Tag Archives: environment

Great Barrier Reef in Trouble


The Business Insider reported back in January of this year that the Great Barrier Reef has been opened to dumping of dredge waste inside protected national park areas of the Reef as well as a coal port expansion.

The Reef is already in poor health and faces many challenges. The additional stress of waste being added to the waters and then a coal port expansion on top of that risks major destruction for the animals and plants that depend on the Reef and its unique environment. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has tried to say that the waste dump and port expansion will not harm the Reef in any way:

According to GBRMPA, the dumping will not significantly affect the Reef.

“It’s important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds,” Dr Russell Reichelt, Authority Chairman, said in a news release. (Source: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5847/20140201/australian-government-approves-dumping-dredged-waste-great-barrier-reef-marine.htm)

However, this is a very short-term view, and disregards the fact that the Reef is in poor condition as it is. How anyone thinks dumping additional soil and silt into an already fragile environment will not have an impact is beyond logic. The expansion of the coal port also means an increase in shipping traffic along the Reef. The Reef is supposed to be protected, as it is listed as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO has made public statements that condemn the decision and has submitted a report to the World Heritage Committee stating the Reef could potentially be downgraded to a status of “In Danger”. UNESCO has also urged the government of Australia to reconsider. However, as of the time of this post, I have not been able to find any news articles that have the government’s response or any news of a change in the decision.

As if this weren’t enough to cause alarm, there is another project planned to take place in the same rough location. Australia also plans to build a huge natural gas export terminal at Abbot Point, which is in the same region as the coal port expansion project. The dredging for the natural gas terminal would amount to about 800,000 tonnes of dredging–an enormous amount that is certain to have an impact on the Reef and the ecosystem. They plan to dump all of that soil and silt onto land, which is better than dumping it elsewhere in the Reef, but also brings the risk of potential harm to areas on land, depending on where this dredged material is being dumped.

I urge everyone who believes in protecting the environment to take action. Speak out, either in person or online. Sign petitions if you’re able. Work spells, if that is what you do. Write to influential people and demand their action to protect valuable ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

To sign petitions or contribute money to legal funds organized to fight these decisions, check out the following links: Save the Reef, Reef Fighting Fund through GetUp!, Fight for the Reef legal fund, Sounds for the Reef,

Additional news sources about the decision:
Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-31/australia-permits-coal-port-dredge-dumping-near-barrier-reef.html

RT News: http://rt.com/news/156100-unesco-barrier-reef-dumping/

 

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Humans in the Way? Too Bad.


Climate change is an oft-debated, much discussed topic lately, and has been for quite a while.  It seems that in the last five years especially, repeated natural disasters and climate events have really caught peoples’ attention.  The instances I can think of off the top of my head are extreme heat in Australia, unusual and unseasonal temperatures in much of the United States, the increased ferocity of many storms such as the June derecho in the DC area last year, and hurricanes hitting places they aren’t generally supposed to hit, such as the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

So when the following status message popped up on my Facebook newsfeed today, it got me thinking.

It really bugs me when people rejoice when the temperature’s really warm in the middle of winter.

Now, I hate the cold.  Hate it with a passion.  I hate being cold, and do not willingly venture outdoors when it’s cold.  I certainly don’t go outside unless I have to when there’s snow on the ground.  So on one level, I don’t mind when it’s warm in the winter.  You know, those rare days of 40 degrees, or even 50, when it’s supposed to be only in the 30s.

But 70?  SEVENTY?  In the middle of January?  That just screams to me that there’s something very off-kilter  in the natural world.  Sure, once in a rare while we might have an unseasonal temperature spell like that, maybe once every ten years or so.  But then I reflected back on the past 3-4 winters.  In 2010, my area saw two major snowstorms that dropped a foot of snow or more each.  My area normally does not see that much snow all at once, much less twice in a row.  And after that, 2011 and 2012 were very warm winters.  2012 was so warm I remember there being mosquitoes and even some bees buzzing about in the dead of winter.  And now this winter, we started off very mild, finally dipped into proper winter temperatures, and have been zigzagging across the temperature and weather charts ever since.  In this week alone, we’ve seen ice, snow, freeing rain, temperatures 30 degrees above normal, and an unseasonal severe thunderstorm with the possibility of tornadoes.

Does this just sound wrong to anyone, or is it just me?

And it’s not just the winters.  Last summer was one of the hottest on record, even hotter than the one before, which also broke records.  Then we have a hurricane slide straight up the East Coast, which happens maybe once a decade, if that.  The last one that came up he coast was Isabel in 2003, but it had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to the Mid-Atlantic, which is par for the course.  Not only do hurricanes just not come up this direction often, but Hurricane Sandy was a monster of a hurricane, and so unusual that it even astounded weather experts all over the world.  It was the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded weather history.  For a hurricane to combine with an oncoming front and another portion of a weather system to its east, and turn itself into a nor’easter afterward is basically unheard of.

