Category Archives: Environmental Change

Save the Earth – start with rubber mulch

Duluth Parents for Healthy Playgrounds Playgrounds Fundraiser for Duluth Public Schools

Join the PTA for a family-friendly event with food, fun, cash bar, silent auction, and prize drawings! They are raising money to help the Duluth Public Schools remove tire mulch from the playgrounds and resurface them with wood fiber. Every dollar they raise (up to $30,000) will be matched by an existing playgrounds improvement fund started decades ago by the Miller family. Check their Facebook page for a list of the silent auction items that will be up for bid!

TICKETS FOR SALE!!! ?
Where to purchase:
Lester Park Elementary 4/13/17 at 5:30-7:00pm
Lowell Elementary 4/14/17 at 7:30-8:30am, 1:44-2:45, & 4:00-5:00pm
Skyline Bowling at front desk – Available Now!!… See More — with Duluth Public Schools in Duluth, Minnesota.

Ignorance is Bliss

From Chapter 14 of Destiny of the Republic: A tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President:

“Not only did many American doctors not believe in germs, they took pride in the particular brand of filth that defined their profession. They spoke fondly of the “good old surgical stink” that pervaded their hospitals and operating rooms, and they resisted making too many concessions even to basic hygiene. Many surgeons walked directly from the street to the operating room without bothering to change their clothes. Those who did shrug on a laboratory coat, however, were an even greater danger to their patients. They looped strands of silk sutures through their button holes for easy access during surgery, and they refused to change or even wash their coats. They believed that the thicker the layers of dried blood and pus, black and crumbling as they bent over their patients, the greater the tribute to their years of experience.”

Just as many politicians ridiculed Darwin in the Era of the Scopes Monkey Trial and today’s Republican party has concluded that 97% of environmental scientists are ignorant to believe that Carbon is causing Global Warming, there was a time when germs did not exist – at least not in America.

In Chapter 14 poor President Garfield’s medical care has just been commandeered by a self confident Doctor who has already stuck his unwashed finger and two long unsanitized probes into the President’s back. In the next fifty pages I will be reading more about how Dr. Bliss turns a wound that left untreated the President would have survived into a pus filled killer of the President.

Ignorance is Bliss takes on new meaning in this book. It killed Garfield in 1880 just as it threatens to kill the earth as we know it today.

Paradise

One of my latest sources of information and a highly visual one is Pinterest. On it a few months ago I found this arresting illustration showing Earth with its ocean and atmosphere congealed into spheres representing the non solid components of the planet:

I have always been interested in science beginning with dinosaurs and seashells. As a second grader I reconciled religion and science by determining that Adam and Eve were cavemen. The trouble is that I eventually concluded that Adam and Eve’s eariest ancestors were single celled organisms. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, is, is…..Wrong.

The message I take from this illustration is the fragility of our planet’s zone of habitability. Why are we not like Venus or Mars? Well, yes its partly our being in the goldilocks zone of not too hot and not too cold but there is much more to it. We have a Moon that was likely created by a massive collision four billion years ago. That collision and/or the Moon’s constant tidal influence seems to have given us an active interior which in turn has given us the magnetosphere which keeps killer cosmic rays [Correction – Earth’s magnetism keeps the solar wind, not cosmic rays, from stripping away our atmosphere] from ravaging life on Earth. Without this guide for compases our ocean would probably have been blown away into space as were the oceans of Mars. Perhaps those oceans now coat the comets in the Oort Cloud.

I’ve read many articles on how unlikely the Earth we live on is. At the same time I am inundated with news stories about how a massive human population is undermining the Earth’s livibility. But we only have Earth. I uploaded another space related post on just how remote we are from everywhere else in the Milky Way. It won’t be generations before we can get to other potentially habitable planets. Rather, it will be a hundred generations and possibly tens of hundreds of generations. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the time it will take to “terraform” other planets into zones where we can grow bacteria, insects, fish, palm trees let alone humans.

