Category Archives: climate change

Rough Cut: The Devil’s Family Tree & the House of Butterflies

Six years ago, in my first draft of Fruit of the Devil, I described my protagonist’s research into the multinational corporate persons who control global chemical-intensive agriculture. The passage is obviously too long to include in my novel, but a friend recently encouraged me to resurrect this buried limb of Fruit of the Devil, and to call it “The Devil’s Family Tree”.

The information seems important, even if it’s too much to stuff into a novel. So here, to the best of my research ability, is how I believe that methyl bromide, brilliantly marketed as an “essential” agricultural pesticide, is really a nothing but a toxic waste product of the petrochemical industry. How did they get us to buy that, and Eat it on our food?????? Methyl Bromide hasn’t gone away yet. And the strategies these corporations use to dupe the public are well-honed and still being used. I think we need to know how they’re playing us.

(This might be a good time to listen to Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain Gonna Fall.)

“The soil is, as a matter of fact, full of live organisms. It is essential to conceive of it as something pulsating with life, not as a dead or inert mass.” Albert Howard, The Soil and Health, 1947

 

The Devil’s Family Tree: Who are the Multinational Corporate Persons that control our world?

Chapter 55. Monday, April 18, 1999. Passover Begins at Sundown.

Aurora sat propped up in her big bed, with several fat pillows stuffed behind her back. It was raining hard. It had been raining all weekend, without any breaks in the storm. Aurora leaned back against her pillows and enjoyed the sound of the rain on the roof. Suddenly, the sound shifted, like gravel falling from the sky. Hail!

Blue jumped off the bed and went to the glass door. As he watched the falling hail, the tip of his tail twitched. Aurora stood next to the large black cat, looking out. The hail subsided, turning into a pounding rain. The frozen beads on the ground and on the hot tub cover quickly melted. Aurora crawled back into bed,  snuggled the comforter up around her, pulled her knees up to her chest and settled back against her pillows to resume her research.

Like following a thread through a labyrinth, she read over the material again. It was complicated. Bit-by-bit, the muddied waters were beginning to clear. She was beginning to understand who, hidden in the tangled web of interlocking corporate directorates, was responsible for methyl bromides’ persistence as an agricultural pesticide, in blatant disregard of all the legislation requiring its phase-out. She was starting to see how the system was being manipulated, and who was pulling the strings.

Who Are the Bromide Barons? Just three corporations account for most of the world’s methyl bromide production. The Great Lakes Chemical Corporation and Albemarle in the US, and a Tel Aviv-based subsidiary called the Dead Sea Bromine Group control over seventy-five percent of global production of the pesticide. Their affiliated corporations in France and Japan, together with North Sea Bromine, Alumina Belgique, and Dubai Potash are responsible for the remaining production. The global bromine industry is an oligopoly, Aurora read, controlled by Albemal and the Dead Sea Bromine Group.

Another downpour of hail battered the roof like machine gun fire Through the glass door Aurora watched frozen white beads beat up the ragged daffodils. The hail turned into sheeting rain again, and she went back to her reading.

These three companies are joined by Trical Corporation in California, which, together with its affiliated companies, dominates methyl bromide fumigation in the United States. A number of large agribusiness corporations, such as Sun Diamond Growers Cooperative, as well as the large California strawberry shipper-cooler conglomerates also play a central role in the political-economic battle over methyl bromide.

These key players have worked together on local, national and global initiatives, including propaganda, intimidation, and outright buy-outs of politicians, to fight the phase-out of this acutely toxic, ozone-depleting chemical. The Barons of Bromide strive to perpetuate methyl bromide use through industry associations, such as the Methyl Bromide Working Group, the Methyl Bromide Global Coalition, the Crop Protection Coalition, and the Agricultural Workers Committee.

Aurora had been over this material before, but she still felt like she was missing something. She sensed there was something more, something bigger driving all of this. Albemarle and affiliates controlled most of the world’s methyl bromide production. But who, she wondered, was the wizard in the closet behind Albemarle?

She climbed out of bed, wrapped herself in a warm fleece bathrobe decorated with polar bears and penguins, snuggled her feet into fleece slippers, and headed for the kitchen. Blue padded next to her, apparently hoping that, if he stayed tight on her heels, she would remember to feed him. She looked down at the fat cat and laughed.

“OK. Breakfast time. Here you go.” The sound of the cat kibble pouring into the bowl made a counterpoint to the rain on the roof, now a gentle, steady patter.

Aurora topped off her mug with hot Earl Grey tea, toasted an English muffin, spread with butter and olallieberry jam, sat down at her kitchen desk and turned on the computer. She  typed in “Albemarle”, and clicked on “Search”.

Albemal began in 1887 as a US paper manufacturing company. Paper manufacturing, Aurora knew, was a dirty, highly polluting industry. She and her students had recently read a book by Lynne Cherry, A River Ran Wild, telling the story of a paper mill’s destruction of the Nashua River in Massachusetts. How it had come to light that the river was so polluted it was spontaneously catching on fire, and this had led, after a protracted struggle by the public, to the passage of the US Clean Water Act in 1965. Growing public awareness and concerns about the environment had ultimately led to the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

“In 1921, a team of chemists performing research for General Motors discovered tetraethyllead (TEL) had antiknock properties as a gasoline additive. As a result, the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation in Richmond, Virginia began production of tetraethyllead in 1937. TEL remained the primary product of the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation through the next four decades. When the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation expanded its product line (particularly to include MMT), its name was changed to the Ethyl Corporation. The Albemarle Paper Manufacturing Company borrowed $200 million in 1962 and purchased Ethyl Corporation, a company more than thirteen times its size.”

So Albemal, a little Arkansas paper company, merged with the Ethyl Corporation in 1962. Ethyl? Gasoline? Paper and petrochemicals? Aurora read on. In ’68, the Ethyl/Albemal company acquired a bromide chemical plant in Arkansas from Dow Chemical. Dow Chem, the ozone eating chlorofluorocarbon manufacturer?

Albemarle continued to expand and diversify into chemicals, plastics, aluminum and energy, netting millions in profit. In the ‘90’s the company sharpened its focus on its core chemical businesses, forming an alliance with a Japanese chemical company, Dead Sea Bromine, and Dubai Potash. It also acquired an oil fields chemicals plant, giving Albemarle access to customers in the North Sea. Oil fields chemicals? In 1997, Albemarle restructured into two business units: Polymer Chemicals and Fine Chemicals.

