Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Critters and Plots, Parts 5 & 6

Story 5
Reading over information concerning hazards to humans coming in contact with all three of the synthetic poisons in the chemical cocktail that much of Ogle and Lee counties got essentially blanketed with, one certainly gets a sense of just how lethal this shit is.

There are lots of First-Aid procedures recommended, from just washing up to emergency help from first responders. Contaminated clothing is best discarded.

So besides being deadly to almost all invertebrates (I talked to an entomologist recently who's extremely upset 'cause of butterfly population declines here locally), we can assume that it’s deadly to mammals too, us bein’ them. Shrews, voles, mice, chipmunks, ground squirrels, weasels, mink, rabbits, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, deer, these are local mammals too. What are their first-aid remedies when they come into contact with this deadly stuff? 

What?! They shouldn't be out on private property anyway! But, in ever decreasing numbers, they are out there. Has there been any research on how the mammal contingent of the environment are faring? No, of course not. Any ill effect can just get checked off as collateral damage. 

Invertebrates, mammals, what’s it doing to the avian population? For sure, nobody knows....

But we do know that along with invertebrate population, segments of the avian population are in serious decline, according to the Audubon Society and the Department of Natural Resources, if one can believe in sources like these. 

Pheasants, quail, and grey partridge, all of them ground dwelling birds, are in marked decline throughout areas where they formerly were quite numerous. I'm old enough to have once seen how these birds thrived, and sadly have watched their almost disappearance. And this even though, with C.P.R. ground, there's ample habitat. 

And muskrats! A long time ago, I made my living buying and selling fur skins. At one point, I was handling as many as half a million muskrat skins a year, many of them out of central Illinois; flat country covered in corn and beans and laced by mile upon mile of wide drainage ditches. I could buy over a thousand from various individual trappers (“Just trying to get back some of my corn,” they'd say), most of 'em farmers. The corn and beans are still there. And there have been plenty of wet years where those same drainage ditches have held plenty of water, but the muskrats have been drastically reduced in numbers, and not by over-trapping. 

Just the other day, in conversation with a now-retired but long-time biologist of the DNR, I asked the question: “If ya had ta find a common thread, a blanket you'd feel comfortable throwing over these population declines, what would you lay it to?” 

 “Chemicals,” he didn't hesitate even a moment comin' out with that answer.

Story 6
Another evening in the firewood-ring with blazin' fire, the gathering of “Church of the Earth Firsters,” keeping warm there around it. Wind chill outside that fire ring was real cold, inside there round those flames, except fer ever-changin' direction of hard wood smoke, it was real comfy.

Mission statement, our refining, clarifying it. Kendra, the sorta strange lady who's kinda fascinated by dead animals, she's the one who thinks we need this. Kendra's also the sorta girl-friday who's charged with getting' this group's “face book” organized, up and runnin'. Almost indispensable she's become at this point. The small crowd assembled there knows that they'd better consider what she says, pay attention ta what she wants. Let’s listen in...

“I thought we already did this?”

“Well, brother David, I think the message needs to be
better defined, perhaps even broadened.”

“Ok, I guess what our first aim is to, like, assist greater public awareness as to what’s goin' on with the greater ecosystem that they are dependent upon, whats's all around”

“And then we've got to figure out ways to try and stop these crazies from continuing their rain of death and destruction,” Dina chimes in.

“I say we arm the public with assault rifles with big extended magazines and tracer bullets. Open season on ‘em. Make it like a three daily bag-limit,” states the reactionary and inflammatory Manure Man.

“Typical, M&M, I say you go back to the drawing board.”

“Geeze, Vig, er, ah, excuse me Broth, you ain't near as ­­willin' to go fer my suggestions like ya usta be.”

“Maybe I'm older, wiser.”

“Older, fer sure. The way yer hobblin' around here ya look like ya been run through the mill.”

“So ta speak, I guess I have been.”

“Back to this mission statement, ladies and gentlemen, if I can be permitted this lose verbiage.”

“Ok, Kendra, Ok.”

Well...after we start to educate enough people, like voters. We have to find some way to make a ballot-box issue outta our campaign. It’s not a new idea. This very issue has been proposed in other areas. I don't know if it’s been adopted anywhere yet. And the agro chemical companies, like Monsanto, are spendin' lots of bucks tryin' ta block these efforts.

“In fact, the chemical companies, which many see as monolithic, unbeatable, have been losing some battles and its costin' ‘em what you and me would consider big bucks. Kendra, I'll give you some of the cases I've discovered. You can put 'em in the evidence part of our blog site.”

Reverend Marques cuts in here, him excited about the growth rate of our Grove Creek chapter of the COTEFers since we initiated this sorta fire ring whacko assemblage. “We've more than doubled,” he carries on. “If we double again in the next couple of months and then double that again and again. Well, as you can see we could go exponential.”

“Yeah, I'm worried right now about the size of the fire-ring. We're gonna have ta make it so everyone brings their own beverages, too. Between that and the herbs do you know how much we're goin' through now? Well, I do. And this drain on my meager resources has gotta stop."

“Kendra, you seem less than completely satisfied with my mission statement efforts. Com’on you guys, pitch in, remember this is a group effort”.

To be continued….

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Investigative Measures of the Great Crayfish Kill, Parts 3 & 4

Story 3
A bit on invertebrates. Past. Present. Future.

Any animal form that’s not microbial and lacks a spine…from tiny worms up ta somethin’ as big as a giant octopus er squid, is an invertebrate. They’ve been around just a whole lot longer than us vertebrates…and most certainly will outlast us.

There simply is no way to quantify how much good they’ve done and are doin’ for us now. And how much we depend on them. So why are we allowing their numbers and numbers of species to crash? That is what’s going on here on planet earth right now, ya know. Daily, species of animal life are sliding into the extinction bin, many of them invertebrates.

Let me give you examples of their past generosities. Right here, close by, in Lee and Ogle County; where we’re still living off their largess, mining it: our once extremely rich and fertile prairie soils.

As native plants crept after receding glacial ice, they brought their invertebrate cohabitants with them. Of course they provided benefits like pollination, but through constant “invertebrate excrement rain,” a very nitrogen rich rain, they enriched the surface beneath them, creating more robust plant life, more invertebrates, more excrement rain and….

Well, if the process is allowed to continue for ten er 12 thousand years, dead plant material digested by other invertebrates and then microbes, all of them excreting’ constantly, all the time…. As you’re most likely aware these nutrient rich accumulations stacked up in places quite deep, sometimes in excess of six feet…much of which we’ve already squandered.

Right “now” what are they doing for us? They pollinate many of our essential crops, they makes us sweets and produce fine silk, and we eat them directly, oysters, scallops, squid…they also provide us with the lovely music of the night if you’re lucky enough at hang out in places where one can hear it, and don’t forget they’re in the food chain.
There is no way I can innumerate all things they do for us, because I don’t know all that much. But I know that we can’t make it here on this planet without them. And that makes me wonder why we’re workin’ so fast and furiously in our collective effort in killin’ ‘em off?

Spraying broad spectrum and deadly chemicals by air sure as hell is one effective method towards stampin’ ‘em out, I sure as hell know that.

I often am able to stand out in a mature prairie field in the evening, just before dark. Damn. The cacophony of invertebrate sound is so vibrant that it seems ta come up the bottoms of my feet.

Now go out and stand in the middle of a corn field. One would think it almost a dead zone by comparison.

In the future…they won’t do anything for us, ‘cause we won’t be here. With us gone the numbers will come roaring back, and through evolution so will many new species. And the planet will be restored to health again…just without us there ta see it. The miracle of geologic time. Don’t worry folks. The mess we leave behind will be cleaned up.
But let’s pay attention to want’s goin’ on around us, right here and now, to what’s still left of the environment.

Story 4
After receiving these two flat-out refusals to talk, what was I ta do? I decided to bring it up for discussion at the next gathering of the COTEFers, which came off as sorta loosely planned 'round camp fire out here in these spooky woods.

Just since our last get-together, our numbers swelled by half. Still plenty a room fer others, though. You bet.


Ruby May was sorta actin' as hostess. Refreshments, etc. Right Reverend Marques set there tunin' up his banjo. And now there's this second musician, too. Kendra. Except fer her liking ta do things with dead animals, she seems ta me ta be...well, not normal, but nice. And crazy. She plays and sings with the Reverend a lot. Then there's this old curmudgeon, a retread who's come to us as if outta the past: the former Manure Man of DeKalb Co. Vigilante fame. He's much older, but he's still got that wildly insane look in his eyes.

The next logical step. That was the question?

“I think a law suit against Woodly Aviation is a must,” that was Ruby May Glamper's suggestion. 

“Not a bad idea, seein' as Stan was found conclusively guilty fer killin' of my fish bait. But this has ta be an issue much bigger than just these right-here local crawdads.”

Reverend Marques pointed to the obvious fact that there were a lot more people harmed by that week-long chemical blitz besides me, even though most of ‘em didn't know they'd been harmed; harmed by a reduced and degraded environment, none the less. The agreement there around warm fire with Kendra gently strummin' the beginnings of her burstin' into a tune, was unanimous. Kendra and Marques. They're writin' a song about the Great Grove Creek Crayfish Massacre. They're pretty good.

“So if we did decide ta initiate legal action, it should be in the form of like a class-action suit. Maybe takin' in everyone along the course Kite Creek drainage? Is that sort of what yer thinkin', Rev?” 

“Yeah, sorta. Let me do some more thinkin' on this.”

“Take yer time.”

“The next logical step,” chimes in Dina, “Is to find out how these chemicals got approved for aerial spraying? dudes.” 

“That should be easy,” chimes in Kendra. “The EPA has to approve all these chemicals. Through the Freedom of Information, we should be able to access all of that.” 

“Are you willing to do that?” The crowd wants to know. 

“Yeah,” Kendra comes back. “I'm pretty sure I can handle it.”

The Manure Man pipes up that he's sufferin' some confusion with this gathering, what’s our stated goal, what er who's our target. And he wants ta know why those settin' around there ain’t addressin' me as “Vig.”

“I'll do the “Vig” part first, M &M. I'm not the Vig. The Vig is retired. The EcoVig is a movement. Much grander than me. Stick around, you'll see.”

“So what are we supposta, how are we supposta address ya then?”

“How about just Brother David, co-founder of the Grove Creek Chapter of Church of the Earth First. Ya, Brother David. That'll do, M&M.”

“As for stated goals, high on our agenda is eliminating deadly chemicals like the ones that got sprayed all over Lee and Ogle counties. The ones that killed all the crayfish and other invertebrates in Grove Creek, and other streams that were affected as well....especially their use as aerial sprays. I think makin' this a ballot box issue by the mid-term elections, here in Lee and Ogle counties....I think that’s a realistic possibility.”

“Yer gonna have to educate John Q. Public then, who ain't too bright, Brother David.”

“It’s not that John Q's not bright enough for this M&M, it’s just like back when we did that Vigilante thing way back...phew, more than 30 years ago. Once ya get John Q's attention you'll find plenty of smarts there.”

“Grabbin' the public's attention, Excuse me, brother David, you know that’s my specialty. You know what Id’a done and right from the beginning. Do you mind if I just call you Broth?”

“No. That’s fine. I'll answer ta Broth.”

“Yes. M&M. I've a good idea how you'd maneuver. But this time around I don't think we'll have ta stoop to yer odoriferous tactics.

“First, M&M, there already exists a great deal of concern with respect to these deadly chemicals. In fact, I'm amazed at all the like-minded people I've run inta since this crayfish kill thing got started. Now it’s just sorta a matter of pullin' these like-minded folks together. This is a serious game in which numbers count.”

You know, Broth, lots of people are gonna think we're crazy fer goin' up against the chemical- agro-industry. They're awfully big, awfully powerful.”

“Sure. I'm aware of all of that. But I'm also aware that right, truth, has a chance ta tip the scale in our direction. I'm bettin' that should we be able to inform enough people, we can master the fulcrum point.”

Music and frivolity up-staged anything even close ta serious conversation then. The moon came up through the naked trees. Coyotes howled and great horned owls
screamed and hooted as the fire turned ta coals. 

We said we'd soon meet again.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Investigative Measures of the Crayfish Kill, Part 2

As a courtesy…I mailed off copies of Issue #1 of the Lee & Ogle County EcoVig, to those I desperately wanted to talk directly to, ask logical questions of: Stan, that pilot who’d dumped all those deadly toxins upon Grove Creek; and who knows how many other aquatic environments? And Warren D. Goetsch, the environmental bureau chief of the IL. Dept. of Ag. who’d awarded Stan the blind pilot with a mere slap on the wrist fer his direct hit on above mentioned creek. I waited a full week ta make sure the mail did its job. Then it was time ta call and try ta set up some sorta interview.

