Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Amanda and Joanna

Needle in a haystack. Little Dutch Boy putting fingers in leaking dike.

The beach clean-up along the Central Oregon Coast, near Devils Punch Bowl, down south to Beverly Beach, is an exercise in patience, Sisyphus, maybe, as many beach and marine life lovers are volunteering with tweezers in hand harvesting the global micro-plastic blasts.

Might as well have a fork to bring with you to help harvest all the world’s wheat crops.

Piece by piece. Or, scoops of sand, with organic matter like shells pieces and driftwood and these microplastic and plastic nurdles plopped on a gurney-sized fine mesh, is akin to, what, using one household colander to strain the daily pasta and noodle intake in Oregon?

Scott Rosin is tall, grizzled, and head of Surfriders Central Oregon Coast. He’s chair of the Newport Chapter. Another chapter is called Siuslaw Surfriders, taken from the Newport-Yachats area where we live in, specifically the Siuslaw National Forest, also named after the river that runs through it to the Pacific.

Ahh, Rosin – former arborist, former surfer (his shoulder was blasted out in forestry work – he uses a paddle board to ride five-foot waves or less), poet and local activist – has been heading up this plastic clean-up on six consecutive Sundays, noon to 4 pm, on an incredible beach made to order for picnickers and surfers, even in March.

Scott Rosin

Helping hands included a few women, Mike Harrington, a 72-year-old member of the Siuslaw Chapter of Surfrider, and a black lab whose owner was down on her knees pulling out plastics of every color and shape.

This is what Scott told the Newport News recently about his efforts:

“It would be great if we could get more locals involved.  The beaches here are, or were, as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I’ve surfed and played on these beaches since 1973. I can tell you that the problem of visible plastic pollution here has rown exponentially.

Nobody knows what the full effects of plastic pollution may be. This isn’t a disaster that you can see coming, like a forest fire or a hurricane. I anticipate a long road to educating ourselves about the dangers involved.

It’s the local newspaper, and a message of doom and gloom and setting the doomsday clock to 11th hour (actually, 11:58) before the apocalyptic midnight hour hits doesn’t sit well for a local rag that sells ads for real estate, B&B’s, summer cottages, whale watching tours, crab fests, and buy-buy-eat-eat-consume-consume visitors.

dog watch and plastics — tourists asking questions

Scott and I talked the real stuff tied to not just the amount of plastics in the ocean, and not just the bad-bad-bad hypotheticals of animals eating plastic and then humans eating them up, through the food chain. Anyone with a brain knows that whales and albatrosses and Homo Sapiens should NOT be engorged with fossil fuel polymers.  

We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution ARE god-given natural born rights.

The local rag will not allow such real systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.

Devils Punch Bowl and Beverly Beach

One irony is that Scott and Surfriders and members of SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and the few volunteers from the American Cetacean Society might not realize that the Siuslaw people (nation) lived in villages along the river until 1860.

Siuslaw Nation had been for hundreds of years living well and understanding the land, the estuaries, the ecosystems, the whales and avian world, the fish and fauna. The Siuslaw like all First Nations knew the limits of growth, the carrying capacities of their tribes, the allowable safe limit of killing animals or harvesting food.

So, these natural and long-studied indigenous people who could be here teaching in Oregon’s schools and advising all sectors of government and business, well, they no longer have a practiced language. We may romanticize that Oregon Trail story (even Woodie Guthrie has his song, Oregon Trail), but in 1860 the Siuslaw Nation was forcibly removed to an Indian reservation in Yachats. And, then, quickly those homes, farms, gardens and villages were destroyed and occupied by U.S. settler-colonists.

Now California transplants are on the beach trying, in herculean effort, to stop the infinite plastics tide from fouling everything they came to the Oregon Coast for in the first place.

dad and daughter and plastic sand castle stuff

From the evidence of locals who are blind to the plastic issue, and looking out at these Surfriders and others, young and grizzled, passersby seem to think the volunteers are a blast from the past. Environmentalists, who stick out like anachronous wandering souls, are the minority, as more and more business-as-usual and business-as-usual-to-the-tenth-power proponents have colonized the beach resorts, the city councils, school boards, county commissioner courts.

