Tuesday, August 31, 2010
One of the better indicators of our human “ability” to not only wipe out valuable interlinked ecosystems, but incredible animals and the keystone link they have on species living within their realm, is the salmon. Salmon are emblematic of white dominant culture destroying a species that provided for many hundreds of tribes and millions of people. Salmon represent ancient cultures and incredible forces of our still little known world – oceans. Salmon represent urban and suburban sprawl’s knife edge into our hearts. Salmon represent our Dr. Frankenstein dark side, as if replacing the magnificent wild species with farmed freaks of DNA manipulation will somehow cover up our failure as the “top species” to solve the problems we have created for them.
Overfishing and surmounting changes to rivers and the oceans have given the brother salmon an inhospitable world. King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon by David R. Montgomery is a great staring point to understand the salmon’s historical context throughout the centuries. Montgomery gives us an historical look at how first in the United Kingdom, then New England and now the Pacific Northwest the salmon have become imperiled (extinct wild species in the UK and New England). He’s a geologist who sees the evolution of salmon determined by a changing and dynamic landscape. More than 16 Pacific salmon runs have been listed under the Endangered Species Act as in crisis. Two general genera of salmon exist, in the family Salmonidae – Atlantic genus is Salmon ad Pacific salmon belong to Oncorhynchus. There’s an Asian species of Pacific salmon, O. masou. Samo salar is distributed across Europe and eastern North America.
They all begin their lives as fertilized eggs buried in streambed gravel, where they incubate, hatch, and develop until they emerge as small fry. Juvenile salmon stay in freshwater for several years, depending on the species. They migrate downstream, and spend one to four years in the ocean getting bigger. Once fully grown, the return to freshwater streams and rivers, where they pair up, spawn, and die. It’s called anadromy, from freshwater to saltwater back to freshwater. Pacific salmon die upon returning to spawn, whereas Atlantic salmon, 1 in 10, survives spawning, returns to sea and then returns to spawn again.
Montgomery’s book, or others, on salmon –
Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis by Jim Lichatowich
Salmon Nation: People, Fish, and Our Common Home by Elizabeth Woody
Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) by Joseph E. Taylor
Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon by Bruce Brown
The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (Critical Issue Book) by Richard White
A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia by Blaine Harden
Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West by Charles F. Wilkinson
What the River Reveals: Understanding and Restoring Healthy Watersheds by Valerie Rapp
The Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Trout, Their Fight for Survival by Anthony Netboy
These authors give us plenty on the species, the politics, the sustainability, and the nuanced approach to recovery and all the wrong-headedness involved in the developers, cities and farmers and others fighting to keep dams and destroy habit through expansion of their unsustainable practices.
Here’s what Alternet.org says about Salmon Month. For Spokane, salmon represent culture, science, hope, despair and a reawakening of our potential to heal the land.
September 2010 has been designated as “Salmon Month” by the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. To celebrate salmon month, SalmonAid (http://www.salmonaid.org) will be sponsoring a month-long series of exciting events, creating an opportunity to educate the public about what has gone so terribly wrong with California’s once bountiful salmon runs.
“Salmon Water Now could not let Salmon Month start without adding our two-cents to the educational process,” said Bruce Tokars, the relentless producer of Salmon Water Now videos. “So we have a new video, actually, two new videos.”
“Bullies of Westlands” is Salmon Water Now’s answer to the reason that wild salmon in such dire shape. The video runs 20:44 minutes and is available on Vimeo uninterrupted and in two parts on YouTube.
“You knows a bully when you see one,” said Tokars in introducing his latest video. “They use their strength and power to get their way or to influence an outcome.”
Tokars said a bully can be a person, or an organization. “In California’s on-going struggle over water, the biggest bully of them all is the Westlands Water District on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. We believe that in the last couple of years, the once mighty runs of wild salmon have been decimated by the self-righteous bulling tactics of the Westlands Water District,” he stated.
This Salmon Water Now video looks at the words and deeds of Westlands, the “Darth Vader” of California water politics, as they push for more and more water to be shipped south of the Delta to irrigate subsidized crops on selenium-laden soil that should have never been irrigated.
“We see and hear the voices of Westlands and the politicians and media that have been carrying their messages – demanding that their need for water trumps all others,” said Tokars.
Along the way, Tokars documents the struggle of fishery managers trying to determine how many salmon are in the ocean (not many!).
He puts the lie to the Westlands claims that reduced water deliveries have put America’s agricultural output in jeopardy. “We contrast the record, surplus crops of tomatoes, and almonds shipped to China, against the low numbers of salmon that are sold domestically for $20 a pound,” noted Tokars.
“Something is not right,” said Tokars. “The Westlands Water District’s bullying tactics. Their unwillingness to be reasonable in the face of sound science regarding the health of the Delta and the need for balance is not right.”
However, Tokars emphasized, “It is not too late for Westlands to become good citizens. To accept their role in the tragic reality of wild salmon forced to the edge of extinction. It is not too late for Westlands to actually encourage balance and sharing of water. Will it happen? The odds are against the survival of salmon as long as the bullies of Westlands have their way.”