What I’m saying with all of this is the weather seems to be trying to get our attention.  Humans are notoriously stubborn and willfully blind to unpleasant facts.  Why have natural events such as hurricanes been causing so much damage in the past few years?  Yes, the population has continued to grow in such areas as coastal states and that leads to an increase in property damage and loss of human life when disaster strikes.  But we can also no longer ignore the fact that the weather appears to be shifting, and storm systems have consistently grown stronger.  Hurricane Sandy is perhaps the best example of this.

I can imagine some of the reactions to this post.  “You’re being alarmist.”  “You’re making a big deal of nothing.”  “You’re crazy.”  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Well, if this post from a small blog like mine is what alarms you, then where the heck has your head been hiding?  The Earth will survive.  She will recover from anything we throw at her, given enough time.  But as she recovers, she may not be able to support us, sustain us.  If you don’t care about the environment because it’s “just the environment”, then think selfishly: if there is no food, no clean water, and no clean air, how will you eat, drink, or breathe?  How will you live given those conditions?

People have shrugged aside previous reports from scientists and global weather agencies before now, and shrugged aside environmentalism as a “hippie” or even lost cause, but it’s my feeling that Mother Nature is shifting to account for the harm we have caused her with our pollution and unsustainable habits.

And if we’re in the way, that’s just too darn bad.

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The Cost of Inaction


Today I read about the Winnemem Wintu and other tribes who gathered together for a practice run of a protest they will hold in the near future to protect their sacred ground and coming of age ceremony from the encroachment of heckling tourists and residents.  I was all fired up to write a scathing post and maybe a letter or two about how shameful it is that this kind of discrimination still takes place.  I was all ready and set to write about how ashamed and disgusted I am of being an American when I am reminded that our Native tribed are still abused, downtrodden, and essentially treated as second-class citizens in this country, even now in 2012.  I was just about to put pen to paper to write that it’s disgraceful that no one does anything about this issue to the point that the tribe is forced to civil disobedience just to be heard.

And then it hit me.

I, with all my fine words, all my well-meaning rage and disgrace, am really no better than the ignorant government.  Because, you see, my fine words and I are sitting in an office, or at home behind a computer.

Doing nothing.

There are plenty of people who pay lip-service to an ideal, plenty who will bemoan the state of the world without doing anything to actually fix it.  They do nothing.  And today, it hit me so hard that I paused in my work, leaned back in my cushy office chair, and actually thought about it.  With utmost surprise and shame, I realized that although my intentions were of the best, I have in fact become one of those people.

I have done nothing.

Where are the movers and shakers of today?  Where are the protesters, the leaders, the American system-breakers of this new era?  Where are the Susan B. Anthonys, the Martin Luther Kings, the Gandhis?

They’re sitting behind a computer, wrapped up in Facebook or Twitter or Angry Birds, frustrated by the world if they have any feeling or awareness left at all but still choosing to do nothing–either because they choose to or because they simply don’t know how.

I love technology.  I really do.  I’m good at it, and I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no cell phone, no personal computer, even no Internet (gasp!).  I think technology is a wonderful tool.  But we have become so focused on the next status update, the next text message, the number of Likes and friends, the next YouTube viral video, that I believe we have forgotten how to truly function with each other as human beings.  We have now been told and taught for many years that technology is the way to go, the way of the future.  And we follow blindly as sheep, herded to the next “amazing” gadget that’s really not much different from the previously amazing gadget released six months ago.  We allow technology to consume our attention and become an excuse to do nothing.

Yes, I realize the irony of using a blog and Facebook page to get this message out when I have just briefly expounded on the “evils” of technology.  But both blog and Facebook are tools.  We must learn to use them properly.

We cannot continue to do nothing.  There are too many important issues that need addressing in this world.  The rights of Native Americans in the US is only the tip of the iceberg.  What about the rights of women and children in third-world countries, protection of animals and the environgment, governmental abuses, corporate abuses, pollution, cartels, violence, and prostitution rings and slave trade?  Hiding behind computers, using the “anonymity” of the Internet, all of it must end–or be used properly–if we are to make real improvements.

I have done nothing.  Even these words will do very little because they are exactly that–just little words.  To fix the world, to make it better, more than words is needed.  Action is needed.  Solidarity and a sense of right are needed.  A reminder of humanity is needed.  We are all connected.

I will no longer be a sheep and do nothing.

Will you?

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Why Earth Day is Both a Joy and a Disappointment to Me


You may wonder how Earth Day could be a bad thing.  After all, it’s an entire day devoted to honoring, appreciating, and celebrating the Earth, right?  An entire day devoted to getting the message out that the environment needs help and we humans have responsibilities to said ailing environment.

Sounds great.  And it is a great idea.  But I also find it disappointing that we still have a need for Earth Day.  The commemorative day has been around since 1970.  This is 2012.  That’s 42 years of environmental advocacy, environmental messages, and creation of a heightened awareness of environmental problems.  Yet even after 42 years, Earth Day is as necessary as ever before in getting the message across that we all need to be aware of how we treat the world around us, whether we’re Pagans or non-Pagans.

