied to global warming with this 17-year-old internationally-known Swede.

Politics play front and center in the climate debate at the state level with all the parsing of SB 1530 (regulating carbon emissions through commercial, industrial, agricultural use of fracked or natural gas) as well as how we tax and regulate transportation fuel.

Pat also discussed the concepts around clean fuels, carbon sequestration in our forests, natural resource protection (like wetlands), assessing the emissions coming from agricultural and the forestry industries, and the heady concept of a law to protect the rights of nature. Lincoln County Community Rights is one group heralding this rights of nature designation.

This is no bed of roses, as the people attending the talk and the two speakers know. There is much push-back on this bill and other decarbonizing legislation, and many in Oregon have contrary opinions on global warming. The lobbying group, Timber Unity, has expressed disagreement with SB 1530.

Ironically, globally the court of last resort – public opinion – is pitting scientists in the climate arena and superstars like Greta against those in the Donald Trump administration and Fox news. At Davos January 21 Trump announced the U.S. would join an existing initiative to plant one trillion trees.

He also pitched the “economic importance of oil and gas” while throwing barbs at those like Greta Thurnberg, calling climate change activists “pessimistic” and the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

Pat DeLaquil, interestingly, is not in this geopolitical arena, yet someone with his energy sector experience would paint a different picture for global warming deniers. He reemphasized the power of the youth movement. Thunberg responded to President Trump’s remarks by referring to them as “empty words and promises” by world leaders:

You say children shouldn’t worry… don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence.

Elephants, Billiards, Paradigm Shift

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called Parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.

Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. He proposed a relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature.

Transitioning from DeLaquil’s 35,000 foot view of the climate change debate, then down to the micro view of the state’s efforts to go carbon free by 2050, to Scott Rosin’s Plastic Up Cycling non-profit spurred the audience into thinking about one “miracle of oil” – plastic – and the consequential negative consequences both locally and globally.

It’s obvious the tall white-haired Rosin has fun talking to groups – he’s a real yarn spinner.

In 1867 an article came out saying elephants were going to be extinct in ten years. The billiards market used ivory for the balls.

Necessity and environmental concerns turned into the mother of invention. “It was called cellulose. The invention of plastic billiards balls was the beginning of the consumer revolution. Anybody could have a pool table now since the plastic balls were affordable.”

Four or five quality billiard balls could be made from the average tusk of an Indian, Ceylonese, or Indo-Chinese elephant. This market for raw tusks centered in New York and Chicago where craftsmen would eat up blocks of ivory to create the gleaming spheres.

“Now we are experiencing 154 years of plastic, and it’s not a pretty picture,” Rosin told us.

He reminded the audience of his work from January to July 2019 for Surfrider heading up weekly Sunday beach plastic debris clean ups where on average 5 people from Lincoln County showed up was disheartening. Even after he had contacted dozens of volunteer organizations.

This past October Katharine Valentino and Rosin scrambled to set up a non-profit to deal with the plastics coming into our county’s dumpsters which invariably ends up trucked to Salem and dumped into a landfill.

TechniSoil is working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to put in a plastic road that leads to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. MacRebur has a proprietary aggregate that binds the plastic to the bitumen so there is no leaching into the ground.

TechniSoil touts their roads containing 6.6 percent plastic last seven to 14 times longer than conventional roads. Rosin emphasizes how on-site machines repaving roads with plastic aggregate actually tear up the old road, grind up plastic, mix it with bitumen and old asphalt, eliminating a huge carbon footprint of dump trucks hauling off torn-up roadway pavement.

Plastic Up-Cycling is hawking its project to interested people, as well as looking for $100,000 to get the plastic road mixture tested by an OSU lab.

Plastic comes from an energy-intensive and polluting process of turning oil into polymers and then into various types of plastics to serve myriad of purposes for which we in our throwaway society consume it.

The fact is landfills are composed of 12 to 15 percent plastic. The road paving process pencils out this way: for every mile of roadway, 1.1 million plastic bottles or 3.2 million plastic bags churned into a road mix will cut down on the waste-stream big time.

Climate Action Plan 2.0

The event was topped off with Martin Desmond, with Central Coast Citizen’s Climate Lobby, giving us the table of contents to the 74- page Lincoln County Climate Action Plan. The goal for this initiative is to get Lincoln County carbon neutral by 2035.

