Category Archives: The Commons

A Spray by any Other Name: Agent Orange or Clear-cut Agent?

Caveats

Note to readers: This is an analysis and personal inculcation of my own narrative tied to one specific topic — Lincoln County’s aerial spray (toxics, weedicides/herbicides) ban which was overturned and is now being presented to a judge for revalidation. Too many times people come to me thinking I am a news writer, or mainstream journalist. I was one of those, years ago, for years, and I am not that person now. “I don’t need no stinking Press badge, cabrón.” I can lead the reader down some curvy and out of the way places in my style of writing. Call it rant, diatribe, polemical, what have you . . . or just bad prose. It doesn’t matter to me anymore because I am not following the Associated Press rule book/style guide. I am no longer subscribing to the small-town newspaper tenets, or all those other big-town so-called “journalism 101 keeping it objective” crap. Unfortunately, I have to keep reminding readers of this fact.

And, I have been engaged in so many local battles, either in them as a member of this or that group or committee, or as a writer, or as a faculty member with students from various colleges in tow. In reality, under capitalism, as each nanosecond ticks off, things are really getting ugly. Predictable, sure, for anyone who has drilled superficially or deeply into this perverse system of profits over all other things. Still, though, I am beyond journalism 101, which in some sense really never existed in a real world . . . or, for most cases, newspaper journalism was always about “fabricated balance,” and showing two sides (how absurd is that, two sides!) to an issue. AND, my experience is the more intelligent and deeply holistic and systems thinking voices are never heard . . . or allowed into the journalism story.

I’ve written extensively about this, and while some call me Gonzo 3.0, nevertheless, I have to caveat my work regularly such as I have now. Be forewarned — this is not Journalism 101, which for all intents and purposes has failed, failed, failed. There is no so-called liberal media! It’s conservative, neoliberal, neocon, commercial, tied to empire and the bs of exceptionalism.

+–+

Waldport — I was driving back from Portland, hitting the scenic route, Highway 34, the so-called Alsea Highway. Two lane winding road. Farms and a river and homes on the slow-running river and no real towns except for Alsea. My wife was driving, fast, and I was a passenger looking hard at the surroundings.

On a sunny day, with this spring verdant overlay, a nice drive. It’s a green drive, with lots of leafing trees and conifers in the low-slung Coast Range. Of course, everything in the driver’s viewshed has been messed with more than a 100 years ago onward into this decade. Third growth tree plantations, clear-cuts, huge swaths of rye grass fields. A lot of dilapidated homes, cabins on the river and newer McMansions out there, with two RVs and four car garages and brand new out buildings.

Lots of clear-cuts, up to the road in some places. On one level, everything seems green and natural, but most of what a driver gets to see are second and third growth tree stands, AKA fiber/lumber plantations. There is a uniformity in the trees that are 50 years old. All the same size. All bunched up together.

No old growth in these here parts. When on runs into a really old Doug fir, people take selfies with it, sing to it, do prayers:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is imgp0681.jpg

I know a few people who live out here, people who came to the area in the 1960s and ’70s. They are old now. On property that seems way out in the forest to some folk, but all are connected with paved roads, cement bridges spanning creeks, and with electricity and Wi-Fi. It’s an idyllic life in some regards, but for years (before this state’s draconian lockdowns) Highway 34 has been used as a byway for RV, pull trailers, Subaru’s with surfboards strapped to their roofs.

The destination is the coast. Small towns like Newport or Yachats. Plenty of beach. Tons of Air B&B’s and hotels.

The area indeed is an odd mix of retirees, out of towners, tourists, lumber and fish folk, people connected to the Oregon State Aquarium and the Hatfield Marines Sciences Center associated with Oregon State University. Like a lot of things and towns in North America, these places are worn out, rinky-dink, prime examples of those who have and the haves not.

It’s conservative with many centrist democrats tied to the hospital, Hatfield, many of the retired, and most from the community college. The rest of the population (to generalize) is stuck in a time warp, always impressing upon me about the good old days.

Those were the days when timber was king, and when there were beach house rentals, not this huge influx of STR’s (short term rentals) run by Portland-based Airbnb outfits like Vacasa.

Boom or bust, quasi back to the land, McDonald’s and Taco Bell drive-throughs, a Walmart, and a coast that depends big time on those crazy, congesting, demanding, beach swarming tourists.

Food, surprisingly, is not king here, as there are fewer and fewer unique mom and pop type eateries. Either a few high end resort restaurants, or small Mexican restaurants.

The drive from Corvallis down Highway 34 toward the coast is easy when the traffic is light. Otherwise, cussing galore as people from Portland and Corvallis, Salem and Eugene flood over to the cooler Pacific.

One small business, Deb’s Café, would have been on our list for a bite to eat, but the huge “Timber Unity” sign out front is a turn-off. I don’t want to have to pay for food from a mom and pop that visually supports anything as part of their advertising scheme: not Raytheon, Dow, Democrats, Republicans, the country Turkey or the Armenian people. To blatantly put up that Timber Unity logo sign is a sign of some sort of hard right, mean politics within, redneck politics worn on Deb’s sleeves (if there is a Deb there to begin with). Timber Unity signs are plastered all over homes and large yards and businesses in this neck of the woods. Unity my ass:

Logging community Timber Unity gets White House invite | Salem Reporter

While the group has been hailed by state and national Republicans, and includes at least one former Oregon GOP lawmaker among its leaders, its participants have had no qualms associating with violent extremists and far-right groups. Several senior members have been photographed alongside members of neofascist or militia groups, and when pressed, its leadership has failed to disavow such ties. Its rallies have prominently featured messages backing QAnon, the sprawling internet conspiracy theory that posits a cabal of liberal elites are running a pedophile ring, and that has spurred real-world violence.

“While Timber Unity has sought to downplay these links, an investigation of its social media channels has found extensive ties between its leaders and Far Right figures, as well as the use of racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and violent rhetoric by its supporters,” explained Spencer Sunshine, a sociologist who researches right-wing extremists, in a report he compiled for Oregon environmental groups. “The organization already has a history of and association with groups who have either made violent political threats or have supported violent actions.” — “The Oregon GOP’s Favorite Anti-Environment Group Is Awash in Racism and Violent Threats”

Loggers Show Their Support at the "Timber Unity" Rally Against HB2020.

Left-wing/Right-wing — The American Bird

Right-wing groups. The Trump years. That’s all I have to go by since I’ve been here short-term — December 2018. Pro-cops/pigs, pro-military grunt, pro-timber, pro-all-red-white-blue.

Coming from Portland, supporting more than just a few days of protesting cops and such in downtown PDX, I know small towns from way back. Small towns supporting Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Towns supporting Reagan. I’m old enough to know those Nixon years, and those small towns. From city council members, to police chiefs, and librarians, small towns and the conservative bent.

It was always more than support — called a traitor, threatened with violence, and handcuffed by pigs for non-violent protesting. Pre-Trump. Oh, Occupy Seattle, those Obama years. I’ve always been a traitor when speaking with Republicans, and I am now speaking with Democrats.

Yet here I am, in a poor rural country, with a mix of interesting people, divergent, many hopeless, a few lucky ones with retirement and health, hopeful. But hopeful in primarily a kind of transcendental mediation way. As a parenthetical, the idea impressed upon me is there are many people living in this area with college degrees and even graduate degrees since we are relatively close to Eugene and Corvallis, where the state land grant colleges are located. Retired professionals. And artists. This for many people infers a level of enlightenment and sophistication and wokeness not normally seen in other rural environs.

That’s debatable for me, since I subscribe to Chris Hedges “death of the liberal class”.

In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue.

We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.

― Chris Hedges, The Death of the Liberal Class

Jumping Out of the Rural Plane into War

I easily segue from one massive war crime after massive war crime — the American War Against Vietnam — to a small rural county in Oregon, and for the reader, this  may seem disjointed. So goes the world of corporate wrongs, along with their various hitmen and hitwomen serving as financial thieves and legal Mafia. Because with lawyers, any company can literally get away with murder. And in the process, the murderer (collective, corporate, governmental) can blame the victims.

We are fighting that “timber unity” and the unchecked growth model, the clear-cut model of business, the boom or bust economics of real estate and out-of-state money dragging down the local economies. We are fighting chemical sprays.

The idea of blaming the victims isn’t new. If the economy goes bust, then blame the tree huggers and spotted owl kooks. Blame anyone or any group that is concerned about public health, safety and well-being. The judicial system is out of sync with the people, but in many ways, in sync wonderfully with the destroyers, the extractors, the people with paid-for experts and those with PhDs and MDs and what have you who will be the voice for corporations, giving both barrels for anyone who might question the bottom line — profits at any cost.

Here’s a living example of this legal system in the employ of the corporation. Chevron, no less:

Steven Donziger won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The company sued him in New York, and now he’s under house arrest. — Sharon Lerner, The Intercept

A slippery decision: Chevron oil pollution in Ecuador | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 09.08.2016

Defoliant/Dioxin/Disease

Again, shifting to Lincoln County, Oregon, we are tied to the big case in France — for sure, again, one single woman up against lawyers, their assistants, and the thugs and chemists for Dow. We are talking massive poisoning, massive murdering, war profiteering, empires of subjugation, the entire shooting match in Indochina. Death and history, and empire and corporations. The War Machine which is in a sense the machine that drives a lot of things in the USA, including lobbying (sic) groups like Timber Unity:

ÉVRY, France — Almost six decades after the U.S. military began dropping a toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, a French courtroom in a Parisian suburb has become the unlikely setting for a faceoff between a woman who says she was a victim and some of the world’s largest chemical and pharmaceutical corporations that supplied the substance.

The landmark case has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old, against 14 companies. A ruling is expected on Monday.

If the court in Évry sides with the companies, including American multinational Dow, it would crush hopes for what activists have seen as a “historic trial” and a unique chance for accountability. But if the court rules in Tran’s favor, she would be the first Vietnamese civilian to win such a case. — Source

Agent Orange Victims: Haunting Photos Of The Unpunished War Crimes Of U.S. In Vietnam War

Breaking Bad News

PARIS — A French court on Monday threw out a lawsuit brought by a French-Vietnamese woman against more than a dozen multinationals that produced and sold toxic herbicide Agent Orange, used by American troops during the war in Vietnam.

The landmark case, filed in 2014, has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old who says she was a victim of Agent Orange, against 14 firms, including U.S. multinational companies Dow Chemical and Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer.

This is the murderous gift that keeps on giving, and leave it to the French, a French court, to throw out this righteous case. Oh the French in Haiti, in Viet Nam. The irony of it is Tran’s children and grandchildren have been diseased because of the exposure to Agent Orange. One child died because of the dioxin disease(s). How many millions of Vietnamese were exposed to this sprayed on poison? Deaths? Disabilities? Chronic illnesses?

The other irony is that US veterans have successfully sued those chemical monsters and have gotten service connected disabilities from this massive poisoning, again, it is we the taxpayer, paying for those “injuries.” The chemical Eichmanns are equal to the military Eichmanns. Bomb them back to the Stone age, uh?

Image: Tran To Nga, a 78-year-old former journalist, waves as she delivers a speech during a gathering in support of people exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, in Paris

Thibault Camus / AP file

Leave it to the Associated Press to call her “communist” when she was exposed to the gas:

The former journalist has described in a book how she breathed some Agent Orange in 1966, when she was a member of the Vietnamese Communists, or Viet Cong, that fought against South Vietnam and the United States.

“Because of that, I lost one child due to heart defects. I have two other daughters who were born with malformations. And my grandchildren, too,” she told The Associated Press.

According to some probably low ball estimates, U.S. warplanes dropped 19 million gallons of Agent Orange — it was dubbed that because it was stored in drums with orange bands. I’ve seen a few old empties in Vietnam. Between the early 1960s and early 1970s, this ecocide was deployed to defoliate jungles and destroy Viet Cong crops. Murder babies, you know, with calorie constriction. Like the American colony did to Native Americans.

Millions of Vietnamese were sprayed.

At least 3,851 of the 5,958 known fixed-wing missions had targeted flight paths directly over South Vietnamese hamlets. We calculated that at least 2.1 million but perhaps as many as 4.8 million people in 3,181 hamlets were sprayed. Population estimates for an additional 1,430 sprayed hamlets are unavailable. Few systematic data exist on population exposures through residual contamination of soils or consumption of herbicidal chemicals taken up in the food chain, although “hot spots” are known.  Source.

It’s clear how the laws are written to protect the poisoners, the murderers. William Bourdon, one of her lawyers, stated on Twitter that the court was “applying an obsolete definition of the immunity of jurisdiction principle which contradicted modern principles of international and national law.”

Even this lawyer was shocked the French court had backed the companies’ defense spiel that stated they were acting on “orders” when responding to U.S. government requisitions for the poison. Again, rule of law for the corporations, and these groups of company lawyers cited contractual law and purchase agreements not tying them to the claims. No damages to the Vietnamese people!

Dow Chemical and Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military and were named in the suit, along with 18 other companies to include Diamond Shamrock, Uniroyal, Thompson Chemicals, Hercules, Ansul Co., Riverdale Chemical Co., Uniroyal, Occidental Petroleum Co., N.A. Phillips, and Hooker Chemical Co.

The military — the USA, in fact, all the Big Little Man Eichmann’s and taxpayers and those in the media, in universities, etc.  — is a party to millions of individual war crimes, but this was a crime against people, against their food supply. The spraying occurred right after I was born in 1957, in the early 1960s, as the US Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA), a US Department of Defense agency, was heavily involved in bioweapons and surveillance and other nefarious illegal weapons, including toxins and all sorts of diseases, like the one we think came from an innocent tick, but, in fact, Lyme’s disease is from Plum Island, US military biowarfare lab.

Grrlscientist (The United Kingdom)'s review of Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory

These new offensive technologies are part of the USA’s legacy of crimes against humanity — experimenting various combinations and concentrations of chemical herbicides for use in the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was created when developers combined two of the most potent herbicides, 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,4- Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).

DARPA mixed up many combinations of herbicides to destroy Vietnam, including Agent Purple, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent White, Agent Blue, and Agent Orange, all named for the band of colored tape on their containers. Four years after my birth (’57), in 1961, the US began spraying those herbicides on Vietnam’s crops and jungles, part of a lovely mission titled Operation Ranch Hand.

Agent Orange Record | Vietnam war, Vietnam, Vietnam war photos

+–+

Small Town, Big Politics

So back in my neck of the woods, Waldport, Oregon in Lincoln County, I have a jarring perspective because this small town is isolated, and alas, yes, it is backwards, and the retrograde thinkers are in the hundreds and hundreds. Yet, there are slivers of hope, where smart people for many reasons, ended up here, and in the country at large. Some of those smart people are fed-up with the lies, the birth defects, the diseases, the entire flimflam game that is capitalism — whether it is health insurance scams, lemon automobiles or poisons peddled as “green chemistry for better farming/living/family rearing.”

I’ve been lucky enough to feature two of the people fighting the aerial spray ban reversal — Maria Kraus and Carol Van Strum:

A real-life Toxic Avenger

A life of politics and peace

LISTEN: Carol Van Strum and the 'Poison Papers' on Sojourner Truth Show |

Both pieces ended up in Dissident Voicehere and here. I even did a review of that documentary, The People VS Agent Orange, which highlights Tran To Nga‘s fight in France — “Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes“. Here’s one passage from that story I wrote:

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

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

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

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

Both Carol and Maria, along with others, are working to convince a judge to stop aerial spraying of herbicides by timber companies on private land they own, huge portions of the state, in fact, abutting communities, river and creek systems, property owners’ homes, etc. This coming June 1, a group of local activists — citizens, home owners, those with a few acres of “property” — face down the judge in the case that ended a two year temporary stay on aerial spraying of chemicals so closely linked to the Agent Orange formula, that herbicide which is a brother of another mother (Agent Orange).

Judge Overturns Lincoln County Ban On Aerial Pesticides | KLCC

The people who wrote an ordinance banning the aerial spraying of pesticides in western Oregon last year [2017] aren’t professional environmental advocates. Their group, Lincoln County Community Rights, has no letterhead, business cards, or paid staff. Its handful of core members includes the owner of a small business that installs solar panels, a semi-retired Spanish translator, an organic farmer who raises llamas, and a self-described caretaker and Navajo-trained weaver.

And yet this decidedly homespun group of part-time, volunteer, novice activists managed a rare feat: They didn’t just stop the spraying of pesticides that had been released from airplanes and helicopters in this rural county for decades. They also scared the hell out of the companies that make them, according to internal documents from CropLife America, the national pesticide trade group. Although some of the world’s biggest companies poured money into a stealth campaign to stop the ordinance, and even though the Lincoln activists had no experience running political campaigns, the locals still won. — Source

Raining Weedicides

This above was also written by Lerner of The Intercept. The article’s headline — “How a Ragtag Group of Oregon Locals Took on the Biggest Chemical Companies in the World . . . and Won” — speaks to a common “liberal” form of journalism which seems to harken all these amazing hopeful signs of American democracy (sic) at work, with all the elements of (almost) patronizing the “locals” who in the headline writer’s eyes, are a “ragtag” bunch. It’s always nice to have a Karen Silkwood (Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma, which made plutonium pellets) or Lois Gibbs (she discovered that her 5-year-old son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York, was built on a toxic waste dump; Love Canal) highlighted in these stories.

