There is no longer anything sentimental about trying to save a tree or protect an old swimming hole.
— Tom McCall, Earth Day, 1970
It always looks like skin cancer, that 10,000-foot view looking down on Earth. Looking down at Phoenix, or Cairo, or LA, the cancer grows and spreads. This unique perspective shows us how mother earth is not just torn up and concreted in, but the clear cuts and slash and burns show the power of a stupid species, us, as well as the huge plumes of death silts spreading like tuberculosis clouds and chemical rivers decaying watersheds and pushing slicks of death out into the sea.
This doesn’t mean those invisible-to-the-human-eye killers aren’t just as bad, or worse, to nature and human health, but it’s the dramatic carcinomas of mining and mountaintop removal and clear-cutting that strike something deep in many of us.
When one sees the dramatic contrasts of shifting baselines – like the director and photographer did in the documentary, Chasing Ice, cataloging the shrinking of glaciers over time, or like this info-graphic video on the proliferation of Walmarts, the real power of economies of scale and the scale of destruction come through. This stops at 2010 – now it’s 4,769 Walmarts in the USA, 6,360 Walmarts in international markets, and Sam’s Clubs is at 599 worldwide.
If you had an abscess in your tooth, would you keep going to dentist after dentist until you found a dentist who said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. Leave that rotten tooth in”? Or would you pull it out because more of the other dentists told you you had a problem? That’s sort of what we’re doing with climate change.
— James Balog, photographer, Chasing Ice
We know the high price of low cost, so to speak, and if you look at all those communities on the maps that are where the Walmarts have landed like viruses, the spiritual, economic, wages, labor, apartment and housing markets, mom and pop store clear-cutting that economic model holds. Just continue to think about every McDonald’s on every corner killing mom and pop stores. Every Starbucks. Every Amazon.dot.death/com delivery. Multiple that by factors of tens of thousands for all the other chains that are eating away at the very fabric of the nation and other nations.
Those engines that destroy — chain stores and restaurants — and transnational companies also eat up vast stacks to the moon our natural resources. Looking at the clear cutting just in the small area I now call home – the Central Coast of Oregon – I can extrapolate and then overlay just how cancerous Capitalism is, and that corporate capitalism – not the penny and region capitalism of past – is like skin cancer gone wild.
Here, the clear cuts –
While Oregon is the 27th largest state by population, we’re No. 1 in corporate giving per capita. Oregon legislators ranked first in the nation by average amount received from the timber industry, third for contributions by drug companies and fourth for tobacco money.
The Oregonian, the Portland newspaper, did the series, and here, the fourth one is titled, “Perfectly Legal — The clear-cut rewards of campaign cash.”
The reality is – and I had this conversation with a young fellow living out of his car, a 30-year-old intelligent man – capitalism eats not only the land, air, water and natural resources, but it eats its own. When you look at Amazon or Walmart or Goldman Sachs or Wells Fargo – just name the company – the standard operating procedure is wealth at any means possible. That is the Soylent Green factor, and while having indentured servants and mass incarcerated consumers is profitable, the decay of society is also profitable. Treating the symptom but not the disease, and looking at the broken part but not the absurdly incapacitated whole is what capitalism counts on.
We don’t need Chris Hedges to herald in the End of the Empire or hawk his book, America, the Farewell Tour to contextualize just what’s wrong with parasitic casino capitalism. In the Oregonian’s four-part series, we get the insider look at the corruption of our small state’s politicians not only from within the powerful lobbies of the state, but especially from the lobbies outside the state, and some outside the USA.
Every vote never did count when we as a citizenry are faced with gobs and gobs of money. The health of a single child or a thousand children is not contingent on the duty and sworn oaths of public servants to be the defenders, protectors, providers, and enhancers for the public interest, i.e. every citizen of the state.
Rep. Deborah Boone, (D-Cannon Beach) Boone said the companies that logged the watershed were constituents just as much as the townspeople who came to her for help.
“It’s a tough thing to have to decide between,” Boone said. “So I tried not to decide between.”
She double dipped, using campaign cash to pay bills that taxpayers also reimbursed. There was the $170 dinner during the legislative session, the multi-day $595 hotel stay in Salem, the gasoline and cell phone expenses after the session ended. Charging her campaign let her pocket some of the $10,000 in expense allowances the Legislature provided during her last year in office.
“You know, it’s legal, it’s perfectly legal to do,” Boone told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “I’m not saying I should’ve done it or whatever.”
