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82 Days In, and the Swamp's as Deep as Ever

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Swamp.pngWhen Donald Trump was elected to the presidency last November, voters were willing to take a chance on a political outsider in the hopes that he might take a stand against endemic corruption and inefficiency of the federal government. However, after eighty-two days, very few of his campaign pledges have actually been honored:

1. The Repeal of Obamacare
After the American Health Care Act debacle, the White House has apparently reached a detente with the rampant oligopoly established by Obamacare. While this inaction may effectively prove a political point - that the current bureaucracy cannot be sustained and will inevitably collapse if left in place - it does nothing to remedy the current situation faced by millions of Americans whose premiums have skyrocketed and who are forced either to pay exorbitant rates to monopolistic insurance providers or go on public assistance. By deciding to do nothing while citizens continue to suffer the consequences, Trump has reneged on one of the most vital planks of his platform.

2. Withholding Funds from Sanctuary Cities
Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars go to fund the municipal governments of so-called "sanctuary cities," which purposefully ignore federal immigration rules in order to harbor illegal immigrants. These localities routinely refuse to punish any crimes committed by illegal entrants into the country, often releasing the perpetrators back into society without requiring any expiation for deeds ranging from drug possession to domestic violence. Trump consistently denounced sanctuary cities throughout the 2016 campaign, but has failed to stem the flow of U.S. dollars to support their defiance of U.S. laws.

3. Condemning China's Currency Manipulation
China's intentional devaluation of the yuan has resulted in sharp trade imbalances which are highly deleterious to U.S. manufacturers and workers, by making Chinese imports cost less in the United States than American exports cost in China. Just today, though, the President has announced that he will not be honoring his promise to officially designate China as a currency manipulator and exert international influence to curb their practices. This will effectively eliminate any chance that domestic industries could begin to compete with cheap foreign labor on the world stage.

4. Build that Wall
This was one of Donald Trump's most iconic commitments: to construct a wall along the Mexican border to deter illegal immigrants. However, the anticipated cost of this project has steadily risen since he took office, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that it will actually be completed using American labor and at a price that remains lower than the benefits for U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the federal agencies tasked with working out the details of this undertaking have merely proposed a fence of the type already existing - without results - along much of our southern border.

5. Bring Jobs Back
Almost immediately after taking office, the President did officially reject the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, thereby eliminating an additional threat to the American workforce. But since then, Trump has done nearly nothing to repeal existing free trade agreements or counteract the influx of goods from China - even facilitating the latter practice with his decision not to take action against currency manipulation. The attempt to renegotiate NAFTA has also been repeatedly stalled, leaving American citizens wondering when or if their Chief Executive will decisively protect their livelihoods from rampant outsourcing.

Happy Birthday, LBJ!

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Lyndon and Lady Bird.jpgTo sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore. But we can keep those we have.                                                                                                               -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


Lyndon.jpgLauded for his contributions to civil rights and maligned for his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is seldom hailed as a great environmentalist. His sweeping domestic program, the Great Society, is usually thought of as an economic agenda. Of course, he was deeply committed to putting "an end to poverty and racial injustice," as he explained in May 1964 to the graduating class of the University of Michigan. "But," he continued, "that is just the beginning." Listing his goals, he declared that it was vitally important to ensure that everyone had access to "a place where man can renew contact with nature."

LBJ also understood that many people, especially the poor, were isolated from natural beauty. Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were great, but they were also very remote. Lyndon's job was fusing the traditional conservation movement with the changing realities of America's increasingly urban society. "We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities," he explained. Urging local governments to beautify towns and create city parks and greenways, Lyndon pledged to create new parks and recreation areas within driving distance of major cities.

In February 1965, he spoke to Congress about conservation: "Association with beauty can enlarge man's imagination and revive his spirit. Ugliness can demean the people who live among it. What a citizen sees every day is his America. If it is attractive it adds to the quality of his life. If it is ugly it can degrade his existence."

Lyndon Johnson passed more National Park Service-related legislation than any other president, creating a staggering 52 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites, wildernesses, monuments, seashores, lakeshores and memorials! He even set aside working farms and created a national park dedicated to the performing arts (Wolf Trap National Park, in Virginia). Moreover, he created the National Parks Foundation, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Trails System. Among the diverse group of historic sites and national landmarks set aside during the Johnson Administration are:

Lady Bird wildflower.jpg•    Biscayne National Park, Florida
•    North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park, Washington
•    Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
•    Arches National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, Utah
•    Redwoods National Park and John Muir National Historic Site, California
•    Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
•    Agate Fossil Beds National Park, Nebraska
•    Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland-Virginia
•    Herbert Hoover National Park, Iowa
•    Roger Williams National Historic Park, Rhode Island
•    Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Maine-Canada
•    Ellis Island National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, New York
•    Padre Island National Seashore and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
•    John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

(Fittingly, LBJ's ranch is now a national park in its own right.)

