Monday, September 1, 2014

Anthropocene coming home to roost

We have met the Borg and he is us: this time humanity is the asteroid.
On September 1, 1914, Martha, a passenger pigeon who lived in an aviary at the Cincinnati Zoo, was found dead in her cage. At the time, Martha was believed to be the sole passenger pigeon left on Earth, and, in the intervening century, no evidence has emerged to contradict this. The passenger pigeon was once the most numerous bird in North America, perhaps in the world; it’s estimated that when the first European settlers arrived, at least one of every four birds on the continent was a passenger pigeon. But whatever happened, the mystery should give us pause. Species that seem today to be doing fine may be sensitive to change in ways that are difficult to foresee. And we are are now changing the planet at a speed that’s probably unprecedented in at least sixty million years. [Elizabeth Kolbert, A Century of Extinction]

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tribes seek to ground Ellsworth bomber range

There are several editing errors in today's Rapid City Journal coverage of the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex over parts of the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and the tribal nations trapped within those states' borders:
The Air Force could fly its planes as low as 500 feet above sea level, or as high as 1,200 feet above sea level, [Lt. Col. Allen Barksdale, commander for the 28th operations support squadron] said. He said the expansion proposal has been modified to address concerns that arose out of Montana. "The initial proposal was 500 to 1,200 feet above sea level, but we've taken those concerns and we've cut out the air space in Montana to modify it based on the feedback from the FAA and rancher aviation," he said. [Emily Niebrugge, Big decision looms for Ellsworth: Officials say expansion of air space key to base's future]
That should read, "above ground level," of course. To a sage grouse, a pronghorn or even a stupid cow that's really fucking close. Rapid City sits at about 3200 feet above sea level, the North Dakota portion only a little lower, and most of the South Carolina-sized bomber range is much higher in elevation.

The Air Force base in South Dakota has been droned in an attack of bad news: an E. coli. scare prompted a boil water advisory and now tribal nations want to drive its plans to expand a bombing range over the cliff.
In response to the proposal to expand the Powder River Training Complex connected to the Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, which would include airspace over four Great Plains Indian reservations and additional ancestral lands in four states, the meeting resulted in a joint resolution on the 22nd of July. The Joint Resolution in part requests that Ellsworth AFB consider a No-Action Alternative that eliminates the expansion of airspace. They would not fly over reservation lands nor sites considered sacred and culturally significant to the tribes, such as Bear Butte and Devil’s Tower. [Karin Eagle, Native Sun News, posted at indianz]
In a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force and to the Air Force Chief of Staff, Montana Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh have voiced their opposition to the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex in southeastern Montana. Citing the potential loss of 95 Montana jobs, concerns over the safety of Montana citizens from aircraft based at South Dakota's Ellsworth AFB and outcry from residents in the area, the Senators wrote that they are unwilling to include the Little Bighorn National Battlefield within PRTC.

It costs about $42,000 an hour to fly an Ellsworth Air Force Base B1-B bomber.

Even the earth hater At-large US Representative from Montana running for US Senate opposes the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex where an increased nuisance from the aircraft based near Rapid City, South Dakota would further threaten sage grouse habitat.
But the prospect of bombers roaring over rural communities 240 days a year has drawn resistance, with one Montana official referring to the proposal as a federal government “airspace grab.” Montana Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division Administrator Debbie Alke said she’s been told by Air Force officials that a final environmental study of the proposal will be released next month. [Matthew Brown, Billings Gazette]
Flights have been added to serve the ecocide taking place in the Bakken oil fields in the news for killing a record number of non-union workers. Small airports are concerned that a proposed increase in military traffic could be even deadlier.

Sure is curious how South Dakota's junior US senator favors federal land grabs at his donors' behest and for his TransCanada sponsors while raising money protecting them from environmental protection.

The Base is home to the 432d Attack Squadron: engaged with droning the children of militants for the Islamic State, no doubt.

The Ellsworth military/tourism complex just wrapped up a schmooz-fest to marshal support from the hospitality industry: more like a swan song from this post.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Minnesota-based foundation funding Lakota culture studies in RC schools

Here is yet another reason Democrats and American Indians need to vote in midterm elections:
The Rapid City Public School Foundation has received a $178,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to help teachers foster Native cultural understanding in the classroom. The money will fund field trips for the next two summers for 18 teachers and 18 other community members to travel to cultural sites like Devil's Tower and sites on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This June, a group of 40 teachers spent a week traveling around Pine Ridge and to Devil's Tower on a "classroom on wheels" program to learn about Lakota culture. [AP, Rapid City Journal]
It has just recently struck me why the Right is resisting parts of the Common Core standards: they stress human influence in climate change, genocide of indigenous by colonizers, gender equality and social justice.

The Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014 reauthorizes a preservation grant program through fiscal year 2019. Joining Senators Tester, Tim Johnson and Democratic co-sponsors including New Mexico's delegation, is Senator Lisa Murkowski, fox of Alaska.
"Since first being signed into law, the Native Americans Languages Act has helped to preserve and revitalize Native languages and encourages both young children and adults to develop a fluency in their Native language,” Johnson said. “Across South Dakota, this vital grant funding gives the opportunity for our cherished Lakota elders to sit down with the younger generation to revive the Lakota language. The continuity of these languages strengthens Native American culture and history, and I will continue to push until this reauthorization is signed into law.” According to the National Indian Education Association, by the year 2050, there may only be 20 Native American languages remaining. The Native American Languages Act was first signed into law in 1992 and established a grant program within the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to ensure the survival of Native languages. [press release, Senator Tim Johnson ]

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ash fall from Yellowstone supervolcano mass extinction event

Based on a recent study by members of the U.S. Geological Survey using a model called Ash3D, a Yellowstone eruption could dump from 40 to 70 inches of ash on Billings — more than 3 to 5 feet. Casper, Wyo., would fair better, since it is farther away from Yellowstone. Casper would only see ash pile up 13 to 33 inches deep — not unlike snowfall in a bad winter blizzard. [Brett French, Billings Gazette]

Experts say a supervolcanic event in Yellowstone would be at least 50 times as powerful as the Krakatoa blast and 2,000 times the size of the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s eruption. In short, surrounding communities like West Yellowstone, Moran, and Cody would be Pompeii – buried in more than 240 cubic miles of pumice and ash. They would be the lucky ones. [Jake Nichols, Planet Jackson Hole]
Scientists are learning that the Yellowstone supervolcano is about two and half times as large as once believed and its eruption would "end life as we know it."
Not only was there a sudden rise in the elevation of the ground, and development of new cracks, but a gas called Helium-4, a very rare type of Helium, has begun coming out of the surface. It is the presence of this gas that has scientists quite concerned. If the Yellowstone Super Volcano were to erupt, it would be 2,000 times bigger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the 1980′s. Everything within 500 miles would be dead or destroyed within minutes, 2/3rds of the entire United States would be covered in volcanic ash and the climate of the entire planet would cool within a month. On top of that, just this past week, the largest earthquake in the US took place just a few miles from Yellowstone proving hot magma is on the move. Helium isotope ratios (³He/4He) in Lassen Park and Yellowstone Park volcanic gases show large ³He enrichments relative to atmospheric and crustal helium indicating the presence of a dominant mantle-helium component. Naysayers beware, the evidence is stacking up. if you’re waiting for an mass-media announcement….it has now happened and wont get any more direct. [Preppers World USA]

I recall this from the hang glider launch on Mt. Sentinel:

The wind was dead all day and we passed the time kicking the hacky sack.

Late in the afternoon a massive cloud filled the western horizon so everybody but me, the driver that day, ran their gliders into a scant breeze to beat the weather.

By the time I got off the mountain and back to the LZ, the golf course, the sky was so dark the street lights were coming on.

Not having thought to turn on a radio, I was totally freaked when ash began falling from the sky. Only after running back to the pickup and turning on the news did I learn.

The next week in Missoula was spent inside with the windows duct-taped shut and not being able to see the sun or even across the street, for that matter. An emergency executive diktat from the governor shut the town down.

Stores ran low on essentials and going outside meant stinging eyes and sand gritting in your teeth.

After a week of cabin fever, I took the top off my '65 Land Cruiser, drove into the Rattlesnake, and saw my first black bear in Montana.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Schweber: rarest native species share tribal lands

Glacier National Park is the water tower of the continent.
More than 70 percent of tribal land in the Northern Plains is unplowed, compared with around 60 percent of private land, the World Wildlife Fund said. Around 90 million acres of unplowed grasses remain on the Northern Plains. Tribes on 14 reservations here saved about 10 percent of that 90 million — an area bigger than New Jersey and Massachusetts combined. Wildlife stewardship on the Northern Plains’ prairies, bluffs and badlands is spread fairly evenly among private, public and tribal lands, conservationists say.
But for a few of the rarest native animals, tribal land has been more welcoming. Emily Boyd-Valandra, 29, a wildlife biologist at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, is emblematic of new tribal wildlife managers working around the Northern Plains. Since 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given $60 million to 170 tribes for 300 projects that aided unique Western species, including gray wolves, bighorn sheep, Lahontan cutthroat trout and bison. “Tribal land in the U.S. is about equal to all our national wildlife refuges,” said D. J. Monette of the wildlife agency. [Nate Schweber, New York Times]

Several congressional races feature districts with majority American Indian voters: Alaska, Montana, the Dakotas, New Mexico and Arizona all enjoy high numbers of engaged Natives.

Democratic Montana House candidate John Lewis might have gotten some advice from Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) who beat a contender by just 524 votes in 2002:
Though Native American and Alaska Native communities are often overlooked in electoral politics, their votes could decide the outcome of three close congressional contests this November. In a cycle when Republicans took control of the Senate and increased their House majority, Johnson won with the help of unusually high Native American voter turnout. The National Congress of Native Indians, which leads Native Vote, a national effort to mobilize Native voters, sees 2014 as an opportunity to engage in voter registration and voter protection, build databases to track voter patterns and encourage more Natives to run for office. [Samantha Lachman, Huffington Post]
Climate Hawk is hosting a poll on some congressional races linked here.