Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fourteen Days

Yesterday, I connected up with an old friend for a few hours in the late afternoon. He was without a car so I picked him up at the Half Price book store which he had walked to after getting his hair cut. We settled on the Alligator-whatever-it-is next to the book store as a reasonably decent place to catch up.

Jeff's been in Louisianna lately because that's where much of the movie action is these days, and he's definitely in that business. Towards the end of our chat, he said, "Did you hear that the WHO announced that there have been 7 confirmed deaths from the Swine Flu?" Jeff's a serious guy, and a former reporter, so I didn't just PooPoo his claim, but the story didn't resonate with my physician partner who I immediately called for confirmation.

Later in the evening I saw the story on one of my lefty type news services, but even then, I wondered if the story was somehow manufactured. In my mailbox this morning, confirmation of the accuracy of the lower numbers was found, thanks to the Australians.

Only 7 swine flu deaths, not 152, says WHO
Sydney Morning Herald
April 29, 2009

A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.

Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico - and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

Unfortunately that [150-plus deaths] is incorrect information and it does happen, but that's not information that's come from the World Health Organisation," Ms Allan told ABC Radio today. "That figure is not a figure that's come from the World Health Organisation and, I repeat, the death toll is seven and they are all from Mexico."

Ms Allan said WHO had confirmed 40 cases of swine flu in the Americas, 26 in Mexico, six in Canada, two in Spain, two in Britain and three in New Zealand.

Ms Allan said it was difficult to measure how fast the virus was spreading.

She said a real concern would be if the flu virus manifested in a country where a person had had no contact with Mexico, and authorities were watching all countries for signs of that.

"There is no pattern that has emerged at this stage to be able to say that it is spreading in a particular way or it is spreading into a particular country ... the situation is continuing to evolve," she said. (more)

And even though the headline might calm your concerns a bit, another story in the Herald says:

"The Federal Government's pandemic plan, a 132-page manual issued to medics, media and the public, insists that once the world reaches phase five, Australians should stock their pantries with food and bottled water to last 14 days, check on elderly neighbours and put emergency numbers by the phone."

So, stock up, but don't panic.

The H1N1 story is not just an abstraction for me. Last Friday, two good friends and I made what was, by all standards, a very uneventful crossing to our respective homes in Mexico. Our little village is in the State of San Luis Potosi, not that far from one of the epicenters of the disease.

After a long day of driving, we ate dinner, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to find ourselves reading in the San Luis newspaper about some kind of swine flu deal. Since, we were hatching some plans to go to the desert to be with a Shaman for a couple of days, I called home, asked my Dr. partner for some advise, and headed for the sacred lands.

We remarked to ourselves as we bounced down the narrow mountain road that leads from Catorce to the altiplano below that this was a good start for a horror action movie. You know, four guys head out to the wilderness only to find upon their return that the world had changed.

Well, when we did get back, there were no bodies on the side of the road, but there was a lot of angst, and the usually large weekend crowds that flock to this magic pueblito were non existent. It was, like the pueblo fantasma above, a ghost town.

The residents had all kinds of opinions ranging from "follow the money", to blaming a giant pig farm in La Gloria , to the following email that I received from a resident of San Luis who was in one of the hot zones:

"Here in San Luis every thing under control in an indoors routine till the 6th that activities start again.The only Hospital general, is a 5th world hospital, worse than Thailand in the 80's. How could they be able to analyse, isolate the virus, and be sure what is is?

In Matehuala they say there are cases, how could they be able to know for sure what it is?

Very strange!!!!

Do you know the ulterior motifs? (sic)

When Obama was in Europe at the G20 briefing, Angela Merkel said that Mexico is ready to become the 51st star of the USA flag. That was her only comment.

Who created this big game? Secretaría de Hacienda is getting millions off dollars for the flu. The statistics say that every 10 minutes a child dies of dehydration since years and nobody says anything."

I wrote back, "There are many reasons to think many things about this event. But whatever we might think, it appears to be dangerous."

