Mar 302011

If you haven’t been to the Curry Preserve (Nugent entrance) in the last few days you won’t recognize the place. The blackberries that dominated the right side of the driveway have been ripped out. Root balls have been plucked and the ground has been tilled. Orchard stewards have been at work and the ground is ready for planting. There is a shocking amount of room. In fact, there is room for 31 trees. Planting will start in the next couple of days.

To date we have received approximately $700 in cash donations. This money has been used to buy fencing. Individuals have purchased and donated a dozen trees and we will hopefully have these in the ground and fenced by this weekend.

We have room for approximately twenty more fruit and nut trees. At $60 per tree we are looking to raise another $1200 to build our the orchard. With the have dozen mature trees already at the site this orchard will provide a substantial amount of food to Lummi Islanders in future years.

We are thankful for the Islanders who donated the use of their tractors, backhoes and tillers. It would have been a back breaking chore without them. They exposed  a wonderful area of soil that should be extremely productive for many years.

I hope more people will see the value of this transition initiative as a step for making the island more self-sufficient and worthy of investment. You can make your contribution to the project tax deductible, if that’s important, by donating to the Lummi Island Heritage Trust  and designating the “Curry Orchard Project” as the recipient.

Mar 282011

Guest post by Mike Skehan

Now that the dust is settling in Japan (albeit somewhat toxic for some), my thoughts turn inward to Lummi Island again.

As most of us are aware, many of the organizations on Lummi are really getting into Emergency Preparedness, with groups working there way through shelters for maybe ten percent of our population, food, water, energy, communication and local medical attention.

The other ninety percent of us will have to shelter ‘In Place’, which most reading this article have thought a great deal about, and could probably survive for weeks or months.

The ones not reading this article, I suspect the vast majority of islanders, are somewhere between a couple of weeks and a few days of basic supplies.  For some it’s OMG, I need to get to Haggens – NOW.

The thought occurs to me that Haggens and Costco are going to be the last places you want to visit until some semblance of normalcy is restored.  Looking at all the lines for bottled water in Tokyo should serve as a real wake up call.  Who wants to get to the store last, stand in line for hours, and be told everything is gone.  Go back to where you came from!

I did a quick, back of the envelope calculation for our Emerg. Prep meeting last week on Lummi Island water supplies.  Assuming normal consumption for about 1000 residents, and the water in storage reservoirs around the island in our public water systems, it’s about 4 or 5 days worth.  That’s rough, and I’ll be refining those numbers as we work our way through a lot of this, but assuming nobody conserves, which they will, and every water tank survives, which they won’t, and all the standby generators pump at full capacity, until propane and diesel run out, we have about a week or two to shelter ‘In Place’.

Now were into plan B.  Non-Potable water supplies, and deliveries from the mainland (remember Haggens?).

Lummi is blessed with ample runoff, most of the year.  Do you know which ones are safe and which ones are not.  Do you know how to purify the water you grab from a stream or a pond.  We even have artesian wells on Lummi, and several large lakes.

“Coliform Bacteria, or any number of dangerous water borne diseases anyone?”

So, with no power, no ferry, no aircraft carrier standing off Lummi for support, and no more water coming from your spigot, where will you go for the gallon per person per day you need?  That’s a serious question.

I’m not the brightest star in the heavens, but I’m a good listener.  Now it’s your turn.

Mar 242011

It’s nice to get that first taste of spring. In our case that means nettles which are popping up everywhere. They seem to like the edges of things, shady spots where it’s damp. We have them on the wood line, along the edge of snowberries and peaking out from under blackberry patches. They pop up around the old woodshed and at the base of an old alder snag. I don’t mind getting stung believing that it is somehow healthy. On the other hand, I don’t encourage the stinging and wear a glove as I snip the tops into a colander.

Surprisingly, we have some White Russian Kale that survived the winter. After each freeze the kale drooped sadly on the stem only to pop up as the weather warmed. Some leaves were freeze damaged but the four plants remaining have lots of nice, tasty leaves. A 50/50 mix of kale and nettles is very satisfying. We’ve had it six nights in a row. We’ll no doubt eat it many more nights. It’s hard to beat getting free food and food from the garden.

Most of us think nettles are something to avoid because of their long-lasting sting caused by the tiny hairs on the leaf and stem. But avoiding nettles is your loss. They have medicinal benefits, can improve your soil by adding them to your compost and have uses you can’t even imagine. I didn’t know, for example, that nettles can be woven into cloth (the Germans harvested two thousand tons of wild nettles to weave uniforms during the World Wars). Herbalist Susan Weed tells you all about it here.

You can harvest nettles now and dry them for tea or make infusions for use later.   Nettle infusions are supposed to be particularly helpful for women’s health.   It’s good for men as well, used widely in Europe to treat prostate disorder.

The nettles are out there right now waiting to help, waiting to feed us, waiting to enrich the compost pile. Free for the picking. Making use of the nettle, even for one meal, can put you in closer touch with the island, helping you to recognize that there is much we don’t know, much we’ve forgotten and much more to learn about the place where we live.

Mar 202011

The following linked article by Keith Harmon Snow (an acknowledged anti-nuke advocate) describes what he sees as the disinformation campaign that has developed to protect the nuclear power industry. Lots of comments in the news about how we (the USA) have nothing to worry about…which brings us to the elephant in the room: could we have a nuclear accident in this country on the magnitude of the disaster in Japan?

Money quote:

“Humanity now faces a deadly serious challenge coming out of Japan — the epicenter of radiation. Intentional efforts to downplay or dismiss this catastrophe reveal the immaturity of western civilization and some of our most acute human pathologies, including our worship of technology and our psychopathology of denial. The widespread distortion and cover-ups to protect private profits, national and corporate interests, to fool and betray the people, are unacceptable. Here are some of the deeper whats and whys and hows — some technical issues and the kinds of questions people need to ask — about the nuclear apocalypse unfolding on planet earth. Prayers are not enough. It’s time to question everything, to put politics aside, to take personal action to halt nuclear expansion and defend ourselves from this industrial juggernaut.”

Nuclear Apocalypse in Japan
Lifting the Veil of Nuclear Catastrophe and cover-up

Mar 192011

Chris Martenson is getting really serious  about the Japan situation and how will might affect us economically.

In a post titled:
Alert: Nuclear (and Economic) Meltdown In Progress he begins—”It is with a heavy heart that I am now issuing the highest level alert to my readers than I have to date. The threshold for an alert is one or more world events that personally cause me to take action…

Read the whole thing here.

And, by the way, does anyone know of a geiger counter on the island? Might be the most effective lie detector we could have right now.

Mar 192011

Guest Post from Brian Giffin

Friday, March 18th 2011

Dear family, friends and neighbors,

We’ve got lots of water treatment pills on hand, but.

So here is the best information I can find to date.  Wikipedia changed it’s story overnight on the water treatment pills.  This is apparently not a fallout solution, altho I’m going to drink a few quarts.  More iodine seems to be a very good thing and the taste reminds me of backpacking in Wyoming.   Information is scarce at the moment on how to react.

The problem at the reactors for Japan is enormous, that word isn’t big enough.  It doesn’t seem to present a similar fallout risk over here.  They are fixing this as fast as any humans could, while running out of food.  Major assistance is needed in Japan on all levels.

It seems self evident that if fires are burning uncontrolled in the barely depleted uranium storage tanks, plutonium is getting into the atmosphere once again.    What’s there now comes mostly from our USA 1950’s bomb tests.  It decays incredibly slowly and is the most poisonous substance known.  It and 200 other isotopes will be increasing worldwide, as long as the fires burn.  There are no safe radiation increase levels, it’s all cumulative and permanent for the planet.  Immense power and money is committed to keeping this reality fuzzy in your mind.  It’s children who are getting hurt the most by these big boys and their toys.  All forms of radiation negatively affect mothers and children much more than old men, they might get rich.

I do plan to improve my intake of Iodine, this seems to be prudent and good for health generally.  People with iodine deficiencies absorb more when exposed.  I think the iodine water treatment pills are meaningful as a good boost to the system.  They contain about 6 mg per pill.  Military studies gave soldiers a lot of it for months without side effects.   In case somehow the situation gets worse,  it should not be used in an attempt to get to the CDC recommended levels.  This can only be done safely with the KI pills or Lugols Solution.  Both are hard to get.  Iodine may help prevent the uptake of other radiation somewhat, this needs research.  Zinc showed good results in animal studies.  Kelp is a good source, 24 pills equal about 6 mg.  Older people with Lugols Solution should consider sharing with young families if it’s needed.  We old farts don’t count so much right now, they do.

Lugols Solution is a liquid form of Iodine that is more available than KI pills, it is very concentrated and needs careful use.  I hope to know more soon.  Apparently radioactive iodine decays in days so it is most troublesome up close.  This pollution isn’t being put directly into the stratosphere.  That is a nuclear weapons issue.  Then, it wouldn’t be local.

In my best case scenario, the world pulls together to bury this piece of Hell in record time, like that guy Bolt.  China can move a mountain in a hurry if anyone can.  Then we get to take a look in our own backyards.

Hanford, Washington has an identical Mark 1 reactor with the same immense spent storage rod problem plus everything else they have.  It’s all downstream from the Grand Coulee Dam that could break in an earthquake.  This is just physics, downhills, earthquakes, plutonium and stuff like that.  I try not to argue with physics.  California has 2 ancient Mark 1’s near LA on the ocean next to a big fault line.  Fukushima could be happening there.  We have 23 Mark 1’s in operation in the USA.

Peace on Earth,
Brian Giffin

Lummi Island, WA 98262
360 758 2140

Disclaimer:  I’m not a medical person, just a dad.  My family has been fighting nukes since the 50’s.  This letter comes from my most conservative Kentucky instincts.  The pro nuke apologists are the dangerous free radicals.  Two new plants are planned for Texas, to be owned and operated by TEPCO of Fukushima, Japan. I’m not making this up. 24 Billion USD in construction loans to be guaranteed by your US taxpaying grandchildren.  Only human beings care to stop this insanity. Our corporate entities have no souls, no children.

The Iroquois, not the French, gave us constitutional representative government.  They’ve been at it since 1142.  We should have also adopted their war council plan.  Women alone choose one male tribal war council representative. Full consensus was required at the 100 plus multi tribal war council.  What if the women were put in charge of all our nukes and the Pentagon?  We wouldn’t be fighting over teacher salaries.  Think about it.

Reference Materials:
Wikipedia: Iodine water pills not recommended for radiation exposure.

WHO World Health Organization Chernobyl health effects.

CDC Center for Disease Control KI recommendations.

Dr. Helen Caldicott:  A powerful voice for today’s children and the generations yet to come.

AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science – Change in NRC opinion of Zirconium fire hazard due to rude reality.

MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) Unusual Fire & Explosion Hazard: Do not spray water on burning zirconium.

Opednews: A strong summary of the present crisis.

1491  The best book on American History ever.

Mar 152011

I find it curious that when anyone broaches the idea of a passenger ferry to Fairhaven on the Ferry Forum it gets slammed down hard. It’s too dangerous or too expensive. Totally out of the question. Not worth talking about. So, let’s move on.

The arguments get a bit mixed up between why the Chief can’t do it, why we’d need a ginormous car ferry to maintain the same service or how the waves are tsunami-like, why it’s cost prohibitive, or why it would take too long. Just not worth discussing. Don’t waste your time.

So, why would reasonable people suggest that maybe a passenger ferry to the transportation hub in Fairhaven should be considered? Here are some reasons.

1. If we lose Gooseberry Point how do we get on and off the island? I’m presuming that losing Gooseberry Point is a possibility. If it’s not a possibility why has Lummi Island been in a state of near meltdown these many months? If we lose Gooseberry Point there will have to be some publicly supported alternative or an awful lot more of us are going to have to learn how to back a boat and trailer down a narrow boat ramp.

2. If we keep Gooseberry Point and lose parking, how will we deal with events like dry dock?

3. If we keep Gooseberry Point but the schedule is significantly reduced, how will that affect life on the island? For example, what if you have a medical emergency on Thursday but the ferry only runs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday?

4. If we keep Gooseberry Point and gasoline goes sky high or is rationed, or becomes unavailable, how will we get from Gooseberry Point to where we would like to go? What will the costs be?

5. If we keep Gooseberry Point and ferry fees go through the roof (as gas goes up or is not readily available) will it still make economic sense or practical sense because when one arrives at Gooseberry Point one is still technically on an island with a long way to go to get to any place you want to be.

6. If we keep Gooseberry Point but the Lummis feel they have been treated unfairly or forced into a deal they didn’t want, will Gooseberry Point be a pleasant place to wait for a ferry?

7. If we keep Gooseberry Point but foot traffic is discouraged due to high prices and no parking, how have we served those members of our community without cars or with unreliable cars?

8. If we keep Gooseberry Point and, God forbid, our country reaches a point where there is significant civil unrest, do we want the island to be easily accessible by car ferry?

9. If we keep Gooseberry Point and the Chief wears out where do we get the money for the expensive replacement which will certainly cost more than a passenger ferry?

10. And, finally and repetitively, if we lose Gooseberry Point, how will we get on and off the island?

The thinking and the lobbying on the ferry issue has been very short term with the goal of maintain the status quo. Sadly, folks, the status is no longer quo. Things are changing fast, not necessarily for the better. We have enjoyed a virtual bridge for many years. Hopefully, this will continue. Hopefully, gasoline will be readily available and affordable. However, these may be unreasonable expectations. In the future, just getting on and off the island once in awhile may be the reasonable expectation.

It’s shocking to me that the County hasn’t given a more detailed look at a passenger ferry to Fairhaven option. And, very curious that certain participants in the Ferry Forum want to shut this discussion down. We are worried to death about ferry service and yet are unwilling to discuss alternatives. Talking about it, figuring out how it could be done, doesn’t mean you are going to do it. It just means that you have considered the alternatives.

Mar 142011

What we are missing for the Transition agenda on Lummi Island is a sense of urgency. But when nature speaks in the form of an earthquake or hurricane we stop for a moment and listen. When a nuclear reactor melts down and the fallout starts blowing our way, we give some thought to iodine. But it takes something local, like a possible ferry shutdown, to really get our attention. The Law of NIMBY takes precedence. It’s difficult to develop a sense of urgency unless we are directly affected by an issue. Cherry Point isn’t too far away and the thought of coal dust floating down the northeast wind piques our interest. Even though we’ll rarely drink the waters of Lake Whatcom the idea of more pollution there seems icky and untoward. We might get a glass full of it if we eat out in Bellingham.

So, take a look at the video above and imagine even half as much water surging around this island inundating those at sea level and tearing chunks  of earth from the steep banks, pulling down trees and undermining the roads.

Nature seems to be upping the ante of late with quakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts and fires. The economy is swirling down the toilet but at the same time we are paying for foreign wars with factions lobbying for even more involvement. Almost half the population spends more than it makes in a given year. There’s a lot to spend it on. We got eighteen catalogs last week.

It’s encouraging that on Lummi Island Disaster Preparedness seems once again to be a topic of discussion. It’s timely and necessary that we get organized to help each other out by being as ready as we can be for a wide range of possibilities. Organizations on the island are taking responsibility for specific functions like food, water and shelter so that we might be able to tend to anyone adversely affected by an unpredicted event. At its essence disaster preparedness needs to be flexible, ready to deal with a myriad of problems.

In my professional career I earned the designation “Associate in Risk Management.”  One of the tenets of risk management is to spread the risk. That is, not put all of ones eggs in one basket. I haven’t played much poker, probably because of what I learned in Risk Management, but in poker, a similar technique is going “all in.”

Lummi Island, led by PLIC, went all in on day one with the slogan of “Gooseberry Point or Bust.” It might have been nice, in Risk Management or even poker terms, to have spread the risk a bit, worked on some alternatives and contingencies, made series head fakes towards the end of Slater Road, feints toward Bellingham and serious looking plans for Fairhaven. Instead our naval experts shot down the alternatives one by one using weather, wave and distance as the reasons and, more or less, daring lubbers to take issue with them.

The Lummis used to paddle around in these things trading up into Canada.

Now the situation is getting a bit out of hand with the Lummis making all manner of unsubstantiated claims and the County defensively trying to counter them. Lummi Islanders are crying, “We’re all going to die.” (Or, at least not be able to get to work).

It’s hard for me not to believe that the County’s negotiating hand could have been stronger by having a well thought alternative plan or plans to by pass Gooseberry Point and the Lummi Nation. There’s still time for this. It’s unlikely that the Lummis will stop the ferry in April, a PR disaster of volcanic proportion. It’s unlikely also that there will be a complete resolution. After all, the parking lot will go away next year, the costs have yet to be determined and “Why are they tearing down that building by the ferry line?”

Our Island sense of urgency, when we look at video or photos from Japan, is clearly misplaced. There are actually more important things to be thinking about. Really bad news might redirect it. But who wants more bad news?

Mar 112011

The infamous T. Boone Pickens has purchased enough water rights in the Panhandle area of Texas to drain the very important Ogallala Aquifer of 65 billion gallons of water a year (that’s 124,000 gallons a minute). Right now, 95% of the water from this ancient aquifer is used for agriculture but Mr. Pickens plans to divert it and pipe it to Dallas where he will, of course, make a fortune like some character from a Michener novel. The farmer’s, whose livelihood are diminishing because of their own misuse of the aquifer, will just have to suck it up, or dry up, as the case may be. Their agricultural practices haven’t been sustainable and the Ogallala is a mere underground puddle compared to what it used to be. They are talking “Dust Bowl” in that area and if you read this article you will learn that all is not happy in Happy, Texas.

In Washington DC and to a lesser extent in a couple of other cities one finds the phenomenon of “slugging.”  Northern Virginia commuters queue up to catch rides in private passenger autos to avoid using public transportation. The reason: three or more can use the very fast I-95 HOV lanes and cut up to thirty minutes off their one way commute to the Pentagon or other government offices in DC. Our subsidizing of the private passenger auto through HOV lanes and zoning parking requirements make this a cheaper and more attractive form of travel than bus or subway. Passengers get a free ride and the driver of the car gets to make use of the fast lane. Slugging has developed its own sub-culture in the DC area with a web-site,  and a special etiquette. Government has gotten involved to the extent of subsidizing the web site and trying to add additional queues.

We all end up somewhere trying to sort out the problems of our particular location like, “Where are we going to get water to grow food?” or “How can I get to work faster?” Decisions are based on too many factors to mention. A lot of the time we ask the wrong question which derives from our history of having too much—too much water, too many trees, too much coal, too many fish, too much land, too many roads, too many subdivisions, too many fast food restaurants, too much stuff from China.

Sharon Astyk, a prolific and well-known writer in the sustainability movement, has an interesting essay  on a theory posed by a friend of hers called “The Theory of Anyway” which “…argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do…”

She goes on to make this important point: “This is, I think, a deeply powerful way of thinking because it is a deeply moral way of thinking – we would like to think of ourselves as moral people, but we tend to think of moral questions as the obvious ones “should I steal or pay?” “Should I hit or talk?” But the real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day, “Should I eat this?” “Where should I live and how?” “What should I wear?” “How should I keep warm/cool?” We think of these questions as foregone conclusions – I should keep warm X way because that’s the kind of furnace I have, or I should eat this because that’s what’s in the grocery store. (The) Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first – we must always ask the question “Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction.”

