My thoughts about culture and our present conditions. As Dianne Moore says in Learning to Love a Wounded World, "This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”

How we are are all getting fracked

So you can keep driving your cars…

So industrial Agriculture can keep putting those pretty but tasteless foods in your supermarkets…

So you can get at the last reserves of nonrenewable oil and gas…

So you can have your freedom:

The Environmental Nightmare You Know Nothing About by Ellen Cantarow

But as I traveled around rural townships and villages in early March to interview people about frac-sand mining, a little-known cousin of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” daytime temperatures soared to nearly 80 degrees — bizarre weather that seemed to be sending a meteorological message.

In this troubling spring, Wisconsin’s prairies and farmland fanned out to undulating hills that cradled the land and its people. Within their embrace, the rackety calls of geese echoed from ice-free ponds, bald eagles wheeled in the sky, and deer leaped in the brush. And for the first time in my life, I heard the thrilling warble of sandhill cranes.

Yet this peaceful rural landscape is swiftly becoming part of a vast assembly line in the corporate race for the last fossil fuels on the planet. The target: the sand in the land of the cranes.

Thanks to the Reagan Revolution, bringing you your freedom from da big bad guvamint, especially you honkies in rural America, this is how 30 years of walk down back from environmental regulation works…

They’re a huge water manufacturing factory that Mother Nature gave us, and they’re gone.

Ellen Cantarow writes:

If you scan to the left, you’ll see the hills that are going to disappear.”

Those hills are gigantic sponges, absorbing water, filtering it, and providing the region’s aquifer with the purest water imaginable. According to Lausted, sand mining takes its toll on “air quality, water quality and quantity. Recreational aspects of the community are damaged. Property values [are lowered.] But the big thing is, you’re removing the hills that you can’t replace.  They’re a huge water manufacturing factory that Mother Nature gave us, and they’re gone.”

It’s impossible to grasp the scope of the devastation from the road, but aerial videos and photographs reveal vast, bleak sandy wastelands punctuated with waste ponds and industrial installations where Wisconsin hills once stood.

How the locals sell out…

Ellen Cantarow writes:

Of the mining he adds, “It’s really put a boost to the area. It’s impressive the amount of money that’s exchanging hands.” Eighty-four-year-old Letha Webster, who sold her land 100 miles south of Schindler’s to another mining corporation, Unimin, says that leaving her home of 56 years is “just the price of progress.”
 (my emphasis)

While everyone is worried about recalling Wisconsin’s governor…

What’s a sand mine?” she asked.

Ellen Cantarow writes:

Jamie and Kevin Gregar — both 30-something native Wisconsinites and military veterans — lived in a trailer and saved their money so that they could settle down in a pastoral paradise once Kevin returned from Iraq. In January 2011, they found a dream home near tiny Tunnel City. (The village takes its name from a nearby rail tunnel). “It’s just gorgeous — the hills, the trees, the woodland, the animals,” says Jamie. “It’s perfect.”

Five months after they moved in, she learned that neighbors had leased their land to “a sand mine” company. “What’s a sand mine?” she asked.

Now she knows.

Ellen Cantarow writes:

The Gregars’ land is now surrounded on three sides by an unsightly panorama of mining preparations. Unimin is uprooting trees, gouging out topsoil, and tearing down the nearby hills. “It looks like a disaster zone, like a bomb went off,” Jamie tells me.

We don’t need no damn govamint…

Ellen Cantarow writes:

Like many Wisconsin towns where a culture of diehard individualism sees zoning as an assault on personal freedom, Greenfield and all its municipalities, including Tunnel City, are unzoned. This allowed the corporation to make deals with individual landowners.

———–

For the Gregars, it’s been a nightmare.  Unimin has refused five times to buy their land and no one else wants to live near a sand mine. What weighs most heavily on the couple is the possibility that their children will get silicosis from long-term exposure to dust from the mine sites. “We don’t want our kids to be lab rats for frac-sand mining companies,” says Jamie.

The DNR denied the petition

So in November 2011, Jamie Gregar and ten other citizens sent a 35-page petition to the DNR. The petitioners asked the agency to declare respirable crystalline silica a hazardous substance and to monitor it, using a public health protection level set by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The petition relies on studies, including one by the DNR itself, which acknowledge the risk of airborne silica from frac-sand mines for those who live nearby.

One of the petitioners was not surprised

One of the petition’s signatories, Ron Koshoshek, wasn’t surprised. For 16 years he was a member of, and for nine years chaired, Wisconsin’s Public Intervenor Citizens Advisory Committee.  Created in 1967, its role was to intercede on behalf of the environment, should tensions grow between the DNR’s two roles: environmental protector and corporate licensor. “The DNR,” he says, “is now a permitting agency for development and exploitation of resources.”

“The DNR is now a permitting agency for development and exploitation of resources.”  What do you expect when you give an agency both oversight and permit responsibilities… and then the money takes over congress, the presidency and the justice department?  What do you expect when the Federalist Society embeds itself in all the law schools and your entire legal system?

What do you expect?  Government perfection by ethical and moral fiat?

And now back to Governor Scott Walker.

Like Reagan appointing Watts, Governor Scott Walker appoints Cathy Stepp:

Ellen Cantarow writes:

In 2010, Cathy Stepp, a confirmed anti-environmentalist who had previously railed against the DNR, belittling it as “anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes,” was appointed to head the agency by now-embattled Governor Scott Walker who explained: “I wanted someone with a chamber-of-commerce mentality.”

I mean, what do you expect?

This all goes back forty years to the Chamber of Commerce-addressed memo from soon to be Supreme Court Justice, Lewis F. Powell, nominated by the very president who signed the EPA Act (the last liberal president, some say, a Republican), and put into office by a primarily Democratic congress.

In one person’s words, this is heartbreaking stuff.  It’s also spirit breaking.  And so I return to my own practice here in the Willipa Watershed, where I walk my walks and write my own versions of

Learning to Love a Wounded World:

Dianne Moore writes:

For Jade it was “a moment of realizing in a very tangible way, just how many people in the world are turning away from the pain inherent in the truth of these times, versus turning toward it all.  This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”

 

 

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