Sunday, October 3, 2021

At Your Age

I've made it from surfer to vagabond sailor to responsible adult. The last part might still be in question. I got married, had two amazing daughters, got divorced, met a fantastic woman that puts up with me and my boat addiction and I'm still here.

I've managed to get through all this intact health wise. I have always been very active but without a real work out program. I eat mostly healthy but am not a fanatic of any type of diet. I drink occasionally and over do it sometimes but not very often and really don't drink too much or even daily. I have never broken a bone that's needed a cast, I've never had a surgery or any type of hospital stay and I rarely even get sick.

A while back I was stopped in traffic on the freeway, a common occurrence here in Southern California, and while sitting at a dead stop a car plowed into my backside at speed and then another plowed into him and hit me a second time. I was definitely shaken up a bit and I just sat there in my car.

Soon the police and ambulance arrived. The two guys behind me were hurt far worse than I. I was really ok apart from being a little dizzy. The EMT finally came up to my door and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said no thank you and thought I was really ok. He then said I could leave if my car still worked. It did, I went home and took the rest of the day off. The next day I went to a repair place for the car. It was totaled and the insurance quickly paid it off. 

A couple of months later I tripped when visiting my daughter in Tennessee. When I fell it was unexpected and I landed on my face and scraped my nose up too. I never trip and when it looked like I might I would always recover and say it was because I was a surfer. However, I started getting cramps in my legs and I felt my right foot was dragging a bit.

I really never went to a doctor. I didn't like hospitals and I hate needles, even hate seeing then in a movie. I had Kaiser insurance through work so I made an appointment. They said I needed to select a primary doctor so I picked one nearby and went to see him. He asked a few questions and sent me off for blood tests. I mentioned I was rear ended on the freeway and he dismissed that and said it was probably just my age. He said in his visit report it could be neuropathy. I hated the idea of needles and giving blood but did so and ended up going back 4 more times all for different tests. All my tests came back right in the middle of healthy range. My blood pressure was great. I had an EKG, urine analysis, etc. and all came back normal. The doctors final thoughts were that I was very healthy and was quite boring as a patient. He could not see anything wrong except that but I was having more issues with my legs as time went on.

The doctor recommended a Neurologist and I went to see her. She did nerve conduction studies and more blood tests. My nerves seemed to be ok down to my ankles and then things shut down. I mentioned the accident and she said no it was probably neuropathy due to diabetes. When more blood test came back and showed I was not even pre-diabetic she said I had idiosyncratic neuropathy. I asked what that is and she said I have neuropathy but she had no clue why and suggested that at my age I should just get fitted for leg braces. Of course, as a good patient I said "Leg Braces? No F..ing way!" So now what? I had no answers and no suggestions from Kaiser.

Later, I was down at my boat and ran across a friend I have sailed with many times. He asked what was wrong and I explained what was happening. He said his son was a chiropractor and I should go see him. Since I had nothing from Kaiser I decided to go see my friend's son. I walked in and he asked me what was going on. After I told him and took a few steps for him he said it's your L4, L5, and S1. You need x-rays and an MRI right away.

I went back to Kaiser and asked for x-rays. Reluctantly they said ok and I got a series of x-rays. They would not approve an MRI. A couple weeks later the doctor report said my L3, L4, and L5 were bone on bone. Then they said I needed to see a back specialist. I had that appointment about a week later. She looked at my x-rays and said this isn't unusual for someone my age. She would not approve an MRI and suggest leg braces. Once again I said "Leg braces are you F..ing kidding me? No way!"

I thought, now what? I had recently signed up for Medicare and I already hated dealing with the medial bureaucracy. Luckily a friend recommend an insurance specialist to wade through changing plans and what I really needed. Now with that finally done, I have a new primary doctor and a new back specialist that ordered X-rays and MRIs immediately and not just for my lower back but upper back and neck too.

Hopefully now I will have a better recommendation than leg braces. But at my age...who knows! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Real World



It was a hot and busy Friday afternoon of the Memorial Day weekend. I was in from San Diego and had completed some work in Newport, Rhode Island and was driving to visit relatives in Stony Point, NY. After a 3 ½ hour drive and now about to go across to the Tappan Zee Bridge, I hit stopped traffic – brutal even for a southern Californian.

The last few miles before the bridge are beautiful rolling green hills with trees in full bloom but no one was noticing the scenery in the stopped traffic, road construction, and the push to get the long weekend started. For me, I was just about out of gas and no clear place to get off the 287 nor how to get back on. I hoped I could make it across the bridge to Nyack.

The traffic actually started to move a bit as I approached the bridge. I was going to make it. I made it up over the highest part and on the downhill glide, the dreaded happened. I ran out of gas on the Tappan Zee Bridge at about 5:30 PM on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. @&*!

I thought this is going to be bad. I was going to have the wrath of the entire traffic jam on me. I put on my flashers, glided along in my rental car until I came to a stop about 400 yards short of the end of the bridge. I pulled tight against the right side guard rail but I was thinking I might fare better by jumping into the Hudson than dealing with irate New Yorkers.

I called AAA immediately and found they didn’t come onto the bridge – now what? As I sat in the car while the traffic eased around me, I was amazed that there were no horns blaring nor yelled expletives at my predicament and within a few minutes a highway patrol officer rolled up.
Based on all the recent negative news stories about cops, I thought he’d draw his gun, shoot me in the car and then just push the whole mess into the river with the huge push bars on the front of his cruiser. No trouble any longer.

Instead he walked up to the window and asked what was wrong. I told him I was an idiot and just ran out of gas and that I called AAA. He could not have been nicer. He confirmed that AAA would not come out to the bridge and I told him I would call a relative. He told me they couldn’t come on to the bridge either. Then he said he would call the highway service guys. I asked how that worked and he just said they would bring out some gas. When I asked how much all this was going to cost, he said he didn’t know and walked back to his patrol car to make the call.

Again, its 5:30 on Friday afternoon. I thought, ok, if they do come, it will be at least two hours before anyone makes it out here so I just sat back and tried to relax for the wait. I sat there thinking there were no horns or screaming. People were politely making it around my nuisance. Then the cop, he really was very nice – maybe he was more used to idiots running out of gas on the bridge than I realized - came back up to my car to tell me that they should be on their way. As he was explaining this, a big truck with flashing lights was pulling up behind the patrol car. I said this looks like them. He said, “Yup and have a nice weekend”, got in his car and took off.

Then two burly men in the truck jumped out. Ok, here it comes, at least a verbal beating is all I’ll get since they couldn’t very well do much more to me in front of all the traffic. However, they just said, “Out of gas?” “Yea, sorry” I pleaded. They took control, grabbed the gas can and a funnel from the back of their truck. When I tried to grab the funnel to show that I wasn’t completely incompetent, they just said they would do it so I didn’t get any gas on me. 

They put a couple of gallons in the tank, said the first gas station was exit 11 and have a nice weekend. I said, “Wait, that’s it, how much?” They said again that’s it, have a nice weekend. I asked if they could stop at exit 11 and I could at least give them a tip or buy them a 6-pack for their weekend but they said, “No, you’re good to go.”

I got back in the car, started her up and fell back in line with the traffic. I drove the rest of the way to my relative’s house not quite believing what just happened. A San Diegan runs out of gas on the Tappan Zee Bridge at the height of rush hour on a Friday of a three day weekend. Anyone would think that is one of the worst possible things to happen in NY but instead the whole thing took about 20 minutes and everyone was pleasant, polite, and friendly. Then I realized this is what our country is really all about. I really appreciate the officer, the two highway workers, and all the drivers on the bridge that day for reminding me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Value?

Seems to me there are two serious contradictions going on the world and until we get these straight we may have a harder time understanding real economics. Both stemmed from a recent trip to SF as I helped my daughter get settled into an apartment for her next year at SFSU - cost and labor vs. value.

She needed some things for the apartment - basics - a chair, a room divider, etc. We checked out some things on Craigslist and garage sales but in my limited time couldn't find everything we needed so we took a trip to Target. 

Target has been held up as an example of good business. We went to find a chair. We found a lovely little chair with a metal frame and a sewn blue fabric seat and back. It was $5.15. Great deal right! Right? I can't see how it possible the chair was $5. Yes, it was on sale for 50% off but lets look at it at full price of $10.30.

