Earth Day in the Shawnee: Taking a Stand Against Corporate Greed
Few people understand the historical impact of coal mining like acclaimed poet Barney Bush in Shawnee hills of southern Illinois. The French, in fact, stumbled on coal outcroppings near the Shawnee in Illinois in the 17th century, launching the first coal industry on the American continent. By the early 19th Century, Thomas Jefferson helped to engineer the removal of Shawnee in southern Illinois, largely to obtain the great reserves of salt and coal. As a child, Bush's own family, which had survived relocation, lost their home to strip-mining expansion: "When they strip-mined our forests and valley, they strip-mined me," he once told me. As a teacher, Bush also witnessed strip-mining ruin on Navajo and Hopi lands at Black Mesa, in Arizona.
Bush is author of several award-winning collections of poetry and stories, including Inherit the Blood, which chronicled the story of a grandmother confronted with an encroaching coal mine, and "the final removal area."
Living in the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement near Rocky Branch, Illinois, one of the most controversial strip-mine expansions in recent memory, Bush reflects on the experience of the Shawnee, the cherished Shawnee hills and forests, and what today's showdown means for the rest of the nation. —Jeff Biggers
But as to what is possibly the single most meaningful characteristic that divides the human species—the presence or absence of conscience—we remain effectively oblivious. —Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door
As a human being, I have emerged from a combination of large, extended families. Due to extremes of colonial invasions, our social lives that have evolved over tens of thousands of years have dramatically changed. To this day, as a tribal entity, we have struggled to hang onto our instincts for survival in spite of intermarriages/acculturations with colonial citizens, their legal and religious systems and have adapted beyond our senses of compatible culture, respect, honor and love for our homelands. We yet know that we are connected to all living things. And we still find it incredible that a low percentage of these immigrants has the last word in issues relating to life and death of the earth upon which all life depends, indeed, the life and death of related entities that include the human beings.
In every moment, 24 hours-6 days a week, coal trucks in singles and in convoys grind gears and dispense diesel fumes (all illegal) that disturb the peace of this hollow. If you and I are speaking face to face or on the telephone or listening to the radio or watching a film, or writing a poem, we have to stop all communication until they pass and leave a few, precious, silent moments to hear the voice of a friend, the wind, the spring peepers, rain falling on the roof, the music, an instantaneous outburst of song or a good night’s sleep. We seldom sing here anymore. Instead of standing up for their homes, “For Sale” signs line the highways. The disbelief overwhelms everyone who has a conscience.
“And for coal mining families across the nation, the Ludlow Massacre of children, women and immigrant union coal miners, is one of the most defining cautionary tales of injustice and rallying cries for action in the American coalfields that still resound today: No one's loss of life, liberty and health for coal industry profits is acceptable collateral damage,” says author Jeff Biggers.
Here in southern Illinois, the coal and mineral empires devastate the landscape including the removal of the historic hills of Saline, Gallatin and Hardin Counties destroying old indigenous village sites and graveyards as they strip, unmercifully, the holy land.
We have citizens who cannot bear to face the reality of witnessing our homelands, our river ways, our old village sites/recent home sites and our graveyards disrespected and destroyed forever as if we were never here. Some turn to religion, some assimilate/acculturate, some leave for other tribal areas and some simply vanish into the colonial mainstream of America. And, some say that we never existed, and their consciences are eased with the support of others bereft of conscience and/or humanitarian responsibility. The colonial system has always been able to recruit other indigenous people and non-Natives who have lived among us to serve against their own people as scouts and informers. And, some of us choose to stand our ground preferring to seek out ways to reeducate and inspire others to recognize that “We are all related.”
Michael Two Horses (deceased) formerly of American Indian Studies at Virgina Tech, Blacksburg, speaks of contemporary constructs by writers who falsely misconstrue “pristine wilderness” and “complete avoidance” of “… contested lands where members of marginalized races or classes live, and fail to deal with the concept of ‘national sacrifice areas’ in human terms, inasmuch as the Indians, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and poor Whites living in those areas are sacrificed as well. These are zones where uranium mines and coal mines and their pollution of groundwater, or toxic waste dumps are located, without exception, in proximity to marginalized peoples.”
I have witnessed the effects that the Earth, its shapes and fragrances, winds, lightning and thunder, seasons, rains and storms have had on non-Native people. Those with conscience have been reshaped by the nature of this land, have indeed come to feel “reborn” here in the midst of this beauty, and all who love this land have always been welcomed. But the destroyers have not been welcome, the sociopaths, psychopaths, greedy, the ego driven and those who have “... a form of religion” as Jesus has been quoted to have said, a front for ego-driven ambitions that have reeked of gold and slaves since 1492 ... and profit at any cost. This chronic behavior now encircles the globe. Perhaps former president George Bush was not too far off when he (or someone else) coined the phrase, Evil Empire.
Here in southern Illinois, the coal and mineral empires devastate the landscape including the removal of the historic hills of Saline, Gallatin and Hardin Counties destroying old indigenous village sites and graveyards as they strip, unmercifully, the holy land. Southern Hardin County transforms itself into what appears as Third World, war zones as rock crushing businesses backed by local citizens, elected officials and attorneys whose profit-driven motives appear to be without conscience.
The coal is not used in America, in spite of industry’s bold attempts to promote coal as “clean” but is sold to Asian countries without strict environmental laws, and whose pollution circles the globe. Here, citizens of conscience feel helpless in the face of progress and jobs, sell out to the coal companies, then regret it, regret that they did not know how to defend the homelands from their own kind which may include members of their own communities for whom the money "... was just too good to pass up." Whispered dialogue often turns to acts of civil disobedience and defensive actions. After all, what do most people of the world do when their very lives, their families, children, farms are under attack?
The phrase will of the people suddenly causes one to pause and reason that this may have only been a metaphor, an unabashed doublespeak (will of the wealthy), to brand loyalty onto a gullible public imprinted with patriotic sacrifice of their lives and the lives of their children. We would pledge our allegiance to defending corporations posing as patriotic citizens working to build a “better America for a better tomorrow,” another catchphrase that we now know openly translates to rich and powerful. Everything would be all right if you worked hard, prayed hard, loved God and shopped in local, hometown markets. Little did they know that government subsidized corporations would be blowing up their front yards, destroying their water sources and threatening their democratic loyalties in their own homes. The man/woman without conscience finds no attachment to such notions and may even feel superior to the public it disenfranchises, observing that such detestable notions stand in the way of progress and success.
Stout writes: “Psychologically speaking, conscience is a sense of obligation ultimately based in an emotional attachment to another living creature (often, but not always a human being), or to a group of human beings, or even in some cases to humanity as a whole. Conscience does not exist without an emotional bond to someone or something, and in this way conscience is closely allied with the spectrum of emotions we call 'love.' This alliance is what gives true conscience its resilience and its astonishing authority over those who have it ...”
These acts happen to the land, wildlife, forest and the people. It is and has always been, rape, and sociopathic rapists are bold enough and trained to counsel their victims. If this were China or the Middle East conducting this devastation and destroying the homes at Rocky Branch/Berry Hill and erasing the hills of Hardin County, citizens of conscience would take up arms. Here, at Rocky Branch, it is a Civil War-styled atmosphere: relatives against relatives, sell-outs, money under the table, temporary jobs but permanent destruction of earth and the other vital resources.
Numerous local people have proposed moves toward alternative energy, a move that would create businesses that would last as long as the sunlight and wind, much longer than the seams of high-sulfur coal, most of which is shipped to Asian countries, and because it is supposed to be illegal to burn here in the U.S. And, where, in Asian steel mills, much of the slag is used for the making of weapons which are sold to countries with whom the U.S. is at war. Treason appears to be a solid trade-off for JOBS. Go figure.
As it happens in this corporate devastation of the Earth, it evidences the fact that its colonial laws serve only the colonial corporations. They feed from each other and make a mockery of their alleged democracy, respect for religious values, commitment to “... one nation ...” values and setting rightful examples for all of our children. As Native Americans, alone, we are denied basic rights of existence, subsistence and religious beliefs that are in direct relationship with the land, water, air and the animals. Our numbers are few. The feelings of helplessness are agonizing. John Trudell once remarked that American citizens would eventually feel the stinging felt by Native Americans.
“All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One,” Black Elk said.
As most of us are aware, there exist two primary Americas: one that believes and teaches its children to believe that it is born of conscience; the other that knows the truth but cares only that it is able to bully its way, which is really the first America. We watch again while soulless corporations with the approval of a colonial government devastate our homelands and burial grounds. And, yet, they continue to make excuses for a lack of conscience and dismiss the rights to what we indigenous people refer to as the spirit of our homelands and rights to the graves of our fathers and mothers. (Tecumseh [Dya’koom’sah] paraphrased).
“The entire planet is up for grabs by these corporate marauders but WE the people, organized in our common interests, can STOP this. We must recognize that we have, as a class, interests separate from the class of billionaires who profit from this destruction of the commons. They are turning everything into their own private property with which to create scarcity for the majority while they revel in wealth and luxury,” says Cathy Talbott, Co-host of OCCUPY THE AIRWAVES, WDBX Radio, Carbondale, IL.
Peabody hires spokespeople to insinuate its propaganda into the communities, to convince stunned residents that everything will be all right, and that there is no use to fight the inevitable loss of their homes, homes that hosted three or four generations or more of the same bloodlines, where they grew up, where they married, near where they buried their dead, reared more children and gathered in local churches. The spokespeople (usually from out of state or money-bribed locals) offer to rebuild the hills, leave the Earth, the farmlands, home sites in much better condition than when they first hustled, cajoled, and by reports, even threatened many of the residents into signing away all the homeland images of their lives.
“Small communities are regarded as resource colonies by corporations," says Natalie Long, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. "We can challenge this by making our own laws that protect the communities.”
As true soulless humans, the corporate heads and their conscience-free investors and government supporters and bought-out county board members intend to meet their objectives at any cost and cite misleading, financial statistics worded to appeal to the greedy-hearted with the doublespeak of JOBS. Rocky Branch community is not taking these shameless threats lying down but are displaying heartening signs of resistance to the most real, contemporary terrorism to invade the Americas, the destruction of Earth, air, water and the entirety of the historic Saline Valley.
If we are to learn from our history, these corporations should know that a large segment of the public can only be shoved so far before violent action, as a means of defense and protection of life, limb and property, is the only recourse. Then comes the “wringing of hands,” always after it’s too late.
“The industrial economy is a subject of the environment—not the other way around. If we don’t have a healthy biosphere it doesn’t matter how much money we have,” writes Dr. Greg McPherson, Research Forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Center.
The citizens of Rocky Branch appeal to the consciences of people around this Earth, people who are fed up with corporate control of nature and treating we the people and our homelands as expendable for the greed that is without conscience. Indeed, this is an appeal to the consciences of humans who realize that the life forces are not only being held hostage but being destroyed.
Join the citizens of Rocky Branch in recovering their homes. The rally cry of Rocky Branch and their supporters “We won’t stop until you do," says it all about this new wave of resistance through the Heartland. Peabody has already destroyed old farm homes built with beautiful sandstone, log beams and made to endure the years but not the greed of strip mining, fracking and hilltop removal, has clear-cut the forests in spite of endangered species, and has intimidated citizens including elders and church people. As one of the Rocky Branch citizens who spoke at Town Hall in Harrisburg, IL on March 27, 2014, said, “This is our Trail of Tears.” At the very least, the failure of forced relocation in the 21st Century.
“One way or another, a life without conscience is a failed life.” —Martha Stout
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What Is PTSD?<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">PTSD</a> can occur when someone is exposed to extreme exposure traumatic experience. Typically, the trauma involves a threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Along with war veterans, it happens to refugees; to victims of gun violence, rape and other physical assaults; and to survivors of car accidents and natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.</p><p>PTSD can also happen by witnessing trauma or its aftermath, often the case with <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd" target="_blank">first responders</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-anxiety-and-trauma/202006/invisible-wounds-the-frontline-heroes" target="_blank">front-line workers</a>.</p><p>All this adds up to tens of millions of Americans. Up to 30% of combat veterans and first responders, and 8% of civilians, <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/epidemiology.asp" target="_blank">fulfill the diagnostic criteria for PTSD</a>. And that criteria is not easily met: symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of reminders of trauma, negative emotions, and what we call "hyperarousal symptoms."</p>
Fireworks Can Trigger Flashbacks<p>Hyperarousal, a core component of PTSD, occurs when a person is hyper-alert to any sign of threat – constantly on edge, easily startled and continuously screening the environment.</p><p>Imagine, for instance, stepping down the stairs in the dark after hearing a noise; you're worried an intruder might be downstairs. Then a totally unpredictable loud sound explodes right outside your window.</p><p>For people with PTSD, that sound – reminiscent of gunfire, a thunderstorm or a car crash – <a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">can cause</a> a panic attack or trigger flashbacks, a sensory experience that makes it seem as if the old trauma is happening here and now. Flashbacks can be so severe that combat veterans may suddenly drop to the ground, the same way they would when an explosion took place in combat. Later, the experience can trigger nightmares, insomnia or worsening of other PTSD symptoms.</p><p>Those of us who set off fireworks need to ask ourselves: Are those few minutes of fun worth the hours, days, or weeks of torment that will begin for some of our friends and neighbors – including many who put their lives on the line to protect us?</p>
Who Else Is Affected?<p>Millions of others, though not diagnosed with PTSD, may similarly be affected by fireworks. <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank">One in five Americans</a> have an anxiety disorder, many with symptoms of hyperarousal. Also impacted are those with autism or developmental disabilities; they find it difficult to cope with the noise, or just the drastic change from life routines. Then there are people who have to work, holiday or not: nurses, physicians and first responders, who have to be up at 4 a.m. for a 30-hour shift.</p><h3>How to Reduce the Negative Impact</h3><p>There are ways to reduce how fireworks affect others:</p><ul><li>For those with PTSD, the unexpected nature of fireworks is probably the worst part. So at least make it as predictable as possible. Do it in designated areas during designated times. Don't explode one, for instance, two hours after the designated time window. And avoid setting them off <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/04/fireworks-ptsd-fourth-of-july-veterans-shooting-survivors" target="_blank">on the 3rd</a>. People are less prepared then.</li><li>If you're aware that a veteran or trauma survivor lives in the neighborhood, move the noise as far as possible from their home and give them prior warning. Consider putting a sign in your front yard noting the time you'll set the fireworks.</li><li>Remember, it doesn't have to be super loud to make it fun. Consider using <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504964-its-time-for-silent-fireworks" target="_blank">silent fireworks</a>. And you don't have to be the one who lights the fireworks. Simply enjoy watching while your city or township does it safely.</li></ul>
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By Jeff Berardelli
For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.