The failure to limit campaign donations has turned Oregon into one of the biggest money states in American politics, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found. Corporate interests donate more money per resident in Oregon than in any other state. All that giving worked. Oregon now trails its West Coast neighbors on a long list of environmental protections.
As I have continued to harp, what happens in small-town America is what is demonstrably happening to America at large . . . and that community that now has mostly clear-cuts on its east slope with the vast Pacific Ocean on its west, has to deal with the wanton destruction of not only the beauty and the bounty of the forest that was once there, but also the diseased waters, air and fabric of life that clear-cuts produce.
One man with a chainsaw can do immense damage to a forested park. Legions of robotized giant timber-cutting, limb-jacking, log-dragging and stack-hauling equipment can turn vast hundreds of thousands of acres into war zones.
The meeting I went to in Depoe Bay Monday May 13 was attended by the speaker, Jason Gonzales, and a citizen who had worked on the aerial spraying ban for Lincoln County, and another citizen, and then me, citizen-journalist, I suppose. One speaker and three in the audience. That in itself is daunting, really, but the state of participation in America has never been great, and that small number has been dwindling over time because of distracted parents and even more distracted youth and retires; it becomes more than an embarrassment. It is the hollowing out of our critical thinking skills. Add to that no real journalism in small-small communities, and the recipe is the current epoch of Sacrifice Zones.
Especially when it comes to what will render these beach and mountain communities useless when the number of clear cuts ensue and then add up to a tipping point that is a land of no return, as well as a people of no return, with all those tons of Agent Orange knock-offs sprayed.
Known DNA-mutating chemicals, chemicals known for creating Parkinsonian-like diseases, known for deficit-creation in newborns – from nerves, to brain synapses, to hormone disequilibrium, to diabetes, to motor-skills dysfunctions. And known cancers and unknown synergistic ailments rendering in adults – all sprayed on noxious weeds that are the by-product of cutting down dynamic forests and exposing rich soils to wind and sun, ice and cold, weed seeds and entangling vines.
The process of replanting trees is what the Weyerhaeusers of the world do, and for someone like Jason Gonzales, with Oregon Wild, that replanting of monocrops – single species trees that are genetically engineered – is akin to deforestation. Imagine, all those dynamic biological wonders in the soils, the fungi, the under story plants, the multiple species of trees, all home to incredible mammals and reptiles (and amphibians) and a hundred bird species. That dark, shadowy forest covering streamlets and creeks, keeping them filtered and cool, turning them into harbingers of trout and salmon, and the head sources of water that becomes part of larger watersheds that not only feed incredible wetlands and estuaries, but provide human communities with clean drinking water.
Imagine that calculus played out daily in the boardrooms and on the stock exchange floor, negotiating which community will become the next sacrifice zone, which region will be thrown into environmental and economic upheaval for the profit pimps to make their next cool million, cool billion.
Little state politics, little district politics, well, it’s the microcosm of what is happening in DC, in the Quebec, in all those capital cities in Europe.
Human and animal sacrifices. Until we have logging companies owning vast tracks of land, and locking up their roads. Private lands that are locked up for more raping and razing. Private industrial ownership of Oregon’s forests has amped up big time the past decade, overtaking the small family forests that once dominated the landscape of the Oregon Coast Range.
We have a tsunami risk here, big time, and, the high land is only reachable by those dirt roads, and now the timber industry has them all locked up. The amount of insanity in our capitalism is out the roof.
For Oregon Wild and others, the biggest concerns are big ones for sure – siltation of clear streams and rivers; chemicals entering the food web and bio-accumulating; lack of diversity at every level of the biological web of a forest.
The culprit is timber companies, whose warped idea of a forest is replanting clear cuts with one species, spread out evenly; and those tree farms suck up huge amounts of water between the 10th and 50th year of growth. Streams get smaller or disappear. Small unnamed creeks fouled with both silt and desiccating wind and sun exposure.
As more stream flows are restricted in the summer, more salmon failure occurs.
The mentality of the capitalists is “we need more logging and thinning” to prevent forest fires. How’d that work out for Paradise, California? The biggest actors in forests burning are wind, humidity and moisture. Big trees in dynamic forests do incredible things to wind and fire suppression: they protect the forest from devastating fires.
These tree farms are a blasphemy because the helicopters come in with 2-d-4 and atrazine and ghysophate and end up Agent Orange-ing the animals and the hominids. The triple whammy is carbon credits are thrown at timber companies, as they get carbon money for planting trees, and so they cut trees at a younger age to plant more trees. It’s madness.