I encourage you to watch this superb video and see for yourself. “It is time to make what is wrong, right again. It is time for bullies to be dismissed for what they are. It is time for salmon water, now!” concluded Tokars.
“Bullies of Westlands” link:
In addition to “Bullies of Westlands,” Tokars has released “Jenna’s Salmon,” a short video about a little girl who caught two very large salmon recently. It is a fish tale that explains the angst over the current salmon season – and what is wrong and what is right, too.
“Jenna’s Salmon” link:
Recreational and commercial fishing for Chinook salmon on the ocean off California and Southern Oregon was closed in 2008 and 2009, due to the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon populations. While multiple factors have lead to the demise of Central Valley salmon, none is more significant than massive water exports from the California Delta to corporate agribusiness and Southern California.
Yet the response of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his collaborators to this unprecedented disaster is to call for the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams to facilitate increased water exports to subsidized agribusiness and Southern California water agencies.
As usual, sharing and embedding of these videos is encouraged.
For more information, contact:
Bruce Tokars, http://www.salmonwaternow.org.
For more information about SalmonAid, go to: http://www.salmonaid.org.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Planning Profession Faces Sustainability, Climate Change and Ignorance -- How BP's Oil Crime Confronts Us All
The August issue of Planning magazine covers sustainability, the BP oil spill, how communities and governments are dealing with climate change in planning, how cities are dealing with food waste and plastic garbage, even how Pennsylvania communities are stopping sewage "sludge" from being spread on farmland, waste to energy tools, some of the new "environmentally preferable purchasing" efforts of many communities, and, finally, a story on ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.
Ahh, the planning community . . . . In many ways, environmental and social justice are far from the planner's toolbox when it comes to how cities and counties are going to be dealing with climate change, environmental challenges and the very idea of growth, their futures, and dealing with populations -- human populations.
Economic development seems to be one conduit to some sort of social justice, but in so many ways, planners and public officials and especially politicians see their jobs tied to industry, businesses and corporations -- developers being one large swath of influencers on not only a city's future but our own social justice well being.
Sustainability HAS to have the 5 e's in a synergistic and holistic fashion determining our decisions -- Education, Equity, Environment, Energy and Economy. For too many centuries, one E ruled over all others -- Economy. That form of business as usual has created the corrupt and out of balance economic engines pushing more and more people out of work, into low paying jobs, and into spiralling insecurity with part-time jobs. We have 17 percent unemployment, and for many, that fact is telling -- speaks to social injustice. Planners rarely work on that problem.
The point here is that sustainability and climate change as we see it applied in the USA now leave out Social Justice -- where that stuff comes from, who benefits, how communities actually can protect their human and non-human populations with the 5 e's fully engaged.
We sort of get it that places like Chicago and the state of Illinois are corrupt -- aldermen allowing for zoning variances for a few hundred bucks; governors indicted for higher levels of corruption; and up and down the political and government scales, any form of corruption and malfeasance is game and affects our profession, the planning profession, because we are at the whim of politicians and administrations and politics, even though our duty in our code of ethics is to the public -- for the well being, health and safety of the public. In fact, planners need to start seeing themselves as the public, in the communities they work in. Do the people of Illinois tolerate so much corruption because they still get their garbage picked up and potholes filled? Maybe. . . or maybe that relationship is much more complex, and citizens feel trapped by the political systems as we have allowed it to be co-modified and distorted.
So while the Planning Magazine for August 2010 shows some mettle in exposing the great journey we have to take to be sustainable and to move cities toward resiliency and sanity when it comes to energy and the environment and global warming, we must work hard to develop stronger tools to look at human and social justice and the very idea of the rights of nature. That issue is accessed through member sign-up. However, below is a perspective printed in it -- not too off the mark considering it's coming from a planner in a conservative field.
We still have people not understanding wind turbines -- questioning all the diesel expended on mining and smelting and milling the metals, moving the pieces, cementing in the support and projecting the lifespan of the actual turbine at 25 years as somehow more dirty, more CO2 intensive than current electric generation, i.e., fossil fuels (even hydro). More than a hundred studies have looked at the life cycle and carbon footprint and intensity of turbines. In six months of churning out electricity, the turbine more than makes up for its carbon and economic expense. Those ideas and facts, again, looking at the 5 e's of Sustainability, are important to move people beyond reluctance, fear and doubt and into acceptance and action -- the BIG E for me is, as an educator and recent graduate of a planning graduate program, is, EDUCATION. Too much out there in the minds of Fox News and tea party backers is plain rotten information, untruths and propaganda. Education is it seems key to the other four E's of sustainability. Without smart and informed people, everything else is toast.
Planning — August/September 2010
Perspectives from the Desk of APA Executive Director and CEO Paul Farmer, FAICP
Complexity, Uncertainty, Risk: Lessons from BP
BP has been trying for several years to position itself as a "sustainable" company. But even before the latest disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the company made headlines for releasing heavy metals into Lake Michigan from its Indiana refineries, and for its safety and environmental lapses in Texas and Alaska. Being a "green" oil company is tough.
