August/September 1999 Issue of the Planet Kansas
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TMDL Process A Fraud
A Letter To Dennis Grams At EPA
By Charles Benjamin
Mr. Dennis Grams
Region VII, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
901 N. Fifth
Kansas City, Kansas 66101
Dear Mr. Grams,
This letter is in response to the June 30, 1999 letter you received from Mr. Clyde Graeber, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), submitting the required Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL's) for impaired streams and lakes in the Kansas-Lower Republican Basin (KLR) identified in the 1998 Section 303(d) list.
As you know, the groups I represent - the Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC) - filed the lawsuit that resulted in the April 13, 1998 Consent Decree ordered by Judge Lungstrum compelling the state of Kansas to submit this and future TMDL's to the EPA. While this letter is written on behalf of these organizations I want to make clear that this letter is not written on behalf of the attorneys who litigated the Kansas TMDL case - John Simpson on behalf of KNRC and Bill Craven on behalf of Sierra Club.
I attended most of the public hearings held by KDHE during the process of establishing the TMDL's for the KLR. I attended those hearings representing KNRC and the Kansas Sierra Club. In addition, at the request of KDHE staff preparing the KLR TMDL, I arranged for those staff to make presentations on the KLR TMDL process and take questions at meetings of the KNRC Board of Directors, the Kansas Sierra Club Executive Committee and the Friends of the Kaw Board of Directors.
I am writing you today to express my strong reservations about the decision by KDHE not to establish TMDL's for point sources of ammonia impairing the KLR. Both the Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resource Council strongly object to this action by KDHE and the rationale behind that action. At none of the public meetings that I attended did KDHE officials give any hint that this action was being considered as part of the KLR TMDL. At none of the meetings with the KNRC Board of Directors, the Kansas Sierra Club Executive Committee and the Friends of the Kaw Board of Directors was there any hint that ammonia point sources would not be included in the KLR TMDL. I want to make clear that, had there been even a hint that such action would occur, KNRC and Sierra Club would have made vigorous objection at the public meetings, and submitted those objections in writing.
I especially object to the implication in the second paragraph of Secretary Graebers letter to you implying that environmental interest groups approved of the KLR TMDL. I want to be explicit that in no way, shape or form did the KNRC and Sierra Club ever given approval to the KLR TMDL either verbally or in writing.
Both personally and professionally, I feel misled because I urged activists in the environmental community to become involved in the KLR TMDL process. I assured them that, despite their suspicions and past experiences with KDHE, this would be an honest and straightforward process, and their views would be incorporated into the final TMDL. Now this process has resulted in a KLR TMDL that does not establish TMDL's for ammonia point sources, even though I was led to believe throughout the process that TMDL's for ammonia point sources would be established. Is it little wonder that Kansans who feel strongly about the environmental degradation of the states surface waters feel so cynical and betrayed by the state agency that is supposed to carry out the goals of the Clean Water Act? Once again, members of the environmental community participate in good faith in an open process. Once again, in the end, we find that the regulated community gets to continue using our rivers and streams as sewers. Once again, they are able to exert political pressure behind the scenes, and cut deals with the very agency that is supposed to be protecting the public, not facilitating the pollution of our rivers and streams by the regulated community. I can no longer lend my good name and reputation in the environmental community in the future to facilitate KDHE staffs development of TMDL's for the remaining basins identified in the consent decree.
KDHE has taken the position that water quality impairments caused "solely" by point sources do not require the development of TMDL's. This is both a major policy decision and a highly questionable interpretation of the requirements of the Clean Water Act. This is particularly of concern because TMDL policies implemented in the KLR Basin will be applied to other river basins within the state, and also will set a precedent for TMDL activities outside the state. Because of the gravity of this precedent, I intend to circulate Mr. Graebers letter to my environmental colleagues around the country, in the Sierra Club and the Clean Water Network and others, who are in the process of monitoring or litigating TMDL's in their respective states. I want to warn my colleagues to watch out for this kind of eleventh-hour deception and flagrant violation of the intent -- if not the letter -- of the Clean Water Act and the consent decree.
Although the establishment and vigorous enforcement of permit limits alone may be able to bring some impaired waters into compliance with the standards, I believe KDHE is legally obligated to develop TMDL's for all waters/parameters listed on the 303(d) list. If KDHE is arguing that some of these waters/parameters were mistakenly placed on the list -- as implied in the first paragraph of the second page of Mr. Graebers letter -- it should go about the business of developing a revised list, gathering public comment, and submitting the revised list to EPA for formal review and approval. Given the time required to complete this process, the deadline imposed by the TMDL consent decree, and the political pressure exerted by Johnson County and others, it appears the KDHE finds it more expedient to simply ignore the requirements of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act.
KDHE argues that 303(d)-listed waters/parameters identified on the basis of modeling (rather than monitoring) are somehow less deserving of TMDL development and implementation. I know of no statutory or regulatory basis for this argument. From a practical standpoint, it would be nearly impossible to design and finance an ambient monitoring program capable of documenting standards violations immediately downstream of the nearly 1,000 permitted discharges of the waters of the state. Practical difficulties would be compounded by the infrequent nature of the critical low flow event, which occurs only once every ten years on average. Even if such a monitoring program could be implemented, would KDHE propose to wait ten years, on average, to confirm or disconfirm the occurrence of a water quality problem under critical low flow conditions? Interestingly, KDHE appears to argue that computer models are unsuitable for TMDL purposes but entirely suitable for developing NPDES permit limits (see the first paragraph on page three of Secretary Graebers letter).
