Cat. 3, Activism 15 – BL-59 – Runaway Global Heating Has Begun!

Cat. 3, Activism 15 – BL-59 – Runaway Global Heating Has Begun!

Ch. 59 –  Runaway Global Warming Has Begun

July 6, 2008, Tuesday
CARE-5 field Journal #1

On July 1, Tuesday – Canada Day – I set out from Vancouver on the first leg of my Compassion for Animals Road Expedition #5 (CARE-5), scheduled for 6 months. With me for this leg is HOPE team member Taina Ketola who volunteered to serve as a second camera-person especially for the fly-over of the tar sands scheduled for July 3, so that both sides of the plane would be covered. Also, we did a fair amount of video interviewing while cruising on the highway.

The last thing I did in Vancouver was to bid farewell to my 89-years-old mother whom I’m not sure I would see again. And I’m sure she thinks likewise about seeing me again. She put on a brave face and blessed my journey, and promised to pray for my safety and success every day. And I promised to call her every day wherever I happen to be, which was unnecessary really, since I do it anyway, as I did in my previous four CARE-tours. She and I held in our tears, but Taina said that she was on the verge of losing hers.

The drive through the constant magnificence of the British Columbian scenic vista ended on this day at the foot of the spectacular Mount Robson in a village called Valemont near the British Columbia / Alberta border, where we overnighted at a “cheap” motel ($90 – lowest among the three I saw). I was there in Valemont while conducting my anti-hunting campaign back in 1996, and it is one of the most beautiful nland places I’ve seen.

*Kindly do not lecture me on driving a gasoline car. Show me an EV with a >200 km range in 2008 and I’ll time-travel back to buy it. 🙂

After a heavy thunderstorm in the night, we started at 8, but within half an hour, we encountered a highway closure due to a landslide some miles ahead. Quite considerate of them to block the highway at a roadside rest stop with an info centre and a restaurant. We were trapped there from before 9 a.m. to after 4 p.m., by which time it seemed too late for us to attempt the 9-hour drive to Fort McMurray (almost 1000 km/600 miles). Thankfully, my Vancouver friend Judy McMillan’s sister Glenda lives in Edmonton, and we’ve met in years past, so Judy called Glenda, and Glenda, who had invited us to stay at her place on the night of July 4, extended her hospitality to also this night of July 2. We arrived at Glenda’s place well after 10.

Due to the delay, I also called to cancel on Super8, the cheapest motel I could find at Fort McMurray ($150), for that night and changed the plane charter for the flight over the tar sands from 9 a.m. to 4 pm.

On the morning of July 3, Thursday, we started driving 435 km from Edmonton to Fort McMurray due north via the infamous Hwy 63. The highway was a 2-laner, i.e. one lane in each direction, and reputed to have an inordinately high accident rate, though, having been to Africa and India, and saw my fair share of accidents, this was nothing, or so I thought. It was a bit bumpy and dusty, but at least paved. It was intimidating to drivers of cars, considering that every two out of three vehicles were 18-wheelers, the rest being trucks, and everybody in both directions seemed to be in a big hurry. The highway was known for its fatality rate too; I wager most of the fatalities befall car drivers and their passengers. We arrived at this most expensive city (of about 60,000 and rapidly growing) in the middle of nowhere by about 2:30 pm. We checked into the Super8 and I did a little catching up on email with the hour I had before going to McMurray Aviation at the Fort McMurray airport.

While the weather was at least dry on our drive, it turned overcast by 3. Our pilot Jonathan told us that we could expect some turbulence and thunderstorms on our 1.5 hour fly-over of some half a dozen mines, starting with those of Suncor and Syncrude.

The landscape below was hellish, and the numerous lake-sized tailing “ponds” were oil-sheened, rainbow-hued and black-streaked.

The first half went fairly smoothly, though at no time did I see a glimpse of blue. But a heavy overcast with charcoal underbellies soon rolled in, bringing with it wide columns and curtains of rain interlaced with lightning flashes in all directions, far and near.

