Category Archives: Oregon

One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy

Symbioses — prolonged associations between organisms often widely separated phylogenetically — are more common in biology than we once thought and have been neglected as a phenomenon worthy of study on its own merits. Extending along a dynamic continuum from antagonistic to cooperative and often involving elements of both antagonism and mutualism, symbioses involve pathogens, commensals, and mutualists interacting in myriad ways over the evolutionary history of the involved ‘partners.’

— Gregory G. Dimijian, “Evolving Together: The Biology of Symbiosis”

It’s about being really committed. I tell students who are not any smarter than their peers that this takes hard work … to work on one question for five to seven years.

— Sarah Henkel on what it takes to study for and gain a doctorate in marine sciences

One never knows the waters a science-based article will dip into when a writer features one of OSU-Hatfield’s multidisciplinary researchers. Scientists look at very focused questions while naturalists and generalist ecologists look at systems from a broader range, but that interplay is less friction than analysis. As a journalist, my job is to dig deep and find those connections.

For Sarah Henkel, looking at how human-made structures affect what happens at the bottom of the sea is both fascinating and important to all human-activities in and around marine systems.

However, one scientist’s invasive species is another scientist’s opportunistic species. She’s got creed in the study of the benthic zone (what’s happening on the ocean’s bottom) and wave energy.

In her office at Hatfield, Sara and I recognize that the world of ecology is evolving due to innovative research and new questions scientists and policy makers are no longer afraid to ask.

She’s not atypical – a smart scientist who is open to fielding a wide-range of inquiries.

Because of the heavy footprint humans have put upon the environment in the form of cutting down entire forests and jungles, as well as geo-engineering the planet through fossil fuel burning and all the chemicals released in industrial processes, newer challenges to both our species’ and other species’ survival end up in the brains and labs of scientists.

To say science is changing rapidly is an understatement.

One Floating Piece of Debris Can Change an Entire Coast

For Henkel, she wonders what the effects of one pilon, one mooring anchor, and one attached buoy have on ecologies from the sea floor, upward.

The ocean, once considered immune to humanity’s despoilments, is as far as its chemical composition and ecological processes fragile with just the right forcers. HMSC is lucky to have dedicated thinkers like Sarah Henkel working on questions regarding not only this part of the world, but globally.

Students working with Sarah gain varying knowledge she’s accomplished through transitions from inland girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, where creeks, deciduous forest and terrestrial animals enchanted her and her sibling, to marine scientist in Oregon.

“Ever since I was in third grade, I knew I was going to be a marine biologist,” she says while we talk in her office at Hatfield. When a child, she visited a “touch tank” at a museum near her home and was completely fascinated with the horseshoe crabs.

Posters of benthic megaflora – seaweed and eel grass – adorn her office walls at HMSC. We’re talking about kelps like bull whip, feather boa, deadman’s finger, witch’s hair, studded sea balloons, and Turkish towel displayed on posters.

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Symbiosis, Cooperation, Opportunism, Invasiveness? That is the Question.

While we talk about kelp/seaweed, she shifts to invasive species like Undaria pinnatifida which hitched onto debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Over a dozen species on a worldwide list of invasive species were on broken dock moorings that washed up near Newport. Three — Undaria pinnatifida, Codium fragile, and Grateloupia turuturu — are particularly hazardous.

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Some of Henkel’s work looks at one gene expression, say, in Egregia menziesii, to uncover how the species responds to various conditions. Some big issues dovetail to Undaria pinnatifida playing havoc in Australia and New Zealand.

Her fundamental question is how can certain invasive species establish niches in very different waters from where they evolved. Looking at temperature and salinity tolerances as well as desiccation limits of species helps cities, states and countries manage opportunistic invasives that not only thrive in new places, but push out endemic species.

East Coast-West Coast: Transplantation

Henkel’s a transplant herself, from Virginia, with a science degree from the College of William and Mary. She tells me that she was lucky to have gotten into a gifted and talented high school program where she attended half a day every morning, then getting bused back to her home school in the afternoon — for three years.

“It [Virginia Governor’s School] was set up like a college, with professors and curriculum more like college-level courses.”

She then transplanted herself to California State University–Fullerton in 2000 to work on a master’s degree. Then, further north, to UC-Santa Barbara for a doctorate in marine sciences.

The final thrust northward was in 2009, to OSU, where she has been ever since.

We laugh at the idea of humans also being an invasive or transplanted species: She brings up a place like San Francisco Bay which is considered by scientists as a “global zoo” of invasive species with as many as 500 plants and animals from foreign shores taking hold in Frisco’s marine waters.

“Scientists think there are more invasives in San Francisco Bay than there are native species.”

She, her husband Will, and their six-year-old live in Toledo because, as she says, “there’s no marine layer to contend with and Toledo has a summer up there.” Mountain biking is what the family of three enjoy – from Alsea Falls, to Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood.

If We Build It, Will They Come, Leave or Morph?

“The biggest issue facing wind and wave energy developers in the environmental arena is the high level of uncertainty regarding environmental effects will be difficult to reduce that uncertainty.” – Sarah Henkel

After her Ph.D, from UC-Santa Barbara, Sarah sent out more than a dozen applications for professorships and research positions to universities.

What got her into the OSU Family was her work at a California-based Trust looking at decommissioning offshore oil platforms.

“What sorts of animals are living on platforms? Do you cut them off at the top to allow navigation and then preserve whatever’s grown on it?” Artificial reefs are attractive in increasing species like corals, sponges, fish and crustacean, but she emphasized that’s mostly done in tropical locations. Henkel says she was a strong candidate for OSU because of the school’s work on the effects of wave energy equipment and lines on the ecosystem up here off Newport.

