Tag Archives: ecology

Grizzly Bears in California!

So you don’t think there were Grizzly Bears in California in 1999? You might be in for a surprise. To find out more, read this latest excerpt from my novel, Fruit of the Devil.

sketch of grizzly bear

 The Fish and Game Warden

Monday morning, May 1, 1999.
Corralitos Creek, Santa Cruz County, California

            Fish and Game Warden Kelli Cavanaugh drove her truck along the narrow, winding forest road. As the half-ton Dodge 4×4 ascended into the coastal mountains, Warden Cavanaugh kept her eye on the creek that meandered from one side of the road to the other through culverts and under picturesque bridges.

She savored the hint of summer in the warm spring morning, feeling good in spite of the Cal Tip call that had brought her up here.

Someone had allegedly built a dam across the creek and was siphoning off water upstream of the dam during salmon egg hatching season, a critical time for maintaining sufficient water flow for the eggs to hatch and the juveniles to survive the summer. The same individuals were allegedly discharging raw sewage and other effluent downstream.

A disturbing allegation; serious violation of county riparian protection ordinance. Native Coho salmon, keystone species critical to the overall health and biodiversity of the redwood forest ecosystem, were on the verge of extinction. It was Kelli’s job as well as her passion to protect them. Fish and Game Warden wasn’t just a job, but a lifestyle. She put her whole self into being Guardian of Our Wildlife Heritage twenty-four seven, in or out of uniform. She considered it her responsibility to be the voice for all of those creatures who couldn’t speak for themselves, to explain to people how their everyday activities could, even unintentionally, have profound, far reaching, and sometimes extremely adverse effects on wildlife and habitat. She wanted every person she came in contact with to understand that everyone and everything is interconnected, through the ecology of the land, to the heartbeat of Mother Nature.

Kelli had grown up hunting and fishing in wild California with her parents and grandparents. When she was twelve, on a fishing trip in the High Sierra with her family, she’d had an encounter with a Fish and Game Warden. That meeting had been an epiphany. It had been such a positive contact, she’d known right away that she wanted to be a Game Warden herself. From that childhood vision, her resolution had never faltered.

Now she was proud to be one of the 200 game wardens in the state, responsible for protecting more than 1,000 native fish and wildlife species, more than 6,000 native plant species, and approximately 360 endangered species, in one of the most exquisite natural environments in the world – an environment at risk. With 159,000 square miles of land, 36 million people, 1,100 miles of coastline, about 222,000 square miles of ocean waters, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes and reservoirs and 80 major rivers, in addition to deserts, mountains and, of course, urban areas, California Fish and Game Wardens had a lot on their plate, and were understaffed, underappreciated, and underpaid. But hey, who’s counting?

If she transferred to a job in any other branch of law enforcement, she could earn much more, and she wouldn’t be putting her life on the line every day in remote locations without any back-up. But she loved the freedom she had as a game warden, and the immersion in nature, food and balm for the soul, that she couldn’t find in any other line of work.

Kelli checked her watch. 8:30 am. Maneuvering the green Fish and Game Department truck around a bend in the road, she stuck her head out of the open window and sniffed the air. Not a trace of the coastal fog that often clung like ghosts to the trees in the mornings. She could smell the sun-warmed resins of Douglas fir and Redwood needles, smell musty mushrooms nestled in the rich duff of the decomposing forest floor, and taste the cool freshets of the rapidly flowing creek.

All of Warden Cavanaugh’s senses were on high alert, as usual. Kelli wore her duty belt fully equipped today, even though it meant she carried about twenty-three pounds of extra weight. While she steered with one hand, with the other she double checked each item on the utility belt at her hip: her department issue semi-automatic Glock 22, a magazine pouch with two extra clips for her firearm, two sets of cuffs, pepper spray, a Leatherman utility tool, protective gloves, a folding four-inch Buck Knife, and her portable radio.

She’d tucked a small mag light into her pocket. The department issue eight-inch aluminum flashlight and her 24-inch side-handle baton, she’d left off her belt. Not mandatory carry, and too uncomfortable and cumbersome. Both the eight-inch and the thirteen-inch department issue Streamlights were in the truck, if needed. And the shotgun on the rack behind her was clean, oiled and ready for bear, so to speak.

Although not over confident, Kelli did feel competent to defend herself. She was proud of the fact that, of all the law enforcement training academies, the Fish and Game Academy in Napa ran the longest, most rigorous and comprehensive program. Since completing her four-year university degree in Wildlife Biology, Fisheries and Natural Resources Management at Humboldt State and then basic training at the Academy, she’d continued to sharpen her skills in defensive tactics, and had kept in shape through the physical rigors of a job in the wild. She also made a point of regular workouts on her days off. She trained in martial arts, went to a climbing gym, and rowed on the bay, went to target practice, and partner practiced using all of the equipment on her belt.

But today felt like a day she needed assistance. Something about this investigation was putting the hackles up on the back of her neck. Something felt off.

There were often days like today, when the other two field wardens in the county were off duty and, as the only Fish and Game Warden working, she alone was responsible for patrolling not just her own South County beat, but also the entire North County and Marine-Yacht Harbor territories. All three wardens overlapped only three days a week. But even then, she couldn’t count on getting back-up when she requested it. The department was plain understaffed.

I’ve got to at least try to check in. Kelli turned the dial on her Pac system, hoping she could still get a signal from a nearby repeater this far up the mountain. She found the signal from the Loma Prieta repeater and contacted CENCOM, the Fish and Game and State Parks dispatch center. She reported her position and destination, and put in a request for back-up. Then she went on the sheriff’s channel and put in a request for back-up. But she didn’t have much hope that anyone would respond from the sheriff’s office either, with only six Santa Cruz Sheriff’s deputies on duty at any given time to cover the entire county.

Kelli tapped her thumb against the steering wheel. Whatever she was heading into, she had a strong feeling she didn’t want to go in alone.

She lifted her new Nokia cell phone, the first mobile phone she’d ever owned, off its cradle. Reception for these things was spotty, but no harm in giving it a try. She pushed express dial for the number Sheriff Charlie Rosa had given her.

She got his machine. At the beep, please leave a message.

“Sheriff Rosa? This is Warden Cavanaugh. Kelli Cavanaugh. I’m responding to a call about some suspicious activity at 30687 Strider Drive, on Corralitos Creek. The location is close to that meth hooch we found last Fall, where the little girl went missing. Something feels wrong out here today, Charlie. Requesting back-up.”

The cell phone cut out. Reception dead zone this far up the mountain. Surprising she’d gotten any reception at all. As she drove, she continued watching the creek meander from one side of the road to the other.