First there are raw materials the need to be sourced - metal and fabric. They then have to be fabricated. For the metal - extruded into a tube, then cut and bent to shape, then finished with a color and a clear coat finish. The fabric had to be died, cut and sewn to fit. Not only are there the costs of the raw materials but then you add the cost of a human's labor. Then it gets packaged with some plastic wrap, a few tags are attached, probably boxed in bulk, put into a container, shipped across the ocean to a distribution center, put on a truck, delivered to the store, unpacked for display. All these steps have either more materials or more human labor along the way. Then Target has overhead and needs to sell the product at a profit.

So how is it possible that this chair is only worth $10 at full price. Somehow I feel the raw material side of the picture is also more valuable than the human contribution in getting the chair to its ultimate consumer - me. And I bought it thinking I got a good deal but later thinking how the process might have caused pain for many along the way.

So what is "value"? Where does it come from? How is it determined?

Later we went to Ikea - another company held up as a good business and I have to believe the organizational skills needed to make a company like Ikea work have to be amazing. Anyone that has been to Ikea sees all the great stuff and cool design at inexpensive pricing. I wonder if the same process happens as it does with the $10 chair. 

Further, Ikea was crowded with college students like my daughter picking out beds, shelves, desks, chairs, lamps, etc. And what happens with these things after a year or maybe two of use? It all ends up in landfills which then add to the real cost of that product which rarely, if ever, is considered.

To be sustainable, we have to provide a sustainable way of life to the humans that are on this lowest wrung of the labor force. We need to plan for the real end of life of the product and consider it part of the real cost. Finally, we need to really look hard at recycling in a different way.

A nice solid wood chair from a garage sale at $10 is a far better deal. Recycled, built to last, real value, will get passed on again, etc. That is value.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Everything is Fukushima'd Up

28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima
1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores
Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.
The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.
2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…
At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die.   It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”
3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low.  Many are blaming Fukushima.
4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.
5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.
6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.
7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.
8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.
9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…
• 73 percent of mackerel tested
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish
10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…
Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.
11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish
“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”
12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.
13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.
14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.
15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.
18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.
19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.
20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year
Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.
21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.
22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.
23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning
“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”
24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time.  Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…
Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.
Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.
Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.
25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…
The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.
If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.
There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.
You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…
NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.
26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.
27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.
28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…
“Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.”
Are you starting to understand why so many people are so deeply concerned about what is going on at Fukushima

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stop Talking

Its been nearly a year since I made my last blog entry. How fast the time goes! It hasn't been for lack of things to say, nor thoughts about everything from education to politics to business to travels. No, I probably have plenty to say and I think that is the problem.

There are too many people talking - hundreds of channels on TV, newspapers, magazines, and probably millions of blogs - the sound is deafening. And is anyone really listening? With all that is available I didn't think I could add any real value. Yes, about my opinions there will be some agreement, some disagreement too, and inevitably it could open the issue for discussion. However, I believe, to a large extent our minds are already made up. Your glass is half full or it's half empty and trying to change that isn't easy.

Should we even try to change it really? Isn't it up to an individual to get self educated? The schools really don't provide for that. I think most of us believe they are broken. But everyone that has a passion can learn about a subject with the brilliance of a Gallileo. We have all seen this. The kid that can't do math can instantly figure batting averages or the one struggling with history can learn the entire history of Ferrari including every model and every race driver.

So I don't think learning is the issue. Is it then convincing one another of values? There are certainly issues with values yet we live in a world that is far more tolerant that just a few decades ago and still not tolerant at all. The Who just played the Super Bowl and they were great, yet in the world where those guys first came together things were very different (I won't do any sport analogies). At the time The Who first formed interracial marriage wasn't accepted, most gay people were still in the closet, and women didn't have the rights they do now. Of course more work is needed but the point is that collective values have evolved over time yet we seem more divided than ever.

If we look to other countries, they survive with quite different values. In a time where our President was denying sex with another woman, the French Prime Minister's funeral was attended by both his wife and his mistress. Please don't misunderstand me here. I am not making judgements for or against - I am just stating facts.