At the urging of his wife, Lady Bird, he championed the Highway Beautification Act. This law tore down billboards and removed "beauty-destroying junkyards and auto graveyards," planting flowers and trees in their place. As Lyndon said, "The roads themselves must reflect, in location and design, increased respect for the natural and social integrity and unity of the landscape and communities through which they pass."

With the help of the Democratic Congress, he passed dozens of bills designed to limit pollution, preserve rare habitats and protect endangered species, like the Air and Water Quality Acts, the Pesticides Control Act, the Wetlands Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And now... Test your environmental knowledge with this word search! When you're done, copy the unused letters into the blanks to discover a little-known fact about LBJ...

Lyndon wordsearch.jpg

Here are the answers (no peeking!)


Lyndon wordsearch answers.jpg
LBJ house.jpg

Richard Martin, "Humanity Dick"

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Renowned in his day as a daring duelist and an outspoken advocate of Irish tenant farmers' rights, Richard Martin is now remembered for his tireless efforts to end animal cruelty. One of the SPCA's charter members, Martin pushed the first successful bill forbidding cruelty to animals through the House of Commons. Although he was an Independent MP, his diverse group of friends included the royal family, Prime Minister William Pitt and many other prominent figures. His tireless efforts to abolish poverty and suffering caused George IV to nickname him "Humanity Dick."

In 1822, Martin brought forth his "Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill." While other figures, such as Lord Erskine and William Johnstone Pulteney, had previously introduced similar bills, their attempts had been unsuccessful. The new law, quickly dubbed "Martin's Act," subjected those who abused livestock -- especially horses -- to two months' imprisonment or fines of up to ₤5. To attract attention to the law, Martin delivered speeches in crowded London streets. The comedians and political cartoonists had a field day, making up ditties and depicting Martin with a pair of donkey's ears.

Soon after the act's passage, Martin gave the comedians even more material. The MP spotted Bill Burns, a man who sold fruits and vegetables in the streets, beating his donkey. When Martin brought charges against Burns, however, the magistrate was bored by the testimony and tried to look the other way. The prosecution came up with a new tactic: why not let the donkey's injuries speak for themselves? When the donkey was led into the courtroom, everyone, including the magistrate, noticed its obvious wounds. Burns was immediately found guilty.

Many people thought Martin's Act and its enforcers targeted only working class violators, while the wealthy were permitted to abuse animals scot-free. Eager to counteract this image, Martin credited Burns' apology. He asked the judge to fine Burns the minimum of ten shillings -- and ended up paying half. This trial gave Martin all the publicity he wanted. Not only was he in the news, but an artist named Matthews painted a picture of the trial and the comedians made up a new song:

Richard Martin.jpgIf I had a donkey wot wouldn't go,
D'ye think I'd wallop him? no, no, no!
But gentle means I'd try, d'ye see,
Because I hate all cruelty;
If all had been like me, in fact,
There'd have been no occasion for Martin's Act
Dumb animals to prevent being crack'd,
On the head.

He attained fame as an orator due to his storehouse of anecdotes and his habit of switching arbitrarily between an elite English accent and his Irish burr. Nettled by a Morning Post article poking fun at his brogue, Martin waited outside the newspaper offices until the editor came out. Gesturing to the objectionable passage, Martin cried, "Sir! Did I ever spake in italics?" Actually, he took a lot of raillery from the press. The Dublin Star dubbed him "Brahmin," The Chronicle called him "Don Quixote," and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine referred to him as "that blustering and blundering blockhead."

His flaring temper prompted his political opponents -- who burst out laughing whenever Martin stood up to deliver an oration -- to dub him "Hair-trigger Martin." Flaunting this reputation, Martin engaged in over 100 duels. George IV visited Ireland during one of Martin's parliamentary campaigns. When the king wondered who would win the election, Martin bowed and replied, "The survivor, sire!"

Martin encouraged animal rights supporters to resort to unconventional (to say the least) means of enforcing their statutes. He personally fought a duel to avenge the shooting death of a friend's wolfhound. Unbeknownst to Martin, the dog's killer was wearing bulletproof clothes. Consequently, he went unscathed although Martin hit him twice before receiving an injury in the chest -- after his recovery, Martin enjoyed showing off the scars. Years later, sixty-seven year old Martin noticed a London man whipping his horse in Ludlow Hill. A few minutes later, two men showed up, jerked the man away from the horse and showered blows on him. They had been paid five shillings each -- compliments of Richard Martin, who proudly told the story in Parliament.

Richard Martin house.jpgRichard Martin remained in Parliament for twenty-five years. Always vociferous, Martin brought forth hundreds of bills. He continually sought to add amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill requiring regulations on slaughterhouses and banning dogfights, bull- and bear-baiting. Although animal rights were his primary focus, he was also dedicated to representing his constituents' best interests. For instance, he was a chief proponent of Catholic Emancipation. (At that time, only Church of England members were granted basic civil rights.) Born into an ancient Irish family, Martin inherited a beautiful seaside estate that encompassed over a hundred miles. Known as the "King of Connemara" for his seemingly limitless fortune, Martin was a benevolent landowner who supplied his tenants with adequate food and shelter. The only rule he adamantly enforced decreed that farmers could not hitch plows to horses' tails.

Eighty years old and deeply in debt, Martin lost his estate in the Irish Potato Famine and his seat in 1826, due to charges of voter intimidation. Previously, his creditors had been powerless to act because MPs couldn't be prosecuted. Denied this protection, Martin fled to France to avoid going to debtor's prison. In 1829 -- three years after Martin had escaped to Boulogne -- Parliament finally passed the Catholic Emancipation bill. Soon afterwards, they also approved Martin's amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill. Even though his career was over, the Irish statesman's influence lived on.

Putting the GOP on Cruz Control

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cruzlemming.jpgSpending two weeks without national parks, or any sort of government for that matter, tends to make you think. Here are some of my musings on the subject:

Night of a fateful September 31st. Crickets chirping. I am tucking my quilts around me, and my mother stands in the lighted doorway.

"Goodnight," she says.

"Goodnight, Mom," I reply. "Goodnight, Mikaela." And then, as an afterthought, I add: "Goodnight, government."

You really don't know what you've got till it's gone, I guess. It certainly took Uncle Sam to call in sick before I realized just how much I didn't know about our democracy. (Yep, this has been a useful "Know Your Government" lesson - and an impromptu dramatization of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall.")

For starters, this has awakened my interest in our case law. Who knew that anarchy is a "substantive evil that Congress has the right to prevent practice?" (Congressionally authorized alteration to 249 US at 47 (1919)) Or that the maintenance of our government's account books is not a "business affected with the public interest" that Supreme Court Justice Devanter wrote of preserving?

My ignorance is truly astounding.

-

On a more learned note, if I had been called upon to provide a means of negotiation between the two parties, I would have locked the congresspeople into the Capitol and not let them out until they'd reopened our government. Of course, this weasel-in-a-barrel situation would have led to countless personal exigencies for our "public servants," such as missing the premiere of American Idol, carefully rationing the remaining half of a life-sustaining Twix bar, or asking a bombastically rightist colleague in a hushed whisper: "Hey Rep, whoodya think is going to win the Super Bowl?"

Oh, and I can just see Senator McCain running out of cell phone charge while beguiling the weary hours with another internet poker game. What a pity too - he'd just gotten a full House!

And then, as one by one they snuck off to the bathroom, ruefully searched a greasy brown paper lunch bag for remaining crumbs, cast about the Neoclassical chamber for an electric outlet, or finally got bored of playing all-nighter sleepover games, they would begin to wonder whose brainwave this whole thing was.

-

And so finally, after these two harrowing weeks, the Republicans gave in, locked themselves into the cellar, and waved their white flag. I guess they finally realized they were Cruz-ing for a bruising. Now that they've shushed Ted Texan up, they're sitting around singing a mournful rendition of "The Conquered Banner" and assuring themselves of their uncompromised integrity, all while surreptitiously whispering to their comrades: "You better hurry it up quick, or else we're all gonna miss tomorrow night's game!"

And that would surely be an unprecedented emergency to our national welfare.

-

So it's over at last - and I learned a lot: 1) the Tea Party really is presided over by Mad Hatters, and 2) as political adviser Tommy Corcoran once sang, "The GOP, it ain't what it used to be."

And now I'll be happy to go take a hike and leave Washington alone.

