OUR FINAL CHANCE: TODAY IS EARTH DAY

After months in a cryo-tube, they finally woke me. What a headache! Sheesh. And holy moly, I really had to go to the bathroom, after which I needed not so much a shower as a sandblasting. That cryo gunk is sticky and it gets into places you just wouldn’t … well, maybe you would … believe.

Then there was food. Never in my entire life have I wanted to eat a starship, including the wings. Talk about an appetite. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone had just been wakened and I’m sure we all felt the same way: hollow.

A little piece of T.S. Eliot was spinning in my head:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
I vaguely remembered more of the poem.
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

I sure did hope that was not a prediction for our explorations to come. Because given what bad shape the earth was in, we needed more than a merely decent place. We needed a fertile planet on which crops could grow. Where the battered human race could remember itself, its better self. We hadn’t been better than cockroaches in a long, long time.

Finally after eating for what seemed an eternity, we donned our lime green suits — the lightweight ones for worlds that were not inherently hostile, merely unknown — and they opened the doors and we emerged. Into paradise.

It was breathtaking. The colors were a bit odd with that pink sky and pale blue clouds. And the plants were all kinds of colors, like a flower garden. Hell, the whole planet was a garden. So we named it “Eden” which I thought was a mistake. We got kicked out of Eden once already. But hey, what do I know? I don’t make the Big Decisions. Way above my pay grade. You might say I was just along for the ride.

Before we reboarded the ship, I had a little thought. I dawdled. Picked up the litter we’d left behind. I found a big piece of cardboard. Must have been a box of some sort, but it would make a pretty good sign. I found a piece of wood to attach it to. I had a nail gun in my tool kit as well as a big marking pen — fortunately it hadn’t dried out and worked in the lower gravity of this new planet. New to us, but home to so much life. As Earth had once been before we stripped her of everything but our trash.

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I planted my sign near where we’d landed. I was sure future expeditions would land in more or less the same spot. Then I wrote my message. In my best handwriting. Using huge letters so no one could miss it — or mistake its meaning.

SLAVES TO SPINNING ALONG THE BLACKSTONE:

Today is Patriot’s Day. Here in Massachusetts, this day commemorates – and re-enacts — the battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of our Revolutionary War. And we have a marathon too … in Boston.

But this post is about the other  revolution — the American Industrial Revolution — which took place around the same time … and had perhaps even more profound effects on our world.

America: Born Bankrupt

America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We produced raw material, but Great Britain turned those materials into goods for the world’s markets.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.

The result was war, the staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies and birth of a new nation.

That we won the war was astonishing. We had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President.

French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

What Did We Have?

Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industry were slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real.

North and south, slaves made people rich. Not the slaves, of course, but other people. North and south, fortunes were made selling human beings, then profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution, to turn a bunch of individual colonies into one country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass the constitution … so slavery became law and the groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. Its legacy remains with us today and probably always will.

So How Come We Didn’t Find a Better Way?

Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was clear from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was made illegal. From private writings by members of the continental congress, it’s clear they knew the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Long before 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies. So “The Great Compromise” was put into place, the Constitution was approved and a later generation fought the war.

Right went head to head with the bottom line and lost.

Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything resembling justice, much less equality.

When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

So About Those Mills …

Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.

Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.

Renovated into elderly and affordable housing, the old Crown and Eagle mill in Uxbridge is beautiful today.

The Crown and Eagle Mill today, renovated into elderly and affordable housing.

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater – a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

The Blackstone Canal

On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. the trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

blackstone canal locks

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

What Does This Have To Do With Slavery?

Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

Building the Canal

The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.

The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.

Small canal serving the Crown and Eagle

Small canal serving the Crown and Eagle

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

Railroads

Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.

The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

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By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was also the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast.

As of 1923, the majority of nation’s cotton was grown, spun and woven down south. Without its mills and factories, the valley’s population began to shrink.

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Pollution

In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess.

We’re still cleaning up. Although not as polluted as it was, the watershed has a long way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the Blackstone itself because against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from a sewage treatment plant in Millbury. It’s hard to fathom what reasoning, if any, those who favor pouring sewage into our river are using. The fight never ends.

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Good news? The birds and fish are back.

American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it.