In the next couple of generations we will need to experiment by sending poor copies of Earth’s environment into our own solar system. Each such vessel will have to take a tiny grain of Earth with it like soup stock or starter dough. They will not be able to carry the zillions of lifeforms on Earth that keep our planet alive but they will have many generations to perfect their zoologies before we dare escape the Sun. In the meantime we must begin working overtime to give the remaining non-human part of Earth some space not to disappear. I love EO Wilson’s suggestion that we keep half of Earth for everything else. Developers will hate that idea and won’t rest until we humans can walk accross the oceans on all the floating garbage we let loose from our coastlines.

I talk about rejoining the Republican Party and bringing some sensibility back to it but the often flakey Green Party might be a better fit for me as I blunder into old age. It might welcome me hey, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican as well as the founder of our National Parks.

I always liked Joni Mitchel’s song Big Yellow Taxi:

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to seem ’em
No no no
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey farmer farmer
Put away the DDT
I don’t care about spots on my apples
Leave me the birds and the bees
Please!
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey, now they paved paradise
To put up a parking lot
Why not?
Listenin’ late…

A lot of the Earth that I knew as a child is gone. Even more of the Earth that existed when my Father was a child is gone not to mention what existed when his Father was young.

I’d like more than parking lots left for my Grandchildren.

Mulch Conundrums

The Trib has a good summary of our Mulch Meeting last night.

This morning I read a short article in the NY Times that related to our relationship with the environment.

The first was on a peanut product made in Israel called Bamba which everybody eats and most from a very early age. Someone noticed that there are almost no peanut allergies in Israel and wondered if there was a connection. Of course, I don’t recall hearing about peanut allergies when I was a kid although I remember some horror stories about milk products. Today, according to the article, one in 50 US kids suffer from peanut allergies. A study confirmed that children whose parents rigorously kept them away from peanuts as infants and toddlers were far more likely to have children with peanut allergies, sometimes deadly allergies, than parents whose children ate peanut laced products at an early age.

Of course, peanuts are not the same as PCBs (poly chlorinated biphenols) and a host of other modern chemical creations such as those that can be found in tire rubber. There is no doubt our flushing of cosmetic and medicines down our sinks produces fish that all turn into females. We have a profound influence on our environment that is, at present, far beyond our ability to fully measure.

So, I offer the following observations I made from last night’s meeting.

Of hundreds of chemical compounds likely to be found in tires the dozen or so measured by a laboratory did not show anything particularly alarming.

That said rubber, like wood chips, degrades over time. In the Lester Park school playground there is mulch from the equivalent of 12,000 tires. However, its much more worrisome than that. The shreds of tires are so small that the surface area of the rubber exposed to the atmosphere is factors above what 12,000 full rubber tires would be. Imagine an entire tire reduced to pencil shavings. Every atom in these tires is mere thousandths of an inch from the air. Its no wonder our kids come in with blackened hands. Kids aren’t very fussy about washing up after playing outside. Whatever is in the tires will be near our kids respiratory system for perhaps a thousand playtime hours before they go on to middle school. The bags of mulch from the manufacturer gives alarming instructions about washing up after contact with the bag’s contents to prevent worrisome things from happening. That’s an ironical warning on contents made for our children to play on.

It will take a couple years before some much more extensive tests on tire mulch are conducted elsewhere. Meanwhile some urban school systems have forbidden the use of rubber mulch.

Hauling off the mulch and replacing it with, oh say, wood chips is the least of our costs which might be $110,000. We might have to completely re-engineer our playgrounds by digging them deeper with new drainage systems and re-installing all the equipment or buying new playground toys.

This is just the sort of issue that requires a functional school board to deliberate on calmly. The controversy is only a month old. It could fizzle out or ignite. An unnecessary repair would be expensive but it might offer peace of mind. That peace of mind could end up being as unwarranted as the calm it affords parents who keep their children away from peanut butter in the early years of their lives………or we could discover, years from now, that we subjected our children’s immune systems to substances that could cause long lasting and irreparable harm.

I care a lot, caracara lot…

…about the environment

A couple years ago Claudia and I tried to visit Jupiter Florida’s Busch Wildlife Center. We drove over on a day the Center was closed so it remained a mystery to us but this morning, with my Father-in-law in tow, we made another attempt. I was pleasantly surprised.

There was no charge but we left after I bought a jigsaw puzzle for my Christmas routine and left a modest donation. Like a similar rehab center for animals we visited in Australia the Busch Center takes in any injured or lost animal that folks bring to it. Its like a modest zoo in Florida scrub land. Oh, the summer mosquitos took a small withdrawal too but thankfully mostly from Claudia who is just like a freshly baked apple pie resting on the window sill for them. They mostly treat me like an old pie crust.

Of course the animals of Florida are a little less exotic but there were three beautiful endangered Florida Panthers.

One of the volunteers told us that two of them had been confiscated from a mall that used them lure children who could pose for pictures with them when they were cubs. To make them safer the pumas had their claws surgically removed as though they were house cats. Of course, when they no longer were cute for photos they had no chance of survival in the wild without weaponry.

This feathered fellow is a caracara which I associate with National Geographic nature films about the Andes in South America. I asked if they were native to Florida and was told a bunch of them blew off course years ago and some settled near one of the lakes. They are now refered to as “naturalized” like human immigrants turned citizens.

Of course lots of Florida’s invasives are not blown off course but are intentionally set free by pet buyers who can’t bring themselves to keep caring for them. These include the nile monitor lizard which can grow to six feet in length and happily eats cats – which may please the local song birds.

I first visited Florida when I was seventeen so I have a few reference points to compare. Until ten years ago I only saw anole lizards many of which are also invasive but so small as to be pretty non threatening. About ten years ago at my Father-in-laws Jupiter home he encountered a new invasive called a curlytail which hails from the Bahammas. We visited him and he told us how a month earlier he had trapped the critter in a gutter tube where it still lay. Curiosity and sympathy prevailed and I took a look and found the prisoner still breathing. I set it loose in a palm grove nearby. Today his yard hosts not only hundreds of anoles but a half dozen of the curlytails. I saw two of them trying to intimidate each other on the driveway yesterday and it only took me ten seconds this morning to find another one to photograph. Here it is:

Florida pet owners seem to be as careless as Minnsota fishermen whose boats carry zebra mussles from lake to lake notwithstanding the DNR’s efforts to have boaters scrub them off. The first newscast we heard upon our arrival last week was about a herpetologist who reported that his cobra had escaped. They are still looking for it in Tampa but that’s on the Gulf coast so I’ll only have to worry about being killed by burmese pythons that eat alligators over here on the Atlantic coast.

I’ve posted pictures of other wildlife I’ve encountered on previous visits to Florida including a corn snake, a manatee and the rescued sea tutles at another Jupiter animal facility the Loggerhead Marine Life Center. Posting notes on Jupiter is a welcome relief from my usual political palaver.

Florida must be the exotic species capital of North America. The northern curlytail only one of dozens on this impressive list of invasive Florida lizards. Other than the constrictors and cobras new Floridians will take them in stride and no doubt even consider them regulars as the years go by. Which of us baby boomers didn’t get used to watching westerns that included songs and scenes mentioning the cowboy’s favorite bush, the tumbleweed? They came over from the Russian Steppes along with red wheat and took over the landscape.

The BWCA, a reminiscence

Here’s the email I’ve been chewing on:

Harry: At least Forum Communications is instilling some common sense to an otherwise ding-dong DNT staff. Nolan not only voted against continuing outboard motor and snowmobile use in my backyard, the BWCA, he vigorously fought against it in 1978. He has voted against the second amendment and gets an “F” from my two unions, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. He is not for the little people. I’m not nuts about Mills, but then, why would I vote for someone who doesn’t support our way of life? ***

I got my first taste of politics in Northern Minnesota in the mid to late 70’s when I ran for the legislature against Mike Jaros, my great anti-Red Plan ally of late. As a Republican who visited most of our National Parks as a kid and as a great enthusiast for Teddy Roosevelt who got the parks rolling I was happy with the Wilderness Act that created the BWCA. That doesn’t mean I was not sympathetic to hundreds of residents who got their backyards taken away from them. Continue reading

Because God will soon destroy the world…

…we will keep voting for Republicans who will do nothing to stop him.

That’s my shorthand take of the unsurprising poll of Americans by Newsweek that says 40 percent of us think the world will soon come to an end. And many of these people would vote against any do-gooder environmentalist to tried to stop the oceans from rising to cover the billions of us who live on the coast.

These Christians are a menace to the world. Their God is a menace to the world. Their savior is the lone horseman of the apocalypse.

I find it hard to disagree with this appraisal:

According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly, those people also believe that natural disasters and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle, so much so that 22 percent of Americans believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great-great-grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.

Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, combined with the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media, out of debates, and off of ballots, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs, it’s almost guaranteed that the 40-percent view will control the government.

On the other hand I just did a search for the poll to link to and discovered its

over a decade old and was done just before the year 2000 when all sorts of minneniallists thought the Y2K virus or a rapture was imminent.

Still, the GOP’s leaders don’t have the ca-hones to call their rapture prone to account for their fatalism and fanaticism. Not if it would cost them votes. Perhaps that will change as young evangelical voters fall away from their blisteringly self righteous, anti-intellectual, and anti-gay churches.

The chickens are coming home to roost…

…and leave a lot of droppings in the GOP’s coup.

I find it ironic that the GOP which in the Reagan years once vilified (correctly) the Democrats for being a bunch of special interests is now suffering the same fate having become a party of its own special interests. This point was brought home by two stories in the press today on how the public has retreated from two central guideposts of the GOP cannon.

From the DNT’s first Page – “Support for legal abortion continunes to grow”:

As if to further bolster the argument that liberalism is having a resurgence in the United States, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans – 54 percent – now believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time. Even more broadly, a full 70 percent believe that Roe v. Wade – the controversial decision that, 40 years ago, guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion, at least in the first trimester of pregnancy – should not be overturned.

Darned DNT doesn’t have their story on its site. I got this from the Christian Science Monitor (A paper that my Dad subscribed to for years) The DNT’s story mentions that ten years ago rather than 54% it was only 44 percent of the public that believed abortion should be legal. More critically the number of Republicans who feel intensely about this issue is shrinking.

The other poll issue was on page three and was about making it easier for illegal immigrants to enter the US. Once again the DNT’s story is only in newsprint. This comes from ABC:

“More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans’ opinions after the 2012 elections.(the story goes on to say that two years ago instead of 60% support it was only 47% support.

Two more GOP special interests that have taken a big hit are the NRA’s no compromise Second Amendment enthusiasts and the religious lobby that wants to keep gays closeted or make them normal. Expect the GOP’s Global warming and science deniers to fall from grace next.

I’ve waited for this all to happen since 1992 when I made my first break with the GOP and ran a quixotic independent campaign for Congress. I returned to the fold afterwords for about ten years but was kept on the margin by the new leaders of the party that were happy to go to conventions and explain that folks like me were the worst butchers in the history of the world. I guess they were accommodationists because after publicly announcing that I was worse than Papa Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Mao combined they were always very nice to me.

As my buddy (who seems to have given up emailing me) often says I’ve got my undies in a bunch over Republicans when Democrats can be expected to overreach with their rhetoric. It makes me think that before I die I should start attending GOP caucuses again (since my political future went over the cliff twenty ago) on the off chance that I can bring a little Lincoln pragmatism back to the party.

