Thursday, February 25, 2016

Truth is clearly overrated among our kind (4)

In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.
(John Sawhill, former president of The Nature Conservancy)

A reflection of ourselves

Our national parks and preserves are located in all regions of the country (Our NationalParks), but they are in need of help. From budget cuts, discussed previously, to climate change this remarkable American creation, which goes back more than 100 years, is under threat in the 21st century.

Shrinking available water supplies affects ecosystems and species survival. Non-native plants, insects, snakes and reptiles encroach on native plants and animal ecosystems and ultimately can result in extinction. It's estimated that approximately 6,500 non-native species are now intruding on native plants and animals.

Air pollution has no boundaries. Such things as coal plants and automobiles affect both air quality and visibility, which over time poisons plants, fouls water resources and threatens vulnerable species. A warming planet is affecting glaciers in our national parks, fire season is becoming longer and more severe, food production could decrease and eco-patterns may change more quickly and threaten numerous species … including humans.

Because of budget cuts deferred maintenance is increasing rapidly, estimated to be well over $7 billion at the present time. Roads are in disrepair, trails closed, restrooms shut and “out of order” signs appearing everywhere. At the same time, more visitors are arriving at our national parks, an estimated 45 million annually. The difficulty is that more visitors mean more problems requiring better service and upkeep.

Beware of the big bad wolf

You can take your tree hugging, granola eating politically correct, earth worshiping, subaru driving, pony tailed sandals in the winter, wolf loving butt somewhere else!
(A sign near Salmon, Idaho, home of the annual Coyote and Wolf Derby)

In old European superstitions it is believed to be unlucky to say the word “wolf” in the month of December, for you run the risk of being attacked by one. On the other hand, wolves are prominent in Native American mythology and many Indians oppose the hunting of wolves. It is believed by some tribes that wolves are family members and the human spirit comes from wolves.

In general, European-Americans from the very beginning have had a total disregard for wildlife. We have slaughtered and butchered animals with abandon from the moment we set foot on the North American continent. We pretty much have belonged to the school of “dominion over” rather than “stewardship of.”

Even in the late 19th century there were reports of the day time sky darkening because of the migration of millions of passenger pigeons flying overhead. The bird tasted good and was easy to kill. On September 1, 1914 Martha, the last captive passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. We rarely know the specific date that a species goes extinct, an extinction we humans caused.

Kill 'em all and then some

Salmon, Idaho holds a four day Coyote and Wolf Derby every year. Salmon is a rural ranching community and in its own way reflects a dark part of an American past that should be in the Museum of Natural History but still exists today in small pockets throughout the country. Keep in mind that the livestock industry “hates” predators of every kind and always has. Science and objective observation have little to do with it.

The object of the hunt is to kill coyotes and wolves as fast as possible. It is killing for the sake of killing. Prizes of $1,000 are awarded for the most animals killed. Special awards are also given to children who demonstrate prowess in this slaughter.

Of particular interest is that part of the hunt takes place on federal lands—meaning public. Supposedly, oversight responsibility rests with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, who seemingly vanish shortly before and during this cultural celebration of human blood-lust.

The steak tastes bad

Climatologists are telling us with a “high level” of certainty that our warming planet, since 1950 at least, is caused primarily because of what we humans have been doing to the Earth. Yes, it's us.

In terms of global warming, meat production is especially harmful and beef production may be the most damaging form of meat. Cows produce methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas. Many methods of cattle production demand large tracts of land, contribute to the destruction of forests and trees are burned releasing CO2. Cattle production more often than not requires huge amounts of water and fertilizer.

If the whole world ate beef at the rate of Americans and produced by methods that are usual in the U.S., we'd likely have little chance of staying below internationally agreed limits on global warming.

So what, why it matters for every one of us, and what can really be done about it?


The Ethos of Death

These two articles in particular tell us something about the political reality in America, the cult of death and the on-going land swindle that continues currently. The disease can be cured if we choose.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Truth is clearly overrated among our kind (3)

The lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.
(President Grover Cleveland, while vetoing a bill offering financial aid to the poor, 1887)


By coincidence I happened to see a YouTube video put up by Jon Ritzheimer a few weeks back, one of the gang leaders that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and who is now in jail. He stood in front of a table piled high with dozens of dildos that his detractors had sent. What struck me, however, was the seeming bewilderment on his face as he swept them off the table and onto the floor.