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BLACKSTONE CANAL, SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON

A couple of hundred years of polluting the river nearly killed it. How fortunate for us that nature is resilient. Today, The Blackstone Canal is in recovery but it’s slow. The fish are back, though weather or not it’s safe to eat them is a matter of controversy.

Blackstone river and canal divide

This is the early autumn, mid-September. Barely a breeze. The canal is as smooth as glass and reflects like a mirror.

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The Mumford – Part 1- Marilyn Armstrong

Yesterday we were on our way from Uxbridge to Milford.

There’s really only one way to get there from here and that’s by Route 16, one of the original post roads in the valley.

The park along the Mumford River, at the falls.

We drove into town, but when we had to turn onto 16, it was closed. They were repairing the bridge over the Mumford. You really don’t notice the bridge until it’s closed and you have to find another route to wherever. Unlike more urban areas, we don’t have an extensive road system. We have no highways. Most roads, even the most heavily trafficked, are two lanes and none except Rt. 146 are even partially limited access.

Summertime at Mumford Falls.

There are only two seasons in New England: Winter and Road Repair. Road Repair is a long season and lasts from when the snow melts (thus including what we humorously call Spring) and as far into Autumn as the weather allows. Spring, when we have one, is short and is alternately known as “mud season.” If you have small children and/or dogs, you really understand why this is no one’s favorite time of year.

As soon as the snow melts and the weather is warm enough to do something besides play ice hockey or ski, every road in the region is backed up, barely passable as road crews rush to get as much damage repaired as possible before winter comes back.

Weather is erratic in New England. Winter can come as early as October or tease you by not showing up until January or February … or, in some rare years like this past one, not show up at all. But that’s rare indeed. Usually, the only question is how much snow and how cold. And if it will end in February, March or last right through most of April.

There’s never enough time. We may not have a lot of roads, but we do have a lot of weather and the amount of damage resulting from snow, ice and cold is usually more than the towns can fix no matter how early they start.

Editor’s note:  The above was originally posted on July 20, 2012.

 

Marsh and Wetlands – Marilyn Armstrong

Along the river you will find marsh and wetlands. These are the places where the birds feed and breed, where fish lay their eggs, where turtles multiply and come out to sun themselves on the rocks.

Herons, egrets, and other water fowl make their homes here. Humans generally don’t like these areas much. Too many bugs.

Mosquitoes are thick in the air, but they make wonderful food for many of the smaller creatures that live in these areas. Rich with life of all kinds, the wetlands are fed by the same river that flows down from the Worcester hills to the sea at Providence.

The wetlands are beautiful and rich … Just make sure you wear a lot of insect repellent. And bring your camera.

The wetlands and marsh that spreads out along the river are the richest ecological areas in the region and are fragile. Around the valley, because the river so dominates our environment, the wetlands are to be found anywhere and everywhere.

Homeowners get upset when they are told they aren’t allowed to build on areas of their own land because it’s protected wetlands … especially when they didn’t know they had on wetlands on the property.

I think we have some wetland way back in our woods … a small pond too, though I’ve never made it there through the brambles. It’s not a place I’d ever think to build anyway. They are an inconvenience and we have to work around them, but we protect them because we need them. And they need us.

The River – Marilyn Armstrong

When first we moved here from Boston, it was wonderful, but so different.

Although I’d lived in the suburbs and spent most of my vacation time through the years out in the country, I’d never lived so far from a major city nor in a river valley, which has a particular character of its own.

The dominance of the Blackstone both over the ecology of the valley and its economy is hard to over-emphasize.

The Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor is actual part of the National Parks system and includes all the cities in the valley, from Worcester, where the river starts, to Providence where it ends. It is a protected area, though not a park, because so many people live here, but it is considered to be of significant historical importance.

A small pond where herons like to fish is formed by the river and canal’s congruence just above the falls.

It was in this valley that the American Industrial Revolution took place.

I call it the “keyhole” bridge. It’s just before the river divides.

I became fascinated with the river. It was everywhere. Even though you can’t always see it, the Blackstone or one of its tributaries is everywhere you travel, just off the road, hidden by a hillock or trees.

There’s a walkway along the canal where everyone likes to stroll. It’s right next to the parking lot for a medical building, and there’s a small picnic area there, too.

Twelve years later, the river still fascinates me … in all its seasons and permutations. This is the river in late summer/early Autumn, from last September. This is just a single hour of shooting by the river last September. You can be sure there will be much more.

Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

OH MOTHER OF INVENTION, HOW ABOUT ELIMINATING US?

It’s really a simple solution, you know.

We may already have one somewhere. It probably needs a little refinement, but I think it would solve the Earth’s problems. A bomb. A huge one.

Not neutron because  that kills animals as well as people. Too much other destruction, too. We need a special people-eliminating bomb. After all the people are gone, Earth can recover and eventually, a new species will reign supreme. Hopefully the new masters of earth will show respect for Mother Earth and other creatures who share her bounty. A species which would allow the trees to grow, water to flow without damming or poisoning every stream. A species without the compulsion to dig up every mineral, pave every inch of ground, replace forests with cities belching soot, smoke and chemical fumes.

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster - Walt Kelly

Pogo – Earth Day 1971 poster – Walt Kelly

Earth needs a caretaker species. Not humans. We don’t care. We think God gave us permission to ravage and destroy our home as well as every living thing on it. I don’t remember any God — ours or anyone else’s — saying anything of the sort. How did I miss such an important passage in someone’s mythology? Why do I think that isn’t what any God would want?

Short of wiping out the human race, how about our species display a little self-restraint? How about not pouring sewage and industrial poison into the rivers, filling the air with dirt? Tearing open the earth to get to fossil fuels on which we should not be depending? How about behaving like proper guests of Mother Earth? You know, not eating our own Mother? How about that?

Are we even capable of not destroying our own nest?

DAILY POST: ANXIETY! WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

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Every night for the past week, after the television goes off and the bedroom is quiet, I hear it. A scratchy, scrabbly noise. Mice in the walls? Always on the far wall,  the outside wall. I hear it for just a few moments, then it’s gone. Is it the continued settling of the house? I want it to be the old house creaking. Our home is getting on in years. 

I should get up and investigate though I doubt I’d see anything. In any case, I don’t look. I don’t really want to know. It’s one more thing to deal with and I hate it. It means killing creatures who in their own habitat are harmless … but in my house, make a God awful mess. Don’t tell me about HavAHeart traps. Been there, done that. We’ve caught them, escorted them outside to the woods and seen them scamper right back in. They aren’t that smart. They don’t get the point.

So this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been invaded, not by any means. No matter how much you seal the house, those little field mice creep in through the tiniest cracks. You wouldn’t believe anything larger than a bug could get in through such a small hole, but every year, when the temperature drops, mice decide our warm house is a better place than the cold out-of-doors. Who could blame them? I sympathize. I do. After all, I prefer the warm house, but it is our house. They are not invited.

MiceArrivingIf you’ve never been invaded by mice, you cannot imagine what a mess they make. They gnaw through plastic boxes that are supposed to protect your possessions from rodents. They leave their droppings everywhere and your house gets that “mousey” smell. Not a good smell. They get into your food cupboards, chew through boxes and bags. They eat your wiring (fire!!) and tear up your insulation. When they get into your car — how do they do that? — they eat the gaskets and the wires and everything else. They used to tear up the inside of my teepee, ripping open pillows to get at the stuffing which they used for nesting material. The bobcat did less damage.

So that noise … it could be mice. It has been, in the past.

We won’t use poison. Poison leaves them to die in the walls where they rot. Nasty. The terriers — especially Bonnie who is young enough so she ought to like hunting — should be taking care of this problem. For some reason, mice don’t attract her. She loves rats and will attack them vigorously (I’ve seen her do it). We have rats around here, but it’s  mice that set up housekeeping. Every year. Like clockwork.

And now, there’s that noise … again.

DOOMED BY INCONVENIENCE

Siberian Tiger Français : Tigre de sibérie Ita...

Although I sometimes rant and persist in hoping for a positive outcome, I’m not optimistic about the future of our endangered animals.  All Earth’s large animals are doomed in the wild, some soon and the others eventually. Tigers, wolves, lions, jaguars, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, apes and monkeys and many more will no longer roam the deserts or jungles. There will be no more wild places.

Humans will, for a while, maintain controlled populations of some species in zoos and special habitats. As if that could make up for their disappearance. As if warehousing is the same as having a wild kingdom. We’ll see the end of tigers probably in less than a decade. If wolves are removed from endangered species status, they will be hunted to extinction in no time flat.

