Thursday, April 12, 2018

March 8, 2018 last minute protest outside Noel Wien Library against oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Divided We Fall

Lady Liberty weeps for the soul of America, an America divided that has lost its way, in danger of losing its heart.  There is greed and falsehoods destroying our body politic, painfully obvious and a serious threat to the survival of our democracy.  America’s ship of state is in danger of foundering on the hard rocks of unrestrained gun violence and climate change.  

A great nation has no need to build walls of fear and separation.  A great nation is one marked by compassion and forbearance.  Our collective star shines brightest when we care for one another and for Mother Earth regardless of political persuasion.  
Character matters!  We are best served when our leaders are men and women of integrity and honesty - courageous when it’s necessary but compassionate and loving when circumstances demand it.  There is no moral authority where they are lacking.  
This is no more clearly evident than from the sometimes crude and compassion-less rhetoric and “wrecking ball” policies of President Trump.  Without moral authority there follows an erosion of respect not only for this President but the Presidency itself and his Party.

We have the spectacle of President Trump our “Denier in Chief,” proclaiming climate change a hoax, despite credible science to the contrary.  Withdrawing America from the historic Paris Climate Agreement was dumb, like shooting yourself in the foot then poking a finger in the eye of the world community.   Beyond the “me first” shores of President Trump, the community of nations understands the danger posed by climate change and the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions driving it.   

Alaskan representatives, in bed with the oil industry, have turned a blind eye to the real problem.   Where is their vision and moral courage to stop pandering to constituents and work towards an orderly transition to a sustainable, renewable energy future?  But no, their prescription is more of the same mind numbing “drill baby drill?” 

The triumvirate of Murkowski, Young and Sullivan will go down in infamy among those who treasure and have fought to save our public lands for posterity. No thanks to them one of the purposes of Arctic Refuge is now oil exploration and development.  

A purpose of the Arctic National Wildlife Range established in 1960 was preservation of its unique wilderness values.  When it became a Refuge in 1980 wilderness preservation was deleted as a purpose.  Alaskan politicians wanted to drill for oil then as they do now.   This became an ad on new purpose included in recent tax cuts for the rich legislation    Yet it belongs to all Americans not just for Alaskan’s to muck up with oil exploration and development like much of the rest of the North Slope.   

Especially hurt by their short sightedness are the Gwitchin, self-identified caribou people, living a traditional life style in the northeastern corner of Alaska and adjacent Yukon Territory.  The coastal plain of the Refuge where oil exploration would occur, is the birthing ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and a host of other life forms now threatened.  They consider it sacred.

This sacrilege and their betrayal was far from loving-your-neighbor-as-yourself but about money, and jobs and we know best, perpetuating America’s legacy of cultural imperialism towards Native Americans.  Their pleas were ignored.

The bottom line is this.  In the past 100 years sea levels have risen 4 to 8 inches.  This due to a warming atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and the increasing concentrations of heat trapping greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, methane and nitrous oxide) "...  The concentration of these gases is unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.   Since 1950’s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennial (IPCC)."  "Natural changes alone cannot explain the climate changes we’ve seen (EPA)."  

According to IPCC warming will continue and likely accelerate with a rise of 1.7 to 3.22 feet by the turn of the next century.   Alarmingly, according to a new study, sea level rise could be double the latter if the Antarctic ice sheet goes.    

What we do or don’t do in the next handful of years to reign in fossil fuel emissions will likely determine the fate of all life on Earth for millennium to come.  This is no joke and no hoax. 

The winds of change are blowing.  Many are already awake to the danger humanity faces and are working for positive change.  This is encouraging!   Our Children’s Trust of 21 young people are   suing the federal government for jeopardizing their future with their do nothing policies regarding climate change.  

An unqualified “Captain” is now conning the helm, pun intended.  In President Trump we have one whose truth is his own and everyone elses is “fake news.”   It’s time to vote him off the “ship” along with his wrecking crew and replace them with shipmates that will work for unity and the common good, not just their rich benefactors.  