At one point, the turbulence got so bad that if not for the seat belt, my head would have hit the roof. Then the little Cessna 172 became enveloped in rain so heavy the wipers        on max made little difference. Jonathan decided to do an emergency landing at the private Albion Mine airport to wait for the storm to pass or dissipate. The landing was the roughest and scariest in a light plane I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been in lots of bush planes in all kinds of conditions over the years. Jonathan informed us beforehand that a cross draft of 10 mph at the landing strip was about the max in which a light plane could be landed safely. After the landing, the airport personnel told us that the cross-draft at our time of landing was fluctuating between 15-25 mph. From my cockpit perspective, the little Cessna was pointed some 40 degrees off true. I’d known beforehand that the pilot would have to snap-point the plane back to true just before touch down. Jonathan handled it like the pro that he was.

The wait at the waiting lounge of the Albion Mine Airport lasted about 2 hours, during which time a 727 landed and disgorged a plane load of Albion workers, then took on an out-going load which was crowding the waiting room. I knew how they felt, to be returning home after a long tour of duty. I could read the relief in their faces. They did not even glance at us, each lost in his personal world. Little did they know they had a couple of “sabs” in their midst, haha! Now I saw the Earth-destroyers up close, people I should hate for ruining our children’s long term future for their short term profit, but still it was hard to ignore that they were sentient beings themselves. And my vow of compassion is for all sentient beings.

Jonathan made repeated phone calls, presumably to check the weather, and each time, he sat back down. Finally, when daylight was visibly fading, he decided to take a round-about route back, and the return trip was uneventful. Back at the counter of McMurray Aviation, the young woman at the counter, asked Jonathan how long the plane was airborne. He said 1.4 hours in total, or about $300. She thought about it and said that it was not fair to charge me the full fair because I did not receive the “full experience”. The pilot called his boss Renee, who told them to charge me for 0.7 hours, or about $150. Great deal, complete with good old Canadian fair play, especially when what we captured in our cameras was priceless.

On July 4, we went on our bus tour (10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.) of the Suncor and the Syncrude mines. The showcase, like some museum piece, was a facade. What we glimpsed behind the facade was no better than what we saw from the air, plus an olfactory assault of unsavory odours which made Taina momentarily ill.

After the tour, I called the Fort McMurray Today newspaper. I did not precede the call with a media release, because I did not want to pre-alert anyone about our “flight plan”, including Jonathan. The chief editor was not in, and a reporter named Carol came on the phone. Initially, she sounded tired and lukewarm, but when I told her about the continental tour and a certain time capsule, she brightened up a little. I added that I was there in Fort McMurray to choose a place for burial of the time capsule, and she brightened up completely. She recorded the interview with an MP3, took down copious notes, and said that if the main editor approves, the article should come out by Wednesday next week.

After the interview, I asked Taina for her impression, and she said that Carol understood and agreed with over 95% of what I said, and that she was not uninformed, but was in a state of semi-despair and resignation about the whole climate change situation.

We drove back to Edmonton and arrived back at Glenda’s place in the late evening. Her son Andrew and daughter Jennifer were both there, and I had a good chat with the family, and showed them clips of the video.

The drive back was a little hairy. At one point, I initiated action on passing an 18-wheeler, when, not until I was halfway past it before I saw that in front of it was a small pick-up truck that the 18-wheeler was in process of tailgating. This totally screwed up my calculations. Oncoming was another 18-wheeler, which all of a sudden looked lethally close. As soon as Taina saw the pick-up truck, she said, “Yikes!” I forgot what I said, but remember doing a quick calculation on whether I should jam on my brakes and retreat behind the 18-wheeler I had half-passed, or going for it. The pick-up truck was being tailgated by the 18-wheeler anyway, so it couldn’t slow down to let me in even if it wanted to. My hand chose to downshift one and my foot chose to floor it, and my car issued a growl and shot forward and slipped in front the pickup truck with a very slim margin to spare. After we resumed cruising, I asked Taina if her heart rate had risen. She said, “Nope, I trust the driver. And yours?” I said, “Nope, I trust my car. By the way, did I say anything when you said ‘Yikes’?” She said, “Yep.” “Yep what?” “‘Yep’, that’s what you said.” Not one of the famous last words.

July 4, I called the Edmonton Sun, and had no trouble securing an interview. The Edmonton Journal was also interested, but by the time I had to leave, it still could not find a reporter to interview me, and asked me to call them after I had arrived in Calgary.