While saddened by the loss of life and enormous, lasting environmental impact, I couldn't help but be amused by BP's initial public relations response to the oil spill: full-page newspaper ads without the cheery yellow and green logo that had been a prominent part of its "green" advertising display. The ads in May displayed a shrunken logo in shades of gray. Today, the cheery logo is back as BP assures the world that it will "make it right." Of course, the company has done little right, and the damage to the environment is so substantial that it will never be made right. Claiming to be a green oil company is easy.
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the world must live with another global environmental disaster. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote thoughtfully recently about the inherent risks of intervening in complex systems. "There must be ways to improve the choice architecture," he said, rather than always trying "to match complicated technical systems with complicated governing structures." Try drilling at 5,000 feet below sea level and then "making it right" when something goes terribly wrong.
Faced both with nature's endless complexity and the complexity of power relationships in a democracy, planners would do well to turn to the incremental approach of economist Charles Lindblom, beginning with his seminal work, "The Science of 'Muddling Through,'" published in the Public Administration Review in 1959. He revisited the topic 20 years later in "Still Muddling, Not Yet Through." His 1977 book, Politics and Markets, is also relevant today; its publication provoked another oil company, the Mobil Corporation, to take out a full-page ad in the Times to denounce it.
Three major disasters — the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, and BP's Deepwater Horizon — all resulted from a collision of science, engineering, business, and governance, demonstrating our inability to contain all risks and prevent all disasters, whether caused by honest mistakes, cutting corners, outright fraud, or failing to understand some aspect of a complex system. But they also resulted from our insatiable appetite for the energy that has fueled so much global progress. That appetite has led not only to singular disasters but to the well-documented, ongoing, global challenge of climate change.
In fact, climate change is one of four issues — the others are clean energy, sustainability, and regionalism — that are high priorities both for planners and for our current administration in Washington. How can planners contribute to a global dialogue in these areas? By getting smarter, promoting clean energy, defining sustainability, and advancing regionalism.
How can we get smarter and translate our expertise into leadership? Getting smarter means carefully reviewing reports and studies of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Princeton's Stephen Pacala, and others. It means ignoring polemics and focusing on the hard sciences and on policy sciences. Then it's up to practitioners to apply that knowledge to their private- and public-sector responsibilities, and to educators to integrate it into the curriculum — perhaps even requiring planning students to take advanced-level science and engineering courses.
Further, planners should integrate climate action plans into comprehensive plans. Sitting by and watching the proliferation of separate climate action plans seems to me to be part of a short-term political agenda rather than a long-term solution. Political leadership is good, but let's keep it where it belongs.
How do we advance a clean energy agenda on a scale that matters, while still addressing other legitimate concerns? Energy is moving up rapidly as both a private- and public-sector priority and should be part of the comprehensive plan as we take leadership in the movement toward a green economy. Earlier this year, APA President Bruce Knight, FAICP, announced a new Sustaining Places Task Force to examine the role of the comp plan in sustainability and to ensure that this key policy document provides a vision of a sustainable community and outlines steps toward implementing it, including capital spending and the broad regulatory regime. The plan should tackle the important planning issues related to solar installations, biomass, and wind farms.
Do we really know what we mean by "sustainability"? We have all seen too much BP-like "greenwashing" in plans for a "sustainable..." (you fill in the place name). "Sustainability: Planning's Search for the Holy Grail?" was the title of a talk I gave to a world planning conference in Vancouver in 2006. In it, I challenged my colleagues to think about the meaning of the word and how we as planners can change our practices in meaningful ways to establish ourselves as leaders. Four years later, I've seen more BP-like public relations and fewer actual changes in the profession. The challenge stands.
Will regional planning in the U.S. help us move toward sustainability? The weakness of decision making on a regional level is arguably a weak link in the chain of planning from local to federal. The fault does not lie with those who labor at the regional level. Rather, it is the result of a U.S. Constitution that establishes only two levels of government — federal and state — coupled with the lack of identity of metropolitan "regions" worldwide.
In the 1970s, while teaching a course on the topic, I asked eight leading regional planning directors the same question: Who are the constituents for regional planning? Six said "the federal government." Two had different answers. Doug Carroll, from the New York area, said "the media." He explained that his region encompassed 1,400 local governments and the only way to reach them was through the media. John Boland of the recently formed Twin Cities Metropolitan Council had yet another answer. He cited "local government" as the key constituent. In fact, successful regional planning pays attention to local concerns while knitting together a regional vision.
Soon thereafter, Ronald Reagan was elected president and removed much of the funding for regional planning. The loss of funding shows what happens when your constituency is the federal government and the federal leadership changes.
The same thing is happening today in Britain, where the newly elected coalition government has gutted the Regional Spatial Strategies, a key planning approach for over a decade. "Localism, localism, localism" are the three new priorities, as Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, reminded planners at a June reception in the Houses of Parliament, sponsored by the Royal Town Planning Institute. "But we reserve the right to change the order," he added with a chuckle.
Most U.S. planners would agree that getting regional problem solving right is no laughing matter. Most would agree as well that tossing new money at our existing regional institutions also won't solve the problem. We have seldom developed lasting constituencies for regional solutions or effective regional institutions and, apparently, neither have our friends across the pond.