With some of the more sophisticated folks in the village, I talked about disaster capitalism and how certain forces use natural and unnatural disasters to bring about economic and civic changes that could not occur without the event. We talked about the Shock Doctrine, Naomi Kline's seminal work describing decades of disaster capitalism.

Yes, a Pandemic will be very good for some folks.

And very bad for a lot of others, like the Mexican tourist industry for example. It won't help the global economy either which arguably already has a possibly fatal case of the pig flu.

We got out of Mexico and left our little village as soon as we could. We weren't sure if the border would close, or we would be subject to quarantine, as phobic politicians began to demand that we close our borders completely. By the time we were on the road, some of our politicians were already in their fear gear even as the CDC expressed their views of its limited value.

As we made our way back, we saw our first signs of the look of Pandemic. Almost everyone on the road who was in public, such as food handlers or toll collectors, had masks and gloves. At the Casita de Cobre, there were signs and handouts. The army set up check points. We saw one ambulance that had picked up at least one sick member of one traveling family. We applied hand sanitizer everytime we paid a toll or bought gasoline.

But when we got to the American side, where passive testing had been ordered by Homeland Security, the guards had no gloves and no masks. And in true form, they spent most of their time hitting the sides of the car with that putter-looking thing trying to find drugs, and even more time than that trying to figure out if the fresh orange marmalade that was given to me in the pueblo was a permissable item. (they had already taken our Whole Food apple)

When they did ask us how we were feeling, we told them we were fine. But at the immigration stop further in, the health issue wasn't even mentioned.

Like our trip down, the trip home from Catorce was more or less uneventful.

But, instead of going back to work at work,

I'm working at home, in three days of self quarantine.

And I carry hand sanitizer everywhere.

Just because some Capitalist somewhere

is going to make a lot of money over this,
Or some world organization may greatly increase its power,

It doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

Fourteen days of food and water might be a good idea too.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Tree Friendly Paradigm

(Ignore the camera dates in yellow. I'm not a photographer and didn't have time to figure out how to turn off the wrong date on my camera. I took these photos, 4/23/09.)

See Twitter updates at end of post, ps use links within this message to ask Austin City Council, our new PARD Director, Sara Hensley, the Parks Board members and the Env. Board members to SAVE OUR TREES.

Three out of the four trees shown at the front
entrance will be cut down within 90 days
along with 25 other heritage trees around
Barton Springs if we don't immediately
tell Council to save our trees.

This catastrophe is the result of a Tree
Survey commissioned by PARD under
the auspices of short term funding
for the Barton Springs Master Plan.

Our pecans are just
bursting out -- verdant, green,
lovely, full of life.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

Take a closer look at the front gate canopy.
Does it look dead, dangerous to you?

Yet city attorneys and insurance estimators say
we are at risk — as if public safety and trees
were not compatible. Trees clean our air, are
vertical rivers bringing water from the air
down to the soil, to the aquifer, are ecosystems
brimming with life.

This is a false dichotomy.

email Parks and Rec Board: Ask them to Save Our Trees

It's hot here -- can get to 119 degrees in the summer,
90 degrees in February. Can we afford to lose 75%
of the shade at Barton Springs -- all at once?

The Tree Report has a 12 point rating system for
"Kill". They talk about the useful life of a tree,
claiming it to be 100 years. But Pecan trees live
to be 300 - 350 years — are the State Tree of Texas.
These grassy fields alongside creeks and rivers
here are called "Pecan Bottoms." Yet the City
wants to replace these heritage trees with
other, non-native in some cases, species.

4 of the 12 "Kill" points come from proximity
to public traffic, and have zero to do with
the health of the tree.

Other kill points come as a result of a tree
being asymmetrical. Isn't that one of their
finest qualities, don't they deal with balance
issues underground where we can't see
it, clinging to earth so the part we see
can lean to light, sway with wind —
isn't that the nature of trees?

email Parks Director, Sara Hensley:

These Cottonwoods will both be disappeared.

When my son was four and sat one day
with me under these Cottonwoods he held
up his small hand and caught a fist full of
fluff, said —

Look Mommie, a piece of the clouds!