We arrived in Calgary by about 5:30 pm. I had a talk to give at the Cardel Theatre at 7:30. I just parked there and went in to set up. The talk was attended by only about 15 people, but the energy was vibrant. In the audience was Karen Orr, our host for the night, and a journalist from the Fast Forward magazine who asked me more question after my speech. It seems that I will have an article there as well.

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July 10, 2008, Saturday
Field Journal #2

I left Calgary on July 7, and am now in Missoula, Montana, staying at my long time friend Anja Heister’s place. Anja is “Miss Footloose Montana”, Footloose being an anti-trapping group. On my way down I drove through Glacier National Park, MT, and was stunned by its beauty, and this is from the viewpoint of a person from “Super Natural” British Columbia.

On Sunday, July 4, while still in Calgary, I received a message from CTV to call them. But when I did, all their cameras were tied up, and I was advised to call them again on Monday, and when I did, surprise, all their cameras were tied up again, by what? – the damned Calgary Stampede (the largest rodeo anywhere – opening day same day). Same for both newspapers the Herald and the Sun – no reporters available for anything except the damned Stampede. Grrrr!

But Missoula is another matter. I will be meeting with the editor of the Independent Weekly, and the Missoulian Daily, and likely one or more media outlets in Helena and Bozeman tomorrow and/or day after.

This time, I tried out a new tack. I found that when I told the editor half the story on the phone, they would invite me in for the second half. When I was on the phone with Skylar Browning, editor of the Independent, he asked me after my opening phone spiel, “Have you ruined our interview?” “No, that’s only half the story,” I said. “Okay, why don’t you come in at 2:30 this afternoon and tell me the other half?” Word for word.

Yesterday, I went to the University of Montana @ Missoula to have a 1-hour meeting with Dr. Steve Running. Dr. Running is a co-laureate (with Al Gore and 4 others) of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on global warming, and one of the scientists of the IPCC panel. Some highlights of our conversation:

  1. How much influence did Exxon Mobil have on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Exxon was the only Big Oil on the panel)? Answer: Not much.
  2. How many scientists on the panel? Answer: ~600.
  3. Why was methane clathrate not mentioned in the IPCC summary report? No clear answer.
  4. I ran my thesis that RUNAWAY GLOBAL WARMING HAS BEGUN past him for feedback. He did not refute it, but said that he would not use the term in his own position, since he wanted to return to the IPCC for the next assessment report, so has to stay away from shock statements, but again, he did not disagree in principle. So, HOPE seems to be the first organization in world history to have made this claim, and it is proving to be a trump-card.
  5. Prognosis. Answer: He opines that the world must get together to solve global warming within the next 5 years, and must come up with the technology to combat runaway global warming (i.e. carbon capture and sequestration) within 10 years.
  6. Is he optimistic about these? Answer: He is optimistic about the technology, but not about the world getting together.

Tomorrow, I will go to Bozeman to meet with the Wildlife Conservation Society, then do Bozeman media, then drive on due east.

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July 12, 2008, Monday
Field Journal #3

I was invited by the Independent to go to their office for an interview, which happened 2:15-3:00 pm on Thursday, the 8th. I brought with me my laptop, and showed the editor Skylar Browning the photos of thawing permafrost on the spot, and played him clips of our fresh tar sands video. He had no problem grasping the seriousness of the situation, but being a new editor (as of June this year), he might have wanted to stick by the book, and said that he needed a local “hook” to run the story. I asked him back, “What if WW3 breaks out, but Missoula hasn’t been nuked yet, do you still need a local hook to run the story?” He said with a half-smile, “Yes, and the hook would be maybe a Missoula man fighting the war somewhere.” So I took my fall-back position and told him that I gave a presentation to Footloose, Anja’s Missoula-based anti-trapping group. He said it might work, and that he might call up Dr. Steve Running (see entry#2) and ask him a couple of questions about my “RUNAWAY global warming HAS BEGUN!” claim. So, there might be a story next Wednesday, or there might not. I also checked out the Missoulian, whose editor also said that it was an important issue, but needing a local angle for a story as well…

By Anja’s intervention, I got to meet two men also on Thursday, Steve Woodruff, Deputy Director, Northern Rockies branch of Western Progress. It is not a sharply focused group, and Woodruff, according to Anja, is a hunter, but he is pro-environment where global warming is concerned, and has testified in Congress. We might consider inducting his group into our Coalition to Abolish the Tar Sands (CATS). This raises for me the question of whether I should steadfastly refuse to work with hunters, or whether I should relent in cases of much greater importance and/or urgency than hunting, such as Runaway Global Heating.