For the Intercept, having these activists in Lincoln County working to stop aerial spraying is a David vs Goliath environmental script ready for Netflix prominence. The group, Lincoln County Community Rights (I’ll get to Spokane in a sec), worked hard to get the gumption and impetus going for this to end up on the ballot. But in USA, you can vote for no added two or three mile runway for an airport, but that goes out the window for the greater good — they call it the greater good for the community or public, but it is all about greater good of the pocket book. This is typical in societies, all part of the rapaciousness of industrialized and now digitized societies. “You hate noisy new airport runways? Get some earplugs.”

I’m just reading how Zoom-Google Hangouts will be the way of the future for doctors visits (and school, college, work, court, and more). Imagine, articles just before the planned-demic (SARS-CoV2) on how poorly western medicine is doing with diagnostics, with integrated medicine, with hands on medicine, without a compassionate treat-the-whole-person modality. It’s just more of the more bad. These court cases are on Zoom, and now evictions across the country are Zoomed, but with no time for individuals making a statement to the judge, to the court. Many eviction hearings are lumped together on Zoom. Dozens at a time, which is against certain inalienable rights in the constitution.

Give the bastards an inch, and they will take a mile.

THE POISON PAPERS - - Live Fearlessly, Compassionately and Honestly

Laws against protesting. Real murderous laws allowing drivers to run down and murder protestors.

I remember the anti-Monsanto protest in Portland. At the Lloyd Center. We did make it to the roads, and while much of the protest was “permitted” in the sense the organizers got all the paperwork done for an announced, planned peaceful event, there was no telling how many people would break off.

Impede traffic at the giant mall? Shoot, how many states are passing “run over them if you feel triggered, in danger.” Passing those right to run over pedestrians, AKA terrorists, ordinances is big on Republican governors’ list of important things to do. Stand your ground is now “pedal to the metal” laws — get the riffraff out of the way.

Protesting the pesticides in a small town like Toledo, OR, might be an invitation to the Timber Unity folk and the people coming out of the woodwork who love their open carry permits, love taunting peaceful protestors. And the local pigs, well, they are in the same camp — any protestation against “industry” or the capitalist way, well, that is clear and present danger to the public, the community, to their own fascist leanings.

When I was there with my 16-year-old daughter, I did look for exit paths in case the pissed off automobile drivers behind us decided to go “postal.”

Just having a bumper sticker in many parts of Oregon declaring anti-spraying could get you good, let alone a bumper sticker against Timber Unity (there are none). Having a bumper sticker calling Monsanto a poisoner, that too, a rock through the windshield. I have had rocks thrown two car windows, two trucks “keyed,” and a motorcycle kicked over for some sort of advocacy bumper sticker I plastered on.

Bans by any other Name — Attacking the Corporations’ Bottom Line

Beyond Pesticides is an advocacy group looking at the devastating effects of pesticides on community health — the avian, aquatic, terrestrial and human communities. As an organization, they function as a great clearing house of information on the various poisons used in industrial capitalism’s gift to the world: factory farming. The Lincoln County aerial spray ban may have passed in May 2017 with 64 yeah votes over the nay ones, of the total 14,000 votes cast, but it was one of more than 200 local measures that do some form of “restricting” of pesticides (weedicides, fungicides, fumigants, herbicides, rodenticides, and the like). Many communities have passed protective measures that surpass basic limits set by the feds, the EPA. Some have banned glyphosate (Roundup). The first community ban or restriction was passed in 1970 in Maine.

Frack Attack Ground Zero: Democracy Schools in Pennsylvania | The Future of Occupy

Nationwide, 71 communities from across the political spectrum have passed either rights-of-nature or community-rights statutes, said Craig Kauffman, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, whose research focuses on legal and political arguments for the rights of nature.

Part of the motivation behind the campaign is to put ecosystems on an equal footing with corporations, which already have personhood rights under federal law. “Where we often see these campaigns is in rural communities that don’t want outside corporations coming in and destroying the ecosystems and watersheds,” Kauffman told me. With the twin pressures of climate change and biodiversity loss mounting, people are looking for new ways to fight back on the local level, he said.

— Carl Segerstrom, “Can a campaign for nature and community rights stop aerial spraying in Oregon?”

So, this upcoming June 1, the case will be made to reverse this judge’s action, which she declared in September of 2019: Judge Sheryl Bachart ruled that the county ordinance was pre-empted by an Oregon law that allows, with basic state-approved restrictions, aerial spraying of pesticides on forests and prohibits local governments from making any ordinance, rule or regulation governing pesticide sale or use. “Where local enactments are found incompatible with state law in an area of substantive policy and explicit preemption, state law will displace the local law,” she wrote.

Lincoln County, Oregon, voters approved the “Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides” ordinance. That was May 2017. It was a first-in-the-state law recognizing residents’ rights to clean air, water, and soil, their right to local community self-governance, and the Rights of Nature to exist, flourish, and evolve.

Soon after, the timber industry lawyered up — sued the county to overturn the ordinance, stating this Oregon county (or any county) had no right or authority to pass it (this sort of community rights legal codes) in the first place, and that this ordinance/law “adversely affected” them. This is a tactic used in Capitalism, whichever form you want to qualify your pro/quasi-pro capitalism with: predatory, usury, parasitic, disaster, casino, zombie — which has put a stranglehold on communities who vote to not allow some industry into town. Suing for imagined future losses (out of thin air profits), these Mafia corporations wrote the playbook on predatory capitalism. They time and time again, bring in an army of legal vultures to do battle with cash-strapped counties and municipalities threatening them with years of expensive litigation if a city or county prohibits their siting and industrial processes in that locality.

You don’t need to go back too far in history to see how industry works —

Hmm, many in my league just wrote about the 107th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, simply, a mass killing by a militia, anti-striker thugs during this period called the Colorado Coalfield War. This is the score — soldiers from the Colorado National Guard and then private guards/mercenaries in the employ of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) attacked peaceful Occupiers: a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families. That was April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, and while 21 people, including miners’ wives and children, were murdered, the infamous John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a part-owner of CF&I, got away with it, with just a “talking to” during a US congressional hearing.

They Have the Big Ticket Lawyers 

The right to your own labor, to strike, to refuse an illegal or dangerous order. The right to tell your supervisor things are smelly in Denmark. The right to expose malfeasance and shoddy manufacturing and death-creating products. The right to question the killer ingredients in chicken McNuggets?

It’s shoot to kill now, if as a citizen, you want to photograph clearcutting plots, animal factory farms, fracking facilities, even fields of GMO Franken-Corn.

When a community declares it is against war, against nukes, anything, the long arm of government and corporations comes in upper-cutting hard. Worse, though, is the longer arm of the mob, the herd, the bandwagoneers. Propaganda is a valuable tool of fascists and Madison Avenue, of governments and of right-wing movements. And let it be clear there is no real left left when that person announces his or her Democratic Party allegiances. Shifting the center to the right has been witnessed by yours truly my entire lifetime as a journalist — it is embarrassing how so-called weekly alternative newspapers are as right-wing as Mitt Romney. Let alone the massive experiment on the populous for this continual shifting baseline disorder. One day a few months ago, Big Pharma was despised in poll after poll. Now, Big Pharma wins the Nobel Prize collectively. Imagine the billions Pitzer has paid out in lawsuits, single ones and class action. Imagine that, and now imagine the profit hoarders, the mercenary capitalists, making billions on this jab-jab-jab jabberwocky.

Imagine the thugs the thugs hire to do their bidding, their dirty work. Imagine the Sisyphus of it all now, now that not just companies like Comcast, but their competitors, too, and entire countries, use app’s to send in faked and false comments to politicians. Imagine that, Sisyphus. The new normal is citizens scrounge up people to push a bill like the aerial spray moratorium, and then, imagine, those great software engineers and former military agents setting up companies that set loose false statements, push propaganda to a new level.

This article is being algorithm spun and any and all parties mentioned herein will be putting me on another watch list, or black list, but since I am just Don Quixote, I’m small potatoes, maybe even insane in their eyes.

I know I am on some FBI lists since some of the groups I was associated with have been surveilled by the Felonious Bureau of Inhumanity.

Try the Google search tool on “Dow” or “Agent Orange” or on “Timber Unity.” You’ll get more and more accolades, fewer and fewer critical hits. The rich have their Google tools and worldwide web cast far and wide.

It’s like this: You can lose your job as a pig/cop for calling an African American the racist term, n—–, but you keep your job if you put a bullet to the back of the head of that came black man while in uniform.

How does this all relate?

Community Standards?

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World: Boyd, David R.: 9781770412392: Amazon.com: Books

Again, communities taking control of their boundaries, their health, safety and welfare? Communities defunding the police. Communities putting the brakes on growth, on building and construction trades, on projects that impede healthy traffic loads. Communities demanding smoke stacks not release toxic chemicals. Imagine that, in Newport, where the largest users of our freshwater system — a brewery and the shrimp industry. You think there is pushback on those two outfits?

Who will sit on the water board? Who will be at the table when more scrutiny hits the beer and shrimp industry?

Then the Chamber of Commerce, and then the Rotarians, and then all manner of people saying, “We need jobs, we need infrastructure, we need corporation x and company y in town. Putting all these limits on their growth, on their profits, on their business model, is antithetical to capitalism. They know best. They hire the best engineers, the best economists, the best communicators, the best scientists. You do-gooders know nothing about running a business, keeping the lights on, building employment bases, providing a culture to a community. You are against all growth.”

Rights of Nature | CELDF | Championing Nature & Communities

Growth is that timber industry buying up more and more parcels of land, and, in fact, insurance companies and other investment portfolio “holders” own (sic) this land. In fact, you can own your 100 acres, but if you got snookered thirty years ago by needing some shekels to keep going, you ended up working with shifty insurance and timber companies to “grant them the right to come in and sustainably log said designated acreage in 30 or 40 years . . .  here’s how much big money we will give you up front to keep those beautiful trees growing big and healthy and keeping that air clean and all those streamlets pure.”

This is reality, man. People in their 60s or 70s who came out here in the 1970s, now have seen their property cut down vis-à-vis those three- to five-decades old contracts.

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

–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki in his acceptance speech for Right Livelihood Award

The model of forestry is to use it all as a commodity, to manage it (control and destroy it), to turn real ecologies into tree plantations. Some people call these places out here, deserts:

Fish Do Grow on Trees

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

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

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

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

Laws only on Hold

The Lincoln County law held for over two years, preventing aerial application of pesticides. This got under the skin of the coalition of people and businesses in that so-called Timber Unity outfit.

The rule of law, of course, supports every aspect of predatory and disaster capitalism.

That judge in September of 2019 wrote: “Oregon does not recognize an independent right of local community self-government that is fundamental, inherent, inalienable, and constitutional.”

This is a battle line fought in many communities.

“Though this decision will be appealed on the grounds of denying the exercise of the right of local self-government, it also serves as positive energy to move the amendment forward so ultimately people, not corporations, decide the fate of their communities,” said Nancy Ward, coordinator for the Oregon Community Rights Network.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lincoln County Community Rights in drafting the law and representing them as an intervenor in the case. CELDF also sought to represent the Siletz River watershed’s interests in the case. The judge denied intervention.

Appeals were filed by Lincoln County Community Rights and the Siletz River watershed. They have their proverbial day in court June 1, 2021. This is from their May 8 press release:

Colorado Community Rights Network - 帖子| Facebook

Lincoln County Community Rights, the non-profit organization that placed Measure 21-177 on the ballot, filed an appeal against invalidation of the measure. The Siletz River Ecosystem also appealed the trial court decision to deny it intervention in the case. Oral arguments will be heard virtually Tuesday, June 1, 2021 in the morning session.

Speaking on behalf of the Siletz River Ecosystem, Carol Van Strum notes that ”securing rights of the river to exist, thrive and be protected from poisoning by aerial spraying is part of a global movement of tribal and other entities to grant natural systems standing to defend themselves in our courts.”

What is at stake is whether state government exists to protect people’s rights to save themselves and their environment from poisoning, or to protect industry’s right to poison people and their world for profit.

Community Rights | Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Pollution, Death, Cancer — The Price of The Story of Stuff

There have been more than the immediate effects on residents exposed to these chemicals: severe headaches, rashes, respiratory problems, and nosebleeds. Pets, livestock and wild animals exposed to spraying have died. Doctors and other medical professionals have been stating for years that long-term exposure to chemicals like glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine (just a few of the major ones used by the logging industry) can injure the liver and kidneys. The number of stillborn and miscarriages and babies with intellectual, learning and developmental disabilities is high in areas where these chemicals are sprayed.

Yet, the reality is Capitalism is all about “might makes right,” and as is true of any of the x, y, z you-name-it industries, in Oregon, the logging and chemical industries hold the Damocles sword (in the form of political influence) over the heads of all Oregonians. As is true every time, when these x, y, z you-name-it industries’ actions put people at risk, and ecosystems, one might believe there is a moral imperative for legislative and regulatory bodies to have a legal righteous imperative to intervene. The very idea of keeping industry spraying and industry land holdings secret should strike anyone believing in a democracy as both wrong and harmful to the public’s interest. Oregonians should have a right to determine which chemicals are verboten, but also, there has to be a set systems of do no harm, at any cost to the capitalist interests.

Solutions like having no-spray buffers from chemical drift speak to the inability of Oregon and other governments to hold them accountable. The Community Rights organization is in this to make sure state agencies work to protect our health by protecting wildlife, water, and not just private property.

Shielding politically influential industries from accountability is the name of the game, but community bill of rights movements have been proposed (and defeated in court, and the ballot box) to do exactly that — penetrate the obfuscation in order to hold them accountable and to derive their own agency to decide what a community deems safe.

The fact is we have let capitalism frame all debates, so, if there are movements to, say, stop animal cruelty in the agricultural arena, those movements should be part of the public interest, backed by government scientists and planners in concert with real science.

We can read a headline in the pro-farmer-rancher, Capital Press, “Anti-animal ag initiative raises alarm among Oregon farm groups … protections for livestock producers under the state’s animal cruelty laws,” but that entity, so-called journalism, will never access or refer to studies going back 20 years on the enormous amounts of cruelty the factory farming does to animals.

Here is an amazing source: Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systemic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food or Food Production . Animals raised for food or food production in the United States are, in large part, excluded from legal protection against cruelty. For Oregon, that’s Initiative Petition 13, which all the farmers and ranchers and producers call anti-ag, and backed by animal rights extremists. Never will this source be cited by a Capital Press or what-have-you.

The Right for Future Magic Profits — Sue the Town

The same sort of mumbo-jumbo is leveled at people like Maria and Carol and the entire movement to put a stop to poisons in the air, water, soil. The fact a community group has to set forth an initiative process to get a spray ban even on the ballot box, up against the compliant media, the huge coffers of money to spend on propaganda by the timber and chemical industries, is not democracy at work.

Nature's rights: a new paradigm for environmental protection

For me, the history (my personal one) of a community bill of rights comes from a body of work tied to a community’s right to set the standards for human and ecological health, as well as the standards for labor and health and welfare. My own background includes 10 solid years in Spokane, and I was part of the push for the Envision Spokane, Community Bill of Rights, which bestowed legal rights on the Spokane River, granted residents the right to block development in their neighborhoods and given employees workplace protections. The kicker was to restrict any corporation’s “rights” that might be conflicting with the measure — conflicting with the community’s guidelines and values.

It took a coalition of business groups and governmental entities to sue, and the Washington Supreme Court “gave a victory to local business groups after unanimously ruling that Envision Spokane’s sweeping Community Bill of Rights ballot measure was outside of the initiative process and should not go before voters.”

Note the verbiage in the quotation marks. Very telling how business groups (backed by big bucks, and out-of-state bucks) is stated as a “coalition”, as opposed to being correctly labeled as a lobbying entity, special interest group, an anti-voter league. The media and press are spokespersons for the business community. Rocking the boat (taking a stand, or looking at community and nature bills of rights with a deeper analysis) is not part of the DNA of most co-opted media/Press entities.

UNA AMARGA NIEBLA Y LOS POISON PAPERS | CIENCIA SIN MIEDO

At least High Country News gave LCCR a better shot at their story than other sources:

Anti-spray activists are appealing — and going after the pre-emption law itself. They say that the state and federal government shouldn’t be able to prevent locals from seeking greater protections for community and environmental health. It’s a new twist on long-running efforts by rural Westerners to gain more power. Traditionally, rural counties in Oregon and across the West have sought to undo state and federal environmental protections and open up land for logging and other industries. Now, Lincoln County residents want the power to create additional environmental protections, which they believe are necessary to end corporate political dominance and protect their health.

A bird's-eye view of Oregon's clear-cuts | Street Roots

Murder, Broken Bodies, Poisons — A Tale of Too Many Counties

Just read some of the stuff here on the chemical industry, the state regulators, and more. Carol Van Strum, in her book, A Bitter Fog, and also when one talks with her, demonstrates the sacrifice of her activism — she lost four children in a fire at their cabin/house during the heated battle she was having with the chemical companies and forest service. She stated to me that the fire chief felt the fire was suspicious. Carol is clear that something wasn’t right that evening when she went to a neighbor’s with freshly baked bread and returned to her four children’s lifeless bodies from the fire.

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

The dedication in her non-fiction book is emblematic of the struggle Carol has undergone: “For my children, Daphne, Alexey, Jarvis and Benjamin Van Strum.”

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

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

This article was to be a precursor to the Lincoln Community Rights court case this June 1. However, for me, this is more than that, much deeper to, as we are all running into the gauntlet of US “rule of law.” The game is rigged, and you can ask anyone, not just public citizen Ralph Nader.

Describing the United States as an “advanced Third World country,” longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. “It is not too extreme to call our system of government now ‘American Fascism.’ It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism,” Nader says.

Interviews

I end this long article with my interview of Maria Kraus and Debra Fant, two of the Lincoln County Community Rights activists:

Paul Haeder: What personal stake do you have in this fight to ban aerial spraying?

Maria Kraus: Personal stake? Every person aware of what is going on with our ecosystems, how they are unraveling due to ravenous extraction from them and toxic spraying on them to increase profits derived from extraction, has a stake in the effort to save the planet from becoming uninhabitable. This is a fight that is everyone’s fight, in which the personal examples of deadly illnesses, malformations, pain, hunger, and misery, together with the sight of degraded ecosystems, streams drying up, vanishing wildlife species are what should make this a universal fight.

Debra Fant: As a person who lives in coastal forest and appreciates clean cold water to drink for myself, my family, my community, I am highly motivated to end use of toxic chemical combinations from industrial tree farms in our watersheds.

PH: Fiftieth Anniversary of Silent Spring. Ironically with your case being heard next month. Any comments about this fact with reference to that below, here –

MK: Rachel Carson’s voice was the first to sound out publicly about the danger of using chemicals, DDT in her experience, not only to people, but to the environment. She held that chemicals should be studied for their effects on living organisms, soil, water, and air before being released into the environment.0

In other words, she insisted on the Precautionary Principle, according to which, chemical substances are not considered safe for use until proven to be so. However, industry, which dominates government here and in many other countries, believes that “business is business”, and that the profit motive has priority in all business decisions. Accordingly, the world has been freely experimenting with thousands of chemicals regardless of their possible effects on all forms of life and on the environment. The din of profit-making silenced Rachel Carson’s voice. Not only did use of chemicals proliferate during the many decades since Silent Spring was published, but chemicals used for war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, which were banned while the war was still going on due to the harm they caused to people exposed to it, started being used as herbicides in the US afterwards. There was a massive surplus of them and that could not be wasted. A market had to be found for them. Meantime, production of some chemicals has been banned only to make room for reformulations of their ingredients in new chemical products launched by the thousands into the market, with only a fraction going through testing. The EPA, created under the Nixon administration, has functioned, in Nixon’s own words, as a “buffer between industry and the public”, to make people believe they are being protected rather than to actually protect them.

Industry tests its own products, and regulations are written to stop only the most extreme and obvious harms, ensuring that they remain effective for the purposes that industry produces them, and, with that, harmful to every living organism that comes into contact with them. The evolution of chemical use is glaring proof that government, in the US especially, is of, by, and for profit-driven industry, not for the health, safety, and welfare of the people and the places where they live.

DF: Biocides – “any substance that can kill living organisms,” came out of chemical warfare after WWI and became chemical warfare in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The US Congress stopped the military use of Agent Orange four years before the war ended because of the harms to people, land, water, wildlife, and food crops. Why then was it sprayed on timber lands of our county and elsewhere in Oregon? It not only killed plant material but created deformed farm animals, aborted elk and deer fetus’ with defects, and babies born without brains. These experiments on living people and communities confirmed toxicity of forever chemicals that do not degrade or disappear The US Government agencies and industry collaborated for profits, corruption rampant in safety testing protocols, and so called scientific results suppressed or simply changed to support the lies that these chemicals are “safe” when label instructions are followed. Rachel Carson warned us and spoke clearly the dangers yet industry and regulatory agencies were motivated by greed, dazzled by man-made innovations without the wisdom to question destructive practices. If this is an intelligence test, I fear the human family is flunking.

PH: So Carson took up her cudgels. Her book is not a mathematical theorem. It is a carefully researched, precisely reasoned, and elegantly written argument for what she passionately believed to be the public good. It is a product of her social conscience, but not the diatribe that her critics complained about. She did not call for a ban on all pesticides, but mostly for the long-lasting chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT whose movement through the environment cannot be contained and whose residues, being fat soluble, are stored in animal tissues and recycled through food chains.

“It is not my contention that chemical insecticides should never be used,” she wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potential for harm… I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effects on soil, water, wildlife, or man himself.” See Yale e360 source.

PH: Science should be “science” always in quotation marks since many in the “scientific” community (sic) adhere to a belief that chemicals have been tested extensively, and that there are no scientific connections to harms done on animals and humans at the level of dilution, say, an aerial application of said herbicides are used. Comment on this.

MK: The question is what “tested extensively” means. When does “extensively” become enough? Many of the chemicals used, in the concentrations they are used, don’t show their effects until many years after exposure, and some only in future generations.

Industry, of course, will not wait that long before launching chemicals into the market.

Once that happens, and time passes, it is hard to trace harmful effects to the chemical that caused them. In the race to justify its profitable products, the chemical industry is eager to find reasons to market them, not to refrain from doing so. Having the freedom granted to it by government, it conducts its own testing, and conveniently does so in search for the answers it needs to launch its products. The EPA accepts those results. What industry does to get chemical products approved for marketing has little to do with science, and much more with fooling the public to accept what they say. How much or for how long were flame retardants tested, or formaldehyde, before they were released for their various commercial applications?

We all know that growing food with poisons is madness, and that growing it on poisoned soil is madness too. We also know that forests have grown for millions of years without poisons, and that a mature or old-growth forest is healthier than a planted industrial one.

DF: The people of Oregon who sued the Forest Service to stop their spraying of Agent Orange in the 1970’s won their case and caused 1/2 of AO, 2,4,5, T to be de-registered. They also won a case proving that a contracted firm named IBT that EPA hired to do live animal studies of toxic chemicals used fraudulent practices and did not follow scientifically sound protocols to determine safety for the chemicals. Evidence of collusion between EPA and industry changing study results showed up in their own documents and communications which are part of the digitized “Poison Papers” online. That’s not scientific research, that is corruption.

PH: Yes, the rights of nature, yes, that’s where I come from, a deep green ecology. But for you both, how to frame that concept of a river having rights or land having rights to the average mis-educated and mis-directed citizen you might run into at a grocery store or public meeting?

MK: The argument we frequently use is that corporations are considered to be persons and have rights, and yet corporations are just a bunch of documents authorizing certain activities. Supposedly they speak through money.

Fundamental to the idea of Nature having rights is the fact that we are part of Nature and that all life is interconnected and depends on that interconnection. If we hurt one creature in the web of life, we hurt all the others that depend on it one way or another. We know that the absence or presence of wolves in an area can change the landscape of that area. If the wolves are no longer there, species that wolves predate on will multiply and eat vegetation that was abundant before. That vegetation will fail to provide nourishment, or shade, or shelter, to another species, which will not survive in that area, and so on. If starfish die, like they have in certain areas of the West Coast, sea urchins multiply exceedingly and eat all the sea grass, which is one of the main carbon sinks in the ocean. Westward winds over the Sahara Desert blow across the Atlantic Ocean and fertilize the Amazon Forest.

We all depend on Nature, and our need to protect it from human greed, crucial to its survival and that of all life, is best translated into recognition of Nature’s right to exist, flourish, and renew itself, a right which needs to be protected by laws, as perhaps the fastest way to get people to understand that transgressions against Nature have to stop. As we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just because we exist, a right that is not up for discussion (although it has and continues to be violated), the right of Nature to be itself is not up for discussion. We have treated Nature as property. That has gotten us into the predicament we are in now, being as we are in danger of losing it as a source of life. This is still a concept that is difficult for people to grasp, but more and more people are coming to terms with it.

DF: Legal rights and the ability for a harmed river or a blasted mountain to be represented in a court of law are only needed where human beings have no limit to their willingness to harm balanced ecosystems whether for extracting fossil fuels, metals, board feet of lumber, or clean drinking water. When humans lose the ability to value clean air or fertile soil in a non-monetary way, there is no end to extraction no matter the cost to wildlife, oceans, humans, and nature’s resilience. Legal rights may be the only way of keeping intact what is needed for life on this planet!

People who relate to the Earth as our Mother, a forest as our grandparents, a river as our sister are not likely to defile or poison those ones who are family. When we all live with that value, knowing when what we have is “enough” and caring for clean water more than we care about money, we won’t need legal rights for nature to exist, thrive, and persist.

PH: Construction and finance rule the world, and here in Oregon, and in the world, there is a reported lumber shortage, and now a doubling of the prices of lumber. All sorts of reasons tied to lockdowns, SARS-CoV2 and more. Anticipate the push back from the timber industry which will cite that jobs are at stake and their own scientific studies showing aerial spraying is safer and more efficient and more expeditious than crews going out on the land hand spraying.

MK: We have had that kind of pushback from the timber industry all along, going on four years now. What has changed is the number of lawsuits filed for illness caused by the use of certain herbicides (mainly glyphosate) against the chemical industry, which have resulted in billions in fines for Bayer/Monsanto. In addition, many scientific publications and presentations by environmentally aware economists, foresters, and others (see Ernie Niemi, John Talberth, Chuck Willer) have raised awareness of the harm done to the soil by aerial pesticide spraying (and other forms of spraying), such as the death of micro-organisms; acceleration of global warming and climate change provoked by clear-cutting, drying up of streams in industrial forests, which carry only 50% of the water carried by streams running through mature and old growth forests, dying of fish and other water life due to increased temperature of the water in industrial forests, decreased capacity of industrial forests to store carbon because trees are not allowed to grow to a size that permits more storage, being cut down at 30-35 years of age instead of 80-100, and chemicals reaching streams and rivers due to drift or percolation in the soil. The discussion is evolving from aerial pesticide spraying to use of any herbicides and pesticides as more and more information on their harm comes to light.

The timber industry will continue to use its old arguments unless and until the law changes, and, together with that, also building materials. Our argument centers around preemption laws, which forbid local communities from protecting their health, safety and well-being, together with that of Nature, on which all life, including ours, depends, from the ravages of the timber and chemical industry through local democracy (people’s initiatives) such as our Measure 21-177. It focuses on the fundamental duty of government to protect the people from harm, and its use of preemption laws to instead protect the right of industry to profit from activities that constantly threaten and undermine the people’s and Nature’s wellbeing. Such laws turn the people in whom constitutionally all power is inherent to the guinea pigs of industry, making them the constant subject of chemical experimentation which they quietly oversee, like silent gigantic parasites sucking on the people’s and Nature’s lives while government looks on.

DF: Toxic chemicals are not required for re-growth of trees in this temperate rain forest. it is a fallacy made up by industry who wanted a market for their chemicals just as they made up those stories for food production.

Industry has been cutting at unsustainable levels for decades and finding loopholes in the law to clear cut far more than is wise. It’s time to keep standing natural forests who work daily to absorb C02 and release oxygen, hold moisture and fertility in the soil, protect the effectiveness of watersheds’ abilities to provide clean drinking water, provide habitat and food for wildlife, cold water for fish survival. It’s time to transition to growing hemp and bamboo that are fast growing fiber crops that can be processed locally for new building materials like “hemp-crete” and provide jobs for our people.

PH: This is coming down to a legal issue, where the concepts of precautionary principles and do no harm and holding polluters and chemical companies accountable to carry out all necessary objective studies of all their chemicals before being allowed to get approval for use might be powerful to me, a deep green ecosocialist, but we live in a country where herd immunity toward understanding/respecting/caring about the whole of nature and immunity to arguments about long-term health and safety concerns are the ruling orders of the day. We are expected to believe mainstream scientists about things like vaccine safety or the approval of what, now, (scientists) have given the green light to a million tons of radioactive water being dumped from Fukushima, so why not agree with the scientists who are in the employ of DOW, Monsanto and OSU forestry program?

MK: Our fight is to change how the government works and, ultimately, to bring down capitalism and its perverted and suicidal values. Can we win? Do we have enough time left to win, as the abolitionists and suffragists did? Probably not. We can either submit to the status quo or die fighting. Everyone has that choice.

DF: Because it’s BULL SHIT!

PH: What lessons learned for both of you as you go into this hearing, going on four years since you all activated?

MK: Everything I have written here I have learned through working on the aerial spray ban, from working with a group of people who are committed to putting their efforts into improving the world we live in, to seeing the importance of working for others, of contributing to one’s community. From the harms being inflicted on our environment to how government really works, especially here, but also in varying degrees in many other countries; from working as a team, to admiring the dedication of others and the varying forms in which it is expressed, and also appreciating the different talents that people doing the work bring to it. One of the main lessons has been to arrive at an understanding of how capitalism works, how disastrous its emphasis on profit is for the planet.

DF: I’ve learned that you can learn how to do almost anything that is unfamiliar or unknown, that commitment and truth telling are powerful and attractive forces to draw people together, that person power of volunteers can take on powerful corporate interests and make local law to protect safety and well-being, and it’s not all about the MONEY! Industry’s own public opinion polls late in the campaign showed that a majority of voters in this county did NOT want aerial spraying of pesticides and that included families who were a part of timber industry services. Would have loved to watch the Timber guys when they learned that poll results!

Two plus years without aerial spraying of toxins was a huge relief to all of us who live downstream. Listening to a spraying helicopter within a mile of my home after that was traumatic and made me cry for the streams getting poisoned, any life forms remaining on the steep slopes, for the ignorance of those who believe the spin and lies told about toxic chemicals being “safe.”

PH: In your own words, respond to: “Our argument is that the local government exists to protect public health and safety and should be immune from pre-emption laws that prevent them from doing so,” said Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin. “State preemption is a weapon of corporate special interests, which can more easily control state legislatures rather than deal with counties and local governments that are closer to the people.”

MK: I believe that preemption can be used for different purposes, and can be necessary (such as preemption of racism, violence, slavery, etc.) It is being used to protect corporate interests at the expense of public health and safety. That is the use we object to. Local governments should be able to enact more stringent laws than the state to protect the people’s and Nature’s health, safety and wellbeing (ceiling preemption, which prohibits more stringent protections of safety and health than the state has imposed, is what we are fighting). In that sense local governments should be able to complement the state government, because they are closer to the people. Preemption interferes with that closeness.

DF: Amen. Who cares more for finding solutions to local problems than the people who live there? Who will value and care for the land on which we live, work, play any more than we will?

End Note — Calling an Eichmann a Little Eichmann

Ward Churchill was vilified, dragged through the racist media mud, and afforded no due process and no 1st Amendment rights. Every time I open up the laptop and put fingers to illuminated keyboard, I feel the wrath of the overlords and Mafia thugs at the back of my neck. An Eichmann or a Little Eichmann are men and women who keep the trains running, the chemical spigots open, the bad science running, and the ruling class stashing their profits into every imaginable unethical and illegal tax shelter and “it takes money to make more money” scheme imaginable.

I see Little and Big Eichmanns in the vast military industrial complex, and the chemical-mining-extraction complex. This “complex” we call MIC is vastly more than just military industrial complex because our wars, our saber rattling, our sanctions, our dirty dealing, or incursions into other cultures on many levels is the Complex that props up and promulgates the wars: wars against nature, wars against people, wars against cultures, wars against diversity, wars against thought. There are millions of Eichmanns in the drug, medical, prison, education, law, finance, banking, real estate, AI complex. Herbicides is one small part of the Eichmann Show. But again, the vastness of the crime — from scientists, salespersons, governments, agencies, universities, state bureaucracies, media, press — is illustrative of capitalism on steroids: profits at any cost; secrecy; off-loading the harms to the people; welfare for the rich/corporations; unfair economies of scale; monopolies; a cabal of lawyers/judges/politicians working for them and against the people. Eichmanns big and small.

It is obvious that the University (U of Colorado)  would never have begun its investigation of Ward Churchill were it not for his “little Eichmanns” comment, which he made as a citizen, not as a scholar or as a representative of the University. It is also obvious that dismissing Churchill from his position as a professor at the University violated his First Amendment rights. Most U.S. citizens will agree that what keeps America vital are the freedoms enjoyed by its citizens, foremost of which is speech. Without free speech, the U.S. is just another totalitarian state. This is why citizens must jealously guard the rights of their fellow citizens to express opinions, even opinions with which they disagree or that anger them. If Churchill is not allowed to speak freely, none of us are.

