Jim Connor, 83, was not among the 20 protesters arrested on Monday afternoon as part of the latest human blockade at the entrance gates of Crestwood Midstream two miles north of Watkins Glen, New York.
Had the sheriff's deputies arrived an hour earlier, his name would appear in the list of the now 200 arrests that have take place at these gates since October. But Jim—who uses a walker and was blockading while seated in a lawn chair and wrapped in a blanket—needed to go home after 2.5 hours of turning back trucks with his own body.
The deli cook folded her civil disobedience cards at about the same time.
Along with a mom who needed to relieve her babysitter.
Which is how the two-dozen original blockaders were whittled down to 20 during a non-violent direct action on a January morning atop an icy hill above Seneca Lake where winds drop effective temperatures well below the already-wickedly-low digits on the thermometer and where the advice, “dress in layers," means that you pull mittens on over your gloves, wear two coats on top of three sweaters and throw some chemical handwarmers into the toes of your snow boots.
But perhaps the reluctant attrition of the elderly, the workers and the parents of toddlers only attests to the homespun determination of this ongoing civil disobedience uprising—now in its third month.
As does the enduring presence of the 40 other protesters who rallied for hours in support of the blockaders along the shoulder of the highway. One of them was 90-year-old Martha Ferger of Dryden. I was another.
Because it was MLK Day, we sang Civil Rights songs and held banners with messages—“We Are Seneca Lake and We Have a Dream," “Clean Air, Clean Water = Civil Rights,"—honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. on the national holiday that celebrates his birth. The singing went on for hours. We unarrested protesters, when ordered by deputies to disperse, could hear those inside the squad cars still belting out the refrain to “Wade in the Water."
And water is, fundamentally, what this fight is all about. We Are Seneca Lake is an ongoing, citizen-based civil disobedience campaign that seeks to protect Seneca Lake and the surrounding region from gas storage expansion by Texas-based energy company, Crestwood Midstream. Crestwood's intention is to repurpose the crumbling salt mines underneath Seneca Lake's hillside into massive gas tanks for the highly-pressurized products of fracking: methane, propane and butane.
Seneca Lake, a source of drinking water for 100,000 people, is a very deep lake that drains very slowly. A contamination event, hydrologists tell us, would linger not days or weeks but over a time scale measured by human generations. Because of its depth, Seneca Lake also creates a unique, self-moderating microclimate for the entire Finger Lakes region, allowing vineyards to flourish on our hillsides and making possible a thriving wine industry, which is the bedrock of our local economy.
The methane gas storage expansion project is advancing in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved scientific questions about geological instabilities, fault lines and possible salinization of the lake. Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the entire Northeast, as part of the gas industry's planned expansion of infrastructure across the region. The wise decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in our state—and his corollary announcement of a $20 million green jobs competition—only makes the plan to store mass amounts of fracked gas under our lake seem even more insane.
Seneca Lake Defenders—as those risking arrest call themselves—come in all ages, from 18 to 90, and from many walks of life. As diverse as we are, everyone is united in the belief that Crestwood is an out-of-state trespasser that threatens to harm all we hold dear, starting with water and wine. Being arrested for trespassing in order to make that point only helps reinforce it.
Seth Thomas, 34, who lives in the Town of Lodi on the opposite bank of the lake, said, before his own arrest, “I'm protesting gas storage because I was born and raised here. I'm in the wine industry, so this is a direct threat to our way of life."
His words were echoed by Marty Dodge, 72, who lives two Fingers Lakes over in village of Canandaigua and who had driven over early that morning to stand with us. “I am here to do what I can to prevent Crestwood from destroying this lake," said Dodge. “It just doesn't belong here."
Marty, who has a rotator cuff injury in his shoulder, had some difficulty getting his arms behind his back and close enough together for handcuffs. His recent hip replacement made it hard for him to climb into the police van.
Later, outside the Schuyler County sheriff's department, I asked if he had pointed out these disabilities to his arresting officer. The county deputies and state troopers have all been consistently respectful toward us—and sometimes downright compassionate—even during mass arrests.
Marty said no. “I didn't want to cause any trouble."
Increasingly, the protests out at the gates of Crestwood are thematic and self-organized by participants. One self-identified uprising seems to spawn another, and there is no end in sight.
The Teachers Blockade on Dec. 16 resulted in the most arrests in a single day (41), but it was the Musicians Blockade on Dec. 17 (28 arrests) that was the direct inspiration for the Mothers and Grandmothers Blockade of last Friday.
These women—who quickly figured out that they had themselves created, all together, 32 children and 20 grandchildren—blocked the entrance into Crestwood in bitterly cold temperatures and prevented all traffic from entering or leaving the facility for 5.5 continuous hours.
Like the MLK Day Blockade—and, of course, the Musicians Blockade—singing was a key element of the mothers and grandmothers' action. The mothers debuted a new song, The Ballad of Seneca Lake, written by singer-songwriter Edith McCrea.
What made the Mothers and Grandmother's Blockade unusual—besides the fact that cookies were served—is that no arrests were made. A sheriff's deputy stopped by late in the morning, lights flashing, and everyone thought the party was over. But he only expressed concern about the car parked just north of the gate along the highway's edge. (It held our all important port-a-potty.) Could we move it further off the road? We agreed.
The deputy looked at the blockade line. The banners read “Mothers Against Crestwood: Defending Our Children's Future" and “Mom Says: N-O Spells No. You Have Until the Count of 3." And he drove off.
That was the last we saw of law enforcement. The snow kept falling. At 4 p.m. the women dispersed.
Meanwhile, one of the Seneca Lake Defenders (arrested Nov. 21) reports that he overheard a woman at a dinner party encouraging her husband to get involved with us on the grounds that being arrested to save the planet is sexy. He went on to write a blog essay called I'm Mostly Just In This for the Women, which is getting some attention.
So, now it's inevitable: somebody out there is laying plans for a Fathers and Grandfathers Blockade.
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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In 'Road Map for a More Sustainable Future,' NY Regulator Tells Banks to Consider Climate Risks in Planning
By Brett Wilkins
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A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Exxon Mobil will lay off an estimated 14,000 workers, about 15% of its global workforce, including 1,900 workers in the U.S., the company announced Thursday.
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