Saturday, August 7, 2021

sliding into this dark abyss

 


climate change
global pandemic
sixth extinction

    I'm washing lettuce
    at the kitchen sink

Gulf Stream collapsing
ice caps melting
wildfires burning

    beautyberries turning purple
    outside the dining room window

science deniers
conspiracy theorists
angry coup organizers

    fox squirrels in the field
    deer feeding near the fence

    autumn light approaches


(c) lfm, 8/7/2021

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Two Poems on the Parinirvana of My Buddhist Teacher/For Bardor Tulku Rinpoche

 




not apart, yet
not together

how to explain
this grief, this joy?

an orphan, with
mind full of jewels

I step into the world and
try to shine

**

year to year
month to month
week to week
day to day
hour to hour
minute to minute
breath to breath
everything changes

4-3-2021 and 4/28/2021

Sunday, April 11, 2021

What Are the Barriers to Springs Restoration?


Why are efforts to save Florida's freshwater springs so often doomed to fail? I think it's because of significant barriers that exist throughout our culture--knowledge barriers, legal barriers, funding barriers, political barriers, barriers of vision and value. Would we have more success if our water defender groups joined forces with groups outside "the choir" that are working to break down some of these barriers? What are other ways we could be more effective at dismantling or breaking through these barriers? It's clear that we need some outside-the-box thinking.

  • Apathy/feelings of powerlessness (public, elected representatives, government agency officials, etc.)
  • Greed (ex: special interest political campaign contributions lead to outsized influence on elected representatives; resistance by corporations and businesses to behavioral changes that would result in lost profits)
  • Ignorance, including:
    • Ignorance of Florida's hydrological cycle
    • Ignorance of interconnections throughout the Floridan aquifer
    • Ignorance of who makes water-related decisions and how those decisions are made/political issues
    • Myth of an infinite supply of freshwater
    • Failure by elected representatives and agency officials to recognize water as a public interest/common interest
  • State of Florida funding favors South Florida needs over North Florida needs
  • Free water in rural areas/need for tiered water pricing to encourage conservation
  • Lack of accountability for state agencies
  • Current laws permit damage to natural systems instead of preventing it/natural systems lack their own rights to exist and to thrive
  • Regulation of non-point sources of pollution prohibited at the federal level
  • Ineffective Best Management Practices (BMPs), Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), Minimum Flows & Levels (MFLs), Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that offer only an illusion of protection for springs
  • Reliance on ineffective water models and cherry-picking of model data
  • Shifting baselines:  Few know what we have lost.
  • Decreasing levels of state enforcement of environmental regulations
  • No environmental checks and balances:  water management district board members appointed by the same person (governor) who appoints the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, no water defenders/environmentalists on water management district boards
  • Economy and environment falsely perceived and opposing interests instead of linked interests
  • Effects of regional water usage beyond the control of local agency officials
  • No widely agreed-upon water ethic
  • No clear definition of "public trust" in Florida water law
  • Short-term thinking trumps long-term thinking on the part of the public, elected representatives, agency officials, business and commerce


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Mistress of Magic

Note:  I originally published this post on March 24, 2009, but I took it down at Janis Nelson's request because she was not happy with one of my other posts that appeared on this blog; that other post was not about her. I have today learned that Janis died last year (2020) so I am re-posting what I wrote, because I believe that she has an important story that should be remembered. The website mentioned at the bottom of the article is no longer operational and I don't know if Janis ever felt as if she had received a "big victory in the city of the young." I do know that I am a wiser person for having known her.




 "...Morgan le Fay was not married, but put to school in a nunnery, where she became a great mistress of magic." -Malory, Morte d'Arthur


So begins one of my favorite novels of all time, Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon—a riveting re-telling of the Merlin and Arthur legends from the point of view of the women involved.

The "mistress of magic" quote has always reminded me of my friend Janis Nelson. I first met Janis in the early 1990s, when I heard about her from a co-worker. I have been fascinated by things psychic and occult since I was very young, but was actively discouraged from pursuing these interests by my parents, who wanted me to be grounded in the "real world." (I'm still trying to figure out where and what that is, by the way.)

I had two aunts and a maternal grandmother who encouraged my interests, however, but I did pick up a healthy dose of skepticism somewhere along the way, so I never actively sought a psychic reading until my friend Sheri mentioned that she and her mother knew a psychic who did not advertise, but did all her business by word of mouth. I immediately decided that was the person I wanted to see—Janis Nelson.

I'm betting that if a Hollywood screenwriter had written a script about Janis's life, it would have been rejected by every major studio because no one would have believed it. Born and raised on Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts. Largely self-taught in astrology and the Tarot while living a hermetic existence outside Woodstock, New York. Spirited away to Palm Beach, Florida, where she became the city's first licensed psychic and began reading for the rich and famous. Thrown into the middle of one of the sleaziest, most publicized private divorces in history, that of Peter and Roxanne Pulitzer. Libeled in numerous major media outlets, including Time magazine. Lost her reputation, her possessions, her livelihood. Sued for libel, but had her case thrown out of court because of mistakes in its presentation. Went from waltzing with Pavarotti at The Breakers to wandering barefoot around Gainesville and eating from dumpsters.

One day, shortly after her libel case had been thrown out of court, Janis went to the mailbox to find a flyer for a new series by Time-Life Books: "Mysteries of the Unknown." The first volume? Psychic Powers.Up until then, books about psychics had been hard to find. Today, they're everywhere.

Janis rebuilt her clientele, slowly, over the years, and she has written a book about her experiences—a psychic's eye view of a celebrity divorce. Her writing is unique. But even more than her writing, it's her story that intrigues me, because it speaks to what we as a culture have done now for thousands of years—banished what we don't understand about the psychic and the feminine to the netherworlds of silence and shadow.

Thankfully, things are changing. A psychic in Kingston, New York, predicted many years ago that Janis would have a big victory in the city of the young, a place where the devil lives in a big hole in the ground and the River Styx flows. Just northwest of Gainesville is Devil's Millhopper State Geological Site, a huge sinkhole; just southeast of Gainesville, down by Cross Creek, is the River Styx.

Janis is still waiting for her big victory in the city of the young. In the meantime, she's put up a website you can visit at:


And in a bit of serendipity, I just noticed that the word of today at www.dictionary.com is thaumaturgy, "the performing of miracles or magic." Hmmmmm....

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Standing Up Instead of Standing By

(Note:  Names have been changed.)


Circa 1973-74
I’m driving home to my duplex apartment just outside Tampa after my yoga class at the University of South Florida, where I’m studying anthropology and Asian religions. Yoga leaves me somewhere between fully energized and completely relaxed; it’s a pleasant space for both brain and body and I’m looking forward to some quiet time to do homework as I pull into a parking space, shift my black VW Beetle into neutral, and switch off the ignition.

I’m almost to the door of my apartment when I notice that the door to the apartment opposite mine is wide open—not characteristic behavior for Jerry and Fred, the two black men who are renting there. While I exchange friendly hellos with them, we don’t socialize too much; however, I have learned from them to appreciate the soulful voice of Barry White, whose records seem to be in continuous rotation on their turntable.

Concerned about the open door, I knock on the doorjamb and peer inside. Furniture has been upended and is in considerable disarray. No one answers my knock. Almost without thinking, I enter, walk through the apartment and go out the back door, which is also wide open.

There on the ground, Jerry is struggling while being forcibly held down by a couple of white men. Another white man, our landlord, is holding a large grey concrete block right over Jerry’s head, obviously getting ready to bash it in.

Adrenaline kicks in and I start screaming as loud as I can. “Robby!! Stop it!! Stop it right now!! What are you DOING???”

Robby stops and looks at me blankly, as do his two friends. “He hasn’t paid his rent!” Robby explains, as if this is justification for assault or worse.

“You can’t do this! That’s not a reason!” I keep up the high-pitched screeching and now other neighbors are coming out of their apartments to see what is going on. With an audience gathering, Robby and his two friends back off and Jerry jumps up.

“I’m calling the police and this needs to stop,” I declare, and retreat to my apartment. I leave my front door open in haste as I head to the phone to dial 9-1-1. One of Robby’s accomplices appears at the door and says to me, “You don’t need to call the police, it’s just that he didn’t pay his rent.”

I give the guy a cold stare while I’m waiting to talk to the police dispatcher. “That doesn’t matter,” I say. “That’s not a reason to hurt or kill someone.”

There is a flicker of surprise on the guy’s face. Evidently that is a new thought for him.

I finish the call and head back to the scene of the crime just in time to see Jerry break a large Coke bottle against the side of the duplex and point the shards straight at Robby and his two friends.