So Albemarle Paper merged with Ethyl Gasoline? Aurora remembered hearing something about Ethyl gasoline when she was a child. She Goggled “Ethyl”, and read:

“In 1920, the DuPont family consolidated its grip over General Motors. During this period, a team of scientists perfected an anti-knock gasoline additive that boosted octane content. After first marketing the “no knock” tetraethyl lead (TEL) in 1922, GM- DuPont formed a 50-50 joint venture with one of the most powerful petroleum corporations on the planet – Standard Oil – and its New Jersey subsidiary, which later became known as Exxon, to produce and market the chemical. The new company was called the Ethyl Corporation.”

So, Albemarle Paper Company became the world’s largest producer of methyl bromide, after a merger with Ethyl no knock gasoline, which was created by General Motors, DuPont, and Standard Oil. Bells and whistles started going off. Standard Oil!? Oh, my God. One of the most powerful petroleum corporations on the planet was somehow behind methyl bromide. The wizard, the puppeteer pulling the strings of the TriCal King of Poisoners, was now standing just behind the curtain, and his face was covered in oil.

Aurora kept reading.

“Almost immediately, Ethyl ran into trouble. Scientists raised concerns that automobiles running on leaded gasoline were ‘a serious menace to the public health.’ In 1924, the story broke that 80% of the workers who produced tetraethyl lead had either been killed or were suffering acute poisoning. Employees suffered such severe nerve damage and extensive hallucinations at one refinery that it was dubbed ‘the House of Butterflies.’ Ethyl, supported by its owners – DuPont, General Motors, and Exxon/Standard Oil – fought back against concerns of scientists and the public.”

Corporate publicists contradicted a growing body of scientific evidence with a bold public relations and lobbying campaign, hiring a journalism professor from Columbia University to place favorable articles in newspapers, and run full page ads touting the product in Life Magazine and other popular journals. General Motors’ director of research told the American Medical Association that, ‘there is absolutely no danger of acquiring lead poisoning, even through prolonged exposure to exhaust gases of cars using Ethyl gas.’ ”

“There’s absolutely no danger… Our product is perfectly safe. Don’t worry about a thing. We’re the experts. Trust us. We’ll keep you safe.” Where had she heard that before? “Noooooo problem. Don’t worry your little head about the pesticides. We’ll take care of you.”

Aurora addressed Blue, who was meticulously cleaning his paws and whiskers. “Can you believe this, Blue? Way back in 1924, Standard and Ethyl Big Oil were already colluding with General Motors and DuPont Chemical, creator, along with Dow, of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, to spin junk science and propaganda. Way back then, they were already successfully manipulating the public into believing that their poisonous concoctions were safe. They’ve had decades to perfect their propaganda. No wonder they’ve been able to trick the public into believing that growing food with poisons is good for us.” Blue blinked his big yellow eyes, said Meow, then sauntered off to the window seat to watch the rain. Aurora turned back to the computer screen.

“The campaign to promote Ethyl and protect its market share was highly successful. A Surgeon General’s panel of scientists called for further study, but the required studies were never conducted. General Motors produced high-compression engines that ran only on leaded gasoline, further assuring Ethyl’s successful capture of the market share. By 1940, 70% of all US gasoline contained deadly Ethyl. Competitor’s products were driven out of the market – the same fate that befell the refrigerants that were rivals of GM-DuPont’s chlorinated fluorocarbon ‘Freon’. ”

“Hum,” thought Aurora. “Required studies were never conducted. Well, that’s familiar. Just like the way they’ve never bothered to complete the tests on methyl bromide that were required by the California Birth Defects Prevention Act. How do they get away with that?”

The rain got louder. Aurora  stretched, and gazed through the sliding glass door. Rain was coming down in solid sheets, blowing nearly sideways. The patio and the garden paths were flooding. All the trees were blowing wildly. She shuffled into her living room and watched through the bay window.  The water had risen almost to curb level. Something orange bobbed on the water flooding toward the storm drain.

Continuing her house inspection, she opened the door from the laundry room off the kitchen into her garage, which she used as an art studio. The floor was still dry. She checked the whole house, looking for signs of moisture on the ceilings, and along seals around doors and windows. Everything looked dry and snug. She turned on the gas wall heater that warmed her cottage. The gas ignited and the heater made a comforting purring sound. Aurora suppressed her misgivings about the environmental impact of heating her house with gas and sat back down at the computer. She continued reading, wondering how long she had before the power went out.

So Ethyl, Albemale, and methyl bromide. Ethyl/Albemarle’s involvement in the methyl bromide business had its roots in Ethyl’s leaded gasoline business. When tetraethyl lead was invented back in the 1920’s, it turned out that the product left a corrosive byproduct in the engine. The solution that Ethyl’s scientists found was to add a chemical called ethylene dibromide (EDB) to the mix. Ethyl first produced “no knock” EDB in 1934 by extracting bromine from sea water in a joint venture with Dow Chemical. This process was replaced in 1969 by a joint venture between Ethyl and an Albemarle subsidiary located near an Arkansas salt marsh. The new process used concentrated brine drilled from deep beneath the salt marsh to make bromine.

In 1972, the same year it banned DDT, the US government finally ordered the phase out of leaded gasoline in the US. Since the House of Butterflies story had first been suppressed, it had been a run of almost fifty years that deadly ethyl gasoline was successfully marketed in almost every tank.

Ethyl/Albemarle quickly responded to the government-mandated phase out of Ethyl with a three track strategy. First, they continued to aggressively claim that leaded gasoline emissions posed absolutely no human health hazards. Although studies found that, after elimination of TEL leaded gasoline, the level of lead in American’s blood fell as much as 75%, Ethyl/Albemarle continued to dismiss all evidence of the hazards of tetraethyl lead.

Second, they globalized production and distribution, developing international markets for leaded “anti-knock” gasoline. To compensate for the decline in the domestic consumption of tetraethyl lead, Ethyl globalized leaded gasoline. Consequently, TEL is responsible for nearly 90% of airborne lead pollution in Third World cities today.

Finally, Ethyl/Albemarle diversified their US production. Faced with a steadily diminishing market for leaded gasoline, they sought to find other uses for the vast salt brine reserves they had been using to produce the ethylene dibromide (EDB) additive to TEL. They marketed EDB as an agricultural chemical, encouraging its use in grain storage silos and as a pesticide applied directly to crops. In 1983, the US Environmental Protection Agency banned EDB as a pesticide, finding that it posed an unacceptable cancer risk. Cakes, breads and cereals containing EDB were recalled from supermarket shelves.

