Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Not in my backyard

DSCF4867Marla, in our extended backyard.

On a cool, bright autumn walk with Marla, I got to thinking about NIMBY.  Not In My Backyard.  It implies a perceived threat to the space that represents ‘my backyard.’  But what defines a backyard?  Fences?  Where I live we have none, except for ancient, collapsing cedar rails that now seem archeological.

We range freely through miles of forest, open meadow and wetland, far beyond the legal extent of the title deed that defines the 60 rural acres my partner and I ‘own.’ The land beyond is semi-wild, with no roads, no power lines, the occasional ATV incursion, and an abundance of animal tracks. I assume that someone ‘owns’ this other land; that’s how things have worked since the Europeans arrived. But for now, this is our extended backyard.

So then, what constitutes a backyard? If you’re an imperial power it means anything you want, up to and including the whole earth and as far out into space as you can grab. But what does it mean for the rest of us?

On my travels in writing Bold Scientists I visited with conservation biologist Curt Meine in the midwestern state of Wisconsin. Near Madison, the capital, we explored a devastated landscape, the former site of a vast military munitions complex, which citizens are working hard to restore to a healthy Sauk Prairie landscape. They hope to take care of it, as part of their extended backyard. But where are the boundaries?

As Curt sees it, “In nature the boundaries of larger reality are never set. In my little local place I can walk around, grow a garden, watch the birds, keep an eye on the sand cranes and the wild turkeys. I can only see about a mile, but I know the river out there is connected all the way to the Mississippi River, 80 miles that way (he points southwest, more or less), that feeds eventually into the Atlantic Ocean, which is part of the global ocean system. It’s the same with landscapes, they can be as small as a few square feet where you’re standing, and as large as the planet. Among all the levels are feedback loops, so they all affect each other.

“This means you can’t have a healthy farm or forest, park or city, in a landscape that’s unsustainable, or on a planet where the climate is going haywire, temperatures are rising, oceans are acidifying, and the poles are melting, largely due to our actions. So there’s always this tension between wanting to save the world at large and wanting to focus all your energies close to home. At least if you can work well on your part, and others are working well on their part, eventually you can build a community of engaged people to collaborate on the larger pieces of the whole.”

Imagine if in our backyard, our extended backyard, there were no tar sands. No oil and gas pipelines. No nuclear plants. No tops blown off mountains for coal.  No fracking… Imagine.

Meantime, biologist Curt Meine carries on the long community struggle to restore one small sliver of this precious earth, ultimately the only backyard we’ve got. The story is here, in Bold Scientists.

Join me for a talk on gardening and the extended backyard, October 27, 2015, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, at the Toronto Reference Library.

Event details hereAddress & transit info here.  Scroll down for a Map link.

 

 

 


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Life & death in Monsantoland

monsantoland

Two recent events in Monsanto-land tell it all:

Lobbyist claims Monsanto pesticide safe to drink, bolts when offered a glass. (It’s caught on a gem of a video, embedded in the story). Raw Story, 27 March 2015.

Monsanto demands World Health Organization retract report on Roundup link to cancer.  EcoWatch, 26 March 2015.

For a good dose of sanity on GMOs, hunger, and post-oil farming, check out Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold ScientistsRead an excerpt here.

Meantime, pass this on.  And have a nice day.

 

 


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Whole food for free-range minds in Winnipeg: a reminder

Wednesday, March 25

1:30 pm.  Bold Scientists, a talk at the University of Winnipeg.  Room 5L25, Department of Geography, Lockhart Hall.  Map.

7:30 pm.  Bold Scientists, a talk at the McNally-Robinson bookstore, Grant Park, 1120 Grant Avenue.  In the Travel alcove.  Map.

Pass it on.

 cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpg


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Bold Scientists in Toronto: Exercise your Freedom to Read *

cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpgTuesday, February 24, 1 – 3 pm.  Michael Riordon at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, north of Bloor.  Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium, ground floor, right-hand side of the building, back corner.  More detail hereMap here.

Wednesday, February 25, 7 – 10 pm. Michael Riordon at Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham Street, one minute west of the Bathurst subway stop on the Bloor line (Markham Street exit).  More detail hereMap here.

* February 22 – 28, 2015: Celebrate and defend Freedom to Read (and think, and speak, and share ideas….)

Great minds don’t think alike. They think differently.   Bring yours.

 


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Scotland the brave

Good news: Scotland freezes fracking.

Scots protest fracking

Scotland says: Don’t frack.  Photo: the-news-daily.com

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced that the moratorium would stand until “a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction” had been initiated and completed.

A week later, more good news: the Welsh government also voted to block fracking until it is proven safe for the environment and public health.  Note:  It cannot be proved safe, since it is everything but.

Neither of these initiatives is an outright ban, but in New York state, years of citizen campaigning led to a similar moratorium, and finally last month to a ban.

For a close look at the dirty business of fracking, see Bold Scientists.  Scroll down to chapter 10, The unsolved problem.

 


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Food fight, high stakes

In Independent Science News, January 12, Jonathan Latham sets out a stark bottom line for the survival of multi-cellular organisms – eg human beings – on this planet.

Industrial agriculture

Latham: “The project to fully industrialise global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions, most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, massive human health problems, and so on. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialisation of food is not reversed our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms.”

So then, a matter of life and death. Jonathan Latham offers a recipe for survival.  It’s worth a try.

For a taste of how to feed the world on a human scale, visit with Ann Clark, plant physiologist and farmer, in Bold Scientists, chapter 2, Digging thistles. Read an excerpt here.


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Bold Scientists, the trailer, now on YouTube.

“Tremendously hopeful and profoundly disturbing.”

Great minds don’t think alike. They think differently.  Here.

Bold Scientists trailer, screen shot