Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mission Accomplished!?

Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium)
Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium)
Photo by J. Harrington

Spring seems to have finally settled in around here. The morning has been brooding and sultry. Some actual rain, rather than sprinkles and high humidity, would be nice. Lilacs down in "The Cities" are in bloom as are the local trillium. A rose-breasted grosbeak was seen at the feeder yesterday and, while walking the dog, we spotted the first bull snake of the year.

Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer
Photo by J. Harrington

For someone like me, who's highly suspicious of coincidences, it was disconcerting to read this morning's Star Tribune story As Minnesota invasive-species research center enters third year, some say it could do more coming hard on the heels of yesterday's rant here about the apparent fragmentation and lack of effectiveness in Minnesota's approach to invasive species management. Of course, looking at the history of water quality "progress" in the last thirty or forty years would temper almost anyone's hope and expectations. First, take a quick look at Don’t Fish, Do Fish: The 30th Anniversary of the Failure of Fishable, Swimmable Waters. and read, for instance:
"Nationally, the number of public health advisories about fish consumption rose from 4,249 to 4,598, or by 8%, between 2008 and 2010, the most recent years for which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made statistics available."
The Center for Effective Government presents a more optimistic view several years later:
"EPA's most recent national water quality inventory reported that 44 percent of assessed miles of rivers and streams, 30 percent of assessed square miles of bays and estuaries, and 64 percent of assessed lake and reservoir acres did not fully support safe fishing and safe swimming.

"Further improvements to water quality have been hindered by a number of challenges unforeseen in 1972. The impacts of population growth, development, and increased runoff from poorly regulated sources of pollutants were not anticipated when the Clean Water Act was passed. As a result, some of the greatest threats to water quality today are not sufficiently addressed by the existing legal framework of the Clean Water Act and pollution management practices it contains."
To put this in perspective, "The Housing Act of 1949 establishes as a national objective the achievement as soon as feasible of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family, and sets forth the policies to be followed in advancing toward that goal." Clearly, we have no more attained that goal than we have met the (overly) ambitious goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which traded "as soon as feasible" for "wherever attainable" as a loophole:
"(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985;

(2) it is the national goal that wherever attainable, an interim goal of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water be achieved by July 1, 1983;"
I challenge anyone to find clearly articulated goals or objectives (with or without loopholes) for invasive species management. We seem to be in favor of environmental protection unless it costs too much or inconveniences someone. Doesn't that make us like Californians and drought solutions? It doesn't seem promising for attaining whatever green house gas reduction goals may be set, does it?

Showers

D. Nurkse, 1949

The child tells me, put a brick in the tank,
don’t wear leather, don’t eat brisket,
snapper, or farmed salmon—not tells,
orders—doesn’t she know the sluice gates
are wide open and a trillion gallons
wasted just for the dare of it?

Until the staring eye shares that thrill,
witnessing: I am just iris and cornea,
blind spot where brain meets mind,
the place where the image forms itself
from a spark—image of the coming storm.

Still the child waits outside the bathroom
with the watch she got for Best Essay,
muttering, two minutes too long.

Half measures, I say. She says, action.
I: I’m one man. She: Seven billion.

If you choose, the sea goes back.

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