It was Churchill’s essay of September 12, 2001, that drew attention to him — an essay that called victims of the attack on the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns.” For four years the essay, titled “Some People Push Back,” went unnoticed, but in 2005 it caught the attention of faculty and administrators at Hamilton College in New York, and from there it went viral, becoming the topic of nonstop media commentary that lasted for months. Source

I supported Ward when he came to Eastern Washington University in Cheney (Spokane), and I supported him before that, and afterward. How many times have I used the Little Eichmanns rejoinder, uh? Death to me a thousand times over! That was 16 years ago when the radical violent Zionists and Israel Firsters went after him. Now? It’s as if all those chickens have come back in droves to roost, and they are taking a huge salmonella shit on us all. If you think you are radical and voted for Harris-Biden, you are in that muck, shit. The liberal project, the neoliberal bent, the neocon drive, the emptiness of cancel culture, all of that, it’s come to haunt the liberals.  For socialist communists like myself, those chickens are just another version of “Whitey On the Moon“.

“Some People Push Back” On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
By Ward Churchill

When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously – and quite charitably, all things considered – replied that it was merely a case of “chickens coming home to roost.”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well.

Lurleen |
The post A Spray by any Other Name: Agent Orange or Clear-cut Agent? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fish Do Grow on Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is imgp0627.jpg

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is imgp0681.jpg

All water flows downstream

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is imgp0671.jpg

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

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

Team players

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

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

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

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

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

Stream Fish, Flora

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

–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood Wide Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fragility in a huge forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evan Hayduk.jpg

Q&A: Evan Hayduk Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evan Hayduk3.jpg

Monkey Planet: Moore Misses the Message of the Book

The chief causes of the environmental destruction that faces us today are not biological, or the product of individual human choice. They are social and historical, rooted in the productive relations, technological imperatives, and historically conditioned demographic trends that characterize the dominant social system. Hence, what is ignored or downplayed in most proposals to remedy the environmental crisis is the most critical challenge of all: the need to transform the major social bases of environmental degradation, and not simply to tinker with its minor technical bases. As long as prevailing social relations remain unquestioned, those who are concerned about what is happening are left with few visible avenues for environmental action other than purely personal commitments to recycling and green shopping, socially untenable choices between jobs and the environment, or broad appeals to corporations, political policy-makers, and the scientific establishment–the very interests most responsible for the current ecological mess.
― John Bellamy Foster,  The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment, 1994

I am getting plethora of greenie weenies or others imploring me to watch the the Michael Moore executive produced Planet of the Humans. “You have to watch it. We are screwed. Oh my god. I never knew all this stuff about 350.org.”  It was directed, filmed (partly), edited and written by Jeff Gibbs.

In so many ways, it is a derivative flick, a “coming to Jesus” moment (several hiccups) by Gibbs. This is not good film making (the music is dull, and in some parts, downright spacey) and not good writing. But, on the heels of Trump, Obama, the green porn movement, the fake New Green Deal by AOC, Sanders and other sheepdogs (not the true ecosocialist New Green Deal – by a long shot), and the Spring Break Congress, and the totality of perversions that embody the political/K-Street/Military/AI/Finance-Investor Class (sic), anything goes, I suppose, to go after the money factories that fuel the so-called American environmental movement.

As a caveat, while I am criticizing the film’s blind-blind spots — nothing about civil society movements in Africa, in India, in Canada, in Latin America, barely a blink to one of the world’s most cogent female Indian scientists/activitists — it should not be banned as one of the leaders of the so-called journalist/writer environmental movement, Naomi Klein, has called for that. From the Soros Democracy Now:

A group of climate scientists and environmentalists, including filmmaker Josh Fox and professor Michael Mann, are calling for a new movie, executive produced by Michael Moore, to be taken offline, claiming it is “dangerous, misleading and destructive.” The film, “Planet of the Humans,” describes renewable energies like wind and solar as useless and accuses the environmental movement of selling out to corporate America. Michael Moore and the film’s director, Jeff Gibbs, have described the documentary as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows.”

The online film website Films for Action briefly took down the documentary, claiming it was “full of misinformation,” but later added it back to its site with a lengthy note.

The author and activist Naomi Klein recently tweeted, “It is truly demoralizing how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change. There are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain’t it.”

[Louis Proyect’s look at the two new green deals from AOC/Sanders versus that from Howie Hawkins and Ecosocialists, the original socialist-Marxist fight for land, food, soil, air, sea, cultures, people, animals. Proyect also writes a blog, The Unrepentant Marxist and also administers the Marxmail discussion list.]

Reading decent stuff on the various social-indigenous-cultural-ecological heroes, and reading good poetry, philosophy, fiction, well, a million times more impacting for some of us than a thousand documentaries, most of which are in the can, out the window, in the news, on the talk shows, at the film festivals, and, then, a thousand more documentaries in the making.

Social change (the good kind, not the Inconvenient Truth or Waiting for Superman kind) will not happen on Netflix, in the cyber world of YouTube, or managed by wannabe filmmakers.

I am also having a bit of acid reflux digesting this flick, The Planet of the Humans, in a time of SARS-COV-2 lock-down (that’s a prison term, folks) and a time of compliant humanity sticking to the mainstream science view of coronavirus.

Pay for success finance deals will be well served by the global vaccine market that is being advanced through Gates’s outfit GAVI. Vaccine doses are readily quantifiable, and the economic costs of many illnesses are straightforward to calculate. With a few strategic grants awarded to prestigious universities and think tanks, I anticipate suitable equations framing out a healthy ROI (return on investment) will be devised to meet global market demands shortly.

Hello everyone. Welcome to “Many Waves, One Ocean Cross Movement Summit.” I’m Alison McDowell, a mom and independent researcher in Philadelphia who blogs at wrenchinthegears.com. I started my activism around public education, first fighting standardized testing, then ed-tech, and eventually realized the push by global finance to turn everything into data for the purpose of digital surveillance and profit meant I had to expand my work beyond schools and start digging into the global poverty management complex.

I organize with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, an independent anti-poverty group that is led by the poor and does not take corporate or foundation money. We’ll be marching on the Democratic National Convention on July 13 to take back the 67 cents of every government dollar spent on war and occupation. We are demanding it be used care for the poor here at home. Check us out and consider joining us in the streets of Milwaukee!

People have been led to believe the purpose of these goals is to address poverty and avert climate catastrophe. As a mother who lives in a city of deep poverty and who works at a public garden, I believe those are admirable goals. It is imperative that we address wealth inequality and begin to heal our planet.

But as a mother who has been researching innovative finance, emerging technologies, and racialized power, I also know there is more to the story than is being told in the media. And so today I will outline how powerful interests are using the Sustainable Development Goals to mask their plans to remake the world as a digital panopticon. What follows is a story of social entrepreneurship, greed, and technological authoritarianism. Its foundations are built on our nation’s history of racial capitalism, eugenics, and the rise of technocracy.
Vaccines, Blockchain and Bio-capitalism

A little hard to stomach this new flick, Planet of the Humans, as I am out of work on two of my gig jobs, and the other job is about getting cash assistance to households where I am best face to face with them, but alas, this hysteria, this complete breakdown of common sense and urgency for just decent masks and gloves (free, of course), has caused the healthy to be lock-downed. Police state? You betcha. Surfers are getting tickets for surfing on our beaches.

Daily, the human toll of this lock-down stupidity in Oregon is real. Yet, like compliant children, the greenie types, the so-called environmental movement types, and the pro-science-is-our-savior liberal types will not stand for any challenge to their narrative – we must lock-down until 2022, according to Harvard scientists. So, the democratic governor, Kate Brown, implores us to lock-down, threatens us with tickets, and, oh, 84,000 new unemployment claims in the state, and I am not getting through that bureaucracy, too stupid to not-fail!  No dole for me and thousands of others.

Deaths by the millions in the coming months with this lock-down — globally. Not from the novel most-probably weaponized or at least messed-with bat virus, but from poverty, starvation, and lack of medical care for all the other illnesses and diseases and ailments hitting humankind.

In poor countries? The toll is never on the forefront of the greenie weenies’ minds. Covid-19 and our disappearing civil liberties and privacy rights

Nor is the toll on Gibbs’ mind in this flimsy flick.

But back to reality:

We have some Guatemalans up here on the Oregon Coast. Workers. Families. Some are not literate in English or Spanish. No more hotel cleaning gigs, dishwasher gigs, working in the forest collecting salal gigs.

These families are afraid to go to the food banks (big, gangly and some mean-looking white folks there collecting and handing out food) and afraid of any social services agencies. You know, deportation, put in lock-down in containment dog kennels a la ICE. Now that’s a fun prospect for a bioweaponized or laboratory-induced  novel coronavirus.

Some of them have been yelled at by our fine upstanding white original illegal aliens: “Chinks … you brought this corona over to us. What are you still doing here?”

These are Guatemalans!

The Wrong Sort of Green is also the wrong sort of agriculture, and the wrong kind of medicine, wrong kind of education, wrong kind of law, wrong kind of computing, wrong kind of carceral state, wrong kind of, well, you get the picture. It’s all wrong because of capitalism. Yet, this movie goes right to us, the rest of the world included, as a cancer. As over-consuming, over-populating, over-reaching, you know, the Population Bomb language of “sterilize the masses” folk.

Bad, bad, bad. Crackpot, crackpot, crackpot.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Or dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.

These are nice words for this superficial, sound-bite, dumb-downing thing of a movie.

On the 50th earth day anniversary we get to view it. It might get some stuff right – the fake green-renewable movement, but it gets the major stuff wrong: Capitalism has run amok, not the other way around. The hordes have not run amok against the good of capitalism, but have been colonized, co-opted, delegitimized, stolen from, used as a large populace of Guinea pigs for the economic syphilis that is Capitalism.

And the underlying message is population control. They great white hope of Michael Moore and I guess Jeff Gibbs is really the underpinning of the flick – and no credence is given to the millions upon millions of people fighting this bastardization of humanity, of life, called Western Capitalism. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of groups that Gibbs could have put front and center who are local, indigenous, part of the peasant movement, others, who are real forest protectors and water protectors and life protectors.

Making fun of the alternative energy folk is like shooting fish in a barrel. And, the underlying message, the grace note here, is that because all humans and cultures are alike (NOT) we as one species (debatable) are a cancer, all in it for me-myself-and-I. Just way too many of us.

Just the way this flick opens up says it all. The documentary poses the stupid question: How much time do you think the human race has? You know, man-woman-child person on the street quippy takes.

Gibbs is at a solar festival (in the beginning, and then at the end of this flick) and makes fun of the band not getting the solar energy power when the clouds open and rain shuts down this system and they have to go back to the electrical grid.

Jump to Obama and Van Jones and Al Gore. To the white race, Richard Branson. Then 60 Minutes is clipped in. Have we been here before with this sort of documentary making? Come on, do I have to list the other hundreds of documentaries that follow this script?

Then onto Michael Bloomberg. Sierra Club. Bill 350.org McKibben. Segue to “making fun” of the Chevy Volt, electric cars, wind turbines, biomass, etc.

All of this has been exposed years ago (2001), a la Cory Morningstar (2018):

Throughout history, greed has proven to be lethal. Greed and justice cannot co-exist.

The premise that “greed can save us” is void of all ethics. It stems from either desperation or denial, or perhaps both combined.

Perhaps McKibben’s 350.org/1Sky partner – Climate Solutions (who McKibben praised/promoted in a recent article) – will soon see their wish list of “sustainable aviation,” biofuels and carbon offsets morph into a global reality. 350.org/1Sky partner Climate Solutions was a key player in the creation of 1Sky – an incubator project of the Rockefellers, who are pushing/funding REDD (the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program) and many other false solutions that ensure power and monetary wealth remain exactly where it is – in the hands of the few.

Of course, James Hansen’s magic wand (which Hansen himself sometimes refers to) will be most imperative for such false solutions to succeed in cooling the planet and stopping the eradication of most life on Earth.

Do we reject biofuels, carbon offsets, the greenwash and delusional concepts like “sustainable aviation”? Or do we reject these false solutions only when promoted directly by industry and government? If we do reject false solutions outright, why do those who claim to seek climate justice turn a blind eye when our “friends” and “partners” support these false solutions that we must fight against?
Why I Refuse To Promote Bill McKibben

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the warriors in this Gibbs’ frame: How many indigenous people have been murdered in the past 20 minutes? Land defenders. The people of the earth who are less than 7 percent of the population but are in 80 percent of the jungles and rain-forests and mangroves, deltas, islands.

So, this fellow, Gibbs, in 2020 when this documentary was released, came to the conclusion recently that the green energy revolution isn’t going to work? Really? This has been posited for more than 20 years easily.

Twenty-five minutes into this sad sack of a movie and its whites, man, mostly males (one female anthropologist), and it’s just more declaiming the green energy folk – and no one ever in the ecosocialist movement saw solar panels and wind turbines and ethanol as green or efficient or, hmm, localized and social just. But you think an ecosocialist is interviewed? Nope!

After 30 minutes in, no great people who have studied, looked at and been on the front lines of the biggest elephant in the room: “It is easier to see a world without people than without capitalism.”

Fredric Jameson’s famous quote, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism,”  should have been posited at the top of the documentary.

Do you believe there can be a better world, localized, scaled down, tied to human rights and indigenous wisdom than a world without consumerism, capitalism?

Or, better yet, the questions –

What is parasitic capitalism? What is predatory capitalism? What is disaster capitalism? What is casino capitalism?

Then, sure, another question:

What is the cost to humanity, to those billions in the world not part of the Western White Tradition of Neoliberalism-Neoconservativism-Colonialism-Slavery, that the military industrial complex unleashes to the world?

Nah. This is just a gotcha sort of film  – at least it is as I am concurrently listening and watching it while also writing this critique. Okay,  42 minutes in, and one lone voice thus far, Richard Heinberg, who I interviewed 14 years ago on my radio show in Spokane, is briefly interviewed. Sound bite. His book, Peak Everything is pretty self-explanatory. He doesn’t tap into the civil society, to peasant and agrarian movements. He just tells us later on he goes to bed frightened, scared.

Whew. Peak Humanity psychosis!

That slogan captures about how Western thinking can imagine a world without humans before they can fathom any world without capitalism.  And, to be fair, the masters of the universe hope for more AI, more ways to make humanity useless, more ways to kill work, kill human learning and sharing. A world without the majority of the people AND WITH surveillance and AI-Crypto Capitalism. There you go!

What is “capitalist realism? The almost global sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it. Most of the billionaire class, most of the millionaire class, most of the people who believe in capitalism, capitalism lite, capitalism with a green smile, they are prepared for their world without people – Bill Gates and his cronies, setting the globe with his vision of massive sterilization and massive, err, vaccinations.

At minute 46, Planet of the Humans has given us more white guys and one white female anthropologist saying there is “not enough for the world,” for those billions outside this white great white way.

Looking at the numbers – and they are terrified, in Gibbs’ rendition, that the world is at 7.4 billion people, and it took hundreds of thousands of years for Homo sapiens to hit 750 million – this is the movement. Computer modeling, projections, Dystopia, but never-ever a clear-eyed look at the reason for malnourishment and disease and suffering – the few haves and the lots of haves not.  An honest look at this would really get to the cutting-edge thinkers here – just the bloody neo-tribal writer, Daniel Quinn, looks at leaver and giver society in his books featuring an ESP-abled gorilla named Ishmael.

I’m already into the flick less than an hour, and Gibbs is seeking mental health help. Climate change trauma, analysis paralysis, something. He brings in another great voice of psychology, some social psychology professor, at Skidmore College. Gibbs sets it up – The republican side believes there is an endless supply of fossil fuels, and OUR side believes the world will be saved with solar panels. Why is that?

This is it, man, them – the GOP and industrialists and Trump and Tea Party and Neo-Nazis – and us – the other side, wanting green energy and technology to get us off fossil fuel and climate change. Bingo. This is such a silly adventure in one man’s sad fear of himself – Jeff Gibbs (where’s millionaire, Hillary-adoring, the Russians are Coming, Holly-dirt Michael Moore, man, when we need a really foolish guy for a heck of a lot of laughs?). Professor Sheldon Solomon believes that people are just biotic life. That is the key to these guy’s thought process saying we as a species (all of us) have a disbelief in mortality, that this can’t be, so we just keep on with our suicidal behavior.

Jameson’s quote is often used to show how capitalism has limited the horizons of our imagination.

We don’t think of civilization as indestructible, but we do seem to think of the free market as indestructible. This, it is sometimes said, is the result of neoliberalism: as both traditionally left-wing and traditionally right-wing parties in Western countries developed a consensus that markets were the only way forward (“there is no alternative”), more and more people came to hold narrower and narrower views of the possibilities for human society. Being on the right meant “believing in free markets and some kind of nationalism or social conservatism” while being liberal meant “believing in free markets but being progressive on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation.” Questions like “how do we develop a feasible alternative to capitalism?” were off the table; the only reasonable question about political intervention in the economy became: “should we regulate markets a little bit, or not at all?

– “The left should embrace both pragmatism and utopianism“, Nathan J. Robinson

It’s as if this Jeff Gibbs just came out from a deep hole – I have been teaching this shit for more than two decades; showing students this embedded energy truth, this lifetime/life-cycle analysis of products, this green washing PR job, this green porn marketing bait and switch. Poverty pimping, man, and Green is the New Black. It’s still pimping and prostitution at a very high price.

