Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ferals' Progress, Part 9 (Bedfellows)

The cold weather (in the 30s here last night) makes many combinations of bedfellows. It's a tribute to patience and persistence on our part and tolerance on their part that we found this pile of red cats on the futon here in the house today.

When we first got the ferals, they wouldn't come near us. They spent the first few years of residence here huddled under a heat lamp on the back screened porch when the nights turned cold. Finally, slowly but surely, they migrated into the house, where conditions are better—especially during our weather extremes of summer and winter.

From left to right, above, that's Bill (aka William of Orange) and Angie (aka T-Angie-Rine) with her little arm giving Grover (aka Orange Grover) a hug.

It's like a little miracle; I was really never sure anything like this would ever happen. Mom would be pleased, I think.

Success! Five Harvested Seminole Pumpkins

While five pumpkins aren't really a lot, they're more than we've ever managed to grow before, so I'm counting this year's crop, above, as a huge success.

It got colder than forecast last night and the pumpkin vine got nipped, so the pumpkins were picked today. They should continue to ripen in the house, hopefully, and should all eventually turn the same color as the palest one. I've heard they store well, so I'm looking forward to enjoying pumpkin "something" from this crop over the next several months.

So, now we know it CAN be done—and next year, we will try again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

“The Gulf Between Us” by Terry Tempest Williams in Orion Magazine

One of my favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams, has written a long, thoughtful, and thought-provoking article called “The Gulf Between Us” that appears in the November-December 2010 issue of Orion Magazine. The article describes her trip to the Gulf of Mexico and the people she met in the aftermath of BP’s oil spill.

Thanks to Terry and Orion, the article is available on line at:

There is a recording of a followup call in which Terry and others discuss the situation in the Gulf Region; you can listen to it here:

Look for the heading marked “Archived Calls” and click on the November 17 call.

I am posting this information in my blog because I think what’s gone on in the Gulf, and what’s going on there right now, are possibly the biggest untold stories of our time, and I want more people to know about them.

For example: Did you know that there are people—not birds, not fish, not marine mammals, not turtles, but PEOPLE—in the Gulf Region who are sick, chemically poisoned by the Corexit used to “disperse” the oil, and who cannot receive medical attention? I did not know this until I read Terry’s article and listened to her call.

I’ll admit that the conference call made me cry, and not just because of the chemical poisonings. There’s just so much there that resonates with me.

First, this is a major news story that's not being reported anywhere else, as near as I can tell. Where are the journalists? Why isn’t the fact that there are people here in the USA who are chemically poisoned plastered all over the newspapers and the TV? Have we become so numbed that we’d just simply rather fret about “Dancing With the Stars”?

Second, Terry makes some excellent points on the conference call about how artists, writers, musicians and other creatives need to be involved in keeping stories like this alive—bearing witness for the benefit of others.

Third, there are more excellent points made in the call about the need to move beyond preaching to the usual environmental choir, and important questions raised about the commitment to environmental preservation (or lack of it) not only here in the USA, but around the world.

Something else struck me about the Gulf Region as I was waking up yesterday morning.

Following the loss of Gulf wetlands, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and now following the BP oil disaster, I glimpsed that the situation in the Gulf right now offers us a clear view of the choices that we as a society are going to have to make, and soon.

There are probably as many people in the Gulf Region who make their living in what I call nature-based jobs—fishing, shrimping, and otherwise relying on the ocean to support their tourist-related or other ocean-related businesses—as make their living working in oil-based jobs, working for the oil industry.

Now, given disasters both natural and man-made, all these people—both the nature-based workers and the oil-based workers—are suffering the loss of their way of life.

The nature-based jobs have taken a hit—although hopefully only temporarily, but we don’t know yet—by the oil. And the oil-based jobs took a hit from the oil industry itself, when the BP disaster resulted in a drilling moratorium.

So, what’s it to be? Will we choose to support the nature-based jobs or the oil-based jobs? I see this very much as an “or” choice, not an “and” choice, because the oil obviously has the potential to ruin everything. If we choose the oil-based jobs, how soon will such a disaster happen again, and what will be the costs? Because people aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. And when we make mistakes, we can screw up whole ecosystems, and whole ways of life.

We can decide, now, that we want to end our dependence on oil and begin a massive, society-wide effort to do this; or we can lumber along, ignoring the problem and sticking our collective heads in the sand, and wait for the next disaster to overwhelm the next unlucky region and drive yet more folks into poverty.

Luckily, Terry is not a gloom-and-doom environmentalist. I was heartened to hear on the conference call the talk of a Marshall Plan-like effort for restoring the Gulf Region’s ecosystems and economy. If ever there were an ideal site for such an effort in the USA, the Gulf Region is it. I wonder how many people could be put to work if such an effort—one that might include an all-out push to develop solar and other alternative energy sources—received backing not only from our government, but also from our banks and private businesses, many of whom have enjoyed windfall profits due in part to the labors of the men and women who live near the Gulf of Mexico? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, collectively, we could build a broad coalition of people—of all races and all political persuasions—to help?

Please do me a favor and read Terry’s article and listen to the conference call; it’s important, and time’s a-wastin’. Thanks.

I took the picture, above, at Cedar Key, Florida, the day of the Hands Across the Sand event last summer. We are fortunate—very, very fortunate—that the BP oil spill did not affect us here. Next time, of course, could be very different.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Young Adult Pumpkins

Yeehaw! Some of our Seminole pumpkins have actually grown, and are approaching maturity. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can avoid any really cold weather until these young "punks" are ready to be picked.

This was our first year with trying to grow these pumpkins with a later (as opposed to earlier, when they would succumb to mildew) planting date. Now that we know it can be done, we just have to figure out exactly when that later planting date should be.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Price Clarity?/or, What about the ‘common good' in regard to water?

Back in the dark ages when I went to school, classes in Civics and American History were required even into the college years. In these classes, we learned that sometimes the members of a society would choose to have laws that—while they might be burdensome for individuals—were important enough for the common good that people would agree to abide by them.

Lately I wonder if this idea of “the common good” hasn’t been lost in space. I’m thinking, in particular, about the renewed debates about recent actions that have been taken to protect the quality of our water supply.

Because the State of Florida has, to a large extent, refused to do its job with regard to water protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in to mandate water quality standards. And of course, people are protesting this—based, in many cases, on debatable financial analyses of what meeting the new standards might cost them.

One thing the State did right was to enact a law to ensure that septic tanks are maintained in good working condition. Now, after the latest elections, there are loud cries for that law to be repealed because it will cost homeowners to have their tanks pumped out every so often, or repair or replace them if they start to leak.

At the core of the debates about these issues, it seems to me, are issues that are bigger, even, than economics or government control.

The core issues—from where I sit in my home near the Santa Fe River—are, How important is it to us to have a clean, clear water supply? Are we, collectively, going to go on fouling our waters without considering what effects our actions will have not only on us, but on the kind of world we leave to our children and our grandchildren? Is the idea of “common good” still viable in today’s society? What kind of a society do we really want to be?

We know what the problems are with regard to our rivers and springs and the Floridan Aquifer that nurtures us: too many nitrates from leaky septic tanks and agribusiness, a population that is almost certain to grow in the coming years, and the voracious appetites of water bottling companies and other industries whose use of our water resources threatens the amount of water that is available to all the rest of us.

So if we are all a part of the water problem, doesn’t it stand to reason that we all need to be part of the solution?

Thinking back to those old Civics and American History classes, here is what I wish some political leader who loves Florida would stand up and say to us now.

The decision to maintain and protect our water supply is one that should not be based solely on economics. Because all of us need clean water to survive and remain healthy, each of us has a part to play in maintaining the health of our waters. The decisions we make today will determine the amount and quality of water we have tomorrow, and the water that is available for our descendents. If we decide, collectively, that clean water really is a priority for us, then each one of us is going to have to make sacrifices and changes in the ways we live and the ways we do business.

Which, in the long run, leads us back some economic questions: How can we afford to live here if our water supply gets so bad that we cannot use it? What price are we willing to pay, now, for clarity?