For Pat DeLaquil, his biggest disappointment, he stated, “after working in this field for years” was the failure to pass the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill.”

This congressional bill — American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — was passed as major legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, but was not taken up by the full Senate and never became law.

For Bill Kucha – artist, teacher, activist and musician – he puts much hope in young people in this county and throughout the world. He’s also a prolific letter-to-the-editor writer:

The good news is that there is a growing movement toward a new type of corporation called B-Corporations. In B-Corporations, financial profit counts, but so too does consideration for the environment, neighboring communities, and the workers. Our state must actively encourage the proliferation of progressive alternatives like this, if we ever hope to heal what ails the Earth. You can play a role, too: you can insist that the 2020 Election, at all levels of government, must prominently feature serious conversations about the Climate Crisis. (Sept. 1, 2019, News Lincoln County)

For me, it’s obvious conversations have to be more dynamic and robust, covering a larger swath of citizens. We have to organize half-day or three-day summits or charrettes to get policy makers, politicians, subject matter experts and citizens coming together to communicate more effectively and think both critically and holistically about issues around ocean rise, acidification, coastal inundation, weather and climate disruptions.

Lincoln County residents need to respect (and question) the work of activists and citizens on all sides of the issue while also coming together to listen to the passionate scientists and experts working on these issues.

For Scott Rosin, getting plastics out of the waste stream means cleaner water, cleaner soil, cleaner food and cleaner human and non-human bodies. “I would have never thought about the effects of plastic on the environment and us thirty or forty years ago,” Rosin said. “It’s unthinkable to have plastic in our drinking water, in all our food, and breathing it in.”

Getting into the Narrative of an Energy Guy

Pat DeLaquil was touted to me by several people at the Newport gathering as “he’s really been around” and “he really knows the deal with China since he’s been there” and “he has a lot of insight into energy.” So, Pat was kind enough to submit to some email questions. Pat lives in Gresham.

Paul Haeder: You said you have been doing this for more than 40 years. What got you started in energy analysis, and was it always EEE — energy, economy, environment?

Pat DeLaquil: Following grad school, I joined Sandia National Labs in Livermore, CA to work in their new systems analysis program. My first assignment was working on safeguards for nuclear material used in the country’s nuclear weapons program, but in 1980, I joined their solar energy program and been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies. In 1984 I left Sandia and joined Bechtel Corporation to lead their Renewable Energy RD group. There, I worked closely with the California utilities and EPRI to lead the development of consortiums to build key R&D projects such as PV-USA and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower.

PH: Your age, where did you grow up and schooling?

PD: I’m 71 and grew up in western Pennsylvania in strip mining country and saw firsthand the destruction they caused. I knew I wanted to be an engineer by age 13, and I have a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have authored or co-authored over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology. I have a patent for a high temperature solar receiver.

PH: I work on the 5 e’s — started off as triple e’s for sustainability: Equity, environment, economy . . . education and energy. There are a lot of intersectionalities here, and, of course, the environment overrides and undergirds everything. In capitalism, that is not true. What are your own intellectual challenges when you consider how rapacious, how extractive-oriented, how unjust capitalism is to the people, the 99 Percent, or the 80 percent? Discuss.

PD: This requires a long answer, and I touched on this in my talk, but only briefly. I am attaching for your information and use, both my presentation from Monday and a longer presentation on this subject I gave to the Multnomah Democratic Party Climate Action Forum back in November. Slides 1 thru 9, including the notes, provide a pretty full answer.

PH: There is a lot of policy stuff and political maneuvering and lobbying in your work. For the average reader, what are your holistic takeaways for this evening’s talk?

PD: The most important things that the average reader can do is to get engaged politically by demanding that your legislators be climate champions and if they are not find one who can replace them. While individual actions are important, they will never be enough. We must have systemic change that will only come when progressives have control of our political systems.

PH: What gives you hope for the world, for Oregon’s future?

PD: I have been in a very discouraging mood since HB2020 was stonewalled by the Republicans, and even more so given the ho-hum response that too many people have given to the wildfires in Australia, which also has a climate denying government. The voices on youth are what currently gives me the most hope, but even that seems not to be enough. I’m afraid that it’s going to take a major climate-derived calamity, with millions of people dying before the average person decides we must take action.

PH: What lends you pause?