You give the capitalists, the military industrial complex purveyors, the multimillionaires like that piece of political dung Al Gore the microphone, and then you give the billionaire class, the BlackRock class, the IMF, the forced vaccination and eugenics masters the microphone, or Clinton, Hollywood, and the Massive Messed up Mainstream Media any benefit of the doubt, and here we are.

All those white male/ white female people featured on this Planet of the Humans in the end are talking about population control, and, shoot, that says it all, now does it not?

Now, finally, a real person, a real human, Vandana Shiva, comes onto Gibbs’ stage 1:09 hours into the flick – where she gets to give a micro dose of a rejecting biomass and biofuels, emphasizing how the biggest crisis of our times is shifting our minds to give power to illusions – green capitalism – replacing fossil fuels to this so-called renewable biomass energy production, which is green capitalism, which is green pornography. She gets about 20 seconds of air time. That’s it!

“Her honesty was refreshing.” That’s it for Gibb’s commentary on Shiva, caught on camera at some Earth Day event. This is Vandana Shiva, academic, scientist, humanist and leader in fighting for billions of people subjected to the GMO lies. A warrior against toxins. If that isn’t patriarchy and patronizing and, well, malarkey, the white man doing the white people’s film song and dance, then I do not know what is.

I’ll quote Shiva here:

The “green economy” agenda being pushed in the run-up to Rio+20, or the Earth Summit, to be held in June, could well become the blueprint for the biggest resource grab in history, with corporations appropriating the planet’s green wealth and biodiversity. These corporations will take our green wealth to make “green oil” for biofuels, energy, plastics, chemicals — everything that the petrochemical era based on fossil fuels gave us. Movements worldwide have started to say no to the “green economy” of the “one per cent”, because an ecological adjustment is possible and it is taking place. This adjustment involves seeing ourselves as part of the fragile ecological web, not outside and above it, and immune from the consequences of our actions.

Ecological adjustment also implies that we see ourselves as members of the earth’s community, sharing its resources equitably with all species and within the human community. Ecological adjustment requires an end to resource grab and privatisation of our land, biodiversity, seeds, water and atmosphere. It requires the recovery of the commons and the creation of “earth democracy”.

The dominant economic model based on resource monopolies and oligarchy is in conflict not just with ecological limits of the planet but also with the basic principles of democracy. The adjustment being dictated by the oligarchy will further strangle democracy and people’s freedom of choice. Sunil Bharti Mittal, one of India’s industry captains, recently said that “politics is hurting the economy and the country”. His observation reflects the mindset of the oligarchy, that democracy can be done away with.   Green Greed – Seeds of Injustice, By Vandana Shiva

So, Gibbs goes back to gotcha land – exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of Richard Branson, the Al Gores, then Michael Bloomberg. No thanks. Not worth my time. More flashy nothing. We know Greta T. and Bill M. and Naomi  K. are all false gods, the wrong kind of green.

Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green, is a warrior for social justice, ecological justice, for a sane look at how these greenies continue to cite “it’s a global overpopulation problem” causing climate change and ecosystems collapses.  She just posted the Planet of the Humans on her website. However, this is her caveat –

WKOG caveat: Industrial civilization is destroying all life on Earth. Human destruction of biodiversity is not created equally: “Yet tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and 80% of our planet’s biodiversity is found in tribal territories.” [Further reading: The best conservationists made our environment and can save it, Stephen Corry  ] Human population is often identified as a problem because it strains the world’s resources and pollutes. [1] The first and most efficient way to address over consumption is to reduce consumption in the North is to a) redistribute the resources, (all arable land, etc.) to the Global South, to sustain those in the Global South, and b) phase out the production of all superfluous consumer products that harm life and biodiversity. [Further reading: Too Many Africans?, July 11, 2019   An analysis of population growth that accounts for the vast differences in consumption across class and region is critical in examining the worldwide environmental crisis

Let’s look at that class divide:

The top 8.5 per cent of the people own over 83 per cent of global wealth, whereas the share of the bottom 70 per cent is barely 3 per cent. The top of the pyramid is even steeper – the net worth of the top 200 wealthiest individual (at $2.7 trillion)69 is the same as that of the bottom 3.2 billion people or half the population of the whole world! Significantly these wealthiest individuals of the world were able to increase their wealth in spite of the financial crisis. According to a recent Oxfam report, in spite of a global reduction of wealth the top 100 billionaires have been able to increase their wealth by 240 billion dollars in 2012.70 These super rich, incidentally, also include individuals who have been lobbying for reduction and control of third world population and funding major programmes towards it. The state policies and the policies of international bodies seem to be aligned with the interests of the rich and powerful. These Ultra High Net worth (UHNW) also wield immense political power.

Read Cory’s work, Whitney Webb’s work, Wrench in the gears, Caitlin Johnstone —

Best yet, listen to Vandana Shiva again. This is the stuff that matters now, not a cataloging of the bad green movement, the shilling of wind farms and solar arrays and biofuels. All of this, like fossil fuels and wars and everything else that is externalized because of capitalism, all of this is subsidized by our capital, our taxes, our lives, our labor. That sports stadium? Simple thing, man. Chavez Canyon, a great working community in LA, was destroyed because the New York Dodgers moved to LA. Chavez Canyon was a place where Mexicans lived, creating their own community, their own social capital, their own roads and support systems. But the city gave the Dodgers the key to the city, gave them everything. The payoff? It’s all about the game, man. Low wage jobs, parking lots, traffic, and obscene profits to pajama-clad players and their masters – the owners and managers and collective investors.

Take it up a notch or two – the Mississippi is polluted and toxified because of industrial farming. The delta in Louisiana is polluted, and that plume of toxins goes out hundreds of miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The shrimp are polluted, all the life is polluted. Those Iowa corn syrup farmers and soy feed tenders, well, think of the warnings – “If pregnant (or wanting to be) don’t drink the well water. Don’t live on a farm. Stay away from the crop dusters. Be prepared to bury your family members who stay as they drop lie flies from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diabetes, heart anomalies, cancers and more. The gift that keeps on giving – pesticides, fertilizers, fumigants, vast piles and huge ponds and polluted rivers of blood, entrails, crap from industrial animal feeding, growing, butchering operations.

The multiple crises of climate insecurity, energy insecurity, and food insecurity create an imperative and an opportunity to transcend the limits of the mechanistic-industrial-capitalist paradigm that has been systematically shrinking our potential even as it peddles progress.

The paths out from this crisis are not being blazed in the boardrooms of the global corporations who dominate our world today and are largely responsible for crimes against nature and humanity. Industrialization of food and agriculture has put the human species on a slippery slope of self-destruction and self-annihilation. The movement for biodiverse, ecological, and local food systems simultaneously addresses the crises of climate, energy, and food. Above all, it brings people back into agriculture and reclaims food as nourishment and the most basic source of energy. New ways of thinking and acting, of being and doing, are evolving from the creative alternatives being employed in small communities, on farms, and in cities.

It is this renewable energy of ecology and sharing, of solidarity and compassion, that we need to generate and multiply to counter the destructive energy of greed that is creating scarcity at every level – scarcity of work, scarcity of happiness, scarcity of security, scarcity of freedom, and even scarcity of the future.

Climate chaos, brutal economic inequality, and social disintegration are jointly pushing human communities to the brink. We can either let the processes of destruction, disintegration, and extermination continue unchallenged, or we can unleash our creative energies to make systemic change and reclaim our future as a species, as part of the earth family. We can either keep sleepwalking to extinction or wake up to the potential of the planet and ourselves.  —Vandana Shiva 

We’ve been here before with Naomi Klein, with Al Gore, with DiCaprio, with Ted Danson, Daryl Hannah, the rest of the goofballs. Gibbs is not really doing much new here, really – The Wrong Kind of Green has been extrapolated and parsed for decades, and for him to waste this opportunity to go for the actual jugular of the cause – capitalism, western dominance in banking, structural adjustments, austerity, structural violence, economic hits, more – delegitimizes his whole thesis.

But there are also other social forces engaged in the process of resistance to the capitalist onslaught on the environment: for instance, the indigenous communities. This is another very important contribution of this book: to show that indigenous communities—direct victims of the capitalist plunder, a global assault on their livelihoods—have become the vanguard of the ecosocialist movement. In their actions, such as the Standing Rock resistance to the XXL Pipeline, and in their reflections—such as their Declaration at the World Social Forum of Belem in 2009—“they express, more completely than any other group, the common survival interest of humanity.” Of course, the urban population of modern cities cannot live like the indigenous, but they have much to learn from them.

Ecological struggles offer a unifying theme around which various oppressed constituencies could come together. And there are signs of hope in the United States, in the vast upsurge of resistance against a particularly toxic racist, misogynist and anti-ecological power elite, and in the growing interest, among young people and African Americans, in socialism. But a political revolutionary force, able to unify all constituencies and movements against the system is still lacking. Review by Michael Löwy, “From Marx to Ecosocialism” in the book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism by Victor Wallis

Alas, the best way to end the pain, to stop the rabid raccoon, I suppose, is to euthanize it. So much is wrong with Gibbs’ take on this eco-challenge. He is late out of the gate when looking at the life-cycle analysis of solar, wind and biomass. He is coming out of a deep long sleep? The documentary is not compelling. The executive producer, Michael Moore, is highly problematic. He is a capitalist, a millionaire, part of  celebrity culture, and he is part of the problem not the solution.

It all rides on the back of the minister, Thomas Malthus, in his 1798 essay on population.

Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

For Gibbs and the others he decries in the greenie weenie controlled opposition movement, they see the enemy is us, the people, or those with lesser pedigrees and more melanin. Why not just go after capitalism, and the inverted totalitarianism of Corpocracy? What about those corporations, that sticky class exploitation, how industry is set forth, and what about war? Gibbs blames all the people.

Oh, well, so many will tell me, “Paul, why don’t you write, film, edit, produce your own goddamned movie”? Sure enough, uh? I normally would not go to a movie like this, or get it from the Internet. I was only prompted by the number of emails from friends and acquaintances who just had to tell me to see this Anti-Earth Day flick. I didn’t learn anything from it substantive-wise, but I am wondering what the bearing witness for newbies to this green washing/green pornography will do with all this information about how bad solar and wind are. How bad the green groups are. How big the billions are that fund the controlled opposition and the narrative. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you? We all are colonized? We all live in the matrix? We are all co-opted by capital?

In the end the movie is more than benign. It fools us, the viewer, into a false solution, false narrative, and false causation. But my time is up, and totally bored with the concept behind this movie and how it now is generating this hoary call for, what, to watch the bloody movie? The real heroes are dying in their jungles and forests. From coffee to copper, from bananas to bitumen, from rubber to rhinos, the rapacious Western World is eating future generations from the inside out.

People just want their forty acres and a mule. Their cooperative farms. Their water and their soil. They want a few light bulbs. They want their great grandchildren’s lives back. They are done with the great white hope, the saviors, the industrialists and the investors (sic).

Outbreak zones meanwhile are no longer even organized under traditional polities. Unequal ecological exchange—redirecting the worst damage from industrial agriculture to the Global South—has moved out of solely stripping localities of resources by state-led imperialism and into new complexes across scale and commodity. Agribusiness is reconfiguring their extractivist operations into spatially discontinuous networks across territories of differing scales. A series of multinational-based “Soybean Republics,” for instance, now range across Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The new geography is embodied by changes in company management structure, capitalization, subcontracting, supply chain substitutions, leasing, and transnational land pooling. In straddling national borders, these “commodity countries,” flexibly embedded across ecologies and political borders, are producing new epidemiologies along the way.

For instance, despite a general shift in population from commoditized rural areas to urban slums that continues today across the globe, the rural-urban divide driving much of the discussion around disease emergence misses rural-destined labor and the rapid growth of rural towns into periurban desakotas (city villages) or zwischenstadt (in-between cities). Mike Davis and others have identified how these newly urbanizing landscapes act as both local markets and regional hubs for global agricultural commodities passing through.36 Some such regions have even gone “post-agricultural.”37 As a result, forest disease dynamics, the pathogens’ primeval sources, are no longer constrained to the hinterlands alone. Their associated epidemiologies have themselves turned relational, felt across time and space. A SARS can suddenly find itself spilling over into humans in the big city only a few days out of its bat cave.

COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital by Rob Wallace, Alex Liebman, Luis Fernando Chaves and Rodrick Wallace

 

Emerging from one of the most generative collaborations in the ecosocialist tradition, this collection of essays by John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark represents a critical step forward in theoretical development and recovery, with immediate relevance to contemporary political movements and debates. Foster and Clark beautifully reveal the power of historical materialism to lay bare the connection between ecological degradation, speciesism, and social domination, and therefore the necessity of a struggle that does not artificially isolate in theory and practice what is joined in reality. This is a book for serious activists seeking to understand the world in order to change all of it that needs changing, so that every living being on earth may not only survive, but finally, be free.

Hannah Holleman, author of Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of “Green” Capitalism

Long recognized as leading theorists of ecomarxism, Bellamy Foster and Clark here extend their “metabolic rift” paradigm to an impressive range of issues, including gender, food, British eco-imperialism in Ireland, “alienated speciesism,” the theory of value, and the meaning of work. The result is a powerful case that capitalism is inextricably bound up with the robbery of nature and constitutes the paramount obstacle to life on Earth as we know it.

Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research; author, Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (1963) concerns  a group of astronauts, including journalist Ulysse Merou, and their voyage to a planet in the star system of Betelgeuse (the year is 2500). They land to discover a world where intelligent apes are the Master Race and humans are savages: caged in zoos, used in laboratory experiments and hunted for sport. The story of Ulysse’s capture and his subsequent struggle to survive, and then the climax as he returns to Earth and a horrific final discovery is gripping and fantastic. Yet the novel is also a subtle parable on science, evolution, and the relationship between man and animals. Again, the master race theme is part of Boulle’s own background in the secret service fighting against the Axis powers in WW II as part of the Free French. He wrote the more famous book, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1952). This flick, Planet of the Humans, is antithetical to that altogether (master race indeed), and in some sense, the lack of people of color speaking about a better way to get through this climate-capitalism chaos is sort of reflective of Gibbs’ own blind-spot to stick to the white technologists and the white people in the green capital movement.

A Real-life Toxic Avenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol Van Strum

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

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

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

Early in A Bitter Fog:

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

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

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

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

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

Poisons 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I asked her what gives her hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Bitter Fog

We Work, They Scam: The Art of the Con in Terminal-Stage Capitalism

Recently, the ridiculous real estate company WeWork has faced intense scrutiny after their business model was absurdly overvalued and their CEO, one Adam Neumann, was exposed as an abusive boss as well as an overall crazy person. Investors from the Saudi royal family, companies like SoftBank and J.P. Morgan, and numerous venture capitalists poured vast sums of money into the company, fueling its overvaluation, which ran as high as 47 billion dollars. Unfortunately, mainstream media continues to trot out this story, as well as other famous instances of corporate fraud, corruption, and malfeasance as anomalies, aberrations. Somehow, absurd corporate business models, outright fraudulent behavior, and speculative overvaluations are seen as exceptions to the rule.

The bare truth of the matter is that various forms of fraud and cons are the rule for the vast majority of large corporations.  WeWork is basically a tiny fish in the ocean when we step back and consider the scale of cons from various transnational corporations. For more recent and humorous examples, check out Current Affairs 2019 “Griftie” Awards.

All the signs of brazen criminality are in front of us. We have to do no more than look at the public figurehead of the con economy, our own president. His personality is the distillation of the elite grifter, a hollow shell of a human, heir to a fortune which has created a uniquely toxic mix of entitlement, hubris, ignorance, and malignant narcissism; a truly pathetic man molded by late capitalism, celebrity and TV culture. His wealth bequeathed by inheritance, profits acquired through real estate scandals and “university” scams; his brain is addled by a diet of fast food; and his worldview warped by utterly deluded conservative media.

For instance, the spurious idea that 1.5 trillion in tax cuts will help grow our economy through job creation, or new business ventures, is a fraud on its face, but represents an exquisite example of capitalist propaganda. This is a lie that millions of US citizens either sincerely believe or acquiesce to due to generations of mainstream media indoctrination. As for the corporate scams cited below, there are similar factors involving coercion and propaganda, and they are similarly undemocratic: the ownership class and upper management dictate narratives in the media, how the labor is done, how the con will play out, and workers carry out immoral orders against their better judgment.

For instance, take Boeing and the two tragic crashes involving its 737 Max 8 jet. The market valuation of the company fluctuates today at around 200 billion dollars, even as it knowingly and deliberately sold its newest model without the needed software updates (MCAS), as well as without the needed sensor reading and indicator light to multiple foreign airlines, and in many cases without training pilots on the new system. Now, you might think that the software needed to keep a plane from nose-diving might come standard with the purchase of a multimillion dollar passenger jet, but you’d be wrong. In its infinite wisdom, Boeing decided to not to include the computer programmed safety features, selling them for extra and deeming them “optional.” Internal Boeing emails make clear there was systemic negligence and incompetence with the implementation of the MCAS program.

