Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Draining The Swamp

Daddy and I always went out salamandering in the springtime, so we knew where all the best spots were. When it was looking to be a fine warm wet night, he'd grab his camera and flashlights and we'd hit the vernal ponds looking for spotted salamanders. Because if a puddle party of spotted salamanders doesn't inflate your soul, you've got more problems than can be addressed in church.

So he was the first to notice when they started paving them over. Ditches were gratuitously filled in, damp spots were erased. As an educated man who married a nice Lutheran woman, he didn't have access to a lot of salt in his vocabulary, and had to make up for it with actual eloquence, delivered in a preacher's cadence and for the benefit of nobody's ears but mine. The powers that be had seen every pond as a seep of contagion and an eyesore, and done their damnedest to eliminate them. I was young, and certainly understood the value of spotted salamanders, and if they represented even half the worth of the ponds, that made them quite worthy enough. Daddy had even more knowledge in the bank. I remember swatting bugs one hot summer day and whining "What good are mosquitoes anyway?" and Daddy didn't miss a beat. "Frog food," he said. Well then. Okay!

People are, collectively, stupid. They'll take an axe to an oak if they need a toothpick in December, and then complain about the lack of shade in July. Individual people can be pretty smart, but they get together and stupid right up.

It takes time and attention to learn what there is to learn in this world, but people, collectively, know a lot about wetlands now. All those boggy spots might appear to those without imagination to be worthless, but those people are as blind as they can be. Wetlands mitigate flooding, restore shorelines, filter water, sustain life, cache groundwater. For free. The Army Corps of Engineers can get as fancy as they please with concrete but they can't come close to duplicating the value of the wetlands, and they don't come cheap, neither.

Someone recently lurched into power with a promise to drain the swamp. A lot of people think he has broken that promise, because they see he has packed the pus-pockets of power with even more privateers and pirates than we had before. But they didn't take him literally enough. The other day, just taking a break between drowning refugees and jacking off the Big Oil boys, he drained the swamp. He put the boot to the Clean Water Rule that protects wetlands. Apparently, it cuts into golf course profits.

Some people can look right at the magnificent, unmatched genius of nature and see nothing of worth--nothing as valuable as, say, a Walmart on a slab. Two main reasons: they're greedy, and they're stupid. Don't underestimate the stupid. And so the trees come down, and the swamp is filled, and the concrete flows, and the Walmart pimples up, and the true bill is left for someone else to pay, down the line.



That's who is in charge now. Someone who will mine your organs for their value on the black market and then rig you up with a respirator and dialysis and say, See? Good as new! Bummer about your liver. But some day someone'll come up with a replacement for that, too. The best replacement, a beautiful thing, like you wouldn't believe!

30 comments:

  1. Me and my dragonfly familiars love it when you talk all ecological. Thanks for caring about wetlands.

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    1. Wetlands and alpine meadows=my favorite places. I'll leave the beaches to others.

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  2. Let me postulate a theory: that the collective intelligence of any given group is always the equivalent of the lowest common denominator. God help us all.... (Just an expression. Divine intervention is part of their belief system.)

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    1. I'd hate to think that is always true. I for one enjoy being around people who are smarter than I am, and it's getting easier all the time.

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    2. Is this a mantra for the ageing, or just all for me?

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    3. Dude, I don't know about you, but I am not getting any smarter. However, I am taking less shit.

      Oh hell, that's not even true. I hardly took any to begin with.

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  3. Individual people can be pretty smart, but they get together and stupid right up.

    A penetrating observation. People in groups are almost always stupider than those same persons as individuals. I suspect it's because our instincts easily express themselves quickly and in mob action -- they evolved that way -- but introspection and contemplation are always and inherently individual, inner states. The can never be shared, much less collective.

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    1. One of the reasons I like writing is that I can sort of cobble together my thoughts in the privacy of my own room and brain, and by the time y'all see them, they're more coherent. I'm kind of an idiot in regular conversation.

      Which is not what you were talking about, really. Thanks for the comment.

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    2. That's how I am, to, Murr. When I write, I can sound all witty and clever. This is because I have access to a thesaurus and Google, plus time to think without someone changing the conversation in the meantime. In real life, I stammer out an incoherent reply, at best.

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    3. I'm worse than that. I start out fine and then completely lose track of where I was going. I do that in the car, too.

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  4. They won't bother to rig you up to any expensive equipment. "They" will just blame you for not getting health insurance instead of a cell phone. Don't underestimate stupid, don't underestimate greedy and certainly don't underestimate apathetic and uninformed!

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    1. I vacillate between thinking "they" are stupid or merely venal. Some of them, I'm sure, really are stupid, or willfully ignorant.

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  5. You have written many true and worthy things, but I think this is your finest yet. I hate that so many people in a position to do something about it can't see the worth of nature.

    The pictures are wonderful.

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    1. You cannot go wrong with a picture of a salamander. I'll fight anyone who says different. The first one is (legally) snatched off the internet, and the rest are mine.

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  6. Thanks for a wonderful post. I got to hunt for wood frog and spotted salamander eggs last spring. And swamps are one of the most productive places on earth, as measured by the biomass they produce. And my favorite mosquito,story is from a time I was teaching a Project Wild Workshop to school teachers. This is co- sponsored by each state's Fish and Wildlife Department and their Education Department and teaches people who work with kids to use activities based on nature to teach all the other school subjects. We were doing a simulation of a food network in a marsh. Each participant got to pick a marsh dwelling animal to emulate. One teacher choose to be a mosquito because "when a mosquito bites me, I get to be part of the food chain". I've looked at mosquitoes differently ever since.

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    1. I'm quite capable of admiring mosquitoes from a certain remove, but I will admire them forcefully with my hand without a second thought.

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    2. Dragonflies and damselflies are rather beneficial in this regard :o)

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  7. Where I'm from and who I'm from taught me to worship at the edge of wetlands because they offer more hope for a better life for our children than any deity or politician. Everydamnthing done within a wetland zone requires a permit by state law. The willfully uninformed in DC can jigger around with all of the federal laws but in some states where natural resources are reign supreme, even the fools who sit atop the junk heap in the state capitols are far too afraid of the political backlash to make a move to dismantle the regulations at the state level. I admit it would be fun to watch them try because I'm damn tired of the ship of fools who've been in office so long they believe they're entitled to win every two years.

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    1. I wonder how different the states are in regard to wetlands protection?

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    2. My guess is there's a wide disparity among states in every single governmental department. Businesses and the government depend on tourism to sustain the economy here. You're not going to find anyone willing to roll back environmental programs that protect the cash flow which suits those of us who actually care about the environment just fine. We don't agree with their reasons but we & the land and critters are benefiting from their greed.

      If you take a look at voter registration laws across all states, you'll see a wide disparity in the restrictions imposed. NH has some of the most lenient voter registration laws in the country and there's no evidence of voter fraud, contrary to what our new governor said prior to the election. Trump got his conspiracy theory about voters being bused into NH from MA straight from the playbook of our new whack job.

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    3. Oregon went completely vote-by-mail a long time ago. It's terrific.

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  8. What was it that Forrest Gump said? Oh, yeah, "Stupid is as stupid does."!!

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    1. You know, I never really liked that movie. Which is neither here nor there.

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  9. Nope. Can't come up with pithy, sassy or even moderately flip today.Too sad that your broken country has elected a greedy man who's hell-bent on taking the rest of us down with you.
    One assumes that all the legally owned and registered guns belong to his supporters...

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    1. Nope. I can't let you get away with the "greedy man." That there is a "greedy stupid man."

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  10. Replacement be damned. There is nothing, NOTHING I say!, as beautiful or as efficient as Nature's original.

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    1. And not--I'd say--by design. It's just a snapshot of what works. If it didn't work, we'd see something else.

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  11. "Pus pockets of power." Brilliant. I'm going to borrow that.

    He didn't drain the swamp, he added alligators.

    Your comments about felling an oak tree reminded me of a story from my childhood. We moved into a new subdivision in a suburb of Phoenix where there was a canal with lovely old cottonwoods growing along the banks. People complained about the "cotton" that blew into their yards for a couple of weeks of every year so every tree was taken down. Then they complained about the lack of shade. It's the desert and most desert trees don't throw much shade. Can't have it both ways, people.

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