Where does this leave planners and planning? The latest BP disaster has once again reminded planners that the private and public sectors are in this together. Global treaties, national standards, state actions, and local decisions are intertwined in the complex ways mentioned by David Brooks. Moving to a post-carbon world won't happen overnight, but still planners must persevere — learning the science, adapting old tools, and adding new ones. It's our obligation. In our ever more complex world, being a well-educated, ethical, and effective planner isn't easy, either.
Images: Dead shark on a Biloxi, Mississippi, beach. Photo Craig Gulliot.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
It's not a matter of wanting to find the dirty deeds of BP's, the government's and the media's cover-up of the 4 to 18 million barrels of oil leaked (get the picture yet -- that's a huge range, from conservative to reality, the number of gallons of oil dumped into the sea because BP is an illegitimate operator -- fined hundreds of millions in the past and unprepared to deal with reality, this tragedy, and un-policed by MMA -- minerals management administration -- come on!!).
No rosey scenario here. Scientists just projected all the wrong stuff, those working with NOAA. 1000 then 5000 or 50000 barrels a day?
How much gas was released? In 5,000 feet of water. 100 days of discharge. This has never happened before. 3,000 cubic feet of methane gas per barrel of oil is what BP is teling us. Oil plus the gas is 6 million barrels, if you go for the 4 million barrels of oil alone figure.
The reality is science is science, and here are the facts --
-- A deepwater plume of oil in the Gulf, measuring 22 miles long, 1.2 miles wide and 650 feet high
A Florida State University oceanography professor is questioning government estimates that the vast majority of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is already gone from the Gulf or is being rapidly broken down by bacteria.
“I think the imprint of the BP release, the discharge, will be detectable in the Gulf of Mexico for the rest of my life,’ Ian MacDonald told a congressional hearing on the spill. He was quoted in an Aug. 20 Wall Street Journal article that also referred to the findings of other scientists who had observed a vast underwater plume of hydrocarbons the size of Manhattan near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Ian's been on Democracy Now, quoted in the UK's Guardian newspaper and the Fall-Street Journal, a Murdoch scam of a newspaper in many people's minds.
Here are a few pull-outs from:
• Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent for the Guardian --
"These results indicate that efforts to book-keep where the oil went must now include this plume," said Christopher Reddy one of the members of the team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
The report, which is published in the journal Science, also said the plume was very slow to break down by natural forces, increasing the likelihood that oil could have travelled long distances in the Gulf before it was degraded.
"Many people speculated that subsurface oil droplets were being easily degraded," said Richard Camilli, the lead author of the paper. "Well we didn't find that. We found it was still there."
At the heart of the debate is the rate at which naturally occurring microbes have consumed the oil from the runaway well. Even by the White House estimates, about one quarter of the oil was siphoned away from the well, skimmed off the surface, or burned. But the White House, in a high-profile briefing, earlier this month suggested that microbes had eaten as much as 50% of the remaining oil.
Hey, I just finished my master's in urban and regional planning. Tomorrow's blog will cover some of the planning profession's take on BP and oil lies and what we as practitioners of planning and strategic community development need to start doing to get a handle on this corporate take-over of everything, now including truth and education.
Climate change plans, energy development, and sustainability on all levels need to be part of comprehensive plans, part of community dialogue, part of curriculum for both planners and K-12 students.
For now, listen to Ian McDonald on You Tube. Or better yet, Democracy Now --
Monday, August 23, 2010
Some news on the Haitian front where millions were displaced, turned into enviornmental refugees, and where 300,000 lost their lives as a direct result of the earthquake.
Smithsonian has a great piece on Haitian "Earthquake Art." See --
But there is more on the Haitian front, including a call to France to pay $40 billion for a forced rip-off of the country in 1825. Read the various blurbs and continue onto the longer versions, the stories on this:
"Haiti's claim is not really for reparations for slavery," said Ira Kurzban, Miami immigration attorney and Haiti's chief counsel in the U.S., "but for restitution specifically that happened in 1825. It is based on the French government's efforts to extract 150 million French francs (which is equal to $21 billion today) from an economy the French knew couldn't afford it, through the use of force. This is impermissible under international law."
Christian Science Monitor
France dismissed a call by left-leaning politicians and others for it to pay the modern equivalent of 90 million gold francs – about $17 billion – to Haiti as reparations for a 200-year-old injustice.
A petition signed by 100 artists, scholars, and EU politicians that was released Monday called on France to give Haiti $17 billion for earthquake reconstruction. The money would essentially reimburse a fee French King Charles X charged Haiti after a revolt that ended slavery there. King Charles justified the fee as compensation for the loss of slaves and other property.
Such requests are not new, authorities say, arguing that France has given substantial aid and debt relief to its former colony, and plans more.
The British Guardian and French Liberation dailies yesterday ran the open letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed by the likes of US academics Cornel West and Noam Chomsky, EU political figures Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Eva Joly, columnist Naomi Klein, and a host of US and French academics, rappers, and public figures.
Why Haiti's Earthquake Is France's Problem
by Tunku Varadarajan
January 14, 2010
When it came to Haiti, France was first a brutal colonizer, and then a usurious bully. Tunku Varadarajan on why it’s time for reparations.