Image result for Oregon seaweed poster

The marriage between Henkel’s knowledge of benthic ecosystems and the need to understand not only what the moorings of wave energy machines do to fauna like boney fish, crabs, and other species, but also what happens to the mechanisms that are immersed in water as they capture the wave energy was perfect for OSU.

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She points out wind turbines also have anchoring systems and superstructures; however, the actual energy-capturing mechanisms are high in the air as opposed to wave energy devices.

Wave Energy, Blue Energy: No Slam Dunk

“The industry recognizes the value of looking like they are being good environmental stewards,” she says, pointing out her ecological expertise melds well with the industry’s ideal of sustainable, renewable clean energy.

Her role with the Pacific Marine Energy Center is to coordinate all the science concerned with the ecological effects of wind energy – both the siting, building, and operation of any wave energy array.

OSU is looking at wave energy while the other members of PMEC are studying tidal energy (University of Washington) and river energy (University of Alaska).

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small energy generating device, river

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tidal

The idea of studying sediment changes caused by anchors and structures located on the bottom – at the grain size level – may not be considered “sexy” when one thinks of marine biology; however, for Henkel the benthic zone is where it’s at.

“The classic question for artificial reefs is attraction versus production: Can there be more fish overall with this additional habitat, or is that artificial habitat attracting fish away from natural reefs?”

The permitting process for the wave energy site off Newport has been both Byzantine and slow, and it’s ironic that in her 10 years at OSU, she’s not had any opportunity to do the field observations and data collecting she was hired to head up. In that decade, Henkel said a 1/3 scale wave energy device was put into the ocean out here for seven weeks.

Henkel is not stuck in limbo, however, since she is conducting research into other aspects of the benthic region with far-reaching implications for our coastal economy.


Crabs on the Move

When we think of the Dungeness crab, most realize it’s Oregon’s leading commercial seafood product; it brought in an estimated $75 million in 2018. Henkel posed a question that many crabbers have had in their minds for years: How far will crabs travel in search of food?

In 2018, Henkel and a colleague from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superglued acoustic tags onto legal-sized Dungeness crabs near the mouth of the Columbia River and off Cape Falcon.

Acoustical receivers helped the team learn the frequency and distance crabs moved in rocky versus sandy habitat – data that, again, will help understand possible impacts of wave energy testing on marine reserves.

Those 10 tagged crabs in sandy environs near the Columbia left the region within a week; the transmitter, at a price of $300 each, went with them.

Most know that crabbers prefer sandy areas for their pots because of fewer entanglements compared to rocky bottoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve done a lot of sampling of benthic habitat and there just isn’t a lot of food down there,” Henkel told Mark Floyd of OSU. “There’s usually only very small worms and clams, yet there’s an enormous crab harvest each year and most of that is from sandy-bottomed regions.”

Good science means marching on, so another 20 crabs were tagged and then dropped in waters near Cape Falcon, a rocky benthic zone. Her findings were surprising: “Four of those crabs left the region right away, while the other 16 stayed an average of 25.5 days. One stayed for 117 days.”

“Even though it’s a small sample size, it’s clear that habitat can influence crab movement,” Henkel told Floyd. “The crabs in the rocky areas had more to eat, but they often also have mossy bellies, which may not be as desirable commercially. Commercial crabbers like to target migrating crabs in sandy areas that tend to have smooth bellies.”

Chemical Outflows Studied

Other interesting projects she’s been involved with include a 2012 study of marine species living in Newport waters to see if the Georgia-Pacific containerboard plant outfall pipe, located 4,000 feet off Nye Beach, may be exposing some marine life to contaminants.

In fact, it was the City of Newport that requested OSU researchers look at a variety of species, including flatfish (speckled sand dab), crustaceans (Dungeness crab and Crangon shrimp), and mollusks (mussels and olive snails) because they might be bioaccumulating metals and organic pollutants at different rates.

Henkel and colleague, Scott Heppell, found contamination of those species was not at levels of concern: “There was some concern that metals and organic pollutants may be bioaccumulating in nearby marine life. We tested for 137 different chemicals and only detected 38 of them – none at levels that remotely approach concern for humans.”

New Student Archetypes: Funding at the Whim of New Anti-science Administration

We discuss what characteristics current science students possess compared to when she was a young undergraduate science major in the late 1990s. “We see a lot more students who want their science to matter … they want to be studying things that will improve society.”

This social awareness also has created more collaborative and supportive learning environments, she stresses. “When I was a student, we had the attitude that we didn’t want anyone to see our data until we publish it.”

Now, she emphasizes, there is so much data coming in from all angles; for instance, one project can get 1,000 photos a minute just of one marine species in its habitat. Part of the sharing may stem too from being more socially conscious and concerned than the cohorts for Henkel when she first started school.

Other concerns are tied to this recent shift in administrations – from Obama to Trump. There was a lot of support for renewables under previous administrations, but now under Trump so much is up in the air for scientists working on research projects tagged as “climate change” or “renewable energy,” even those research projects around species protection.

Two large grants the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage are at stake.

The Scientist’s Toolbox: Adaptation

To adapt, Sarah says, wave energy research is now looking at developing, promoting and deploying small machines near navigational buoys and aquaculture operations, where batteries die in six months; in the case of aquaculture, automatic feeding machines run on batteries, but with a wave-energy generating device supplying constant power, there would be no gap in the power.

On top of that, thousands of research and navigational buoys in our oceans have batteries that need constant replacing and disposal. Wave energy at the sites would be a constant energy source and reduce waste from battery disposal.