PD: The tremendous amounts of money, embedded organizations and media-led philosophies that the oligarchs and large corporations have used to gain strangle holds on governments around the world. The four key conservative political frames are shown below, and we must replace these with progressive frames in the general public discourse. In addition to people power and grassroots organizing, we must counter and replace the Reagan framing with more progressive framing if we are to win this battle.

Bill Kucha song he performed at event –

There’s a Music –

There’s a music all around me

and it won’t go away and it’s trying to say

– everything impossible is going to see the light of day,

everything angry and mad is growing up and coming out to play.

There’s a reason for all that wrong,

it’s creating a season for a new kind of song,

everything helpful and good is sprouting in the neighborhood.

Everything helpful and wise is growing to a larger size.

So mister, now come out and say your

Yes, plow the fields of your dark past into something good at last.

Hooked on Orcas

Facts about orcas abound in Colleen Weiler’s brain, because her role is to lead policy research and engagement around what we call the Southern Resident Orcas (SROs).

Her job is with the Plymouth, Massachusetts-based US headquarters of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation non-profit, established 32 years ago in England.

Our name is what we do.

Protecting cetaceans involves direct action, lobbying lawmakers, public engagement and education/outreach to the public.

Her official title is Jessica Rekos Fellow for Orca Conservation and, for the past five years, her focus has been on orca recovery. Now headquartered in Newport, she has also been tracking the efforts of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force.

Fact: orca comes from the Greek and Latin, meaning jar.

Fact: The killer whale (ballena asesina) moniker came from some of the first commercial whalers — Basques — who hunted bigger whales but saw the orca in action taking on sharks, seals and other whales as prey.

I meet the former Flint resident — who garnered a zoology degree in 2006 from Michigan State University before finding OSU as home to her graduate work — at Panini Bakery just before she spoke to a group of 25 at the American Cetacean Society’s fall speaker series at the Newport Oregon Library.

She is at ease among fellow whale and marine ecosystem enthusiasts, and her talk is detailed, as she exudes the confidence of a woman who has been doing this work probably since she was nine years old.

191206_oct_CW with orca.jpg

“Free Willy” and Fast Forward

When Colleen was nine, she went to the local movie theater and saw the 1993 flick, “Free Willy” and got hooked on this emblematic species, Orcinus orca. At the end of the film, she recounts there was a “for more information on protecting whales please contact” blurb. It was called the Whale Adoption Project out of Massachusetts.

For $20 a year, the young Colleen adopted a humpback whale named Colt, who spent some of his time in the Gulf of Maine. That whale is still alive and still adoptable at her Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The underside and trailing edge of the humpback whale’s fluke have helped scientists and amateurs alike to identify whales. Many humpbacks can live up to 50 years with some known individuals reaching 70.

Colleen says both of her parents were both pretty environmentally aware (“recyclers”), and her father helped organize the county hazard waste recycling project. Her older brother is a K12 teacher in Michigan.

As an undergrad at MSU, Colleen was part of the Lyman Briggs College (an honors program) where she completed a marine biology/zoology undergraduate degree.

The Details are in the Policy Work

The search for graduate programs landed Colleen at OSU, where she entered the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences with a focus on marine mammal conservation.

She tells me that no one in her program at that point had pursued a graduate degree in policy emphasizing marine mammals. Serendipitously, she got to partner with the Alaska Whale Foundation as a research assistant.

That work she was initiating with AWF was looking at humpback whale distribution in Alaskan waters and ship traffic overlaying ship strike risk on the species while also looking at management measures.

Six degrees of separation defines a lot of what I do. I spent a few hours with Alaska Whale Foundation researcher/board member Fred Sharpe, PhD, at our own Sitka Center for Art and Ecology at the beginning of the year. Sharpe was the Howard L. Mckee Ecologist visiting scholar at Sitka. We talked about humpbacks — he has 26 years under his belt studying the behavior of humpback whales. His specialty is on the bubble-netting proclivity of Alaskan humpbacks. He looks at the connections of this ecotype’s behavior as signals of enduring bonds, complicated task specializations, team hunting and communal tool use.

For Colleen, her purview is now focused on the Southern Resident orcas. Unfortunately, one community within the “resident” ecotype (there are 10 identified ecotypes) is in trouble. Colleen discussed with naturalists the differences in these orca ecotypes with their varying size, pigment patterns, behaviors, acoustics, social grouping and diets.

Colleen was quick to point out that Michael Bigg, a Canadian whale researcher, “changed the game for orca long-term research” with his identification techniques — photographing dorsal fins and saddle patch patterns.

When you can identify entire generations of orcas and the births, deaths and family relationships, we can get an exact population count.

Matriarchs Rule

The compelling story of the orca goes beyond the cinematic drama of “Free Willy,” and their imprisonment and virtual torture at places like Sea World (see the documentary “Blackfish”). Mothers and grandmothers of the Southern Resident orcas are at the top of the pod, and the sons and daughters stay with the mother for life.

Colleen shows her audience an aerial shot of a grandmother and great-grandson from the Southern Resident ecotype. One big Chinook salmon is a nose length’s away before being snatched up by grandmother, who then shared it with her great-grand-kid.

In her more than hour talking to people at the library, Colleen clearly is dedicated to policy work, which she likens more to a series of marathons rather than sprints. “There is often no immediate benefit seen, no immediate gratification. Policy takes time, years.”

She and the nonprofit she works for are not thrilled with the poor policy measures and enforcement of certain life-sustaining laws to help the endangered Southern Residents once they hit Oregon waters.

“I would add we’re not thrilled with these issues throughout their range (not just Oregon),” she said. The federal government has been slow to implement recovery measures; and the current administration is doing its best to roll back every environmental protection law we have. Washington and Oregon are stepping up to fill those gaps, but environmental issues often fall at the bottom of the list for resources and enforcement effort.

She is an observer of the Washington Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force, and the sometimes-Byzantine task force recommendations as well as the sometimes counter-productive work of so many agencies and stakeholder groups at the table are frustrating.

The bottom line is the 35-year-old Colleen Weiler is here to stay the course, and push through the entire process of getting the 73 orcas left from the Southern Resident community help in their recovery and sustainability as a population. One challenge is their range — they spend a lot of time in Puget Sound but their entire West Coast range reaches south to Monterey. They are very urban orcas and overlap with many heavily developed areas on the west coasts of Canada and the US.

It is a Fight on Many Fronts — One Killer Whale at a Time

Colleen doesn’t mince words, “The Columbia is the most hydroelectricity developed river system in the world.”

While the 150-page report from the task force highlights dozens of measures to mitigate the failing Southern Residents, Colleen can whittle down the fight for the orcas’ lives to many factors, but a monolithic one is the loss of salmon runs, down to 3 percent of their historical levels of 10 to 16 million of all salmon species coming back annually to the Columbia.

Salmon populations have to be restored to some higher measure of returns — the Four H’s destroying the Southern Residents’ food source, Chinook salmon, point that out: habitat, hydropower, hatcheries and harvest.

“They don’t go off menu,” Colleen said. That means each ecotype and population of killer whales has very specific dietary preferences — while overall, orcas collectively have around 140 species of prey to include sharks, seals, rays, octopi, dolphins, penguins and sea lions.

Orcas are one of the top marine predators, and it is actually the largest member of the dolphin family, Delphinidae.

They are found in every ocean in the world; thus, they are considered the most widely distributed of all whales and dolphins. With different foraging behaviors and diets, many killer whales deploy a coordinated hunting strategy, working as a team like a pack of wolves.

Hunters and fishermen once targeted killer whales. Historical threats to killer whales included commercial hunting (not in the US but in other countries), and, worse yet, culling to “protect” fisheries from killer whales.

What has particularly decimated the Southern Residents’ total census was the live capture of killer whales for aquarium display and marine parks. From 1962 to ’77, up to 307 killer whales were captured and removed from the wild. At least 47 were from the Southern Residents.

Colleen emphasized that 98 percent of the Southern Residents’ summer diet is salmon — 80 percent Chinook and 15 Percent Coho. With a crash in salmon in the mid-1990s, the Southern Resident Orcas also crashed. Abundant food equals nourishment, big bodies, lots of fat on their frame and fertility.

These different populations — the Southern and Northern Residents — do not interbreed or intermingle. When the Southern Residents are in the Salish Sea, the Northern Residents are in coastal waters. Their habitats never overlap, she said. This exclusivity of ecotype society has gone on for hundreds of thousands of years, where significant genetic differences in the populations occurred a long time ago.

Humanity’s Footprint

Colleen is quick to point out that she is “an observer” of the Task Force on Southern Resident Orcas so she can be a watchdog and keep things in perspective. While 18,000 public comments the first year of the task force is impressive, there is such a thing as task force fatigue.

