Saturday, April 17, 2010

Earth Women: Outdoor Adventure with Barb Barton

Barb Barton, biologist, adventurer (and fabulous musician) will be guiding Earth Women on outdoor adventures beginning Sunday, April 18 from 1 to 4 in the Greater Lansing Area. Subsequent adventures will be on third Sundays through September. The next excursion will be
Sunday, May 16 (preregistration by May 10th please!)

Tomorrow we will be learning to identify sassafras, enjoying some sassafras tea, identifying the many wildflowers while exploring the Mason Esker (a glacial landform) and reveling in Michigan springtime and each other's company.

Each Sunday adventure is $50. You may sign up for all six adventures for $250 and save some loot.

This is an exciting opportunity you'll want to share with friends. Barb has made arrangements with Everybody Reads, a locally-owned indie bookstore in Lansing to order several books at a 20 percent discount, too. Barb can order these books for you: Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, Wild and Edible Plants of the Great Lakes Region, Michigan Wildflowers.

Call 734.576.8427 for more information and to preregister for any and all adventures!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BP: Alberta, Canada Oil Sands - Here We Come!

Left is a Peter Essick photograph of an open pit oil sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada. This is just the pit. The photos of the processing plants, the sprawl at Fort McMurray, the fish coming out of the Athabasca River, the tailing ponds that hold the toxic sludge; all can be seen in a 2009 National Geographic article about oil sand mining. Tailing ponds - water reused in the expensive, ecologically unsound process of recovering a barrel of synthetic crude from tons of washed sand - are huge, noxious, and are "required" by the Canadian government to be cleaned up. Not one operation has done so yet. Left alone (which the ponds are) tailing ponds will leech toxic waste into the ground and the water table for a thousand years.

There is a picture of a 1000 acre tailing pond in the NG article. It has a radar-controlled mechanical bird that squawks to warn off real birds. If the birds land, they die. Tailings are contained death that seeps into the ground and travels. People 150 miles downriver are developing exotic cancers at an alarming rate. The dust blowing off the wheels of the trucks travels. It is not good dust, as tailing pond water is not good water.

BP (who is still British Petroleum in my mind, begun in 1909 as Anglo-Persian Oil) drew a line in the oil sand today at their annual meeting, when some smart and environmentally sound shareholders, hoping to approve a resolution to review BP's plans to cash in on the oil sands in Alberta, were defeated. BP will reveal the actual results of the meeting in a day or two, and will make their decision by the end of the year. Tally-ho.

Shell Oil will probably quash their shareholders at their own meeting next month. Shell plans to cash in on the oil sands bonanza in Alberta, too.

Oil sands mining is a nasty - maybe one of the nastiest - earth-fouling operations going. It is arduous, expensive, machinery intense, and thus CO2 emission heavy, and then there are the tailing pond leavings. But BP said the project is crucial to meet global energy needs. BP means us. Americans. We are addicted to oil, and we use more of it than any other country in the world. BP is a polluter with a long history of spills and rusted pipelines and cash-chasing earth gouging. The company is spending a boatload of money advertising their "alternative energy" strategies. Oil sand extraction is not alternative energy, any more than "clean coal" or nuclear energy is alternative energy.

50 years from now, when there are no more Alberta wilderness adventure sites on the internet, no more guided fishing on the Athabasca River, no more Atlin-Taku Watershed, no more boreal forest, nothing but tailing ponds and abandoned communities; when the oil is sucked out of the sand, who will be around to make sure the mechanical bird keeps squawking?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Baby Brother has Alzheimer's Disease

That was hard to type. It is profound to feel. Scott was born with Down's Syndrome, struggled with schizophrenia since his 30s, and now our great heart has a new burden. He is 45 years old. He will bear this with the same gift of spirit that he has lived with all along. He probably doesn't understand what is happening in his brain, and I'm asking the universe to help him never to be afraid. He is a titan of understanding, a generous soul, and I hope we have the humility, courage and divine guidance to learn from my baby brother what we all will need to remember in the years to come.

We will be with you with love, dear Scotty.

We Must Have No Tolerance for Sexual Abuse and Violence

We must stop sexual abuse and violence. We must take the conversation out of the cloak rooms of churches, governments, schools and homes, and raise our voices until the end of sexual abuse and violence is shouted out in every discussion we have as a global community.

My father and I discussed this today. I asked him what he thought of the allegations of sexual abuse among the clergy. He thought this behavior has probably gone on for centuries. Why would the church be different than the rest of the world?

I think so, too, and I am ill to think it. We are not discussing isolated incidences, long ago and since ended, in faraway places concerning people we don't know. We all know someone who has been sexually abused, not just in the holiest of sanctuaries where a child parishioner must feel completely safe, or never understand safety again.

We especially turn a blind eye to suspicions of experiences that we ourselves have had, and buried the memory.

I am praying tonight for the thousands and thousands and children who have experienced what must never be experienced, who have been silenced and afraid, and pray there is someone in their world to talk to, with whom they can learn not to always feel alone and wrong; and I am weeping for the perpetrators who must be exposed and stopped. But stopped they must be.