“Let us do something, while we have the chance!”
(Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)

But, if you live in a world of paranoia, United Nations' black helicopters invading the U.S., FEMA concentration camps, a dash of apocalyptic Christianity and a distorted understanding of American history, rational thinking is likely to be difficult. You can, nevertheless, serve as a very useful tool for others. (The word collyfoxing is old English and means 'misleading and making a fool of one.')

If you know how it's easy

No, it's not a collection of sociopaths, crazed zealots and the merely pathetic that are the true problem. The real threat to our national parks, sanctuaries, recreation programs, enforcement and sound land management throughout the U.S. comes first and foremost from a loud and powerful segment of the the U.S. Congress, who know quite well who they work for.

The “grand strategy” is to starve all these programs until they collapse. It is not just public lands in the West that are threatened but community parks in both rural and urban areas, historic sites like Civil War battlefields, upkeep on popular hiking trails, dealing with invasive species and maintaining, for example, redwood forests in California to conserve water. Appropriations have been cut in important programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, popular programs allowed to expire and funds diverted back to the oil and gas industry.

In my state of Missouri, hardly a bastion of enlightenment at the present time, the state legislature wants to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from creating a new State Park that would benefit all the residents of the state, keeping in mind that our parks in Missouri attract millions of visitors annually, bring in an estimated billion dollars and support some 15,000 jobs. Most important, it would protect natural resources and be a legacy for future generations. This is an issue that is common throughout the country.

In the West the livestock industry, oil and gas, mining and land developers have always known how to conjure up the cowboy fairy tales about freedom, liberty and the “sacredness” of private property. They certainly know how to purchase politicians at the national, state and local level. When needed they can, of course, always find a bunch of terrorist thugs to break windows, wave guns and yell about government overreach. It's nothing new; they've been doing it for a long time.

To put names and faces to some of the worst elected officials in the U.S. Congress in terms of our national sanctuaries, wildlife and the determination to privatize all public lands, you can probably begin with five in particular. Collectively they have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and agribusiness. They are in the House of Representatives Ken Calvert of California, Don Young of Alaska and Rob Bishop of Utah. In the Senate they are Mike Lee of Utah and John Cornyn of Texas. They all happen to be Republicans—at the moment.

So what does it all mean, what can be done about it and who cares?


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Truth is clearly overrated among our kind (2)

They're making people everyday, but they ain't makin' any more dirt.
(Will Rogers)

Trespassers will be shot or worse

In July 2015 the United Nations estimated a global population of 7.349 billion people. Right now (2016) we are currently at 7.4 billion and increasing.

In 1700, only 316 years ago, the human population of the entire planet was approximately 600 million. In what we now call the United States the population (Europeans) was approximately 250,000 people. The industrial revolution in Europe wouldn't begin for another 80 years or so. The human footprint across the globe was still relatively benign in 1700.

A momentous change in agriculture had begun in Europe, starting in England in the late 17th century. It had a profound effect on the lives of people and one of the key factor in the global demographic explosion that would take place in the next 300 years.

The first change was the enclosure movement. Hedges began encircling more and more farmland. Before, land had been largely communal; everyone could graze their animals and raise crops on community land. But as new crops, new methods of breeding, and new cultivation techniques developed pressure grew to enclose the land, in order to improve both the yield and the quality and insure better management. While the farming system was undoubtedly revolutionized, many people lost their land, became dispossessed and had to find work in the cities.

With the spreading enclosure of land and the rising power of the landowners, the Norfolk Four-Course System was established. Throughout the Middle Ages and up to the late seventeenth century, field lay fallow every three years; farmers slaughtered their farm animals in the fall because they had no forage crops to feed them in the winter. The Norfolk system changed all this.

The fallow year disappeared and fodder crops, such as cornstalks, hay, and straw were fed to animals. This produced a lot of manure and urine, enriching the soil and ultimately increasing the harvests.

These new methods and techniques spread to the rest of Europe and ultimately moved in one form or another to the United States, where Europeans found some of the most fertile and productive land on the planet with few human obstacle to stop them from claiming it. For landless Europeans who could only dream of possessing property of their own, the world to the west seemed like a Garden of Eden with infinite abundance.

A book was published in England in 1776, arguably one of the most influential books ever written. The author was Adam Smith and the title of his work was An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He defined the free-market, what it was and its value in creating wealth.

Politicians in America, in particular, have always loved to talk about the free-market, its central role in America's greatness and “exceptionalism” and, not surprisingly, government must not be allowed to impose regulations on that “invisible hand” that knows best.

Well, not often stated, even the venerable Adam Smith in the 18th century told us to beware of capitalists because they could manipulate the “sanctity” of the market. In fact, he said, “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from [capitalists] ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined...” America, however, was going to demonstrate how the big swindle ought to be played on a continental scale.

You cannot solve the problem with the same kind of thinking that has created the problem.
( Albert Einstein )

The idea that human beings are better off acting selfishly would have been laughable to Shakespeare, anathema to Jesus, absurd to Darwin and insane to Freud. Even Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, would have recoiled from the crass self-interest philosophy promoted by Ayn Rand....
(Lynn Parramore, Institute for New Economic Thinking and founding editor of New Deal 2.0)


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Truth is clearly overrated among our kind (1)

Orcs hate Elves with a passion.
(from Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkien)

“Home home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play”

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has killed, through gassing, poisoning and strangulation by snare, 27 million native animals since 1996, including more than 1 million in 2014. The animals have included prairie dogs, gray wolves, mountain lions, black bears, foxes, coyotes and even bald eagles, and possibly a few domestic cats.

The mission of the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) Wildlife Services “is to provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” The WS is a government agency, its programs paid for by the taxpayers and supposedly answerable to all the citizens.

Yet most people, including the politicians responsible for oversight, have little understanding of the seemingly secret activities of this agency. What are the causes for each killing? Why is there a large variation from one year to the next? Is it merely a perception of a threat offered up by a farmer or rancher that causes the WS to kill wildlife? What role does corporate agriculture in general have in setting the “killing” priorities ... or, is it merely part of something much more corrupt and ultimately harmful to all of us?

Piling up the cow manure

In 1885 William A.J. Sparks, commissioner of the General Land Office, in his report to Congress, said
that “unscrupulous speculation resulted in the worst forms of land monopoly … throughout regions dominated by cattle-raising interests.” It has been said often enough that it's more than likely that land in the western states was acquired originally by assorted types of fraud.

The swindle, updated for the 21st century and more efficient, is still a swindle, with the possible consequences far worse today and affecting those that have never seen a real cow.

When a character like Cliven Bundy and his fellow travelers, the very essence of “welfare parasites,” state they will not pay a grazing fee for their cattle, keep in mind that the taxpayers of the United States are providing millions of dollars in indirect subsidies for private land ranchers. The actual federal grazing fee is approximately $1.35 a month per cow-calf pair in 2015, but the market rate on private land averages around $12.00.

One of the more colorful quotations comes from Brian Ertz, chairperson of Sierra Club's National Grazing Team, who said in 2014 in reference to an area on the Idaho-Nevada border: “One of the most cattle-fucked landscapes you'll ever see.”

Actual climate science tells us that one of the main contributors of greenhouse gases comes from meat production. It's also in the realm of possibility that the butchering of wildlife brought to you by the Wildlife Services has been decided by the livestock industry.

Today, desertification, pollution of water, destruction of cover for birds and mammals, mono-culturing of grasslands, deforestation and the destruction of native plants comes to us through poorly regulated grazing. In 1934 in congressional testimony the Forest Service referred to “ cancer-like growth” because of unregulated grazing. More than 70 years later we're still dealing with cancer-like growth and it's not because we don't understand the science today.

In 1946 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was created, a merger between Grazing Service and the General Land Office. Today it administers more than 247 million acres of public lands, mostly located in the western states. The BLM has sometimes been referred to, with a touch of bitterness, as the Bureau of Livestock and Mines. The question of course is who exactly does the BLM really work for. TO BE CONTINUED