As Haitians lurch destitute in the rubble, and as governments, churches, and NGOs do the best they can to bring succor to Haiti's hell, a vivid solution to the country's needs presents itself, one so obvious and irrefutable—so resonantly just—that it must be advocated with the greatest of energy: France must repay its colonialist debt to Haiti by paying for much of the island country’s reconstruction.
Haiti's chronic impoverishment began at its birth in 1804, when, having overthrown its French rulers in a bloody, 12-year slave revolt, the newborn nation was subjected to crippling blockades and embargoes. This economic strangulation continued until 1825, when France offered to lift embargoes and recognize the Haitian Republic if the latter would pay restitution to France—for loss of property in Haiti, including slaves—of 150 million gold francs. The sum, about five times Haiti's export revenue for 1825, was brutal, but Haiti had no choice: Pay up or perish over many more years of economic embargo, not to mention face French threats of invasion and reconquest. To pay, Haiti borrowed money at usurious rates from France, and did not finish paying off its debt until 1947, by which time its fate as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country had been well and truly sealed.
In this era of multibillion-dollar bailouts of private banking institutions,
$22 billion should scarcely raise a Gallic eyebrow. But to Haiti, the sum would be a godsend.
France must now return every last cent of this money to Haiti. In 2004, at the time of the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence, the Haitian government put together a legal brief in support of a formal demand for "restitution" from France.
The sum sought was nearly $22 billion, a number arrived at by calculations that included a notionally equitable annual interest rate. (For a full account of the calculation, read Jose de Cordoba's excellent news story in The Wall Street Journal, published on Jan. 2, 2004.) The demand was made by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a firebrand ex-preacher who was forced out of office by a violent uprising that February. His successors, Boniface Alexandre and Gerard Latortue, controversially chose to renounce Haiti's claim for restitution/reparations. (There was, of course, much pressure exerted on them by France, which had found Aristide's demand politically disconcerting.)
for more, read:
France Urged to Pay $40 Billion to Haiti in Reparations for "Independence Debt"
According to the UN-sponsored Haiti Reconstruction Fund, only two countries—Brazil and Estonia—have fully paid the pledged amount. The United States, France, Canada and many others have failed to send their pledged aid. A recent review by CNN found that just two percent of total pledges have been delivered to Haiti. Calls are now growing for another form of payment to Haiti: reparations. This week, a group of prominent academics and activists published an open letter calling on France to repay an "independence debt" it imposed nearly 200 years ago after Haiti successfully won independence from France. Haiti was forced to pay France around 90 million gold francs up until World War II, which after interest and inflation is valued today at up to $40 billion.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Then, as part of Sustainable September, Sept, 7, at the Garland Theater, Gulf Coast Blues starts a five-day film festival. Marc Gauthier will be there, and Down to Earth will host that event.
The story is just unfolding -- that is, the ramifications of the BP blow-out and the cover-up. I have plenty to say about the entire mess. I've interviewed Gulf Coast residents for my radio show, Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge -- http://www.kyrs.org/. I've had photographers on -- Matthew White -- http://www.matthewwhitestudio.com/. I've had a birder on, Drew Wheelan, who was standing by dead terns on beaches the media and BP declared free of oil, free of death, while being interviewed by me live. Some of these images and voices will be in Marc's film, which he is still editing and doing last minute content additions.
For now, though, the best clear story covering the lies and the media manipulation and the scientific truths is from September/October 2010 issue of Mother Jones -- By Julia Whitty, "BP's Deep Secrets."
Below are some break-out passages from her story. Mother Jones had more reporters there than most of America's newspapers and TV networks. BP is all about protecting shareholders' interests, not upholding the law of the land or doing right by the environment and people. Millions of gallons of toxic dispersants were pumped into the ocean to cover up the hundreds of millions of gallons of crude pumped into the ocean; millions of tons of methane gushing out were treated by BP with methanol, another toxin.
Scientists were hired on at $250 an hour with the caveat to keep their reseach secret. Prohibiting CBS and ProPublica and other press groups and individuals from being there was part of the US Coast Guard's collusion with BP profit spinners.
In any case, future PacifiCAD blogs will cover many aspects of this story. For now, the Mother Jones article and the breakout passages below:
And no one is ready for it. Not the Minerals Management Service, catering submissively to BP's laughable Gulf oil-spill "plan," a document featuring wildly inaccurate wildlife assessments (including walruses and other species nonexistent in the Gulf) and an on-call expert who's been dead for years. Not the scientists whose research is paid for by the oil cowboys. Not the environmental groups, who did not foresee the stupendous potential for cataclysm on oil's farthest frontier. Not the media, who almost entirely ignored the sneak preview offered last year by the blowout of the West Atlas rig drilling in the Timor Sea off Australia—a disaster that required five attempts at a relief well and 74 days to stanch.
"Oil is toxic to most life. And Corexit is toxic to most life. But the most toxic of all is oil that's been treated with Corexit."