“It’s no different than those Malaysian palm oil plantations. Converting diverse rain forests into a one-tree farm is desertification. The same thing applies to our Pacific Northwest forests – converting diverse forests into a one-tree farm. We’ve lost so much forestland. Tree farms are deserts.”
So, Round-up is being used on hundreds of thousands of clear-cuts as well as along roadsides, to take out invasive plants, one common invasive being Scotch Broom. It’s the roads – logging roads – where the chemicals get into our streams, Jason noted.
Some of these companies deploy helicopters and this toxic mix of herbicides, with added ingredients, including an indicator additive that will help timber companies cover their tail by seeing where the chemicals drift during application.
A typical clear-cut maxes out at 120 acres as one unit, but there are many exceptions to that proviso Oregon State allows, so there are typically 240-acre stump graveyards, but from 10,000 feet, those clear-cut parcels are almost contiguous, so the patchwork is like some crazed LSD user’s quilt work. Except we are talking millions of acres affected by the chemicals, by the roads, by the species lost, by the micro climate disruptions, by the siltation of rivers, by the new raging fire landscape.
When we are talking about logging communities, those people see trees as dollars, and have no concept of seven generations out, or much longer for maintaining resiliency. Or what about all those people that think uncontrolled growth, uncontrolled fossil fuel burning, and uncontrolled culling of the diversity of species can go on indefinitely, no harm done? These people have no capacity to study micro fungi worlds. Or to understand how important that world is to the forest.
Most people can’t conceive of their own guts and physiology consisting of a finely-tuned orchestration of hormones, biochemicals, brain signals all tied to their guts. Most people have no concept of what an atmosphere is, and what water molecules and CO2 and methane do to the greenhouse effect.
As many intellectuals know, maybe 40 percent of North Americans – that’s 150 million – believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ in their lifetimes, and that pretty group has pretty much sold the ranch down the shit creek. How many Evangelicals really think despoiling the land, despoiling rivers, despoiling air and oceans is a crime against their godhead?
Many in the Reagan through to Trump administrations believe another Faustian Bargain – they are the elite, the top notch, top of the manure heap, and therefore, there is some magical reason for their bank accounts bulging and their companies’ resource plundering and their country overthrowing other countries.
And this leaves me with scratching my head, wondering why the local newspaper in Newport — twice a week hard copy and the same online presence — would fail to want to cover the stories I have been writing about. I was told that I need to write more dispassionately, by one of the editors, who has never met me but has published a handful of my pieces. I am sure the powers that be have already scolded him for having a different style of writer covering those “enviro” topics.
That is the tragedy, yet another one, for a fellow like me with so many years of journalism and writing experience that just listening to most of the J-school people or small-town editors and even the “professors” of the craft I have to hold back deja vu, the trauma of first running into retrograde and conservative thinkers when I was 18 just starting out as a reporter.
Here’s what probably won’t get published in the small Oregon town newspaper.
To Spray or Not to Spray – One of Many Questions Cited by Oregon Wild
An on-line monitoring system gives residents a heads up on herbicide spraying.
Jason Gonzales lives in the woods located in the Oregon Coast Range, is friends with loggers and lumber mill owners, and wants to know when chemicals are being sprayed near his family or on forests where they camp and recreate.
“People who have lived in areas where aerial spraying occurred never knew it was happening,” Gonzales of Oregon Wild told a small group Monday at the Depoe Bay Community Center. “The monitoring system, FERNS, allows neighbors to see the impact aerial spraying has on watersheds. As soon as people start seeing the areas where timber companies were spraying, they get concerned.”
The tool at hand – in place since 2015 through the Oregon Department of Forestry – is called the Forest Activity Electronic Reporting and Notification System. The on-line notification system allows citizens to create an area of interest map of up to 23,000 acres to assess forest activity in it. Gonzalez has been showing various communities along the coast how to use the system, which is a notification product that gives landowners email notifications when a timber company is applying for road, timber harvest and herbicide spraying permits.
The notifications for active operations/application for permit (NOAP) has to be filed at least 15 days before an operation can proceed.
Lincoln County voted on banning aerial spraying May 2017; the citizens fought hard to get the measure on the ballot and fought harder on dispelling the anti-ban rhetoric coming from the some of the largest pesticide companies in the USA – through the trade association, CropLife America, an industry group representing major pesticide manufacturers, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences LLC, and DuPont Crop Protection.