The reality is all the little judgements that can be made serve only to seperate us, not have us come together. Attitudes of some being better than others drive further wedges and hatred. For some reason these are things that get fed.

I want to start feeding something else. I want to start feeding understanding. I know that most people are burdened with many things from childhood, race, economic situation, religion and much more. Again these are all dividers. Understanding and compassion for one another is the only way to move forward. Respect is also key. We don't always need to agree but if we can have respect there can be understanding.

Love - love is an overused word with some perhaps negative connotations associated with it. However we do need to love one another. Love is the culmination of respect, understanding, and compassion and its the only way we can move peacefully forward.

And we do need to find God again. It doesn't matter what you call Him or where you live on the planet. I know all paths ultimately lead to the same place. I can't believe anyone can go through a day and not feel the wonder of God all around us. I think it would take a pretty closed off mind not to see it. It is interesting that many nurses - who are often around more than anyone else at the time of death - tell stories of the dying person looking up and speaking to people that seem to be visible near the ceiling (angels perhaps?) - and this is true across differences of age, race, religion, money, family or alone. The vision at death is always the same and this certainly points to a common place and a common God too.

So I am going to sign off this blog for a while - I have said enough. I apologize for being too talkative, too opinionated, too judgemental. I apologize to anyone I have hurt physically or through my words or even in my inaction.

I want to go out and listen to what the wind tells me and what the smell of the sea says. I want to hear the sunrise in the silence of the mountains and experience the color that abounds. I want to do what is worthy and good and talking has lost its place in that. I will go quietly in understanding, respect, compassion and love and I will follow my God as this is really the only worthwhile endeavor.

(and don't forget the global population of Bees is in decline)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fisherman Past

I have always had an obsession with boats. I think its part of my DNA. One summer I found myself in Maine as the captain of a beautiful, brightly painted, and fast former racing catamaran converted for day charter trade and tourists.

Even after the conversion from steed to cattle wagon, the cat was still fast. The word got out and soon I was busily making two trips a day from our berth along the working waterfront of Portland. The cat would be filled with tourists wanting to experience the beauty of the many islands sprinkled throughout Casco Bay.

In the evening, after the cat was put safely to bed, I would often walk up the cobblestone streets of the town to have some dinner and wash down the salt spray with a few beers. Some nights I'd run into other friends and the few beers sometimes turned into a few too many. On those nights I’d walk back down to the dock and crawl aboard the cat for a peaceful night’s sleep swaying with the tug of the tide and hearing the wonderful sound of the stretch of dock lines. It sometimes made me think the cat was alive, tugging at her leash, just waiting to run again – perhaps for warmer water and sunnier climes south.

One, "too late night", I slowly wondered back to the boat. Sitting on a bench right in front of the cat was what appeared to be another drunken sailor. When he saw me it gave him the opportunity to launch into a diatribe about what is wrong with the world. Everything that he was spewing about was embodied in the brightly colored cat taking tourists out to his old fishing grounds that had now been fished out and the world was in ruin.

This man’s name was Fawny Dowdy. He had more wrinkles in his face than I had ever seen and that one distinction, I learned later, earned him the cover of National Fisherman Magazine. His hands were like leather and although he must have been well into his 80s he still had the appearance of a very strong man. I listened carefully to his rant and even though I had too much to drink too, I was alert and the chill of a Maine summer evening was reviving me. He carried on for what must have been an hour and when he realized I was the captain of this evil machine, the hatred was now directed to me personally. I continued to listen until he finally had to come up for air. I took that pause to say that I understood what he was talking about.

Portland had a wonderful working waterfront that was being taken over by pleasure boat marinas and condo developers. We were sitting on one of the last two working piers. Fishing grounds had been decimated by new techniques, GPS, factory ships, and the greed of distant ship owners supplying an ever increasing and demanding market with no consideration of the finite limits of a fishery. The population grew along the waterfront and the houses men of the sea like Fawny lived in were no longer affordable.

I think when I said I understood, he had a realization that perhaps he and I were closer than he first thought. He loved boats, knew them all, all the designs, he knew how they all sailed. He loved the big schooners he went off to fish on and he loved little dinghies to play around the harbor in when he was home. He loved rowing a good peapod and he loved the look and feel of a good lobster boat. I actually was cut from the same cloth.

