Friday, August 26, 2011


Today's poll shows that Rick Perry is the leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Perry is among a host of 'leaders' such as Bachmann, Huckabee, Palin, etc., who are anti-science, anti-intellectual. As Erwin Chargaff once quipped - "That in our day, pygmies cast such giant shadows only shows how late in the day it has become."  It's disturbing to imagine such folks overseeing science in this country.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A haunting, enigmatic tune from Dylan performed by several artists.

They say ev’rything can be replaced
Yet ev’ry distance is not near
So I remember ev’ry face
Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection
They say ev’ry man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd
Is a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him shout so loud
Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Click here for a fairly rare video of Dylan and friends doing this song.

Sunday, August 07, 2011



Guest Commentary by Paul Steury, Assistant Professor of Environmental Education at Goshen College's Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center.
I recently visited “the most destructive project on earth,” a human made phenomenon called the Tar Sand.  It is where Suncorp is mining out oil from the land in northern Alberta – the place that makes Canada the country from which we get the majority of our oil.

“Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.”

I went to Canada to study the socio-ecological affects of humans’ impact on this earth.  I wanted to see first hand what I’ve been reading about in regards to environmental issues. To become a better educator it is good to see things first hand; I can then use the experience as a motivator and as an instrument to discuss stewardship, creation care and environmental ethics.

During the visit I did a flyover of a couple of the larger open pit mines where they scoop out the bitumen, load it in these massive trucks to move it closer to the refinery where they remove the toxins , “clean” the oil, and liquefy it by heating the soil concoction up because the bitumen is so thick it needs to be thinned.  Then Syncrude, Suncorp and other mining companies can send hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily to an American refinery in Whiting, Indiana. That is one reason why Goshen citizens should be concerned about the Tar Sands. One of many.

Once the hot water/steam has been used to remove the bitumen from the soil they store their waste in something called tailing ponds which currently is 140 square kilometers/54 square miles of a toxic soup where they need to have loud alarms on the top of the pond to keep birds from landing in the water or they would never leave the pond since it is full of mercury, thallium, arsenic and oil residue.

The oil industry is just doing it’s job.

Dr. John O’Connor, who is a family physician for Fort Chipewyan & Fort McKay First Nations people, told me that the industry is doing their job. Their job is to make money for their shareholders.  It doesn’t matter how it does it since corporations do not have ethics. Dr. O’Connor lays the blame for the amount of cancer that is affecting the Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay people on the Canadian government. He states that water quality is the main transmitter of carcinogens to the people living in northern Alberta. He also asserts that Environment Canada is not monitoring the water of the Athabasca River because they want to keep the findings secret since it would slow down production which would then slow down the economy.

With concerns over tar sands development and environmental and health problems in the area, the Government of Alberta is under an international spotlight to address the problems. Violations of Constitutionally-protected Treaty rights pose a serious concern that can result in litigation, intervention from the Federal government, and investor insecurity.” 

David Schindler of the University of Alberta found that levels of the pollutants cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc exceeded federal and provincial guidelines for the protection of aquatic life in melted snow or water collected near or downstream from oil sands mining.  My host in Fort McMurray had a tiny house and wanted to see if a fellow member at her church would let me stay overnight.  When Marg told the member that I was an environmental education professor she reprimanded her, “How dare you even think an environmentalist could stay at my house?” Her husband had worked for Suncorp for 40 years.

That interaction tells me there is a war going on in Fort McMurray – between industry and those who believe in the power of economics and technology – versus those who are concerned about the molestation of the land, the toxicity of the air and water, and the elevated cases of cancer especially in a First Nation community downstream.

What about the triple bottom line?  Why can’t the two sides be combined?

I asked the economic director of the Fort McKay First Nation peoples how the mines affect the social equity and environmental quality? (Triple bottom line philosophy includes economic, societal, and environmental costs.) And all he could reply was that the First Nations people had great entrepreneurial opportunities with restoring and reclaiming the spoils of overburden (the soil that had the oil removed) like replanting trees and caring for the 20 buffalo Suncorp brought in to show that the reclamation areas are “safe”. He was not able to address the cancers that affecting the people he works for. We didn’t even approach the topic of respect and sacred places.

Even the First Nation people are caught in a bipolar dilemma.

Winfred GrandJambe, an elder from the Fort McKay community, told me about his new truck and house and the positives of having the Tar Sands in his northern Alberta community since it offers salaries in the hundreds of thousands for driving truck or bulldozers. But he also said “there are no more animals nearby and we have to go quite a ways for healing herbs.” This 71 year old had just hunted a bear the week before and a moose the week before that but he had to fly to another part of Alberta to reach hunting areas. Winfred’s community, which is surrounded by eight pit mines devoid of vegetation, has changed his environment – his home completely – forever.

So, what can I do?

I do drive a car and am in need of gasoline, which comes from petroleum.  A lot of my wants are made of plastic: my computer, my sandals, my electric fan. What I must do is ride my bike more often. Walk downtown. I must think about the non-essential drives. I must talk to my mayor, council members, senators, congress people about alternatives. I must talk about increasing public transportation.
I must consume less.

If I want to be that global citizen that works for justice for all people and all things I must concentrate on being more local, reducing my oil intake here to lessen the amount needed from the Tar Sands.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


This is a quiz.  Multiple choice.  What does the number 28,097 represent?

a)  The number of Wilt Chamberlains "girlfriends"
b)  The number of misleading statements made daily on Fox News
c)  The number of text messages sent by Tiger Woods to his "girlfriends"
d)  The number of flunkies trying to keep Rupert Murdock out of jail
e)  The number of Charlie Sheen binges
f)  The number of non-profits in the state of Colorado

Although A through E are not out of the realm of possibility, F is the correct answer.  When I recently heard this number, I was stupefied.  All I could think was "Who is paying for all of these 501(c)(3) corporations to carry out the business of not making a profit?"  Indeed, in 2010, Colorado non-profits had revenue of  $20,737,739,579 and assets of $51,091,327,497.  The grand total for non-profits in all 50 states was $1,657,971,550,716 in revenue and $3,818,095,661,647 in assets!  Holy moley - not making any money seems to be really good business.  The breakdown for Colorado non-profits can be found here - all paid for by your taxes, insurance and charitable contributions.  I just have to figure out a way to get in on this action.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


That is about all that needs to be said.  Three game series at Coors Field, and each game was a good example of why the Phillies are one of the best teams, if not the best,  in baseball and why the Rockies are a below-average team.  Rockies could have won the first game, but the bullpen blew the lead, giving up a couple of homers to let the Phils win in extra innings.  Second game - Rockies pitching no match for the Phillies.  Third game - Rocks get six runs off of Phil's ace Halladay, surely enough to win with a modicum of pitching, but give up eight.  Son-in-law is no doubt delighted.  Below is a sight that was way too familiar during the three games - Ryan Howard hitting a home run.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


A few comic strips make me laugh out loud, and The Argyle Sweater is one that does now and then.  The August 1 comic made me chuckle quite a bit, as did the July 26 that follows: