More Thinking, Less Bureaucracy

With the influx of city dwellers fleeing the urban jungle, and farm acreage being cut into bite sized pieces to accommodate, sewage and wastewater are in the spotlight. Whether a holding tank or a septic field, there’s often a lot more going down then simply number one or number two. Household cleaners, toxic chemicals and now PFAS – known as “forever chemicals” are turning up in our sludge. 

OK you say, but the truck sucks it up and takes it away. Ah, but there’s the rub. Where is it taken?  The EPA will tell you more than half of all sewage sludge is spread on farmlands. And studies are showing farmers and farm workers are paying the price, not to mention the animals and humans who are eating from those fields or drinking from contaminated wells.

Organic standards do not allow the use of sewage sludge to be used as fertilizer. That’s one remedy. We have become very good at mitigating problems at there end point, but we have a long way to go to stop the very egregious actions that are creating the mess in the first place. 

The state is becoming hyper vigilant in demanding every household be responsible to contain waste, while big polluters are given a pass. Simple composting and greywater systems which could offset waste are not permitted or are enforced in such a way that they still end up in the toxic stew scattered over farmlands. We’re not thinking this through.

Stop the production of PFAS, reduce the amount of chemicals being created and used, and allow common sense to return. We’re still living as though we have not heard that the earth is warming at an alarming rate, or that we could play a part in protecting it. 

Biosolid Map: The spreading of wastewater sludge (biosolids) on agricultural land, a common practice dating to the 1980s, is concentrated in the eastern U.S. where groundwater depth is relatively shallow, raising concerns about widespread PFAS contamination affecting drinking water. Source: EPA webinar, “PFAS in Biosolids,” Sept. 23, 2020.

Loving Makes It Easy

The days keep growing longer. The birds, crickets and frogs break the silence with sweet sounds. The fireflies are back and their magic still enchants. Walking through the forest, the scents are a tonic, each plant offering its own special gift. The soil in the garden is a balm for feet and hands. Senses are heightened and gratitude comes easily. 

And I wonder why we ever took ourselves out of the garden.

If you look at your family history you’ll find it’s not been that long that our ancestors coexisted with the earth. It hasn’t been that long since they “made a way out of no way”. There is something so very basic in our relationship to the earth, so very integral. It’s in our blood. We are made of this earth and we return to this earth. It’s natural to appreciate it. It’s natural to learn from it and to celebrate it. What is unnatural is to do it harm. And this we have been doing for some time now.

From industry to industrial ag, from chemical herbicides to chemical fertilizers, this need to make our lives easier has made it a living hell. 

I’m always happy to hear of people trying to end the harm. Most recently a Canadian company, McCain Foods, asked their Wisconsin potato growers to adopt regenerative practices by 2030.  There are a growing number of voices both consumers and producers ready for change. 

And how hard will that change be to make? Loving makes the need for change come more easily. When we fall in love with the earth and all its wonders, when we appreciate the delicacies it offers and delight in our ability to co-create, we will change. Our health and the health of the planet depend on it. 

“We Should All Be Water Protectors”*

Writing from a hotel after visiting the StopLine3.org Welcoming Center in Palisade, Minnesota.

In the wake of destruction, the pandemic opened a door for us to walk into a new day.  Our consumption of fossil fuels is at an all time low. The need for extreme extraction is over. Good by KXL. The pipeline that would have sliced through the Ogallala aquifer is history. And DAPL will be next. The courts are getting ready to end the permits that should have never been granted and for the arrogance of a company that has ignored court orders and kept on pumping. 

This is the last gap of oil. 

And yet Enbridge continues with Line 3 – leaving the older corroded pipeline for us to clean up.  Investors are jumping ship facing the reality that renewables are a far safer alternative. And many of us are coming to the realization that less is more as we leave an abusive relationship with over – consumption behind.  

We have all noticed the pristine skies and the fresher air. And now it is time for the reckoning of corroded pipelines that pierce the land and waterways.  Now is time for everyone to be a water protector as Winona LaDuke reminds us.

So as a water protector what can you do? You can reduce consumption and divest from fossil fuels. You can write letters to Governor Walz, to congress and the new administration. You can support the needs of those on the front lines, as they stand in nonviolent resistance, to end something that should have never gone this far. 

And if you are able as we were to bear witness you can make the trip to 5 or 6 camps that dot the 300-mile pathway of destruction and bring your love, support and the supplies they need to carry on.

Let’s make this just transition for everyone.

*”We should all be water protectors.” – Winona LaDuke

A Fart in Church

Someone called and invited me to contribute to a political party. I explained that I couldn’t support either party, as they are “wings of the same bird” and that unless and until one or the other stopped putting profit before people and the earth, I wouldn’t be offering my support. The caller became a bit exasperated. And I thought of my mother who would have said my comments were a “fart in church”. 