Lewis Gompertz: Animal's Friend

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I admit it as an axiom, that every animal has more right to the use of its own body than
others have to use it.
                                                   
Lewis Gompertz, 1822

It was June 16th, 1824. Dusk was falling on the London streets as Lewis Gompertz pushed open the door of Old Slaughter's Coffee House. The shop was already crowded with reformers of all stripes: Arthur Broome, the incompetent clergyman who had organized the meeting; Richard Martin, the dashing Irish M.P. whom the Prince of Wales nicknamed "Humanity Dick;" and William Wilberforce, the benevolent abolitionist who spent most of his time juggling the forty charities dependent on him.

Forty-year-old Lewis Gompertz was a retired diamond merchant with a mission. The youngest child born into a Jewish family, he had been unable to go to college, enter politics, or even take a large part in society. Animal rights had always been his primary interest; now, he had plenty of time to dedicate to the cause.

Two years before, Richard Martin's bill forbidding cruelty to domestic animals had passed in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the law was often disobeyed. Soon after the act's passage, Arthur Broome had tried to form a society to enforce the statute. This failed miserably, as did a Liverpool-based "Society for the Suppression and Prevention of Wanton Cruelty to Animals."

Tonight, however, these philanthropists who gathered around the table had the prominence -- and the money -- needed to make their venture a success. Soon, the activists had worked out a charter appointing committees to distribute tracts and influence public opinion and for "Inspecting the Markets and Streets of the Metropolis, the Slaughter Houses, the conduct of Coachmen, etc.- etc." The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was born.

Before long, Arthur Broome had spent all the Society's money chasing impractical schemes. Gompertz and Richard Martin came to his rescue. Broome promised not to repeat his mistakes, so Gompertz and Martin went over the account books and straightened things out, paying the remaining expenses out of pocket. Once Broome was out of trouble, however, he resumed borrowing money to throw away on his plans -- landing himself in debtor's prison. Needless to say, these actions reflected poorly on the minister and his entire group. Gompertz stepped in once again to save the Society, bailing Broome out and taking his place as the organization's head.

The Society flourished during Gompertz's six years of leadership. He attended police courts, arranged meetings with magistrates to discuss the importance of upholding the anti-cruelty statutes, coordinated fundraisers, wrote letters, participated in public debates, broke up dogfights, helped in the parliamentary struggle to ban bull-baiting, and endeavored to set a legal limit on the loads horses could pull. A vegan, Gompertz refused to ride in a carriage. He famously wrote, "How can man do without the aid of horses?... That is his business to find out."

Despite Gompertz's competent command, jealousy and strife were rife among the members. Some of them -- the hunters and meat eaters -- were concerned by his veganism. Others resented his Judaism. A man named Greenwood denounced Gompertz for following "Pythagorean" principles and passed a bill saying that the Society would be governed in accordance with "Christian" doctrines and that "certain sects" would be denied entrance. Several members, including William Wilberforce, Countess Selina Hastings (a humanitarian socialite) and many Quakers, were deeply offended by this resolution. Rallying around Gompertz, they encouraged him to break with the SPCA.

Disgusted, Gompertz did resign. With the help of his friends, he started a new group called the Animal's Friend Society. Rather than simply stopping inhumane practices, Gompertz' new association was intended to actively benefit animals. Before long, the Animal's Friend Society was outdoing the SPCA in terms of membership and contributions.

Under the auspices of his organization, Gompertz organized a periodical: The Animal's Friend, or, The Progress of Humanity. In his role as editor, Gompertz kept busy writing articles showcasing his innovative theories. He republished his book, Moral Inquiries: on the Situation of Man and of Brutes, which described how humans ought to interact with animals. In it, Gompertz deplored the practices of hunting, slaughtering animals for food, and vivisection (the dissection of living creatures in the supposed interest of science). A long, rambling text, it also included his observations on the injustice of the property laws and the oppression of women.

Then, suddenly, Gompertz's wife, Ann Hollaman Gompertz, fell terminally ill. To spend as much time with her as possible, Gompertz gave up his activities. Lacking a leader, the Animal's Friend Society disbanded. Following Ann's eventual death, the reformer dedicated his energies to writing.

Gompertz Bike.jpgAn avid inventor, he collected many of his ideas into another book with a whopper of a title: Mechanical Inventions and suggestions on land and water locomotion, tooth machinery and various other branches of theoretical and practical mechanics. Spurred by a desire to lessen animal labor, Gompertz also made improvements on the then-developing bicycle. The existing model had no chain: the rider's feet pushed it along the ground. Gompertz added a pole -- sawed off a hobbyhorse -- and a gear to the front wheel of the bicycle, maximizing the distance one could travel with every step. He even devised methods to keep horses from falling while pulling carriages! Some of his inventions are still used, including the expanding chuck on modern drills.

Although Gompertz's writing style looks stilted today, his dialogues between Messrs. Y and Z are typical of Victorian essayists. This excerpt is from Moral Inquiries:

Y: In the first place, you dispute the right invested in mankind of slaughtering other animals for food, and of compelling them to labour for his benefit, for which purpose they have been created, their flesh and their services have been made palatable and necessary to man, without the nourishment of which he would soon grow sickly and unfit for his station - his life would be painful - his death premature.

Z: First, how do you prove that mankind is invested with the right of killing them, and that brutes have been created for the purpose you assert them to be? Secondly, is it to be observed that the flesh of man himself possesses the same nourishing and palatable qualities? And are we then to become cannibals for that reason? ...


Mr. Y goes on to say that animal populations, if left unchecked, will destroy each other, starve, or overrun the world. Thus, he contends, it is better to "cause them to have a short and happy life, than a long and miserable one."

Z: Then it is right for one to kill another, if he fear not the laws of his country, and if he fancy that it is to the benefit of the other... But even allowing it to be so, the two are unconnected with each other, and I do not see what right one animal has to deprive another of its small importance to prevent himself from losing more: if this theory be generally admitted, a young man might kill an old man, to save his own longer expectant life. And are we authorized to kill one animal for the benefit of another of its species?


Other parts of the same book read as essays:

Who can dispute the inhumanity of the sport of hunting, of pursuing a poor defenceless creature for mere amusement, till it becomes exhausted by terror and fatigue, and of then causing it to be torn to pieces by a pack of dogs? From what kind of instruction can men, and even women, imbibe such principles as these? How is it possible they can justify it? And what can their pleasure in it consist of? Is it not solely in the agony they produce to the animal? They will pretend that it is not, and try to make us believe so too, that it is merely in the pursuit. But what is the object of their pursuit? Is there any other than to torment and destroy?

In Gompertz's day, the British economy was entirely dependent on animal labor for food, construction, transportation, clothing and glue. Gompertz was consequently labeled a radical and a revolutionary -- a man determined to undermine the foundations of civilization. Yet his persistence paid off: many of his inventions were displayed in public, and Prince Albert awarded him a medal. Though Lewis Gompertz is largely overlooked by today's animal rights activists, he gave an impetus to the movement that can never be forgotten.



Edward I: Environmentalist by Accident

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Edward I.jpgEdward the First, the fifth Plantagenet king of England, is famous for clobbering the Scottish and Welsh armies, getting clobbered by the French, banishing the Jews, going Crusading, taxing everybody he could get his hands on, and performing other violent acts.

Tall for the times at 6'2", Edward had a terrible temper. When his son requested an earldom for his friend, the king tore out fistfuls of the boy's hair. When the Dean of St. Paul's entered the throne-room, mustering his nerve to discuss lowering taxes, he was supposedly killed on the spot by the mere sight of the king.

Is it feasible that this ferocious king, represented in medieval allegory not as the "noble" lion but as the "powerful" and "volatile" leopard, had a good side? It's possible. He maintained a good relationship with his parents, and loved his own wife and children. At fourteen, young Prince Edward married Eleanor of Castile, who was about the same age. Unusually, they were dedicated to each other; Edward didn't have affairs, and he didn't lock Eleanor up in a tower! When Eleanor died after thirty-six years of marriage, Edward was devastated, and built Eleanor Crosses wherever the funereal procession stopped. (His second marriage, to the young Margaret of France, also turned out well, despite their fifty-four-year age difference.)

Yet less well known is the fact that if Edward had had his way, coal pollution would never have been an issue.

Coal was so abundant on England's northeast coast that it was collected in wheelbarrows. People could even pick it up on the beach! It had been used since prehistoric times -- in the Bronze Ages, Welsh funeral pyres were fired by coal -- but when the Romans conquered "Britannia," they fell in love with the fuel.  At first, they thought it was very pretty, and fashioned it into ornaments for themselves. They called it gagate; this word would evolve into "jet," a dense variant of coal still used in making jewelry. (However, the Roman artisans often mixed up the higher quality jet with ordinary coal.) They also popularized burning it. After the Romans had cleared out, the Britons forgot about coal and resorted to wood. The early historian, St. Bede, describing the abundant "jet," didn't mention that it was used for heat, but observed that the smoke kept snakes away.

At any rate, until the 12th century, everybody in London burned wood. Soon, however, London began to grow, and the forests dwindled. Wood became expensive and rare. Instead, the Londoners decided to try the cheaper, easily-obtained coal. There was only one problem. Burning wood produced some smoke, but a lot of heat. Burning sea-coal produced a little heat, but a lot of sulfurous smoke. Nevertheless, instead of thinking of a better solution, everyone decided to burn more coal. The thick smoke combined with the natural fog and hung over the city for days.

In 1306, Edward, instigated by a group of prominent noblemen and clerics, passed legislation banning the burning of sea-coal. The king's mother, Eleanor of Provence, had gotten so sick from the smoke surrounding Nottingham Castle that she had had to flee the town. (Edward I's great-grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had had a similar experience with the burning wood around Tutbury Castle.)

Despite the king's commands, the law was disregarded. The poor didn't have the money to buy wood and there weren't any other alternatives. Edward altered his bill. Now, first-time offenders were subject to immense fines. If they were caught a second time, their furnaces were destroyed. Unfortunately, this didn't work either. The atmosphere was getting tense. Edward altered his bill again. This time, a death penalty was installed for burning coal. One person was seized and executed. But everybody kept on burning coal. Edward couldn't execute his whole kingdom. Besides, even if he could have, then he wouldn't have had anybody to tax or beat up, so what's the point of that? Consequently, the law was ignored, although Edward II, Edward I's successor, tortured a few people who were unable to meet its terms. Astoundingly, that didn't help.

princess elizabeth.jpgSubsequently, others tried to exterminate the burning of coal, including the kings Richard II and Henry V, whose palace at Westminster was permeated by the odor. By the time Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne, the situation was worse than ever. Short beds, which forced sleepers to sit up, were popular, as people had difficulties breathing if they lay down. The queen was reported to be "greatly grieved and annoyed with the taste and smoke of sea- coales," and tried to get it banned, at least while Parliament was in session.

Later, in 1661, a prominent Cavalier named John Evelyn was asked by Charles II (whose palace at Whitehall was getting all the fumes from a nearby duke's residence) to write a book against coal. He complied, and the result was Fumifugium: or, The Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated, Together with some Remedies humbly proposed by J. E. Esq., to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now Assembled. The title "Fumifugium" was compounded of two Latin words, fumus, meaning "smoke," and fugit, "to escape or get  away from." (It's actually pretty terrible Latin, just for the record.)

John Evelyn.jpgEvelyn's book was one of the first comprehensive studies of the dangers of coal burning, and one of the earliest to discuss air pollution. (It also blamed the English Civil Wars on bad air caused by coal fires, not on any political issues!) Not only did it berate the smell of the smoke, it also attacked it as being unhealthy and aesthetically unpleasing. Evelyn wrote that the fumes were

"...so universally mixed with that otherwise wholesome and excellent Aer, that her Inhabitants breathe nothing but an impure and thick Mist, accompanied with a fuliginous and filthy vapour, which renders them obnoxious to a thousand inconveniences, corrupting the Lungs, and disordering the entire habit of their Bodies; so that Catharrs, Phthisicks, Coughs and Consumptions, rage more in this one City, than in the whole Earth besides."

He also complained that "Whilst these [the "Chimnies of London"] are belching it forth their sooty jaws, the City of London resembles the face rather of Mount Ætna, the Court of Vulcan, [or] Stromboli, ... than an Assembly of Rational Creatures, and the Imperial feat of our incomparable Monarch," adding that the black particles in the smoke ruined the facades of palaces, churches, and houses. Evelyn goes on to say that it killed birds and insects and blighted flowers and fruit trees. He adds that travelers could smell the city long before they could see it.

Evelyn did not advocate the prohibiting of coal-burning; he merely said that trades, such as brewing, dyeing, lime-burning, which put out a significant amount of smoke should be relocated to where the soot would not affect the city. He also proposed moving other noxious businesses, such as butchers and chandlers, out as well. To promote cleanliness, no burials should be permitted in churches or even within the city walls. Not even this approach, however, gained much support.

James Watt.jpgThe Industrial Revolution effectively destroyed any hopes of outlawing this pernicious fuel, as it was considered indispensable to development. Anyone who was opposed to coal was opposed to progress. Factories relied on it to fire their huge furnaces. It heated workers' homes. Worst of all, it provided the steam for James Watt's new steam engine. Getting rid of it was impossible. In fact, coal usage in Great Britain multiplied by 100 between 1800 and 1900.