Would you like to know why? Really? The truth is not the long complicated explanation you get from environmentalists or public talking heads. Let’s skip statistical analyses, the convoluted nonsense spouted by government officials and corporate stooges.

It’s simpler than that.

They will disappear because they are in our way. Animals don’t fit into human civilization. They are untidy. They eat cattle, goats, chickens, sheep. They trample fields and demolish gardens. They take up space that could be profitably used for shopping malls and suburban subdivisions. They are more valuable dead than alive and ever so much fun to shoot.

Predators and large animals are inconvenient.

When humans finds something — anything — inconvenient, we eliminate it. Kill it. Demolish it. Whether it’s a species, a river or a mountain. If it’s in our way, we make it disappear.

There’s a moral to the story. We should all take special care; we can be eliminated too.

Lions and tigers and bears? Bye bye.

P.S. If you think I’m exaggerating, please click on any of the related articles, or check out the Durell Wildlife Foundation, among many other organizations desperately trying to save what is left of our wild creatures.

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DAY OF MONARCHS

We named our little sailboat Gwaihir, the wind lord. Really, she was the wind lady. A bit pretentious for such a little boat, but I thought it would be a lucky name. She was a 16 foot soling, a centerboarder, drawing just 16 inches with the board up. I used to tell people Gwaihir could sail on a wet hankie and I believed she could.

Soling Drawiing

She was a surprisingly stable craft. We carried a 5 HP outboard motor so when tide and wind were against us, we could still get home. In the old days, sailboats had to drop anchor and wait for one or both to shift. Today, we have to get home for dinner … so we have outboards.

When my husband had the time and felt particularly frisky, we took Gwaihir out through Sloop Channel and Jones inlet into the ocean. Even a 3 foot roller looks big when you are on the deck of such a small sloop. My husband was a madman on the water, would sail through thunder squalls because he liked the challenge. His father had been equally insane, so I guess he came by it honestly, if such a thing is possible.

Mostly though, I piloted her through the salt marshes and shallow canals off Long Island. She was perfect for shallow water sailing. We could sail through nesting grounds of plovers, herons and divers, virtually silent except for the slight flapping of the jib. The birds were undisturbed by our passage and went about their business, our white sails wing-like in the breeze.

One bright day with a warm sun lighting the water and the sky blue as a robin’s egg, I anchored in a shallow, reedy spot, lay back on the bench and drifted off to sleep as I watched little puffy clouds scoot across the sky.

I awoke a while later and our white sail was covered with what seemed to be thousands upon thousands of monarch butterflies. I had drifted into their migration route and they had stopped for a rest on my little boat.

MonarchButterflies_20090910

I didn’t move or say anything. Just looked up and watched, thinking that if ever there had been a perfect day, crafted for my delight, this was it.

Then, as if someone had signalled, they rose in a flock and flew onward to complete their long journey. And I sailed home.

Saving Wolves

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make the world a kinder place for animals; cats, dogs, cows, pigs, sheep, horses, whales, dolphins, elephants, animals used in laboratory experiments — you get the picture, right?

Animals are awesome.

Animals should have legal rights — they should be better protected and defended.

Everyone has issues they’re passionate about, and this is one of mine.

No animal needs our help more than wolves.

Wolves are being killed, slaughtered, mutilated, exterminated.

My tugboat man and I drove up to Sacramento so that I could testify at the Fish and Wildlife Service‘s wolf delisting hearing on November 22. He was there to make sure that I stayed out of jail. It’s kind of a joke but not really. Being around hunters and others who enjoy killing animals makes me so mad that you can almost see me explode with RAGE. The smoke-out-of-the-ears kind of rage. The kind of rage that has no filter. THAT kind of rage.

I’m sure that I’m one of the most skeptical people in the world when it comes to the reasons why our government is motivated to do ANYTHING, but this particular issue boggles my mind to a crazy degree.

This horrible and scientifically flawed idea that wolves are in a position to have recovered enough numbers to be formally removed from the Endangered Species List is what has driven thousands of Americans to protest, speak out, argue against it, and do whatever they can to continue to protect these beautiful creatures from certain extinction — again.

A hunter who kills a wolf belongs to a subsection — a microcosm —  of a human being whose sole purpose in life is the extermination of a species.

It’s scary, people. Really scary.