This Central Oregon Coast is magnificent, but even along the largest ocean covering 42 percent of the earth’s surface (62 million square miles), the Pacific (and the deepest of all oceans at that), microplastics from fish totes originating in Alaska come to the beach in small and colorful forms for a few volunteers to pick at.

Thousands of sets of ghost fishing gear, equipment, supplies – all polymers – tumbling along the ocean currents and ocean floor, ending up floating at the surface, or just below. Colorful bits of oil-stretched plastic which sea life take for sea nutrients. 

Birds eat the plastics. Mammalian marine life forms eat the plastic. Fish eat it. The extra big yearly tides – the King Tides – push the plastic way up on the tideline. Now Homo Sapiens Plastica is out in small numbers trying to battle the plastic snow storm with a leaf blower.

Bagged Goods

Scott has never seen this amount of plastic in his 46 years fishing, playing and making a living in this part of the Oregon Coast.

We talked about plastic in every human being’s feces (recent scientific paper on that tidbit). We talked about how by 2050 plastic floating around the ocean and on the bottom will outweigh the total mass of all the organic-living matter in the ocean (another series of scientific papers). I talked about the plastics fouling the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, the deepest canyon in the world — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide and maxing out at 36,070 feet deep from the surface.

In yet another scientific series of papers, researchers have ROV’s – remotely operated vehicles – filming plastic bags floating in the deepest ocean trench. Worse yet, the foundation of the food chain – amphipods – in each collection over many months resulted in every single crustacean-like animal containing plastic remnants in their guts.

We can read white paper after detailed scientific paper, but the bottom line is if humanity were to use even one-thousandth of our collective common sense, we’d all be ranting and raving about stopping plastic production and use of straws, wraps, single use bags, containers, nurdles.

Forget the fact that plastics are oil based, and the process of polymerizing them involves a lot of electricity, toxins, off gassing and communities around the world exposed to the industrial toxins and waste products part and parcel tied to the entire harvesting, transportation (by a factor of 3 or 4) and production process.

Big Blue Pacific and Devil’s Punch Bowl and Otter Rock

Lucky for me, I can be a member of various touchy feely groups and do some volunteer work with them, but I am not longer hobbled by my scientific credentials or teaching certificates or so-called neutral journalistic standards. I can see through the hubris, magical thinking, delusional belief systems, the false hope and the elephants in the room as people in this society – good folks like Scott Rosin and others I met at a naturalist certification program I went through with the American Cetacean Society –have their hearts in the right place, and many times their minds, but their guts are missing the fact that revolutionary change has to happen.

Not a future of greenie Jetsons, but rather a future like the Flintstones is only going to answer the call now.

I also ran into another old timer, like Mike Harrington, a member of Surfrider who ended up in Oregon in 1976, originally from Central California. He packed up the VW van and got his 20 acres near Eddyville.

He said he came here with two children and a wife, because he wanted his kids to be raised where nature and wildlife both counted and were part of their daily lives.

He’s made his livelihood as a farrier, and we joked about just who his customers are – well-off, bourgeoise, and those with big bucks and the largest ecological footprints.

It’s super tedious, this sieving the wet sand and separating the plastic from the organic matter. Harrington knows it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket (now it’s the drops in the ocean tub). “You have to start somewhere. I want to make this world a better world for my kids and grandkids. I guess it makes me feel better doing this.”

Amanda Zimmerman and Joanna Davis are sisters doing the bit by bit plastic treasure hunt. The sun is out, more than two dozen surfers are seeking curls, families are making sand castles, and the warmer winter Pacific shore waters are enticing some to go in up to their knees.

Joanna says she has to do something. She too is from California, and now is a 28-year-old living in Portland, wanting that Portlandia lifestyle. She has no children, wants none to bring in the world, and she tells me she’s shocked at how few shells and sand dollars she has seen seeing at Pismo Beach, the closest beach to her when she lived in Bakersfield.

gurney, plastic, sluicing

The March 4 City Council meeting in Newport will discuss whether to go forward on proposing a single use plastic shopping bag ban ordinance. There will be many citizens there speaking on behalf of the proposed ban. Scott will be there, after having sent in written testimony.