Rick Steiner, a conservation specialist from the University of Alaska who's studied the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill for the past 21 years, discusses these possibilities as we look on helplessly. "The dolphins aspirate oily fumes through their blowholes," he says. "They're eating fish exposed to oil. They're getting oil in all their orifices. They're bathed in a continual soup of oil. There's nowhere to go to get away from it. We know from the Exxon Valdez that even those animals not killed outright suffer lesions in their organs, including the brain. They go blind. They experience reproductive failures, changes in their blood chemistry, and possibly multigenerational changes passed down to offspring never even exposed to the oil."
"Even though this concoction may have exploded from the well a month ago and has been wending its way ashore ever since, it's still full of volatile compounds like benzene," says Steiner. "Benzene's a known carcinogen, dangerous to human life, too."
They have to pay these guys to work or else they'll riot," says Carl Safina, marine conservationist and cofounder of the Blue Ocean Institute. "As it is, they're angry, drinking, griping in the bars. By paying them, BP is deflecting their anger. Plus some of them feel like they're really helping, even though BP's two prime cleanup methods—setting out boom and using dispersant—completely undermine each other."
Along with oil, methane, methanol, and Corexit, drilling fluids add their own frightening recipe to the disaster: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, barite, fluoride, chrome lignosulfonate, vanadium, copper, aluminum, chromium, zinc, radionuclides, and other heavy metals. Relief wells require pumping thousands more barrels of drilling fluid into the reservoir, with all the same risks of explosion attending the original well. The EPA estimates these drilling fluids will pose a threat to the seafloor and surrounding waters for up to 40 years.
Never before in human history has the vast food web of the ocean—rooted in the dark, and flowering at the surface—come under so many assaults from below, above, and within the water column: marine warfare masquerading as a cleanup.
An estimated 1,665 sperm whales inhabit (and perhaps never leave) the northern waters of the Gulf. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assessment calculated that even three additional deaths (by other than natural causes) could endanger the entire sperm whale population, since the whales breed infrequently and only in midlife.
"We lack even a good picture of life in the deep Gulf," says Ed Chesney. "Now we may never know what's been done to it." It's the classic iceberg equation: a nine-tenths submerged hazard, lurking unseen in the darkness. The big question: Will it wreck the Gulf of Mexico? "The best thing that might happen now," says Chesney, a battle-scarred veteran of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, "is for one, two, three, or four hurricanes to blow through and bury all this pollution under layers of sediment."
"We know that the deep scattering layer in the Gulf of Mexico—like the DSL everywhere—supports huge numbers and biomass of life," says Benoit-Bird, who has spent time studying the Gulf's sperm whales. "We know the DSL is super important to the life of those waters. We know it's constantly on the move, not only up and down, but inshore and offshore, back and forth, every day and every night. This greatly increases the likelihood that any given animal or layers of life will be exposed to the pollutants at some point in the course of their travels. And each of these exposures will cascade up and down through the food web."
Some early observations of the effects of the Gulf catastrophe suggest the daily vertical migrations of the animals of the deep scattering layer may be blocked when they encounter plumes of oil and contaminants. If so, then trapped below a plume, the DSL fish and invertebrates would be unable to access their prey. Trapped above, they would be unable to escape their predators. Trapped within, they would probably die—and in their deaths, poison those who eat them. For the ocean, any loss of productivity in the deep scattering layer would be the biggest cataclysm of all—impoverishing the surface waters, depleting the coasts, cascading across the boundaries between ocean and land to denude both natural and human economies.
On the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, as black doom wells up from the seafloor a mile down, I find oil on beaches repeatedly cleaned by hazmat crews. All I have to do is lean down and scratch an inch into the sand to find goop. It occurs to me that a new stratum is being written in the geological logbook of the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps someday to be known as the BP dark layer. Will history record it as the oily seam marking the end of an untenable energy era and the beginning of a better one?
This is in response to the comment below. Thanks for those comments, folk!
Pretty cynical. The corporation in question has been given billions in government aid -- taxpayer aid. We give the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax credits. We give the BP's of the world cart blanc when it comes to skirting regulations. That oil, that territory, it's USA property, the people's property. So, lying corporations, and their lying lawyers are ALWAYS working against the America people, AGAINST the laws we've expected to be followed. So, yes, corporations are in many cases like drug dealers -- they have to cover their tracks with the help of college-educated scientists and lawyers and economists.
The corporation's bottom line? Some cool stuff on corporations in Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing.
Or the movie, The Corporation --
"The corporation is compared to a sociopath. The sociopathic personality is irresponsible, manipulating, grandiose, lacking in empathy, has antisocial tendencies, refuses to accept responsibility for its actions, and cannot feel remorse....Many of the attitudes people adopt and the actions they execute when acting as corporate operatives can be characterized as sociopathic.
Moreover, by the legal way a corporation is set up, its only motive is profit. Every action taken, no matter how altruistic it looks, has to ultimately be a search for profits. Otherwise, the corporation is subject to litigation by the shareholders. The corporation is deliberately programmed and legally compelled to externalize (dump) costs (pollution, for example) without regard for the harm it may cause. Every cost it can unload onto the general public is a benefit to stockholders - a direct route to profit.