From what I understand, funded in part by the Koch Brothers’ smoke screen organization, American Prosperity Group, ranchers and hunters have declared an all-out war against the wolf — any wolf, Gray Wolf, Red Wolf or Mexican Wolf, coyotes, any and all predators that they incorrectly believe threaten THEIR skewed right to breed, grow, and eventually murder their own cattle and sheep.

Current research indicates other successful non-lethal options to protect their “investment” animals — living and breathing creatures whose sole existence is to breed and grow to one day be killed — yet another reason why we don’t eat meat.

What this potential delisting has helped to unleash is a group of sadistic hunters who are entrenched in zoosadism.

Zoosadism is a term used to refer to the pleasure that an individual gains from the cruelty to animals. SEXUAL PLEASURE. Zoosadism is getting sexually excited by causing harm to animals and is considered a form of animal abuse. Have you seen all those horrible photos on the internet? Zoosadists are true sociopaths.

At the hearing, one of the first speakers was Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem WintuTribe of American Indians near Mount Shasta. She received much deserved applause and shouts of support when she said that the wolf had long been a spiritual figure for her tribe.

“The wolf is our teacher,” she said, explaining that its extended pack relationships served as an example for human families. She compared the hunting of wolves out of fear to the killing of American Indians.

There were so many amazing speakers who spoke with intelligence, passion, dedication, and concern for the wolf.

Selfie cos hub takes horrible pics.

WIth 500-600 attendees, and the knowledge that there was a videographer who recorded all the speeches as official government testimony, you’d think I would have been nervous, but I’ve always had plenty of public speaking confidence (some might call it chutzpah,) — especially with five-inch heels and a Chanel on my arm.

***TRANSCRIPT OF MY SPEECH***

“It is past time to take the words of Gandhi to heart: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Why is the term “delisting” synonymous with hunting, blood sport, and the murder of a species?

Is this the only barbaric method “good science” has for “species management”?

Instead, let’s call it what it really is: government sanctioned murder.

De-listing really means that it’s OK to hunt, torture, and destroy species and is really just legalizes more brutality.

We cannot allow the current administration to give up on wolf recovery for the gray wolf OR the Mexican wolf or relinquish species survival to the states.

I’m from here in California where we have excellent habitat but no wolves and I absolutely do NOT support any (Fish and Wildlife Service’s) proposal to delist the gray wolf, a barely recovering endangered species that’s currently being slaughtered for political gain.

We need to manage wolves and other wildlife in a healthy and sustainable way so that future generations can enjoy the benefits of our rich wildlife heritage. However, management cannot mean the hunting and murder of a species.

That the irrational and enduring hostility to wolves still exists, and that hundreds of more wolves will be killed — is wrong and the cruel methods allowed for hunting and trapping wolves are deeply disturbing and sociopathic, egregious, and inhumane.

Our own life changing visit to Yellowstone in August fulfilled my     dream to see the wolves of Lamar Valley.

At 6:00 a.m., a few miles outside our camp at Slough Creek, we followed others to a bison carcass, and our efforts paid off with a multiple sighting of many wolves, including 755.

There was an overwhelming sense of awe among the dozens of us who silently watched him cross the road and then a collective sigh of relief when he disappeared safely over the ridge.

Those same wolves are being murdered the instant they cross that invisible border out of the park. It’s absolutely insane.

WE hold the power to ensure that we’re not the last generation to view a wolf in nature; not confined in a zoo, or most importantly, not dead after being tortured and then displayed as a “trophy”.

The truth is that wolf recovery is far from over.

According to many leading scientists, we’ve entered into an era of mass extinction, which will not have run its course until biodiversity levels are less than twenty-five percent of what they are now.

I’m here to push back against this culture of extinction.

I’m here because of the legacy I want to leave behind for our children.

More than thirty years ago, I did my small part to advocate for the addition of wolves to the Endangered Species List.

I wrote letters and joined forces with groups dedicated to protecting the wolf from certain extinction and it’s shameful that we’re back to the beginning.

It appears that the last thirty years have culminated in the nurturing of this species’ growth for the single sacrificial purpose to provide animals for thrill killing hunter/murderers and that’s why continued protection is even more necessary.

Our collective legacy will not be celebrating wolf recovery, but rather their unnecessary deaths will become your ONLY legacy.

Do NOT delist the gray wolf. Outlaw all hunting of wolves.”