It’s a big task force with state, federal, and local agencies, as well as NGOs, scientists, industry reps, and Washington state tribal nations.

Colleen said the 36 recommendations coming out of the November 2018 report are impressive. In a nutshell, increasing Chinook populations, reducing toxic contaminants and reducing vessel noise are at the top of the task force’s list of recommendations.

Controversy abounds. Whale watching outfits bucked the proposal to place a moratorium on whale watching. Consensus may be the goal for modern task force engagement processes, but that can also be the paradigm that hobbles action. If agriculture and barging interests on the Columbia River protest any talk of breaching those lower Snake River dams (which they did) — which are the cause of a large chunk of the salmon population declines — then everything gets tricky.

“As a whale person,” Colleen said, “I have learned a lot about salmon the past five years.”

Then there’s even controversy to get an added $10 recreational boater whale education endorsement for Washington state residents.

Add to the mix climate change, contamination from industries that produce PCBs, CECs (chemicals of emerging concern), forever chemicals and other toxics that can mess up reproductive, immune and endocrine systems, we then have a wicked brew of factors not only decimating endangered species, but other species.

For other whale species, another big issue hitting the radar of various industries in our neck of the woods, especially the Dungeness crab industry, is line entanglement. There are many regulations imposed on the Atlantic Coast for lobster traps, and reducing vertical lines by 50 percent is one proposed mandate to lower the number of entanglements with endangered North Atlantic right whales.

For us on the Oregon Coast, line entanglement affects our iconic Gray whales, but the requirement to reduce entanglement risk is driven by humpback whales, which have higher rates of entanglement than Grays and are ESA-listed, according to Colleen.

Orcas can become entangled, but currently this is not a pressing threat to the ecosystem changes, but all the other factors henceforth discussed do. The US Navy is harassing orcas (and other whale and dolphin species) just with their sonar testing in open ocean waters. Pier-side sonar testing in the Puget Sound is being proposed by the navy as part of their next seven years of training and testing activities in our area.

This could be another “hit” on the Southern Residents’ viability.

People at Colleen’s talk brought up recent sightings of two pods from the Southern Resident orcas — J & K pods — off Ballard near Seattle. Colleen said she saw images of some of them surfing on the wake of a barge.

Policy research turns from research into policy making, then legislation into enforcement — a long politically-charged process which still turns people like Colleen Weiler hopeful for these animals.

Orca Talk

Paul Haeder: Name a couple of environmentalism influencers in your life, and why and how those people influenced you?

Colleen Weiler:

• Sylvia Earle, for being an amazing pioneer in marine science and a strong, essential voice for conservation and protecting our oceans.

• My supervisor and mentor at WDC, Regina Asmutis-Silvia, for her years of dedication to protecting whales and dolphins and teaching me how to effectively advocate for them.

• My dad, who shared his love of the environment and passion for conservation with me.

PH: As illustrated in your talk at the library on September 21, there is sort of an analysis paralysis and task force fatigue. Can you articulate a bit on these, and how we as the public can overcome the real problem of becoming disengaged when so many other things tied to global heating and extinction and extermination are on our radar?

CW: Interest and engagement in the task force definitely seem to have declined in the second year, within the task force itself and from those following it. The topics the task force is discussing this year are big issues — climate change, ocean acidification and population growth — which can feel overwhelming. But addressing these topics is important not only for the survival of Southern Resident Orcas, but for us as well. They seem too big to deal with, but they are all interrelated, and we must start having these conversations and taking action now to protect the ecosystems that we all depend on — salmon, orcas and ourselves.

PH: Your opinion of keeping orcas captive at say places such as Sea World? I continue to hear this time and time again: “To say that keeping captive marine mammals contributes little or no information/research that will aid animals in the wild is simply untrue.”

CW: Most of the research conducted in captive facilities on the whales and dolphins held there is specific to captivity-related issues like husbandry and captive breeding and have limited applicability to wild, free-ranging whales and dolphins. The Southern Residents were gravely impacted by efforts to take individuals into captivity, and their population today is still trying to overcome the effects. For more about how captivity harms whales and dolphins, see our website.

PH: The sciences as illustrated at Hatfield are becoming much more multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary. Have you seen this trend in your own work? Point out the positives.

