Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tree Hugging The Boreal Forest

Athena's Owl silently swept from the top of the pine tree overhead the other night, after departing my Monday meeting of powerful Miracle Women.  Owl had many messages to give me and this blog is about some of them.

Where and what is the Boreal Forest?

The Boreal Forest is immense, spanning the globe 6.5 million square miles across northern regions of Russia, Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska.
In North America, the Boreal stretches 1.5 billion acres from interior Alaska across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. It is large enough to hold 14 Californias, and it accounts for 25% of the world’s remaining intact forests. In fact, there is more intact forest in the Canadian Boreal than in the Brazilian Amazon.  
And it is being cut down.

Ten year old Ta'Kaiya of the Sliammon First Nations People of British Columbia, Canada is the brave songwriter and singer in the video below, about the Tar Sands mining taking away her future:


Ecological Values

The Boreal Forest ecosystem is an extraordinary mosaic of interrelated habitats made up of forests, lakes, wetlands, rivers and tundra at its northern edge. The Boreal Forest region is dominated by spruce, aspen, birch, poplar and larch or tamaracks. Thirty percent of North America’s Boreal is covered by wetlands, consisting of bogs, fens, marshes, an estimated 1.5 million lakes, and some of the country’s largest river systems.
The North American Boreal Forest covers 2.3 million square miles -- 75% of the entire size of the contiguous United States.

The Boreal floor is covered by a dense layer of organic matter made up of peat and moss that is more than 10 feet thick in some areas. This cover is created when fallen trees, pine needles, leaves, and other plant remains fall to the ground and are prevented from decomposing by the cold boreal temperatures. This ground cover is particularly effective in storing carbon, and the boreal forests of Canada and Russia together store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. 
And it is being cut down.

Because the icy temperatures of the Boreal Forest, acting as a global refrigerator, it is able to keep plant remains from decomposing, thus preventing the release of carbon into the air. The sheer size of the Boreal Forest may help to regulate the Earth’s temperature, as it represents an area large enough to help buffer the dangerous effects of climate change.  It absorbs CO2 and gives off oxygen.  

And it is being cut down at an alarming rate.
(click above for more of the story)
Despite its remote location and natural ruggedness, the North American boreal is home to fourteen percent of Canada’s population, or roughly four million people. One third of these inhabitants are aboriginal. There are over 600 indigenous groups living in the area, generally formed into tribal groups known as First Nations. Indigenous Peoples of the Boreal Forest have linked their existence to the forest for hundreds of years, using the trees for heat, the plants for healing, and the animals for both food and clothing. 
And it is being cut down as you read this.
Wildlife and Birds

The variety of animals that coexist with humans is impressive, with mammals as enormous as a moose and as tiny as a pygmy shrew! The forest is home to the continent’s largest population of wolves, lynx, black and grizzlybears,and even the threatened woodland caribou. Over 8o species of butterfly and 40 species of dragonfly live in the Boreal, which also provides over half of the remaining habitat for Mink and Wood Frogs as well as Canada Toads. The lakes of the boreal are teeming with some of the world’s largest trout, bass, perch and whitefish.
The Boreal provides over 50% of the remaining habitat for moose, as well as safe haven for grizzly bear, Canada lynx, and more than a million caribou.

Google Images

Look What Tar Sands Mining Looks Like

(click above for more of the story)

 What about Tar Sands?
(click above for more of the story)

(click above for more of the story)
Google Images from Space

We CAN take action now before President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decide to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline soon by the end of this year.  Click on the link for the Natural Resources Defense Council organization below and then consider signing the petition to say, "No to Dirty Oil/No to the Keystone XL Pipeline," because it is so wrong for so many reasons.

The following is a letter to the editor I wrote that was published in a few Montana newspapers recently.  If we all do a little something, it adds up to a force bigger than each individual.  Together we are powerful.  Thanks for adding your voice.  ~ deborah

Dear Mr. President,

As a mother of three children, I am most concerned about the poisoned world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is such a disastrous idea, that if you took the time to understand what it is all about, surely you would not wish this legacy on your own daughters.

The disaster starts with the cutting down of the northern Boreal forests, which are our CO 2 absorbing forests and oxygen producing forests.  The waters downstream of the First Nations' People in Canada, are being poisoned by mining discharges. Then the crude oil is mixed with chemicals to make it flow, crossing 6 states and their waterways to Texas refineries to be sent to China. 

Pipelines break all the time, as seen recently by the Silvertip Pipeline used by Exxon oil and gas conglomerate, into the Yellowstone River, our national heritage blue ribbon river.  All oil spills are disasters to life on earth as we know it.

The Keystone XL to transport Tar Sands crude is a climate bomb. The extinction of the song birds nesting habitat is happening right now.  If they are the canaries in the coal mine, then what next?  

My family and I want no more oil spills in our waterways.  Instead, please help us in other meaningful ways to increase our energy portfolios, with greener alternatives.

To the Keystone XL say “NO!” 

Click below to lend your voice to the cause of environmental justice. Thank You!  Your grandchildren will thank you too.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Red Boots She Wore to Her Concentration Camp

It is an astonishing story, that of what happened at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, the site of a Japanese American Internment Camp.

That's where I saw her posing in front of a life-size image of her wearing these red boots, cameras and video cameras documenting the poignant moment.  Her two grown children and many friends and relatives were wandering slowly through the exhibits, pointing at memorabilia and making comments about "I remember that..."
Toshiko Ito posed in front of a bigger than life-size photo of herself at the age of 20 when she and her birth family entered the relocation camp. Today she is 88 years old.
On February 19, 1942, in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the mass removal of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast to so-called "relocation centers."
Concerns about the loyalty of ethnic Japanese were the result of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria.  By the end of the war, 10 people were convicted of spying for Japan; all were Caucasian.
Toshi married Jim Ito, and raised two children, Christie and Lance.  Lance is a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles who came to national prominence when he presided over the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Lance and my husband - compatriots in justice.  But has justice been served? Did O.J. Simpson's wife Nicole Brown Simpson get justice?  Did Toshi's family get justice?  What is required to be considered justice?
Heart Mountain was one of 10 "relocation centers" for Japanese and Japanese Americans run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA).  In addition to these, Japanese Americans were confined at times in temporary assembly centers, Justice Dept. internment camps and other wartime prison facilities.
Hurriedly constructed by more than 2,000 workers starting in June 1942, the center consisted of 740 acres enclosed by barbed wire fencing, with 650 barracks-style buildings, including a hospital, other support facilities and 468 residential structures.  The total number of people incarcerated for any period of time at Heart Mountain was 13,997.  Heart Mountain gets its name from the heart-shaped mountain seen in the background.
Upon release of internees after the war in 1945, many families returned to their homes and businesses and found them occupied by strangers, vandalized - properties stolen, with no recourse.

The redress movement of the 1970s resulted in a congressional commission formed in 1980, which issued the 1983 report "Personal Justice Denied" recommending token redress payments to victims and declaring internment "unjustly motivated by racism rather than real military necessity."  
The Civil Liberties Act was signed into law in 1988, implementing the recommendations of a congressional commission, and was sponsored by Representative Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K Simpson - who met as Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain when Mineta's family was incarcerated there. 
An irony was demonstrated here when more than 800 Japanese Americans from Heart Mountain internment camp served in the military, 11 of whom were killed and 52 wounded in battle, for the American side.  Some were volunteers, others were drafted.  The draft generated a resistance movement at Heart Mountain.  A "Fair Play Committee" formed to protest military induction, when recruits were forced at the same time into internment camps, and, as a result, 85 internees were elsewhere imprisoned for draft law violations!
The question of justice was on my mind as I wandered through the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Interpretive Learning Center, just an hour's drive from my home over the border in Montana.  With all these elderly survivors who surrounded me, I felt the overwhelming need to apologize.  Why?  I didn't have responsibility for their internment. Did my parents?
No, on a personal basis, it doesn't make much sense.  But, as fellow Americans, we acknowledge a grave injustice has happened.  Wartime makes people do awful things.  Being a witness to these survivors at this grand opening at Heart Mountain was just that - a grand mountain-size opening - of the heart. To read more on this chapter of American history click on this link to go to: www.heartmountain.org