Despite the setback, Ethyl/Albemal rapidly expanded their bromine production, ultimately cornering all of the US bromide production and one-third of the bromide production world-wide. They developed a bromide product line that included flame retardants, drilling fluids, water treatment chemicals, cleaning solvents, glass making, detergents, pesticides, photographic chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

To the rhythm of the falling rain, Aurora heard inside her head that song from the Dr. Seuss movie, The Lorax, that she showed to her students every year. The song about all of the many, many uses that could be made out of Thneeds, those things that the Onceler made out of chopped down trees. …drilling fluids, water treatment chemicals, cleaning solvents, glass making, detergents, pesticides, photographic chemicals, pharmaceuticals And thneeds are what everyone, everyone needs!” The Lorax

She went over the material again in her mind, wondering why she’d never heard this story before. Everyone should know about this, she thought. People should know how our lives and our world are being manipulated. So, it took from 1924 to 1972 for the government to finally ban leaded gasoline, even though the science proving that leaded gas was a deadly toxin had been available from the beginning. And, once it was finally banned in the US, the companies just sold it overseas, plus they remixed the same chemicals and re-marketed them under a different name for different uses, including as agricultural pesticides. The people that do these things must be so cynical, thought Aurora.

A bolt of lightening lit the sky, followed by a satisfying crack of thunder. Thunderstorms were fairly rare on the Central California coast. Aurora hurried to the window to watch for another lightening flash. Another bolt forked across the dark sky. Aurora counted the seconds. … one thousand five. Caboom! went the thunder, followed by a downpour. Aurora returned to the computer.

One of their products, a highly profitable brominated fire retardant called tetrabromobisophenol-A (TBBA), they sold to the electronics industry for use in the manufacture of fire-resistant epoxy circuit boards and personal computer housing. A by-product of TBBA is methyl bromide.

OK, thought Aurora. So, here comes the methyl bromide.

In a brilliant marketing move, Ethyl/Albemarle promoted methyl bromide, the toxic waste from the manufacture of TBBA, as a substitute for the carcinogenic pesticide EDB, which the government had mandated to be phased out. Methyl bromide quickly became a strategic product for Ethyl/Albemarle.

“Oh, perfect. So, methyl bromide is toxic waste that they figured out how to sell us as a substitute for a banned carcinogenic pesticide. Cute. These people are clever as hell, Blue.” The cat was still watching the rain. He didn’t bother to turn around and look at her, but simply flicked the tip of his tail in response.

Albemarle produced methyl bromide under a licensing agreement with Dow Chemical. Monsanto, the giant corporate arm that controls a large share of the powerful berry cooler-shipper business, assured the ongoing demand for methyl bromide in the California berry industry, which accounts for 80% of all US strawberry production.

“Monsanto? The entire Devil’s Family is in the room now. Of course. You could have guessed that, right, Blue? ” Blue flicked his tail and batted at Aurora’s hand, then left the room. Aurora squinted at the computer screen.

Today, with the rapid growth of the computer industry, demand for TBBA is increasing world-wide. In response, Albemarle is increasing its TBBA production, and with it, the amount of methyl bromide byproduct generated. If ever the International Montreal Protocol’s ban on methyl bromide is actually enforced in the US, methyl bromide will cease to be a highly profitable pesticide, and instead will become, for the Ethyl/Standard Oil/General Motors/DuPont/Exxon/Dow/Monsanto/Albemarle cartel a toxic waste disposal liability.

Holy shit., Batman. Monsanto, General Motors, Dow Chemical and Standard Oil. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Aurora stood before the screen as the curtain lifted. She could finally see who was pushing the buttons, pulling the levers and dancing the puppets on the strings. The wizard had a face. But not a human face. It was the face of one of the oldest and most powerful petrochemical corporations on the planet. Standard Oil, with the tentacles of an ancient and evil octopus.

Lightening and thunder cracked the sky. The surge protector clicked off. The computer monitor flickered, and went black. Aurora tried a light switch. The electricity was down. She groped her way into her garage and flipped the switches on the circuit breaker. No power. But the gas heater continued to purr. Aurora unrolled her yoga mat. She kicked off her slippers, pulled off her robe and nightgown, tossing them on the nearest chair, and began a naked sun salutation. She spent an hour practicing yoga, as the thunder and lightening continued. Then she took a hot shower, grateful for her gas water heater, but thinking she should look into solar water heating. Somehow, she had to get off her fossil fuel gas and oil dependency.

Dressing in comfortable sweats, she sat cross-legged on floor pillows and meditated in the gloamy light, focusing on her breathing while she chanted her Mata Amritanandamayi mantra. By the time she finished meditating, the squall had passed. She checked the lights. On. She felt grateful to whomever the heroes were who were out there in the deluge doing the difficult and dangerous work of restoring electricity to neighborhoods with downed power lines. What a wonderful thing, electricity. Living in the age of fossil fuel. An age ushered in, to a large extent, by the big oil companies…

There were so many contradictions to come to terms with, living in these times. Where did her electricity come from? Every year, she asked her students that, and together, they discovered the answer for their locality. Moss Landing. The Moss Landing Power Plant, across the highway from the Moss Landing Harbor. It had generated electricity for Pacific Gas and Electric customers by burning oil up until the 1970’s, and then had converted to natural gas.

Thank God there were no longer dirty oil tankers coming into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to refuel the power plant, with their ever-looming threat of oil spills. But still, gas was a fossil fuel, too. A non-renewable resource. It was becoming more and more clear, Aurora thought, that any process involving the extraction of materials from the earth – coal, oil, gas, blood diamonds  . . .  all of it, when you scratched the surface, turned out to be dirty, destructive, and toxic, and controlled by people willing to do anything – lie, steal, cheat, destabilize countries, ruin watersheds, and even knowingly let people die – just so they could make their obscenely huge profits. Why? Was it the amassing of more and more wealth that these people were addicted to? Or was there something else driving the insatiable desire of these hungry ghosts? Power, lust?

Standard Oil and methyl bromide. Well, that was certainly interesting. So, the petrochemical industry, the oil companies, actually owned the pesticide industry. The Methyl Bromide Barons essentially worked for the Frankenstein ghost of Standard Oil. Maybe the CEO’s of all the corporations were one and the same people. Interlocking corporate boards of directors.

It was time to figure out another way. To get free of pesticides, and clear of as many petrochemicals as possible. Although they seemed to be everywhere, in everything she touched, from food, to clothing, furniture, plastics, and gasoline. Aurora resolved once and for all that she was going to find out how to at least get her energy – her light, heat, transportation – through sustainable, renewable means, as much as she could. For starters, she was going to look into putting solar hot water and electricity on her house, as soon as possible. Eventually, maybe should could get an all electric car to plug into her home solar system. She didn’t want to be a participant or an enabler of this country’s fossil fuel addiction any longer.