I’ve looked at the rationales of the no-to-the-ban citizens, and from the plastics lobby and grocery store lobby. Imagine, 2019, a small city with 11,000 residents, and swelling to three times that in the summer months, and it can’t even wrestle with a plastic bag ban.

Even Forbes Magazine, rag of the uber rich, the uber capitalists, lists the coming age of plastic bag bans. But, again, if we can’t get Puerto Rico’s lights back on, and if we can’t even fund our PP12 schools, and if we thrown money at Military Industrial Complex thieves and let them laugh to the bank, are we going to deal with climate change?

Ahh, more coming soon, on Peter Ward’s talk, Under a Green Sky (great book I reviewed).

You have Wallace Smith Broecker, the ‘grandfather’ of climate science, just recently leaving a final warning for Earth at an ASU climate change conference via web right before he succumbed to Chronic Heart Failure. I’ll talk about him in a future blog-article.

We’ll talk about the humanity in all of this new fangled (not really) New Green Deal, which is again just another way to let Musk, Bezos, Silicon Valley, Gates, Dell and other techies play libertarian green game of thrones.

Plastics, man. And get this: Oregon’s States Parks will not let Scott and his cronies bring a solar-powered pump to get ocean water to their sieving stations. Imagine that, they have to haul all this water in 5 gallon buckets hundreds of feet to wash out the sand. Solar powered.

The state’s reasoning: “Well, goddamned goldminers might see this four hour operation and think: ‘Hell, I can bring in my gold mining dredges and pumps and arsenics and such. Damn fine idea.’”

Old hippie, surfer, musician, plastic warrio

Are we going to really mitigate the worse and even least of the worse outfalls from climate change when we can’t even issue a special issue permit for greenies to use a portable water pump to clean plastics from the beach?

We love to believe that high-tech innovations will fix everything. To produce all of our fanciful technology, many of the raw materials are derived from exploiting other people’s land (Africa, South America, Asia), and the manufacturing comes at the expense of other people’s health and livelihood. Let’s hope eliminating this sort of environmental racism figures into the GND platform. Beyond that, thus far in the course of humanity, our technology has only further amplified all of our detrimental ecological issues. It involves over-consuming natural resources and over-producing more of what we don’t need, while leaving us with less of what we do – organisms and ecological systems.

People are saying the Green New Deal is impossible. What is impossible is saving our planetary ecosystem while preserving our current way of life. For any GND legislation to be successful, it must work to conserve more rather than produce more. Moreover, it must facilitate collective radical personal changes to our way of life that fundamentally change the underlying paradigms of our existence. Otherwise, it will be as fleeting as the original New Deal, and ultimately much more deadly.

When it comes to a Green Deal, the only sustainable policies are radical ones. And when it comes to a sustainable global environmental paradigm, unless you are talking about the natural world, less is always more.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher.

Forbes Magazine list for Oregon and Washington. See all the places for which a ban is in effect — HERE.

KENMORE            WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags, 5-cent fee on paper bags

LA CONNER        WA        Town-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT ANGELES WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mm, 5-cent tax on all bags

TACOMA             WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mils thick

FRIDAY HARBOR                WA        Town-wide ban on plastic bags

SAN JUAN COUNTY         WA        County-wide ban on plastic bags

TUMWATER       WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

THURSTON COUNTY       WA        County-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

OLYMPIA             WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

LACEY    WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MERCER ISLAND               WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags

SHORELINE         WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

ISSAQUAH          WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MUKILTEO          WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT TOWNSEND            WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND       WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BELLINGHAM     WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

SEATTLE               WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

EDMONDS          WA        City-wide ban on plastic bags

MILWAUKIE       OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

MANZANITA      OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

MCMINNVILLE  OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

HOOD RIVER      OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

FOREST GROVE OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

ASHLAND            OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags

EUGENE               OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

CORVALLIS          OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

PORTLAND          OR         City-wide ban on plastic bags

One thought on “Threading the Eye of the Needle — A Few Greenies Ain’t Gonna Cut Climate Change

  1. haederpaul says:

    Comment from Joe the Farmer from Merced:

    “We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution are natural born rights.