Making lemonade – new breakthroughs in blue energy — out of lemons – subsidies and tax breaks in the billions for the oil industry but none for blue energy – is also part of the scientist’s philosophy.

Sarah’s big takeaway when talking about the power of the Hatfield campus is that students get to work with other agencies and collaborate on real projects. “Not many students can be destined for a job in the Ivory Tower,” she said. Seeing other scientists from other agencies in different roles gives students at HMSC so many more avenues for career paths.

Henkel may be a sea floor expert, but she still knows that looking at how seabirds react to/interact with wind turbines and wave energy fields is important, as is studying the electromagnetic frequency fields created by blue energy generation.

She’s on a mission to get down to the granular level of things, but in the end, each little piece of the puzzle is hitched to the big thing, called the ocean!

Dirty, Polluting, Corrupting Money

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.

See the source image

See the source image

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.

Homo Sapiens Plastica: The Right to Die Forever Preserved

It was a heck of a thing – a hundred people at the Newport City Council at 6 pm most of whom wanted to talk about the proposed single-use plastic bag (grocery) ban that is an ordinance largely led by citizens, and members of the Surfrider organization. Interestingly, the Newport voters five years ago were asked in a vote to decide whether a plastic bag ban was what they wanted.

A minority of citizens brought that up – how very few of the registered voters voted in 2014, and the vote against a plastic bag ban was barely a feather’s weight on the scale of pro to vote it down versus pro to vote for it. One of the city council members repeated that he was afraid of voting tonight on the ban because he wanted the citizens (less than 1/3 of registered voters last go around voted) to have a crack at it again, to vote again on the measure. He somehow thought that a council voting up and down on the ordinance stunk of overreach.

Sea Lion with wounded, entangled neck

Ahh, the vagaries of representative and participatory democracy. I have to put the word “democracy” into big bold quotation marks. Here’s one issue tied to that – first, the very people who will see the effects of more and more plastic in the gullets of birds and around the necks of seals and in the bellies of baleen and toothed whales are the very ones who are learning concurrently the tools of research and expressing their voices at a city council meeting. Yet, they are 12 or 14 or 16 years old, not old enough to vote on a measure they show so much interest in and for which will affect them way into gray-haired adulthood.

I’m not going to jump down their throats – the school kids’ throats – or their overworked/overtaxed teachers for not knowing or teaching about the harder and truthfully more important issues of our time: the racist society that we work-love-govern-consume-die in has put countless millions in jails, countless millions more in other countries in open prisons and in death camps, and has destabilized the world from culture to climate to citizenship to community. The USA might lead in plastic production, but we are devils when it comes to arms and bullets and bombs. Lockheed Martin is just one firm, headed up by a woman, that is the grim reaper and devil in Brooks Brothers, in our name!

I wonder how long a teacher would last in a public school attacking the top arms dealers of the USA: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.

I am not going to ram down the throats of the citizens who think that a vote by the few people who believe voting counts on a benign ordinance is the only way to determine if the city of Newport has a ban on plastic bags. It’s too easy to list the tens of thousands of laws, codes, regulations, fees, fines, taxes, penalties, levies and regulatory language that we the people never voted on directly. I am not going to lecture people who think and believe there is a god-given right to use, buy, produce, consume, destroy, throw away anything in this barbarous society. They are, of course. wrong, but in late-stage predatory and extractive capitalism, that’s all Americans now have to hang onto: their right to their red white and blue lifestyles.

Image result for plastic inside whale's stomach

I am an ecosocialist, so I know all systems of oppression that are the basis of capitalism have to be thrown into the dustbin of failed experiments and genocidal ideas by the white man. The very idea of having standardized schools, standardized laws (against the people) and standardized oligarchical systems of benefits thrown to the minority (One Percent and Point Zero Zero One percent) against the majority in a casino game of gambling our futures on the whims and slippery thinking of the elite is plain wrong.

Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way.

— Rosa Luxemberg

Radical means setting down roots, the fabric of what it means to be a sane human and humane community. We need radical and revolutionary changes to this system of economic, cultural and environmental oppression.

Capitalism is the rotting rot of the evil!

If voting in a capitalist society really counted, or mattered, or gave the people a real choice and real chance at representative democracy, then it would have been outlawed ages ago, Emma Goldman famously stated.

The rights of nature do not end up on any ballot measure. We have to send in reams of paper to elected officials and to official agencies of the government and then also to the CEOs and shareholders of corporations to plead with them to stop this or that major attack on our ecosystems and wildlife.

We don’t get to vote with our money, or vote with our buying “power.”

Image result for orangutan burned palm oil

There is no power in consuming or buying or being labeled a consumer. There is no focus group in the world which is working for the benefit of the fabric of life – air, water, soil, biodome, ecosystem, ecology, human/non human community. The very concept of a throwaway society was never voted on, but rather was foisted upon the Americans who once were frugal, more or less.

Of course, this is the land of theft and thieves, ripped from the First Nations, and this concept of me-myself-and-I, or that is, my home and my family are my castle, that is what the concept of America the Taken is. This blind allegiance to the flag, and this racist pledge of one’s self to the group’s mob rule, well, that is part and parcel of the American lie. Do we even begin to start reparations for First Nations peoples?

When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Nick Estes, author of, “Our History Is the Future,” which traces Indigenous resistance from the Lakota people’s attempt to deny Lewis and Clark passage down the Missouri River in 1804, to the Red Power movement’s demands for treaty enforcement in the 1960s, to today’s Indigenous-led fights against fossil fuel projects. Writing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, where 300 Indigenous men, women, and children were murdered by U.S. soldiers in 1890, Estes highlights the revolutionary premise of the nonviolent Ghost Dance movement the victims followed. With a long tradition of daring attempts at decolonization, Estes argues, Indigenous people represent a powerful challenge to the profit-driven forces that threaten continued life on the planet.