Earth held by two hands. Image from Google Image search.

Image from Google Image search.

This is why it’s disappointing to me.  It’s as if we’re saying that it’s OK to do something so important for one day and then go back to living our lives in unsustainable ways for the other 364 days of the year.  Yes, it’s grand in that the day does serve to bring a reminder to those who may have slipped up, but at the same time, why is it still necessary to have this day?  Shouldn’t we by now have figured it out that we can’t continue the way we are?  Shouldn’t we honor and respect the Earth for 365 days of the year and not just one?

I have the same kind of issue with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.  They’re meant to show appreciation for the special people in your life–but shouldn’t you do that a lot more often than one day?  And yet, many people will only show appreciation or do something special on the day they’re “supposed to” do it.  (I should also mention that I don’t count birthdays in the count of number of days you show appreciation–birthdays should always be a given, in my mind, and are a different category altogether.)  I understand that these days can have special meaning and significance even when you do show appreciation throughout the year, and that’s a wonderful thing.  Mother’s Day is still special to my mom even though my sister and I show appreciation more than one or twice a year.  Valentine’s Day is important to me at this time only because I’ve never experienced it and I would like to.  And Mother’s Day and Father’s Day don’t really have particular importance to me personally because I am neither–but I understand that they are important days to my parents.

So these special days can have significance and be special even though you show appreciation or honor the subject of the day throughout the year.  But it is sad and disappointing for a person or thing to be important for only one day of the year.

Truly walking a Pagan path, regardless of your specialty or preference or brand of Pagan, is so much more than honoring the Earth for only one day.

Developing the Grand Canyon and Other Great Natural Areas


I read an article recently about how certain leaders of the Navajo nation want to build a resort and tram down to the canyon’s bottom on the eastern rim. (“Navajo Nation Eyes Grand Canyon for Development,” on Yahoo! News.)  They want to create jobs and revenue for the Navajo people in the area by attracting tourists to the resort, which would require massive infrastructure additions (i.e., paving a road, inserting piping and plumbing, etc.), and would include an RV park, a restaurant on the canyon bottom, and a gondola.

On the one hand, I sympathize entirely with the plight some of these people face.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to live on a reservation, or what it’s like to live in poverty.  These are situations I have never had to face, and while I can understand on an intellectual level, I have never had to actually experience hunger, or poverty, or what it’s like to not have a decent roof over your head, or anything else these people may or may not have faced.  The Navajo, and the native population in general, has been seriously mistreated and ignored over the past 400 years, and this is a situation that will need to be addressed.  I understand that the Navajo need to find a way to bring in revenue and jobs for their people.  I’ve driven through the reservation when I visited the Grand Canyon last year.  I saw, to a small degree, what the Navajo face.

On the other hand, building a resort in that space that would bring in so many more people will destroy what has been protected and revered for thousands of years.  Imagine what a new paved road would do to the landscape.  Imagine what thousands more people coming into a space that has previously only been visited by a handful at a time in comparison would mean to the environment and the ecosystem.

Imagine how that would affect the plant and animal life in the area.  We know that people are slobs.  Most people ignore the orders not to feed the animals, for example.  A lot of people litter, despite the best efforts of the park services to prevent it.  And a gondola bringing people to the canyon bottom with a restaurant placed there as well–while it sounds like a neat idea, it also sounds like a bad one to me.  I can’t see how that would in any way be a benefit for the ecosystem around that area.  I can see how that would actually detract from the environment and how that would ruin the very thing the tourists are there to see.

I agree that something needs to be done to help the Navajo create jobs.  If this is the absolute only way to help them, then OK.  But I think a plan like this should be a last resort because of the inherent damage it will cause to the environment that they’re also trying to protect.  I just can not see how this plan will be beneficial in any way to the environment of the canyon.

Another issue that I find confusing in this matter–and this likely comes from my own misunderstanding of native practices and which areas are considered sacred to which tribe, so bear with me a bit–but to my understanding, the canyon is considered a sacred area to a number of different tribes.  So not only is it protected by the park service, but it’s also a sacred ancient site for Navajo and other tribes.  Shouldn’t that mean that the Navajo should protect the site rather than build on it?  The question arose while I read the article and I couldn’t find an answer while doing some research online on which tribes consider the canyon area sacred/protected ground.  But according to my understanding of native practices, shouldn’t they be protecting the canyon rather than enacting a plan that would detract from it?

My opinion is that the resort should not be built.  I hope the Navajo can find another way to attract jobs and revenue.  While I think this plan would in fact bring them what they’re looking for in the short run, I think in the long run it would backfire. The canyon would begin to lose its natural appeal because of the massive changes to its environment, and the tourists would eventually stop going to a place that has lost its special appeal, the things which make it alive and wonderful and beautiful.