As summer has escalated, I am more grateful for these opportunities of reflection that WDRT community radio has provided me. You can listen in to “Consider This” every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST on 91.9 FM or by streaming live.
Here are the offerings of August. I hope you find them helpful and that they compel you to action. Best wishes for all.
Water The Great Equalizer
In the past ten years our Driftless Region has had two – so-called – 100-year floods. Our recent flood is leaving many, who live along creeks and waterways, questioning the sanity of rebuilding in the same location. It is hard to watch a lifetime of effort destroyed over night.
Water is the great equalizer. Next to air it is the greatest of our physical needs. It is estimated that a human being cannot live more than three days without water. So why are we so reluctant to protect it?
We live in a water plentiful area, but our geology in Vernon and surrounding counties holds potential problems that we cannot ignore. In scientific terms, we live in a “karst” region. This means we have porous underground that is made mostly of cave-like areas. This allows for the free flow of water, but also the free flow of contaminants.
America began a love affair with herbicides and pesticides with the advent of DDT in the 50’s. And while DDT was banned in 1972, the production and use of hazardous agri-chemicals continues.
Nitrates also pose problems for our water. And while it has been proven that rotational practices for animal grazing and diversity of crops have a positive effect on decreasing water contamination, too often our safety is jeopardized by political ignorance and a powerful ag lobby that promotes concentrated animal feed lots and the use of toxic contaminants.
Logic would tell us to protect our water sources from unnecessary and man-made pollution. Nature is enough for us to contend with – just ask the people whose homes and farms are emerging from the flood.
We have a right to clean water. We have a duty to ensure clean water for our next generations. We would be wise to pay attention to what is happening around us. Water is the great equalizer. It is precious and so are we. It is time we protect it.
Making a Living
In a recent town meeting, a gravel pit was discussed. The pit company offered $10,000 dollars as a gift to the community while asking to traverse a township road to reach a county highway. Questions came up immediately, “Is $10,000 enough to repair the road after the steady stream of trucks begins to break it down?” “What are the operating hours?” and “Will the constant rumbling of trucks and explosions disturb local residents?”
These are the answers given in reply: “Nobody lives on that road.” “The road is already in disrepair.” And then came the showstopper, “I wouldn’t want to stop a man from making a living.”
Hmmm, “I wouldn’t want to stop a man from making a living”…so for $10,000 dollars, a man, who is not a man, but is in fact a corporation, which, by the way, is not incorporated in the township or even in the county where the quote un quote “living will be made”. This gift of $10, 000 will allow a corporation, not a man, to create a nuisance for the land and the people who reside here.
This is the thinking that has nearly destroyed Trempealeau County and is on its way to destroy Jackson.
When does the right of a corporation to extract the resources of a land cease to become a right? How far are we willing to go in the destruction of pristine landscapes, corruption of water and wells, and the very real disruption of lives created by the illusion of “making a living.”?
There are many ways to make a living that do not create harm. I think it may be time we ask that of a man – or a woman – or a corporation. This is not a matter of money. This is a matter of dignity, decency and legacy.
Let us find the fortitude and good sense to stop or at least curtail the potential to cause harm. Perhaps it is time to create livelihoods that do not interfere with the happiness of those around us. Not only is it time; it is possible.
Nimby is a catchy phrase that means NOT IN MY BACK YARD. It describes people who wake up to a problem when it directly affects them. An example would be the government claiming eminent domain on your dream home for a pipeline, transmission line, road, or other supposed necessity.
And as if commandeering your property was not enough, you learn that the company who acquired the rights to your land has had at least 800 recorded oil spills since 1999, including the largest in our history – at the Kalamazoo River. You learn that it is not merely oil but a chemically laced derivative called tar sands, and it makes cleaning up after inevitable leaks nearly impossible.
Ok, so it is not going through your land, but what if you learned that the world’s largest pipeline carries toxic tar sand oil right through the heart of Wisconsin?
And the company wants to triple the capacity of oil being transported from Lake Superior to Delevan, continuing on to southern refineries and likely sold on international markets, while Wisconsin carries the risk of contamination.
This is the story dwarfed by the sexier Keystone XL pipeline and of course the now famous stand at Standing Rock. It is the story of Line 61 and the proposed Line 66, which would run parallel to it.
But there is more, Enbridge, a Canadian Company, is also looking to continue running a pipeline through a national forest near Ashland. It is called Line 5 and it runs through ceded Native territory and under the Straits of Mackinac. A rupture here could impact two of the world’s largest fresh water lakes…
Maybe it’s time we go NIMBY in a big way. Maybe it’s time to recognize all land is our home and water is life. Maybe it’s time to say, “Keep it in the ground”, and work together to find better ways to fuel our world.
During this past month here on “Consider this”, I have focused on issues in Wisconsin that are potentially corrupting our water, air and land. There is another very important issue facing our groundwater and air that is now coming under scrutiny. It is called the CAFO or Controlled Animal Feed Operation. These are not your mom and pop small sustainable farms these are mega industrial ag farms which confine over 1,000 animals “units” for more than 45 days in a year.
Wikipedia tells us that an animal unit is “an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight and equates to 1000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine, 125,000 broiler chickens, or 82 thousand laying hens “.
Leaching and runoff of crop nutrients, pesticides, and animal wastes, are very real threats to our groundwater supplies. Many CAFO’s in Wisconsin are operating with expired permits. These permits are key to ensuring safe practices for elimination of waste in each CAFO.
Here are the facts from Sustain Rural Wisconsin: Raw, untreated manure from CAFOs can contaminate waterways through field runoff, spills, and cracks in confinement pits.
Over 150 gases are produced at factory farms from decaying manure, which can cause airborne diseases and unpleasant smells for local residents.
Factory farms have displaced independent, traditional farmers, weakened rural economies, and create unnatural environments for animals. Surely it is time for a moratorium on creating new CAFO’s in our state until such a time as we are ensured the safe practices and regulations of all existing CAFO’s.
This is the request of the organization called Sustain Rural Wisconsin. You can find these very important points and easy to follow toolkits at their very informative website: www.sustainruralwisconsin.org
There is an old saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I’d like to think it is time we challenge that notion. Get the facts. Know what is hurting you.