Demonstrators chant and hold up signs as they gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC, September 13, 2016, to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The US government on September 9, 2016 sought to stop work on a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota that has angered Native Americans, blocking any work on federal land and asking the company to "voluntarily pause" work nearby. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Even a city council meeting in small-town America demands that mob allegiance to the Flag, one nation under god. A bloody idiotic pledge at a city council meeting at 6 pm. I, of course, do not stand for any flag, and taking a knee is not my cup of tea. I am a taxpayer, teacher, volunteer, activist and informed member of no blind allegiance to any body or group or country. I do not stand for the pledge or the national anthem, and some people get pissed off, and some would like to take me out to the back of the woodshed and shoot me.

In any case, the city makes a large chunk of its yearly income from visitors, beachcombers and general sightseers, the ones that come to town and plop down hotel fees and restaurant checks and park fees and fill up their cars with fuel.

Forget the microplastics debate. Just the fact that plastic straws and plastic bags and Styrofoam cups are unnecessary for human survival, and they kill marine life, now how difficult is it to prohibit these luxury items? For beautification of the town and environs that make the most money on visitors, of all any ilk, those on all sides of the same coin of American political belief “system” ;  and then what about the many out of state visitors and if we’re lucky to meet them, out of the country tourists?

No brainer — none of them, or us, wants to see plastic crap on the beaches and in the mouths of cormorants.

Yes, Japan and Norway and Iceland kill more whales each year than does the Safeway bag. Yes, US Navy sonar use and massive testing kills more whales than a plastic bag from Taco Bell does. Yes, more whales and other marine mammals are killed by ghost fishing gear and crab pot lines than the Target sofa-sized plastic shopping bag does. Yes, non-point pollution – from sewage and storm-water drainage overflows or direct source Big Ag and Farming pesticides and fertilizers and industrial raised animal waste kill more fish over time than does plastic Bic lighters do. But . . . the big but is how did we get in this place where shellfish warnings are given in a place that more or less looks pristine?

How is it that the Siletz Nation was ripped off by white men and then the  fiber wood  felons came in and logged hard; and now the forests reaching up to the coastline are clear-cut? Did I get to vote on that at the state level, in Portland where I once worked? Do I get to vote on that now that I live in Lincoln City? Who voted for confined animal feeding operations that produce more untreated manure, urine and body parts and blood than a small city produces and yet goes untreated, and many times is sludge that gets thrown across vast amounts of wild or green areas by the hundreds of square miles? That’s happening here, called biosolids, another name for toxic crap.

That is the contention now, is it not? Do we vote for our favorite glaciologist or paleo-biologist or climatologist or chemist or ecologist or physicist or oceanographer or archaeologist or botanist or geologist to run NOAA, NASA, or the US’s climate change policy group?

That simple process of having youth speak at a city council meeting, where the council was either going to vote for or against the proposed plastic bag ban; or was going to vote for or against bringing the measure up for a future public vote entailing expensive balloting measures; or for carrying through with more study group meetings as a council and then bringing it up for a discussion and then public council vote at a future city council meeting (that’s what the city council ultimately without unanimous agreement voted for) — now that was the galvanizing moment last Monday.

Seeing young people and their teachers and parents out for a city council meeting on a school night.

Again, the city council and city manager and maybe a planner or two will meet and discuss the ordinance that was crafted and recrafted by Surfrider; and it has to be made clear that this non-profit looked at other communities in Oregon and Washington which approved and put in force bans of single use plastic bags.

It’s more than just a little disturbing that in 2019 we are having spasms around forcing these purveyors of pain and pollution and toxic food to rein in their paper-plastics-pesticides-food calorie footprints. Plastic bags, and yet this community, Newport, and this county – Lincoln County – are rife with tipping points that are in free-fall: over-growth of human population, over-growth of youth living in poverty, over-growth of people working in the precarious labor market, over-growth of citizens about to be homeless in their pick-up trucks.

Aging in place with falling tresses and peeling roofing tiles. People who can’t name one person on their block but can tell you who R Kelly is. The adventures of surfing the internet and channel surfing for that just right R-rated flick but nary a moment to read the actual ordinance.

The conversation around plastic bags, man, this is the Pacific Coast, a town that depends on the fabric or façade of appearance – uncluttered viewshed and beach beauty. This is a coast where the fiber felons clear cut all the way up to the estuaries, rivers and beachheads. And we have to debate vociferously a plastic bag ban?

Talking about the inconvenience of banning plastic bags, some believe this is governmental overreach. Those jack-booted government agents are gong to come into our homes and rip those flimsy oil-based plastic bags from your cold dead hands.

This is what has happened in a society that has turned Tinsel Town thinking and the mall experience, where Disneyland and Disney cruises are the ultimate forms of cultural experience, into god-given rights.

Convenience. Hmm, how convenient is it to have to work for a felonious company like Amazon and rely on handouts and still have no health insurance? How convenient is it to let grandmother fester in her studio apartment with open sores and catatonic nightmares about being pulled out and tossed out on the streets because she’s amassed too many medical bills and rent-past due letters and warnings that the water and electricity are about to be turned off until payment is remitted?

We worry about the sanctity of shopping with those lovely little single use bags? Straws for slushy Starbucks concoctions? Waxed-up boxes for our takeout double cheeseburgers and fish and chips?

Do we have to go to Chris Jordan again? I used to teach this in my college writing classes, looking at things, the Story of Stuff, the power of mass consumption to pull the blinders off our collective magical thinking:

The number of cups airlines use in an hour — disposable, not! Look at his stuff here, Jordan, By the Numbers!

