Monday, May 30, 2011

Coal Trains in Bellingham (and Coal Mines in the Comox Valley) Part IV

Update to this post (05/31/2011): I saw Bill McKibben speak tonight on the Fairhaven Green. Very inspiring. There were about three or four hundred people I would imagine. Bill stressed how global warming effects the poor disproportionately. He wants the "carbon bomb" of the Powder River Basin left "in the ground."

Activist and author Bill McKibben speaks at the Fairhaven Green tomorrow in Bellingham, WA. The title of his speech is:"They Want to Build North America's Biggest Coal Terminal in Whatcom County? Really?".  Here is Mr. McKibben speaking at Powershift 2011 on April 17 of this year:

The band starts at 5:00 PM. Bill will speak at 7:00 PM. I've blogged about Coal Trains in Whatcom County (1,2,3) and a number of groups have been fervently engaged in community and environmental organization(1,2). In researching this topic today, I have discovered that the beautiful 'Comox Valley' and Port Alberni  is also going to be subject to the Coal Industry (1,2,3).  So they are going to mine coal from Victoria Island, ship it out of Port Alberni to....Of course the demand in Asia is driving all of this. The economics of coal export are hard to beat for profit. Canadians are having meetings this week:
  • Monday May 30, 2011 - Florence Filberg Centre, Courtenay
  • Thursday June 2, 2011 - Port Alberni Athletic Hall, Port Alberni
  • Friday June 3, 2011 – Union Bay Community Club, Union Bay

The Sightline Daily has a series of excellent articles on "The Dirt on Coal" including an excellent April 28 article "What a Coal Export Terminal Looks Like"  which comes replete with exellent photographs by Bellinghammer Paul K. Anderson.  In honor of Mr. McKibben's visit, I am posting some archived material on Whatcom County coal mines I have accumulated from various sources. (More on this later...) I have to admit, I'm a little pissed off by this point. I moved to Bellingham to find a safe, clean, place to raise a family.  My wife and I both really liked the Comox Valley when we have visited it. We thought it might be a good place to own a retirement/vacation home. Wow...

But as Craig Cole said at the recent Bellingham City Club at the Gateway Pacific Terminal meeting, "we are a debtor nation, we owe the Chinese $3 Trillion dollars...we just can't go on being a buyer of things." And we do need jobs and tax monies. So I guess we will live with dirt and grime (and toxicity?) of coal dust here in Whatcom County...
map from "Coal Fields of Western Whatcom County, Washington", Olaf P. Jenkins 1923

Friday, May 27, 2011

Waiting for the Revolution...

Just some of the business space for rent, sale, or lease in and around downtown Bellingham.

 "Though national economists have declared a technical end to the deep recession that has plagued our country since at least 2008, we would be hard-pressed to find many in the local economy who feel that is true, based on the continuing financial pressures in their lives and businesses. "  Mayor Dan Pike from 2011 Budget Message

They say we have hit another "soft patch" (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) - too many disasters, too little GDP, too much unemployment and under-employment, abysmal housing stats.  Productivity is up, Corporate profits, savings and earnings (in some cases) are sky high but...small businesses and families are collapsing in city after city across middle America. Residential construction activity levels are some slight level above rigor mortis.

It can't go on like this forever. At some point we will either have to:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 'value' of walking...

The City of Bellingham Public Works department is requesting feedback on the Bellingham Pedestrian Master Plan. They have created a very comprehensive pedestrian survey.  Kim Brown is the public point of contact. If you are a pedestrian, I urge you to think seriously about the value of pedestrian walkways and pedestrian safety in your neighborhood. Then submit your ideas and talk about the problem pedestrian areas in your neighborhood.  To imagine the value of pedestrian access, imagine $8/gallon. Imagine a world where only the rich and high paid professionals drive. Or better yet, imagine $12/gallon in a world where the only downtown neighborhood residents are the rich or highly paid professionals and you (middle class family at that) are forced to bus to work and walk to shopping, school, entertainment. For some of you , that world is already here. Here are some of the comments I submitted:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An anomalous event?

Three fascinating studies measuring the diplacement of land and energy of the recent earthquake in Japan have been published by Science Magazine.  The research suggests an earthquake unusual if not anomalous in intensity, energy, and displacement. Science Magazine is making the news and research coverage of the quake free for all visitors.
"With such a limited perspective on the past release and the current buildup of strain, a magnitude-9 quake caught researchers by surprise. Learning that most of the March megaquake’s slip was concentrated on two segments makes scientists more worried about other faults around the Pacific. “If you can get a 9 that is this compact,” Wald says, “it increases the number of places you can [fit in] a 9 where you may not have expected one." "  from New Work Reinforces Megaquake’s Harsh Lessons in Geoscience 
"That the 2011 event produced approximately 50 m of slip up-dip of the historical Miyagi M7+ events is roughly consistent with a 500 to 1,000 year potential slip accumulation period. However, there is no basis on which to assume that the aforementioned interval of 1,100 years is representative of the recurrence interval of great earthquakes in this segment—it could be shorter by a factor of two and still be consistent with the surface displacement budget and the peak slip inferred in this recent earthquake."  from The 2011 Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake: Mosaicking the Megathrust from Seconds to Centuries
"We find a mainshock radiated energy ES = 9.1 × 10^18 J, averaged over all stations and all choices of eGf....Nevertheless,  our estimate is about twice as large as the 5.1 × 10^17 J determined by the USGS."  from "Shallow Dynamic Overshoot and Energetic Deep Rupture in the 2011 Mw 9.0 TohokuOki Earthquake"
"The focal region inferred from the distribution of aftershocks stretches about 500 km long and 200 km wide offshore (1)... In particular, at MYGI near the epicenter, we detected a huge  co-seismic displacement of about 24 m toward ESE and about 3 m upward."  from Displacement Above the Hypocenter of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Urban Farming and Democracy

From Top Left: Kale, Spinach,Strawberries,Bush Peas
This is my third year at gardening in our backyard.  What started out as an experiment  to see how much food I could grow in a small urban space at minimum cost and effort has now grown to encompass a $450/year budget and lots of work and 'new' skillsets.  The four 10' x 18' foot triangles have become quadrangles.  The soil has has been thoroughly enriched and every year I find myself creating more elaborate "greenhouse like" structures to protect my new seedlings from wind, rain, squirrels, cats, and deer.

So is the experiment successful? Is it possible to save money on increasingly expensive food bills by engaging in urban gardening?  It sure looked like it for the first two years.  The year before last produced so many tomatoes from a dozen or so plants, we had them daily from June through November - this despite my really limited use of fertilizer. We live in the "Squalicum River Basin" so the soil is sandy and rocky but contains some loam. The second year, I used a little more fertilizer and quite a bit of peat. The results were just fine, although it was a "blight" year for tomatoes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Coming Pacific Northwest Megaquake...

When disasters (geo-political or otherwise) happen, people often say, "How could anyone have known?" It is the ultimate defense mechanism of the uninformed to believe their lives are governed by fates for which no one could prepare. Well, here is a news flash on the upcoming Cascadia MegaThrust Quake :  The geologists in Oregon and Washington are telling you RIGHT NOW that we are in danger of tremendous death, damage, and upheaval in the Pacific Northwest and they have been telling us this for a number of years now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Meaning of War and Economic Collapse

"The real war, of which this sudden outburst of death and destruction is only an incident, began long ago. It has been raging for tens of years, but its battles have been so little advertised that they have been hardly noted. It is a clash of traders." John Reed, 1914 from "The Trader's War"

I've cross-posted several comments I made at the New York Times on recent articles.  My comments essentially summarize my belief that the purpose and cause of the "War on Terror" has been to plunge the world into conflict to create a permanent state of war.  This permanent state of war achieves important goals for select actors:

  • enriches important corporate actors in our economy 
  • redistributes wealth to the rich
  • destroys and brainwashes the sons and daughters of the working class
  • condemns our society to a future of fossil fuels while diminishing R&D into sustainable energy
  • diminishes the power of the electorate to create economic justice

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What they ask us to believe...

The leaders of the United States Military-Industrial Complex watch Usama Bin Laden's assassination from a remote camera attached to the helmet of a special forces soldier. 
"Then there are intelligence agencies in the U.S., which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year. This [funding issue] was not a big problem till the existence of the former Soviet Union but after that the budget of these agencies has been in danger. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usama and Taleban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush Administration approved a budget of 40 billion dollars. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance. Now they will spend the money for their expansion and for increasing their importance."  attributed to Usama Bin Laden on October 16, 2001

On May 1st  ("International Worker's Day" or May Day) on 5/01/11, nearly 116 months to the day  after 9/11/01, the greatest straw man in the history of the world was found living in a palatial estate 800 yards from Pakistan's Military Academy. (Pakistan is a military junta with nuclear weapons to whom the United States has poured billions of dollars into since the start of the war on terror.)  No picture was shown of his face or body which was allegedly dumped into the North Arabian Sea.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebrating May Day...

Yesterday, thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate International Worker's Day or May Day. Protest and celebratory marches took place in India, Germany, Indonesia, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Demark, Russia, Dubai, China, Cuba, Australia, Columbia, Venezuela, Utah, California, Wisconsin, Oregon,  and Maine.  Amidst inane amounts of media coverage of the assasination of Osama Bin Laden, the media has missed what should be the most important story of this May Day:  the vapid expropriation of the surplus value of working classes : the theft capitalists grotesquely mislabel as 'profit'.  Reactionary idealogues are full of propaganda these days condeming 'government' or calling for 'free markets' or worrying about 'consumers'.