Category Archives: Environmental Change

Silverfish and Daddy long legs

A week ago I saw the first silverfish since I was in junior high school in North Mankato, Minnesota. Back then our basement had these creepy silvery bugs in it. A lot of them. I squashed the one who wriggled into dreaded light last week. They are found in damp places and avoid the light. Our house in North Mankato lay in the Minnesota River’s flood plain. It had been flooded in 1950 the year I was born in Kansas although, I would not move in with the silverfish until thirteen years later.

Reading the Wikipedia entry on the critters I realized they were not a new species in our area. Its just one I’d not seen before so unlike the cardinals I’d grown up with in Kansas but only started seeing twenty years ago its not a species fleeing climate change.

I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned the venus fly trap we bought for our older grandson. It has a taste for daddy long legs. We took it outside by our garden and it has consumed about a half dozen of them. The last one managed to have half its body sticking out of the Venus’s maw and not just its legs.

We also have been setting a trap for fruit flies which invade this time of year. Its a jar containing apple cider with a saran wrap cover poked with toothpick holes. Its very gratifying to see the little buggers dive to their doom though one of the holes.

half a ton of sand

I occasionally get a little anal retentive about clean up. Ten years ago I noticed a lot of cigarette filters along the thin boulevard along my retaining wall along 21st Ave East in Duluth. I collected 132 of them from street to alley. That’s bad. I was tempted to write about them in the Duluth Reader but never got around to it.

For about ten years the City of Duluth has been sweeping up the winter sand it strews on the avenue to keep cars from sliding off the road or into the intersection. This year I waited a long time to see the little sweeper that brushes off the sand. It drove up the hill one day but never returned to sweep my sand. A week ago I sent emails to a couple of City departments asking which was responsible for clean up. One supervisor told me it was street maintenance’s department but I’ve never heard back from them not even when I sent them this picture after I picked out the leaves which I took to the yard compost facility on 27th Ave West.

Over the week-end of nothing more than cold shoulder from street maintenance I began cleaning off the sidewalk. Today I called and left a message to the manager explaining that I had swept up the sand myself but telling him I hoped they would pick up the piles which I placed around a construction sign they behind. The sign was held down by a couple of 40 pound sand bags to keep it from blowing over. Comparing the bags with the two mounds of sand behind them I estimate that I swept up a thousand to 14 hundred pounds of sand. Imagine them along every half block of street artery in Duluth after the winter. The sand would probably do a good job plugging up our sewers. At least they aren’t cigarette filters.

Mining Minnesota

The Glen Avon Presbyterian Men’s group getting a good look at Polymet Mine’s operations this May.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned here that my church men’s group got a tour of Polymet. I was impressed. Today I discovered that the little people who invested in the new mine have been used and now sold out so that Polymet can sell out to the huge mining investor Glencore. This is the outfit once headed by Marc Rich who Bill Clinton infamously pardoned on the last day of his Presidency.

Here’s what Minnesota Brown (Aaron Brown) wrote about this today:

Here was my two cents entered into his talk back section:


Letisha gave my church men’s group a tour of Polymet 2 weeks ago. I was impressed. Lurking in the back of my mind was Glencore. They seem to represent the nexes between profitability and amorality. Letisha told us of her decade working hard to open Polymet and add new mines to the Range. I guess she risks betrayal of that long work as well.


My aplogies to the WLSSD

The Western Lake Superior District is not the garbage and recycling company Waste Management that so disapointed me from January to April. Not surprisingly WLSSD was taken aback when they read an April 12 post complaining about their lousy service.

I got a very concerned email from the water treatment folks today seeking clarification and if possible a correction.

This is the email I just sent them:


I am very sorry. I will make the change to Waste Management. WLSSD is next to it in my cell phone’s directory and I suspect that is why the acronym stuck in my head when I wrote that post.

I hope most of my readers saw my mistake but I will also post a correction for regular readers tonight in today’s posts.

My apologies

I am making the correction NOW. Tomorrow I am hauling last fall’s leaves to their compost site tomorrow! I don’t want to have to go wearing a disguise.

Chimpanzee’s didn’t do it

“Juan Percent took me to task over my Republican’s as Socialists column. His complaints had little to do with my column. His last comment in the Reader was as follows:

Juan wrote:

So you believe that climate change is 1. Man made 2. Is absolutely going to cause a disaster and 3. The green new deal and central planning will solve it. Of course you also bought into Russian collusion, so maybe you’re just easily fooled.

I replied:


Let’s start with collusion. “Russia, if you’re listening, send us Hillary’s emails.” I could pretty well rest my case there and that was before Mueller started sending Trump’s cronies to jail. We will see how quick Trump is to force Javanka to release their private emails on foreign policy.

As for Global warming it’s simple. For 500 million years vegetation absorbed photons and made starchy energy rich carbon compounds out of them. Over those 500 million years erosion, sedimentation plate techniques and other geological forces buried a fabulous mother load of carbon based methane, coal, oil and natural gas in the ground thereby removing a heat trapping gas from the atmosphere. Something dug up a shitload of that energy, starting with the industrial revolution, and freed the carbon to refill the atmosphere and the oceans. It wasn’t chimpanzees that did all that!


I was going to use a different title for this as my previous post suggested. It was to be “Read this you climate denying numnuts“. But “Glaciers!” is better because it reminds me of a family story.