Chris Jordan’s Albatross — watch! If you do anything today, spend an hour and 47 minutes watching this documentary!

Then this daily consumption power of 7.4 billion people using those instant meal foil packages, all over the world. Plastic bags, all over the world. Flame retardant in every human being on earth, and then the shit hits the fan – every human has microbits and nano particles of plastics in their feces.

I’m curious when the city council vote or state capital amendment or federal election came up with my chance to vote on those realities? Atrazine in the food of babies and grandpa’s? The daily extrusion of more and more chemical produced in the factories of the felons, forced into foods, additives, pillows, clothes, internal combustion engine lubes, facial creams and toothpastes, into the bottles of crap consumed, and the wild fish caught.

The vote, man, where’s that vote tally for the rest of the world which has taken the burden of first world countries’ off-shoring of carbon chugging? All those First World so-called leaders bellowing how they’ve reduced their CO2 output, even though those same countries consume all the metals and products produced in other countries, whose carbon dioxide footprints are now chugging ahead to satisfy the needs of the multinational corporations and nefarious leadership of those countries to say, “yes, we Germans, have closed our coal-fired metal works factories and we have much cleaner air.”

In the scheme of things, the place to be is one where love and beauty can be captured, both in the eyes and ears, in the touch and smell of life, in hearing birds rustling and waves crashing.

Who better than literary muse and historical hero, communist Pablo Neruda:

Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.

[or]

We the mortals touch the metals,
the wind, the ocean shores, the stones,
knowing they will go on, inert or burning,
and I was discovering, naming all the these things:
it was my destiny to love and say goodbye.

― Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day

I said in my last piece I’d be talking about Peter Ward’s book, Under a Green Sky. I also know that someone like Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, also tugs at my consciousness. The reality of how geological time covers each 10,000 years of human history, in a blip of strata colliding with ocean and receding sea, or now, with each inch of sea wallowing up and moving into the fragile dungeons of our fears and dreams – cities along the coast.

Ward talks about that big impact, that dinosaur- killing event with the asteroid — Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary period around 66 million years ago when that space rock hit earth off of the Yucatan peninsula. But then, what about 200 million years ago, that event known as the “Permian extinction”: it wiped out 90 percent of all species and nearly 97 percent of all living things. While its origins challenged paleontologists, starting 30 years ago, as battle unfolded about whether it too was from above, an asteroid.

Paleontologist Peter. D. Ward studied with others, that great Permian extinction, and it wasn’t some space object that did in the world’s living creatures. Rather, it was caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide leading to climate change. And it was the heat that did them in, as in global warming or the greenhouse gas effect. In his book, we find out that the oceans, belching hydrogen sulfide did in the majority of all land, air and sea life. Think of the four of the five mass extinctions caused by too much carbon dioxide in the air which in turn fouled the oceans, which became stagnant and deadly.

Our fate is set in the same way, but it’s not basalt lava flows that are running up the CO2 levels; it’s our fossil fuel societies running up the carbon dioxide footprint. Deforested forests and jungles. Putrefying wetlands, and dying oceans. Methane releases now in the tundra zones. The albedo effect lessened because of less snow and glaciers, as well as dirty soot on snow and glaciers.

Yes, in 7 billion years, that sun of ours will implode and destroy us, planet earth. Yet, humanity is set on sixty-second time frames, 28-day calendars, two-year election cycles, 180-day school years, 100,000- mile bumper to bumper warranties.

Average human lifespan: 70 years. The solar year has 525,948 minutes and 48 seconds, and an average person has a heart rate of 80 beats per minute; then the total number of heartbeats in year would be 42,075,840 give or take a few seconds. That’s 3 billion heart beats for 70 years of living on earth as Homo Sapiens Plasitica/Consumpithecus.

All of those heart beats placed in the scheme of things! We try and frame that – perspective and scheme of things when we talk about Trump and those who toxically back him word, line and verse. We try and frame the context of any US administration whose marching orders have always been about empire, manifest destiny, overreach and displacement: displacing of original people’s, displacing of African citizens, displacing of people’s in other countries, displacing of various sub-communities and sub-populations within the 50 states and handful of territories.

Unfolding in real time the 6th Mass Extinction is part and parcel the reality of (un)civilization, the guns, germs, steel and artificial intelligence of our times. It’s the reality embedded in the defamation and despoilment of our own communities, our own parks and national monuments. What sort of species will save the whale when in our own communities we allow for old people, or the sick and infirm, to be put out on the streets? What sort of wolf protection or bee loving self can muster up the energy to stop the killing fields this country, with the support of other countries like Israel, UK, Canada, EU, Saudi Arabia, has created through the veins and arteries that are the delivery system of Capitalism’s own blood and heart flow?

Capitalism that weighs the actuarial logic of how long it takes for a person to drop dead from over-work, over-pollution, over-burdens of finances? We live in a system that says 20 deaths from exploding gas tanks on modern automobiles is worth the price in arbitration and legal payouts versus recalling millions of models and setting up a new assembly process?

A society that has allowable (safe) limits of tens of thousands toxins and carcinogens and nerve-eating metals in water, air, food, soil? Beauty products with asbestos in the foundation? What society, what species of animal, would allow babies to be exposed to mercury or aluminum in vaccinations, yet, somehow, we are going to protect the albatross from nurdles, fishing mono-filament and Bic lighters?

It’s that earth time, human time, the time it takes to wrap up this article and send it in on the Internet sphere, what does it all mean in the schema of things, when people who believe in the arc of social justice coming back to whack all those capitalists and armies of the capitalists? All those flimflam artists and scammers and deadbeats and despots against human kind and earth systems, will they get their comeuppance?

Yet, the average American, here in Newport, or in Hoboken, or Phoenix or Seattle (even Amazon-Boeing-Seattle) can’t see past their Maslovian Homo Sapiens Retailophithecus nose to save the gray wolf, save the orangutan, the golden toad, the bristle-cone pine, the everglades?

We are in these moments now, with instantaneous news feeds, Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of information on every imaginable topic on the head of a straight-pin. We have an opinion about everything but very little depth about anything. We are not critical thinkers but we are  criticizers and blamers. We are trapped in a hierarchy of needs way outside any desire or innate need to be people within communities. Struggling with the powerful, but we collectively are more powerful than all the Bezos’ and Gates’ and Bloombergs and Weinsteins and Koch Brothers combined.

Bearing Witness and an act of love for that species, which is really us, one species at a time. Chris Jordan:

I shaped it like a sort of guided meditation. At the beginning of these ceremonies you usually have to face your fears and something really scary happens. This is how it starts: facing the horror of plastic. We start with horror and fear, but when aren’t scared anymore then we open up to curiosity and learning. There’s a scene that I specifically talk about fear as birds have no fear of us. Then there’s a scene of curiosity as birds come towards the camera and look right into it in such an amazing way. In the presence of curiosity we get the encounter of others and we experience empathy. Empathy and curiosity are the beginning of connection. And connection is the beginning of love. As we fall in love with the birds we also see in multiple ways that they’re filled with plastic and begin to experience grief. That’s the core of the film – the understanding and experience of grief. Grief is not a bad feeling. It’s not the same of despair. It’s a sort triangle: it’s beauty, sadness and love, all mixed together. It’s incredibly vivid, it’s the experience of being alive and so it’s electrically powerful. It’s almost an ecstatic experience that connects you deeply with life.

What Albratross is really about is shifting consciousness and this is the attention behind the film and project. By shifting consciousness I mean reconnecting more deeply with our love for the living world. That’s really my wish. I want to spread Albatross as far as possible as it’s a love story, a love offering on behalf of all life, not only albatrosses.

The Banality of Evil Creeps into those Who Believe They Are Good

I was at a city hall meeting in Beaverton, Oregon, the other day when a few questions I had for the presenters dropped jaws. We’ll get to that later, the jaw-dropping effect I and those of my ilk have when we end up in the controlled boardrooms and chambers of the controllers – bureaucrats, public-private clubs like Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and both political operatives and those who liken themselves as the great planners of the world moving communities and housing and public commons around a giant chessboard to make things better for and more efficient in spite of us.

Look, I am now a social worker who once was a print journalist who once was a part-time college instructor (freeway flyer adjunct teaching double the load of a tenured faculty) facilitating literature, writing, rhetoric classes, and others. The power of those “planners” and “institutional leadership wonks” and those Deanlets and Admin Class and HR pros and VPs and Provosts to swat down a radical but effective teacher/faculty/instructor/lecturer isn’t (or wasn’t then) so surprising. I was one of hundreds of thousands of faculty, adjunct,  hit with 11th Hour appointments, Just-in-Time gigs and called one-week-into-the-semester with offers to teach temporarily. Then, the next logical step of precarity was when a dean or department head or someone higher got wind of a disgruntled student, or helicopter (now drone) parent who didn’t like me teaching Sapphire or Chalmers Johnson or Earth Liberation Front or Ward Churchill in critical thinking classes, it was common to get only one or many times no classes the following semester. De facto fired. They fought and fought against unemployment benefits.

Here’s one paragraph that got me sanctioned while teaching in Spokane, at both Gonzaga and the community college:

As for those in the World Trade Center… Well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire—the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved—and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance”—a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore”—counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in—and in many cases excelling at—it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

We are talking 17 years ago, Ward Churchill. The Little Eichmann reference goes back to the 1960s, and the root of it goes to Hannah Ardent looking at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, more or a less a middle man who helped get Jews into trains and eventually onto concentration camps and then marched into gas chambers. The banality of evil was her term from a 1963 book. So this Eichmann relied on propaganda against Jews and radicals and other undesirables rather than thinking for himself. Careerism at its ugliest, doing the bureaucratic work to advance a career and then at the Trial, displayed this “Common” personality that did not belie a psychopathic tendency. Of course, Ardent got raked over the coals for this observation and for her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem.

When I use the term, Little Eichmann, I broadly hinge it to the persons that live that more or less sacred American Mad Men lifestyle, with 401k’s, trips to Hawaii, cabins at the lake, who sometimes are the poverty pimps in the social services, but who indeed make daily decisions that negatively and drastically affect the lives of millions of people. In the case of tanned Vail skiers who work for Raytheon developing guidance systems and sophisticated satellite tethers and surveillance systems, who vote democrat and do triathlons, that Little Eichmann archetype also comes to mind. Evil, well, that is a tougher analysis  – mal, well, that succinctly means bad. I see evil or bad or maladaptive and malicious on a spectrum, like autism spectrum disorders.

Back to Beaverton City Hall: As I said, last week I was at this meeting about a “safe parking” policy, a pilot program for this city hooked to the Portland Metro area, where Intel is sited, and in one of the fastest growing counties in Oregon. Safe parking is all a jumbo in its implications: but for the city of Beaverton the program’s intent is to get three spaces, parking slots from each entity participating, for homeless people to set up their vehicles from which to live and dine and recreate. Old Taurus sedans, beat-up Dodge vans, maybe a 20-foot 1985 RV covered in black mold or Pacific Northwest moss. The City will put in $30,000 for a non-profit to manage these 15 or 20 spaces, and the city will put in a porta-potty and a small storage pod (in the fourth space) for belongings on each property.

This is how Portland’s tri-city locale plans to “solve” the homeless problem: live in your vehicles, with all manner of physical ailments (number one for Americans, bad backs) and all manner of mental health issues and all manner of work schedules. Cars, the new normal for housing in the world’s number one super power.

This is the band-aid on the sucking chest wound. This is a bizarre thing in a state with Nike as its brand, that Phil Knight throwing millions into a Republican gubernatorial candidate for governor’s coffers. Of course, the necessity of getting churches and large non-profits with a few empty parking spaces for houseless persons is based on more of the Little Eichmann syndrome – the city fathers and mothers, the business community, the cops, and all those elites and NIMBYs (not in my backyard) voted to make it illegal to sleep in your vehicle along the public right away, or, along streets and alleys. That’s the rub, the law was passed, and now it’s $300 fine, more upon second offense, and then, 30 days in jail for repeat offense: for sleeping off a 12-hour shift at Amazon warehouse or 14-hour shift as forklift operator for Safeway distribution center.

So these overpaid uniformed bureaucrats with SWAT armament and armored vehicles and $50 an hour overtime gigs and retirement accounts will be knocking on the fogged-over windows of our sisters/ brothers, aunties/uncles, cousins, moms/dads, grandparents, daughters/sons living the Life of Riley in their two-door Honda Accords.

Hmm, more than 12 million empty homes in the richest country in the world. Millions of other buildings empty. Plots of land by the gazillion. And, we have several million homeless, and tens of millions one layoff, one heart-attack, one arrest away from homelessness.

The first question was why we aren’t working on shutting down the illegal and inhumane law that even allows the police to harass people living in their cars? The next question was why parking spaces for cars? Certainly, all that overstock inventory in all those Pacific Northwest travel trailer and camper lots would be a source of a better living space moved to those vaunted few (20) parking spaces: or what about all those used trailers up for sale on Craig’s List? You think Nike Boy could help get his brethren to pony up a few million for trailers? What worse way to treat diabetic houseless people with cramped quarters? What fine way to treat a PTSD survivor with six windows in a Chevy with eight by four living space for two humans, a dog, and all their belongings and food.

The people at this meeting, well, I know most are empathetic, but even those have minds colonized by the cotton-ball-on-the-head wound solution thinking. All this energy, all the Power Points, all the meeting after meeting, all the solicitation and begging for 20 parking spaces and they hope for a shower source, too, as well as an internet link (for job hunting, etc.)  and maybe a place to cook a meal.

While housing vacancy has long been a problem in America, especially in economically distressed places, vacancies surged in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. The number of unoccupied homes jumped by 26 percent—from 9.5 to 12 million between 2005 and 2010. Many people (and many urbanists) see vacancy and abandoned housing as problems of distressed cities, but small towns and rural communities have vacancy rates that are roughly double that of metropolitan areas, according to the study.

This is the insanity of these Little Eichmanns: The number of cities that have made homelessness a crime! Then, getting a few churches to open up parking slots for a few people to “try and get resources and wrap around services to end their homelessness.” Here are the facts — the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty states there are over 200 cities that have created these Little Eichmann (my terminology) municipal bans on camping or sleeping outside, increasing by more than 50 percent since 2011. Theses bans include various human survival and daily activities of living processes, from camping and sitting in particular outdoor places, to loitering and begging in public to sleeping in vehicles.

I am living hand to mouth, so to speak. I make $17 an hour with two master’s degrees and a shit load of experience and depth of both character and solutions-driven energy. This is the way of the world, brother, age 61, and living the dream in Hops-Blazers-Nike City, in the state of no return Nike/Oregon Ducks. Man oh man, those gridlock days commuting to and from work. Man, all those people outside my apartment building living in their vehicles (I live in Vancouver) and all those people who have to rotate where they live, while calling Ford minivan home, moving their stuff every week, so the Clark County Sheriff Department doesn’t ticket, bust and worse, impound.

I have gotten a few teeth – dentures — for some of these people. Finding funding to have a pretty rancid and nasty old guy in Portland measure, model and mold for a fitting. That’s, of course, if the people have their teeth already pulled out.

Abscesses and limps and back braces and walkers and nephritic livers and dying flesh and scabies and, hell, just plain old BO. Yet, these folk are working the FedEx conveyor belts, packaging those Harry and David apples, folding and stacking all those Black Friday flyers.

Living the high life. And, yet, these Little Eichmanns would attempt to say, or ask, “Why do they all have smart phones . . . they smoke and vape and some of them drink? Wasteful, no wonder they are homeless.”

So that line of thinking comes and goes, from the deplorables of the Trump species to the so-self vaunted elite. They drink after a hard day’s work, these houseless people. Yet, all those put-together Portlanders with two-income heads of household, double Prius driveways, all that REI gear ready for ski season, well, I bicycle those ‘hoods and see the recycle bins on trash day, filled to the brim with IPA bottles, affordable local wine bottles, and bottles from those enticing brews in the spirit world.

So self-medicating with $250K dual incomes, fancy home, hipster lifestyles, but they’d begrudge houseless amputees who have to work the cash register at a Plaid Pantry on 12 hour shifts?