As we discussed our mutual love for boats in general and special appreciation of the right curve of a bow or the sweet shape of tumblehome we developed a friendship. I explained to him that I respected all that he knew and helped to develop to get us to this point where I could now still work in boats. My boat was a crazy colored cat meant to catch tourists but there were more similarities than differences. He explained to me how in days past they would sail big schooners right onto an island beach at high tide. Then at low they would scrape, repair, and paint the bottoms before the tide filled back in, then on the next tide they would let her layover on her other side. Then I would shoot back excitedly with a story of how we hit 18 knots on a broad reach. He was interested and excited too at that number never having gone that fast.

It ended up a beautiful night and by the time the sun was brightening the eastern sky, we had sobered up and were just having fun talking story. It was time for Fawny to go off to wherever he actually lived and I needed a few hours sleep before the first group of tourists came aboard. I invited Fawny to come sailing on the cat with me and while he said I will one day, I knew it wouldn’t happen.

The world of Fawny Dowdy had passed. It was a different day when a wooden schooner could lie on her side at low tide for some maintenance. Today, you would need permission from the waterfront landowner who lived in New York and would then need to get a permit and that would only be after an environmental impact study was done by a certified company specializing in waterfront studies. When that study was reviewed, instructions would then be given as to what tides it were allowed to happen, the most extreme angle the schooner was allowed to lay over, the number of people required to guide her down all wearing lifejackets and hard hats of course. Then a floating boom would surround the area so as to not let any debris escape and a certified hazardous waste crew would need to be standing by in case some fuel from any of the cabin lamps spilled into the water. This would need to be applied for approximately two years before the attempted grounding because of the backlog of paperwork in the different agencies offices. In addition fish counts had to be checked to see if this schooner was in compliance with limits set by an expert in Washington while the Japanese factory ship sits out 12 ¼ miles off the coast basically stealing everything this schooner was meant to work in.

That night with Fawny was over 20 years ago and he no longer knew how to handle the crazy bureaucratic mess we built. Now more than 20 years on and its only become worse. Email, video games, Facebook, Myspace, social networking, cell phones that can search the internet and play movies and more, lets us avoid any personal contact. There is only a desire to get more for me, not to know how our neighbor is doing, no community support for older folks that can’t go for a walk any longer because the city’s sidewalks are so broken up. I think the world has now passed me by too and now I understand where Fawny was coming from even more.

We are no longer free and the greed and corruption in big business and politics have finally run the course and run our liberty into the dirt. The regulations, deregulations, hidden payoffs, taxes, permits are out in the public eye and no one really seems to care. Known thieves hide out in million dollar penthouses in full public view while devastated elders that had their saving stolen have no recourse and struggle with poverty. How can this be?

Well, I guess one good use of my cell phone will be that it automatically alerts me when my permit is finally ready so I can lay my schooner over on a an island beach at high tide.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Think From The Perspective of our Grandchildren

This is an essay from Jim Gilbert, author, entrepreneur, sailor, surfer, fisherman... he says it clearly and better than I.

We waited until late morning, after the fog and mist had begun to lift, to enter a narrow, braided section of the King Salmon River. “It’s full of grizzly,” our fishing guide had explained. “The last thing we want to do is turn a corner in the fog and startle one!”

The water was so shallow it forced us out of our aluminum skiff. Banging on the sides as we went, we slowly pushed the boat downstream, staring at the hundreds of fresh bear tracks pressed deeply into the nearby sandy banks.