One of those citizens, who now lives in Waldport, is Debra Fant, a retired nurse who was also at the FERNS training/presentation.
She stated strongly her position: “How short sighted is it to value money and power without concern or understanding the inherent value of health, nourishing food, clean water and air, and fertility of soil from diversity of organisms that balances the natural systems?”
Taking on the likes of Monsanto is daunting, Gonzales and Fant conceded, but the fact is less than 14,000 Lincoln County voters supported the aerial spraying ban despite the reported $34 per voter spent by CropLife to halt it.
Fant was clear to point out that the chemical stew used to kill so-called noxious weeds includes hormone disrupters. While the goal for a retired nurse like Fant, who has been in Lincoln County 40 years, is to have no chemicals sprayed either by helicopter or by hand, the FERNS notification system gives people the opportunity to reduce exposure to the chemicals and gives them more breathing room to make adjustments when spraying will affect them directly and through watershed contamination.
“Having activists in the area where the clear-cutting occurs and the aerial spraying is proposed can both delay and change the nature of the spraying,” Gonzales stated, as he lives on 160 acres of forest land with neighbors who are highly engaged when an application for clear cutting and spraying occurs.
“Timber companies don’t want the aerial spraying filmed.” In his area, proposed aerial spraying was changed to backpack spraying, which involves not only more direct pin-pointed application, but fewer chemicals.
Gonzales mentioned that March 28 this year, more than 25 people showed up at the Veronia Grange to hear the same talk he gave in Depoe Bay, which is the same presentation he’s given in Florence, Rockaway Beach and other coastal towns.
“My Power Point which usually takes less than 45 minutes was extended an hour,” he stated. “There were six paid timber industry people there challenging almost everything I showed and said.” The Q & A period, the Oregon Wild activist stated, went on for two hours.
Most dramatic in the talk at Depoe are the Google Earth images of the Central Coast, showing over real time the amount of clear cutting that is taking place. “With that sort of photographic evidence, even many loggers at my talks shake their heads and state that, Yeah, that is a lot of clear-cutting I didn’t know about.’ They can’t debate the visual evidence.”
His talk at Depoe Bay questioned the Oregon’s Forest Practices Act, which he states “has the weakest state level logging rules in the region.” In addition, he and his group are looking to make forest laws stronger for “the good of communities, drinking water, and carbon sequestration.”
Debra, who is with Lincoln County Community Rights, mentioned the extensive coverage of the Lincoln County aerial spray ban in September 2018 by Sharon Lerner of the Intercept: “How a Ragtag Group of Oregon Locals Took on the Biggest Chemical Companies in the World – And Won.”
Gonzales ramified media coverage of our forests by highlighting the recent Oregonian’s four-part series, “Polluted by Money: How corporate cash corrupted one of the greenest states in America,” and the March 15, 2019 final story, “Perfectly Legal: The clear-cut rewards of campaign cash.”
“Look, I am the only full-time paid person working on conservation forest issues in the state of Oregon, the only one paid to look at logging laws,” Jason said, emphasizing there are plenty of volunteers and citizen groups throwing in on local issues. He mentioned how Rockaway Beach highlighted in the Oregonian series demonstrates the “complete ineffectiveness of our forestry practices in the state and the dirty money influencing both Democrats and Republicans.”
That watershed provides drinking water to Rockaway Beach and has been logged so extensively in the past 15 years almost all 1,300 acres are clear-cuts. Gonzales works with residents who complain of sicknesses, chemical odors and silting of the rivers and creeks. These are the same people cited by the Oregonian who say they “struggled to be heard by a local lawmaker [ Rep. Deborah Boone ] who took thousands from timber companies.”
When asked about the current legislative session, Gonzales was adamant: “The Legislature passed up all opportunities to modernize the state’s logging laws. The swing vote, Senator Arnie Roblan (D- Coos Bay) voted against everything that would have regulated the timber and chemical industries.”
To highlight the issue, Carl Whiting of Rockaway Beach Citizens for Watershed protection, recently stated:
The clear-cuts are ugly, but at least they are visible. The layers of chemicals aerially sprayed onto the newly cleared hills and valleys are not. The vast majority of our communities border private forest lands whose bald, brown slopes make up the bulk of our watersheds. Glyphosate and 2-4-D drift downwind to mingle with the Indaziflam and Clopyralid flowing downstream. These chemicals are used to poison every fern, flower and berry bush until only a silent, ecological desert of farmed fir trees remains.