CW: Yes, there is growing effort in science and in conservation for more communication and coordination among different disciplines. For example, we work with many partner organizations on issues such as salmon recovery, water quality and reducing toxic contaminants. Bringing people and groups together who work on different issues that all relate to environmental health helps us learn from each other, highlights the connections between these issues and creates stronger positions and arguments for protecting our shared ecosystem.

PH: All those cooks in the kitchen allusion with the task force being so big. I know you are in policy as a marathon, Colleen, but how can you keep stakeholders, especially the public, engaged when time and time again, very little action comes out of long, extended task force session where there are so many special interests?

CW: We try to keep people involved and engaged by celebrating the victories, no matter how small or incremental they may seem, and by living our WDC mission statement — amazing people with the wonder of whales and dolphins and inspiring global action to protect them. Luckily, we work with species that are charismatic and can keep people engaged without too much convincing.

The task force is a long process, but it is the most concentrated and strongest effort that has been initiated for Southern Resident recovery since they were listed under the ESA. We recognize and emphasize that, note the progress that has been made, and are also realistic about the long journey ahead. There has not been “little action” out of the task force, there have actually been significant wins like the legislative and budgetary highlights I mentioned — but like many policy things it takes time to see the results of those changes. There’s not a lot of instant gratification, which can make it hard to keep the forward momentum going.

PH: What gets you engaged and excited about your job every day?

CW: Getting to work in conservation to protect whales and dolphins, which continue to amaze and inspire me the more I learn about them.

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Should We Trust Science?

Scientists working on the issue have often told me that, once upon a time, they assumed, if they did their jobs, politicians would act upon the information. That, of course, hasn’t happened. Anything but, across much of the planet. Worse yet, science failed to have the necessary impact in significant part because of disinformation promoted by the major fossil-fuel companies, which have succeeded in diverting attention from climate change and successfully blocking meaningful action.”

— Naomi Oreskes, author of Why Trust Science? and professor of the history of science at Harvard University

There were 60 of us with four facilitators asking us deep questions about the best ways to protest, preserve, rehabilitate and reimagine Oregon’s rocky intertidal habitat.

“What does make a community resistant and resilient?” Steven S. Rumrill, Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program leader, asked us all.

In a nutshell, this breakout session was a microcosm of Saturday’s conference, State of the Coast at Salishan Resort.

Three other leads to this afternoon session titled, “Complex and Connected: Holistic Approaches to Management in the Nearshore” — Sarah Gravem, OSU Marine Ecologist; Dom Kone, OSU graduate student in Marine Resource Management; and Deanna Caracciolo, Department of Land Conservation and Development – challenged us to think about issues near and dear to not only the scientists, but to us lay persons. We held onto the anchor question: “What makes the Oregon Coast vibrant, healthy and a visitor destination.”

Rumrill posed key brainstorming questions:

1. What are the primary drivers of variability in rocky habitats?

2. What are the key stressors and threats to them?

3. What proactive steps can resource managers take?

4. Think of five words associated with holistic management of rocky shores.

Coastal Confab Inspires Next Generation

This was the sixth year in a row for the State of the Coast, but this past Saturday’s was the first sold out gig, according to Shelby Walker with Oregon Sea Grant, main sponsor of the Gleneden Beach soirée.

The all-day session included the requisite keynote – Bonnie Henderson, author of several books, to include “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast,” “The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast” and “Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris.”

Even more compelling and intriguing — and dovetailed to the State of the Coast theme of looking into the future — 28 student researchers with their poster projects displayed in the Longhouse conference room, and the 10 student artists alongside their creative endeavors, with both groups being voted on by all the guests.

Projects tied to pollution, microplastics, the Pacific heat blob, hormone mimickers, ocean acidification and more are at the forefront of these highly motivated and interdisciplinary-steeped students from Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University.

 

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I spent time talking with Reyn Yoshioka from UO, as he explained the remarkable findings in his participation in Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s BioBlitz in the Coos Bay area. We discussed how his team’s inventory of invertebrates would be ideal to present to city and county officials, as well as groups like Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce.

“The people with political and economic clout need to see not only the work you all do, but what really is at stake if anything threatens this incredible biodiversity,” I told many of the fledging scientists and artists.

Every single one agreed. Many asked me how they might connect to myriad other stakeholders and powerbrokers in their communities.

I introduced Reyn to OSU senior in arts Kenneth Koga, whose watercolors of various elements of a vibrant ecosystem bring the scientist’s eye in focus with a much broader scope beyond just the materialistic world and into the interpretation of nature through the artist’s lens. Reyn told me “it would have been cool” to have dancers, photographers, painters, sculptors and musicians as part of the biodiversity transect inventory.