The real issue here is that a few, influential members of the regulated community are concerned that adoption of TMDL's for ammonia would lead to more stringent permit limits and absolute caps on ammonia loadings to impaired stream segments. By definition, TMDL's reserve some fraction of the available dilution capacity for natural and nonpoint sources as well as point sources. They also must include a margin of safety commensurate with the uncertainty surrounding the loading estimate. Once TMDL's are established, it is presumably more difficult for a few large dischargers to completely monopolize the available dilution capacity.
In addition, KDHE is using the new Fecal Coliform Bacteria (FCB) criteria -- which EPA should disapprove -- to get out of some of the FCB limits. KDHE is using the backdoor to get out of doing TMDL's: changing criteria without justification (atrazine, chloride, fecal coliform) or finding a reason to ignore them (ammonia and total suspended solids). Permits are not a valid way to do TMDL's because they don't have the safety factors built in that TMDL's are supposed to have. Finally, EPA hasn't forced KDHE to be up-to-date in issuing permits anyway.
For the reasons outlined above I strongly urge you to reject the TMDL as submitted by KDHE for the Kansas Lower Republican Basin. I respectfully urge that you request KDHE to resubmit this TMDL and include ammonia point sources.
Charles M. Benjamin
By Craig Wolfe
Thanks to the stirrings of some key volunteers, the Wakarusa Group is now beginning their road to reorganization. Things have been a little quiet in Lawrence the last couple of years, but in a recent meeting of Kansas Sierra volunteers, plans have begun to reenergize the Lawrence Group.
Present at the meeting were John Verbanic, the Chapter Membership Chair, and Wakarusa Group members Frank Norman, Bruce Plenk, and Carey Maynard-Moody. Carey has agreed to be the coordinator of the process. Bruce rode his bike to the meeting in true Sierra Club fashion. Another meeting is planned for more organizing.
Out of the meeting came a definite will and desire to make the Wakarusa Group vital and relavant. But it was also clear that more Wakarusans will be needed if the Wakarusa is to become the grassroots powerhouse that its current leaders are envisioning.
So, to all you Wakarusans reading this, now is the perfect time to step up to the plate for the environment. Believe me, as one volunteer who probably takes on more than I should be chewing, it is absolutely essential that some folks step up and lend a hand. Find some area that you already like... marketing, accounting, computers, fundraising... and apply your existing skills to help get Wakarusa started. Call the folks below, and, by the way, we'll see you September 15!!
Bruce Plenk 785-749-3579
Carey Maynard-Moody 785-842-6517
Frank Norman 785-887-6775
Important Article on Gene Foods
By Craig Volland
Fearful of a public backlash that might drive the biotech industry into oblivion, Monsanto is reaching out to its critics.
Last week, Jeremy Rifkin, the biotech critic, flew to Monsanto's world headquarters in St. Louis to address something called the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
According to a report in the New York Times, the multinational giants wanted Rifkin to help them "paint a portrait of the biotechnology landscape of the year 2030 and how it evolved."
Also last week, Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, met with Monsanto's directors in Washington, D.C. to persuade them to drop the terminator gene. It used to be that farmers would plant seed, the crop would come up and be harvested, except for a handful of plants, which the farmer would let go to seed, and save that seed for next year's planting. With the terminator gene, the crop comes up, but there are no seeds. So the farmer has to go to Monsanto to buy more seed.
Conway told Dow Jones Newswires he is worried that the backlash over the terminator gene, which is years from reaching the commercial stage, is damaging public support for crop biotechnology in general, which might slow research that could benefit poor farmers overseas. "We have a lot of people to feed and biotechnology is one of the answers," said Conway.
Whatever you feel about citizens of conscience meeting with corporations to seek to persuade them to do the right thing -- and we are not of one mind on this -- it is clear that the biotech industry is in a panic over its beloved high-tech future.
The masses in Europe are in full revolt over the issue, with the Prince of Wales leading the charge against the corporatist Labor Party in the UK. And a lawsuit that the mainstream press has largely ignored -- a lawsuit that threatens the well-being of Monsanto, Norvartis and other biotech firms -- is making its way through the courts.
In May 1998, a number of public interest groups sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alleging that the agency violated federal law by allowing biotech foods onto the market without first adequately testing the foods for safety, and then without adequately labeling those foods so that consumers know whether or not, for example, they are eating fish genes spliced into their tomato sauce.
The federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act incorporates the precautionary principle: a new food additive is presumed unsafe until established safe through standard scientific procedures. But the FDA ruled in 1992 that genetically engineered foods are not new food additives.
In the FDA's critical 1992 statement of policy on biotech foods the policy that opened the floodgates that allowed biotech foods to pour into the marketplace -- the FDA claims that it was "not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new [biotech] methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.
In fact, internal reports and memos obtained during the course of discovery for the lawsuit reveal the FDA's own scientists warned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts.
But these scientists were consistently disregarded by the bureaucrats, who approved the agency's current policy of treating bioengineered foods the same as natural foods that have been changed by conventional breeding practices.
"There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document," warned Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA's Microbiology Group in criticizing a 1992 FDA draft policy paper on the issue.
Dr. Linda Kayl, an FDA compliance officer, complained that the FDA was "trying to fit a square peg into a round hole" by concluding that "there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices."
"The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks," Kayl said. Kayl and other FDA scientists recommended that genetically engineered foods undergo special testing, to no avail. So, Americans are now eating genetically engineered foods. And for the most part, they don't know it.
The main genetically engineered crops in the United States are soy, corn, canola, cotton, potatoes, papayas, and raddichio. You might say, "Hey, I don't eat cotton." But cottonseed oil is in many vegetable oil blends, which are in many processed foods.
It has been estimated that corn and soy alone are in 70 to 80 percent of U.S. processed foods. And since 40 percent of this season's soybean crop and 30 percent of the corn crop have been genetically engineered, you are probably eating genetically engineered foods, whether you like it, or know it, or not.
Steven Druker, the executive director of the Iowa City-based Alliance for Bio-Integrity, is the driving force behind the lawsuit against the FDA.
The lawsuit has received little media publicity since being filed last year, but Druker predicts that when the American people learn the details of the FDA's deception, we'll see an earthquake of public reaction against biotech foods.
"The FDA has been intentionally unleashing a host of potentially harmful foods onto American dinner tables in blatant violation of U.S. law," Druker told us. "And they have been covering up the fact that they have been acting so wrongly. I don't like that. And most people who learn the facts do not like it."
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy, Common Courage Press, 1999, http://www.corporatepredators.org.
© 1999, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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City Of Wichita Wants Clean Water
By Dan Bolt
With a vote of 7-0 for the proposal, the City Council of Wichita decided to "do as a community whatever it takes to protect the quality of our water supply."
With the release of Kansas State University's study of waste lagoons from hog farms, the City Council became concerned and asked the City Staff to look into the issue. Under the leadership of Mike Taylor; Director, Intergovernmental Relations and Director, Environmental Education; members from the Health Department, Water and Sewer Department, Planning Department, Environmental Health Unit of the Health Department, Equus Bed Groundwater Management District, and the legal staff, gave background and input on this issue. Mike Taylor then brought this information to the City Council meeting on June 29th.
At the beginning of the discussion of this issue Mayor Bob Knight gave a preface. "I think there is a high regard for our elected officials in Topeka. However, if you look at the kinds of issues and the number of issues that come before our elected representatives, they have a very heavy workload. I believe that more and more of you're going to see local government, at least those cities that want to advance and succeed, you're going to have to have local governments really step in to a lot of issues to insure the welfare of the citizens that they're expected to represent. I made a statement and I make it on a frequent basis that we really try to meet or exceed the expectations of our citizens. That of course assumes that citizens have an awareness of some of the issues that are taking place. I believe that this issue is kind of a sleeper in Wichita and I think that to the degree that citizens connect in on this issue, you are going to see a far, far higher participation and indication of interest in this. This issue here While I am not interested in being at odds with any constituent or any group and I certainly believe that it is important for rural, and suburban, and urban constituencies to work together. This is one of those issues that if you're ever, ever going to make a mistake you do it on the side of too much oversight. To even think casually about allowing anything to affect our water supply is unconsiousable. And if there are those listening or those that hear about this that are offended by those remarks, I'm not interested in offending anyone, but I will tell you that if there are any interests: corporate, public, private, whatever; that doubt the resolve of this city council on issues of prime importance to them, I would invite them to check with Western Resources, Union Pacific Rail Road, the airlines. There's a whole lot of people out there - I think that while they might not agree with us, can attest to the fact that if we make a collective decision on this council on behalf of our citizens, we're going to see it through. We're going to see it through regardless of the political obstacles and we're going to see it through regardless of the legal implications. This is not one of those matters that anyone who can affect the outcome should take lightly. We will not allow anything to jeopardize the quality of our water supply in the Equus Beds. Now, I am speaking as one of seven right now, but I would be very surprised if any of my colleagues have a different point of view."
At the conclusion, Mike Taylor was called to discuss the background of the issue and present any action steps for the city. "20% of all Kansas residents rely on Equus Beds for water," said Mike Taylor. He told that under current law 1/8 to 1/4-inch leakage from a waste lagoon is allowed per day. Mike Taylor then continued that a one-acre lagoon leaking 1/8-inch of waste a day would be the same as leaking 3400 gallons of waste per day or 1.2 million gallons of waste per year. He also stated that according to the KSU study, sandy soil and shallow groundwater could increase the chance of groundwater pollution. Both of these conditions are found around the Equus Beds. It was the hope of the staff that a coalition of support could be assembled including: Wichita City Council, Sedgwick County Commission, Reno County Commission, Butler County Commission, Association of Counties, League of Municipalities, and Equus Bed Groundwater Management District. This coalition could speak with the legislature and try to get enhanced protection for the Equus Beds.