Let’s take another somewhat dated example, the behemoth Volkswagen, which had a huge emissions scandal in regard to its diesel vehicles produced from 2009-2015. Volkswagen installed “cheat software” to fool emissions tests in 11 million of its diesel cars, which, when driven for real world road tests, pumped out up to 40 times the permissible amount of nitrogen oxides. Further studies with other car manufacturers showed that many other brands were also well above the allowable limit for diesel emissions. One air pollution expert confided that the added pollution in European cities would result in “thousands of deaths.”  Volkswagen was forced to fork out 2.8 billion dollars to the US for their troubles. That might seem like a lot, but with 11 million cars sold in the process, and taking a guess and using a round number of $20,000 for each new car sold, it adds up to 220 billion in car sales just for these diesel automobiles.

Let’s shift to finance, a sector just filled with the most outlandish, craven, and fraudulent criminal activity. We could go on and on down the line from Bank of America to Wells Fargo to Deutsche Bank. By the way, media devoted to following the practices of these hallowed institutions have “scandal timelines” and lists of the “biggest scandals” just to help us make sense of the dizzying and insane levels of depravity these corporations have reached. One might think that encyclopedic chronologies and compendiums documenting these bank scams would shame and humble these corporations into adopting a semblance of corporate responsibility, but no.

Recently, Goldman Sachs has been in the news for their involvement in the 1MBD scandal. Haven’t heard of it? This was a massive scheme involving the Malaysian government and Goldman Sachs executives to sell billions of dollars worth of bonds to a giant Malaysian shell company functioning effectively as a Ponzi scheme, a “massive, international conspiracy to embezzle billions of dollars,” in the words of a wealth fund which was bilked in the process. Seventeen Goldman Sachs employees face charges in Malaysia, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein met with the disgraced Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the mastermind of the scam, one Jho Low, who is now believed to be on the run in China (check the Chinese wine caves?).

In all likelihood, these scandals are just the tip of the iceberg. Even if someone like Blankfein did time for his involvement in 1MBD, it might be analogous to Al Capone doing time for tax evasion. The amount of immoral criminality is staggering when one attempts to tally how many countries have been ripped off and commons privatized, how much land and assets seized, how many poor and vulnerable people have had benefits cut and prices of necessities jacked up to benefit a tiny elite, how many desperate people have died to serve neoliberal business models. These untold atrocities are barely hidden, and all one has to do is scratch the surface of our system to reveal the sordid deeds which must stay hidden for the economy to stay afloat and for public morale not to wane and stir folks to revolution. No one is ever held responsible for financial crimes under capitalism, just like our war criminals, even though the culprits roam free in broad daylight, and even though these crimes have devastating real world consequences.

No corporate media will ever acknowledge that these are just the cases we know about. What else lies under the surface? Who among us has the means and the guts to find out if the mainstream media won’t? If these companies are willing to go to these lengths to defraud their customers, there is really nothing they won’t do. If we knew the full scope of the Mafioso-like corruption and barbaric behavior of these multinationals, people might actually revolt and overthrow our inhumane capitalist system. Mainstream media thus has a distinct role, and performs excellently for the transnational corporations (TNCs), by not investigating and not pushing for prosecution of guilty parties. This “balanced” approach to news is justified in the name of being “objective,” and trying to show “both sides of the issues.”

It’s not just corporate leaders, politicians, and the media who are shirking their duties. The judicial system is just as complicit. On January 17th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a case (Juliana vs. United States) brought by twenty one young plaintiffs who argued that “the US government acts as a barrier to climate action” and quite rightly pointed out that “the US government [is] violating their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by enacting policies that contribute to the climate crisis.” The majority 2-1 ruling “reluctantly concluded that the plaintiff’s case must be made to the political branches or the electorate at large.” Isn’t it revealing that these judges view the judicial system as somehow above politics?

The dissenting judge called her fellow colleagues out for their cowardice:

It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation…my colleagues throw up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary.

Here we can clearly see the Kafkaesque institutional evasion of responsibility. Everyone in these elite institutions is to blame, so no one can be blamed, for it risks exposing the system as the root cause. In the West, we are stuck in a time where no one accepts a public duty to do anything regarding climate change, corporate criminality, etc. As Mark Fisher succinctly explained in Capitalist Realism:

The supreme genius of Kafka was to have explored the negative atheology proper to Capital: the center is missing, but we cannot stop searching for it or positing it. It is not that there is nothing there – it is that what is there is not capable of exercising responsibility.

As Fisher and others have shown, the lack of responsibility taken and lack of corporate and governmental transparency, and lack of differentiation between the corporate, judicial, legislative, and media bodies is a defining feature of late capitalism. We can view the contours and delineate between the modern and postmodern periods, in terms of the sea change from a Foucauldian disciplinary society to a Deleuzian society of control. In the modern period, there were bounded, separate domains of work, home life, recreation, public and private, etc. In our late-stage dystopia, it becomes exceedingly obvious that “all that is holy is profaned,” for instance, judges (supposed impartial arbiters of fairness and democratic values) who are supposedly duty-bound to uphold basic issues of social, environmental, and economic justice, yet do not have the temerity to overturn the death-grip fossil fuel multinationals have over our country.

Whereas before disciplinary action – punishment and jail time – could act as a bit of leverage to limit outright corporate crimes, now we have interconnected, networked, embedded elite coteries who can no longer be distinguished as serving private or public functions: the “revolving door” phenomenon. Today, our elites also cannot distinguish or internalize their own actions and take responsibility for them. Internal checks could at least possibly prevent catastrophes, or lead to feelings of shame and regret for past actions in the old-fashioned, modern way. For this reason, we can view someone like Robert McNamara as perhaps the last modernist public servant in the old-school disciplinary age. His actions were unconscionable, but it is well known he at least regretted his part in the Vietnam War afterwards. The bizarre but true story of McNamara almost getting thrown off a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard in deep ocean in 1972 by an enraged anti-war citizen with family who had served in Vietnam confirms this. Afterwards, McNamara refused to press charges, making clear he knew on some level he deserved punishment.

On the contrary, take the figures of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld today. They are insulated by layers of ideology (and bodyguards), inebriated by luxurious lifestyles and sycophantic think tanks who parrot their every word, and interwoven within the framework and institutions of imperialist and conservative power who no longer have the capacity for self-reflection. Their perceptions and self-image, in other words, are managed by a network of power, control, and domination, in this example the interests of the national security state. Figures such as Bush, Obama, and Trump operate under the aegis of the capitalist/imperial postmodern society of control, which has continually formulated, modulated, subdued and attenuated any tension, any tendency to self-doubt, or any capacity to think critically and examine the atrocities committed by their orders.

It is a world where instantaneous feedback can assuage and soothe the troubled nerves of the elites, by providing media and/or classified reports that justify their grotesque barbarism in real time. We can observe this on a smaller scale when examining how social media algorithms create echo chambers and polarize those with opposing belief systems. The type of worldview our war-criminal presidents are subject to is a “higher immorality” as C. Wright Mills put it. It was best summed up by an unnamed senior Bush regime official, supposedly Karl Rove, speaking to journalist Ron Suskind:

People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The commonality between all these absolutely absurd scams is that, unlike the relatively small size and bumbling ineptitude of a WeWork, the fetishization of and overvaluation of hare-brained tech with a company like Theranos, the pyramid scheme of a Bernie Madoff, or the cooking-the-books accounting of an Enron, companies such as Boeing, Volkswagen, and Goldman Sachs form the commanding heights of the world economy. These are supposedly the bona fide, respectable “blue-chip companies” which many middle class investors look to for stable, steady growth of their wealth. These companies and their corporate owners cannot clearly view “reality,” (who can? but still) and the public is simply “left to just study what they do.”

Another aspect is the proliferation of marketing and advertising, which hypnotizes the middle classes, which in the West are approaching comatose status in regards to the scale of these interlocking crises of corporate greed and climate disruption. Abject submission and conformity are the key features of the professional-managerial class, who hype new trends and fads, and even business models (such as WeWork). Pharmaceutical companies spend more on advertising than research and development, which lead the most sycophantic employees to top positions with deadly repercussions (for example, in the Vioxx scandal) and leads to modern pharmacological advances being in many cases guided by snake-oil peddling quack researchers and their corporate overlords.

Individuals, as well as our artistic preferences, and urban spaces, increasingly are modulated by these corporate structures, leading to a flattened consumerist aesthetic. In a brilliant essay, Andru Okun explains using quotes from author Oli Mould:

As Mould argues, ‘Neoliberalism is about the marketization of everything, the imprinting of economic rationalities into the deepest recesses of everyday life’ … [Mould] posits that 21st-century capitalism, ‘turbocharged by neoliberalism,’ has co-opted the conceptual framework of creativity in the interest of endless growth. Even movements interested in destabilizing capitalism can be ‘viewed as a potential market to exploit,’ subsumed by the very world they seek to transform. ‘Creativity under capitalism is not creative at all… it merely replicates existing capitalist registers into ever-deeper recesses of socioeconomic life,’ writes Mould.

This form of “imprinting” becomes clear when examining the professional-managerial classes and the petit-bourgeois class. Class locations, as Erik Olin Wright pointed out, invariably determine the psychological states of the middle classes, who exert exploitative pressure upon their subordinates as well as pressure from above. When advances and promotions are made within the confines of the professional class structure, one can view the accommodation to capital with near-empirical precision: “Individual consciousness is related to position within the class structure.  That is, the attitudes and behaviour of individuals has a connection to the location they occupy within the division of labour and the contradictory locations that exist in capitalism.” Thus, Mark Fisher explains how the individual actions of managers to change corporate culture are futile:

The delusion that many who enter into management with high hopes is precisely that they, the individual, can change things, that they will not repeat what their managers had done, that things will be different this time; but watch someone step up to management and it’s usually not long before the grey petrification of power starts to subsume them. It is here that the structure is palpable – you can practically see it taking people over, hear its deadened/deadening judgments speaking through them.

Again, the activities of these huge conglomerates which dictate the global economy, public discourse, and private and individual aesthetic preferences are not exceptions; they represent the rule when it comes to the behavior of TNCs and international finance. Scamming is what they do best, whether by illegal software or the TV commercial, and the scam-ees quite often turn out to be other elite venture capital and banking firms hoodwinked by the allure of profit no matter the unseemly source or the ridiculousness of the business model. Climate denialism is also a very profitable scam for its elite adherents in the fossil fuel industries and the media, one that plays a key role by influencing public opinion just enough to convince judges, politicians, and CEOs that nothing can be done within their hallowed institutions.

The assertion I’ll lay out here, and it’s admittedly not a particularly original or insightful one, is simply that the falling rate of profit as we approach what we might call terminal-stage capitalism has convinced these TNCs to slightly adjust their calculus. The adjustment is to supplement the neoliberal grip on power with the brazenness of the scam.

The neoliberal era, stretching from approximately the mid-1970s until now, can be defined quite rightly by David Harvey as being driven by a process of “accumulation by dispossession.” In his brilliant 2004 essay “The New Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession”, Harvey explains the four main policies which drive this process as privatization (selling out the commons to private interests), financialization (the penetration of all parts of the economy by banks, loans, institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, the WTO, excessive debt, etc), management and manipulation of crises (for instance, see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine), and state redistributions (huge subsidies and contracts for the fossil fuel and military-industrial corporations, “socialism for the rich”, as it were).

Perhaps today we can add a fifth category: accumulation by the scam. If a Volkswagen or Boeing or Goldman Sachs stands to make hundreds of billions of dollars by swindling their customers, and can somewhat accurately guess that the level of future fines will be small or negligible; that lobbyists can protect future interests; that their teams of corporate lawyers can derail federal investigations; that federal regulators will be hamstrung due to lack of expertise, power, and/or resources; and that their customer base and supply chains will remain relatively stable, there is more of an incentive to cheat than ever before.

If the gravediggers of capital ultimately end up being a united working class, and/or the ecological crises combined with global warming-induced climactic Armageddon, perhaps it’d be helpful to think of these corporate grifters as the grave robbers, exhuming and reanimating whatever scam du jour they deem necessary to circulate capital. Not only does this reliance on fraud betray the moral failings of the people and institutions implicated, but it reinforces that Marx was right: the falling rate of profit over time and over-accumulation continues to force new methods of creative destruction to enter our midst to necessitate continuous expansion. Neoliberal economics officially saw its death-knell during the 2008 recession, but twelve years later this undead ideology maintains hegemony in a world teetering on the brink of disaster. Zombie Economics, if you will.

Profit and GDP growth at all costs to line elites’ pockets and increase national tax bases is killing the planet and working classes. Put another way, from a humorous statement by @Anarchopac on twitter: “The problem with capitalism is eventually you run out of planet to destroy to maximize short-term profit.” Put yet another way, John Maynard Keynes pointed out: “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”

In our late capitalist reality, there are barely any new frontiers to shift capital and production to, and the possibility of opening new markets in underdeveloped nations is also limited. The colonialist frontiers have been tapped and the system begins to cannibalize itself. A rentier economy coalesces and the contours of a neo-feudal regime based on debt and precarity are readily apparent now. Speculation and passive income from the FIRE sectors (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) are near all-time highs, but their assets are so overvalued that sooner or later it will spur on an economic downturn that at this point is unavoidable. Consider, for instance, that the Dow Jones at its low point in March 2009 stood at around 6,600. Here in 2020, we find the average hovering over 29,000. No one can legitimately say that our markets or average families are four times as well off or any more resilient and economically secure than ten years ago. The next crash could very well make terms like “housing bubble” and “tech bubble” seem quaint. The entire US economy is a bubble, a rigged casino designed to implode.

Since financial, real estate, and stock speculation has in some sense reached a tipping point of limited returns on investment, our hypothesized 5th category, accumulation via fraud, is implemented. It fits into our upside-down world nicely: since what is productive for one class is often unproductive for another, one-percenters elide reality to maintain their own class interests at all costs, and block any real public discussion in the media of what constitutes productive versus unproductive labor. The masters know what is good for us. Capitalist elites see no moral qualms in the most debased forms of wealth acquisition. It’s all relative to them, and where previous Taylorist models focused on planned obsolescence of products, now we construct products that do not even work initially; i.e., jets that literally fall out of the sky without the necessary software updates.

In all likelihood these examples are just harbingers of things to come, as the structural instability of capital demands new avenues for expansion even as it teeters before the inevitable collapse. The brazen criminality and fraudulence of the system bubbles to the surface and can no longer be rationalized away as an “aberration.” As real material conditions deteriorate for the multitudes, resistance to capitalism must intensify as it enters its final death throes.

Should We Trust Science?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rumrill posed key brainstorming questions:

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

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

3. What proactive steps can resource managers take?

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

Coastal Confab Inspires Next Generation

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

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

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

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

 

191108_oct_45654421481_828f8e1dff_o.jpg

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

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

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

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

The Arts Help Define and Contextualize Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• compensatory predators come in when a die-off hits

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

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

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

Whose Oregon Is It?

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

– Traildino.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Ram Papish panels Oregon"

Rejecting Cornell University — Art for Art’s Sake

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

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

Image result for Ram Papish panels Oregon"

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

• Salmon Life Cycle

• Tidepool Explorer

• Sea Bird Island

• Tidepool Life

• Shorebird Stopover

• Mixing Zone

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

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

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

Image result for Ram Papish panels Oregon"

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

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

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

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

• three seconds to get the headlines

• 30 seconds to glance over the panel

• three minutes to read everything, including the captions

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

Image result for Ram Papish panels Oregon"

Our Collective Potlatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Potlatch Oregon coast"

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

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

Image result for Potlatch Oregon coast"

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

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

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

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc00059.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5843.jpg

Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_6216-1.jpg

Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fern-169.jpg

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

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

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

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

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_6918.jpg

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

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peregrine Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CH: “Lived.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2013-03-15-the-free-horse_0409.jpg

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

From Colombia to Galapagos to California and OSU

New information breakthroughs for me are exhilarating. Working with all that whale data is like looking into the dark with a flashlight. It’s work that is able to contribute new information to the field.

— OSU Whale Researcher, Daniel Palacios

Whaling’s first commercial iteration with harpoons started in Japan around 1570. With many more nations participating in killing whales for exploitation over the proceeding centuries – seeking oil, blubber, flesh, and other body parts – by the turn of the 20th Century, many of the 90 species of whales were on a steep decline, endangered or near extinction.

For one Oregon State University research faculty member of the Marine Mammal Institute, the cetacean is his passion, his life. Daniel Palacios was intellectually and spiritually connected to cetaceans after seeing the iconic humpback whale banners and picket signs deployed on Earth Day, while watching religiously the series, The Under Sea World of Jacques Cousteau, and through regaling in his own country’s mythological Amazon biosphere.

Image result for Daniel Palacios OSU"

Two-parts passion, one-part inspiration, and three-parts intellectual drive propelled him to where he is today – researching the pathways, habitats and health of earth’s largest animals.

The harpoon this 50-year-old scientist throws is outfitted with both a satellite tracking tag and small biopsy plug extractor to harvest not whale meat, but rather to collect valuable data on what whales do, what they eat, where they go, and for future research concerns, how well their overall physical health is.