The coal-produced smog, called "fog" by the Londoners, was familiar to people such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Darwin, James Russell Lowell (who was proud to have survived the smoke), Arthur Conan Doyle, Heinrich Heine, and Thomas Carlyle, who called it "fluid ink." Finally, in 1956, four years after a four-day "fog" killed approximately 4,000 people, Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, which reduced coal burning to a large extent.

To this day, coal continues to be one of the worst energy sources on the planet. It is the largest contributor to man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The difference that the success of Edward I's 1306 law would have caused is unfathomable. Even though he was a terrifying warrior and sometimes a cruel king, ironically he deserves to be remembered as one of the earliest environmentalists.
kemp's ridley sea turtleThe BP oil spill threatens hundreds of different species, from crabs to dolphins to pelicans. However, the five species of sea turtles living in the Gulf of Mexico -- leatherback, hawksbill, green, loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley -- all of which were endangered or threatened before the BP oil spill, may be hit the worst. 200 dead turtles have been found along the Mississippi coast alone. The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, which was critically endangered and the rarest sea turtle before this disaster, may have the hardest time surviving. As well as being hunted (in parts of Mexico, they are eaten and used for leather in making boots), they are susceptible to becoming entangled in shrimp-catching nets. But the oil spill has introduced many more threats that the turtles do not know exist and will have an even harder time avoiding.

Right now, the adult turtles are coming ashore to lay their eggs. The beaches on which they lay their eggs are now covered in oil, which is not good for the hatchlings. If the eggshells, which are soft and about the size of ping-pong balls, make contact with the oil, they weaken and there is less of a chance that the turtles will hatch. Even if they do, the hatchlings may be deformed. Those that live will have to cross the polluted beaches to get to the sea and then swim through the oil in the gulf waters. The Kemp's Ridley hatchlings are leaving their nesting grounds in Mexico to swim into the most contaminated part of the gulf, where their instinct to hide and eat amongst clumps of floating vegetation is leading them to clots of oil and polluted seaweed. Their instincts, which come from living in the ocean for over 100 million years, have taught them how to avoid predators like sharks but have not taught them how to cope with exploding oil wells.

No matter how old they are (many sea turtles live for 30 years), if a turtle is exposed to the oil for 4 days, their skin will peel off in sheets, a condition which lasts even after they have been cleaned and treated. The toxic chemicals cause diseases and damage to their livers, kidneys, and brains that might lead to the deaths of many of these animals. The oil also damages their chemoreceptors, which control their senses, making them unable to find prey, to know where their habitat is, or to understand movement. Because they moved farther inshore in their attempts to avoid the oil, they were eating fishing bait and consuming hooks. In June, 583 sea turtles were found in the contaminated area. 447 of these were already dead or died soon after they were discovered, and only 136 were taken to rescue centers. Worst of all, when BP tried setting some of the oil on fire, hundreds or possibly thousands of sea turtles were burnt and killed.

At least some efforts are being made to save the sea turtles. A qualified biologist will be aboard every boat involved in burning the oil to remove the turtles from the area. And 70,000 eggs from the different species of sea turtles are being carefully dug up from their burrows in the sand, because it is difficult to move or disturb the eggs without harming the embryos, and taken to a climate-controlled hangar at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After they hatch -- if the oil doesn't flow around Florida to ruin the plan -- the turtles will be released in the clean waters of the Atlantic.

For thirty years before the spill, scientists, environmentalists, and volunteers have been trying to save sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Their programs were working. For my sixth birthday, we drove to a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle hatchery in Galveston, Texas, the only one in the United States. Inside a rather small shack, we saw hatchlings, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, and huge three-year-olds in tubs being fed. It was not very impressive, but they were saving the turtles. We learned about the dangers faced by Kemp's Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles back then and today. People dumping garbage into the oceans is not a new issue, as is the fact that turtles choke on plastic squids used by fishermen to attract animals. If these turtles were in such danger before, now conservation is even more vital in these animals' survival.

Hopefully the conservation efforts will work and the turtles will continue to live healthily in clean water, but all of the other animals that live in the gulf face similar problems. This still leaking spill, which is even worse than the Exxon spill, is just another reminder that we need to work on green energy. We cannot continue to drill for oil and risk losing millions of animals as well as our own safety and the state of our world. The stories of these turtles and of all of the other, less well-known animals that are in danger need to prompt immediate action that will save our planet before it is too late.

The Road To Aberdeen

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The notorious metallic monsters of the sci-fi movies are fictitious. At least, that's what they're supposed to be. But they're real. For if not monstrous, what are the machines used to cut the logs of Washington State into boards or reduce them down to a sticky pulp? These gigantic tools of destruction are both awful and scary, for they look like horrible monsters with fangs (possibly dripping poison), trying to inflict indescribable pain on things. We had to drive past a factory from the house that we were living in every time we wanted to go to Target or Wal-Mart, but no matter how many times I saw it, it remained a very distressing sight. The plants manufacture boards and planks that are either used locally, in other parts of the United States or shipped abroad. British Columbia, Canada, even manufactures chopsticks for Japan! As you read this, destruction is reigning as the trees, old and new alike, are being sawed down without regard to size, age, or any other category that they could fit into.

Yet that factory was not the worst factory we'd seen. Compared to the most horrible one that any of us had ever seen, that one could have been called environmentally-friendly!

Just outside of Olympic National Park, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, an almost unbelievable tragedy was -and is still- happening. Whole hillsides are getting completely destroyed, not to return for over a lifetime. Magnificent old-growth forests are being turned into devastated graveyards with unwanted trees strewn on the barren hillsides. As you drive through Olympic National Park, overwhelming numbers of 18-wheelers hurtle past, bearing loads of cut logs, many with clumps of moss still clinging to the mottled bark, to the factories where they are cut into boards or pulped into paper while the smokestacks are polluting in great puffs of smoke. And if you look across some lakes to the private property on the other side, the park border is marked by straight lines of trees. The private property is completely barren, having been clearcut by loggers. I found it disappointing when the Obama Administration, even though it is doing many things to help protect the environment, including a recent statement saying that no more roads could be built in national forests, recently approved a logging contract in a roadless Alaskan national forest. George Bush was going to build roads in several national forests to log, but I do not think that the national forests should be cut down, even to provide jobs. Some states use their forests as tourist attractions, generating jobs and money, and if they log it is very seldom and very little at a time. When we were driving towards Aberdeen, the hills were an awful shade of brown. Vast, depressing, and uninhabited, these hills hardly look like what they once were: shady forests where squirrels frisked and owls once swooped down from their perch in the high branches of firs, hemlocks, and spruce, in the soft, dusky evening light. This scene is now uncommon, found only in state and national parks. Now what is left of that landscape is a carpet of broken branches and wood chips with an occasional tiny tree, sprouted from a pinecone left behind or missed by the logger's chainsaws, still standing.

Yet the worst was still to come.

Just outside of Aberdeen, we saw it. We were on a concrete bridge spanning a river adjacent to it, and when we looked down we saw one of the most terrible sights possible to see in the entire state. We'd gotten used to seeing logs that were decaying into "nurse logs" in the rainforests all around the state, but most of those had fallen naturally. And they were only one at a time. What we saw was incomparably different. Huge piles of logs, the bark unevenly stripped off of them, sat in the largest lumberyard any of us had ever seen. To prevent shrinking, the logs had been misted with dirty water, staining them gray in irregular splotches. It was so atrocious that I could not bear to look at it any longer than I had to. It was the worst thing I'd ever seen. It still is.

In American folktales, loggers are made heroes by legend. Paul Bunyan, the famed "lumberjack," is actually considered a good guy because he could cut down hundreds of trees with one swing of his axe. But by destroying the trees, people are destroying themselves. These giants are the source of oxygen and without them we will not have so many renewable sources of fresh air in the world. As if to prove this point, many trees are endangered. The Bigleaf Mahogany, found in Central America, is number eight on the Top Ten Endangered Species list. This species of mahogany is very valuable-one square meter is generally 1,300 dollars.

This is an important issue and species will continue to lose their habitat, resulting in many going extinct. Every second, an area of the Amazon rainforest the size of one and a half football fields is burned to make room for farmland. People must react to this ongoing injustice, or we will have a plain, ugly, and lifeless world. Today millions of trees are being sliced up into useless furniture that no one needs, into wood pellets for wood-burning stoves, and into a thousand other things that are unnecessary.  Having a little wood furniture is not terrible, but buying more than you really need is. Instead of wood-burning stoves, which not only use wood but also pollute, electric heaters or, even better, wearing sweaters are much better alternatives. Even pencils use much more wood than buying mechanical pencils and refilling them, in which case the only wood is in the cardboard packaging. (If possible, buy things with the least packaging possible.) It is very important to conserve this resource, for if this devastating logging continues, the hillsides will be gray, global warming will not end, and millions of animals, both known and unknown to science, will become extinct. Because today we are headed down the infamous road to Aberdeen.

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