The phone rang.

Aurora didn’t pick it up. She let the machine take it and listened to the auto dialer’s message. The fire department was letting everyone know that, due to the unusual El Niño conditions, severe storms were expected to continue for the next three days. Flooding was expected in most areas. Residents who needed sandbags could pick them up at the nearest fire station. And there were flood evacuation centers at the following locations…..

Aurora made herself a tuna sandwich. Blue circled her ankles like a shark. Taking her sandwich plate to her desk, she googled Standard Oil.

The first hit was a link to an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust”.

Aurora clicked on the link, and read: “The saga of Standard Oil ranks as one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the U.S. economy. It occurred at a time when the country was undergoing its rapid transformation from a mainly agricultural society to the greatest industrial powerhouse the world has ever known. The effects of Standard Oil on the U.S., as well as on much of the rest of the world, were immense, and the lessons that can be learned from this amazing story are possibly as relevant today as they were a century ago.

Standard Oil Company was founded by John D. Rockefeller in Cleveland, Ohio in 1870. In just a little over a decade, through a variety of cutthroat and often violent strategies, it had attained control of nearly all the oil refineries in the U.S.

During this period, a brilliant inventor, Rudolf Diesel, was promoting his diesel engine, which ran on clean peanut oil. Diesel was mysteriously murdered, and his plant seized and burned. Immediately after Diesel’s murder, Standard Oil rolled out a petroleum distillate called diesel gasoline to take the place of clean bio-diesel. The mysterious death of Rudolf Diesel cleared away one of Standard Oil’s most serious competitors.

(Josh Tickell gives an excellent portrayal of Diesel’s mysterious death in his film FUEL.)

By 1878 Rockefeller had attained control of nearly 90 percent of the oil refined in the U.S., and shortly thereafter he had gained control of most of the oil marketing facilities in the U.S.

Standard Oil initially focused on horizontal integration (i.e., at the same stage of production) by gaining control of other oil refineries. But gradually the integration also became vertical (i.e., extended to other stages of production and distribution), mainly by acquiring pipelines, railroad tank cars, terminal facilities and barrel manufacturing factories. It was the first of the great corporate trusts.

A trust was an arrangement whereby the stockholders in a group of companies transferred their shares to a single set of trustees who controlled all of the companies. In exchange, the stockholders received certificates entitling them to a specified share of the consolidated earnings of the jointly managed companies. The trustees elected the directors and officers of each of the component companies, and all of the profits of those companies were sent to the trustees, who decided the dividends. This arrangement allowed all of the companies to function in unison as a highly disciplined monopoly. The unified organization of the trust finally made the disciplined regulation of production levels possible, thereby giving its owners complete control over prices. Massive and unprecedented profits of Standard Oil were made possible by this control over prices, the huge economies of scale attained from the control of almost all oil refined in the U.S. and the ability to pressure railroads and other suppliers of goods and services into giving them bargain rates.

Rockefeller became the first billionaire in the U.S. However, even this unprecedented wealth and power was not enough. Rockefeller and Standard Oil needed ever more. The company thus expanded into the overseas markets, particularly Western Europe and Asia, and after a while it was selling even more oil abroad than in the U.S. Moreover, Rockefeller, in addition to his role as the head of Standard Oil, also invested in numerous companies in manufacturing, transportation and other industries and owned major iron mines and extensive tracts of timberland.

The astonishing success of Standard Oil encouraged others to follow the Rockefeller business model, particularly in the booming final decades of the 19th century. Trusts were established in close to 200 industries, although most never came close to Standard Oil in size or profitability. Among the largest were railroads, coal, steel, sugar, tobacco and meatpacking.

This dominance of oil, together with its tentacles entwined deep into the railroads, other industries, influential private foundations, and even various levels of government, persisted and intensified, despite a growing public outcry and repeated attempts to break it up. There was widespread disgust and revulsion, not only among the many people who had their businesses or jobs wiped out by the ruthless predatory tactics of the trusts, but also by countless others who were affected by the increased costs and reduced levels of service that often resulted from the elimination of competition.

The monopolization of the economy became a major topic for the independent print media, which helped to create a widespread awareness not only of the effects of this consolidation but also of the techniques that were being used to attain it, including the extensive use of fraud, political corruption and physical violence.

The media attack on monopolies and corruption reached a peak from 1902 to 1912, which is often referred to as the muckraking decade. The muckrakers helped bring about an unprecedented era of reform. The U.S. Supreme Court was finally able to act decisively in 1911. Pioneering legislation was passed, aimed at restoring free competition to the economy and at protecting the food supply along with other measures designed to stop the excesses and abuses of corporate greed.

1911 was also a pivotal year for the petroleum industry in another respect. It was the year in which the U.S. market for kerosene (until then the main product from oil refining) was surpassed by that for a formerly discarded byproduct of the refining process — gasoline.

Wind rattled the windows. Rain hammered on the roof. Another squall was hitting the coast. Aurora got up and put her sandwich plate in the sink. She clicked on the gas under the teakettle. While she waited for the water to boil, she watched the storm through the window. A large branch broke off a cedar tree across the street and fell onto the neighbor’s yard, barely missing the car in their driveway. A tall palm tree down the block was bending sideways. Huge palm fronds flew through the air. Rain lashed against the front of Aurora’s house, blowing off the bay at nearly gale force. The street was a muddy, turbulent river. Water was rising up over the sidewalk. This has to be a hundred year storm, Aurora thought. She couldn’t remember anything like it.

The Muckrakers. Aurora remembered having learned about muckrakers when she was in high school. The conditions today seemed so similar to back then. Globalization of the economy was leading to monopolization and control by big corporations, job loss, exploitation of workers, fraud, political corruption, predatory lending all over the world. Just like Standard Oil took over the U.S. economy a hundred years ago, the World Trade Organization was becoming even more powerful than sovereign nations today, in its control of the global economy. And the US Supreme Court had given corporations the legal status and constitutional rights of “personhood”. Where was the independent media? Where were the muckrakers? Why wasn’t the public being made aware of what was happening?

The teakettle whistled. Aurora made herself a cup of instant Miso soup with seaweed and shitake mushrooms. Stirring the savory soup, she took her cup back to the desk, woke up the computer, and continued reading.

In spite of the outraged public sentiment awakened by the muckrakers, it took the government a long time to take effective measures to deal with the abusive tactics by Standard Oil and other monopolies. The strong desire on the part of the monopolies for preventing government intervention undoubtedly played a major role in this delay.