I have some personal theories about both parties and their excesses during my lifetime. I think that the GOP was overrun by College Republicans who all majored in business and decided that ethical considerations were a waste of time when short term tactics like stomping out independent thinking would lead to better election results and paychecks. In this regard they were as amoral as the mortgage industry’s specialists who approved unjustified home loans or Vatican priests who preferred to cover up and pay off the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The book I hope to write someday will chronicle a different age when a similar sort ran the DFL in Northern Minnesota – political hacks with their hands out for government dollars.

Thus it was and ever shall be. Don’t believe me? Watch Spielberg’s Lincoln and enjoy the comic performance of James Spader as the 13th Amendment’s amoral, arm-twisting lobbyist.

I’m ready for a new set of racketeers to take over America. I just hope we get a long interim where idealists reign before they succumb to the pleasures of power.

Climate of Doubt

A few years ago most Americans had come to believe that humans were altering the Earth’s environment. Frontline recently reported on the concerted effort by GOP leaning groups to undermine that belief.

I did not watch this because I have a life and only so much time to live it. This was probably a very important 60 minutes.

I have had a lengthy email debate with my Buddy which I’d like to post tomorrow. My Buddy is the only person who takes me to task and gets under my skin. I appreciate it. I did however take him to task for allowing Obama’s impeached explanation regarding the four deaths in Benghazi trump such things as Climate change which would affect billions.

We could call it the Sandycene…

…following the Holocene which our parents bequeathed us.

Bill McKibben on the new normal climate:

So far we’ve raised the temperature of the earth about one degree Celsius, and two decades ago it was hard to believe this would be enough to cause huge damage. But it was. We’ve clearly come out of the Holocene and into something else. Forty percent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic. There’s nothing theoretical about any of this any more. Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere is about 4 percent wetter than it used to be, which has loaded the dice for drought and flood. In my home country, 2011 smashed the record for multibillion-dollar weather disasters, and we were hit nowhere near as badly as some.

Frankenstorm candidate

The water off the eastern seaboard is hotter than ever before this time of year. That will power up the “frankenstorm.” One candidate and his party thinks its a joke.

That joke will drench Massachusets where after four years of being a “bipartisan” governor Mitt Romney’s disapproval rating was 60%. Mitt’s getting the last laugh.

No Problem! Its only the pansy liberals in the Northeast who will get walloped. It’ll clean out the system like Katrina cleaned out that den of iniquity and bastion of poverty New Orleans.

Taking a break from JB Marvin

Petroleum’s conception goes back about 1.6 billion years when a cyanobacterium (now confined to volcanic pools and the ocean deeps) was engulfed by an oxygen respiring bacterium becoming a chloroplast that allowed vegetation to lead a revolution of life on the Earth’s surface. At the surface dead plants with that stored solar energy drifted down to the ocean bottoms or piled up in swamps and wetlands and was covered by the sediment from eons of erosion. The ignition of it every drop of it or chunk of it (in the case of coal) releases both that energy and the carbon atoms that locked it up.

Humans, now seven billion strong (only 2,555,982,611 billion at my birth in 1950) have exploited this resource until the liquid portion, petroleum, has become scarce.

Although today’s GOP fundamentalists are committed to teaching that the world is only a few thousand years old even when I was a kid the popular imagination lit up at the prospect of dinosaurs and their ancient lives. So much so that kids like me were led to the belief that our Dad’s were filling up their cars gas tanks with the remains of ancient reptiles.

The one celled precursors to animals, like plants, also engulfed energy producing organisms. They are called mitochondria and they are found in virtually every animal cell. The million things cells do to keep multi-celled animals functioning don’t fit into the accounting of Earth’s seven day creation.

Perhaps it is the GOP’s religious convictions that promote Sarah Palin’s “Drill Baby Drill” politics. But those convictions run up against the limited easily available solar energy locked up in the Earth.

For most of the last century, cheap oil powered global economic growth. But in the last decade, the price of oil has quadrupled, and that shift will permanently shackle the growth potential of the world’s economies.

The countries guzzling the most oil are taking the biggest hits to potential economic growth. That’s sobering news for the U.S., which consumes almost a fifth of the oil used in the world every day. Not long ago, when oil was $20 a barrel, the U.S. was the locomotive of global economic growth; the federal government was running budget surpluses; the jobless rate at the beginning of the last decade was at a 40-year low. Now, growth is stalled, the deficit is more than $1 trillion and almost 13 million Americans are unemployed.

With seven billion humans using more and bigger finely tuned machines to tap the energy from the Earth’s stored carbon reserves and discarding the carbon as CO2 by the billions of tons Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are able to store more solar infrared energy (heat energy) rather than reflecting quite so much back out into space.

The GOP fundamentalists tell us that trumpeting this theory is nothing more than a plot by energy scientists to secure more government grants for their research. The scientists are belatedly doubling down on the theory and gradually converting more of the rare scientific skeptics to their cause.

The same mercenary interests might be imputed to elected GOP fundementalists who rake in lots of political funds from
energy companies.

Money talks and so do GOP converts to global warming skepticism like Mitt Romney.

Maybe today’s Republicans believe that our gas and oil come from dinosaurs like the colt-osaurus that Jesus rode into Jerusalem at Passover. No wonder the children laid palm leaves at his feet as he passed along.

I bet today’s Republicans would like to see Jesus return and transform our rivers into oil. Of course we humans were doing that ourselves until the do-gooder liberals and environmentalists stuck their nose in our business and cleaned up our rivers for fish not humans.

War on Clean Air

RE the previous post:

Mitt was trying to hurt Obama in West Virginia where the big coal companies imperil miners with shoddy safety practices, communities with waste heaps, while enhancing the environment by shaving the tops off mountains to provide coal which releases vast quantities of sulfuric and nitric acid into the atmosphere which a few decades ago almost totally denuded Shenendoah National Park.

But the businessman “I built that” Romney fails to understand that it is Natural gas production that is killing coal in West Virginia. From today’s DNT. (Darn it, they don’t seem to have put the story on their website ) Here it is from the Associated Press.

This could lead to a whole new argument about “fracking” and its perils but one indisputable consequence of fracking has been cleaner air a vast improvement over the kind of choking Chinese smog that Romney seems to favor – you know – with none of that business killing government regulation.

I have a new found personal interest in this. Among my Mother’s assets is a small ownership interest in Texas gas and oil property. She owns a little over three-one-thousandths percent interest in about six oil wells. For several years a number of companies have offered to buy her interest in the wells. Although the wells have produced a lot smaller revenue lately I suspect fracking may improve production at some point in the near future.
Some day One-and-a-half one-thousandths of those oil and gas wells will be mine. As with this blog I’ll be pleased to do my part in clearing the air.

When a sparrow falls

Apparently I have hornets and wasps to thank for my wine cellar. They carry yeast in their guts and bite wine grapes thus passing it on.

Reading about this reminded me of one of the great miscalculations of Maoist China that caused the starvation of about 30 million people, The Great Sparrow Campaign.

It may be true that no sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s knowing it but that doesn’t mean the consequences are all that obvious to man. That’s worth keeping in mind as Republican leaders keep pooh poohing the notion that releasing hundreds of millions of years of naturally sequestered carbon into the atmosphere over a couple of human lifetimes will have any adverse consequences.Some say that God is in the details so we should be grateful that the Republicans have his ear. I’m sure the close collaboration of God and his party will prevent Lake Superior from evaporating. Apparently some people have been aware of this for quite some time.

Of course, if God’s party is right and America starts acting all godless by allowing gays to marry it could be curtains for ole Gitchi Goomi.