Tag Archives: Ecology

The Keystone Pipeline and Eminent Domain: legal theft of private property

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Private Property and the Public Good

In 1985, Susette Kelo, of New London, Connecticut, lost her home via eminent domain to development by Pfizer, an American multi-national pharmaceutical corporation. It happened, thanks to a divided U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v City of New London (1985), which expanded the definition of ‘public good’ to include increased tax revenues and jobs to the local community. Prior to 1985, ‘public good’ meant things like hospitals, roads, airports–in other words, things that benefit the public.
The sole beneficiary of Kelo v City of New London was Pfizer Corporation. After demanding and destroying the homes of private citizens, however, Pfizer built nothing, provided no new tax revenue, and no jobs. But Pfizer did rip the taxpayers off for tens of millions of dollars. Evidently the ‘public good’ in ‘economic development’ meant the Pfizer Corporation.
No matter what the politicians, corporations, and their lawyers concoct to redefine public good, we all see it for what it is: pickpockets finding a legal way to steal.

keystone.map2_-270x300The Keystone Pipeline

In  today’s news, eminent domain rears its ugly head as an unintended consequence of the Keystone Pipeline project. No matter which side of the political divide you’re on, the government having the right to take your private property to a developer is complete and utter nonsense. Why anyone supports this debacle that will graetly benefit a private corporation in Canada, with dubious to non-existent benefits to U.S. citizens, as well as the potential destruction of our landscape is beyond rationality.

Canada has rules, you see, prohibiting oil pipelines snaking across their land. But not ours. Taking advantage of the absurdity of the Supreme Court decision as well as weakened environmental laws (thanks to the GOP), the non-USA company, Trans Canada Corporation plans to build this controversial pipeline project all across the midsection of our land, and is filing condemnation lawsuits for the property they’ll need for the pipeline all along the way.

Before they even have the permits to build the pipeline.

Trans Canada Corp used the same Supreme Court decision to condemn private property that Pfizer Corp used in the City of New London. Moving oil across a continent is considered ‘for the public good,’ evidently.

These suits are very expensive for a private citizen to fight. Some people, like the Crawfords in Texas, are fighting and have taken to the internet to get some help from the rest of us. A group of Nebraska landowners banded together and have filed suit against their state for selling them out.

Neither God nor Money Can Stop It…

In my ecofantasy novel Corvus Rising, the iconic and enchanted Wilder Island is threatened by an condemnation lawsuit brought by a wealthy developer who has asked the local government to condemn the island under eminent domain and sell it to him. He plans to scrape it clean of the thousands of native birds on the island, as well as all the wild wilderness of  trees, and build a gambling resort open to the public.

That there is a humble yet consecrated chapel on the island, or that the island and the chapel are owned by the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church, is irrelevant. Neither God nor the wealth of the Vatican can stop Eminent Domain.

Neither in Corvus Rising, nor in 21st century America can even the uber-wealthy Catholic Church stop eminent domain.

As Bad as Citizens United

The one way around eminent domain is public outcry. Let’s hold on to each other’s hands on this rare issue upon which we are not divided. We must stand together, across the political divide. Stand with the Crawfords and all the others in the path of the Keystone Pipeline.

That’s what the birds did, the heroes in Corvus Rising.
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The Ants Go Marching…and marching…and marching

…until death do they part.

Ants-300x240Us and Them

Ever since I wrote Corvus Rising, I’ve considered in great depth and detail how the other living beings on Earth are more like us than not. We humans are fond of viewing our species at the top of the evolutionary ladder that we invented to explain the differences in anatomy and intelligence between Us and Them.

Our species is evidently highly favored: the very Deity we invented created Us to have dominion over Them.

More and more, however, it is apparent that our world view of creation is all wrong.

In the case of the corvidae (crows, ravens, magpies, jays…) we now know that their brains are very nearly the same size as ours (proportional to their bodies) and that they are not only intelligent, but sentient as well. (The Gifts of the Crow, Mazluff, 2012)

And then there’s that little pufferfish, whose connection to the Universe I share. Blows me away. We are all hooked into the same life-giving forces, by whatever deity you or I wish to call it. I like to call it Art.

Them Ants…

Ants are pretty cool; among my favorite books as a child was The City Under the Back Steps—a marvelous story of a couple of kids who magically get shrunk down to ant size.

Ant_Receives_Honeydew_from_AphidThe children are shown all around the colony by the ants, and were instructed (as I was) in many of the ways of all ants. For instance: the ants kept herds of aphids and milked them for the sugars the little buggers sucked out of the rosebush. They really do that.  (Read more about how ants milk aphids here…)

Natural science from a fictional children’s book: a marvelous way to learn.

I am a fan of ants, more or less. As long as they don’t invade my house or sting me.

I watched nervously one summer as a gigantic ant colony constructed a subterranean civilization around the size of Denver (relatively speaking, of course) in my backyard.

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Click image for more info about ants & ant colonies

The problem with the humongous ant colony in my back yard: their sheer numbers so close to where I live.  They kept opening up exits and entrances all over the place, including right next to the porch and back steps. Made me nervous.

These are the kind of ants with the big jaws on their heads connected a sack of poison on the other end that is at least a third the size of their whole bodies.

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Black Garden Ant.

Ant bites are bad news. Painful bad news. Every time one injects me with its personal stash of formic acid, it’s worse than the time before. So I am looking a little askance at the city under my back steps. I don’t want them there, but there they are.

And I am outnumbered. Pathetically outnumbered.

My father used to pour gasoline down ant holes and light it. Horrifying. So are pesticides. I do believe the ants have a right to be alive and pursue their ant-like goals. Just not so close to my soft, living flesh.

I didn’t want to kill them. I just wanted them to move. I flooded them out with the garden hose, a slow trickle of water that filled up the vast network of caverns and passageways. Jillions of ants floated up and out; most found things to cling to and rode the current to edge of dry land where they disemarked.

As soon as I turned off the water, the ants went to work re-building what I had ruined. The next day, I filled the ant hole up again, and ants bubbled up again. When the flood stopped, the ants started building again. I marveled that none of them went belly up on the sidelines, waving their six little legs in the air, otherwise whining and bellyaching about unfair the universe is, or how hard their lives are.

We do that. The animals don’t. They get over it and get on with living.sad-bug-with-napsack-smaller

Why can’t we?

The end of the ant story: I kept watering the ant hole and they kept rebuilding. I admired the hell of them. No complaining, no retaliation. Just one foot in front of the other five, and with a pebble in each jaw, they rebuilt.

And I kept destroying. We went on like this for days, me alternately admiring them and destroying them; the ants just kept rebuilding.

Persistence is Everything

They finally moved. They got sick of it, evidently, of spending all their time rebuilding their colony after the continued disaster I brought them. So they moved, lock stock and nursery to the alley behind the house.

Beyond the reach of my hose…

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Banksy

 

 

 

Angry Crows…

Respecting the Earth and All Its Inhabitants (Book Excerpt)

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Excerpt from Corvus Rising, by author, geologist, and artist, Mary Simmons.

Written from the perspective of a group of intelligent crows and ravens, the Corvids, Corvus Rising sheds light on the environmental destruction taking place in our world in the name of progress, economic development, jobs and greed.

Simmons wants readers to realize the importance of preserving and respecting nature and the environment.  “Corvus Rising presents the issues humorously with a suggestion that just maybe one day animals will get fed up enough to fight back.” —Editor Post, Living Green Magazine

Alfredo picked up his mic, leaving his partially eaten lunch on the table. “Why do we need wilderness at all?” he said to the crowd. “I would like to answer that with a quote from Edward Abbey, noted author and outspoken defender of wilderness.”

He pulled a small notebook out of his shirt pocket and read: “‘The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the Earth, the Earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.’”

A few people clapped. Alfredo smiled as he closed the notebook and put it back in his pocket.

“Too bad most of us will never see it!” a man in the back shouted.

“Somewhere along the way,” Alfredo said, ignoring the heckler, “we gave ourselves dominion over the Earth, which has all but severed our connection to the web of life. We built great cities, where we concentrated power and wealth, while we impoverished our spirits and our wild lands…”

CorvusRisingCover2The crowd had grown. A few crows collected in the trees surrounding the bandstand, staring down at Alfredo. Or was it his lunch?

“Cities weigh heavily on the hearts of men and women,” he continued, “and we must be able to escape them, even if it is just in our imaginations. In wilderness, we find ourselves. As we cherish one of our last wild places, let us become aware of our connection to it and impose surrender upon ourselves.”

“Surrender?” the man at the back of the crowd shouted. “Never!”

”Yes,” Alfredo said, “Surrender. The old hermit, Brother Wilder, surrendered to the wilderness we are now trying to preserve. He chose this wild island as a refuge from the world of cities and men, and spent his life in solitary contemplation of the glory of creation.”

“Who has time for that?” the man in the back shouted.

“Some of us have to actually work for a living!” someone yelled.

Anger surged in Alfredo’s chest. “While most people do not desire such lengthy solitude, it is through these pristine and unaltered wild lands that our spirits connect us to the Earth. As we gaze upon our island from across the river, its wilderness lives within us all; let us not now throw it away for a few pieces of silver.”

The crowd cheered and many clapped. A small crow dropped from the sky onto the table, and beaked a noodle from Alfredo’s plate.

Alfredo turned off his mic and said, “Well, hello little fella!”

“Don’t you know me, Jayzu?” the crow said, looking up.

“Of course I know you!” Alfredo said in a very low voice. “Grawky, JoEd!” He smiled and put out his hand. JoEd brushed it with his wingtip.

“Grawky, Jayzu!”

Nine more crows dropped down to the table, all talking at once.

 

Mary Simmons is a geologist by education and an artist by avocation. Simmons holds a Masters in Science in geology, worked for the US Geological Survey, and has published several scientific papers. Based on her background and expertise in geology, Simmons has a deep interest in the preservation of wilderness and creatures in the face of human development of land. As for her creative side, Simmons enjoys writing, making pottery and jewelry, and painting. Simmons uses clay and ground up rocks from the local landscape to make potters clay and glazes. She currently resides on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For more information on her book, Corvus Rising, please visit http://www.authormarycsimmons.com/

Source: http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/04/29/mother-nature/respecting-the-earth-and-all-its-inhabitants-book-excerpt/#U3MiyIMB9CPflWBQ.99

The Little Pufferfish Who Could

…build her a castle

Art in the Sand

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Click on image for extraordinary video: Art of the Pufferfish

I am totally charmed. Who knew pufferfish are masters of art and architecture?
The scientific powers that be attribute the whole thing to a mating ritual and the sole purpose of the pufferfish’s activity is to impress a female.
Not me, though.

Mission Accomplished

I am impressed. Thoroughly and completely.

I feel a certain kinship to this pufferfish, who pulls his vision from the sand. I work in clay—rarely if not never do I sketch things out first on paper. It’s not that I cannot draw, it’s that paper is but two dimensional, and clay is three. For me, it’s just easier to ‘draw,’ so to speak, with the clay in the first place.

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Archimedes Flight, 2006, Ceramic sculpture by Mary C Simmons

The pufferfish didn’t draw it all out first either, for obvious reasons. No paper, no writing utensils, no thumbs…just an internal vision that drove his entire body in the performance of art. That’s how I do it too, engrossed in my task and operating from an internal vision that informs my hands to construct the compendium of details that comprise the whole.

Art and Sentience

We humans draw a firm boundary between ourselves and the rest of creation, based on a standard (set by us) of intelligence and sentience, which undergoes periodic redefinition to exclude all of creation except us. Originally defined as the ability to feel and perceive, the definition was expanded to include an ability to suffer. Once we started noticing that all animals have that ability, self-awareness became the defining quality of sentience.

I can’t imagine how the pufferfish created his art without an awareness of himself in his oceanic landscape of water and sand. Why is it that the creation of art is an instinctual mating ritual in the animals, but a sign of sentience and intelligence in us?

satin-bower-bird-nestUntil the pufferfish first maps out his sculpture on paper or via computer graphics, or when the bowerbirds use differential equations to construct their nests, they’ll never even approach us intelligence-wise. Cool that we get to not only set the standard, but keep changing it as well so as to exclude all that is non-human. But why?

I am over-awed and comforted by my kinship with the little pufferfish creating a work of art the same way I do—from an internal vision, using his physical body. I doubt very much, however, that I could create this or any piece of art with my nose. From that perspective, the pufferfish is quite a bit more talented than I am.

 

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Animal Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Heaven, Cow Heaven

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First Cut

I live at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Snowmelt provides an amazing amount of water to the Gunnison River Basin, as is evident by the acres and acres of hay pastures and small herds of grazing cows. And a few horses. A few thousand humans are scattered across this landscape, which provides a natural and spectacularly scene of pasture and mountains.
The valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison hosts a surprising population of artists, organic farmers, vintners, amid happy cows munching on red clover, alfalfa and grass. Less visible, yet as happy as the other bovines, goats, pigs, and chickens have found a good life here.
As have I. Everything I need to nourish body and soul: they grow peaches here, for one. The landscape is astonishingly beautiful. Organic farming, always a plus.
And this is cow heaven. No feedlots here, no concentration of a large number of animals on a small piece of land.
This is good.
I want my future beef to be happy, well fed on grass, and gently ‘processed.’

Animal Screams

Fortunately for me and the ranchers, a few very small meat processing facilities are located in the valley. Small is good. I loathe and despise the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, where cows are mired in manure and urine-saturated pens and fed a mixture of grains, hormones and antibiotics. But this is not happening here in Cow Heaven. I gaze out on these pastures of cows and grass, idyllic in the full height of summer glory. And it is good.

Pigs+to+slaughterThen I heard the screams. An animal in complete, shrieking terror being offloaded into a slaughter house that I had assumed by it’s very smallness would fulfill the destiny, the very birthright, of cattle born in this valley. A respectful peaceful death…

Mere words are so very flat and lack the dimension to describe the dreadful horror of this animal’s last experience as a living creature. It was unbearable. How is that we humans are so cruel? To our food, each other, the landscape, the Earth?
I’m tempted to become a vegetarian, perhaps to cleanse and absolve me of this horror. But I don’t think it’s wrong to eat animals. It’s not wrong to eat anything. But it is wrong to torture our food before we eat it.

You are what you Eat

Who are we, who eat GMO corn-fed, pharmaceutically engineered flesh? Shot full of adrenaline and fear in the moments before it’s death, the animal will be cut up and packaged.

We will eat it. Far from the scene of it’s life and terrified death, the package does not resemble a living animal, whose screams are silent, but the aftermath of fear lives on in us.

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Wild Law, Earth Law—a profound equality

Wild Law or Earth Jurisprudence is an emerging theory of law and governance that seeks to evolve law in a fashion that recognises our relationship to the broader Earth community.—Peter D. Burdon, University of Adelaide – School of Law

gravityLaws vs Legal Systems

There’s the Law, and there’s the law. One governs Nature, the other governs us (in theory).

Gravity is a Law that is not subject to debate. Breaking or ignoring gravity’s law will ultimately lead to death of the organism.

Legal systems on the other hand are subject to continual debate and change, which is a good thing, given human reason and rationality. Legal systems violations lead to inconvenience, fines, jail terms, and only in unusual cases (relative to the entire US prison population), death.

Wild Law is a legal system that is based on the well being of the Earth, and it requires the human recognition that “…the well-being of each member of the Earth Community is derived from, and cannot take precedence over, the well-being of Earth as a whole.”

The well being of each member of the Earth community is equal in rights to all other members of the Earth community. Equal in the right to exist and fulfill its evolutionary purpose.

This is a declaration of a complete and profound equality that spans the entire Earth—all plants, animals, all rivers, lakes, oceans, landscapes and skies. All equal.

The well-being of the planet depends on it, and will eventually rid itself of that which does not promote well-being.

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Illusion                                            Reality

That would be us.

Wild Law. It’s for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivir Bien: The Wild Law of Mother Earth

BELLO+TRONCO+DE+LA+PACHAMAMA“She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

Her human version, as the English translation of the Spanish translation of the original Inca goddess have it, is Pachamama. Earth Mother, Mother Earth, depending on the structure of your language. She rules over crops and all growing things.

Protecting Pachamama

On April 1, 2014, Bolivia passed a new and highly controversial environmental law that in the words of President Evo Morales is about “…how to live in harmony, balance, and complementarity with nature, without which there is no life or humanity.”

The law’s intention is Vivir Bien or ‘Good Living,’ and derives its principles from the world view of indigenous Andean cultures. Vivir Bien aims to reinforce the integral nature of  spiritual, environmental, and cultural realms within the 21st century human economic and societal structures. Which means that our economic and societal structures should be governed by spiritual, environmental and cultural considerations, rather than the other way around as is our current mode.

And if we do not, our own extinction is guaranteed. Pachamama will get over us in less time than the entire panorama of human history. But there is hope, thanks to these South American, forward-thinking politicians. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to enact a Rights of Nature clause into its Constitution, which views the natural world as an integrated assemblage of living organisms rather than property.

Among its many aspects, Bolivia’s law recognizes the right of all organisms to not have their genes tampered with.

Two thumbs up.

Perhaps the most novel and welcome concept of this new law is the recognition that humans and all other entities on Earth are equal.

Imagine…

 

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Ecofantasy?

What’s that?

It’s a state of mind…a vision of an alternative future, where all of Earth’s inhabitants have the right to be alive, each to its own individual perception of the world, and each with a unique voice that sings its own song of creation. All the animals, plants, rocks, air, and water–everyone.

Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_KingdomWhere the Wild Law rules…

“…wild law is a law made by people to regulate human behaviour that privileges maintaining the integrity and functioning of the whole Earth community in the long-term, over the interests of any species (including humans) at a particular time.”
—Cormac Cullinan, author, Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice

Even Rivers have the “…right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” (http://therightsofnature.org/ecuador-rights/)

Even unto personhood—
In 2012, New Zealand gave the Whanganui River ‘personhood rights’ (http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/river-new-zealand-granted-legal-rights-person.html)

Ecofantasy

The idea of rights of nature is still an ecological fantasy in the overall human consciousness. I offer my vision of a not-too distant Earth, a planet, alive with organisms, including the entities of rock, air, water that we deem ‘non-living’ but are alive in ways we cannot fathom.

Toward this vision, I wrote my first novel, Corvus Rising, an ecofantasy of crows, humans, sentience, and the idea that we have the ability to communicate verbally across species boundaries.

 

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