But the vehement public opposition to the trusts, especially among farmers who protested the high charges for transporting their products to the cities by railroad, finally resulted in the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. This was the first measure enacted by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts. The Sherman Antitrust Act, based on the constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, authorized the Federal Government to dissolve the trusts. It was passed by an overwhelming vote of 51-1 in the Senate and a unanimous vote of 242-0 in the House, and it was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison.

Roosevelt, who became president in 1901, preferred regulation to dismantling. He attempted to steer a middle course between the socialism favored by some reformers and the laissez faire approach advocated by the Republicans. His hand was strengthened by an increasingly outraged public, which, although leery of government intervention in the past, had become far more supportive of it because of the seemingly endless growth in the numbers and power of the monopolies.

Several steps were taken by Roosevelt during his first term that proved highly successful despite intensive efforts by big business to block them. They included: (1) Convincing Congress to establish a Department of Commerce and Labor, the first new executive department since the Civil War, in order to increase the federal government’s oversight of the interstate actions of big business and to monitor labor relations. (2) Setting up the Bureau of Corporations in the new department in order to find violations of existing antitrust legislation. The Bureau soon began investigations into the oil, steel, meatpacking and other industries. (3) Instructing his attorney general to launch a total of 44 lawsuits against what were determined to be harmful business combinations, among which was the Standard Oil Trust.

The Court ordered the Standard Oil Trust to dismantle 33 of its most important affiliates and to distribute the stock to its own shareholders and not to a new trust. The result was the creation of a number of completely independent (although eight of them retained the phrase Standard Oil in their names) and vertically integrated oil companies, each of which ranked among the most powerful in the world. This decision also paved the way for new entrants into the industry, such as Gulf and Texaco, which discovered and exploited vast new petroleum deposits in Texas. The consequent vigorous competition gave a big impetus to innovation and expansion of the oil industry as a whole.

Historians of the future will likely continue to view the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust as an important milestone in the unending struggle to restore and preserve free competition in the U.S. economy. Yet, they will no doubt note developments in the second half of the 20th Century turning the tide again in favor of transnational corporate control of the U.S. and global economy and a new era of monopoly creation on a global scale. And they might also be far more concerned than their predecessors about the failure of the market mechanism, and of society as a whole, to address an issue of at least equally great importance: namely, the inexorable rush to consume and deplete what increasingly appears to be the very finite resources of planet earth, virtually regardless of the consequences.” 

The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust Created May 21, 2004. Updated October 12, 2006. Copyright © 2004 – 2006 The Linux Information Project. All Rights Reserved.

Aurora’s eyes grew heavy. She shut off the computer, moved the sleeping cat over and flopped down on the couch, pulling a blanket over herself and Blue. She picked up her new book from the coffee table, opened it, and began reading. The Heat is On: the Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription by Ross Gelbspan. The rain fell softly. In a few minutes, Aurora was asleep.

She was underwater, wrestling a giant octopus. It sprayed black, oily, toxic ink into the water. Through the shadowy muck she could make out many other writhing figures – humans, penguins, polar bears, enormous salmon with human faces, strangling and struggling in the tentacles of the monster. She was drowning.

Sources:
The Barons of Bromine Corp Watch  – This information is referenced and quoted with permission from The Bromide Barons by Joshua Karliner, Alba Morales, and Dara O’Rourke, of Corporate Watch, San Francisco, 1997.
Shaping the Industrial Century: The Remarkable Story of the Evolution of the Evolution of the Modern Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries by Alfred Dupont Chandler
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albemarle_Corporation
The Dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust Created May 21, 2004. Updated October 12, 2006. Copyright © 2004 – 2006 The Linux Information Project. All Rights Reserved.

“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? And where have you been my darling young one? I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’, I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world. And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall.” Bob Dylan

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

March for Science ~ Washington D.C. Earth Day, 2017

Here’s a nice song to listen to if you don’t mind having a second window open while looking at the slides.

I am an American Citizen. A Patriot. My family has lived, worked (mostly as coal miners, farmers, and teachers), loved and died on American soil for over 400 years. I love my country. I’m also a well-educated researcher, trained in scientific method, the daughter of an electo-chemical engineer and wedded to a physicist. I rely on Truth, not “alt-facts” to navigate reality. Therefore .   .   .

In April 2017, I  felt compelled to travel from California to Washington D.C. to take part in the March for Science and, a week later, the Peoples Climate March.

Early in the morning on Earth Day, we gathered at the downtown offices of the Union of Concerned Scientists, where we had coffee and donuts, got our tee shirts, talked, and made signs. Then we marched. In spite of bitter driving rain on Earth Day, at least 300,000 people marched in the nation’s capitol (and many more participated in cities around the country) to support scientists, scientific rigor, funding for scientific research, science-based governmental and non-governmental institutions, and respect for the  scientific process as a means of understanding reality and verifying facts.

The following weekend, more than 100,000 people turned out despite ironic record-breaking heat. We marched all the way from the Capitol Building to the White House to demand that our governmental representatives honor commitments we made, with the signing of the Paris Climate Accord, to reduce carbon emissions.

Lately I often feel like I’m standing on the sidewalk watching my house burn down. Paralyzed. Hypnotized. Slack jawed. In shock.

Since the November inauguration, we’ve witnessed a violent assault against all the institutions that Make America Great: our national Environmental Protection Agency, our Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Protection Acts, our National Parks and National Monuments, our National Security System, our Courts, our Health Care, Social Security, and Medicare, old age pensions, labor unions, Food Safety, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, our Middle Class, our Public Educational System, freedom from the threat of nuclear holocaust, national infrastructure providing good roads, hospitals, sustainable energy and healthy water systems and our respect for honesty, civility and truth. In fact every aspect of government that makes Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness possible for We the People is now under threat of being dismantled.

Every day on the news I hear new revelations about high Treason, Lies, Theft and Corruption. I, like you, try to stay balanced and positive, try to juggle day-to-day survival in an economy where it seems increasingly difficult to make ends meet. I try to eat healthy, exercise, maintain my home and garden, do creative work, read and write, meaningfully connect with family and friends, sustain a spiritual practice. I try to devote time to uniting with others in our life-or-death struggle to resuscitate the greatest democracy human civilization has yet known, to unite with others to keep those things we’ve worked so hard to protect from unraveling, to unite with the people of the world to peacefully usher in the Great Turning .   .   .

But often, the best I can do is lay on the couch twittering and facebooking the latest shockwave on my smart phone while the timber that scaffolds my earth household collapses and falls around me in flames.