Peace Rider

Note:  This article in redacted form first appeared on line in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner 3/4/2018 and in print the next day.  I included here text that was redacted as well as corrections and clarification to statements made in the original article.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

On the Road from Panama 11/11/2017 and Alaska 12/19/2017
In Jean-Francois Revel´s book on Flight From Truth he makes the statement that ¨a Democracy commits suicide when it is invaded by falsehood and totalitarianism when it is invaded by truth.

Where there is a descent into falsehood the likes of which we have not heretofore seen by any administration it is the collective responsibility of an aroused citizenry to expose these lies for what they are by active protest and civil disobedience when and where appropriate.  

At stake is our democracy and the lofty values of our founding fathers.  This is a fight for the soul of America and the fate of the Arctic Natl. Wildlife Refuge emblematic of a larger struggle and pervasive rot within our body politic.  

Many have paid the ultimate price defending this country and those universal values that unite us and define us as people;  honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, love and humility.  If we cannot say no not here and exercise restraint what does that say about us as a people.  Is no place sacred?

There is no more persistent lie put forward by oil development proponents in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge than a mere 2000 acres in total would be affected or that we can somehow make what amounts to rape of a wild place seemingly innocuous using advanced technologies.  This is as believable and improbable as an elephant tip toeing through a field of tulips and leaving them unscathed.  

Other egregious lies masquerading as truth are the denial that climate change is happening and it is not caused by humans burning fossil fuel despite evidence to the contrary; that the Republican Tax bill will boost the economy and is not a trickle up tax bill benefiting the already rich while those with less are left with the crumbs. 

And I write now on the eve of a decision by Congress to pass a tax bill that includes exploration for oil within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR not AN WAR)within it.  A similar Letter-to the-Editor of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner was titled Trashing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Most would consider moiling for oil in the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel as sacrilegious.  Why then is it not so in a place of such surpassing beauty as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?  It is a measure of the disconnectedness of our elected representatives and others of like mind from their roots in the natural world that they would even consider such a gross travesty. 
Post calving aggregation on coastal plain of Arctic Refuge near Beaufort Lagoon by Ken Whitten

The Athabaskan people of Arctic Village and Old Crow have told us for their sake and their welfare don´t do this.  The coastal plain of ANWR is the birthing grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd which are sacred to them and would be placed at risk.

Their motivation is not about money, it flows from the heart out of love of place and life and the caribou upon which they depend.  They have been ignored.

And yet which of these motivations has the more powerful moral authority and which the least, love or greed?  

They do not stand alone - they have the "wind and light" at their backs!
I have seen the ugliness of seismic trails which must precede drilling and last for decades.  Some heal some do not.  Scars remain on the land once the delicate thermal balance of the underlying frozen/permafrost ground is upset - likened to scarifying the Mona Lisa.  Then there is what follows.  

An oil field(s) if oil is found, is industrial sprawl on a mega scale, interconnected by roads and pipelines, with bridges spanning rivers, in short a wild place forever degraded and no more.  This is the reality of the oil discovery at Prudhoe Bay and the industrial sprawl that ensued.   
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge belongs to all Americans as public lands not just Alaskans.  It is  a reminder of what all of the North Slope of Alaska once looked like in its natural wilderness state before the heavy hand of technology changed the landscape forever. 
If this is allowed to stand there will be nothing left on Alaska's North Slope that has not already been degraded by the search for oil.  Like the extinct passenger pigeon once numbering in the millions it will be no more forever..  We will have lost something far more valuable, not only a sacred place but our integrity.   This is madness of the highest order.  This fight is far from over regardless of what Congress does.
There are consequences for everything we do and say in life.  For some of you, how will you answer your children when they ask you, why did you let them "bugger it all" when you could have said no? 
Peace Rider

Saturday, December 9, 2017

On the Road from Panama 12/07/2017

Wow it has been almost a year ago since I posted anything.  Then I was in Panama when it seems there is more time on hand to write.  So if anyone is still checking on Don´s whereabouts here goes.

My apologies, life it seems has a way of keeping us busy, too busy at times when it means being disconnected from friends in far flung places.

I´m doing well with summers devoted to trying to finish my Spirit House.  A report on that follows.

I also now have a part-time job as a tour guide for Northern Alaska Tour Company.  I started with the company in August of 2016.