The Arts Help Define and Contextualize Science

While we received quick teach-ins (one hour presentations of eight minutes each) from researchers looking at rocky habitats, the warm Pacific blob, Oregon’s five marine reserves, sea star wasting disease, threats to Gray, fin, blue and humpback whales on the West Coast, and the status of groundfish recovery, Marion O. Rossi, OSU Associate Dean of Liberal Arts, gave a quick snapshot of Republican Governor Tom McCall’s legacy in helping preserve our coastal habitats.

Author Studs Terkel asked McCall decades ago where the heroes of the political world are. “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky,” McCall said. “ They are people who say, ‘This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.’”

Rossi and I talked about what better things might be done to bridge the divide between the sciences (and technology, engineering and math – STEM) and the arts.

Part of the conference included a rather telling – possibly debilitating – aspect of science and various stakeholders. I counted more than 21 agencies involved in just managing and setting plans for our rocky habitats. Unfortunately, there are many more agencies, bureaucracies, boards, quasi-legal, legislative, non-profit, industry groups with some sort of skin in the game tied to our coast.

Think of tide-pools, habitat for many juvenile species, kelp incubators, biodomes to invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars. One issue we tackled was the fact that we can love our coastlines to death; i.e., since we have so many visitors and local aficionados wanting to get into these areas, so many species are being trampled upon.

Ecological balance, keystone species and the entire web of life also were prominent discussion points for the speakers.

For instance, the wasting disease promulgated deeper response in coordinated research projects called STARS – Seastar Tragedy and Recovery Study. Sarah Gravem of OSU discussed the implications of this species’ decline most probably attributed to a virus as well as ocean conditions (warming) spurring the virus’ growth. In some areas along the Pacific Coast, there had been a 100 percent die-off of sea stars observed in 2018. Recovery has been slow.

The ecological consequences from this wasting disease hitting pisaster ochraceus that once was ubiquitous in our rocky shorelines (purple, orange, brown many-legged beauties) spurred a kind of domino effect.

• this predatory sea star feeds on the mussel Mytilus californianus and is responsible for maintaining much of the local diversity of species within certain communities

• compensatory predators come in when a die-off hits

• low sea star prey growth occurs upsetting the balance of the ecosystem

All these pieces to the marine puzzle make up the coast’s mosaic of life. With warming waters, the bull kelp die off, and then sea urchins populations explode and any sort of juvenile kelp that might attempt a foothold on rocky bottoms gets gobbled up by the armies of sea urchins.

Everything is connected in the coastal life in and around the sea.

Whose Oregon Is It?

The Oregon Coast Trail is a hiking trail along the Pacific Coast. The length depends on the use of ferries, and varies between 382 miles (615 km) and 428 miles (689 km). The trail is set out on the beach, paved roads and tracks.

– Traildino.com

“You know, the funny thing about aging is you can watch entire forests grow,” author Bonnie Henderson said. “Fifty years is a harvest rotation. I can say to the students here you will watch forests grow thanks to those with vision and persistence.”

The author made it clear that her love of the Oregon Coast Trail could have only been germinated through the auspices and hard work of forerunners like Governor Tom McCall who pushed the 1967 Oregon “beach bill,” making all beaches accessible to the public.

She went back farther, 1913, to Oswald West, the governor who made all Oregon’s public beaches highways for wagons, horses and cars. Fellows like state Parks chief Sam Boardman (retired 1950) increased the acreage for coastal parks almost 20-fold. Then Sam Dickens, a Kentuckian who ended up running the UO geology department, saw the value in knitting together all the trails in Oregon, along the coast.

The well-known Pacific Crest Trail is more than 2,600 miles long and takes five months to traverse in snow-free conditions. It’s a wild back-country affair, whereas the Oregon Coast Trail cuts through cities, highways towns and waysides. Henderson has traversed it many times.

She is fighting for more camping areas. She is also keen on her other position as communications director for the Northwest Land Conservancy, trying to get more land set aside for a reserve in Oswald Park near Cape Falcon. That’s a $10 million fund drive, of which the NWLD has procured half.

With the snow season hitting the Sierras and rampant fires in California and Oregon, many people had to forego their Pacific Coast Trail adventure and ended up on the Oregon Coast Trail in 2017 and 2018.