Two summers ago I was there when Don
Gardiner told City Staff these two trees
were healthy and didn't need to go.

But today they are in the way of a new
path the City wants to build from the
South parking lot to the water --
past two new bath houses they also
are considering building --
bonds to come at later date.

So they are now unhealthy
and must be cut down.

This path and bath house plan will also involve clearing
the woods behind the diving board.

email Environmental Board members:,,,,,,

The two trees behind the guard stand here will be
gone, and at least one other from the top of the hill.

Anyone checked UV ratings lately?
Better get some stronger sun screen.

These trees along the pool shade the water.
Temperatures have gone up 5 degrees in the last
two years. It will be worse without trees.

And algae rises to light --
so get ready for more muck.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

28 trees, more thru out the park --
are marked for execution.

35 years ago when John and I started a back yard
garden at our Zilker Neighborhood home, a pecan
volunteered in the compost bin. Today it is
12 inches in diameter -- and shades about a third
of the back yard. We've moved the garden
to the front of the house.

The trees slated to cut are about 200 years old.
It will be decades before our shade grows back.

This might indeed be a good time to plant
new trees, but not to cut down the ones
we already have.

This is the same tree as in photo above, it's in
the courtyard next to the front gate to the pool.
The small redish gravel packed around a small
hollow to collect water for the tree is basically
concrete -- packs to a hard impervious cover.

Austin organic gardening expert John Dromgoole
(Gardenville) explained on Monday night that
we need to mulch these trees, they way they
would self mulch in a forest. Let's try that
before we cut this beautiful
tree down.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

This one next to the bath house used to
be home to one of the biggest bea hives
in town -- we're losing bees -- is flush
to the building. Master planners explained
two summers ago it might fall on the
building, plus they wanted to re-model
the bath house, or build a new one,
and it would be in the way.

John Corey, arborist, long time swimmer,
suggests this tree is a good candidate for
cabling -- to direct away from public pathways
any potential limb drop.

Shouldn't we try that?

What would Dobie, Beticheck and Web think?

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

The tree at the far side of the entrance next to the bath house
is also marked for the cut.

The source of it's ill-health may also be proximity
to a proposed renovation or construction project.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

Looks like a branch or two here could be trimmed?
I guess our city figures why bother, since they
are planning to kill it?

How is it the company our City chose to do the Tree
Report is a company whose specialty is cutting down
trees? ( Davey Resource Group, a Division of The Davey Tree
Expert Company, 7627 Morro Rd. Atascadero, CA 93422 --
you see them all over town cutting down trees, removing
branches for power lines, that hang over streets, etc.)

Swimmer Ken (we don't always know last names) said
yesterday Davey made him cut down a Cottonwood
they said was hollow, but when it came down turned
out to be solid. Their Tree Report is full of errors, different
maps show different trees for cutting, etc.

We need second, third opinions —
from experts whose specialty is tree preservation,
health, making them safe for people in public places.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

And this one -- an old friend. It's been double supported
since I started swimming here in 1971. At least 5 times
in my memory flood water has raged past and completely
over this old Pecan. There's a new tree behind it that
will someday take over it's sacred place above the springs.

Who among us will take the first strike at this old friend,
local icon, guardian of the Springs?

I suppose the tunnel below could cave
in from the weight. Or would that be from extensive
excavations a decade ago when the city dug up
the "beach area" to "save" the Salamanders by
digging up their habitat?

It's time for an earth friendly paradigm,
a tree friendly paradigm --

It's time for cities and towns everywhere to stop
thinking about natural resources as commodities,
as something they "own," as insurance risks
or liabilities in a lawsuit.

That way of thinking has brought us to
the verge of global climate disaster.

It's time for a tree friendly paradigm
in my home town,
on our home planet.

email council: Ask them to Save Our Trees

©Susan Bright, 2009

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published two-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh

Click to see Austin New Real program: Tree Friendly Paradigm featuring Susan Bright (SB), John Corey (arborist) and Pam Thompson (show host) recorded 23rd, tech by Stefan Wray.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009


    The always creative and constantly cartooning C. L. spent the night last night and he left this cartoon on my desk. Pretty much says it for last week's Faux arama.
    And just in case you needed proof that Boehner really is dumb.
    Here it is..

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Getting Somewhere

    Last Thursday, I once again did something that over my entire career, I have done a lot.

    It goes something like this. You get in the car or plane at the break of day and you spend half of the day getting somewhere. And once you get there, after a getting out and inspecting a few things, you come right back. It's a little bit like running I guess.

    Wind resource guys like myself are kind of a special breed I suppose. You have to love the land and the earth so much, that you enjoy just moving around on it. And even though you very much have a destination, it's not really where you are going.

    All this means that in order to do what guys like me do, you have to be happy with where you are. Because when you do get to where you want to go, you immediately leave again. Sure, you might be back, and you might be back a lot if the project begins to develop.

    I don't know if all wind guys or for that matter solar guys feel like I do, but there's something really special about transporting three or four hundred miles to look at a place, then turning around , hopefully arriving home before the end of the day.

    This particular trip was a bit like time travel. Just three hundred miles north of here, it's still almost winter. The grass and the trees still look like winter. Flowers are just now beginning to bloom as spring is just now showing its remarkable splendour.

    Of course, I know the site from the maps and from flying around it on Google Earth with their cool new flight simulator, but nothing beats actually being there. "Being there" is essential. Chauncey had it right.

    Maybe its a product of age or simply a return to our natural condition, but I very rarely actually look forward to getting somewhere these days. That "somewhere" is more like a mirage on a long stretch of hot road. It doesn't exist.

    What does exist is Now. I know that this statement is a bit trite and it certainly is overused in certain metaphysical circles; but, I also realize that "Being in the Now" is much older than Ram Das or Eckart Tolle.

    When I was a child, my life was all about waiting. I would wait for my favorite TV show, the all important ball game, my date with Marsha, or to finally get my drivers licence and the car I had been saving for. I would count the tractor rows left on the field, and the cattle waiting to be squeezed and dehorned. When I became a musician, I would eagerly await the lights and excitement of the gig.

    Over the last seven years, I have been writing a book called "Beyond". And the first chapter is "Doors", the door of the eternal moment to be exact. Since I finally have the cover and the chapter art, the liner notes, the manuscript itself, and all the folks and resources to get the book published, I suspect that we're getting there.

    This being said, you can't confuse "being present" with being complacent.

    Quite the opposite in fact.

    "Being present" does not mean that we ignore the future, or that we forget the past. Electing Barack Obama is, was, and will be one of the most significant developments in redirecting our course on this earth. But, the momentum of our culture is immense.

    Last Thursday, as I was chasing the Wind, George Monbiot was describing the G 20 meeting. Here is the text of the G20 communique, in compressed form.

    "We, the Leaders of the Group of Twenty, will use every cent we don't possess to rescue corporate capitalism from its contradictions and set the world economy back onto the path of unsustainable growth. We have already spent trillions of dollars of your money on bailing out the banks, so that they can be returned to their proper functions of fleecing the poor and wrecking the Earth's living systems. Now we're going to spend another $1.1 trillion. (clip)

    Oh - and we nearly forgot. We must do something about the environment. We don't have any definite plans as yet, but we'll think of something in due course." (clip)

    This suggests to me that our leaders have learnt nothing from the financial crisis. It was caused by allowing powerful agents (the banks) to exploit a common resource (the global economy) without proper control or regulation. Governments deployed a form of magical thinking: that the boom would go on forever, that a bunch of predatory psychopaths would regulate themselves, that profits, dividends and share prices could grow indefinitely even though they bore no relation to actual value.

    They treat the environmental crisis the same way. Climate breakdown, peak oil and resource depletion will all dwarf the current financial crisis, in both financial and humanitarian terms."

    Once our leaders, and their followers

    discontinue their belief in infinite growth on a finite planet,

    and they toss out the "magical thinking" that such tomfoolery demands,

    We'll be Getting Somewhere.

    But they're not there Now.

    And we can't wait.

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