Saturday many people read my diary Global Warming & Katrina, Prairies & Wetlands
. I want to pick up where that diary left off with some new ideas & information I came across since then. Recommend it if you think it's worthwhile.
The night of New Year's Eve, I put on my party clothes and then layered on top of it a few pairs of socks, running shoes, a sweatshirt, a heavy coat, a hat, and gloves. I put my party shoes in the car and drove to the UW Arboretum
for a night hike they hold every New Year's Eve. I've lived in Madison for 2 years and I had never been there before - but I told everyone else to get off their computers (at least temporarily) and start doing something so I wanted to take my own advice.
When I got there, I picked up some info about volunteering opportunities. The arboretum has 1200+ acres and they have volunteers come in monthly to help get rid of invasive plant species. Once the spring comes, I am definitely going to start volunteering there and any other Madison Kossacks are welcome to join me. Whereever you live, I am sure you can find other similar volunteering opportunities - Morton Arboretum and Fermilab in Chicago or the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, for example. Many places also offer classes and gardening advice (such as the world renowned Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis) - so if you are thinking about putting something more interesting than grass in your yard, you don't have to go it alone.
Once the hike started, we went through the maintenance area of the arboretum. The guide said he brings groups there to see some of the history of the arboretum. Much of the arboretum was created by the CCC in the 1930's. For those of us under the age of 65 - the CCC was the Civilian Conservation Corps, created by FDR during the New Deal. At the UW Arboretum, the CCC men lived in 20 barracks that were heated by fires in the center of the room. The men rotated sleeping positions so that each took turns sleeping near the fire and near the cold walls of the barracks that were covered with frost in the winter. We saw one of these barracks last night.
Here is a bit more info from our friend Wikipedia:
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an organization established on March 31, 1933, during U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first month in office. It was part of the social and economic relief program provided under Roosevelt's First New Deal to combat the poverty and unemployment of the Great Depression, and was one of the first measures to be introduced during the first hundred days. The CCC came to be seen as a rite of passage by its enrollees, and became one of the most popular New Deal programs among the general public.
The Labor Department's role was to recruit participants into the program; the actual camps were operated by the Army, using reserve officers. Within a week the Labor Department organized a National Re-Employment Service for CCC recruitment. The usual requirement was that the boy's father had to be registered as unemployed. The first CCC enrollee entered on April 7, 1933, just 37 days after Roosevelt's inauguration. In a short time there were 250,000 enrollees working in CCC camps. Enrollment peaked in September 1935 at about 502,000. By the time the CCC disbanded in 1942, over three million young men had participated.
The CCC was an interdepartmental work and relief program that sent young, unemployed men from the cities to work on conservation projects in rural areas for $1 per day for one year. The corps took part in many conservation projects, including prevention of soil erosion and the impounding of lakes. The CCC constructed many buildings and trails in state and national parks that are still used today. Other projects of the CCC included installation of telephone and power lines, construction of logging and fire roads, fence construction, tree-planting, and even beekeeping, archeological excavation, and furniture manufacture. The CCC also provided the first truly organized wildfire-fighting crews for government agencies such as the United States Forest Service.
CCC enrollees worked 40 hours a week and were paid $30 a month, with the requirement that $25 of that be sent home to family. Members lived in camps, wore uniforms, and lived under quasi-military discipline. The U.S. Army operated the camps, using reserve presonnel called to active duty. The Army thereby gained valuable experience in handling large numbers of young men, but there was no military drill or training in the camps, and the work projects were civilian in nature. Eventually over 4,000 camps were be established in all 48 states and in the Hawaii, Alaska Territory, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The first camp was at George Washington National Forest in Virginia.
The CCC ended in the 1940's but it was revived in California in 1976 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The new program focuses more on youth development than economic revival. In 1985, the NASCC - National Association of Service and Conservation Corps - was formed to manage over 100 various corps programs around the country.
The Arboretum was extremely impressive - but I left there and went to my party and drank various forms of alcohol and ate a disgusting amount of sushi, fondue, flan, and lord knows what else until my stomach hurt. At 4:30am the hostess made me coffee (I was sober but tired) before letting me get in my car to drive home.
So now I'd had several hours to mull it all over - after the amazing day of enthusiastic responses to my diary (including so, so many ideas that I would have never thought of by myself... thanks everyone) and the trip to the arboretum, all combined with the mood of the night - reflecting on the past year and making plans for the next one.
One of the comments in the last diary sent me to see an online video (it's 29 min and worth it) of a talk by David Suzuki. Suzuki reframes "the environment." He starts with our current idea of the environment. We think the environment is separate from us, and we try to measure and figure out the maximum safe amount of shit we can dump into it. He talks about the reductionist idea of the world that he was introduced to while studying genetics.
An attempt or tendency to explain a complex set of facts, entities, phenomena, or structures by another, simpler set: "For the last 400 years science has advanced by reductionism... The idea is that you could understand the world, all of nature, by examining smaller and smaller pieces of it. When assembled, the small pieces would explain the whole" (John Holland).
He explains it as the idea that you can learn about how all of the very small parts of the world work and then rearrange them and plug them in like you could do with parts of a machine. (I hope I'm paraphrasing him properly - I watched his video yesterday and I am definitely not transcribing word for word)
The rest of his talk emphasizes one point: The environment is us. WE are the environment. He discusses this in terms of air, water, land, and fire. Think about the breath of air you are taking right now. Where does it go? I won't go into the specifics but Suzuki does. One year later, those same atoms are all over the world. You breathe some of them in again in future breaths. Other Kossacks will breathe in those atoms. All from that ONE breath. And you breath 15-40 times per minute. The atoms tracked in the study providing that information were from a noble gas that does not react with other things. Other atoms do react. You have an incredibly large surface area of alveoli in your lungs and when the air comes in... ok, I am wandering off into DarkSyde's territory and I don't feel quite comfortable.
The point is that there is no way to tell where the air ends and you begin when you breathe in. You are the air. Your children and grandchildren are the air. We share the air with the dinosaurs and with famous poets, historians, kings, and philosophers that were alive in the past and will be alive in the future. So why do we think we can dump things into the air and it won't affect us? We are dumping it into us, and into our children.
The same goes for the water and for the land. We drink the water. Our food is grown in the land, with the water and with the air and with the sunlight. When you put pesticides on a fruit, you can't just wash it off in the sink. It is in the plants' roots and in all other parts of the plant and in the fruit you eat. (In case this is freaking you out - you can check my website, which lists the most contaminated and least contaminated fruits and veggies. Some absorb pesticides and other chemicals more than others. I think peaches are on the list of the worst and asparagus, mangos, and bananas are all on the list of the best)
One Kossack, lale, took action because a local plant was dumping crap into the water supply. Her family and 80,000 residents were drinking that water. Dumping crap into the water is no different than dumping crap into her and her children.
Ok - so I've strayed a bit away from Katrina and my original point, but I wanted to share all of the thoughts that were swimming around in my brain yesterday as I drove home from the party. As I was driving, the Air America news came on with some news about the Army Corps of Engineers and the levees. Why do we have to solve everything ourselves - going AGAINST mother nature - instead of letting mother nature help us out? Go with the Dao, George - no more of this cowboy approach to fixing problems. I wish we had multilateral foreign policy and I wish we allied with mother nature on our domestic policy too. There is a certain poetry to the world when you work with it and the joke's on us when we go against it.
So, here's where we are in the Gulf:
- Unemployment & Displacement: We have a large amount of people displaced from their homes and their jobs. Many, no doubt, are unemployed. We've seen diaries about destitute women evacuees seeking abortions and a double murder-suicide as one family faced eviction. I know there are optimistic stories too. I've met people myself who landed on their feet. But I saw the word "genocide" on dKos this weekend. We've got Kanye West's "George Bush doesn't care about black people." I'm not convinced it has to do with genocide or black people. I think it has to do with social darwinism and a disregard for poor people (many of whom are black in NOLA). And it's a ruthless following of a flawed ideology - they are using Katrina as an excuse to privatize and exploit, as they are doing in the rest of the country and as they are doing in Iraq. And it's cronyism, incompetance, and greed.
- Prevention of Damage from Future Storms: The wetlands in the Gulf are being destroyed at a rapid rate. In addition to the diverse life they support and the filtering effect they have on water, they also absorb storm surge. Hurricanes are getting worse, not better, and we need to build up our defenses. Levees, sure, but here is something we've got that WORKS and has worked for millenia.
I think we ought to put these two together like FDR did with the CCC. Let the people of the Gulf work to restore the wetlands and barrier islands. They will get work and their work will protect their homes from future hurricanes. They won't have to move to other parts of the country, either. Employing people doing environmental restoration work will help the local economy because these folks will need to patronize local businesses to put food on their families.
Obviously Bush does not have this sort of vision - although it's barely a matter of vision because this is a solution that would actually help people and he has no interest in that. In California the governor re-established the CCC. So this can be done on a local or state level. I don't have the details about where the money is coming from and where it is going to. This would need funding.
So where do we go next? An NGO? Nagin? Landrieu? She just voted for ANWR so maybe not her. Blanco? Leaders who we know care about our opinions (Slaughter, Conyers, Feingold, Obama, etc)? Could this be funded privately? What about RFK, Jr and his Water Keeper Alliance? They sell Keeper Springs bottled water in the Northeast and they give 100% of profits to keep the waterways clean. Please vote and leave your ideas in the comments. I'm hopeful about this.