Kelli slowed as she spotted her destination.

Meth House blinked like a neon sign inside her mind as she cruised by the lot filled with rusted out, wheel-less cars and trucks, broken glass, tangles of barbed wire, overturned metal barrels, discarded decomposing mattresses, a couch with popping springs, and eroding piles of trash. A loosely nailed together shack was falling apart at the waterside.

The warden parked and locked her truck in a narrow pullout a few feet beyond the driveway, then walked back down the road. Kelli hesitated a moment in front a No Trespassing sign nailed to a redwood tree at the head of the dirt driveway, then stepped onto the property. She walked with care, crunching broken glass every few steps. The area felt deserted, almost. She shivered in the sun.

Nauseatingly strong, bitter ammonia-like fumes burned her eyes and nostrils. Her vision blurred as she teared up and stifled a cough. She pulled a kerchief out of her back pocket and held it over her nose and mouth.

At the end of the drive was a black van parked next to a metal shed. The door to the shed stood open. Inside, wire cages, the kind used to transport large dogs, were stacked to the ceiling against one wall. Marijuana plants hanging upside down to dry filled the rest of the shed. The large outer leaves of the plants had been trimmed away, leaving small bright green serrated leaves and two foot long resinous flowering colas, as thick as a man’s arm. Prime sensimilla. Probably more than ten thousand dollars’ worth. The shed reeked with the skunky smell of drying pot.

Warden Cavanaugh pulled a small digital camera out of her shirt pocket, and took pictures of the cages and marijuana.

She walked around back of the shed, disturbing a swarm of black flies and wasps. The sickly sweet smell of blood made her gag. Hanging from a tree were two freshly butchered deer carcasses, blood dripping on the dirt. Poaching. Deer hunting season was six months away. Flies settled back down on a pile of eviscerated deer organs next to an illegal fire pit. Kelli took photos of the mess.

At the very least, on top of drug charges, these poachers were going to be hit with a $1,000 misdemeanor citation, plus penalty assessments and six month’s jail time, not to mention restriction of their hunting privileges for up to three years.

When she reached the stream bank, she photographed the illicit dam, the pump, and the discharge pipe, the empty cans, flasks, plastic tubing, and cooking vessels. Clearly, someone was cooking meth here, and dumping their highly toxic residual chemical waste in the creek. This type of hazard, extremely harmful to humans and the environment, was going to cost as much as $150,000 to clean up.

Kelli inspected the area for any signs of red phosphorous. One sniff of that stuff could kill you. She didn’t see any. But from the way her eyes were tearing, there were obviously Ethyl Ether fumes in the air. Highly flammable.

Meth manufacture had come of age in the last few years. Sometimes, the guys doing the cooking were well-educated chemists, but those meth labs were usually much cleaner than this. The Hells Angels were known to be up to their handlebars in the meth trade. But the tags on the shed didn’t look like the Angels’ handiwork. Kelli turned her head sideways and examined one of the tags closely.

MS-13. A Mara Salvatrucha tag! Since when have they been banging in California? What’s going on here? What are these cages all about?

Hair standing up on the back of her neck, Kelli held still, barely breathing, and listened. Water running in the creek, nattering squirrel, squawk of a Steller’s jay.

She knelt to get a better look at the water. Even worse than she’d feared. She leaned over to take close-up shots of dead salmon smolts and fingerlings floating on the water’s surface. A staggering loss.

Excruciating pain. White light

Tuesday, May 2, 1999. Corralitos.

Kelli came to with a stabbing headache, curled in a fetal position on a hard, cold surface. She blinked to make sure her eyes were open. Pitch black. She lifted a hand to her face. No blindfold. But she couldn’t see her hand. Was she actually blind, or just in a completely dark space?

When she moved, even slightly, it hurt everywhere.

The smell of stagnation overwhelmed her. She gagged and wretched, a small amount of stinging bile burning her throat. Need water. She worked some moisture into her mouth with her tongue, spit and swallowed.

Little by little, she moved her arms and legs. Pain. Another wave of nausea.

As she moved, she realized that she was wet where her clothes touched the ground. Blood, or some other liquid?

With her hands, she explored her body for lacerations. The crown of her head was wet; a sticky stream of something ran down the left side of her face. She touched it and winced, then sniffed the sticky liquid on her fingertips. Blood.

Head wound. How bad? Dizzy. Concussion? Need to stay awake. Blood on face is drying, flaking. From the head wound, not cut on the face. This liquid on the ground, then, is not my blood? She touched the liquid beneath her, rubbed her fingers together, smelled it. Something slimy and foul.

Where am I? She listened hard for several minutes. A slow water drip. Another sound. Faint. Like a child’s whimper.

Painstakingly, she got onto her hands and knees. Concrete floor. Knees hurt. Head spinning. Carefully, she stood and rolled up through her spine, letting her head come up last. Before she could completely straighten, her shoulders hit the ceiling.

Panic and claustrophobia welled up. She took a slow, deep breath and forced herself to stay calm.

Head and shoulders bent, she lifted her arms and felt overhead. Her fingers ran into a fuzzy sticky mass. Spider web. She shook it off, wiping what clung to her fingers onto her pants.

She raised her hands overhead again. The ceiling curved; a concave shape. Steadying herself with one hand, she took two steps to the right and found a wall. Then she took four steps to the left and found the other wall. She sensed that the walls reached forward and back for a considerable distance. A tunnel. Should I start walking? Which direction?

Suddenly, she remembered her service belt, and her hands flew to her hips. The belt, with all her equipment, gone.

*     *     *     *     *

            Kelli moaned and rolled onto her side. She opened her eyes, sat up and held her hand in front of her face. Still too dark to see. Or am I blind? Her heart raced. She forced herself to focus on her breathing. Her senses woke to the cold stench in the air, and the wet. Must have passed out again. Did someone hit me again?

She closed her eyes and tried to recall her last conscious thoughts. No. No one’s been here. I just passed out. Still feeling a little dizzy, she inched her way over to the wall and leaned back. Why didn’t the attacker just kill me? With a start, it occurred to her she may have been raped. She felt at her shirt, her pants. Clothes intact, except for this tear on my shoulder. They ripped my radio mic off my shirt. No pain down there.

She had to pee. Cautiously, she stood. Head and shoulders bent under the low ceiling, she braced her hand against the wall, listening intently. The sound of her own breathing rasped loud inside her head. Something else. Water dripping. She held her breath and listened for a long moment. Not another sound.

She had to go, bad. She unfastened her belt, unsnapped and unzipped her pants, pulled down her trousers and panties, squatted, and pissed a long, warm stream. With relief, she noted that it didn’t sting. No one touched me. Thank God for that. She shook herself dry as best she could and pulled her pants back up.

How long have I been down here? Gingerly she explored her head wound. Blood still sticky. Hair matted and stiff. She remembered her camera and searched her pockets. Gone. Must have dropped it when I was hit.

She tried to swallow, but couldn’t. The thirst was suffocating. A jolt of fear ran through her. She had to find drinking water, soon. She had to find a way out. I have to move, or I’ll die down here.

Which direction? She took a small step into the blackness, toward the hollow sound of dripping water. Then another step.

Step again.

Suddenly, the ground fell out from under her.

 

Kelli fell into the darkness, banging, clattering, and pounding against metal. By sheer instinct, her hands grasped at something.

 

Holding onto a metal bar with both hands, her feet swung in nothingness. She dangled over a void. Her arms ached. She struggled to keep her fingers wrapped tightly around the bar.

Stretching out one finger, she touched concrete. This bar seems to be solidly pinned into concrete. She swung, and her feet hit a dirt wall. Below this bar, then, the wall is dirt, not concrete. She kicked against it. Chunks of dirt and rock dislodged and fell. The sound cascaded down a very long way before tinkling, pinging, splashing into water.

Kelli swung like a kid on playground bars, and kicked against the wall again. Again, swinging higher. She got purchase. Her feet wedged and took a little pressure off her arms. She knew she didn’t have much time before her arms and hands gave out and she dropped like that slide of dirt.

Taking a deep breath, she swung her feet up over her head with everything she had. She caught the bar with one heel. Holding on for dear life, she worked her foot over the bar until she had one knee hooked around it. Then she stretched her other leg up and over the bar. Hanging upside down by hands and knees, she rested and caught her breath. She could feel her blood rush to her head. A wave of nausea and dizziness. Head spinning. Don’t black out. She fought to stay conscious. Breathe. Hold on.

Water drops echoed inside the cave of her skull. The wave of vertigo subsided. That sound again, like a child crying.

Carefully, she shifted the tension in her muscles from her hands to her legs. She pried one hand, slick with sweat, off the metal bar and wiped it on her clothes. She switched, wiping the other hand dry, then tightened her grip on the bar with both hands.

For a split second, she imagined herself as a bat hanging upside down in a cave. She almost giggled. Just then, a beam of light flashed on the ceiling overhead.

Light! I’m not blind. Thank you God.

Someone was walking down the tunnel toward her, flashlight beams hitting the cement walls and ceiling. Men’s voices. Kelli froze. She could hear her own heart pounding.

The echoing footfalls stopped. It sounded like they were about ten feet away from her hanging perch.

“Where the fuck is she? Wha’d you do with her, Shithead?” The high-pitched whiney voice made Kelli’s skin crawl.

Flashlight beams crisscrossed above Kelli’s roost.

“We brought her down here like you said, Patron. She was still knocked out when we left her. I put her right over there myself.” English speaker with a Mexican accent.

“Did you touch her?”

“No one fucked her, Patron, I swear. No one touched her. We left her down here just like you said.” A second Mexican accent.

“You stupid bastards.” The one called Patron again. “A fuckin’ game warden. She would’ve just gone away if you hadn’t of wacked her. Now we’ve got a balled-up mess here.”

Pardon, Señor, but you said your cliente rico wanted a white woman to go with the niña blanca (little white girl).” Speaking Spanish.

“White woman, yeah. But a game warden is like a fuckin’ cop. You don’t kidnap a cop, you stupid son-of-a-bitch.”

“I’m sorry, Señor.” The Spanish speaker, again. “She must of come to and found the way out.”

“In the dark, she could’ve gone that way and fallen over the edge.” English, with a different accent. Salvadoran?

“If she did, all our troubles are over.” The Spanish speaker.

Men’s laughter.

“If she found the way out, she couldn’t of gotten far.” Another Salvadoran.

“Let’s go. We’ve gotta get that bitch.” The whiney voice. Patron. “She’s gonna have to disappear, for good.”

Kelli listened to the echoing footfalls recede. She shivered. Six voices. If she’d decided to go the other way along the tunnel, she would have run right into those men. She dried her sweaty hands on her shirt again, one at time, and counted seconds. Then minutes.

Muscles convulsing. Can’t hold on much longer. A high-pitched squeal, and then a nearby scuffle. Rats!

Move! Go for it. Now or never.

            Clinging to the metal bar with hands and knees, she tightened her abs, putting everything she had into a crunching sit-up. Straining, she curled her head to her knees. At the same time, fighting dizziness, she let go of the bar with one hand and reached up, slightly touching with her fingertips the next bar she had gambled would be there. Trembling, she stretched, elongating her torso as much as she could, inching her fingers around the bar. A cramp stabbed her side. Ignore it. Push through the pain. Grasping the bar with one hand so hard it hurt, she lunged.

Once she was holding onto the higher bar with both hands and sitting on the lower bar, she carefully worked her right heel up under herself. She wiggled it until her whole foot wedged onto the metal. Then she shifted all her weight onto that foot, and painfully straightened her knee. Leg muscles cramping and spasming, she pulled up with her hands and pushed up with her right leg until she could place her left foot onto the bar.

Pieces of dried mud from the soles of her boots broke loose and clattered into the water below. It sounded like a long way down.

Kelli took a deep breath and stabilized herself. She was standing on a vertical ladder made of rebar rods cemented into the side of the drop. Her hands firmly grasped the rung above her feet. From here, it was practically a cakewalk to climb back up to the ledge she’d fallen from.

Thankful for the hours spent lifting weights, rock climbing, and rowing on the bay, Kelli pulled herself up over the ledge and rolled onto the wet cement of the tunnel floor. Lying on her back, she caught her breath, and listened. Water dripping.

That other faint sound again, like a child crying. It stopped. Water dripped in black silence.

Something was poking her in the hip. She put her hand in her pocket. The little mag light!

Kelli stood up and switched on the flashlight. She swept its strong beam around the concrete tunnel. She’d seen places like this before. A World War II bunker. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government, convinced that Japan was going to bomb California, built underground bunkers in the mountains all over the west coast. This had to be one of those old military installations.

From where Kelli stood, the cement floor sloped gradually upward, a slimy green trickle running down its center. She started walking.

 *     *     *     *     *         

            When Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Detective Sargent Charlie Rosa got the alert, it hadn’t taken him long to assemble a tactical team to assist. He wasn’t going to let those two tattooed Salvatrucha demons slip through his fingers again.

