I don't have anything particularly insightful or entertaining with this update, unfortunately. Prepare yourself for some rambling contemplation. I suppose this blog is as much a tool for collecting and analyzing my own thoughts as much as anything else.
As I alluded to last fall, I've lost the drive which had propelled me for the last decade, namely my concern for climate change and what it's capable of. My hope to encourage and be part of changes which might assure some chance of a survivable biosphere no longer exists. It's become increasingly apparent that the cavalry isn't coming, and is in fact riding at full gallop in the wrong direction, to the cheering of millions of television imbibing, red-hatted Americans. The enemy is no longer pounding at the front gate, but has been invited inside the castle by people who are hoping for just a few more years of what they've come to view as "normal". God help us.
I've spent the last decade doing my imperfect best to preserve a future worth living, and have in fact risked my life to do so, as became quite apparent last fall. In the meantime, I've encountered very few who are similarly motivated, and untold numbers who prefer to ignore our problems. When you're surrounded by people who live only for the day, perhaps it's best to join them since their collective actions make our shared future quite questionable. I still find it disheartening that most people cheer what I consider personal failures (I finally bought an AC unit, after a decade without), and bemoan the few stands I've managed to maintain (such as abstaining from air travel).
Hey, the climate has always changed, so changing it ourselves is nothing to worry about, eh? Do you think anyone has ever mentioned to these folks that significant climate change is what drives most extinction events (such as the one now in play)? Those who hold this sort of half-baked opinion also seem to often hold the idea that "technology will save us!".
If we're going to solve this problem with the same tools that created it, we'd better get crackin'! Half the great-barrier reef died within the last two years. Sea life is in dramatic decline everywhere, as is terrestrial life. Melt rates in the antarctic have tripled in the last decade. If technology "saves" us, what will be left when that finally happens? I suspect that David Buckel probably had a better grasp on this reality than most of us are willing to accept at this stage.
While I no longer feel driven to do much of anything these days, I do still have some long held interests, one of which has grown a bit now that I have some cow-free time on my hands.
Grizzly Adams TV series, which came out when I was 5 years old. I read every biography from the period I could find in my elementary school library. Around age 10, my grandmother gifted me a copy of Mountain Man Crafts and Skills, and I was soon reproducing many of the projects it details. I used the information I gathered there to tan every hide from every deer I've ever shot, all of which I've kept for that "someday" inspired project. This interest subsided and took a back-seat to mountaineering, sailing, and farming, but always flickered somewhere in the back of my mind.
Now that I find myself in Michigan, where mountaineering and sailing aren't weekend possibilities (particularly when you have a farm and thus have no such thing as a weekend), this interest has risen again to the forefront. The purchase of a Pennsylvania style flintlock long-rifle gave it a focus I'd previously lacked.
Thus far, I've made much of what I need to go with the rifle, and had a blast doing it. The list to-date includes a powder horn, bullet flask, a turn-screw (that's the period name for a screwdriver), a shooting bag, shooting box, flint wallet, moccasins, casting my own round-balls, a powder measure, a hand-sewn shirt done to an 18th century pattern, and probably more that I've forgotten. One of the things I love about this is that plastic is strictly verboten.
Getting the flu back at the end of March precipitated a long chain of health events that continue to plague me, and have re-acquainted me with the shortcomings of our increasingly pathetic healthcare system in this country. Private, for profit health insurance and the pay-to-play political system that keeps it alive is a plague, and any politician who supports this status quo is effectively devoted to screwing each and every one of us for personal gain, imho.
The flu started a sinus infection. Then my thyroid began to swell, followed shortly by a swollen knee (which I first assumed was related to my injury last fall), and then half of the other joints in my body (other knee, foot, wrist, jaw, hip...). Doctors have thus far been useful only in what we've been able to rule out.
Over the last month, I've started the ultra-restrictive auto-immune diet with Rachel's assistance, which has cleared up some of the joint issues, but the knee and thyroid swelling remain. Lyme disease appears to be the most likely and least desirable culprit, though my test results aren't back yet, and the testing is plagued with a 50% false negative rate. While there's very little "normal" food I can eat (no grains, eggs, soy, nuts, dairy, legumes, nightshades, etc), I have made two pleasant discoveries. Plantains -- when pureed into a dough -- can make a sort of flat bread which is delicious. Coconut manna, though expensive, is *fantastic*! I think I could eat a $10 jar of that every day.
In the absence of cows, I haven't kept up with mowing or grazing the pastures, so the meadowlarks which usually stop here briefly in the spring (they like to nest in tall grass) have stayed. We've got orioles hanging around with their especially beautiful songs. We're regaled every morning by a nearby house-wren, as well as something I'd previously referred to as an R2-D2 bird because of their never-ending song filled with pops, squeaks and whistles. One of our barn cats provided a specimen for me on the patio one day, so now I've positively identified the R2-D2 bird as a cat bird. A chickadee has taken up residence in a hollowed out fencepost, and regularly sings to us as we walk past. As with most years, we've always got a healthy population of tree and barn swallows. These continually swoop around the horses and I as we're working the hayfields, catching the insects we stir up. Bluebirds are around as always, and we have been regularly seeing a huge pileated woodpecker as well.
I came across a movie lately, which is both incredibly beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I hope you'll watch it not because you want to be saddened, but because you're strong enough to face reality and change the small part of it that you control. That's all anybody can ask of you. It's something to think about next time you're faced with the choice of purchasing anything made of or packaged in plastic. Here's a link to the trailer, and a link to the entire movie as well (which is entirely free).
While we typically assume that our plastic refuse doesn't cause a problem in the local landfill, we're not thinking far enough. Even with the best intentions, the plastic we use eventually makes its way into the natural world where it causes problems. A recent wind storm turned the forest immediately downwind of our local landfill into a plastic-bag wonderland. In poorer countries (10 asian rivers are thought to supply most of the plastic in the world's oceans), there is no such thing as garbage collection. For most pacific islanders (including those in US territories), garbage disposal still involves placing it on the beach at low tide. When hurricanes rip through the Caribbean, all the damaged plastic (i.e. fiberglass) boats are rounded up and simply dumped in deeper water, to say nothing of the terrestrial sources which end up in the same place after such unavoidable events.
My neighbors here throughout rural Michigan burn it, thereby contaminating the soil and waterways with dioxin (which you may be familiar with from the effects of agent orange) which will likely last for centuries if not millennia. Guess who's growing your food and doing this at the same time?
I watched untold quantities of plastic washed into Puget Sound as the Skagit river flooded homes and farms in the 90's. After every 4th of July, I picked it up by the bucket-full from spent fireworks that littered the beach along Puget Sound, where I worked as a junior park ranger in my teens. Events such as tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes release it into the ocean. I suspect that wars are much the same.
A walk along any river here in Michigan will reveal quantities of plastic -- all destined for the Atlantic. Farm fields all around us simply plow it into their soil, because trash blown in from the roadside is too much work to pick up. I find it in purchased hay. Even the wearing of synthetic clothes -- which release micro sized plastic particles into waterways with each washing (these regularly pass through water treatment plants) -- is a significant problem. Plastic particles, known to release endocrine-disrupting compounds, are now so common that they're found inside the flesh of fish and anything that eats them, and are even shown to be penetrating the brain/blood barrier and causing behavioral problems. When we've fully demonstrated to ourselves that we cannot handle a particular technology (whether that's plastics or nuclear energy), it's time to give it up. Are you pulling your load?