These questions are a lot easier to ask and answer if one is not struggling to make a living like the commuters in DC or trying to survive a drought like the farm folk in Happy, Texas. Ultimately, however, we all have to ask and answer for the decisions that we’ve made and the ones we will make for the future. It’s even harder to buy into The Theory of Anyway if we have been spoiled by too much: too much electricity, too much toilet paper, too much gasoline, too many potato chips, too much TV, too much mobility. Even many of the poor in our territory have cell phones, cable TV and cars. For every deep ecologist there’s a T. Boone Pickens. For every proponent of frugality there’s a subscriber to Vanity Fair.

It’s highly likely that those aspiring to vanity, commuters and dust bowl region farmers are going to be facing huge shocks in the coming months or years. Most people are not reading articles like this or this or this.

For most of us it’s too late to ask “Where should I live and how?” In Lummi Island ferry crisis discussions it’s argued that if we lose the ferry the island will only be populated by the wealthy. I would argue that only the wealthy will be able to afford to leave. The rest of us will have to suck it up and get on board with The Theory of Anyway.

Mar 092011

The subject of firearms is a controversial one, possibly less so in a rural area than in a city. Some of us grew up with guns around the house; many did not. Others became familiar with firearms during military days; others have not served in the military.

Whether or not to have one (or more) is a very personal decision although I detect that more and more people are tempted to have a weapon, perhaps a shotgun, available in the event of TSHittingTF. There are some very knowledgeable gun people on the island and you can find them if you ask around. They can be very helpful in giving advice and counsel.

If you are unfamiliar with guns but are curious, an entertaining way to learn something is to watch a History Channel series called “Top Shot” now in its second season. It’s a competition between shooters of various backgrounds using a wide variety of weapons. They break the groups into two teams, have a contest between the teams involving an automatic pistol, or a revolver, or a shotgun, or a rifle, or a bow or even throwing knives. The losing team must choose two members to compete against each other to see who goes home. In each competition, an expert instructor is brought in to teach proper technique.

The show points out that for many people using firearms is a sport as well as a skill like shooting free throws or tossing darts except that explosions are involved and earplugs and eye protection are required.

The participants include women and run the gamut of amateur to professional, and civilian to military. Full episodes are available on the internet and can be found here.

Very entertaining and educational.

Mar 062011

The concept of “money” is a hard one and I have spent a lot of time the last couple of years trying to get a better understanding of what money means and what it really is. The value of money appears to be based on a community agreement that it is worth something. There is a continuing debate between the Austrian economists who believe that money should be backed by gold and the people who are in control (Federal Reserve/banks) who promote fiat currency that is, money not backed by any commodity.

But it gets even more complicated. Most people don’t really understand that the Federal Reserve is not a government agency but a private bank that creates money and loans it as debt. I’m currently reading Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed subtitled “The Bankers Who Broke the World.” Mr. Ahamed, a former World Bank Economist tells a lively story that begins around 1914 and continues through WWII and argues that the Great Depression and WWII can pretty much be blamed on the bankers who form the focus of his well-written tale.

Banker’s reputations are certainly on the ropes these days and deservedly so if one lends credence to articles such as Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article, Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Ron Paul does a good job explaining the Federal Reserve in his book End the Fed.

A full length documentary titled the Secret of Oz does a really good job of telling the history of banking in the US and argues a strong case for having governments issue currency as debt free money, taking the play away from the Federal Reserve.

The film’s hook is the famous children’s book The Wizard of Oz which the filmmaker argues is full of symbolism about the currency debates of the day. It’s educational and watchable though nearly two hours.

Who knew that Dorothy’s slippers in the book were silver and changed to ruby in the film because of technicolor? When that happened most of the monetary symbolism in the Wizard of Oz was lost.