People don’t enjoy being challenged to think. It’s easier to cling to belief than to take the leap of faith into knowing. It’s easier to pick winners and losers and to gamble whom the winner will be, then to take into account our mutual interconnectedness and the consequences of our action or inaction. 

We have yet to accept we are one people, one planet.  And what befalls one of us is destined to harm us all. 

Take the covid nightmare that morphed into the mask versus freedom nightmare and now is the vaccine versus the enemies of the people nightmare. It would have been much easier to stand united from the start in the best interest of all, but that would have been a fart in someone’s church. Instead our march of death continues and history will remember us as fools.

Two billion people are suffering shortages of water, with two thirds of the world’s population expected to face water crisis over the next four years. Our solution? We have begun trading water as a commodity on Wall Street. There is not a hint of compassion in this capitalist response. 

It’s the religion of greed and the gospel of prosperity, which we need to put to rest. Solutions will come more readily when kindness regains the helm. Until then don’t be afraid to cause a stink.  

Stop Line 3

This week the last of the permits required for Enbridge’s Line 3 were granted. Construction can officially begin, although it’s been going on illegally for some time.

The granting of the permits was of no surprise. The governing agencies grew out of the diminishing era of fossil fuels and are reluctant to rock the boat. Even though we know fossil fuels are being replaced by clean energy, even knowing the threat to water from ruptured pipes.

Enbridge was granted the right to totally abandon the original corroded line and build a larger, higher volume corridor.  It will transport the dirtiest of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin even with our knowledge of diminished need.

Disregarding tribal sovereignty and indigenous ways of life, Line 3 will traverse Minnesota passing through tribal lands, wetlands, lakes and wild rice beds. 

Minnesota’s Department of Health now show that covid infection rates are higher along this new corridor than any other parts of the state and Native Americans are among the highest at risk for covid hospitalizations. Increasing the number of construction workers at this time, when we are asked to stay in place, is unreasonable and dangerous. 

Since 2013, many have opposed this pipeline, but more of us are needed to stand up for indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land and water. Now more than ever, as covid is ravaging our people and overwhelming our health care workers, we need this irresponsible act to stop.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the White Earth Band of Ojibwa, Honor the Earth, Youth Climate Interveners, the Sierra Club and Minnesota’s own Department of Commerce have filed a court appeal for a stay on the construction.

For more on efforts to stop line 3, visit the website: stopline3.org.

Or call or write.

Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan 
130 State Capitol 
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155

Staffed office hours are: Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Telephone Numbers 
Telephone:  651-201-3400 
Toll Free:  800-657-3717 
Minnesota Relay:  800-627-3529 

Gut Check

Goldman Sachs has announced it will stop financing oil drilling in the Artic. They are reckoning with something that the United States government has yet to realize.  As the White House rushes to open bidding on 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Goldman Sachs is refusing to continue to support drilling in such delicate and important reserves.  They will also no longer support coal–fired power plants that do not have carbon emissions technology.

Now we know that Goldman Sachs is devoted to making money, so we can surmise that its stockholders are coming to the truth of this moment: There is no monetary gain in destroying the earth.

As a people we have been divided over the cause of climate change, but as we become witness to the devastation of fires, floods and unprecedented winds, we are acknowledging this: the costs to survive these calamities will continue to be much greater than the costs to mitigate them.

Capitalism is being moved by the bottom line of profit. But make no mistake; the efforts of young indigenous and non-indigenous youth to end the use of fossil fuels have hit their mark. They wisely recognize that profit can no longer lead the way. It must be common sense and respect for the earth and her people that will direct our course.

There is a debate that the personal choice to live free of fossil fuels is not as important as forging a change of laws. But I would argue this: it is those who have the conviction of personal conscience and love of the earth that are driving the changes in laws and perspectives.

The Rights of Nature and the Rights of Indigenous People must continue to take precedent. As human beings on this earth it is time.

 

Photo is of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, looking south toward the Brooks Range mountains. Compliments of Wikipedia Commons.

Return Local Control

When people visit our farm here in the Driftless, I am usually surprised by their lack of awareness concerning sustainable farming practices versus industrial agriculture.  When large-scale animal compounds are compared to small sustainable and multi-dimensional farms, it’s apparent the regulations that govern them should differ. Run off and ruptured manure lagoons of large-scale operations have killed fish and disturbed eco tourism. The nuisances of smells, sounds and sights have diminished property values and have caused significant strife among neighbors. The jump to become a large-scale producer is pricey and has left a lot of small farms in the wake. Yet somehow they have been labeled “progress” and have, for the most part, been given a pass by Wisconsin regulators.

Now for the first time in over ten years the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is seeking input from citizens regarding the rules that govern large livestock facilities. The rules are known as ATCP 51. These public hearings begin today, August 15th and run through September 5thin six locations throughout the state. Wednesday, September 4thin Onalaska is our region’s nearest hearing.

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If you live rurally, and would like an opportunity to have your voice heard on the issues raised by unchecked confined animal feed operations, or if you live in the city and enjoy visiting the beauty of rural Wisconsin, this is your moment to help preserve it.

In recent years, our state’s laissez-faire towards regulating corporate business has put numerous strains on local communities and neighbors trying to protect the environment and their homes from unwanted nuisance. The deck has been stacked in favor of corporations, as a systematic crippling of local control has gone largely unnoticed.  It’s time to notice.

For more detailed information on the proposed changes to ATCP51 visit: Wisconsin Farmers Union.

 

Honoring Heroes

It’s the fourth of July and some people will mark this day with beer, burgers and brats. Others will shy away from fireworks and large crowds, still hampered by PTSD and the ravages of war. Still others will be hard at work on farms beleaguered by heavy rains and an unpredictable growing season.

And some will be trying to turn the tide of the environmental and human disasters looming on the horizon.

Acts of love for this land and its people are made everyday. From water protectors living in treetops to rural elders demanding regulations on sand mining, people everywhere are discovering that love of place is critical to our survival.

On July fourth, we are called upon to show our love and respect for our country. We honor our warriors and we praise their devotion to freedom. And that is as it should be. But make no mistake: those who stand for clean water and those protecting our air are among our greatest patriots. As are the people on the border and around the country who demand that asylum seekers be treated with dignity and respect.

And you can add to the list of heroes the local people fighting to preserve our pristine hills from unnecessary transmission lines and cell towers.  These heroes are utilizing their love and effort to preserve this land we call home. So when you bow to the heroes who have fought in endless wars, remember too, the individuals who are fighting a different kind of war. They are fighting battles against ignorance and greed. They are fighting to give our children freedom from disease by preserving the right to clean air and water. And they are protecting human dignity as they refuse to accept our government’s inhumanity. Let us celebrate these heroes. And let’s find a way to help them.

 

 Comment online to the PSC regarding the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission lines has been extended to July 7.

photo: Wikipedia Commons 

The Power of Inclusion

It seems these days you have to grab hold of hope wherever you find it. While cleaning my house I accidentally tuned into the inaugural ceremony of Tony Evers to become the 46thgovernor of Wisconsin. Ever the political cynic, I half-heartedly gave my ear to the broadcast. As the opening songs commenced my first reaction was “nice touch” as I listened to the young and diverse people performing. And I began to feel the inclusion and welcoming of this new day.

The next moment that caught my attention was the introduction of the MC and his telling of being a Big Brother. He made me smile as he told us how much he gained in giving his time to another, and I moved closer to the radio and gave myself permission to listen with a bit more intent.

It was time for the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance. And when the MC informed us that the pledge would be led by the youth of GSafe, I knew I would be listening to the inauguration in its entirety.

GSafe for those of you, who may not know, is an organization in support of gay youth. Having grown up without that kind of support or that kind of inclusion, I was really touched and began to cry. I realized again the power of inclusion and the wisdom of it.

And then the words of Bella Wabindato of the Bad River Tribe really hit home. She spoke of the importance of water and the love she has of her people. And she told us, “ racial equity would mean that other people see my people as I do, as people.”

The greatest leaders are those who allow others to lead. We are so ready for this.

Best wishes Governor, continue to surround yourself with loving and kind people.

We will all benefit.

 

 

 

You can listen to this piece on Soundcloud.

But Not a Drop to Drink…

Most likely today you reached for a glass of cool refreshing water. If you took it from the tap it is because you are certain it is government approved, scientifically tested and safe. If you grabbed a designer bottle you are also trusting you will be getting the one thing that after air is the most essential for life – clean water.

Me, I drink water from a spring and enjoy some of the best tasting, cleanest water I have ever had…but then, this isn’t about me and my good fortune, it is about what is happening to far too many people in our country and around the world.

What if you lived in Flint Michigan, where elected officials consciously provided tainted water for nearly two years? Or the Reservation in South Dakota, where the recent oil spill has people questioning the unknown – how long does it take until oil seeps into the aquifer and harms drinking water?

The Nebraska PSC has approved the Keystone XL pipeline to course tar sand oil through their state – from Canada to the Gulf to be sold on the foreign market. We will get a drop of the $$ exchange – but not enough to run the risk of polluting one of the most important aquifers in North America – and jeopardize the water for millions of people and life there.

But before I glaze your eyes over with details… My point to you is this: the most sinister of all factors in this ugly assault of man over earth and greed over common sense… is about the fact that far too many of us do not care. We have our glass, it is easily filled and what’s a little oil spill in Nebraska or the Gulf have to do with me?

The enemy, my friends, is not the oil or the faulty pipelines or the lies about energy security and jobs…the enemy is that we can turn our backs on one another. The enemy is that we are willing to debate that which is not debatable: we all need clean water.

We still have a chance to get this right. Let’s make it right.

 

This piece aired on “Consider This” Dec 7. You can listen in to WDRT 91.9FM every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

photo: compliments of NOHO