Another child gone missing. This time it was the five-year-old daughter of a Corralitos apple rancher. He had a pretty good idea what would happen to this child if they didn’t find her soon.

While Deputy Jim Jamison drove the curving road along the creek, Detective Rosa, riding shotgun, studied this new missing child’s photo again. Blonde curls framed an innocent, cherub-like face. He put the photograph back in the file.

“We’re not going to lose this one, Jim.”

The young deputy nodded grimly, and checked his rearview mirror. Two vans followed, carrying the tactical swat team and dogs.

“I hope Warden Cavanaugh doesn’t scare them off,” the deputy said.

“Cavanaugh’s a competent law enforcement officer. She knows how to handle herself. But I doubt she has any idea what she’s walking into. Hell, we don’t even know if our perps are really there, or what else is going on.”

“So yeah, Warden Cavanaugh’s definitely an extra wild card in play?”

“Yes. I just wish I’d gotten her cell phone message earlier,” said Detective Rosa. “I’m not used to these damn things. Didn’t think about checking for messages until after we got the missing child alert from dispatch.”

“Can’t beat yourself up about it, Sir. That’s what you always tell me.”

Detective Rosa drummed his fingers on the case file in his lap. “Judging from the time of Cavanaugh’s call, she must have reached the suspects’ hidey-hole hours ago.”

“Anything could have happened by now.”

“Right. Worst case, everyone’s gone, and they took Cavanaugh with them, or left her for dead.”

“I sure hope we get there in time. From what I understand about the way these Mara Salvatruchas work, Sir, if they’ve killed her, she won’t be in one piece when we find her.”

*     *     *     *     *

            Crying. The sound grew louder as Kelli cautiously made her way up the tunnel. She kept her flashlight off and edged along the wall.

Her hand touched cold metal. Feels like prison bars. The crying is coming from inside. Is there a guard?

Kelli froze, and listened. All her senses strained to detect breathing, any kind of pulse or motion, other than the sound of crying.

Can’t be a hundred percent sure.

Tucking into a defensive position, she flicked on her light and swept the area. No goons.

Inside the cell, a child, hardly more than a toddler, was curled up on a cot. She hugged a teddy bear and stared into Kelli’s light with huge eyes. Tears streaked and blotched her chubby cheeks. She had a snotty nose. Otherwise, the child appeared unharmed.

Kelli moved the light out of the child’s eyes and shined it on herself. She put a finger up to her lips.

“Shusssssh. My name is Kelli. I’m going to get you out of here, sweetie. I’m going to take you home to your mommy. You just need to wait here a little bit longer. Don’t be scared. Stay quiet. I’ll be right back.”

The child hugged her teddy bear tighter, but said nothing. Kelli turned off the flashlight and moved away, up the tunnel.

In the dark, she could feel the slope getting steeper. The ceiling was higher here. After a few minutes, the toe of her boot hit a ledge. She froze, and backed up against the wall. Listen.

            Silence.

Ahead, she could see a thin rectangle of light. A door, with daylight seeping around the edges?

            Kelli clicked on her flashlight. Concrete stairs led up to a doorway. Her toe had kicked the bottom step.

Heart racing, she hurried up the stairs.

She stood in front of an old heavy metal door, with a vertical bar handle. What if they locked it? What if a guard was posted right outside? Panic rose in her throat. She took a calming breath.

A piercing squeal.

A rat scuttled over her foot.

Her body jerked. She pushed on the door.

It swung open easily. Crouching just inside the bunker, she blinked, momentarily blinded by bright afternoon sun. As soon as her vision cleared, she did a visual check of the area. No one.

Something rattled in the brush. She froze.

A bird hopped out.

Kelli smiled to herself, and continued to scan her surroundings. Shoe tracks in the dirt led toward the creek.

The bunker was built into the side of a hill, close to the top of the driveway. She quietly closed the heavy door behind her. It was well camouflaged. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never notice it.

Voices came from down by the creek. Kelli reached for the Glock on her hip, and remembered it was gone.

She tucked and ran out of the driveway. Her truck was still there.

She grabbed the hide-a-key from under the back bumper, threw open the door, and released her shotgun from the rack.

The short barrel 12-gauge semi-automatic, when loaded with double aught Buck Shot, kicked back hard against her hundred and fifteen pounds, so she didn’t fire it unless she had to.

Now, without hesitation, she loaded and racked the gun.

Cradling it in the crook of her arm, staying close to the dense huckleberry and madrone brush that lined the drive, she hustled back toward the voices.

Shouting.

A scream. Then another.

Men were screaming! Blood curdling sounds filled the woods.

A growling roar like a hurricane, like thunder.

A roar like an avalanche. Shouts and screams of primal, animal terror, like nothing she’d ever heard before, shook the trees.

The screaming and roaring was coming from down by that black van and the shed with the cages, where the deer carcasses had been hanging.

Kelli stalked toward the disturbance, shotgun in the crook of her elbow.

As she moved through the woods, fog swirled, rapidly engulfing the trees like a rising tide. Ethyl ether fumes floated on the fog, stinging her eyes. If she did have to discharge her weapon, it would probably blow up the whole camp, including herself.

Chilling fingers of fog wrapped around saplings, vines, fallen logs, and Kelli. The fog quickly grew so thick that everything around her took on a misty, otherworldly quality.

Just as she got to the edge of the clearing where the deer carcasses hung, a human head went flying by her. Blood from the ragged severed neck sprayed her face and clothes.

A deafening roar shook her to the core.

She crouched behind a tree and peered into the clearing.

Standing on its hind legs, mist swirling around him, was the most enormous grizzly bear Kelli had ever seen. Shaggy fur and muzzle were clotted with blood. A cord of intestine dangled from his mouth. Behind the monstrous behemoth, one of the deer carcasses lay on the ground, partially eaten.

In front of the grizzly was the torso of a man, its head and both arms missing. One leg lay some distance away, and the other was twisted behind at an impossible angle. The beast had opened the man’s gut with its sharp, powerful claws and had scooped out a mass of intestines. The stench of the grizzly overwhelmed the smell of blood and spilled bowels.

With the heightened perception that comes from shock, Kelli studied an arm near her feet. It was covered with blue ink tattoos of spiders, skeletons, and skulls. A broken rifle lay in the dirt near the arm.