In case you too have been feeling that we’ve lost our collective soul, I offer you these photos, which I took at the Climate and Science Marches. Look in the faces of these people, our fellow Americans. And know that at the marches I found that which Makes America Great: The best of America. Our Character and Values are alive and well in our People: Hope. Perseverance. Creativity. Intelligence. Humor. Ethics. Compassion. Strength. Care. Craftsmanship. Rigor. Fortitude. Innovation. Scholarship. Genius. Diversity. Union. Justice. Honesty. Respect. Faith. Courage. Love.

(climate march photos coming soon)

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Another 9-11

June 2 2015 DPR public workshop Salinas, CA

June 2, 2015 California Department of Pesticide Regulation public workshop Cesar Chavez Library Salinas, CA

Our Safe Strawberry Working Group met last night at the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Offices in Salinas with the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen and seven other county, state, and federal pesticide regulatory officials. This meeting was a follow-up to the June 2 public meeting that overflowed the Cesar Chavez library in Salinas, one of  a series of workshops around the state conducted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools.  IMG_6317

IMG_6319

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ag Commissioner Lauritzen began last night’s meeting with a request that the gathering be framed in a collaborative rather than an adversarial spirit. He gave assurances that county, state, and federal regulators are doing all they can to study the situation. Melissa, a teacher from Pajaro Valley’s Ohlone Elementary made it clear that, while the people in the room want to be respectful and collaborative, they have patiently waited for years for “further studies”. She told us about her colleague and friend who is battling cancer after teaching for years next to the fields, and she demanded immediate action to reduce pesticide exposure around schools, including implementation of mandatory one-mile buffer zones.IMG_6312

Buffer Zones Around Schools:
Currently, the state of  California has no standardized regulations regarding pesticide-free buffer zones between schools and chemical-intensive agricultural fields. Practice from one county to another varies widely. The state DPR representatives indicated that the matter is still “under study”, and that it will be a long time before their office sets any new rules for buffer zones. Safe Strawberry Working Group has countered with a proposal that, if the state cannot act to standardize adequate buffer zones in a timely manner, then the County ag commissioner should immediately set a buffer zone requirement of one mile for our local community.

State, County, and Federal Pesticide Regulators

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner; Bob Roach Assistant Ag Commissioner; Karen Stahlman, Chief Deputy Ag Commissioner; Marylou Verder-Carlos, Assistant Director, California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR); George Farnsworth, Assistant Director, CDPR; Randy Segawa, Special Assistant, CDPR; Kathy Taylor, USEPA Region IX; Dr. Ed Moreno, Monterey County Public Health Officer

County Ag Commissioner Lauritzen stated that it is not within his power to set regulations on buffer zones.  One of the other officials said she thought that the city council and the planning commission are the agencies with that authority. However, according to Mark Weller, Director of the Safe Strawberry Working Group, it IS the legal authority of the county agricultural commissioner to make rules regarding buffer zones, granted in state code (Section 11503.5 of the Food and Agricultural Code), and city councils and planning commissions have no authority in pesticide matters. A representative of Sustainable Monterey challenged Lauritzen, stating that if the people asking him for better protection from pesticides were affluent white residents of Carmel rather than teachers and farmworkers from Salinas, he would act swiftly.

 A representative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency explained that all regulatory decisions have to be based on a careful cost-benefit analysis. She reminded the group that California agriculture provides a large percentage of California’s revenue. A person in the group asked where all that revenue is going,  and why can’t some of that money be used to provide better notification of pesticide applications to communities.IMG_6324

Call to Action:
According to Lauritzen, the Salinas school board recently purchased a tract of land adjacent to chemical-intensive agricultural fields on Boranda Road and plans to build a new school there. Lauritzen showed a map of the proposed school site. The group expressed incredulity and outrage.

IMG_6330There will be hearings in the near future about the proposed new school. All are urged to get involved by attending the hearings, as well as contacting the school board, the city council, and the planning commission. In addition, no matter where you live or how old you are, if you’re concerned about pesticide exposure near schools, please sign the Californians for Pesticide Reform petition calling for the Santa Cruz and Monterey County Agriculture Commissioners to require one mile buffer zones around schools.

Another 9-11:
A recent 9-11 call from school personnel who were afraid that a neighboring farmer was spraying toxic pesticides brought an immediate response of police and rescue personnel. The call was, according to the ag commissioner, an expensive false alarm: the spray the farmer was using while disking his field was water.  Everyone in the room agreed that more effective communication between growers and the community is needed.IMG_6316Observing the interaction between regulators and activists, I felt I perceived glimmers of the professional masks beginning to melt and crack open in the extreme heatwave we’ve been experiencing this week. There is still a wide gap between points of view, a lack of understanding between the two sides of the room, but I thought I saw glimpses last night of the real human faces under the masks – vulnerable, afraid. Worried about the future of their children, their families. Concerned about the future of agriculture, and the future of the world. I sensed in the room last night that everyone – pesticide regulators and citizens – has now at least started to hear on some level the 9-11 call that is going out all over the planet.

No one in the room last night mentioned Climate Change, but after the meeting I had a private conversation in the parking lot with one of the CAL DPR scientists. She told me that when the US does ban a toxic chemical, it’s usually re-marketed overseas –  that she’s from the Philippines and has experienced this in her own country. She acknowledged that the problems we now face with agriculture are not just local, but global. Chemical intensive ag, heavily dependent on fossil fuels from production to shipping and distribution, cannot be sustained. As our global climate changes, the geography of arable land is shifting. It’s urgent that we redesign our agricultural system now to adapt to the changes coming. We must learn how to frame this challenge collaboratively. We must learn how to grow food without further harming our land and ourselves. We must learn to see one another – all beings  – not as adversaries but as interconnected and interdependent relations, each an essential thread in the web of life.  This  is a 9-11 call for our planet. It is not a false alarm. We need to act now to save all that we love.

