Thursday, August 27, 2015

At Play Along Amazon Creek and Trying to Breathe

By Bob Ferris

Amazon Creek from ditch to willow-lined waterway.
I rode my bike along Amazon Creek in Eugene this week.  During my ride I exchanged smiles with others enjoying this wonderful piece of public infrastructure.  This scenic, recreational and wildlife corridor was formed around a too-channelized and failed drainage system and the idea that there might be a better way.  It is a work-in-progress and now home to community gardens, wetland recovery projects, waterfowl, beavers and benches.  In short, it is another example of a community coming together, changing directions and working with nature in a manner that benefits the neighborhood and enriches the quality of life for all in the area.

It is hard to place a value on riding past a prize pumpkin in a community garden or watching some early morning disc duffers frolic flinging Frisbees down fairways.  Not all of it is pretty as there are homeless too and the territorial markings of nearly every urban setting are in evidence.  But it is alive and vibrant with every gang tag offset by emerging beauty and the promise of more wildness to come.

I suspect a fairly tongue in cheek comment in the smoke article.

The only down side of my ride other than a sore knee was the smoke (1,2).  The smoke that has clouded this Valley for most of the summer is the physical manifestation of a society given ample and articulate warning about the issue of climate change, but that has been bullied and conned into choosing to ignore it.  I truly resented the one public good being degraded by the private greed of the other.

Now I know that there will be those stalwart deniers who will take issue with this linkage between fossil fuel use and fires in spite of the excellent graphics presented by the Union of Concerned Scientists and explicit links to climate change.  And I know that they are probably taking a big breath to dazzle me with stories about 17-year stalls in warming(1), 400-year lag times between warming and CO2 levels rising(1), solar cycles and editorials about Al Gore lying about ice caps(1,2).  I guess I would normally suck in some atmosphere myself and then do my normal response too, but that is the whole point: I cannot do it at this juncture because of all the smoke.  So I am going to have to do the abbreviated version of rebuttal that at this time consists of two words that are a little like Happy Birthday (but not really).

So “happy birthday” to all those who have worked so hard over the past 50-60 years to ignore and confuse the issue of climate change and stall actions so they could continue to externalize their environmental costs in efforts to increase profits(1,2,3).  And “happy birthday” too to those faithful minions acting much like canyon rocks echoing the myths and misdirects that are leading to the loss of iconic species like the salmon and steelhead as well as making it hard for most in the West to breathe (1,2,3).

I suspect in all of this my election for short and sweet is also influenced by the current political and economic pollution as well as the media’s absolute unwillingness in post Fairness Doctrine fashion to act in the public’s interests.  So I cannot breathe but I am also pissed.  I suspect that I could spread these heartfelt and well-deserved “wishes” around ‘til the cows come home, but I think it is more important to come back to where we started: at Amazon Creek.

What Amazon Creek represents to me in its purest form is a choice to stand up and do what is better for a community or a region or accept something worse.  Moreover, in a bigger sense, the drainage’s pre-condition of failed and ugly solutions also represents our current political, economic and media environment and the very real choices currently in front of all Americans in the upcoming elections.

Unfortunately, right now I see many, many candidates that resemble the rusted shopping carts and discarded tires typical of neglected urban drainages rather than the healing willows and resilient reeds that we really need to restore our former greatness.  This needs to change otherwise we will be stuck breathing what we are given and living second rate lives or worse.

Hopefully, we will profit from the lessons learned at Amazon Creek and hundreds of similar projects around the nation that started with someone just like you recognizing that change requires action and accepting responsibility rather than inevitability.

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