Many major corporations habitually engage in criminal behavior with records worse than even the most prolific human criminals. GE collected 42 heavy fines over 11 years - akin to a hardened repeat criminal receiving occasional hand slaps while on perpetual parole. Corporations don't mind chalking these fines up as a cost of doing business - then delegating a committee to figure out how to cover their tracks better in the future. Sounds a lot like a sociopath.
Within the past 20 years, corporations have really gotten in bed with government in the United States. Billions in PAC money is spent every year for lobbying and political contributions. A grateful politician must find it difficult to turn someone down who has given a hundred thousand dollars to his campaign. How can virtually unfunded (by comparison) watchdog groups compete with this machine aimed toward sugar-coating their industries and de-regulation?"
Or this perspective --
"I know what a thug corporation looks like," says lawyer and radio host Mike Papantonio, who is busy building a RICO case against BP for the oil devastation in the Gulf. "These people are sociopaths and the GOP are apologizing for them." Papantonio discusses the ongoing case against BP, noting that the company bragged back in 2008 of being able to better track its oil movements only to claim now that it had no idea how much oil was gushing into the water. He also discusses the studies that found brain damage and genetic mutations in people exposed to oil in previous spills--and why drilling in Alaska is going forward anyway. "We're tired of just going out in the streets and demonstrating or listening to other people speak to us," says organizer Rocio Valerio of her hopes for the U.S. Social Forum. "We're actually going to come up with alternatives, to really come up with a plan." The Social Forum, this week in Detroit, provides space for organizers like Rocio to come together and work for a better U.S.--and Laura will be reporting from the Forum this weekend. Stay tuned for more!A Congressional investigation has confirmed what Aram Roston reported last November in The Nation: US tax dollars go into the pockets of Afghan warlords in "a massive protection racket" which may lead back to Taliban hands.
Roston discusses the web of connections, payoffs, and private armies of what he calls "irregulars" who are accountable only to themselves and their own military power. Nine years in, Afghanistan is the US's longest-running conflict--and we still don't know where the money is going? And just what's going on with General McChrystal, anyway? Finally, BP's Tony Hayward "got his life back" going yachting. Millionaires around the world are spending more on boats. But one Gulf fisherman has a better idea of where they can spend those spare millions.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
*This is part two of a two-part DTE analysis of the trailer for local filmmaker Marc Gauthier’s upcoming oil spill documentary titled “Gulf Coast Blues: Oil in Our Veins” Today is DTE blogger Paul’s take on the trailer. DTE blogger Bart’s take appeared here on DTE over the weekend. The trailer is embedded below as our weekly Tuesday Video: (Warning — foul/coarse/mature language at 4:05, 5:50 and 8:10)
"So, a guy from Spokane spends two weeks in Louisiana poking his nose around and filming, and if he knows more than the President of the United States about what’s really happening down here on the beaches, in the marshes, if the administration doesn’t have what I have learned in two weeks, then we are in big trouble. We are screwed.” - Marc Gauthier to Paul Haeder
That quote from the frontlines might sound familiar. If you followed Dispatches From A Disaster as voraciously as we did, it didn’t take long to realize it was one of the most real and unfiltered reports from the Gulf. Now comes Gulf Coast Blues: Oil In Our Veins, a documentary from that project by Spokane filmmaker Marc Gauthier. This is as real as it gets with up close and personal of coverage of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl, his sleeves rolled up - the sign a politician is serious - spouting empty doublespeak from the lectern. You suffer the embarrassing boxed-in bureaucracy when Gauthier volunteers to help with the clean-up. And there are the sublime and hypnotic shots of pelicans soaring above waves on the gorgeous coast line before the oil hits the beaches - fast-forward a month and witness the harrowing juxtaposition of death as an economy is destroyed and dead shrimp wash up on the beach, covered in blackspotted goop. “How can we fly to the moon in the 60’s and we can’t stop an oil leak?” a fishermen asks Gauthier. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I think far too many people put stock in President’s Obama’s emotional gauge in the days, weeks and months that have followed since the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people in the Gulf of Mexico. An event that created the worst environmental disaster our nation has ever seen. Do we really care about our president’s emotional state? Or would we be better served to demand our president roll up his sleeves, shut his mouth and start doing dirty work?
Since everyone wants to compare his reactions to that of former President Bush, consider this: After 9/11, President Bush went to Ground Zero and stood on the rubble in what many remember as the defining moment of the last quarter century. But remember who he was surrounded by: emergency response personal who for the most part were devoid of emotion due to years of trauma experiences and emotional earthquakes. Not to discredit those brave men and women or sound shallow, but it’s true. It’s easy for the film“Funny People” to look like a Lifetime movie at a horror film marathon. Plus, we’re talking about two different kinds of events - one where the enemy is easy to identify and direct anger at, and the other where the enemy is a culture we’ve all fostered.
But I digress… .
Lost in the psychoanalysis of Obama’s cuss words, his attire in the Gulf, or his facial expressions was the sadder fact the rest of America was mostly detached as well. To me it’s far more problematic to think of my fellow citizens as having a hard time harnessing the anger and frustration felt about this tragedy and directing that towards the culpable and the enablers. And in this case the enablers are who you see when you look in the mirror. But back to my point about feeling “a disconnect.”
Maybe I’m immune to react to television images and video. Maybe our media fails us more than we realize. Whatever the case, it took seeing something like the trailer to Gulf Coast Blues: Oil in Our Veins a documentary by Spokane filmmaker Marc Gauthier to create that connection. Marc’s approach to filmmaking is more than an art. Marc uses a foundation of trust and honesty to get to the real heart of the matter. And that’s what sets this film apart.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Paul K. Haeder
It seems like a lifetime away and 50 cultures removed from the bubbling oil, but the editing and digital tweaking by filmmaker Marc Gauthier are turning an eye-opening trip to the Gulf in May into a vision for change. Plus, when you watch him shuttle through scenes and drop in music on the Mac, you come away with his invigorating passion and vision.
For weeks, he’s been in the Saranac, in the cubby hole on the fourth floor. At Community Minded TV, Gauthier has been wrangling for tips on how to piece together audio, film and graphics, and the outcome, which can now be seen on this site as a 10-minute trailer to the larger film, is amazing.
“Gulf Coast Blues – Oil in Our Veins” isn’t about all the technical crap the British Petroleum blowout has forced down the American viewers’ throats. It isn’t about the manipulation of science and the bungling of the various agencies, before, during and now 90 days after Deepwater Horizon blew up and killed 11 humans and destroyed an entire Gulf’s life. It isn’t about the posturing of suited politicians and fake Coast Guard warriors.
This project is about one man’s narrative intersecting with an entire region’s collective story. Marc’s film shows the frustration of trying to help and being turned away. His film shows the initial reaction of oil seeping onto the beaches of Grand Isle.
But it’s through his lens, as he paddles his sea kayak around booms and barrier islands, how we witness what compels a human to ditch his security (in Spokane) to find out how all his years working for the environment, learning how to “message” for the environment, all of that translates into getting down with the natives. And then turning it into the magic of filmic narrative.
What Spokane and the world get is a story of confrontation. Marc is at press conferences, asking questions of officials, listening to National Guardsmen voice frustration, hanging out with musicians, living a few weeks inside the grit and sweat that is the Gulf.
He comes back with a story of raw decay and rampant admonition. “Gulf Coast Blues – Oil in Our Veins” is spot-on when it comes to people, wildlife and a system of dirty energy extraction and exploitation crashing head-first into each other.
The back story he couldn’t get – the multi-millionaire effete class and faux cowboys in boardrooms or inside engineering centers making flippant remarks about the natives. They do it to the Cajuns and Gulf Coast natives. They do it to Nigerians. They do it to us, the ones with the addiction.
The story is about us, the protagonists, being stepped on, being fed the narcotic that is oil.
Gulf Coast Blues – the full-length film – will be showing here in Spokane. Soon. We’re talking about having it be part of Sustainable September. At the Spokane Falls Community College as part of their year-long theme. Maybe a Gulf Coast Blues Bash – the film, the food, the fret boarding of musicians, and the force of our own community opening up the dialogue.
Stay tuned for other news about “Gulf Coast Blues – Oil in Our Veins.” And if you haven’t read them the first time around, check out the “Dispatches from a Disaster” here, where Marc describes what he saw, heard, smelled, and felt, all for the first time. Take a look at photographs from Matthew White, New Orleans photographer. Listen to the KYRS interviews and hour-long shows on the oil disaster.
For now, watch the trailer to compel you to attend the premiere, to commit to watch the film, to support local artists and activists, and to help spread the word. BP as a multinational company operating around the world and what the oil extraction and oil defamation represent will be more of a feature of our time than we might even imagine 90 days after the oil bled into our memory.
Comments are highly regarded – so please post them here. Really, we want feedback. Use Marc’s trailer as a stepping stone to your own view on what Oil in Our Veins represents, as a trailer and an analogy to our futures.
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Links of Interest
- Architects with Out Borderers -- Seattle
- Architects without Borders
- Architecture 2030
- Architecture Sans Frontieres
- Auto Desk Sustainable Design
- Autodesk - Guide to Sustainable Design
- Cascadia Region Green Building Council
- Center for Biological Diversity
- City of Spokane--Sustainability
- Climate Central
- Climate Impacts Group
- Climate Progress
- Climate Solutions -- Olympia
- Climate Watch, California
- Committee on the Environment - AIA
- Dirty Cajuns
- Down to Earth Northwest
- Earth Charter
- Earth Day National
- Engineers without Borders-USA
- Fuse Washington
- Futurewise of Washington
- Gulf Coast Photography
- Inhabitat -- (design will save the world)
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Local Governments for Sustainability
- Low Power Community Radio -- Spokane
- Model Forest Policy Program
- New Urbanism
- Northwest Climate Change Center
- On Earth
- Planners' News
- Project for Public Spaces
- Real Climate
- Save Our Wild Salmon
- Smart Growth On Line
- Spokane Based Conservation -- Lands Council
- Sustainable Architecture, Building, Culture
- Sustainable Spokane
- The Green Architect
- Tree Hugger
- Western Climate Initiative
- Yale 360