Pesticides And Schools Video (short)

Full Video from the meeting @ https://youtu.be/1cd2ubxHWNk

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Electric Cars Spark Change

Don’t hold your breath waiting for politicians to move this country to sustainable energy policies. Focus on the marketplace if you want  to help our country transition to sustainable energy. Right now is the perfect time to go solar if you own a house. We did it, and we love watching our electric meter run backwards.   solar roof

Recently we leased an Electric Vehicle, which we plug into our solar system to charge. It’s amazing! No gas, no oil! And California Department of Energy gave us a $2,500 cash rebate for driving our new 2015 Chevy Spark EV off the lot! https://energycenter.org/clean-vehicle-rebate-project

EV_Dash2

There are now many great electric car options on the market. Tesla seems to be everyone’s first choice, but we couldn’t afford one. So we took a three year lease on a Chevy Spark. We love it! It has about a 100 mile range, which we find is all we need most of the time. (Our Prius, which we use  for longer trips, is usually parked these days.) Our Sparky is peppy. Lots of torque. chevy evCharging is easy. Around our area there are more and more public charging stations available. But so far, we haven’t needed to use them. We get our charge at home. We just plug in to our 240 V wall outlet. We charge overnight, when our electric rates are lowest. With our solar system, even with our car plugged in, we now pay nothing for electricity. Zero. All our power, including our transportation, comes from the sun. maryChange seems to have accelerated this summer. Sharks, possibly warm water creatures of the south, have taken up residence at our favorite cold water swimming beach in Santa Cruz. The color of the water itself has changed,  due perhaps to the warmer temp. According to a marine scientist friend, a warm water plankton who doesn’t “belong” here, a protist called “cocolithophoridae”, who showed up and is shedding its calcite scales, is turning the bay glacial-melt blue. No sane person can deny the reality of global warming any longer, and yet the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline is still being shoved down our gullets and Shell Oil is trying to drive its ship up to Alaska to drill. This crazy addiction to fossil fuel must be stopped before we end life as we know it on our precious Mother Earth.

Green Peace Photo

Green Peace Photo: Activists in Portland, Oregon hang from bridge to block Shell Oil Vessel bound for drilling operation in Alaska.

 

Greenpeace activist blocks Shell Oil vessel from heading to Artic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing that seems to be rapidly changing is the proliferation of Electric Cars in our neighborhood. This is good! The time has come! If you’re in Santa Cruz County, go see our local Chevy dealer, Chevrolet of Watsonville. They  gave us an incredible deal: No down payment, they made our first month’s lease payment for us, and they pay all vehicle maintenance. (Plus, there was that state cash rebate.) Check it out! You could be driving right past the gas station soon, and never ever have to stop and fill up again. No gas. No oil. Imagine! It’s a great feeling. Make the change!

 

 

 

 

 

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Tipping Points: How Global Warming is Changing Our World

The photo above is linked to a Community TV YouTube broadcast of four scientists discussing the question: How Global Warming is Changing our World. Have we already triggered tipping points from which there is no going back?

I sought the advice of these and several other esteemed climate scientists when writing the following excerpt from my novel, a “chronopost” from the year 2065 AGWD (after the global warming deluge).

The action of my novel unfolds in 1998-99, in the context of the dot com and real estate/development bubbles and public concern about the Ozone Hole. There is an undercurrent of growing awareness about Climate Change. The signs, such as the extinction of the Coho salmon in the nearby creek, and salt water intrusion into the aquifer of the fertile agricultural valley are ominous. People are beginning to realize that Global Warming is changing our world.

Fruit of the Devil is structured much like a conventional thriller/mystery, with a ticking clock marking off the days of the school year. But there is a paranormal edge: According to Haida legend, after spawning, the Salmon People swim downstream to their “Village Under the River”, where they step out of their salmon bodies and live peacefully as native people until it’s time to return “upstream” and offer their gifts to the humans once again. At time the novel takes place, with climate chaos already setting in, the fabric of both worlds is unraveling, causing anomalies, such as time leaks, allowing “chronoposts” from the year 2065 to drop into the narrative.

 *     *     *     *     *

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about forty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

* After Global Warming Deluge                                        

 What to Do About Climate Change?

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

 

 

 

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Don’t Frack My Salad

PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION AT http://bit.ly/1pkc8oC to urge EARTHBOUND FARM to Support Measure J! Don’t Frack My Salad!

please don't frack my salad

anti-fracking demonstration in Ca state capitol, Sacramento

Little San Benito County, California, is engaged in a David and Goliath struggle with the Oil Industry over fracking. San Benito is a scenic and historically significant county, with priceless agricultural and ranch lands.  It supports a growing organic and sustainable agricultural industry, renewable energy projects, and tourism. It’s home to Pinnacles National Park, the endangered California Condor, the historic Mission at San Juan Bautista, and the San Benito County Wine Trail.  San Benito depends on its excellent quality of soil and water to sustain its economy and the very life of the community.  But the oil industry has plans to expand risky oil extraction processes – fracking, cyclic steam injection and acidizing – endangering the community’s water, health and future.

Fracking and associated fossil fuel extraction processes generate toxic waste that  contaminate drinking water and farmland. Fracking also requires millions of gallons of water, an egregious misuse of a priceless resource during a period of extreme drought. Fracking is associated with increased risk of earthquakes – not a good technology to apply in a highly seismically active state. The hazardous chemicals used in fracking have been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and infertility. Well-documented open ponds of fracking wastewater kill domestic stock and wildlife. Children and the elderly are especially at risk from the fracking pollutants that cause asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Don't Frack My Salad

Winnemem Wintu Natives at Sacramento, California Anti-Fracking Rally

A local grassroots group of concerned citizens – farmers, ranchers, vintners, doctors, nurses, teachers, students, Native Americans – have formed an organization to defend the health of the people and the land, and to create a brighter environmental, economical, and socially sustainable future for many generations to come. The goal of San Benito Rising is to to educate about the dangers of “enhanced” drilling technologies to water supply and safety, property values, public health and the vibrant agriculture and tourism industries of San Benito. But they are much more than a county campaign. San Benito Rising is part of a larger movement for community self-determination and sustainable alternatives. With your help their historic ballot initiative will be the first major blow in the battle for a frack-free California and beyond! Following the model of New York State, California is rising, county by county to protect their water, land, air, health and future. Marin, Butte and Santa Barbara counties, have similar ballot measures in the works. In November, 2014 help pass San Benito’s Measure J to ban fracking, and then watch California Rising with the national tide to say NO! Don’t Frack my Salad!

P.S.
Why hasn’t San Benito-based organic produce distributor Earthbound Farm come out publicly in support of Measure J? Please urge Earthbound Farm owners Drew and Myra Goodman and their partner White Wave Foods to stand up for the values they purportedly represent. PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION AT http://bit.ly/1pkc8oC to urge EARTHBOUND FARM to Support Measure J!

The Oil Industry is pouring millions into the battle to defeat Measure J. The people need Earthbound Farm’s support!   Please Don’t Frack my Salad!

Please don't Frack my Salad!

Summer farm dinner at Route 1 Organic Farms

 

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

New State Report on Pesticide Use Near Schools

I just drove home, on this beautiful full moon California night in June, from a meeting at the AFL-CIO Labor Hall in Salinas with the Safe Strawberry Working Group. When I got home, I said hello to my dogs, poured three fingers of Chivas Regal in my glass, and read over the news and information about the new state pesticide report.

According to the new state study, Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California, authored by the California Department of Public Health, released in April, 2014, “over the past 20 years, incidence of many serious childhood diseases has risen dramatically. Health professionals tell us that we have a ‘silent pandemic’ of learning disabilities and disorders including autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Certain childhood cancers – such as brain cancer and leukemia – are increasing, as are rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. On the Central Coast, researchers have demonstrated a link between exposure to pesticides and a reduction in children’s IQ. Science now points to pesticide exposure as a contributing factor – and in some cases, a key driver – of these trends. Over 500,000 students attend school within 1/4 mile of highly hazardous pesticide use; 118,000 students go to schools within 1/4 mile of the heaviest use of these pesticides. There are 137 county schools, with 73,876 students, within a quarter-mile of the highest concentration (319 to 28,979 pounds) of pesticides used.1 in 4 Monterey schoolchildren (the highest percentage in all of California) go to school within ¼ mile of heavy use of highly hazardous pesticides. Latino children are 91% more likely to be in heavy use areas than white children.” ( see Californian article: http://bit.ly/1johQE0    and Herald article http://bit.ly/1lnKTfm )

In response to the report, Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot wrote in a Monday column in The Californian, “The report makes no claim that children are being adversely affected by farming activities, but only implies that, by proximity, the use of agricultural chemicals near schools is automatically a bad thing. The perception this report infers is that use equals risk, which is falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process that exists to protect against exposure incidents.”

Norm’s statement is PURE BULLSHIT. Orwellian doublespeak. Meaningless obfuscation in a belittling tone, intended to confuse and make the listener/reader feel stupid and uninformed. The sentence is nonsense. The report infers a perception?  Non sequitur!   (a report can’t infer anything – utter b.s.)  “…falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process….”  Go back to English composition class, Norm.

I’m not usually so hard on my English students, but this guy is trying to pull a trick that’s so old it’s irritating; “Talk down to them, use pseudo-scientific/technical language and double talk to make them think they’re dumb and they don’t understand.” Nope. Not buying it. Let me give it to you in plain language, Norm. Here’s the deal: Pesticides are poison. It is insane to poison our kids. The pesticide poisoning needs to stop. Stop pretending you don’t understand, that the context is “improper”, or that you need “more research”. Cut the bull.

This report is nothing new. The issue of pesticide exposure around schools and in residential neighborhoods has been studied over and over again, for decades. See my blog entry on the DPR Permit Challenge Hearing we had in the Pajaro Valley on this issue in the 90’s.

Way back in 1989, Cesar Chavez said, “In the old days, miners would carry birds with them to warn against poison gas. Hopefully, the birds would die before the miners. Farm workers are society’s canaries.  Farm workers – and their children – demonstrate the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else.” Whenever people get interested in the issue again, a new study is proposed, then released with hoopla. There is some discussion about the “findings”, and then the issue blows over until next time, when a new study is called for with great fanfare. Then it’s critiqued; then dismissed or forgotten. We’ve had enough studies. We have peer reviewed scientific papers documenting the health effects of pesticide exposure: cancer, brain damage, nerve damage, respiratory failure, miscarriages, birth defects, and death. We need real change. Now. We need to transition completely away from chemical-intensive mono-crop industrial-style agriculture, and move to a sustainable ecological food system as soon as possible.

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, quibbles over details. Timing, he says. Timing schmiming – an hour before or after school? WTF! Never, Norm. Never on school days. Read my lips. Never apply pesticides near schools on school days.  And the ag comish claims that the report “… inflames rather than informs.” Apparently, the report is not inflammatory enough, Mr. Lauritzen, or you would act. You see, People, our agricultural commissioner has the power to mandate much safer practices, immediately – such as buffer zones at least 1/4 mile wide, no pesticide applications on school days,  72 hour pre-notification to all residents, schools, hospitals, and work places within drift range of all pesticide applications, large and clear fog-and-waterproof signs in Spanish and English posted on fumigated and sprayed fields.

Oh, but the ag comish and the Farm Bureau Director were up in Sacramento just as this report was being released, to derail SB1411 – a bill that would have required notification of schools and residents prior to fumigant, aerial and air-blast pesticide applications, and would have required that pesticide “do not enter” signs include the name of the pesticide, the phone number of the local agricultural commissioner and the expiration date of the sign. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would have provided greater protection to farmworkers and would have assisted first responders in an emergency. The bill was defeated. Shsssss. Don’t tell. Don’t tell people when you’re going to poison them. We don’t want them to know. Does that remind you of anything? Like, the abuser, pedophile, or wife beater, for example, who always says, “shhusssss. Don’t tell anyone.” That’s sick. Yep. It’s about time we scream ’til we’re heard and we get some help. Time to start screaming about this, everyone. This time, don’t stop screaming ’til we get a real, complete 911 rescue from the poison.

Come on. Just do it, Mr. Lauritzen. Mandate 1/4 mile or wider buffer zones, no school day applications, and proper notification. You can do it. You have the power. It would be the right thing to do. You know it. You’re just scared to rock the boat. Right? Sorry, but the boat is going to be rockin’ way more than you may expect, maybe sooner than you think. Did you know that methyl bromide, the fumigant used on strawberry fields, is an ozone depleting chemical, banned by international treaty?  Yet it’s still in use more than a decade after it was banned because strawberries are such a lucrative crop in California that congress grants the growers “critical exemptions” to apply the banned substance. By the way, methyl bromide is also a dangerous greenhouse gas – a serious contributor to global warming.

Here’s something else you need to stop pretending you don’t believe: If we have any chance at all as a species to preserve our global food security and mitigate inevitable mass human die-offs from climate-change induced world-wide famines, we need to immediately redesign and shift our food production as well as our energy systems. Commercial, chemical-intensive strawberry production poisons people and destroys the soil. It relies on dangerous petrochemicals that drive global warming. It’s far too water intensive.  It fosters unjust political-economic conditions. The planet cannot continue to support these unsustainable practices. Big beautiful strawberries will be one of the first things thrown overboard as our boat sinks and over 50% of our biodiversity becomes extinct. “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand. The times, they are a’changing.”

Meanwhile, BUY ORGANIC! Go down to the Redman House Farm stand on the way to Palm Beach – or to your nearest Farmers’ Market – and buy some organic strawberries. They are big, they are beautiful, they are delicious, they are NOT poison, and the their workers and the kids nearby weren’t poisoned either.

 

 

LIKE & SHARE buttons: