2015 BND essay

Recently 350.org reminded everyone on their email lists that the Paris meeting (COP 21) on Climate Change starts at the very end of November and called for marches and other events the weekend of November 28th to remind everyone how important it is to rein in the runaway climate train. So I signed the BND Winter Coat Exchange in RI up as a site. Climate change is one of those issues that truly demonstrates the effects of overconsumption, consumerism, and economic inequality on the planet as well as on our communities. Hence the very close alignment between stopping climate change and ending poverty and the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange.

In case anyone needs reminding, this past week the most powerful hurricane winds ever in the Western Hemisphere were part of Hurricane Patricia. That it hit sparsely populated areas, that the word to batten down the hatches was listened to, and that it tore itself up on some mountains just inland is the reason that Mexico is not in mourning. 2015 is on track to be the hottest year ever and the extra warm oceans are fueling some very powerful storms. And some incredible rainstorms in the places the hurricanes are missing like South Carolina and Texas. But it will still be cold in Rhode Island this winter and folks are still going to need winter coats.

Ultimately those who will be harmed most by climate change are those that have burned the least amounts of fossil fuels, the poor living in the lowlands of the tropics. Those least vulnerable to climate change are those living in mansions on the hill, whether it is College Hill or the wealthy suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, and they have burned the most fuel, with big cars, big houses, and lots of airplane rides. And politically the wealthy are also those most preventing nations from moving forward on climate and equality.

To me it seems as if we moved much more radically towards economic justice the economy would work better and we would be much more adept at solving our social ills as well as stopping ecological catastrophes such as climate change. But the Koch Brothers think Democracy is for sale and therefore justice has no place at the table.

In addition to participating in the struggle to stop climate change by creating justice, this year on Buy Nothing Day I would like to salute the owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox for their tin ears and lack of understanding. Tearing up a beloved institution simply because you are rich enough, and thinking you can get what you want from Rhode Island’s legislature because you know a bunch of guys is the same thinking that brings us unrestrained climate change, and just as deadly. I am proud that I was able to contribute to the efforts that stopped the looting of the RI treasury to fill the pockets of the millionaires who constantly told us that they would negotiate with legislative leadership even as we reminded them how little Rhode Islanders like their legislative leadership because leadership is always giving the candy store to their friends and sticking it to the poor in the name of being business friendly. In other words rarely does the legislature do the right thing, So why would we like you stealing $150 million to stick in your pockets based on their say so. I seriously doubt any community is going to be foolish enough to give them millions and millions of dollars from the tax payers as it is becoming more and more evident that building baseball stadiums is NOT economic development. In fact the IMF even went so far as to say giving tax breaks to millionaires in the name of economic development is stupid as it does not work and often makes things worse. And yet this is the only strategy that seems to be on the table in Rhode Island.

And with give aways to the rich the only thing on the table, is it any wonder that more and more Rhode Islanders struggle to keep food on the table, struggle to afford health care, struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Rhode Island is going to move forward, develop into a great place for the 21st Century, only when it eliminates the use of fossil fuels, stops the give aways to the rich, and really gets the idea that healing our ecosystems is absolutely critical if we are to eliminate poverty. It is likely that growing food will be a much bigger part of our economy when we get there. It is this nexus between justice, equality, ecosystem healing, and democracy that will determine whether or not Rhode Island moves forward or backwards in the 21st Century. Buy Nothing Day each year gives us an opportunity to remind the chattering class how wrong headed the policies they offer are, while taking steps that actually benefit the poor and the community. I hope you will join in this celebration on November 27 and donate a winter coat if you can, or come get one if you need it. Volunteers are welcome and needed at all sites.

Early Fall in the Moshassuck Valley

October 8, 2015

The leaves are just starting to turn at the North Burial Ground, the earliest color often on the most damaged trees, but many of the warm season critters have left the stage. The little drainage swale filled up again with the recent rains, but other than mosquito larvae, a few bees, and two or three dragonflies, the drainage swale is pretty quiet. The big pond on the other hand has much more obvious absences. Since the storms and cooler temperatures the Bullfrogs have gone completely missing, or rather there are no longer any bullfrogs along the shore, but the tadpoles that will overwinter in the pond are still visible in the afternoon sun. There must still be something around to eat, as a Great Blue Heron was preening on the turtle log. The same cooler temperatures that sent the Bullfrogs into hibernation seem to have done the same for the Painted Turtles. No turtles have been seen either sunning in the morning or swimming around the pond. I guess I will see them in early April.

Another very noticeable thing is the color of the water. All summer the water is a murky cafe au lait color with almost no visibility. Two inches of water is enough to totally obscure the life. The water is still brown, but it has a clarity that has not been seen since early spring. The algae seem to be taking the winter off too. You can see things on the bottom of the pond a few feet off shore that were totally invisible two weeks ago. Just sort of wasted with no critters to see except for a few tiny fish.

Down river in the tidewater, along Canal St, the menhaden become the dominant living force in August. This year millions of fish came into the river, slowly swimming back and forth, round and round, sucking in algae. The initial wave was young fish, with schools being dominated by 1.5 inch and 3 inch fish. As the season wore on I started seeing small schools of adult menhaden,10 or 12 12 to 14 inch fish, acting just like their smaller relatives. With the rains and cooler temperatures it now appears that nearly all of the small fry have headed for deeper waters and now the downtown rivers are filled with thousands of the adults, and a scattering of 6 inch menhaden. I have seen Great Blue herons in the tidal Moshassuck this fall, and they will feed on any of the larger sizes of menhaden, and one morning this week I saw a Green Heron right below the state house. I hope the fish stick around for a while, as when they head back out into the bay the dominant life form in the river becomes the mallards, and stays that way until spring. As much as I like mallards, they are much less interesting than fish and herons, and a daily does of the interesting makes the walk to and from the office that much nicer.