They just are there–in the five pound bag of flour you just brought home yesterday. There, in the mixing bowl that was going to hold the biscuits for dinner, but now, in a puff of white smoke, ground grains with tiny hard beetles go into the burn pit out back.
But don’t blame the insects. They are just doing what they do to make a living, wingless though they are. They have learned to hitch-hike around the world over the past few thousand years as post-glacial humankind cultivated the land, then stored, then globally-shipped wheat products everywhere.
The future we want begins when we find and pursue the greater good for each other, other living things, and future generations in place, in the small pockets of belonging, in the rural and urban places of America. My place is Floyd County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This essay was part of SustainFloyd’s annual report for 2017, and it seems fitting to offer it more widely at a time when we need hope and vision.
Last night at the Floyd Country Store (and more at a new venue perhaps next year) we viewed the 38th movie in six and a half years of this SustainFloyd program of information-sharing (not to mention Pot Luck Suppers).
Some of these movies have lead to direct action within the community, others to targeted discussions in other organizations about environmental or community well-being issues; and most movies have shed a different light on some aspect of life on Earth that makes the viewer see the ordinary understandings–of things like cargo shipping, gas fracking, food waste–through a different lens.
The movie last evening was released in 2009. It paints a bleak picture and sounds a warning–and things have gotten worse since a decade ago. The threat to person and planet is water. Specifically, water taken from municipal sources or stolen from community commons and put in plastic, then made sexy by the same marketing psychology and massive money resources that promoted cigarettes.
This has to stop. And it will. Nature bats last. We are going into a late inning and are at bat. What will we do–in Floyd County, in our own neighborhoods, our own homes–to become part of the solution?
The discussion following the film heard more than one person saying “we should see to it that more people, and especially school-age kids, see this, know this, and act on this information.” Lives literally could depend on it, as more plastic microbits end up in sea creatures and our diet, not to even consider the toxins leaching from the plastic and commonly contained in the unregulated water inside the “spring water” from municipal big-city sources.
Links below let you view it on Amazon Prime; watch it free (in low quality with Spanish subtitles) on YouTube; and read a review of the health issues raised in the movie.
There are some things about surface waters that are always true:
They only flows downhill. Gravity decides the course.
They cut through soft rock faster than harder rock.
They carry with them what they flow through: soil, sand, pig poop, road salt
They will eventually find the ocean (or impounded, find the clouds again).
But beyond that, the nation’s creeks and streams and rivers have their own unique story, told by the history of the continental masses underneath them that, along with climate, determine what forest or prairie or boulder field or swamp their course includes.
We tend to take our water for granted–even the small portion visible above ground. Many could not name the creeks and rivers into which our downspouts pour today’s rainshower, or where those confluent waters enter an ocean.
Ways of “seeing” water on which we depend may help some (I know it helps me) better appreciate the bigger picture of the water we use here in our house every day.
Ways of seeing water courses also serve the historian of travel and early migration east to west, where mountains–and rivers–determined so much of the character of the journey, and even where those travelers eventually settled. Water was a way to town; a way to power grindstones; a way to eat and trap and trade.
And with that rambling preamble, let me suggest (and hope someone resonates) that you click to open the map, then find the stream nearest you on the USGS Streamer.
You can choose to follow it UPstream or DOWNstream by clicking the appropriate setting, then your stream of choice. Make sure your kids get a chance to “play” with this one.
BTW, click on any other stream in Floyd County to show “downstream” and it will show the Little to the New to the Kanawha to the Ohio to the Mississippi to the Gulf. A whole ‘nuther watershed, just 2 miles west of us.
The carbon footprint of those cattle that will graze on land where carbon-storing oaks and hickories stood until this summer, would fall near the “high impact” range in this chart, especially if they are shipped to a feedlot for finishing and sold to consumers hundreds of miles from here.
“Low impact” pork would be my meat of choice. The half-a-pig we purchased a few years back from our neighbor a mile up the road was probably the lowest-impact non-avian meat we’ve ever enjoyed (except maybe redfish caught off Ann’s homeplace in Biloxi back when.) Home-raised eggs served us (and the carbon load) well for a dozen years.
I am considering a pledge (which doesn’t have to wait until Jan 1 to become a “resolution”) to eat no more beef. It won’t be that hard, frankly, since we don’t eat steaks and rarely grill hamburgers at home. I would have to forgo my quarterly Mushroom Burger at Parkway Grille, alas. But I guess I should put my money where my mouth is.
There are a number of places in Floyd County where you can purchase locally-grown grass-fed beef. The PRICE is higher than stockyard chain-grocery beef, but the field-to-fork COST is much lower if we consider all environmental inputs and outputs–and we must.
If we could all shift our diet as far as possible towards the low impact version of our protein of choice–but especially do this for beef for those who are not already Vegans–it would have a measurable and important impact on CO2 entering rather than leaving the air.
We (all 10 billion of us soon) will have to eat far lower on the food web than we have, if profound suffering is to be prevented, and hopefully not at the cost of further fouling our nest. Change is coming. We should start making individual decisions about diet very soon. Towards that end, I saw the relevant quote below recently, from an article about which I will have more to say soon:
One hectare of land yields one metric ton of soy protein, a common livestock feed, a year. The same amount of land can produce 150 tons of insect protein.