Palacio’s been working with teams collecting the information on sperm, humpback, gray, blue and other whale species to determine their range and pelagic journeys throughout the Pacific coastal upwelling, all the way down to the Gulf of California.

“One of my drivers is discovery and knowledge, what you could say is strict hardcore science . . . pure analytical and statistically important science,” he tells me while we share coffee at a café in the Wilder community near OCCC.

Early Dreams Bring a Boy from South America to the Central Oregon Coast

His love and interest in science started young – five or six years of age while growing up in landlocked Bogotá. His parents (an engineer father and lawyer mother) bought him encyclopedias and books on animals. “I was continuously reading about African animals. I was mesmerized.”

He stresses living in an urban and cosmopolitan capital city was like being worlds away from his own country’s swath of Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon jungle would have been like Africa to me growing up in a big city. Our world was so disconnected from the natural world. We had no sense of the ocean or the Amazon.

Some 45 years later — traversing his early curiosity attending a Catholic school in a city of 7 million, to now, with all those titles and associations from OSU (“PhD/ Endowed Associate Professor in Whale Habitats/ Whale Telemetry Group/ Marine Mammal Institute and Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife”) — Palacios has kept his eye on the proverbial prize of being a marine scientist.

He states his parents sacrificed to put him and his two sisters into the best schools they could afford. His grandparents came from humble beginnings in rural Colombia not far from Bogotá. He reminisces about this K-12 experience where he was taught math, physics, and liberation theology – a philosophy that measures helping the poor and understanding the plight of the underprivileged tied to capitalism’s great class divide as part of religious enlightenment.

This Calasanz school from the Escolapios Order bore the name of the Spanish founder who went to Rome in the 1500s to teach the very privileged, and on his daily crossing back over the Tiber River after teaching these rich youth, saw the poverty and disadvantaged circumstance of the masses.

In Bogotá, they would send us to a sister school for the poor and we’d help teach the kids. Even though it was a religious school, going to college my first two years was a walk in the park. We were really well prepared by the priests.

Meeting of the Whale Minds

Currently, Daniel spends most of his time analyzing all the data from satellite tags and biopsies. He likes the vigorous, meticulous nature of this work, even though 90 percent of his time is not working with whales directly in their habitat.

Image result for Daniel Palacios OSU"

I first met Daniel at the American Cetacean Society monthly meeting in Newport. It was his 15 minutes of fame with his Power Point in front of a packed room at the public library. “This is actually the second time I have presented to the ACS. Something like 17 years ago, in Monterey.”

Monterrey was his home for more than a decade, and his boss was NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as he was tasked to answer why these humpbacks are in abundance in this upwelling ecosystem of Northern California, and to determine their migratory patterns and territorial range.

My dream was to work with these people studying this classic upwelling ecosystem.

As he shows slides and wonderful images of humpbacks to us naturalists who are interested in science, yes, and informed but not steeped in hard science, he states he understands the allure of the charismatic whale.

“All these people who have a strong affinity to whales are genuinely interested in their plight which makes funding the OSU foundation and Endowment easier.” It turns out one of Palacios’ mentors, OSU’s Bruce Mate, was a forerunner in getting the general public to support their work. That donor base serves as a buffer facilitating Palacios and others to continue their work collecting and analyzing so much data from satellite tags.

He later tells me that while he has authored all these professional journal articles (75) in periodicals such as Marine Mammal Science (through the Society of Marine Mammalogy), he realizes few read these rarefied articles; whereas, the real passion and interest in his field rests with whale watchers, naturalists, eco-tourists and writers.

Palacios counts his lucky stars and serendipity in his life: “I am at a place beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve received so much support, and where I’ve gotten to is due to the generosity of many people.”

If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.

-– David Suzuki, Canadian scientist and documentary producer

The price of ecosystems and individual species is difficult to access, and for most ecologists, no amount of monetary exchange can replace, say, a Military Macaw parrot or whale shark. However, we ecologists do call a forest or wetlands an “ecosystem” that provides invaluable services to the entire life web, to include humans.

A healthy coastal ecosystem with vibrant forests, clear streams and non-diked wetlands provide humans billions of dollars of “free life-giving/saving services” – clean air and water, healthy soils, pure estuaries, unmolested bays, erosion prevention.

There’s even a formula of sorts to put a price to a whale.

“Anyone know how much a whale is worth?” Palacios asks the ACS crowd tongue-in-cheek. There are a few bids from the crowd of a few thousand here, eighty thousand there for the going rate of a humpback whale.

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) one whale’s biological value is two million dollars over its lifetime.

Daniel rattles off the capitalist values – “Considering the whale watching and tourism industry and the fact they are the biggest animals on earth they are amazing at combating climate change.” They consume carbon in the form of plankton and krill. Once their feces fall to the bottom of the ocean, it’s sequestered carbon that doesn’t make it into the atmosphere. When the whale dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Each is thousands and thousands of pounds, and both the whale poop and decaying bodies serve as nutrients for plankton and other myriad of marine life.

The Odyssey

During Daniel’s final year of college in Cartagena, he was hunting for a doctoral program in the USA – such as Scripps or Wood Hole. His life at a young age is a tale of serendipity.

He ended up in Panama, waiting for the Odyssey — a 93-foot scientific sailboat loaded with research equipment ready for heavy-hitters from around the world heading to the Galapagos. Daniel wanted to board that ship as a scientist-in-training. Big names in whale research like Roger Payne were scheduled to board the vessel.

They laughed when I asked if I could go with them to the Galapagos. ‘You just show up and expect us to take you with us?’ That’s what they told me.

However, after Odyssey’s trip from Key West to Panama, it was moored in a slip in order to receive parts and repairs. The young graduate was enlisted to help chip paint from the hull.

I had never been on a sailboat before, and this was an operation on an entirely different scale. I worked on the boat with the scientists-slash-crew for two weeks, and it was the day they were leaving when they told me I could come with them.

Their caveat was the science team would drop Daniel off in the Galapagos and he’d have to find his own way home.

This was a diverse crew, and while they motored to the Galapagos, they conducted oceanographic research.

They embraced me, and indicated I was a good crew member. But I had a secret weapon: I spoke Spanish.

The Odyssey was stopped and boarded by the Colombian Navy since they were sailing along known drug-smuggling routes. When the ship arrived at the islands, it turned out they had to obtain many permits to work in a highly-regulated marine reserve.

Every day the scientist-slash-interpreter “kid from Colombia” met with the officials in the National Parks office and Ecuadoran Navy to get the paperwork in order.

After a month delay, the Odyssey was on its way studying the sperm whales in this incredible ecosystem as well as tackling other oceanic matters. Daniel now was part of the crew; many of the premier scientists who had been scheduled to be on the Odyssey had to delay their scientific journeys.

Daniel learned how to construct a harpoon-staging platform as well as integrate hydrophone technology so the team could track sperm whales vis-a-vis their calls.

It was a 24/7 operation. Amazing minds, amazing ecosystems, and a real journeyman scientist’s apprenticeship propelled Palacios to seek more and more scientific pursuits.

It’s a Small-Small World in Marine Mammal Research Circles

That Odyssey adventure also parlayed into a job in Massachusetts with the non-profit Whale Conservation Institute. That was his first foray into the United States. He credits his mobility and lack of family responsibilities to his flexibility to move where the research was.

He did work in the mid-1990s with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla. That was part of a huge NOAA project on eastern Pacific dolphin recovery.

Scripps is the Harvard of marine sciences, with Woods Hole and Texas A & M a close second and third as the best rated schools in ocean studies. However, Daniel said he did not come from a well-off family, and Scripps expected all PhD students to have their own scholarships/grants and per diem sources to attend.

That Odyssey trip again paid off. Bruce Mate was the lead scientist Daniel worked with on sperm whale tagging, and he then contacted the Colombian to see if he wanted to get into OSU’s marine mammal program, ranked in the top five in the US.

The experience at OSU I believe was better for me than if I had gotten accepted to Scripps.

Leave it to magic of the Odyssey to continue on in another scientific expedition – five years around the world with a number of international scientists participating in some deep research. Daniel says that many of the leading marine mammal people had once been an Odyssey fellow or crew-slash-scientist.

Ironically, an Australian couple, Chris and Gen, were crew members and communications experts – writing stories and producing blogs and interview pieces. He said they have considered writing a book on the Odyssey’s odyssey.

I’m still meeting people in my field who had been on the Odyssey in some part of the world.

Diversity of Ecosystems, Diversity of Scientists

That PhD in oceanography came from OSU, but in 2003 he was called back to research whales at NOAA studying their presence in the upwelling ecosystem of North California. That was a 12-year sojourn.

Again, in 2013 Bruce Mate lured Daniel Palacios, PhD, back to OSU with a research professorship. The work involves advancing research in whale tracking and data analysis.

The grant he works under is through the auspices of the US Navy, which is conducting more training and development activities in whale territory. Federal legislation puts restrictions on some of the activities in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

As is the case in a Capitalistic society, there are many exceptions to “do no harm scientific principles,” when so-called national security issues are put ahead of everything else. “Biological acceptable limits” and monitoring are what guide the Navy’s contract with OSU and other colleges concerning whales being affected by military activities.

Sounds, bombs, boat and ship traffic, radar, and more do play roles in altering whale behavior, physiology and general habitat conditions.

Diverse ecosystems, diverse species in and diverse intrusions on their natural world are both intriguing and challenging to confront. On the personal front, Daniel and I delve into his own perplexing identities while growing up a male in machismo Colombia.

“I knew as a small child I was different,” he said, emphasizing that he was feeling like he was attracted to males around age five or so. He comes from a culture where being gay is the worst thing a man could be, bringing “huge shame and guilt to a gay.”

As is the case in many histories of homosexuals confronting that bigotry and bias against being queer, gays end up marrying as heterosexuals, even raising families with female wives. Daniel did meet a woman at OSU when he was a student, and she became his wife. Almost six years into the marriage, he came out to her.

She was (and still is) supportive, but she insisted on a divorce. That was 2004 when he came out, and the guilt of having ruined the life of someone he loved and all the other issues associated with living a closeted life required “a lot of therapy.”

Even though his parents are conservative and traditional, they’ve been very supportive, he says.

He expressed to me on several occasions how we all are evolving creatures, and that decision to live his life as a gay man means he can be authentic.

With that, we talked about the fact there were no role models in his field for gay scientists. In the lead up to a 2015 conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, he broached the idea of having a social mixer on the agenda for LGBTQA scientists.

I told one of the scientists who happened to be lesbian that the Society doesn’t provide any notion of being accepting of homosexuals in their field.

The networking mixer for queers was announced, and there were over 100 people who attended it – LGBTQA and allies.

When an aspiring marine mammal scientist doesn’t see people like him in the field, it’s hard to be fully realized, he states.

There is a deep spiritual need to see people like myself in my profession. My sexuality has zero relevance to the science I am conducting; nevertheless, how I identify myself definitely defines who I am. Those walls we build around ourselves when we are gay – the struggle and insight, too – when they begin to fall, there is a feeling of liberation, and becoming fully realized as a person.

We decided to do a bit of a question and answer interview to end this story of a Colombian whale expert who is now a US citizen working on protecting the enigmatic humpback (known as the songster whale) in our little corner of the world – Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Whale photo provided by Craig Hayslip

Interview

Paul Haeder: If you had to put down your philosophy of life in a sentence or two, what would it be?

Daniel Palacios:  As far as I approach things, I’m drawn toward excellence and beauty in nature. I find satisfaction in giving my best and in what I learn through the process of creating and discovering, especially if it fulfills my curiosity toward the natural world.

PH:  Science and the arts can’t be separated. I can give you a piece, “A Faustian Bargain,” by Gregory Petsko —  The quote is below, and the highlight is what I want you to riff with, sir!

‘Science unleavened by the human heart and the human spirit is sterile, cold, and self-absorbed. It’s also unimaginative: some of my best ideas as a scientist have come from thinking and reading about things that have, superficially, nothing to do with science. If I’m right that what it means to be human is going to be one of the central issues of our time, then universities that are best equipped to deal with it, in all its many facets, will be the most important institutions of higher learning in the future.’

DP: I wholeheartedly agree that science is best when considered in the context of the humanity that produced it, and the increasing capacity and demand by the general public to absorb science is evidence of that. I also agree that those universities that embrace this notion will play an important role in the future, but at the same time I’m concerned that there’s relatively few universities that are equipped for this, and also that those that are may not reach outside their walls unless they make very concerted efforts, such that these gains would mostly benefit a few people.

PH: What do you believe the biggest challenges in whale ecology and whale survivability will be in the next two decades, and explain.

DP: With the exception of a few whale species that remain critically endangered, most whale populations have been slowly recovering since commercial hunting stopped in 1986. Today the biggest challenges to whale conservation are largely the same ones that affect marine ecosystems as a whole: chemical and noise pollution, shipping, habitat degradation, and over-harvesting of marine resources for human consumption. These are much more pervasive and complex problems, and addressing them requires the engagement and participation of all segments of society.

PH: How can your work, and Bruce Mate’s and others’ help “manage” the multiple jurisdictions with so many competing Exclusive Economic Zones and national agencies and economic drivers in the mix?

DP: Whale migrations truly exemplify the requirements of marine fauna for vast expanses of habitat, often covering an entire ocean basin. Although some countries have made good progress in protecting these species in their national waters, once they cross into another jurisdiction or into international waters those protections no longer apply. Therefore, there’s a need for developing policy at the highest levels to achieve adequate conservation across jurisdictions. These policies are best developed through regional, international, and intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or the International Whaling Commission, among others. There are several such initiatives currently underway — one example being the ‘Migratory Connectivity of the Ocean’ project, and we are engaged with them by providing tracking data and results for informing these processes.

PH: Give me the typical funder and donor elevator speech on the value and importance of funding marine mammal research, specifically, on whales.

DP: We start from the basis that, owing to their majestic beauty, whales have always captured the human imagination like few other species. But for us scientists, whales have a number of unique biological adaptations and behaviors that we’re just starting to understand. Through the use of cutting-edge technology we’re making fascinating scientific discoveries about them, which benefit all of humanity. And this information often contributes to efforts to improve their protection as well. For example, using satellite tracking we can follow them on their long migrations and determine where they go, how they get there, and what risks they may encounter along the way. Management agencies require this information in order to assess the status of the species and to enact spatially explicit conservation measures.

PH: What advice would you give a young aspiring marine scientist, say, from Colombia or another Latin American country with even fewer options in their respective countries to pursue the work you are now doing? What do you recommend their pathway, both intellectually and practically, be?

DP: Believe in your dreams, keep an open mind, and have a steely determination and things will start turning around — not always exactly in the way you envisioned, but opportunities will present themselves. These days access to knowledge is no longer a limitation thanks to the internet, but dedicated academic study and networking are still critical requirements to succeed and become an established scientist. Joining and being active in a professional society is helpful, especially for making connections with colleagues as well as for benefiting from mentoring and other programs intended for young scientists as well as those from developing nations.

Image result for Daniel Palacios OSU"

Right Kind of Green: Agroecology

The globalised industrial food system that transnational agri-food conglomerates promote is failing to feed the world. It is responsible for some of the planet’s most pressing political, social and environmental crises.

Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina, localised, traditional methods of food production have given way to global supply chains dominated by policies which favour agri-food giants, resulting in the destruction of habitat and peasant farmer livelihoods and the imposition of a model of agriculture that subjugates remaining farmers and regions to the needs and profit margins of these companies.

Many take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. There is the premise that water, seeds, land, food, soil, forests and agriculture should be handed over to powerful, corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity.

These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible.

Common ownership and management of these assets embodies the notion of people working together for the public good. However, these resources have been appropriated by national states or private entities. For instance, Cargill captured the edible oils processing sector in India and in the process put many thousands of village-based workers out of work; Monsanto conspired to design a system of intellectual property rights that allowed it to patent seeds as if it had manufactured and invented them; and India’s indigenous peoples have been forcibly ejected from their ancient lands due to state collusion with mining companies.

Those who capture essential common resources seek to commodify them — whether trees for timber, land for real estate or agricultural seeds — create artificial scarcity and force everyone else to pay for access. Much of it involves eradicating self-sufficiency.

Traditional systems attacked

Researchers Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahe note that for thousands of years Indian farmers have experimented with different plant and animal specimens acquired through migration, trading networks, gift exchanges or accidental diffusion. They note the vital importance of traditional knowledge for food security in India and the evolution of such knowledge by learning and doing, trial and error. Farmers possess acute observation, good memory for detail and transmission through teaching and storytelling. The very farmers whose seeds and knowledge have been appropriated by corporations to be bred for proprietary chemical-dependent hybrids and now to be genetically engineered.

Large corporations with their seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. Genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced. The eradication of seed diversity went much further than merely prioritising corporate seeds: the Green Revolution deliberately sidelined traditional seeds kept by farmers that were actually higher yielding and climate appropriate.

Across the world, we have witnessed a change in farming practices towards mechanised industrial-scale chemical-intensive monocropping, often for export or for far away cities rather than local communities, and ultimately the undermining or eradication of self-contained rural economies, traditions and cultures. We now see food surpluses in the West and food deficit areas in the Global South and a globalised geopoliticised system of food and agriculture.