International Effort to Evaluate Climate Models<p>For the past 25 years the international community has been evaluating and comparing the world's most sophisticated climate models produced by various teams at universities, research centers, and government agencies. The effort is organized by the World Climate Research Programme under the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.</p><p>Climate models are complicated computer programs composed of millions of lines of code that calculate the physical properties and interactions between the main climate forces like the atmosphere, oceans, and solar input. But models also go a lot further, incorporating other systems like ice sheets, forests, and the biosphere, to name a few. The models are then used to simulate the real-world climate system and project how certain changes, like added pollution or land-use changes, will alter the climate.</p><p>Every few years there is a new comprehensive international evaluation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). In the sixth such effort, known as CMIP6 and now under way, experts are reviewing about 100 models.</p><p>Information gleaned from this effort will act as a scientific foundation for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next major assessment report, scheduled for release in 2021. The goal of the report – the sixth in 30 years – is to inform the international community about how much the climate has changed, and, importantly, how much change can be expected in coming decades.</p>
A Conundrum Emerges<p>Over the past year, the CMIP6 collection of models being reviewed threw researchers an unexpected curveball: a significant number of the climate model runs showed substantially more global warming than previous model versions had projected. If accurate, the international climate goals would be nearly impossible to achieve, and there would be significantly more extreme impacts worldwide.</p><p>A foundational experiment in every report addresses "sensitivity": If you double levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) that were in the air before the Industrial Revolution, how much warming do the models show? This doubling is not expected for a few more decades, but it is a quick way to communicate the critical role of greenhouse gases in changing the climate.</p><p>The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 35% since the 1800s because of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, global temperatures have already increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.</p><p>In the first IPCC assessment report, published in 1990, the answer to that question about the impact of doubling carbon dioxide gave a fairly wide range of results – between 2.7-8 degrees F of global warming. Since then, four more assessments issued six to seven years apart reached nearly the exact same conclusion on sensitivity.</p><p>But that sensitivity may, for the first time, change significantly in next year's assessment. Why? Because starting last year, numerous models in the CMIP6 collection displayed even bigger spikes in temperature upon doubling of CO2 concentrations. We're in serious trouble if the climate sensitivity falls in the mid or upper range of the previous assessments. But if the new, higher estimates are correct, the impacts on civilization would be catastrophic.</p>
In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).
New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging<p>At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.</p><p>"Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm," explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.</p><p>For example, <a href="https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2020-23/" target="_blank">a study</a> released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.</p><p>That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.</p><p>Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2019-86/&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNHYwFB-1KqndGfJ4sXdrrm9DpbLaQ" target="_blank">narrow the range</a> of future warming projections and also <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/12/eaaz9549&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNEhKY1YZ19qgjSZ_hJM14JmzqXOXw" target="_blank">reduce the projected warming</a> of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.</p><p>Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.</p><p>Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. "We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it's tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly," explains Schmidt.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/26/eaba1981" target="_blank">a new study</a> addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, "Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6."</p>
Understanding the Complexity of Clouds<p>It's long been known in climate modeling circles that cloud processes and interactions are a potential weak link for climate modeling. That reality has been brought front and center by the urgent challenges posed during this CMIP6 evaluation period, but the current evaluation of models also provides an opportunity for discovery and improvement.</p><p>Cloud complexity comes from the reality that clouds have a multitude of sizes, altitudes, and textures. Some clouds cool Earth by providing shade, reflecting sunlight back into space. Others act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the world.</p><p>Given that about <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/icesat_light.html" target="_blank">70% of the globe</a> is covered by clouds at any given time, it's no surprise that they play an integral role in regulating the climate. The challenge is to figure out which types of clouds will increase, which will decrease, and what the net effect will be on cooling or warming as the climate changes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0310-1" target="_blank">One study</a> last year reached an alarming conclusion: Left unchecked, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere may lead to a tipping point where shallow low clouds disappear – leading to runaway, catastrophic warming of nearly 15 degrees F. While scientists see that outcome as only a remote possibility, it drives home the urgent need to better understand clouds.</p><p>"We have a saying at NOAA: It isn't rocket science – it's much, much harder than that," quips Dr. Chris Fairall, ATOMIC's lead investigator. "One of the major problems for modeling is there is not clean separation of scales." The photo below is one that Fairall took from the NOAA P-3 aircraft.</p>
Investigating the Secrets of Clouds<p>To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/video/study-aims-to-examine-links-between-climate-change-and-clouds/" target="_blank">CBS This Morning: Saturday</a>."</p>
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