    The local rag will not allow such real and systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.”

    Paul you are pointing out in your essay what we in Merced lived through.

    I worked with a group to stop the University of California from building its campus on one of the largest remaining pieces of property in the state that contained vernal pools where fairy shrimp reside. Fairy shrimp are a protected species. We had to fight like hell with the local feel good Sierra Club environmentalists that were more concerned with placing the UC in Merced than protecting the environment. We weren’t against the building of the campus we just wanted to protect the few remaining seasonal wetlands* and the vernal pools. The UC owned 1100 acres in Fresno with all the infrastructure, garbage, water, sewer, roads, electricity, transportation everything was in place to build the campus there. Kearny Park was also dead center in the Hispanic demographic the University was trying to serve. The project didn’t have a fucking thing to do with education and serving the poor Hispanic students. We wanted the UC to build on the Kearny Park site rather than destroy the vernal pools and open Merced up to unimaginable leap frog development . It was about a land deal and opening up the east side of the Central Valley for urban development because the bay area wouldn’t address is housing problems.

    We had to go around the locals in the Tehipiti chapter of the Sierra club and knuckle the Fresno chapter under to get funding to sue the University to protect the vernal pool environment from being destroyed by the development. The Fresno chapter finally came on board reluctantly and provided a few funds to help in our lawsuit after we had already knuckled under the Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to do their jobs and protect the endangered species they are supposed to serve. There was a myriad of environmental problems even after we got the University stopped and the the site of the campus was moved to the golf course next to Yosemite lake. Most all of those problems that we challenged the project on, sued on and lost in court have come into being, the most severe being water because of the massive amount of development that accompanied the campus and the fact that the fake water supply plan that was supposed to mitigate for groundwater loss by building recharge basins never happened. Merced had the dubious distinction of leading the nation in bankruptcy for three years in a row after 2008. That and falling ground water.

    The mindset with the local environmentalists is that they hated us. Opposing the University was like fighting against religious zealots. The mantra among the UC supporters was education equals jobs. Education is growth. Their eyes would roll back in their head and they would chant that crap at local planning meetings. We started referring to them among ourselves as environmental whores. They were devote at putting their recyclables in the proper garbage container rolling the can out to the street for pickup, slapping their hands together as they walked past their energy efficient green car on the way back into their McMansion and feeling like they did their part to save the world.

    I suppose what I’m trying to point out is that the environmental degradation that capitalism brings onto local environments is so huge that even people that are concerned with the pollution and resource depleting consequences can’t get their heads around it. They see things they value being buried in trash and plastic and destroyed because of pollution. They dedicate a Saturday to help pickup that visual offending substance and it gives them the feeling they did something helpful, which is in its own minuscule way is true. They will go run around a track to raise money for breast cancer research and feel good because they helped raise a few dollars for victims. What they won’t do is think about and challenge who is causing the pollution. They will never question why a corporation is allowed to create a substance that in turn is released into the environment that causes the cancers, that pollutes the water, that pollutes the air, that kills the oceans, their wives, their daughters and the land they love. They never think or challenge the fact that a corporation has limited liability that lets the corporation off the hook for the pollution it causes and puts the costs onto the public and the individual to do the cleanup, or recover from the cancer, or bury their dead. They never think about that because they’ve been indoctrinated into thinking that that is the price you pay for progress and our wonderful American life style. They won’t think about the fact that they hold those beliefs because of the very same corporations that are poisoning them and their environments are also the ones indoctrinating them into thinking that way. This includes the university system that is more and more beholden to these same corporations for their source of funding.

    As I’ve said before, it’s going to go on until it can’t and I’m thinking with the way things are converging upon us we are very close to the whole thing collapsing.

    So much for man’s university education, urban planning and superior brain.

    * At the time California had less than two percent of its wetlands remaining.


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