I’d explained this move during a visit of other parishioners at the first gathering of the Washington Grove Chapter of the “Church Of The Earth First”: COTEF. In attendance was the right Reverend Marques Morel; newly ordained I might add. And also, ordained out here ‘round the camp fire by me. I’d gotten a certificate ta be an ordinator through this correspondence course from school in LA. I’m takin’ one now on self ordination. Interestin’.

Present, too, was this chatty lady, Dina. She’s sorta “COTEF’s” moral and technical advisor. She’s got this weird Colorado/California way of speakin’ that strikes most midwestern's ears as strange, makin’ her seem sorta “Valley Girl not too smart,” but then ya get the hang of what she’s sayin’ and ya find out that she’s not stupid at all.

Also present, “Ruby May Glamper, of past DeKalb County “Vigilante” fame.

We were havin’ a generally hilarious evening, congratulating ourselves there in smoke filled air fer getting’ this first chapter of “COTEF” off the ground. It was agreed that our next logical move was fer me ta try and arrange contact with Stan and Warren mentioned above. Wow! Did we ever have a basketful of questions.

We discussed some “COTEF” rules fer membership, and decided that we’d just as soon not bother. Hell, anyone could join, and unjoin if they wanted ta, too. The only requirement asked was a proclivity towards savin’, protectin’ the earth. Didn’t matter yer religion er lack of it, or what yer political affiliations are er were.

I told ‘em of my planned calls ta Stan and Warren.

“Where do you think that will lead us, dude?” Dina asked.

I prognosticated that most likely I’d run inta stone walls. Springfield er Walnut, I was ready and willin’ ta do the drivin’ if either said yes. And I’d settle for an interview on phone.

Woodly Aerial Spraying, I call first. A fella answers but it wasn’t Stan. I introduce myself, tell the gent that I’m lead reporter fer the Lee & Ogle EcoVig and I’d like to interview Stan with regards to the warning letter fer sprayin’ violations he’d gotten.

Perhaps this was the wrong approach. “You’ll not be talking to anyone from here!” was his terse response. The phone went dead.

Damn…now how was I gonna get answers from Stan to our questions?

My first one was gonna be, Stan, do you realize what kind of eco havoc you’re causin’, how grand the scale? My guess is, most likely not. If he did understand it, I don’t know how he could justify makin’ a livin’ like that. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t want to walk around with that kinda weight.

I’m also bettin’ that Stan doesn’t, hasn’t had, any kind of eco responsibility training, no deep understanding of what an eco system is, like I’m giving my great grandson, T.J.
Before you sprayed Grove Creek, Stan, did you have a good understandin’ of just how lethal the load you dumped was? I don’t think you’re mean-spirited, Stan. But I do think you’re ignorant. If I could put you through the same course I’m puttin’ T.J. through, I don’t think you’d spread so much death around anymore.

When I try at IL Dept. of Ag, I get almost same results. A sectretary passes me off to a department spokeperson who doesn’t let me get through to Warren.

To Warren I like to talk about whether er not he had any ecology training? What does the guy who’s charged with protecting the environment actually know? Ever had a course in aquatic biology, limnology, Warren? Do you understand things like the downstream killing’ range of the lethal stuff yer supposta be policin’? Do you know anything about the synergies when such lethal cocktails as that which got dumped inta Grove Creek get combined?

My bet, my guess, is that the majority of yer answers ta the above questions would be “No.” And considerin’ your position I find that pretty sad.

I wanted ta ask ya about your eyesight, too, Warren. Your investigator provided you with very good, clear photographical evidence that it would be all but impossible fer poor Stan ta miss the fact of Grove Creek and the adjacent large ponds existed, couldn’t be missed from his cockpit there with birds-eye view in the air. Now, either you didn’t review your investigator’s evidence, er maybe you couldn’t see the impossibility of Stan missin’ all that water from up there. (Have you ever flown in a small plane?)

Seeing fer yourself all that gathered evidence, how in the hell could you swallow Stan’s lame excuse!? I guess ya can’t see what ya don’t want ta see, er yer told not ta see. 

Either way, you’ve got a sight problem, Warren.