Cleveland Amory: “Hunters should be hunted themselves, to prevent hunter overpopulation and to undo the effects of inbreeding.”

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Destroying wolves is one of so many things we are destroying. We need to stop killing our world one species at a time. There is a reason the animals were created before humans. They deserve a piece of nature, to be safe, to live, love, breed and hunt as they were meant to. Please – We are not owners of the earth. We are just residents, no more or less than the wolves and whales and eagles. And trees. We have no right to destroy it all and we will pay dearly for it.

Please visit Enchanted Seashell at http://enchantedseashells.com/2013/11/26/saving-wolves/ for the entire story.

See on enchantedseashells.com

 

THROWING THE WORLD AWAY

It’s not about Windows: The repairable PC is dead

… Amazon, who launched their Workspaces offering yesterday, which provides a remote Windows environment that allows you to run all of your business-critical and personal applications in EC2.

Amazon is certainly not the first service provider to do this, but its endorsement of the technology speaks volumes about where we as an industry are going.

You don’t need an expandable, serviceable PC to get to that desktop and the applications that are hosted there. Indeed, Windows still serves a very key role in that scenario, but within the datacenter and public clouds. —  From ZDNet, November 15, 2013

The computer industry has declared me — and everyone like me — obsolete. Irrelevant. We can’t afford subscriptions to “keep us up to date.” Worse, keeping up to date isn’t a major issue in our lives. I don’t mind running a version or two behind as long as the tools I’ve got get the job done. I can go years without repurchasing my software. I guess they don’t make enough money selling new releases to folks like us. Yeah, that’s probably it.

dell14ZIf you — like me — are one of the millions of computer users who live on fixed incomes or are just plain poor , you’re barely able to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. You are NOT subscribing. To anything.

A couple of days ago, I got my “You’ve Been Hacked!” letter from Adobe. This has affected (depending on who you believe) between 38 and 150 million people. All of us have had our personal information stolen and quite probably sold to hackers. Doesn’t anyone but me find this alarming? Where’s the outrage, the demand for better security? I am less than ever interested in storing anything I care about anywhere except on a drive I own and have at home.

Yes, I know the house could burn to the ground and all my backups would be lost. If that, God forbid, should happen I will be otherwise occupied trying to put my life back together. Worrying about lost data is not going to be my primary issue. I’m not a business, you see. I’m a person. (What’s a person, daddy? Is it a new kind of corporation?)

When my PCs stop working, which they don’t do more than once in a deeply cyanotic moon, I call the Guy Who 75-WorkingNIK-CR-87Fixes PCs. He comes to the house.  Replaces the broken bits. Cleans out the virus that bypassed the safeguards and generally tunes it up. I give him a hundred bucks, he gives me a card with his number on it so if the problems come back, he will return and fix’em.

Am I the only one who is in no position to just dump equipment and replace it? No way could I afford that. I’m still in debt for the stuff I have. Moreover, I deplore the throwaway society we are building and the mindset that comes with it.

Disposability it not good. It’s not an improvement. It’s destroying our environment. Polluting landfills. Making an already profligate society more thoughtless and wasteful. It’s the definition of where and how we’ve gone wrong.

Does no one in the computer industry look at business in a wider social context? Realize what a dangerous path we are treading? If one thing is going to doom our world, throwing stuff away rather than fixing it will be our route to damnation.

There was a time when Garry and I were working a ridiculous number of hours and started using paper plates. To avoid washing dishes. After doing this for a while, one day, I found myself washing the paper plates. I couldn’t bear the idea of throwing them out. It seemed wrong. Wasteful. That was when I rediscovered the concept of reusability. I had actual dishes in the cupboard. I could use them, wash them — and use them again! Epiphany!

96-Kitchen-HPCR-1

We are turning into a world of paper plate users. Everything, from your car to your computer, to your kitchen appliances. It’s all junk. When it stops running, dump it. Don’t even think about fixing it. Change your cell phone every six months. Toss the old one. Somewhere on this planet, there is a giant, bottomless hole into which the garbage goes and it will never fill up, right? If you keep believing that, maybe the house brownies will come and clean for you while you sleep.

I’m not expecting answers. I’ll be dead before anyone looks around and says “Whoa … this isn’t so good. What about building things we can repair. You know. Reuse.”