I have been recriminated for not having tenure, for not being an editor, for not retired with a pension, for not having that Oprah Pick in bookstores, for not having a steady career, for working long-ass hours as a social worker. The recrimination is magnificent and goes around all corners of this flagging empire. Pre-Trump, Pre-Obama, Pre-Clinton, Pre-Bush. Oh, man, that Ray-gun:

He had a villain, who was not a real welfare cheat or emblamtic of people needing welfare assistance to live back then in a troubling world of Gilded Age haves and haves not. That was January 1976, when Reagan announced that this Welfare Queen was using ”80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans benefits for four nonexistent, deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

Four decades later, we have the same dude in office, the aberration of neoliberalism and collective amnesia and incessant ignorance in what I deem now as Homo Consumopithecus and Homo Retailapithecus. Reagan had that crowd eating out of his hands as he used his B-Grade Thespian licks to stress the numbers – “one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

Poverty rose to the top of the public agenda in the 1960s, in part spurred by the publication of Michael Harrington’s The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Harrington’s 1962 book made a claim that shocked the nation at a time when it was experiencing a period of unprecedented affluence: based on the best available evidence, between 40 million and 50 million Americans—20 to 25 percent of the nation’s population—still lived in poverty, suffering from “inadequate housing, medicine, food, and opportunity.”

Shedding light on the lives of the poor from New York to Appalachia to the Deep South, Harrington’s book asked how it was possible that so much poverty existed in a land of such prosperity. It challenged the country to ask what it was prepared to do about it.

So, somehow, all those people reminding me that my job history has been all based on my passions, my avocations, my dreams, that I should be proud being able to work at poverty level incomes as a small town newspaper reporter, or that I was able to teach so many people in gang reduction programs, at universities and colleges, in alternative schools, in prisons and elsewhere, at poverty wages; or that I was able to get poems published here and stories published there and that I have a short story collection coming out in 2019 at zero profit, or that I am doing God’s work as a homeless veterans counselor, again, at those Trump-loving, Bezos-embracing poverty wages.

Oh, man, oh man, all those countries I visited and worked in, all those people whose lives I changed, and here I am, one motorcycle accident away from the poor house, except there is no poor house.

Daily, I see the results of military sexual trauma, of incessant physical abuse as active duty military, infinite anxiety and cognitive disorders, a truck load of amputated feet and legs, and unending COPD, congestive heart failure, and overall bodies of a 70-year-old hampering 30-year-old men and women veterans.

They get this old radical environmentalist, vegan, in-your-face teacher, and a huge case of heart and passion, and I challenge them to think hard about how they have been duped, but for the most part, none of the ex-soldiers have even heard of the (two-star) Major General who wrote the small tome, War is a Racket:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War I a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy?

How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious.

They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

More fitting now than ever, General Butler’s words. Structural violence is also the war of the billionaires and millionaires against the rest of us, marks and suckers born every nanosecond in their eyes. Disaster Capitalism is violence. Parasitic investing is war. Hostile takeovers are was. Hedge funds poisoning retirement funds and billions wasted/stolen to manage (sic) this dirty money are war. Forced arbitration is war. PayDay loans are war. Wells Fargo stealing homes is war. Lead in New Jersey cities’ pipes is war. Hog  excrement/toxins/blood/aborted fetuses pound scum sprayed onto land near poor communities is war. Fence lining polluting industries against poor and minority populations is war.

So is making it illegal to sit on a curb, hold a sign asking for a handout;  so is the fact there are millions of empty buildings collecting black mold and tax deferments. War is offshore accounts, and war is a society plugged into forced, perceived and planned obsolescence.

Some of us are battle weary, and others trudge on, soldiers against the machine, against the fascism of the market place, the fascism of the tools of the propagandists.

Some of us ask the tricky questions at meetings and conferences and confabs: When are you big wigs, honchos, going to give up a few hours a week pay for others to get in on the pay? When are you going to open up that old truck depot for homeless to build tiny homes?

When are you going to have the balls to get the heads of Boeing, Nike, Adidas, Intel, the lot of them, to come to our fogged-up station wagon windows in your safe parking zones to show them how some of their mainline workers and tangential workers who support their billions in profits really live?

How many millionaires are chain migrating from California or Texas, coming into the Portland arena who might have the heart to help fund 15 or 30 acres out there in Beavercreek (Clackamas, Oregon) to set up intentional communities for both veterans and non veterans, inter-generational population, with permaculture, therapy dog training, you name it, around a prayer circle, a sweat lodge, and community garden and commercial kitchen to sell those herbs and veggies to those two-income wonders who scoff at my bottle of cheap Vodka while they fly around and bike around on their wine tours and whiskey bar rounds? Micro homes and tiny homes.

My old man was in the Air Force for 12 years, which got the family to the Azores, Albuquerque, Maryland, and then he got an officer commission in the Army, for 20 years, which got the family to Germany, UK, Paris, Spain and other locales, and I know hands down he’d be spinning and turning in his grave if he was alive and here to witness not only the mistreatment of schmucks out of the military with horrendous ailments, but also the mistreatment of college students with $80K loans to be nurses or social workers. He’d be his own energy source spinning in his grave at Fort Huachuca if he was around, after being shot in Korea and twice in Vietnam, to witness social security on the chopping block, real wages at 1970 levels, old people begging on the streets, library hours waning, public education being privatized and dumb downed, and millions of acres of public sold to the “I don’t need no stinkin’ badge” big energy thugs.

I might be embarrassed if he was around, me at age 61, wasted three college degrees, living the dream of apartment life, no 401k or state retirement balloon payment on the horizon, no real estate or stocks and bonds stashed away, nothing, after all of this toil to actually have given to society, in all my communist, atheistic glory.

But there is no shame in that, in my bones, working my ass off until the last breath, and on my t-shirt, I’d have a stick figure, with a stack of free bus tickets, journalism awards, and housing vouchers all piled around me with the (thanks National Rifle Association) meme stenciled on my back:

You can have my social worker and teaching credentials and press passes when you pry them from my cold dead hands!