Other bodies bled out in the dirt. Kelli tried to sort out which ones belonged to the voices she’d heard in the tunnel. Two corpses were eviscerated, dismembered and decapitated. One body still had a head, but was missing an arm and part of a leg. The dead men’s blood pooled and mingled with the drying blood of the hanging deer carcass. Broken weapons were scattered near the bodies. Kelli recognized her own Glock.

Another blood curdling scream. Kelli settled the butt of her shotgun snugly against her shoulder, the weapon pressed against her cheek. She clicked off the safety and, sighting down the barrel, took aim.

The grizzly, on its hind feet, stood at least fifteen feet tall. It held a tattooed man in its front paws. The man was bleeding profusely. One tattooed arm dangled from a torn shoulder by tendons. The beast roared again, an inch from the man’s face.

Kelli could feel the wind of the monster’s breath. The trees around her shook.

Through thick, dreamlike fog, the scene unfolded in slow motion. The grizzly opened its mouth wide, exposing huge, carnivorous teeth and a vivid red tongue.

The bear roared again, shaking the ground.

Kelli felt the man’s screams inside her own body. His face was contorted in a mask of such horror it didn’t look human.

As if viewing the strobing frames of an old time picture show, Kelli watched the bear’s mouth envelope the tattooed man’s entire face. Muffled screams. Crunch of bone and tendon. Spurt of bright red blood.

The bear’s jaw pulled away with a juicy sucking sound, taking the man’s whole face with it.

The grizzly released the limp body from its claws. The body dropped to the ground in a heap of blue ink and crimson blood.

Roaring again, the behemoth turned around. It sniffed the air, then looked straight at Warden Cavanaugh. Its eyes shone with an ancient, eerie intelligence.

Suddenly, it turned its shaggy back on the game warden and, with one swipe of its great paw, knocked the second deer carcass to the ground. Dropping on all fours, the grizzly seized the deer meat in its mouth and disappeared into the mist-shrouded forest.

Kelli stood frozen in place for what seemed like an eternity.

Gradually, she became aware of sirens, of men shouting, lights flashing and dogs barking. She clicked the safety back on her shotgun and lowered it to the ground. Then she vomited, trembling uncontrollably.

 

The swat team swarmed the area.

“Over here, Captain!”

“Jesus Christ! This one’s still alive.”

“Get a medic over here. Don’t let him bleed out. Keep him breathing. We’ve gotta find out what he knows.”

“Call an ambulance. Hurry!”

“The dogs are going nuts! What the hell was that? Did you see it?”

“Hold the dogs! Don’t let them go after that thing.”

“Don’t fire your weapons, for God’s sake, or we’ll have an explosion!”

“Find the girl. Search the premises.”

“Kelli! Warden Cavanaugh! Are you hurt? Talk to me. Kelli!”

The smell of blood was so overwhelming, Kelli felt like she was drowning in it. She threw up again. A strong arm held her shoulders.

Someone gently wiped her face with a cool damp cloth. It smelled like fresh laundry.

“It’s not her blood, Sergeant Rosa. No cuts on the face or neck. She appears to be uninjured, just in shock. Oh, wait. There’s a nasty wound on the top of her head. It’s stopped bleeding, though.”

Someone held a water bottle up to her mouth. She took the bottle and, with help, filled her mouth with cold fresh water. She swirled it and spit blood. Blood that had sprayed her from the severed head. Don’t look at it. Again, and again, she swished fresh, clean water, gargled, spit. Finally, she drank.

She met Detective Rosa’s eyes.

“Charlie, I know where the little girl is. I can show you.”

 

The child was rescued from her cell and taken down the mountain to her parents.

The ambulance drove away, sirens blaring, with the lone survivor of the mauling, unconscious and barely holding on to life, minus an arm and leg.

The fog cleared.

The team secured the area. They photographed body parts from various angles, and made plaster casts of tracks. With professional precision, they collected fingerprints and DNA samples from the wire dog cages and the van, and scoured the grounds for other evidence.

Once the forensics team had completed their work and the human remains had been bagged and removed, the county Hazmat team would begin cleaning up the meth kitchen and restoring the creek habitat. Back at the crime lab, they were going to have a hell of a job putting all the pieces together again.

 

Kelli sat in her truck with Detective Rosa. He’d finished taking her formal statement.

“We won’t be getting a statement out of our two tattooed shooting suspects now,” said Charlie, “but I think a forensics investigation of their remains will prove we found our perps for the Salvador Luna murder. We don’t have to worry about those killers getting the justice they deserve.”

Kelli squeezed an emergency cold pack to activate it, and held it to her forehead. “With any luck that scum bag who’s still alive will hang on long enough to fill us in on all the other abductions.”

“Sorry, Kelli, but sex traffic is a black hole. Those other kids could be anywhere in the world by now, if they’re still alive, which is unlikely. At least we saved one child today, thanks to you.”

“Plus we cleared out a nest of vermin,” said Kelli.

“Think we ‘ve accounted for all the voices you heard in the bunker? Did we just cut the whole cancer out?”

Kelli closed her eyes. “There were six men. Two were Salvadorans.”

“Salvadorans? You sure?”

“Distinctive accent. Those tatted Salvadorans are definitely dead. Yes. It seems like there’s a body to go with each of the other voices I heard, except . . . Wait. One’s missing. I think the one they called Patron, with a whiney voice.” Kelli opened her eyes and stared into the forest. “Earlier, during all the screaming, I thought I saw a man in a striped suit running into the woods.

“None of the bodies we found were dressed in a suit.”

Kelli moved the cold pack to the back of her neck. “I think we’ll find human tracks leading away from camp, running in the opposite direction from that – that beast. Maybe Patron got away.”

“And the ‘beast’? What the hell was that thing?” Detective Sargent Rosa’s eyebrows pulled together. “Did you get a good look at it?”

“I’ve been trying to make sense of what I saw, Charlie. I was close enough to see everything. Too close. But what I think I saw just doesn’t compute.”

“It was a bear, right?”

“It was the biggest bear I’ve ever seen.”

“But… we don’t have bears here, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Do we?”

“As a matter of fact, although sightings are still rare, the core population of black bears in the state has been expanding over the last few years. Most of them are in the High Sierra but we know there are also a few in the Southern Coast Mountain Ranges. They’ve been expanding into habitat that, a hundred years ago, was traditional grizzly range. To date, I haven’t heard of any bears in the Santa Cruz Mountains but of course, anything is possible.”

“So, it really could have been a bear, then.”

“Well, yes, and no.” Kelli’s forehead furrowed. “It’s possible a black bear could be in this area. Bears have a keen sense of smell. A bear in the area would certainly have been drawn to the camp by the scent of those deer carcasses. But… Charlie, that was no black bear.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I saw, …” Kelli answered, “The bear I think I saw was, well . . . It had that distinctive hump on its back. Charlie, that was a California Grizzly Bear. Ursus arctos californicus. The California Golden Bear. A subspecies of the North American brown bear. That beast was definitely a grizzly. But it was far larger than any other grizzly I’ve ever heard of, except for maybe Monarch.”

“Monarch?”

“The mythical ‘Big Bear of Tallac’, the captive grizzly whose picture is on the California Bear Republic Flag.”

Sargent Rosa shook his head.

“California Grizzlies were systematically extirpated in the 19th century. William Randolph Hearst hired a journalist, Allen Kelley, to capture one of the last known wild grizzlies in the 1880’s, as a publicity stunt. Kelley caught the famous Monarch Bear on Samhain, Halloween, 1889, and brought him to San Francisco. They kept Monarch on exhibit at Woodwards Gardens, and he lived in captivity for twenty-two years. Thousands of people from all over the world came to see him. Monarch was the model for the bear on the California state flag. He became the poster bear for the rejuvenation of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake, and the totem animal of the state of California. Then, one day, he just disappeared. Without a trace. It’s said he embodies the heart, soul, and spirit of California.”

“So, you’re saying that monster who mauled our suspects was a California Grizzly Bear?”

“Um, well. What I’m saying is, it looked like a grizzly. It couldn’t have been a black bear. The adult American black bear, Ursus americanus, can grow to weigh about 600 pounds. Males average around three hundred to four hundred fifty pounds. The creature I saw was far bigger than that. The largest grizzly ever known weighed 2,200 pounds. I’d say our beast weighed a good deal more than that. But, um, our beast couldn’t possibly have been a grizzly, Charlie.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, ah, grizzlies used to come down to this very creek from the high mountains every year during spawning season to feast on the salmon. But the last California Grizzly was shot and killed in Tulare County, near what is now Sequoia National Park, in the summer of 1924. Ursus arctos californicus has been extinct for nearly a hundred years.”

The Fish and Game Warden and the County Sheriff’s Detective sat in the green truck in silence, pondering.

Finally, Kelli spoke.

“Charlie, do you know how to tell a black bear from a grizzly?”

“Well, I … no. Tell me.”

“Well, if you see a bear, run like hell and climb up a tree. If it’s a black bear, it’ll climb up after you. If it’s a grizzly, it’ll just knock your tree down.”


 

If you enjoyed reading this story, I’d be very grateful if you would leave a comment. Please Like and Share on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you!

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
               — Edward Abbey

 

 

 

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Standing Rock Insiders Urgently Request Help as Violence from DAPL Mercenaries Escalates

Standing Rock tepeeDecember 1, 2016
Standing Rock, North Dakota

Dear Friends and Relatives,

In late August I responded to an utterly compelling, impossible-to-refuse Call from Spirit to go to Standing Rock, North Dakota. Since I’ve returned home, everyone I’ve met has expressed a deep hunger to better understand the current situation at Standing Rock and to know how they can help. There is a mainstream media black out. What little information is broadcast on mainstream media is often unreliable. Below, I pass on the following insider information from friends at Standing Rock – urgent calls for help which I KNOW will make a difference for the good right now:

1. Donations to the Standing Rock legal support efforts may be made to:

The Water Protector Legal Collective is the National Lawyers Guild legal support team for those engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It maintains a 24/7 presence on-site at the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

For updates, visit waterprotectorlegal.org, and follow the WPLC at Facebook.com/WaterProtectorLegal and Twitter @WaterProtectUs.

The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members–lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees–the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s illegal use of force against the Water Protectors has been escalating (throughout the Fall). It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed. This must stop.”

On November 29,2016, the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed suit in US District Court against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against peaceful Water Protectors on the night of November 20, 2016. http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/11/28/water-protector-legal-collective-files-suit-excessive-force-against-peaceful

The class action suit, filed on behalf of persons who were injured on the night of November 20 and early morning of November 21, seeks an immediate injunction preventing the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement from using impact munitions such as rubber bullets and lead-filled “beanbags,” water cannons and hoses, explosive teargas grenades and other chemical agents against protesters.

2. Those concerned are urged to CALL NOW local and federal agencies below to demand (1) immediate end to construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, (2) the immediate cessation and a full investigation into law enforcement abuses, (3) dropping felony charges against water protectors from the October 27 police raid, and (4) permitting the Water Protectors to stay at their current encampment until the DAPL’s application to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River is permanently denied.

  • White House: 202-456-1111 (ask for “hot line to President”) or 202-456-1414 and/ or sign the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s White House petition standwithstandingrock.net/take-action
    • White House Situation Room, 202-456-9431
    • North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple’s Office: 701-328-2200
    • Morton County Sheriff’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Army Corps of Engineers-Bismarck 701-255-0015 or D.C. office 202-761-5903
    Energy Transfer Partners: the pipeline owner ― Lee Hanse, executive vice president, 210-403-6455; Glenn Emery, vice president, 210-403-6762; Michael (Cliff) Waters, lead analyst, 713-989-2404.

3. U.S. veterans for peace are raising donations on Go Fund Me
< https://www.gofundme.com/veterans-for-standing-rock-nodapl > to help our veterans get to Standing Rock to protect protesters in the threatened “December sweep”. I’m worried the military could get really really violent in attempt to remove people so they can complete the pipe under the water. The water protectors WILL NOT LEAVE unless they are dead or forcibly dragged away, until they are sure the fracked oil pipleline is no longer a threat to the drinking water of millions of people.

http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/standing-rock-veterans-donations-fundraiser-go-fund-me-dapl-dakota-access-pipeline-arm-blown-off-video-photos-amazon-list-facebook/?ref=emailshare WE NEED TO HELP GET THOSE VETS THERE before Dec 4th.

4. Medical support for the camp is desperately needed. The official tribal funding page for this is   https://medichealercouncil.com/volunteer/
To get a better idea of current conditions at the camp, especially if you are considering going there, read the healer’s page and the FAQ.  If you’re not sure you are prepared physically and emotionally to withstand extremely severe winter conditions (6 degrees, 26 mile/hr winds, completely exposed living plus under siege by a military force) don’t go and become a liability on an already stressed community. But if you have the food, arctic clothing, camping equipment, physical stamina and temperament to care for yourself and others, and you feel you should go, Do Not Hesitate! They need you NOW! (no drugs, alcohol, weapons – only strong, peaceful, prayerful hearts)

5. Medical support for Sophia Wilansky, young woman whose arm was blown up by a DAPL  mercenary’s grenade <  https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs# > Her father speaks about the attack on his daughter:  < https://www.facebook.com/paul.blumekmsp/videos/1115197865202714/>

6. DIVEST any and all of your assets that are invested in Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America – they all own a big piece of the pipeline

 

~ LINKS  ~  LINKS  ~  LINKS ~

* Great overview Fusion video of what’s going on  https://www.facebook.com/fusionmedianetwork/videos/1543459422346697/

* Democracy Now full show Thanksgiving Day starts with now infamous dog attack video then summarizes Standing Rock to date with good new material https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2016/11/24?autostart=true

* For more of the BIG PICTURE: Robert Kennedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdvSQaWYk8M&feature=share

* New York Times editorial  http://nyti.ms/2gkKUmB

* Amnesty Int’l and ACLU decry human rights abuses against water protectors https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24112016/police-dakota-access-protesters-aclu-amnesty-international-standing-rock

*FIRE racist, unqualified U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Commander and District Engineer of the Omaha District Colonel John W. Henderson
Read more at Cheyenne River Sioux Chair Calls for Resignation of US Army Corps’ Henderson Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier demands ouster of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district commander John W. Henderson after “racist” conversation.  indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com

*Indigenous Environmental Network  http://www.ienearth.org/

* Oceti Sakowin Camp Known as “The Main Camp” at Standing Rock http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/

* Kandi Mossett Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Kandi%20Mossett

*Myron Dewey Facebook posts about Why the government is banning Standing Rock indymedia’s drones https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=myron%20dewey%20posts

YES! online magazine has been doing excellent ongoing work of covering Standing Rock with timely, in-depth articles  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-the-assaults-on-standing-rock-require-police-from-seven-different-states-and-other-questions-20161031

Thank you relatives and friends. The media is not covering this situation. It’s up to us!

Please share this information as widely as you can.
We MUST stop this pipeline, with strictest legal bindings, Before inauguration day!

Water is Life

"Water Is Life"

“Water Is Life”


 

 

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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

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Organic and Sustainable Agriculture – Re-Designing the Food System

I’ve taken the last 6 months away from my novel to go back to classroom teaching in the Pajaro River Valley. My middle school classroom – a well-equipped computer lab in a state-of-the-art Google Classroom paperless school – is surrounded by agricultural fields. Many of my 7th and 8th grade students are children of freseros – strawberry workers.

I received a call to come back to Pajaro Valley School District for this one semester position because a dear colleague and old friend of mine was unable to finish the year and needed a replacement. She was stricken with a bone cancer linked to pesticides used around the school where she taught for over thirty years.

[Addendum: I wrote this post in May, 2015. I’m very sorry to say my friend and colleague Betty Geesman, died of Multiple Myeloma in June. ]

I feel as though my novel has come alive and I’ve stepped into its pages. The school where I’m teaching is at the epicenter of Fruit of the Devil. The bell of Our Lady of Help Church tolls hourly, just across the highway. And the St. Francis, the Catholic high school built upon the site of an Ohlone burial ground, which provides backstory for one of my main characters, is on the other side of the cyclone fence from my computer lab.

I’ve been shocked to find that so many of my students appear to be in a state of extreme mental and emotional chaos – more so than the average middle school adolescent. Attention deficit, hyperactivity, and Autism spectrum disorders are rampant. There are obviously many factors contributing to this, including poor nutrition and the proliferation of the cell phones, mp3 players, and the Chrome Book laptops to which every student is now constantly connected. But according to recent research findings, it is likely that much of the neurological anomalies we are seeing in the Central California schools are caused by long-term exposure to pesticide neurotoxins.

According to a soon-to-be-released California Health Report article < http://www.healthycal.org/ > Dangerous Drift by Lily Dayton:

In 1999, researchers from UC Berkeley began studying how pesticides affect the health of people living in the Salinas Valley. Researchers have studied hundreds of Latino families
who work in agriculture. Mothers in the study had higher levels of metabolites from
organophosphate pesticides in their urine than women in the general population. Related to chemicals developed during World War II for nerve gas, organophosphates are neurotoxins.
Children of mothers with the highest levels of organophosphates were more likely to have developmental problems, including abnormal reflexes, autism-related conditions, low IQ
and indicators of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the study found.

Mixtec Immigrant Picking Strawberries

I thought that when I returned to the Pajaro Valley to teach, I’d be able to interest other teachers in the struggle to reform pesticide exposure around the schools. It’s been discouraging to find that everyone is overwhelmed by the stressful demands of the job, and few teachers want to discuss the subject of pesticide exposure or even think about it.

Nevertheless, it was a source of tremendous hope to reconnect recently with Dick Pexiote, the uncle of one of my students 20 years ago when teachers, parents and community members founded Farm without Harm to promote organic agriculture. Dick is the owner of Lakeside Organics, the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the US. When I dropped by his Watsonville office one afternoon after school about a month ago, he welcomed me and told me he remembered very well the teachers’ fight to end pesticide drift. He said it was partly our efforts that first got him thinking seriously about going organic. Dick’s courageous transition, when fellow growers told him he’d “lost his marbles”, has not only been an inspiration to many others, but has also turned out to be a very profitable business decision.

In the 1990’s conventional growers were calling Organic Agriculture a “Communist Plot” and telling those of us with the dream of a model sustainable agricultural valley to, “Go back to Cuba”. Today, 30% of Santa Cruz County’s agriculture is organic. When Farm without Harm was founded in the mid 90’s, we teachers  proposed writing grants to help family farmers make the costly transition to organic. Now, there are millions of dollars in state grants available to farmers who want to transition to sustainable food production practices. Societal change can take a long time. But I  hear the voice of my favorite teacher, the late Dr. Kenneth Norris, saying, “Never give up.”

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but Pesticide Action Network, the organization that helped us file pesticide use permit challenges back in the 90’s, is now part of a broad coalition of environmental groups under the umbrella Californians for Pesticide Reform.

The CPR coalition has asked California Department of Pesticide Regulation to focus on development of a statewide policy to protect school children, staff and families from agricultural pesticide use near schools, parks and homes.

This spring and early summer the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will conduct a series of workshops around the state to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools. 

Everyone who is concerned about childhood and community pesticide exposure should take this opportunity to attend a workshop where you can meet face to face with the state regulators. Together we can make real change! Please come out and make your voice heard. We need to fill the halls!

Workshops are scheduled for:

May 28th: Cal EPA Building, Sierra Room  
                  1001 I Street
                  SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
June 2nd: Cesar Chavez Library
                  615 Williams Rd.
                  SALINAS, CA 93905
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
 
June 3rd: Ventura County Govt. Center
                  Board of Supervisors Room
                  800 South Victoria Ave.
                  VENTURA, CA 93009
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues

June 3rd: Rio Mesa High School Library
                 545 Central Ave.
                 OXNARD, CA 93036
7:00 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish and Mixteco (Baja) translation)
June 4th: Kern County Library – Lamont Branch
                 8394 Segrue Rd.
                 LAMONT, CA 93241
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

June 9th: City of Coachella Corporate Yard
                 53-462 Enterprise Way
                 COACHELLA, CA 92236
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

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Congressman Sam Farr Bringing in the New Year at Big Sur

It was our great honor and pleasure to celebrate this New Year with Congressman Sam Farr and his friends at Sam’s family ranch in Big Sur, California. Camped out on an exquisite piece of undeveloped land perched on the edge of the Pacific, we witnessed the procession of epic numbers of California Grey Whales south to their breeding grounds in Baja, and shared good food, wine, and our love and concern for this fragile water planet with like-minded people. A good beginning to 2015.

We met and talked with artists, scientists, politicians, administrators of non-profits, activists and just plain good folks. Climate Change was on many people’s minds. Another much discussed topic was Ocean Acidification. The head of the US National Marine Sanctuaries Western Division told me that one of the biggest items on the agenda of the Sanctuary Education Advisory Panel this year will be how to convey the urgency of the threat of Ocean Acidification to the public in a simple, clear, easy-to-understand message.

Sam’s message to those of us concerned about rapidly transitioning the US to a Renewable Energy Economy was clear: We can’t look for the present Republican and Fossil Fuel controlled Congress to provide leadership or support. California needs to lead the way. Push every city, school, government agency, municipal facility to go solar and green; put solar on every roof top and parking lot, develop the electric vehicle industry and demonstrate to the rest of the nation that Renewables are Ready and Lucrative. The country will follow.

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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

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Leaks in Space Time, Future Games, and Water

chronofact2

At Lighthouse Field in Santa Cruz, CA  last weekend, we discovered a Leak in the SpaceTime Continuum. A phone booth from another dimension materialized on the field, and we were able to listen to voicemails from the many possible future threads unwinding out of the chaos created by unfolding Climate Change. Some of the voicemails crystallized as they fell through into this reality. Identified as “chronofax”, they look like thischronoFact

Find out more about these “chronofall” phenomenon, and hear voicemails from the future at http://futurecoast.org/    A brilliant collaborative interactive game style exploration supported by the National Science Foundation through the Columbia University Climate Center Earth Institute, “FutureCoast aims to spark collaborative exploration of possible futures, including climate-changed ones, and create an open channel for sharing visions of how people and systems respond and adapt to change.”

Two of the characters in my novel, Fruit of the Devil, get pulled into an ocean vortex and sucked into an alternate dimension, where they learn that the fabric of all the worlds is unraveling, due to climate change and our abuse of planetary ecosystem life supports.

What can we do now to tow our lifeboat toward a positive liveable future?


Watch an interview with climate scientists

 

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when fiction bleeds into reality

I attended a lecture last night at UCSC on Brain, Mind, and Consciousnes – part of a fascinating week-long conference. The speakers were Nora Bateson, daughter of Gregory Bateson (An Ecology of Mind) and Dr. David Presti, neuroscientist and UC Berkley professor, who has been teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks in India at the request of the Dali Lama. Their main message was about the complexity, vastness, and interconnectedness of Everything, and the need to love, respect, and pay attention – macro and micro, interior and exterior, known and unknown – to all that is part of this Oneness with which we are in relationship.

Well, mind and consciousness is a pretty interesting subject. Apparently there is growing mainstream interest in brain research. The issue of traumatic brain injury is receiving more attention as it is coming to light that so many of our people serving in the armed forces in the Middle East are coming home with untreated, undiagnosed traumatic brian injury – “the invisible injury”. One thing these injuries can do is blast open the “doors of perception”.

Some of us – including many writers and artists – seem to experience an open door to altered perception even without psychotropic drugs or brain injury. I have recently had a direct experience of “altered reality” – a kind of bleed-through of my novel. One of my fictional characters came through into and interacted with – well, what we refer to as “reality”. There are numerous entertaining stories and films about novelists whose characters “come to life” – the Pygmalion plot line. That’s kind of what recently happened to me.

Here’s my experience:

A theme in my novel, The Death of the Gecko is that family farmers are under enormous pressure to develop and concrete-ize prime farmland, but our farmland and food security must be protected. In the novel, the protagonist, Watsonville teacher Ms. Aurora Bourne, gets involved in the struggle that actually took place in the ’90’s to prevent development of a large and fragile parcel of farmland and wetlands. In my novel, Ms. B attends a meeting where people are discussing the need to protect the land. As I wrote the scene, a character began to speak and I “took dictation”. The fictional character whose voice “came through” was far more articulate and well informed than I am. Later, I checked his facts and was astounded by his information and reasoning, which somehow far surpassed my own. Recently, I learned that the Watsonville City Council is on a mission now, a decade later, to do the same kind of concrete box store “development” of sensitive farmland that was blocked in the 90’s and described in my novel. I was moved to write a letter excerpting the argument of the character from my novel. His argument against developing today, in reality, holds up well enough that the Register-Pajaronian just printed it as an opinion piece on their editorial page. My perception is that the letter was not in “my” words, but the the words of the fictional character that “bled through”. He had something very important to say. I feel honored to have been a channel for his words, and I hope they’ll be effective in helping to protect our farmland.

A friend who recently read my manuscript commented that she thought no one but locals would be interested in the story of the struggle over the Tai Property in Watsonville. I think it is a universal issue – loss of our pricious fertile farmland is a problem all over the planet. Seeing how one community protects their land may inspire others. What do you think?

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writing about the watershed

Spent many years teaching watershed ecology to little kids. Death of the Gecko is a story about watershed ecology for grown-ups.

Had a dream the other night. I was at a university, and it was the end of the semester. A professor of geology or geography was looking over his text books, and I was in his office/classroom. I noticed a large paperback book entitled “Watershed Ecology”. He handed it to me, and I opened it. He said that the average American today believes that their water comes from China, and that people need to understand what it means that they live in a watershed, and where their water comes from. He gave me the book and told me to be sure to put all the information about watershed ecology into the novel I’m writing.

A tall order, to educate, while entertaining. I’m giving it a try.

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