Mike Taylor then concluded with Action Steps for the City:
After Mike Taylor finished his report, the City Council unanimously voted to support these Action Steps and Mayor Bob Knight included, "We ought to do as a community whatever it takes to protect the quality of our water supply."
Councilman Bob Martz was appointed as the council's leader on this issue.
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Water and Toxics
The Rhetoric of Pesticides Alternatives -- Should We Be Taking Back the Term "Integrated Pest Management"?
By Terry Shistar
We are constantly facing the problem that as we try to institute alternatives to "spray and pray" pest management systems in our communities, we find our preferred term "integrated pest management" perverted to mean "more pesticides." The harder we try to take back the term to mean least toxic pest management, the more valuable it becomes as a label for chemical-intensive pest control. I would like to ask whether we really want it.
Last year, the board of directors of National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides decided to change the organization's name (which had not been a good description of the organization for many years) to "Beyond Pesticides." One of the board members that if we hope to go "beyond pesticides", then we need to go "beyond pests." I think he is absolutely right--as long as our efforts focus on new or improved programs based on the "pest" concept, we will be in the position of generals calling for a "limited war."
The whole vocabulary of pest management has striking parallels to that of warfare. Pests are enemies; beneficials are allies; crops, etc. are the resources at stake in the war; there are neutral parties as well. We use chemical warfare (pesticides) and biological warfare (bacteria, viruses, and genetically engineered organisms). Some enemies are deemed so bad that we need to resort to genocide.
Was the world at war before our culture imposed the notion of "pest" on it? Many animals remove parasites from themselves and family members, but they don't try to make the world a lethal place for fleas and ticks. Some ants may bite animals that threaten their host plants and even remove competing plants around them, but they don't kill all animals that might browse on their trees or plants that might compete with them.
Many pre-Columbian native American tribes practiced an agriculture that recognized symbiotic relationships among food crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They also harvested wild plants. But they didn't kill everything that wasn't food. They didn't even harvest all the food that they could, recognizing that native plants know the best places to grow and need to reproduce themselves.
Our culture has the arrogance to think that we can define a "good" or "bad" plant or animal based on its (known) usefulness to us. As we take over virtually all of the landscape (with a nominal exception of areas we've decided--for now--to enjoy "wild"), we eventually put virtually all organisms in a position where we think we need to make decision--friend or foe. If an organism is not at least a potential resource we can exploit or an ally in our war on "pests", then it is judged to be at best in the way of our development.
The other part of this is that this warfare with the rest of the world is occurring within the context of intraspecies, intracultural competition for resources. Not only is our culture interested in protecting our resources from other species, it is also interested in doing so in a way that "locks up" those resources so that anyone who wants them must pay. Earlier inhabitants of my part of Kansas had bountiful selections of native foods--both plants and animals. The prairies weren't just grass and buffalo. They were prairie turnip, hog peanut, Jerusalem artichoke, and many other edible plants, as well as the animals who shared the bounty with the human inhabitants of the plains. Current inhabitants have replaced the native plants with brome and fescue monocultures for grazing and monocultures of corn, wheat, sorghum, and soybeans--much of which will also go to feed domesticated livestock. You can't just go out and find food any more. You have to work for the system and pay cash for your food.
Generals wage limited wars. They bomb only military targets. When that doesn't work, they bomb power stations. When that doesn't work, they bomb civilians who are "assisting the military." When that doesn't work, they send in ground troops. Eventually, there's pressure to use the really big guns.
Similarly our pest managers may start out with a willingness to use only physical exclusion, sanitation, and other "safe" non-chemical methods of pest management. But as long as we feel a need to "control" or "manage" those pests, the pest managers are going to feel like the general who knows he could win if he was only allowed to drop the big one. Furthermore, as the world becomes further sorted into friends and enemies, with fewer stable ecosystems, we acquire more pests who must be "controlled."
We create pests through our system of agriculture and our ignorance and fear of other living things. How can we go "beyond pesticides" if we continue to see most of the world as "pests"? I don't think we can. Going "beyond pesticides" will require large changes in our agricultural system. It will require each of us to form personal relationships with other organisms.
Ants are not bad. They are essential to many biological communities and ecosystems. However, you may be unhappy about ants in your honey jar. If so, you have a personal problem with those particular ants. You don't need to kill ants because ants are bad; you need to find a way to keep a particular colony out of your honey jar.
It is commonplace to call a weed "a plant in the wrong place." What is the proper place of a dandelion? I don't know. I know that dandelions are indicators of compacted soil--that they will grow there, and by growing there loosen the soil. I know that dandelion flowers provide valuable early spring nectar for insects and beautiful yellow patterns in my lawn. I know that dandelion seed heads are great fun for small children and bring goldfinches to provide more yellow to my lawn. I know that dandelion leaves are valuable as salad greens and a potherb. I know that the roots are used as a coffee substitute and are a valuable medicine for detoxifying the body after chemical exposures. But I can't tell you the proper place for a dandelion. The dandelion itself works that out with its neighbors.
Thus, our educational task as a huge one. It goes in the face of all the lies that our culture tells us--that we are here to rule the world, that the world belongs to us, and that other species that get in our way are just pests. In short, we need to make peace with the world. I have a feeling that we won't learn to make peace among ourselves until we learn how to make peace with the other inhabitants of the world.
Organic agriculture provides a valuable model, but not the organic agriculture of "acceptable inputs." The organic agriculture that should be our model is the old fashioned organic agriculture of small-scale diversified farms that were integrated into the local ecosystem. These organic farmers don't focus on botanical or bacteriological pesticides to "control" pests. They build the soil to grow healthy plants, grow within the limits of the local ecology, and search for a diversified mixture that increases ecological and economic stability. They even incorporate wild plants as valued members of the community.
In the context of homes and workplaces, this means asking, "How can I fit into this ecosystem?" rather than "How can I mold this place to my desires?" If you need a lawn, you shouldn't live in Phoenix. If you can't stand insects, then Florida isn't for you.
So my answer to the question in the title is this. Don't call it "integrated pest management" anymore. The term has been co-opted, anyway. Call it "dealing with people's problems" or something similar, because the problem is always a particular person's relationship to other members of the ecological community.
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Amtrak: A Fun Way to Get There!Part I
By Wayne Sangster
Amtrak struggles continually financially and has to depend each year on the government to keep going. More riders of course would help this problem. This article is intended to encourage readers to use (or to use more often) our national rail passenger system. The U.S. would be the laughing-stock of the world if Amtrak is allowed to fold or to be reduced to just a northeast-corridor service. All aboard for an Amtrak trip in words!
Last May my wife and I traveled to Richmond, Virginia (for a genealogical conference) on the Southwest Chief and the Cardinal (so named because all six states through which it runs have the cardinal as their state bird). Connections between trains, going and coming, were in Chicago where we had time to walk down State Street, that great street. For some destinations it would be better if one could go straight east from Kansas City instead having to go through Chicago (although that city has a sentimental attraction for my wife and me, since its where we met). In the early days of Amtrak there was a train that originated in KC with destinations to the east, such as St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio (a state capital which now has no Amtrak service), Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. (I rode it there once).
The bad, as well as the good, will be included in this travelogue. To leave it out would be a disservice to someone who might be tempted to try Amtrak for the first time after reading what I have to say and who then found that there are some problems. Getting to the Amtrak station by taxi went smoothly. The station is next to the huge KC Union Station which will open as Science City in November of this year -- the April 1999 issue of Trains magazine had a great cover story on it, complete with a dazzling cover photo. The first downside aspect of our trip was that heavy freight traffic (KC is the number two freight rail center in the country) delayed the arrival of the Chief for an hour or so. But we finally got rolling, crossed the Missouri River just east of KC, and the fields and small towns of Missouri started zipping by. A highlight of this leg is the Mississippi River (we happened to get a broadside view of a coal train on the west bank and we could see how long these things really are -- 100+ cars).
Going in and out of Chicago by train one sees a lot of the industrial and commercial aspects of the city, such container transfer stations. Amtrak has a very large presence in Chicago, with shops, etc., besides sharing Union Station with Metra, the commuter-rail service. The crunch of commuters at rush hour on weekdays (this time it was a Saturday) is so great that on our previous layovers the steady single-file stream of workers going home made it necessary for us to interrupt them to get around. KC should be so lucky as to have such problems when the Johnson County commuter-rail service becomes a reality (hopefully late 2001, I read recently).
The Chief is a reasonably fast train, but the Cardinal is not -- it took all night to get to Cincinnati (a scheduled 36 mph vs. 56 mph for the Chief). North-south rail traffic in and out of Chicago has to cross east-west traffic, which is one reason for the slowness. There must be other problems; what they are I dont know. In Cincinnati, we had a another chance to big-city watch before we crossed our third major river, the Ohio. Once in Kentucky, we followed it (a contrast with the farms of Missouri and Illinois) all the way to West Virginia.
Now to one of the real pleasures of riding the train -- the dining car! How could an old codger like me be so lucky as to get seated (with my wife) across from two college women from Indiana going to New York City to sightsee. We had a quite pleasant conversation. On previous trips we have shared tables with Boy Scouts and scoutmasters. Compare that with airline meals (or peanuts).
Both trains had Superliner (hi-level) equipment with a Sightseer Lounge car that allowed an excellent view of the scenery (and what do you see from an airplane? -- well, we did fly right over Chicagos loop one time on a non-stop flight from Boston to KC). West Virginia was the scenic highlight of the trip; there was a volunteer guide on the train who informed us about what there was to see and then gave us a quiz. Much of this leg was along various rivers, and mountains were omnipresent.
Next time I will write about Richmond and the trip back to KC. I hope you have had an Amtrak journey (and that it was fun!) by the time the next PK rolls around.
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Wyandotte County Community Recycling Center Now Open!
By Andrea Johnson
Residents in Wyandotte County now have a drop-off recycling program managed by Bridging The Gap, Inc. through a partnership with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. The Community Recycling Center is staffed by a Recycling Center Manager and a crew of volunteers, who together facilitate the operation of the recycling center.
Hours of operation are Thursdays from 7:00 AM to Noon, Fridays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Saturdays from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and Sundays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Materials accepted include newspaper, magazines, mixed office paper, corrugated cardboard, phonebooks, clear, brown, and green glass, #1 and #2 plastics with a neck, steel and aluminum cans, aluminum foil products, household batteries, and toner and ink jet cartridges. How can you get involved? Recycle, and share your understanding of recycling with your neighbors and civic organization leaders. Share recycling information with your colleagues and business associates. Volunteer at the recycling center, or organize a group to volunteer together once a month. Organize a system with your neighborhood organization for "carpooling" recyclables with interested households. Talk to your churches, schools, and community organizations about promoting the recycling program in their newsletters and mailings.
For more information, to obtain a Wyandotte County Community Recycling Center brochure, to sign up for Choose Environmental Excellence, or to volunteer, please call 561-1090. YOU can do a world of good!
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Southwind Group Annual Picnic
By Dan Bolt
June 11th was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and the temperature in the 80's. At about 6:30 p.m., Sierra Club members started gathering at Chisolm Creek Park for the group's annual picnic. Hot dogs, hamburgers and pop were supplied and the members brought their favorite food dish. During the evening, members met one another and welcomed guests. It was a chance to get to know one another without the stress of work, legislative issues, mega hog farms, and trying to keep our water clean. It was a time to relax and find out about families and interests. Even though we were there to relax, occasionally ideas would pop up about Sierra Club or some environmental issue. Around 9:00p.m., as it was getting dark, the 20 members and visitors began packing up their stuff wishing the night wasn't over. As everyone left, they all felt that this year's picnic was another success and couldn't wait until next year. It began to rain just as the last of picnic supplies were packed up, as if crying that the picnic was over for this year.
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Walk With Wildlife
By Dan Bolt
It was a rainy-bleak morning of June 12th as members of the Southwind Group set up our booth for the "Walk with Wildlife." By 10:30 a.m. the rain had stopped and the sun started shining. It turned out to be a nice cool day. This event was sponsored by the Great Plains Nature Center. Its purpose was to introduce and educate the public about a wide variety of animals from the state of Kansas. Also, the Krat brothers; of the nature show, Kratts' Creatures, on PBS; were here to join the festivities and gave two performances that day. By 4:00 p.m., it was determined that this "Walk with Wildlife" was a success with about twice as many people attending as last year. The Southwind Group found this was a good way to stay in the public eye, get some interest in the organization, and try to educate the public.
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A Complaint Against "Smart Growth"
By John Kurmann
The concept of "smart growth" seems to be popping up everywhere these days, in newspaper articles, mayoral elections, planning meetings, and even on the lips of a certain Vice President of the United States of America. Its proponents within the green establishment decry folks who refuse to embrace the advocacy of smart growth as "environmental purists," and criticize us as too inflexible, too uncompromising, too unrealistic. As one who has argued that "smart growth" in this context is an oxymoron, I'd like to tell you why. I'll begin with a parable:
"Good morning, Dr. Mason."
"Good morning, Dr. Ling. Thank you for taking time to consult with me on Mr. Islan's case."
"Happy to be able to help. So, give me the particulars."
"Islan is a 42-year-old male with advanced arteriosclerosis. If his condition is left untreated, he could suffer cardiac arrest or a stroke at any time, and his current health is terrible. He suffers excruciating chest pains and has to restrict his activities drastically--he can barely walk up a flight of stairs, and he has to rest after he does. I don't expect him to live more than another year in this condition. I've talked to him about a regimen of lifestyle modifications, recommending a diet with less than 10 percent total fat and minimal saturated fat, exercise, meditation and other stress reduction techniques. Even though this treatment promises to clear the blockages, improve his quality of life and allow him to live to a ripe, old age, he's balking. He refuses to make major lifestyle changes. He says he can't, that I'm just asking too much."
"Have you talked to him about surgery followed by drug therapy and less drastic dietary and behavioral modifications? Less red meat, more chicken, a walking program, that sort of thing?"
"Sure, that's what he wants to do. In his condition, though, that'll just slow the progression of the disease. You know surgery can only clear the worst blockages--we can't clean out every bit of plaque from his arterial system. Without real dietary change and exercise, his body's blood-flow will only become more blocked. At best, he'll live another two, maybe five, years, and his quality of life will continue to deteriorate."
"I hear you, Steve, but you've got to be realistic. If that's all he's willing to do then you'll just have to accept it. Maybe in a few months or a year he'll be ready to do more. You can only do what he'll let you do."
"I guess you're right, but I don't feel like it's enough."
Three years, four months, six days and thirteen hours later, Mr. Islan's heart stopped. He suffered terrible chest pains and weakness up to the end, including every day of the extra two years, four months, six days and thirteen hours that "realism" bought him.
The criticism that one is too much of a "purist" is only valid if the same goals can be met while accepting a lesser standard. If that isn't the case, then one is not a purist but a realist (in the genuine sense). I see no evidence that any standard lesser than an end to growth will do if our goal is saving the world--and what other goal is worth pursuing?
What, after all, is the problem here? We're in this global crisis because of the rapid, massive expansion of our claim on the biosphere. We've gotten ourselves into this fine mess because the vast majority of the world's human population now lives a single basic lifestyle--founded on perpetual growth--and treats the world in a single way--as human property. Despite many differences in detail, at the most basic level of worldview and lifestyle most of the six billion or so humans now alive are part of a single civilizational culture.
In raw terms, what does our growth mean to the world? Every bit of growing we do deprives some other member of the community of life of the resources it needs to survive. By our population growth, we are converting ever-more of the world's living matter--its biomass--into human living matter--human flesh--and all the resources we use which were living matter: food, trees, medicinal plants, cotton, hemp, and so on. As ever-more of the world's biomass is converted into us and our stuff, inevitably ever-less of it can be anything else--the world can only support so much total biomass--whether that "anything else" is bald eagles and California condors and gray whales and redwoods, or dung beetles and pallid sturgeon and obscure species of earthworms and plants none of us has ever even bothered to name.
Our growth means more than that, though, because we use enormous amounts of non-living matter to support our lifestyles, too. As we increase our numbers--as we grow--we also grow the amount of inorganic materials we appropriate for human use--fossil fuels, metals, that sort of thing--and consequently increase the damage done in their extraction, processing and use. We and the rest of the community of life are drowning in the waste we've created, and we're shredding the web of life as we strip mine the planet, devastating ancient, evolved ecosystems every step of the way.
The fact of the matter is that we don't know what the biosphere's limits are. We could be beyond them already, though I certainly hope not (and I behave as though we're not so that I can have hope for the world). If we're not, there's still no way to know just which bit of additional growth will push us over the precipice. Whatever the limits are, our good sense tells us that growth must stop at some point (and probably very soon) if we are to save the world (including ourselves, as we are inextricably part of it). Perpetual growth on a finite planet is a physical impossibility.
Of course it makes sense to realistically accept that we're not on the verge of convincing the rest of the people of our culture to abandon this growth-bound lifestyle (we don't have to persuade the people of the remaining other cultures--tribal cultures--because they don't live like this). Accepting that which we aren't yet able to achieve, however, is not at all the same as advocating the very thing which is devouring the world (albeit less of it). Our growth is the world-destroyer, and I don't think it makes any sense to spend our time trying to convince those around us to pursue a program which at best will only result in our destroying the world at a more leisurely pace. They may not listen to us when we tell them what it's really going to take to turn things around, but at least they'll know what they need to know to make an honest choice.
"Smart growth" is now the environmental issue of the moment. We know this because even politicians are climbing aboard this bandwagon (reason enough to question its merits, since most only follow their constituents down the path of easy answers--which aren't genuine answers at all). Many green groups, including the Sierra Club, have embraced the idea because they see it as a way of actually getting something done about uncontrolled growth--and they're right, it is "something." Given that any bit of growth may be the last bit the world can stand, though, it would be far more accurate to dub this concept "slightly-less-stupid growth." I am convinced that "smart growth" advocacy is not compromise but capitulation.
Do we really want to save this patient or not?
Editor's Note: One definition of capitulation is "the ceasing of resistance." This incorrectly describes Sierra Club actions. The Sierra Club is not ceasing its resistance to growth. The Sierra Club instead chooses to place its lever where it has determined that it can most effectively move the immovable object. To place its lever where its effect would be minimized would instead be foolhardy. To rage on a stage where it would be ignored would be a disservice to our members who want to accomplish change, namely through the political process.
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By Tom Thompson, Chair of the Kanza Group
In the last "Planet Kansas" I encouraged people to call me to get involved or to consider running for our Executive Committee. I hope I did not imply that I think the current ExCom members are not doing a good job. They work hard and are dedicated. This summer they are trying to relax and spend time with their families like everyone else. However, environmental problems persist and we still have meetings to keep track of what is going on.
Sometimes I don't realize how much time volunteers put in on those committees intended to hold us together as an organization. It is a lot. I know I worked on a meeting with Rep. Dennis Moore and kept track of the time I spent setting it up, writing reports and attending it. It totaled 6 hours. I don't tend to think about this stuff, however -- I just do it (wish I could type faster, maybe it would have only taken 5 hours).
Others do even more work than me. Some are active on both the Chapter (State Level) and the Group Level (Kanza Group, which is the Kansas side of the Kansas City Area). They give up one full Saturday every other month besides attending a two-hour Group Excom meeting every month and going to the regular monthly meetings of the Kanza Group. This does not include all the phone calls and emails that are sent regularly nor the committee meetings like Conservation Committee, or the outings many of us would like to go on. All those who participate should be applauded.
People often wonder why we don't do this project or that project. Usually it is because there is only a small number of activists but many issues. We prioritize what we do. With more volunteers we could do much more. Hopefully I haven't scared anyone away who wants to get involved. I do believe that many want to do their part to be proactive on environmental issues but think that all the work is taken care of. Yes we do have a paid staff person in Topeka but most issues and activities are done by members who volunteer locally. If you don't know what to do, call and I'll put your skills to use.
Public relations are a big part of the Sierra Club. As a club we promote environmental issues. Often we complain about our governmental officials doing things that are bad for the environment. They will tell you that in general people support the environment but don't care about or know about individual issues. When confronted with an issue concerning business, politicians think about creating jobs. The Sierra Club must often remind them of issues concerning ground water, urban sprawl, or health that are also involved. However, we must also educate the general public. If they don't understand the issues then they won't help elect pro-environment officials or call public officials when there is a problem. Furthermore, politicians won't think the public cares.
Earth Day 2000 is coming next year marking the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day. This and other events are perfect for spreading our message. People are needed to man booths, hand out literature, design displays, and plan events.
Call me at 913-236-9161 if you want to be part of this movement.
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Paper Or Plastic??
(The Consumers Guide To Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice From The Union Of Concerned Scientists) - Book Review
By Cindy Berger
A few weeks ago I faced a dilemma. Should I walk to my neighborhood supermarket to purchase produce or should I drive to the farmers market where I could buy locally produced organic food? Which would have the most favorable environmental impact? As I pondered that question, I realized the overwhelming number of decisions that we as consumers face every day. In an effort to guide us through our daily choices, Michael Brower and Warren Leon have written a new book, The Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.
Using research backed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Brower and Leon separated consumers choices into two groups. One group included those that have a significant impact on the environment and are worthy of deliberation. The other group included insignificant choices that we need not spend time on.
After analyzing 50 major categories of consumer activities, they discovered that just a few of the categories accounted for the majority of environmental damage. Here is a summary of their findings:
Cars and Light Trucks
The personal use of cars and light trucks is the single most environmentally damaging consumer behavior. It directly causes greenhouse gases and many types of air pollution, indirectly creates water pollution, and results in ecologically harmful land use (for roads). You can minimize these harmful environmental effects by living near your workplace, walking and biking whenever possible, and making the switch to a small, fuel efficient vehicle.
Meat and Poultry, Fruit, Vegetables, and Grains
Our traditional methods of large corporate animal farms and chemically-dependent, monocrop farms contribute heavily to land and water use and to water pollution. Forty percent of our total land area is used for grazing livestock, with another 60 million acres devoted to producing grain for their feed. Household meat and poultry consumption alone is responsible for nearly 25% of threats to natural ecosystems and wildlife. Irrigated crop production (fruits, grains, vegetables) accounts for about 30% of our total water usage in the U.S. As a consumer, you can reduce these harmful environmental impacts by producing your own food, eating less meat and buying organic produce.
Home: Construction, Heating, Hot Water, Air Conditioning, Appliances, and Lighting
Choosing your home is one of the most important environmental decisions that you will face. Wood for new home construction is a large source of timber demand and results in habitat disturbance and species endangerment.
Oversized houses use more energy to heat and cool and more building materials for construction. Choose a resale home that is no bigger than necessary. Install efficient air conditioners, furnaces, hot water heaters, appliances (especially refrigerators), and lights. Whenever possible, use renewable energy to power your home. You may soon have the option to select an electricity supplier that uses renewable energy.
Household Water and Sewage
Municipal sewage is a major source of water pollution, especially in coastal areas. Keep your water usage to a minimum and prod your local government to take action to reduce the impact from household sewage.
In addition to the tips noted above, Brower and Leon urge us to avoid these high-impact activities: powerboats, pesticides/fertilizers, gas-powered yard equipment, fireplaces/wood stoves, recreational off-road driving, hazardous cleaners/paints, and products made from endangered or threatened species.
On the other hand, many decisions that we agonize over are not worthy of our time. The choices listed below have either a low environmental impact, or equally damaging impacts but in different areas: Paper vs. Plastic Bags, Disposable vs. Cloth Diapers, Disposable vs. Nondisposable Cups, Plates, Utensils, and Napkins, Cotton (nonorganic) vs. Synthetic Clothes, Newspaper vs. Polystyrene, Peanuts for packing.
Its important for us as consumers to recognize which of our choices have a high environmental impact. Because we face so many decisions every day, if we give every choice equal weight, we will soon be overwhelmed and perhaps give up. Brower and Leon have provided us with guidelines to follow so that we can be sure to devote our time and effort to the decisions that matter most.
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An Eleventh Commandment (and another book)
By Wayne Sangster
In an article in the July issue of The Progressive magazine, I discovered a reference to a book by Eduardo Galeano (a native of Montivideo, Uruguay), entitled Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. I have not read the book, but its title implies the exploitation by Europeans of the Americas as colonies that went on after 1492 such as Clive Ponting discussed in his book, A Green History of the Earth, reviewed in the last issue of Planet Kansas. In the article, an interview with Galeano by David Barsamian, he is quoted as saying, "Latin America is not a stage on the way toward development. It is the result of development, the result of five centuries of history." Galeano thinks we should learn from Indian (native) culture and that there should be an eleventh commandment: "You should love nature, to which you belong." Sounds like a good bumper sticker, for those who like bumper stickers.
We desperately need to love nature to counter the exploitation of it by our economy nowadays. For example, we should think more about how the stuff we buy (with its often excess packaging) gets produced and transported to market. The food lining the shelves in our supermarkets or merchandise in the wide variety of stores we have to choose from, as well as the houses we live in and the cars we drive, are examples. It is at the expense of the environment and conspicuous consumption is a villain. It just cant go on and on.
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