A recent article on the People’s Archive of Rural India website highlights how the undermining of local economies continues. In a region of Odisha, farmers are being pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide tolerant cotton seeds and are replacing their traditional food crops.

The authors state that Southern Odisha’s strength lay in multiple cropping systems, but commercial cotton monoculture has altered crop diversity, soil structure, household income stability, farmers’ independence and, ultimately, food security. Farmers used to sow mixed plots of heirloom seeds, which had been saved from family harvests the previous year and would yield a basket of food crops. Cotton’s swift expansion is reshaping the land and people steeped in agroecological knowledge.

The article’s authors Chitrangada Choudhury and Aniket Aga note that cotton occupies roughly 5 per cent of India’s gross cropped area but consumes 36 to 50 per cent of the total quantum of agrochemicals applied nationally. They argue that the scenario here is reminiscent of Vidarbha between 1998 and 2002 – initial excitement over the new miracle (and then illegal) Bt cotton seeds and dreams of great profits, followed by the effects of their water-guzzling nature, the huge spike in expenses and debt and various ecological pressures. Vidarbha subsequently ended up as the epicentre of farmer suicides in the country for over a decade.

Choudhury and Aga echo many of the issues raised by Glenn Stone in his paper ‘Constructing Facts:Bt Cotton Narratives in India’. Farmers are attracted to GM cotton via glossy marketing and promises of big money and rely on what are regarded as authoritative (but compromised) local figures who steer them towards such seeds. There is little or no environmental learning by practice as has tended to happen in the past when adopting new seeds and cultivation practices. It has given way to ‘social learning’, a herd mentality and a treadmill of pesticides and debt. What is also worrying is that farmers are also being sold glyphosate to be used with HT cotton; they are unaware of the terrible history and reality of this ‘miracle’ herbicide, that it is banned or restricted in certain states in India and that it is currently at the centre of major lawsuits in the US.

All this when large agribusiness concerns wrongly insist that we need their seeds and proprietary chemicals if we are to feed a growing global population. There is no money for them in traditional food cropping systems but there is in undermining food security and food sovereignty by encouraging the use of GM cotton and glyphosate or, more generally, corporate seeds.

In India, Green Revolution technology and ideology has actually helped to fuel drought and degrade soils and has contributed towards illnesses and malnutrition. Sold under the guise of ‘feeding the world’, in India it merely led to more wheat in the diet, while food productivity per capita showed no increase or actually decreased. Nevertheless, there have been dire consequences for the Indian diet, the environment, farmers, rural communities and public health.

Across the world, the Green Revolution dovetailed with an international system of chemical-dependent, agro-export mono-cropping and big infrastructure projects (dams) linked to loans, sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF directives, the outcomes of which included a displacement of the peasantry, the consolidation of global agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries into food deficit regions.

Often regarded as Green Revolution 2.0, the ‘gene revolution’ is integral to the plan to ‘modernise’ Indian agriculture. This means the displacement of peasant farmers, further corporate consolidation and commercialisation based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants. If we take occurrences in Odisha as a microcosm, it would also mean the undermining of national food security.

Although traditional agroecological practices have been eradicated or are under threat, there is a global movement advocating a shift towards more organic-based systems of agriculture, which includes providing support to small farms and an agroecology movement that is empowering to people politically, socially and economically.

Agroecology

In his final report to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur, in 2014 Olivier De Schutter called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democratically redesigned. His report was based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years. However, he stated that insufficient backing seriously hinders progress.

And this last point should not be understated. For instance, the success of the Green Revolution is often touted, but how can we really evaluate it? If alternatives had been invested in to the same extent, if similar powerful and influential interests had invested in organic-based models, would we now not be pointing to the runaway successes of organic-based agroecological farming and, importantly, without the massive external costs of a polluted environment, less diverse diets, degraded soils and nutrient deficient food, ill health and so on?

The corporations which promote chemical-intensive industrial agriculture have embedded themselves deeply within the policy-making machinery on both national and international levels. From the overall bogus narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, global agri-food conglomerates have secured a perceived thick legitimacy within policy makers’ mindsets and mainstream discourse. The integrity of society’s institutions have been eroded by corporate money, funding and influence, which is why agroecology as a credible alternative to corporate agriculture remains on the periphery.

But the erosion of that legitimacy is underway. In addition to De Schutter’s 2014 report, the 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommends agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. Moreover, the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Writer and academic Eric Holtz-Gimenez argues that agroecology offers concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture. In doing so, it challenges – and offers alternatives to – plunder which takes place under a prevailing system of doctrinaire neoliberal economics that in turn drives a failing model of industrial agriculture.

The scaling up of agroecology can tackle hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation and climate change. By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work, it can also address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out the outsourced jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal globalisation that has devastated the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India to produce a reserve army of cheap labour.

The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology by Nyeleni in 2015 argued for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It went on to say that agroecology should not become a tool of the industrial food production model but as the essential alternative to that model. The Declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It involves prioritising localised rural and urban food economies and small farms and shielding them from the effects of rigged trade and international markets. It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions.

There are enough examples from across the world that serve as models for transformation, from the Oakland Institute’s research in Africa and the Women’s Collective of Tamil Nadu to the scaling up of agroecological practices in Ethiopia.

Whether in Europe, Africa, India or the US, agroecology can protect and reassert the commons and is a force for grass-root change. This model of agriculture is already providing real solutions for sustainable, productive agriculture that prioritise the needs of farmers, citizens and the environment.

Reintroducing Otters after a Few Centuries of Harassment

Even in the vast and mysterious reaches of the sea we are brought back to the fundamental truth that nothing lives to itself.

— Rachel Carson1

“I’ve never lived on the West Coast, but I really have absolutely fallen in love with the place.”

Dominique Kone and I are talking at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, covering a lot of ground in the 28-year-old’s narrative, from early years in small towns like Blue Hill and Bucksport, Maine, and then his undergraduate days in the big town (50,000) of Waterville where Kone entered Colby College on a track and field scholarship.

The beauty of going deep on these stories is that readers learn how the NCAA Division III’s fastest athlete in the 100- and 60-meter dashes finds himself in Washington DC working for the PEW Charitable Trust and goes on to set down roots in Corvallis with much time spent completing a master’s in science at the Oregon Coast.

We first meet at an American Cetacean Society gathering where Kone is giving a large audience a thorough and enlightening rundown on his work as a community ecologist studying the possibility of the sea otter finding a home back on Oregon Coast’s waters.

These iconic tool-using mammals, sometimes reaching five feet in length and hitting 100 pounds, have not been a presence on our coastline for decades. Many residents and naturalists might see another member of the weasel family scurrying around the tidewaters and creeks, but those mammals are officially river otters.

Dominque (Dom) Kone’s work is tied to interdisciplinary approaches studying a species like the sea otter (Enhydra lutris).

The Power Point’s title is a typically erudite one associated with grad work: “An Ecological Assessment of a Potential Sea Otter Reintegration to Oregon” under the auspices of the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab.

Communicating Science His Gift

The powerful element to Kone’s presentation is his at-ease presence and articulateness with a crowd that considers itself amateur biologists.

In the parlance of OSU and other institutions, “transdisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” define what Dom and his two project fellows are doing to make science much more vigorous and relevant across many disciplines.

This sea otter project is part of a grant OSU received from the National Science Foundation, spurring multiple disciplines in higher education to study the risk and uncertainty in marine science. Dom is one fellowship recipient in his team of three – the others are a social scientist and geneticist.

While the reader will get some of the history surrounding sea otters on the Oregon Coast — from Warrenton to Brookings — and then their localized extirpation and subsequent reintroduction and disappearance, two vital questions in the fellows’ research have been posed and require answering:

1. Does Oregon have suitable habitat for reintroducing the sea otter given the overlapping human activities that have developed over time?

2. What are the potential ecological effects of sea otter reintroduction?

Dom makes it clear that those questions are much more complicated and overlaid with other factors related to potential resource competition, such as interactions with human-based fisheries, which target the same food sources otters do. Add to the mix a marine mammal with the sea otter’s history in California, Washington, Canada and Alaska both positively and negatively affecting the ecosystem separate from Homo sapiens’ needs.

Systems Thinking, Holistic Practices

“My adviser is a professor in the fisheries and wildlife department, but I study within the marine resource management program.” That means Dom has a thesis/project adviser and committee members that include two OSU faculty — a marine ecologist and public policy expert — in addition to an Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (ODFW) shellfish manager and a sea otter ecologist from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The reason inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches are a hot topic, Dom says, is “because a lot of issues facing resource managers involving the environment are really complex to address requiring multiple disciplines to find solutions to all the challenges they face.”

For Dom, who went from four years in the highly diverse and energized DC, to our laid back Corvallis and Coast, he says he has been surprised how gratifying it’s been to be in a place where he can listen to the interests and needs of so many people directly affected by environmental policies and ecological and climatic changes.

He went from a kid who had no robust science classes or ecology clubs in high school in Maine, to this spark plug of a graduate student working on cutting-edge research. Both places, Maine and Oregon, have that one identity issue in common: He was one of three black students in his high school (one was his sister), and he is often the only black student in an OSU classroom.

He touts the added-value of the interdisciplinary project: “I gained skills I wasn’t expecting, like being a good teammate, collaboration and accountability. And I’ve benefited from interacting with people from different disciplines. I’ve increased my communication skills and learned valuable conflict resolution tactics.”

A perfect toolbox for anyone working on endangered species and environmental policies while attempting to integrate the public’s and business stakeholders’ perceptions, needs and demands.

Note: First published at Deep Dive

See the source image

In otter news

We talk about conservation biology, ecology, environmental issues and what needs to be done to address many coalescing problems we face on the Central Oregon Coast, in the state and around world in general.

“It’s really important to look at connections and feedbacks,” Dom says as we cover myriad topics. “We need to understand the ecological processes. And scientists can play an important role in listening to stakeholders and their values and concerns. As a scientist and educator, I see my role as educating people on how complex these impacts and variables are in our ecosystem.”

Continually, we talk about the idea that for too long, humans have not considered themselves as part of the natural world. That dominating role has created untold damage to ecosystems that are at the same time both resilient and fragile.

I liken it to arrogance and myopia.

Whether it’s DDT used to kill insects or bringing the American beaver close to extinction, the unintended consequences are apparent to ecologists like Dominique: The American bald eagle almost went extinct due to the DDT causing eggshells to thin and the unhatched chicks to die under the crushing weight of their parents. The eagle’s recovery – largely by banning DDT – is a success story.

For the beaver, much of the East Coast waterways and standing ponds and lakes (wetlands and storm buffers) were created by the beaver, that once numbered 200 million in North America. The fur trade brought them close to absolute extinction. About five percent of the total number of beavers before the fur trade now live in North America (10 million).

Moreover, the fur trade almost brought sea otters to the brink of extinction, Dom states. There were around 150,000 to 300,000 sea otters before heavy hunting, dating from 1741 to 1911, brought the world population to 1,000 to 2,000 individuals living in a fraction of their historic range.

There’s an international ban on hunting them, and from what Dom has studied, we have more than 50 years of managing them through conservation efforts. Dom tells the naturalists with the American Cetacean Society that reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have aided some of the rebounding.

These translocation efforts, from 1965 to ’72, shuttled sea otters form the Central Coast of Alaska to other parts of that state and then British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

These creatures are enigmatic and iconic. We surmise that the last native sea otter in Oregon was shot and killed in 1906. Those 95 sea otters transplanted from Amchitka Island, Alaska, to the Southern Oregon Coast were our best chance at recovery. Sightings make the scientific journals — in 2004, a male sea otter hung out for six months at Simpson Reef off of Cape Arago. Then, in 2009, another male sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay. Both otters could have traveled to from either California or Washington

“Within five or six years, the otters mysteriously disappeared,” Dominique states.

He nuances the Alaska population’s vitality by pointing out that maybe three of the stocks are doing well, while the Southwestern Alaskan stock is threatened. Ironically, in 1970, another OSU graduate student, Ron Jameson, monitored the 95 otters while they were here, with sightings along the 276 miles of Oregon coast.

“Very few sea otter carcasses were found on the Oregon coast,” Dom said. “Mortality can’t explain their disappearance.”

Otters Doing What Otters Must Do – Explore!

Other explanations for their exit from our coast could be “otters were doing what otters do – disperse and explore other locations.” The mystery spurs scientists to find answers: Lack of food? Lack of habitat? Human disturbances?

Dom is deft at fielding questions from the crowd of 35, and he explains how conservation biologists consider sea otter recovery an important link in marine conservation. The interrelationship of one species with the total ecological health of other species was first named in 1969 by Robert Paine who looked at the sea otter and other fauna as “keystone species.”

The Central Oregon Coast should think of kelp forests as one key benefit of sea otters making a comeback: These are nurseries for many different aquatic species. Kelp forests give protection to juvenile aquatic animals, who would otherwise be vulnerable targets.

See the source image

Here’s the interconnectivity of otters and kelp forests: Sea urchins multiply, forming barrens that sweep the ocean floor consuming entire stands of kelp.

The keystone element to this species Dominique and his cohorts are studying is that since the sea urchin is a main food source for the sea otter, the mammal acts as “protector of the kelp beds.”

We call this “balancing the ecosystem,” so by keeping urchin populations down, the kelp thrives, and the result is other aquatic species are able to mature and live in their natural environment, and sea otters, a threatened species, are able to survive.

The California and Aleutian Island sea otter populations have either declined or plateaued, and therefore the sea otter remains classified as a threatened species.

This otter research project is really a look at how viable a recovery or restoration project is for Oregon — considering all the implications of so-called human resource management.

See the source image

The graduate student is looking into the entire suite of unanticipated outcomes or impacts a sea otter reintroduction program might have on the following individual and intersecting issues: law and policy; ecology; fisheries management; politics, economics; social and cultural stakes; genetics; even oceanographic.

Interestingly, while Dom is working as a scientist pulling together the history, biology, fisheries management and public policy sides to Oregon’s possible sea otter reintroduction, he is quick to point out powerful indigenous groups’ spiritual-centered connection to the sea otter, such as the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians and the Coquille Indian Tribe. “We also are looking at what restoring the cultural connections to the sea otter before tribes were forced from coastal lands will do for those communities.”

This once prevalent species comes with it more than its tool-making and cute coastal presence. We have stakeholders with the urchin, Dungeness crab, mussel and clam fisheries. We have all these other human activities, too, along the coast that might make the recovery effort difficult: pollution, shipping lanes, recreation and toxins.

The linchpin for much of my life interviewing people is what makes them tick and from where they came: family, significant emotional events, perspectives honed by trials and tribulations.

Diversity Sets the Standard

Dom’s parents met at Husson University in Bangor, both on basketball scholarships – she having been a white woman with many generations tied to Maine, and his father an African from the Ivory Coast.

Dom says he identifies strongly as a black man, not as bi-racial. While he got interested in science watching religiously PBS’s Nature, he did have opportunities in our country’s national parks through an outing club.

He was the only black child and teen in many situations. When he went to Colby College as a star sprinter and long jumper, he still did not experience much diversity there. It was when he got to DC, as an intern for the National Wildlife Federation and then later as a policy researcher at PEW, that he got a taste of real diversity.

“Sometimes as the only person of color in a room, I have to be aware I am not just representing myself, but my race, yet I don’t want to represent a group since that group is very diverse, too.”

Dom is aware that he can be put into situations of borderline tokenism, and that he has to understand that for younger people, seeing someone like him excel in the sciences gives younger people of color not only a role model but proof that there are inroads being made to accept a more diverse student body, faculty and scientific community.

“Diversity and inclusivity are almost buzz words these days,” he said. “Getting into a program like this one doesn’t solve all the problems. Half the battle is won, part of the systemic hurdle to overcome, but they have to make people of color feel valued and heard, so they will want to stay.”

Dom defends his thesis in December and says he wants to step back from academia for a while, hoping to work in a science policy arena, for a non-profit or governmental agency. He likens his work experience and academic background as a good foundation to be a “boundary spanner” – that is, someone working on scientific research but also developing public policy and drawing on his communications skills to be a workshop facilitator.

“I’ve always wanted to get into endangered species,” he said. “It is amazing, though, how much work goes into any one species, let alone the ecology as a whole where that species interacts with other species.”

One thing we can gather from Dom – he is highly motivated to understand “intersectionalities” in the environmental world. The sea otter seems like a talisman for him to move forward.

See the source image

Much like the rain forests of the Amazon, Kelp forests are considered by scientists to be one of the more effective sequesters of carbon dioxide. The linkage between sea otters, sea urchins, kelp forests and ultimately climate change mitigation are coming to the fore.

“A recent study shows kelp forests with higher sea otters present can absorb up to 12 times more CO2 from the atmosphere than if they were just left to the urchin explains the linkage between sea otters, sea urchins, kelp forests, and ultimately climate change mitigation,” according to the organization Friends of the Sea Otter.

Count Dominique, 28, as one of those sea otter’s friends.

See the source image

  1. Silent Spring Introduction, 1962