conservation

Viewpoint: A Need for Conservation

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Our country was founded on the principal that every man and woman to inhabit this Earth should be able to live a life of liberty — that is, having the ability to control your own actions. While there are certain actions that have always been prohibited (murder, theft, etc.), citizens of, and those within, the United States of America, especially compared to other countries, have been relatively able to do what they want.

The founding principle of liberty has led to some of the greatest inventions and innovations in world history. From the development of the first vehicles and airplanes to something as simple as the lighter, American history is rich with inventions that have reshaped the modern world and facilitated a much easier style of living compared to past societies. The free flow of ideas that has been allowed for centuries created a place where people could profit from their hard labor and critical thinking. Hours that were spent at the workbench trying to make life easier for others could finally translate into a substantial change in lifestyle as products entered a marketplace that was ready to consume.

And with more consumers with purchasing power, individuals began to make more and more money. Individual aspirations soon became profitable businesses that would eventually become corporations that employed hundreds of workers in order to forward their profits while providing other people with the opportunity to enjoy more of what the modern world had to offer. Many of the problems humanity used to face became distant memories as products sprouted up that negated many negative aspects about past lifestyles.

Liberty has allowed the United States to become a global superpower while enhancing the lives of billions.

But when we talk about the foundations of the United States and our country’s basic principles we cannot solely focus on liberty. The Constitution states, in its Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.

It is clear that the founders of the Constitution were not thinking just about themselves and their immediate descendants when they decided upon the framework of the United States. Towards the end of the Preamble, just after the mentioning of the importance of liberty, the Constitution brings forth posterity.

Posterity, in its most general sense, means all future generations. From this definition it is evident to see that the Framers of the Constitution intended allpeople to reap the same benefits as those had in the past. And, while benefits throughout history are fluid (changing), there are certain things that should remain intact for all generations to experience; one of the most important being the environment and world around us.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Framers of the Constitution.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson, one of the most important and historical figures in American history and political thought once stated in a letter to James Madison on September 6, 1789, “I set out on these grounds, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the Earth belongs in usufruct to the living generation.” With usufruct meaning the right of a person to use the property of another without damaging or altering it, it is already evident that the most important minds in American political thought had conservation and the preservation of our world on their agendas.

The best analogy that can be made when introducing the topic of conservation is made through a story that comes from Professor John Davidson’s (J.D.) Intergenerational Justice course at the University of Oregon.

The analogy starts with a playground that had just one swing. As there was only one swing for the many children to play on, the children continually bickered back-and-forth about who would be able to use the swing. Seeking resolution for the problem presented before them, a group of parents led by a concerned grandmother decided to come up with a sign-up list for the children to fill out and have allotted time on the swing.

One day a boy named Jimmy stepped up to the swing to have his turn on it. Soon becoming bored with regular swinging, Jimmy decided to try something new — he stood up on the swing and jumped up and down and had a fun time while making lots of noise. After some time of jumping up and down on the swing, the set began to shake and seemed as though it was deteriorating.

At this point in the story the grandmother, who would watch the children on the swing, told Jimmy to stop what he was doing because it was hurting the swing. Jimmy did not like grandmother’s wishes and told her that since it was his time on the swing, he could do whatever he wanted.

The grandma calmly responded to Jimmy by stating that the swing was never his nor anybody else’s; nobody had ever or will ever own the swing, they are all simply renting it. Since other people will play on the swing after Jimmy, the grandma stated, nobody can break it.

-You can read the full and unabridged version of Professor Davidson’s “Taking Turns” here

Taking lessons from this story and applying it to our own lives, we can see what the Framers of the Constitution meant when they mentioned our posterity; our world is one that should be left in no worse condition when we leave it in order to preserve it for our future generations.

At the rate humans currently consume, however, the world that we live in will be vastly different in terms of biological, chemical, atmospheric, and natural resource/raw material composition. And while everybody in the future may be able to obtain an iPad that will instantly zap your next meal to your front door, the way we are harming and deteriorating our ‘rented’ planet is not ethical nor something the Framers of our Constitution intended to happen.

We are not so special as to merit the extraction of valuable resources from this planet that will leave nothing for our future generations to enjoy; this is a relatively simple statement that is hard to take in during our time of egoism and mass consumption. Our culture is based on overindulgence and is something humanity is unfortunately becoming accustomed to, evidenced by the size of our properties, number of superfluous amenities, and rising obesity rates.

These disproportionate and concerning numbers arise from the fact that humans are opportunistic. And, after weathering plenty of harsh times throughout the history of the world, who can blame humanity for taking advantage of something when they can?

The natural cycle of Carbon Dioxide production and consumption has been tipped in the negative by human emissions.

The time when we can take advantage of all these resources, however, may soon come to an end as our planet cannot sustain the activities we currently participate in on a day-to-day basis.

At the forefront of the topic of conservation is learning how to combat global warming and the release of toxins that break down our ozone layer. The years when we could debate whether or not global warming was an actuality are long gone; it is real and we are already seeing some of its harsh effects. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates and attributes that 150,000 people are killed around the world every year due to global warming.

With its effects already being measured in the present, continued emissions in the future will only further degrade life for all current inhabitants and those yet to come; inhabitants that we owe a habitable world to with all the provisions that have been provided to us. The most significant emission that we must learn to stop producing on such excessive levels is carbon dioxide. The emissions of this gas, while it can be and is naturally produced, are depleting our ozone layer and disturbing the climate of our planet.

Added to increased emissions of carbon dioxide alongside other harmful gases that heat up the atmosphere is the reduction of natural carbon dioxide “sinks” such as forestry and organisms that are able to consume this gas. The removal of these areas has allowed more and more carbon dioxide to reach our atmosphere, continuing the degradation of our planet.

For those who have questioned as to whether or not our emissions are out of the norm (and we all have), scientific data obtained from ice cores have shown that, for the past 500,000 years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have remained between 180 and 300 parts per million. These levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen, since the Industrial Revolution, to at least 380 parts per million (see Climate Myths). Through the burning of fossil fuels for industry we have offset the natural balance that our planet was accustomed to, thus leading to harm being directly inflicted on our planet at atmosphere because of human activities.

This degradation, as mentioned before, is something we must hold ourselves accountable for and mitigate if we want to remain true to our Constitution and preserve for the generations that are to come after us.

In order to follow our Constitutional declaration of posterity and uphold general human ethics we must not only conserve our atmosphere and halt emissions of carbon dioxide throughout the world, we must also preserve those beings and materials that are currently on our planet.

Extinction is a natural consequence of our world that has gone on since the development of organisms. In fact, it has been postulated that 99.9% of all organisms to exist on this planet have gone extinct, thus making us and all current inhabitants a microbial percent of everything that has ever existed. And, while extinction is a natural process that works it way out, humans have once again found a way to accelerate a natural process to an extent in which we have become the ultimate deciders as to what goes extinct and what does not. Species such as the narwhal and the polar bear are already on the way out among the many that are currently on endangered species lists.

Will the only place our future generations will be able to see species such as the polar bear be in history books? Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

This is once again a disservice to those who came before us and to those who will come after us. 

We are an intelligent species, likely the most intelligent to ever inhabit this planet. It should not be difficult for us to look around and recognize that we are not ethically sound in the way we consume products, release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, and be a judge, jury and executioner to everything that comes our way.

The rate at which we are harming our planet goes against all moral principles and a Constitution that sets forth, in its Preamble, the importance of preserving the world we have around us for those to come after we pass. What we are currently doing to it, to the point where it cannot be restored, is against moral principles that were once common knowledge. Humanity has become distracted by flashing lights, whizzing sounds, and the manipulative marketing by businesses that has us craving all the wrong things.

And yet we cannot just be motivated by words and always talk about doing something; people need to realize that they need to get out there and start doing something about it. There is some semblance of balance between modern amenities that we have become infatuated with and conservation efforts that will benefit the future. That balance, however, has yet to really figure itself out.

In the meantime, educate yourself about what is going on, become involved in conservation efforts, and recognize that we are, just like the child on the swing, only temporarily renting space on this planet.

 

Groups call for buffer zones in pesticide use

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Aerial spraying of pesticides, or “crop dusting,” is a practice dating back to 1906.

Several public advocacy groups held a rally today against pesticides at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza during the Saturday Market. Pitchfork Rebellion, an anti-pesticide group from the Triangle Lake area organized “Occupy This! Rally for Pesticide Justice and Jobs!” The event called for banning aerial spraying of pesticides near homes and schools, creating a buffer zone to protect people’s health.

The rally began with a performance by local reggae/jam band Sol Seed, followed by a spoken word protest performance calling for a “pure organic Oregon.”

Then “Day,” a resident of the Triangle Lake area, took to the stage. Day is one of several residents of Triangle Lake who has been documented to have the pesticides 2,4-D and atrazine in his urine. 2,4-D, or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, is a major ingredient in Agent Orange, one of the chemicals used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War. A professional analysis of four public streams near Day’s and other residents’ homes found these pesticides in all of the streams.

Several environmental groups held a rally today against pesticides at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza during the Saturday Market.

Day said,

“We’re just a bunch of hillbillies from Triangle Lake tired of getting hit by pesticides everyday.”

Studies by numerous organizations, from the EPA to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to public universities, have documented the effects of human consumption of pesticides. Pesticides can cause damage to the human nervous system, reproductive system and other organs, developmental and behavioral abnormalities, disruption of hormone function as well as immune dysfunction.

Day introduced Roy Key, a professional forester of over 40 years. Key said he was there to talk about the dangers of pesticide poisoning in Lane County.

“I’ve been in the forest business for 40 years. I’ve managed forests without herbicides or pesticides. You don’t need those substances to manage the forest.”

Key compared pesticide use to his experience in the Vietnam War.

“It’s just like Agent Orange all over again. But here in Lane County.”

Key called on attendees to tell Oregon governor John Kitzhaber to stop the use of pesticides in the state near homes and schools.

Day, a resident of Triangle Lake, has been documented to have the pesticides 2,4-D and atrazine in his urine. A professional analysis of four public streams near Day’s and other residents’ homes found these and other pesticides in all of the streams.

Oregon already has a buffer zone to protect waterways and salmon species. Streamside protection rules for non-federal forest land in Oregon were adopted in 1994. All private, state and local government forest landowners or operators conducting pesticide operations near streams, lakes or wetlands must comply with these rules. In November 2011, a federal judge upheld buffer zones for pesticide use near streams and rivers. Dow Chemical Company, a leader in specialty chemicals based in Michigan, filed a lawsuit seeking to undo the Oregon rules, saying that they were too restrictive. The restrictions ban the ground spraying of three agricultural insecticides within 500 feet of waterways with salmon. They also ban aerial spraying within 1000 feet of said waterways.

While Oregon has a buffer zone for pesticide use near water, it has not adopted a buffer zone near human activity. The Oregon Department of Forestry says,

“Currently, there are no regulations in Oregon requiring a buffer zone for aerial application of herbicides near specific structures or facilities, including schools.”

There are, nonetheless, safety requirements in how pesticides are used, both in residential and forested situations:

“While pesticide use in a residential setting must abide by pesticide label safety requirements, forestry applications must follow those requirements plus additional regulations spelled out in the Oregon Forest Practices Act.”

Pesticide companies, such as Dow Chemical, argue that their products abide by these safety requirements. Concerning 2,4-D, the substance found in Triangle Lake residents, Dow Chemical has said the following:

“2,4-D is available for use in U.S. crop production today because EPA has determined, after evaluating all human health and safety considerations – including the concerns expressed by activists – that current uses (including currently authorized uses on corn) pose ‘a reasonable certainty of no harm.’ This EPA conclusion was reached only after the Agency had considered all relevant data…This regulatory conclusion is supported by mainstream health and safety experts who have thoroughly evaluated the product.”

The application of pesticides has had a long and controversial history. Dr. Patricia Muir, Professor at Oregon State University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, says that, following World War 2,

Ingrid Edstrom, nurse practitioner at Eugene’s Infrared Breast Thermography LLC, spoke of the link between pesticides and breast cancer. “Oregon has the second highest breast cancer rate per capita in the nation,” she added.

“Chemical pesticides have become the most important consciously-applied form of pest management.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry explains this popularity according to pesticides’ cost-effectiveness:

“Many landowners see herbicides as the most cost-effective means of achieving their reforestation goals following logging or fire, or for converting neglected brush land to forests.”

The first important pesticide was DDT (otherwise known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Muir says,

“DDT was discovered in 1939 by a Swiss chemist Paul Muller. In its early days, it was hailed as a miracle…It was inexpensive and easy to apply. It was so effective at killing pests and thus boosting crop yields and was so inexpensive to make that its use quickly spread over the globe. In 1948, Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize for its discovery.”

As years went by, however, DDT was labeled both directly and indirectly toxic to many organisms. Most disturbingly, as Muir explains, DDT

“showed up in human breast milk at remarkably high concentrations — so high that the milk couldn’t legally be sold through interstate commerce if it were cow’s milk! [DDT] is the most widespread contaminant in human milk around the world.”

While DDT was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1972, other pesticides are commonly used in Oregon. The last year in which Oregon has data compiled for pesticide use is 2008. That year it was reported that 280,001 pounds of pesticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion) were used in the state.

A rally attendee protests 2,4-D, one of the pesticides found in streams near Triangle Lake.

The groups that rallied today are hoping to change how those hundreds of thousands of pounds of pesticides are administered. They asked all attendees to fill out postcards to Governor Kitzhaber to ask for expanding pesticide buffer zones to include not just fish, but people.

Christina Hubbard, the Project Director of Forest Web, also spoke at the rally. Forest Web is a grassroots conservation organization based in Cottage Grove. Hubbard said,

“Forest Web stands in solidarity with these groups. I’ve personally been working with Day since 2007. A lot of these pople have had major clinical studies done on their urine and it is documented that they have pesticide poisoning.”

Hubbard says this rally’s message is not particularly radical.

“Really what this is about is creating a reasonable buffer zone for aerial spraying. This is common sense, to protect homes and schools.”

For more information about Oregon’s use of pesticides in agriculture, go to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s website at http://oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/. For more information about Oregon’s use of them in forestry, go to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s website at http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/privateforests/pesticides.shtml. Websites for the groups involved in the rally are: Pitchfork Rebellion, http://pitchforkrebellion.com/; STOP, http://stop-oregon.org/; Forest Web, http://www.forestweb-cg.org/.

Getting Down at the 9th Annual Ancient Forest Hoedown

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9th Annual Hoedown

Driving through Cottage Grove, following a school bus that had undoubtedly seen better days, we pulled off pavement onto a dusty dirt road leading to Avalon Stables, host to this years 9th Annual Ancient Forest Hoedown.

The hoedown is one of several fundraising events benefiting the efforts of local activist organization, Cascadia Wildlands.   One of the current battles on the forefront for Cascadia Wildlands is their effort to stop the passing of legislation that would allow for dramatic increases (40%) in timber harvest in the Elliot State Forest in order to raise funds for education, as 91% of the land is currently designated as Common School Fund land.  Sally Cummings, Operations Manager at Cascadia, told me that the new management plan is scheduled to be reviewed by the state land board on the 11th of this month.  She said that there is “a rally in Salem on the 11th at the Capital building, people can show their support by being present to show their concern for maintaining species and forests”.

Having originated in 1998, non-profit organization, Cascadia Wildlands mission is to “educate, agitate, and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.”  Their headquarters is here in Eugene, but their broad reach works to protect bioregions stretching from Oregon to Alaska.  Cascadia is reputed as a regional leader in grassroots conservation efforts, having worked to preserve millions of acres of forest, and prevented further extinction and endangerment of several native wildlife species.

As the last moments of daylight began to depart, we moseyed through the open stable, visiting the resident equines in their stalls.  Volunteers at the Hoedown were setting up a buffet table featuring steaming vegetarian chili, fresh crisp salad, and many other goodies to compose a healthy dinner to fuel the dancing that would later ensue.

We stopped to grab a mug of tasty apple cider, then wandered up a small knoll to join a growing circle of hoedowners surrounding a blazing bonfire.  Making our way down to the corral, we stopped back at the stable briefly to fill our mugs with with delicious hot coffee, courtesy of the Wandering Goat Coffee Company.  As we stepped into the show arena, we took note of a table stocked with information highlighting Cascadia’s most recent efforts, including petitions to extend protections to the currently threatened grey wolf.  At the far end of the arena, local favorites, the bluegrass belting Conjugal Visitors prepared their spot on a mobile stage.

In the show arena I met Missy Mae, a resident of Eugene.  When asked to participate in a short informal interview, she said “as soon as I grab a beer”, and headed for the Ninkasi tent, not far from the festivities to grab a hand crafted pint.  Upon returning, Missy Mae said attending a benefit like this was important to her “first and foremost because it’s an opportunity to support ancient forests, and also an opportunity to come out and see great live, local music – the Conjugal Visitors.”  Missy Mae told EDN that she what she was looking forward to the most was “getting out there to dance like an idiot with everyone when no one knows what they’re doing”.  In discussing the recent activities and efforts of Cascadia Wildlands, Missy Mae said that she feels “People are more inclined to get involved when there is a struggle.”   

Before kicking up his heels to Bob Ewing’s square dance calls, Nick, another Eugene resident, spoke to EDN about his first visit to the Hoedown as he enjoyed a goody provided by sponsor, Voodoo Doughnuts.  Nick told me he was drawn to the event because he had never experienced a hoedown, and he was looking forward to learning a new type of dance.  Nick attributed the youthfulness of the crowd to “the community setting it up is younger – word gets out like that – there’s not a lot of community stuff to do in Eugene,”  finishing the last bite of his doughnut, he continued, “It’s a treat!”.

While the Conjugal Visitors and square-dancers took a break, hoedowners formed a line across the arena to compete for the honor of being hailed as champions of the three-legged race.  Two waves of competitors hobbled as fast as their joined ankles would allow, some falling into huddles to avoid being stampeded, as they made their way toward the finish line.  Winning pairs from each wave realigned for the final challenge on the road to victory.

Cummings told EDN that anyone interested in supporting through attending rallys’, writing letters, donating, or volunteering their time can find more details on the Cascadia Wildlands website.

Story by Elisha Shumaker, EDN
Photos by Timothy Clark