She rhetorically asked how long people have been hiking and walking along the trail. Jorie Clark, OSU Geology and Geophysics department, has looked at the shoreline changes dating back 18,000 years when the oceans along the Pacific were 450 feet lower than today. It was around 6,000 years ago when the ocean hit the current level.

There were glaciers along the coast dating back 14,000 years, but also evidence of people from Chile up to Oregon, before the land bridge, who went along the so-called “kelp highway” where they found enough refugia to survive, Henderson told the crowd.

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Rejecting Cornell University — Art for Art’s Sake

Ram Papish apologizes to the group in his breakout session for a jump drive failure. He is wearing self-designed blue jeans with a collection of tufted puffins painted all over.

He currently lives and works out of Toledo, and his artwork is not only of interest to collectors. More importantly, he has worked with Oregon State Parks on 63 panels of interpretative work tied to our wonderfully varied ecosystems.

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All along the Oregon Coast, at waysides and other locales, these illustrated panels are set throughout the tourists’ pathway. Here are just a few of the illustrated large panels:

• Salmon Life Cycle

• Tidepool Explorer

• Sea Bird Island

• Tidepool Life

• Shorebird Stopover

• Mixing Zone

He tells the mostly young students in the session that he had to fight hard to become successful, and he said it was just last year when he began to feel somewhat secure in his artistic profession.

He has illustrated field guides, and in his early life he spent half the year as a guide in Alaska and then the other half as an artist – 15 years straight undertaking that lifestyle. He’s an avid photographer and he has worked sculpting into his life – with works including the walrus that sticks out of the wall at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

When I went to college, I didn’t think I could make a living at it. I sent out dozens of portfolios to publishers and children’s book publishers. I was really naïve.

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The introduction to art class at Cornell was a turning point in his pursuit: “The professor was basically trying to teach us how to be a snobby artist. I wasn’t going to have any part of that.”

Ram’s drive is to connect people to nature. He works mostly on commission, gigs assigned by Oregon State Parks, other agencies and publishers. His drawing avocation started when he was very young, and by age 14 he was designing dolls.

Questions abounded at his talk; he stated his interpretative panels follow the Rule of Threes –

It’s better to have less text. Over the years we went from textbooks on a stick to art pieces with no more than 300 words.

• three seconds to get the headlines

• 30 seconds to glance over the panel

• three minutes to read everything, including the captions

I ask him who his inspirations were. He rattles off Lars Jonsson and Robert Bateman. His number-one inspirator was a guy who wrote a book, Birds in Art. That was Larry McQueen, who ironically turned out to be living in Eugene where the young Ram lived. Ram saw his photo in the newspaper. It turned out Ram had been his paperboy from age 12 to 14. Ram introduced himself to McQueen and ever since he has been Ram’s inspiration.

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Our Collective Potlatch

There are many challenges to our coast – to the livelihoods of the people who make money off our coast’s marine resources. There are challenges to scientists who have to spend more time stumping for grants. There are many silos of people who are gatekeepers of information but fail to abide by transparency. Tourism and sustainable economies are debated weekly in city council meetings.

Unfortunately, for many coastal people, the elephants in the room are global warming, ocean level rise and ocean acidification and hypoxia. I’ve written about researchers diving deep into those topics.

But the bandwidth of the American public, lawmakers and industry is taken up by the stumbling blocks to progress – profits at any cost and doing business as usual for the benefit of a few rich people and stockholders.

The state of the coast, as seen at the Salishan Resort, is one tied to vibrant thinkers and activists; scientists and researchers; explorers and dreamers.

On the surface, some things look hunky-dory, but when we peel back layers as both naturalists and scientists, we see a more varied and complicated picture. The State of the Coast is a multivariant symphony of sometimes syncopated and discordant arias.

Music is in the eye of the beholder, but for our coast, the people dedicated to learning and sharing are really the bedrock for the rest of us who find some niche or dream or hope in this place.

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Maybe we need this sort of potlatch — the name given to most Northwest Coast celebrations – every month.

Imagine, State of the Coast as our potlatch, from the Nuu-chah-nulth “pachitle”’ (potlatch), which means “to give.” How much does the reader have to give to this vibrant and vulnerable coast? How much do you have at stake in ensuring future generations have a healthy coast?

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Note: Article first appeared in Oregon Coast Today, author’s copyright.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

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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Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines