“I walk the Earth”

For almost three decades, John Francis has been a planetwalker, traveling the globe by foot and sail with a message of environmental respect and responsibility (for 10 of those years without speaking). A funny, thoughtful talk with occasional banjo.

Jim Hightower | GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Even over here in Texas the word is getting out and people are noticing the policies of the Bush gang in Washington. Mountaintop Removal Mining has to be stopped and it will take the efforts of all of us to do it. I have made the point to switch my electric supplier to a company that only supplies green power…No more will I support the coal companies when I turn on the lights.

GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Posted by Jim Hightower

Listen to this Commentary

Boy, things are hectic inside the Bush regime these days! The clock is ticking, and Corporate America is rushing to get all the favors it can before Bush & Company closes down in 2009. Sure enough, the Bushites are delivering.

It received little media attention, but the giant coal operators (which have been reliable funders for George and the GOP) recently got a huge goodie handed to them: Bush gave them Appalachia! His office of surface mining quietly issued a new regulation that would allow King Coal to ravage the ancient mountains, glorious forests, and pure streams of Central Appalachia at will.

Source: Jim Hightower | GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Jim Hightower | GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Even over here in Texas the word is getting out and people are noticing the policies of the Bush gang in Washington. Mountaintop Removal Mining has to be stopped and it will take the efforts of all of us to do it. I have made the point to switch my electric supplier to a company that only supplies green power…No more will I support the coal companies when I turn on the lights.

GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Posted by Jim Hightower

Listen to this Commentary

Boy, things are hectic inside the Bush regime these days! The clock is ticking, and Corporate America is rushing to get all the favors it can before Bush & Company closes down in 2009. Sure enough, the Bushites are delivering.

It received little media attention, but the giant coal operators (which have been reliable funders for George and the GOP) recently got a huge goodie handed to them: Bush gave them Appalachia! His office of surface mining quietly issued a new regulation that would allow King Coal to ravage the ancient mountains, glorious forests, and pure streams of Central Appalachia at will.

Source: Jim Hightower | GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

The Bush Administration Drops The F-Bomb on Appalachia

It’s not straight from the VP’s mouth, but it’s straight from his policy book. Energy companies rule and all you folks living in the neighborhood can “just go f— yourselves” to quote on Administration Official.

The one thing that has been consistent about the Bush Presidency is that never have so many environmental laws been gutted, overwritten, or just plain ignored in such a short amount of time.

New rules would ease coal mining restrictions | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

The Bush administration wants to quit requiring coal operators to prove that their surface mining will not damage streams, fish and wildlife.Under proposed new regulations that it will put out Friday for public comment, strip mine operators would have to show only that they intend “to prevent, to the extent possible using the best technology currently available,” such damage.

I think the kicker is this from the end of the above article though…

The latest changes to the buffer-zone rule were first proposed more than three years ago.

At a hearing in March 2004, opponents talked of floods and flattened peaks and of homes swept away or devalued in central Appalachia.

A lawyer for the National Mining Association said the mines’ preference was to get rid of the rule entirely, because it is confusing and there are other protections for streams in federal law.

The telling part of that final statement is left unsaid in the article though..

Clean Water Action: Save Our Mountains, Save Our Streams

The Bush administration has changed Clean Water Act rules that prohibit dumping of wastes, especially mountaintop removal coal mining waste – but also hardrock mining waste, construction and demolition debris, and other industrial wastes – to bury streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers, ponds and other water bodies around the country.

This May 3, 2002 rule change puts virtually all of our nation’s waters at risk by overturning a 25-year old regulation that forbid the use of wastes to fill and bury waters.

Then there is this article:

EPA eliminates Clean Water Act protection for many non-navigable waters and wetlands

As a result of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule changes to the enforcement of the Clean Water Act, it now only automatically applies to permanent navigable waters and the wetlands attached to these waters. Intermittent and non-navigable waters and their wetlands may or may not be protected depending upon other criteria including whether or not they are attached to navigable waterways. These changes were the result of a Supreme Court ruling last year that ruled in the words Justice Anthony Kennedy that there must be a “significant nexus” between a wetland and/or waters and a navigable waterway. The cause of the navigable water requirement in the Supreme Court’s ruling is the wording of the Clean Water Act itself, which under Title I Section 101(a)(1) states:

it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985.

So the protections the Mining Association Lawyer was talking about don’t exist…Are you surprised?

This Administration has systematically destroyed the laws and policies put in place to protect Americans. Be it your health, your jobs, your right to an education…None of these things matter to this Administration. The only thing that matters is that the companies with the most friends and relatives on their boards continue to do business unfettered by legal restraints. Even if it takes rewriting the laws in the late night committee meetings on the eve of the vote…

If you have stuck with me this far…go write a letter to your Representatives in Congress. Tell them to say NO…NO to Mountaintop Removal…NO to Water Pollution…NO to Air Pollution…NO to Drilling in ANWAR…NO to the indiscriminant drilling in the Rockies…Aw hell, just tell the to say NO to Bush and Chaney for a change.

For more info and to Take Action follow these links…

A Beautiful Mine – New York Times

It seems that the time has come for the American public to have to come to grips with what their unceasing  need for electricity is doing to one of the oldest and most diverse ecologies on the planet.

When it comes to mountaintop removal, a certain fatalism seems to take hold in Appalachia — the coal companies are too powerful, the politicians are corrupt, the regulators won’t regulate and the news media don’t care. But we cannot give up on rehabilitating Appalachia. While most efforts to reclaim the land destroyed by strip-mining have done little to restore the landscape or improve the region’s economy, one effort holds out special promise. It is a three-year-old program within the United States Office of Surface Mining called the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and it is based on decades of research.

Later in the op-ed Erik Reece speaks of the current state of affairs in Appalachia and his hopes for a future…

Appalachia’s land is dying. Its fractured communities show the typical symptoms of hopelessness, including OxyContin abuse rates higher than anywhere in the country. Meanwhile, 22 states power houses and businesses with Kentucky coal. The people of central and southern Appalachia have relinquished much of their natural wealth to the rest of the country and have received next to nothing in return.

To right these wrongs, first we need federal legislation that will halt the decapitation of mountains and bring accountability to an industry that is out of control. Then we need a New Deal for Appalachia that would expand the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, or create a similar program, to finally return some of the region’s lost wealth in the form of jobs and trees, rebuilt topsoil and resuscitated communities. Financing should come from a carbon tax on Appalachian coal bought and burned by utility companies across the country — a tax that would also discourage the wasteful emissions of greenhouse gases. Such a project would educate and employ an entire generation of foresters and forest managers, who would be followed by locally owned wood-product industries and craftsmen like Patrick Angel’s brother Mike, who makes much sought-after hardwood chairs just like ones his grandfather fashioned.

Let’s hope that America comes to it’s senses soon. If nothing else, the internet has given a voice to those who live and love the Appalachia that the coal companies would destroy. This virtual voice is beginning to get the word out to the rest of America and it wont be very long before America answers back.

Lord help the coal companies and forgive them their destruction…I don’t think I can or will until they fix their mess.

Source: A Beautiful Mine – New York Times

Endangered turtle lays 84 eggs on South Padre | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

From the local newspaper, this tidbit of environmental news…

The first endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle known to have nested this year on the Texas Coast laid 84 eggs on South Padre Island Tuesday, officials said…

From 1979 through 1996, only 17 Kemp’s ridley nestings were recorded in Texas. Last year, the known Kemp’s ridley nestings on Texas beaches hit 102, more than double 2005’s record of 50.

Source: Endangered turtle lays 84 eggs on South Padre | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Sustainable Forestry?

I have been following Fred’s posts on sustainable forestry (links here and here)the past week or so, so when I say a link to the following on The Appalachian Voice Front Porch Blog it forced me to follow the story…to Greensboro, North Carolina. Eric Schaefer wrote the story for the News & Record there.

“Why not selectively cut?” I asked, “That way you leave the canopy at least partially intact and preserve some of the integrity of the forest as well as its beauty. There is not too much uglier than a fresh clear-cut.”
They explained to me that the problem was twofold: First, to a timber company, selective cutting means taking out the most desirable trees and leaving behind crooked trees or species that aren’t marketable. If you go that route, what you’re going to have left is a forest that is never going to produce marketable trees. Second, it is expensive and sometimes impossible to find someone to selectively cut.
Part of the job of the Forest Service is to produce forest management plans for private land owners, and Tate and Gibson told me they would gladly come up with any kind of plan the land owner wanted. If a land owner wanted forest that would be attractive to warblers and not cowbirds, woodpeckers and not starlings, trout lilies and not dandelions, they could do that, but if you want to have your land assessed as forest you have to have a timber production plan. And since they can’t recommend selective cutting because of the consequences for the future timber production, you must clear-cut to get a forest assessment.
A forest assessment, similar to an agricultural assessment, means that the land in question is assessed differently than residential property and can mean big tax savings. If farmers were assessed the same as other land owners, many of them would go out of business. So to ensure we don’t lose our farms, farmland is assessed differently and the same is true for forest land. However, you must be actively engaged in farming or forestry to get these assessments, and what that essentially means for forest land is periodic clear-cutting.

As you can read from the story, it’s easier for the lumber companies therefore

  • the Forest Service won’t recommend any other form of timber management.
  • without the Forest Service timber management you don’t get a forest assessment.
  • without the forest assessment you don’t get the lower tax rate.

What’s wrong with this picture? Essentially, the Forest Service is forcing landowners to have their forest clearcut. Go read the article…From here it looks like another holdover from the turn of the past century is still making it easy to strip the resources off the earth… This whole story reinforces what the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation is trying to do.

To first take out the injured and dying trees, the introduced species making room for the more valued trees to grow. And doing it in a way that doesn’t destroy what you leave is the very essence of sustainable. It just takes time and above all patience.

Source: News-Record.com – Greensboro, North Carolina: Sports: Clear-cutting question really isn’t clear cut

Walking the Berkshires: Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

Talk about a neat idea. All you folks burning wood might want to keep a few boxes on hand for emergencies…

Bio Bricks, a product that is clean burning, produces just 1% ash, is renewable and utilizes low value forest products.   A Connecticut producer makes fifty tons of these a day and can’t keep up with demand.  In fact, the biggest challenge facing this entrepreneur is a steady supply of dry wood chips of the appropriate size and consistency (ideally not more than 8% moisture content).  The chips are fed into a hopper and compressed into bricks that are held together by the heated lignants in the wood.  Bio Bricks have no additives and use chips and sawdust from clean wood (not pallets).  You only need three of them to make a fire in your wood stove or fireplace, they are bug free, and can be stored indoors. 50 packages of these bricks are the equivalent of 1 1/2 cords of wood and are competitively priced.

Source: Walking the Berkshires: Not Just Another Brick in the Wall