This post was prompted by a story in the DNT a couple days ago but couldn’t find it on their website. But this will do. This news article stuck a cord in me.

When my children were little I developed a reputation for tiresome pedantry. (endless and boring explanations) Rather than getting all bent out of shape over my reputation I put it to good advantage with my nephews. One day I tried putting them to bed with the story of “Mr. Boring.” Mr.Boring talked about glaciers. He spoke slowly with big words and his super power was putting people to sleep. For a year or two afterward my nephews wanted me to tell them more Mr. Boring stories.

The starting point for original boring story were our Great Lakes which even now are full of the water that melted 10,000 years ago from the glaciers which covered half of the United States and all of Canada. A mere 10,000 years of rainfall has not been enough time to flush and replace the snow and ice that had accumulated over millions of years in the lake basins gouged out by the glaciers. And even now, 10,000 years later the ground beneath our feet is still upwelling like a cushion freed from our butts after we stand up.

But I’m not sure I ever considered that the original glacier was still in existence. A tiny remnant still exists covering one of Canada’s arctic islands. But it won’t be there for long. It survived two and a half million years but will be gone in a couple hundred more. As the story says our climate is warmer than when the mile thick North American glaciers began melting. This new climate is also turned its attention on Greenland and Antarctica as it hasn’t since our earliest ancestors stood up on the steppes of Africa.

To me the tribulations of a man who never expected to be President but only wanted to build his brand and his billions while blaming his expected defeat on election fraud are just piffle compared to what ten billions of humans will do to the Earth.
Panicking Republicans are manufacturing new crises to stave off the assault on their President’s. OMG -Minnesota has an Israel-bashing Muslim congresswomen !!! AOC has a Green New Deal!!! And don’t forget Socialism! or Impeachment!. Maybe they should have thought about that more when they tried to impeach Bill over mostly consensual sex.

Meanwhile the Earth is burning……..literally.

Jennifer challenges my “agnosticism” on Copper Nickle mining

From: “Zenith City Weekly”
To: “Harrywelty”
Sent: Friday July 27 2018 7:44:41PM
Subject: Response to #4 Copper-nickel mining (with two follow-up questions)

Thank you for your detailed responses to my first set of questions, Harry. I really enjoyed reading your replies! I also enjoyed reading your responses to KBJR. Continue reading

Inside Baseball oops School Board – email 2

like Duluth the Minneapolis schools has decided to replace its rubber tire mulch. Cory Kirsling who has been lobbying the State Legislature with other ISD 709 parents to get rid of rubber tire mulch on State playgrounds forwarded this email to Duluth School Board members:

Hello board members
I’m sharing this email I just received, and want to thank you for your commitment.

Sincerely, Cory Kirsling

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Dianna Kennedy
Date: Apr 28, 2017 3:45 PM
Subject: MPS will replace the tire mulch!!!!

It’s official!!!

The Minneapolis Public Schools have included $3.3 million dollars in this year’s capitol budget to replace the tire mulch in all 47 playgrounds!!!! Thanks to the commitment of Director Nelson Inz and Superintendent Ed, the project is fully funded and work will begin soon.

What happened last night:

At last night’s Finance Committee meeting the new COO Karen DeVet and Superintendent Graff made a special point to announce that the project will be fully funded in the FY18 capitol budget. They are EXCITED about it and call it an early, positive step toward their larger overall Wellness goals. Of course, our champion Director Nelson Inz was there, but it was the chair of the committee, Director Jenny Arneson, who gave us our moment. She insisted on giving Graff and DeVet a few minutes to present the news despite the fact that the meeting was running very late. The committee then passed a motion to recommend all of the staff capitol budget recommendations to the whole board, making the recommendation to include playgrounds in the captiol budget official.

The big discussion last night was centered on the general budget (called Fund 1)—which is facing a very difficult deficit. You’ve probably been hearing about layoffs and difficult meetings. It seems that everyone is happy to have the capitol budget (called Fund 6) be dispute-free, as there is ample money in that fund to cover the projects they want and it cannot be used for the general budget.

After the meeting, I also learned that Superintendent Graff is planning a resolution for the May 9th school board meeting, in conjunction with the 1st reading of the budget to the whole board. The school staff and the school board are looking at this project as a positive action that they can tout…because they all really need something positive right now since the general budget is so difficult.

So we did it! They did it! Minneapolis children will have healthy playgrounds!

and like college campuses perhaps newspapers should be free from offensive politics

The Duluth News Tribune devoted almost an entire page to a dozen letters critical of a Steve Lindstrom cartoon that I thought was clever if a bit too easy. It showed the Dwarf “Doc” looking out of his mine at Dwarf “Dopey” who was drinking from mine waste dribbling out of the mine’s entrance. The caption explained that this is how Dopey got that way.

Many of the writers would have had the Tribune pull the cartoon like the disinvite of Coulter from UC Berkeley.

Here’s the first critical letter.

That the cartoon generated such a heated response was both a testament to Steve Lindstrom’s simple idea and perhaps to today’s Blue collar resentments.

I have not yet taken the time to read up on whether the mineral investors can be counted on to protect those of us who live downstream from their mine’s sulfides. Having a Donald Trump as our President only aggravates my concern. In the meantime, I welcome the skepticism cartoonist Lindstrom has aimed at the project just as I welcome the eruption late night humor directed at the Oval Office.

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!

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.


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
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.