After a quarter of a mile, the stream became wider and straighter and the water grew smooth and still except for the swirls and splashes of thousands upon thousands of fish. Under the brightening mid-August Alaskan sky, the river turned crimson with sockeye salmon, their teeming, spawning bodies pressed together as far as we could see over the gently rolling gravel bars. “Welcome to the Red Sea,” our guide said reverently. “This is a sight few people see.”
My fly-fishing pal Jeff and I were in Alaska searching for trophy-sized wild trout that follow the salmon up the many rivers and creeks of the Bristol Bay drainage. We flew by float plane into a tiny, six-tent camp at the very edge of the tundra more than 100 miles from the nearest settlement. The drainage is a land of grizzly bears, caribou, moose and eagles living much as they have since the last ice age. It is a fragile place of short, intense summers and long, dark, numbing winters, where every living thing -- from the simplest lichens and insects of the tundra, to the largest carnivore in North America -- owes its existence to the salmon. Starting in early summer, successive runs of salmon – first chums, then kings, then sockeye and finally coho – make their way into every navigable creek and lake to lay their eggs and then die. All together, more 30-60 million fish return each year to spawn, making the Bristol Bay drainage one of the largest, most sustainable and best-managed fisheries in a world that is quickly running out of fish. More than 30 percent of the world’s salmon harvest comes from the waters of Bristol Bay, providing a livelihood for tens of thousands and a healthy, renewable source of food for millions of people around the world.

As we walked through the sockeye wonderland, casting our flies to the large trout darting in and out of the salmon redds, or nests, we passed hundreds of decaying carcasses, some more than three feet long, slowly depositing nutrients carried up from the far-off Bering Sea into the hungry, spongy soil of the tundra. It was odd to be in a place of so much life utterly dependent on so much death.

If there was wonder for us in the Red Sea, there was also sadness in the pall cast over this remote and fragile wilderness by the proposed Pebble Mine. Projected to be one of the world’s largest open-pit mines, Pebble Mine will be located in the fertile Bristol Bay drainage headwaters, which also contains some of the world’s largest gold and copper deposits. The project will build enormous dams across several salmon and trout streams to create vast settling lakes for the acidic mine run-off that, thanks to gravity, the forces of nature and the law of probability, will inevitably wreak havoc with spawning areas farther downstream. Roads will be cut through the pristine wilderness on the shores of Lake Iliamna, Alaska’s largest fresh water lake, which is now traversable only in winter when the frozen tundra permits travel by snowmobile or dogsled.

Walking past the seemingly endless schools of sockeye, following the same call to gather and multiply as their species has obeyed for more than 40 million years, I was struck by the thought that we all suffer from a blindness borne of our own self-interest, judging the acceptability of decline of a reef, river or forest based on the limitations of our own personal experiences and aspirations. Thus we are able to entertain the truly horrendous prospect of losing the world’s largest sustainable fishery as acceptable solely in terms of short-term economic benefits. By their own reports, Pebble Mine’s 3.75-square-mile open pit mine will be played out in 50-80 years. So the math is simple: a potential windfall of $150 billion versus the existing $400 million-a-year revenues from the existing resource. What doesn’t show up in this equation is that few, if any, of us will be around to clean up the 2.5 billion tons of toxic waste choking the bottoms of 1800-foot-deep lakes held in place by massive, 740-foot-tall earthquake-prone earthen dams. Managed properly, the salmon will provide food and jobs for hundreds of generations.
Every generation plays its own cost-benefit analysis at the expense of future generations, which enjoy none of the profit but get stuck with 100% of the negative consequences. This same mentality allows us to continue over-harvesting the sea, killing coral reefs, polluting our shores and filling wetlands. Our tendency to this sort of unenlightened self interest is perhaps our single most diminishing trait as a species and a perpetual challenge for those of us promoting the importance of sustainable marine ecosystems. I felt a moment of sadness in the Red Sea that, knowing what we know now, a project such as Pebble Mine would even be seriously entertained. I thought, if only we could see the world through the eyes of our great-grandchildren, what different decisions we would make.

While I feel blessed to have been able to see this part of the world, we don’t actually have to visit a place to know it’s worth saving. We humans are blessed with an extraordinary capacity to accumulate knowledge and experience to make sensible decisions. For instance, we know from history that all resources are ultimately finite. We know from business that we must calculate all the risks and benefits, both short- and long-term, to create accurate profit-and-loss projections. We also experience things with our heart that we have never seen with our eyes. If nothing else, just knowing that fragile wildernesses like the Nushagak and King Salmon Rivers still thrive in a world threatened by rapid global change and human development offers profound reassurance that we are heeding the lessons of the past and that we are, indeed, capable of sustaining the beautiful, bountiful paradise God has given us.