I have not given up on long distance bike riding for a purpose.  I remain open to possibilities and the where and what the Universe would have me do next.  That remains a bit murky yet but an outline is emerging and will share that as events unfold.  In the meantime there is writing to do and will post what ensues from that.  The most recent is Trashing a National Treasure about what our Congress in its ill advised wisdom would do to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  That was written for the Fairbanks Daily New Miner as a letter to the editor before I left on 11/13/2017.

First I wanted to give a progress report on my Spirt House/Yurt, what a friend playfully called a Spurt.  I didn´t begin working on it through the previous winter but got an early start in the spring of this year.  I attached four rows of nailers for the siding with long screws over six layers of 1¨ foam insulation  I had thought to stucco the outside but changed my mind.  I had no experience doing that and decided instead on using stained, rough sawed green white spruce planks with battens covering the seams.

The next project was building an exit through the joists for a wood stove chimney.  I debated whether to run it through the wall then vertically up the side and not penetrate the rubber roof.  In the end I came up with a workable design to run it vertically through the joists and seal the rubber roof over a small plywood deck around the chimney.  I was worried the stove wouldn´t draw properly with a horizontal run through the wall.   I didn´t get the stove bought (a Jotul Model 118, Black Bear) and finally installed until late in the summer and finally was able to heat the place.   It was heavy, 320 pounds of cast iron.  It took me and three other friends to get it from truck inside.

I didn´t keep track of all the time I spent thinking and then building the front and only door to the place but it was well over a month.  Still for all the time spent I was happy with the result in the end.

For starters the door height was non standard.  And I also didn´t want a conventional square door.  Instead I built in an arched top, one complication to framing, then I used wood on the interior and exterior sandwiching 2¨ of foam insulation in between.  That threw it into a thickness, 3 1/2 inches, that most door hardware wouldn´  After some searching I found a deadbolt made by Schlage that would accommodate a door this thick.  The door handles inside and out are a nearly matched pair of antlers from a young bull moose a friend and I hunted up some years back.  Wood on the outside is planed down planks off an abandoned garage roof I tore down the spring before.  It has an aged look from the staining where nails penetrated the wood.  For the inside I used 5¨ tongue and groove smooth white spruce milled locally.  Door jambs came from the same source as the outside of the door.

Door seals and floor jamb are similar to a Swede door a friend had installed in a storage building.  The floor seal is a strip of aluminum set into a wood jamb.  When the door closes a tubular silicone rubber weather seal inset in the door bottom butts up against it.  The other three sides of the door are similarly sealed, inset in the door or the jamb.  To close the door requires a little pull on the antler to overcome the resistance of the seals and close the deadbolt.

These details may be a bit boring side from someone not into construction as I was.  For me this project has been more about the creative process and finding solutions to problems as they arose.  There were many, the door being especially challenging.

Lastly, what to put on the outside of the door for trim?  I tried flat 1x4 boards at first but was left unsatisfied by their appearance.  A moment of inspiration came and resulted in the creation of an Alaskan version of a Japanese Torii,  two vertical posts supporting horizontal beams with a slight upward arch.  Japanese Torii mark the entrance to a sacred space like a shrine.   I used round logs cut from nearby standing dead white spruce.  This took a lot of fussing and carving to shape with a draw knife and chisel to get a decent fit.

Emphasis here is on decent.  I finally had to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and accept what resulted as the best I could manage.  Flaws are apparent for the most part only to the builder.

Finally in October before the snow came I added a raised walkway in front where melt water accumulates in the spring.

All for now.  Trashing a National Treasure to follow.  Peace Rider

Saturday, December 17, 2016

On the road from Panama 11/19/2016 -12/10/16

Dear Friends,

Peace Rider the erratic blogger is back after a considerable absence.  I was in Cuba for a couple of weeks visiting friends and left a few days before Fidel Castro passed at age 90.  From Havana I flew to Panama City for a visit with long time friend George in Boquete, a mountain community in western Panama.  

Finca Bugita, as George calls it, is a coffee farm he bought some years ago when the prices were not out of sight for mere mortals.  I have always loved coming here, because it's quiet and peaceful and just the kind of retreat I needed to rest with the question of what comes next.  The many flowers in bloom were gorgeous.
Georges Rock garden w/blue grey tanagers feeding on bananas

I stayed in the "casita" a small one room guest house apart from the main house.  Every morning at sunrise or thereabouts I'd be up, do some yoga, or wait until after breakfast, then head up the steep drive to join George on his porch for coffee, conversation and bird watching.  Often when I showed up he'd be hanging bananas on bamboo poles stuck in his circular rock garden.  This was followed by hand scattering broken pieces of rice for some the ground feeders like tortolitos or small doves.  Then we'd just sit back and enjoy.  

Palm Tanager
Usually the same customers or "rabid beasts" as George calls them,  showed up for the feast, mostly colorful tanagers, the blue gray or azulejos being the most common.  They are a skittish lot for good reason.   Sometimes it was a gaijote or vulture flying too close, or gavilon (hawk) in the neighbor hood looking for a meal or just one of us making a too sudden move.   

As it happened I needed a lot more dental work than expected which meant multiple trips to the dentist in David, an hour away by bus.  More than I would have liked.  But the last week I was free and had more time to visit and be present in silence.  

What I came away with was an answer to the question friends have asked about what I will do with my Spirit House/yurt (progress to date on last post).  I will try and finish it in the coming year and in the process create the Fairbanks Interfaith Retreat Center,  this in part supporting, some of the work being undertaken by the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition but not limited to that.  This will require some fundraising.  I'll have more to say about the later when I'm settle back into Fairbanks and have a bit more time.

This evening I'm away from Denver headed to Los Angeles to catch a "red eye" to Anchorage then Fairbanks.

Catch you all down the road,

Peace Rider Don  

Friday, October 28, 2016

On the Road from Fairbanks 10/28/2016, progress on Spirit House and Charles, an ENT (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) I met this summer.

Dear Friends,

My apologies for being such an irregular poster to this blog.   Alaska summers tend to be all consuming, make hay while the sun shines seems to be the norm because winter is right around the corner.  Work really began for me last September with a decision to tear down an abandoned garage on a lot next to

 Progress to date with first snow in October

SH and try to begin cleaning up a massive amount of other stuff there besides.  After many sled and pickup loads the garage and all it's contents were gone.  Stuff that could be recycled or reused where taken to the appropriate places.  There's a lot more yet, 11 cars.  We got one out.

What made all the toil worthwhile in the end was finding a box of Barbie dolls in one far corner of a makeshift room inside the garage.  These went to children of a Cuban friend I met in 2014 and were much appreciated.

From April on to just a few weeks or so ago I worked on SH with few breaks.  One of them was an overnight kayak/canoe trip on the upper Nenana River where I found Charles, the ENT on an island where we camped.

What I got done this summer was the deck, a permanent EPDM, flexible rubber roof, finishing the interior ceiling and the skylight.  I blew in nearly two feet of fiberglass insulation over a base layer of R13 batt insulation between the ceiling and rubber roof.  All of that was preceded by finishing off the ceiling, first with a vapor barrier then a nylon fabric and cover strips over each of the 38 deep joists to hide the seams.  The last push of the season was finishing the skylight and setting it in place.  Three of the same friends that helped me get the 350 pounds of rubber roofing hoisted helped me get the skylight up and set in place over the center "hole."  It has a double walled UV resistant plastic for panes which is light weight but is not clear like glass.   This was an advantage making it easier to hoist but less than desirable aesthetically.  I may just replace four of the panes with clear glass in a future project.

Charles embodied in a White Spruce tree

One of the few breaks I took was an early June Paddlers Club canoe/kayak trip on the upper Nenana River. I never thought there might be "real" ENTS, of course,  until I met Charles on his island home. Curiously my dad's name was also Charles, dad?  So what did Charles have to say?  It's this, you humans are screwing up the planet and if you don't reign in CO2 emissions from burning of fossil fuels we will all be "crispy critters."  My brothers and sisters can only suck up so much C02 while you keep cutting us down as if we had no role to play in the maintenance of this planet.  Your ignorance of our importance will be the death of all of us unless you wake up and there is not a lot of time left.

On the home front I now have a part time job as a tour guide with the Northern Alaska tour coupany driving a van or coach as need be up the Dalton Highway.  In a few days taking a needed break to visit friends in Cuba and Panama.  I have two kids bicycles I'm taking to Cuba.  More down the road.

Peace Rider