“Jerry!” I scream again. “You can’t do this! I’ve called the police and they are on the way! Put that bottle down right now! The police are coming!!” I keep screeching and more neighbors appear.

Jerry puts the bottle down and backs off. When the policeman arrives, I tell him that I need to talk to him before he leaves, point him to my apartment, and make my retreat.

The questioning goes on for a while and thankfully, the policeman remembers to come talk to me. I tell him everything I witnessed, in sequence. I am fairly sure there will be an assault charge for Robby and his friends.

The policeman tells me that the assault will be written up as a “landlord-tenant dispute.”

Jerry and Fred move out of their apartment shortly after this incident.

Circa 1996-97

The public relations office of the college where I write press releases and newsletter articles is going through a transition. Our graphic design coordinator has left to take a teaching position, and we are getting complaints from employees in other departments that their graphics jobs are not being completed in a timely fashion. Those complaints are starting to pile up.

Our boss, Layton, calls a staff meeting to clarify who can accept work and how jobs are to be prioritized. He announces that instead of routing all work requests through the graphic design coordinator, each designer is now able to accept those requests from other offices at the college.

We begin discussing the progress of several jobs that have landed on the complaint list. When our one black employee, Teresa, reports that she has accepted a job from a black employee who works in the library, the conversation takes a surprising turn.

Layton and Patty, the new graphic design coordinator, don’t think that Teresa should have accepted that job from the librarian. They begin to light into Teresa and as their criticism escalates, Teresa bursts into tears. Layton agrees that she should take a few minutes to collect herself. Teresa leaves the room.

When Teresa comes back to the conference room table with her Kleenex box and sits down, I think, “Good, now this will stop.”

But it doesn’t stop. Layton and Patty light into Teresa again, and again Teresa starts to cry.

“Hold on just a minute,” I say, as calmly as I can, holding up an outward-facing palm. “What is the problem here? You have just told us that anyone in graphics can accept jobs from other offices, and now you are telling Teresa that she can’t? Please stop and think about what you are saying, because you’re talking out of two sides of your mouth.”

Layton begins to seethe. I have openly challenged his authority. The meeting breaks up.

As time goes on and Layton avoids speaking to me, it becomes obvious that I’m in trouble—and finally, word comes down from the college’s human resources department that my contract is not going to be renewed for the next academic year.

The college president, for whom I sometimes draft speeches, calls me to ask what has gone on. I tell him. “Who else knows about this?” he asks me. “No one,” I tell him, “because I haven’t discussed it with anyone outside this office.”

There is a pause and my intuition tells me that the president may be getting ready to intervene on my behalf, or may be wondering if there’s something else he can do. “I will say one other thing,” I offer. “It’s okay with me if I am let go. Why would I want to work for someone who doesn’t want to work with me?”

Later, it dawns on me that this was a racist incident—that if Teresa had been a white employee, she would not have faced chastisement in front of everyone in the department, but would have instead been called into a closed-door meeting with only Layton and Patty in attendance. I communicate that insight to the president of the college and to the head of human resources, with whom I also have a long conversation about exactly what happened.

The end of the academic year approaches and with it, the end of my job. Teresa visits me in my office one day. “Do you think that what you did in that meeting has something to do with why your contract isn’t being renewed?” she asks.

“Yes,” I answer, “it has everything to do with it. And I’ll tell you something else. I’d do the same thing again in a heartbeat, because it wasn’t right and it should never have happened.”

After my job ends, I apply for unemployment. I realize that I probably won’t receive it, since I had been a contract employee serving at the pleasure of the college’s administrators. Getting unemployment in that circumstance is unheard of.

I get called to a meeting with a woman in Florida’s unemployment office. I briefly describe what happened and she checks her computer; she’s obviously reading something and I see her blink and sit up a bit straighter in her chair. She looks a bit shocked.

My unemployment claim is approved and I receive money from the state for the next six months while I look for another job. I’m fairly certain that the college’s human resources officer supported my request.

I use part of my newfound free time to do something completely different. I travel on Friday nights to Cassadaga, Florida, where I take classes in psychic development with Eloise Page, a well-known Spiritualist medium and inspirational speaker.

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Death of the Blue Springs: A Horror Movie


Could it happen here?

OPENING SCENE

A Young Woman stands with an Older Man on the bank of a beautiful clear blue freshwater spring. Other people—the Young Woman’s classmates on a geology field trip with their college instructor, the Older Man—are milling around at some distance. Young Woman and Older Man are silently gazing into the depths of the spring, looking pensive.

“You know,” Older Man says, “if these springs ever get polluted, it will take Mother Nature hundreds of years to clean them up.”

Young Woman laughs at the absurdity of the thought.


CAST OF CHARACTERS

Anthropologist:  An intelligent, beautiful and intuitive young woman who is grounded in an unidentified spiritual Asian path (Taoist? Buddhist?). A specialist in political and corporate power structures, she is trained to see the interconnections (not always obvious to others) between the environmental, economic, spiritual, scientific and political sectors of a society. She’s introverted but not shy and is unafraid to ask tough questions or to speak out against injustice directed toward other people or Mother Earth.

Scientist:  A Ph.D. at the local university who is an expert on freshwater springs and is documenting the reasons for their decline. He has identified a pattern of failing springs on the local river that alarms the Anthropologist and gets the attention of the TV Reporter, but he is ignored by Officials and most of the public. (Doesn’t every good horror movie begin with a scientist who is being ignored?)

Artists:  A painter and a photographer who have, intentionally or unintentionally, depicted the decline of the springs over years of bad political and environmental decisions.

Lawyer:  A brilliant, handsome law professor who is also a member of the board of directors of a local springs defender group. He has researched state and federal laws extensively and leads a small statewide “fringe” effort to change current laws. He has received anonymous death threats that he suspects come from some major industrialists.

Writers:  A journalist who covers big environmental stories for a large metropolitan newspaper and a rural resident who writes books set in the Springs Heartland, similar to the ways that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote about Cross Creek and Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote about the Everglades.

TV Reporter:  A springs defender at heart, the Reporter uses every opportunity to bring the story of degrading springs to the attention of the public.

Cave Divers:  A man who began cave diving as a youth and the woman who is his video production partner. By filming, mapping, writing and lecturing about the underground aquifer that feeds the springs, they try to raise public awareness about the connections between springs, aquifer and drinking water supply.

Officials:
·      Chairman of the Board of the local water management agency, a businessman with a string of ethics complaints about his conflicts of interest.
·      The Executive Director of the same agency, an agriculturalist who has forged good communications with and seems sympathetic to the springs defenders.
·      The Secretary of the State Department of Environmental Permitting, who walks a tightrope between his business and political supporters and the springs defenders. A supporter of the Governor.
·      The Governor, who poses as an “environmentalist” solely to win votes and whose actions give lie to that label.
·      Two state Legislators who have crafted laws that create the illusion that the State is saving the springs and who take steps to keep local municipalities from enacting stronger springs protections.
·      County Commissioners and their Lawyers who, when approached by the Anthropologist and her friends, prevent local legal changes that might help to save the springs.


PLOT SYNOPSIS

After some years away, an Anthropologist (the Young Woman in the opening scene) returns to take a higher education teaching job in the mid-sized town where she spent her college years. The town is centered in an area called the Springs Heartland, the largest concentration of freshwater springs on the planet.

On a weekend visit to go swimming, the Anthropologist discovers that the area’s blue freshwater springs have begun to turn green. She chances to meet two Cave Divers emerging from the spring and begins to question them. She becomes very concerned and because she is trained to look at the holistic “big picture” of social situations, she begins to investigate what has caused the greening of the springs.

In her spare time, the Anthropologist meets with the Scientist, Artists, Writers, the TV Reporter and Officials who have various roles in defending the springs and in maintaining water quality and water supply. When she attends the meeting of a local nonprofit springs defender group, she meets a sympathetic Lawyer with whom she develops a romantic relationship.

The Anthropologist also attends state water management agency and legislative delegation meetings. She interviews state and local Officials. With coaching from the Lawyer, she discovers how laws are written, at the expense of the springs, to support the wealthy that hold political power. Banding together with the Lawyer and other friends she has made while doing her research, she mounts effort to hold Officials accountable and to change the laws. Those efforts are blocked at every turn and she finally realizes that the Officials who hold power are completely unwilling to make changes that might save the springs.

Just as the Anthropologist begins to realize the futility of her efforts, the springs go dry, saltwater intrudes into the increasingly polluted aquifer and the water becomes poisonous for drinking or irrigation. As large numbers of people get sick, the local health care system collapses alongside the water supply. These failures lead to a crash in the local economy, after which public chaos and an increasingly violent societal breakdown rapidly follow.

To save herself and to be able to share at the national level what she knows about the causes of the collapse, the Anthropologist—accompanied by a few friends—makes a daring escape from the chaos and destruction that have been caused by ignorance and greed.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Fluffy Bunnies, Dying Springs and the Rights of Nature (Part 3 of 3)

The Santa Fe River seen from Rum Island Spring

The idea that Mother Earth and Her ecosystems have the right to exist and to thrive is not a new idea. Indigenous people have lived this view for thousands of years, but relatively modern European law (upon which U.S. law is based)—law developed largely by landed gentry—has subverted the idea of humanity's relationship with the natural world by relegating Nature to the status of "property." And in property-based law, only certain people are allowed to have legal "standing" to defend natural systems in court.

Christopher Stone's landmark article, Should Trees Have Standing?, was published in 1972 and makes the argument that natural systems should have their own legal rights. The article is often cited as the inspiration for the current rights of nature movement. (Stone has since expanded the article into a book with the same title.)

The nonprofit group I work for, the Ichetucknee Alliance, was granted standing to defend the Ichetucknee in one legal challenge but was denied standing in another. So there is no guarantee that even groups whose mission is to restore, protect and preserve specific natural systems can fulfill that mission through our courts of law.

I have watched other environmental groups challenge actions by state agencies and corporations that harm Florida's springs and rivers. Those groups are sometimes denied standing, as the Ichetucknee Alliance was, but even if they are granted standing, they invariably lose their challenges.

The Florida Rights of Nature (RON) movement is a response to this crisis of legal standing that leads to the destruction of Nature, but it is more than that:  It is also a response to a crisis in our democracy in which state governments and the federal government can deny people the right to govern their local communities.

Like many people who are worried about what we humans are doing to Mother Earth, I am committed to doing what I can to reverse our current destructive trends. When I had the opportunity to get involved with a campaign to amend Alachua County's home-rule charter by having a Bill of Rights for the Santa Fe River placed on the 2020 ballot, I jumped on board.

At the first public information session we held for this SAFEBOR (Santa Fe River Bill of Rights) effort, one young man asked, "How long do you think it will be before the State of Florida preempts you from doing this?" My answer was quick:  "Until the next legislative session." (Everyone laughed because they knew that was true.)

Sure enough—the Florida Legislature is now in session and language to preempt local governments from enacting rights of nature laws is sailing through committees. Those of us involved in SAFEBOR and Florida's RON movement knew this was coming and we see it as validation for our efforts, because as Thomas Linzey said recently, "The fact that they're trying to preempt you means you already have the right to do what you're doing."

At the recent Florida Rights of Nature Convention (RONcon) held at the University of Florida's Law School, I asked Linzey:  "If Alachua County wants to put SAFEBOR on the 2020 ballot and the State preempts us from enacting rights of nature laws, what should the County do?"

Linzey's answer:  "Do it anyway."

Do it anyway because our springs and rivers are being destroyed.

Do it anyway because our current regulations and laws are not preventing our springs and rivers from degrading.

Do it anyway because Florida needs to recognize nature and ecosystems as having that highest level of protection that can be afforded by law.

Do it anyway because ecosystems need substantive rights that can be enforced.

Do it anyway because people in communities have a constitutional right of local self-government that enables us to enact stronger environmental protections than those set by the state.

Do it anyway because that same constitutional right of local self-government limits what laws the state can override.

Do it anyway because the Declaration of Independence reads:  "...That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Do it anyway because the Florida Constitution reads:  "Article I, Section 1. Political power. – All political power is inherent in the people. The enunciation herein of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or impair others retained by the people" and "Article II, Section 7. It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources."

Do it anyway to get a challenge into the courts that will enable resurrection and expansion of the Cooley Doctrine that asserts certain municipal lawmaking cannot be preempted by state law.

Do it anyway because even though a court challenge will be costly, there are some things that are more important than money.

Do it anyway because now is not the time for baby steps. Now is the time for brave people to stand up strongly to the forces that are destroying Mother Earth.

Do it anyway because it's the right thing to do.


Many thanks to Thomas Linzey for tutoring on these legal issues.