The other person I met was David Merrill, Executive Director of Global Warming Solution. They had thought of the same problem of how to build a global green fund, but have advanced a different solution from mine – for the UN to impose a half-percent tax on all foreign currency exchange. This might be even easier to achieve (or should I say: less difficult) than my version, which is to have all nations reduce their military expenditure by 10%, thus liberating $150 billion from the global military expenditure of ~$1.5 trillion, which has the extra benefit of effecting what amounts to a progressive global disarmament.

One person I contacted yesterday was Lynn Wolff of the Dakota Resource Council at Fargo, North Dakota. He and I had a phone conversation back in April or May. Their problem was, and still is, the tar sands’ southern pipeline going right through North Dakota and South Dakota on its way south to Texas. At this point, the pipeline has by-and-large been laid in ND, but not yet SD, and they still intend to stop it. Upon hearing that I had over-flown and actually visited the tar sands, he became even keener than before, and offered to organize a mini tour for me to cover the cities of Billings (MT), Miles City (MT), Dickenson (ND), Bismarck (ND), Jamestown (ND), Fargo City (ND) and Cedar Rapids (IA). This I will have to execute Monday through Wednesday, because my first talk in Wisconsin is on August 17, Thursday.

Lynn and I talked again twice today. The second time, I told him about the Animal Rights Conference and my profile in it. I said that 1,000 people will attend that conference, and I intend to transform the movement with my 11 speeches, particularly my 12 minute Sunday evening plenary speech titled “Act Globally” shared with only the famous Jewish author Richard Schwartz, and that stopping the ND/SD pipeline and the BC Enbridge pipeline is of enormous importance in the global warming fight. I said, “I will include your campaign in my talk.” He was driving, and asked me to email him the link to the AR2008 Conference site. We agreed to talk again tomorrow.

Well, so far on this tour, timing has not been my strong suit. While I was in Calgary, my media was pre-empted by the infamous Calgary Stampede, and it looks like my August 19th presentation in Madison, Wisconsin will be pre-empted by the famous Dalai Lama. Too late to change it now. Our dear Madison friend Lynn Pauly could not change the date again, so I will give the talk. But a thought occurred to me. I will attend the Dalai Lama’s talk, and make sure the RUNAWAY global warming by methane and the global Green Fund message gets out, if not by him then by me. The silver lining is that the audience will be huge for my 3-minute speech during the question period at the end of the Dalai Lama’s speech. If no question period, I will speak up anyway.

Over the last days in Missoula, I spent almost all my wakeful hours on the internet and the phone. I did have dinner with my dear friend Dave Taylor, his spouse Jerry and Anja on Thursday evening. Otherwise, those nature walks with Anja are great as always. She has two dogs, one looking like a wolf, named Jasper, and one looking like a fox, named Annie. They barked at me for the obligatory initial 10 seconds upon my first arrival (when Anja was not home), but after that, it was all tail-wagging and lying-next-to. Jasper slept in my room two nights, and comes when I call. Annie is a little aloof, but trustingly eats out of my hands (with Anja’s permission of course).

In one walk, we encountered a Vietnam vet named Dennis West with two half-Husky-type dogs, one black, one white. He showed us the front view of an advancing grizzly bear taken at close quarters (within 10’) with his cell phone, and told us that he was saved by his two dog right after taking that picture, that the white dog leapt on to the back of the bear, and when the bear stood up, she hung on, while the black one bit the bear in its groin area, causing it to flee. “My ex told me it’s my dogs or her, which explains the ‘ex’ part,” he said. Yes indeed, if anyone said something like that to me, about dogs or cats or book or whatever, she would be the one I would not choose.

While walking by a swift-flowing river yesterday, I received a cell phone call from Charlotte of St. Michaels, Maryland, telling me that she had rented a storage space near the conference hotel for the 1300 copies of my oven-fresh second book, co-authored with Dr. Peter Carter, titled [HOMO SAPIENS SAVE YOUR EARTH], 1,000 copies of which I intend to give away at the AR Conference in DC later this month..

*     *     *

July 17, 2008
Field Journal #4

My last entry was written in Missoula, and now I’m in Janesville, Wisconsin, at the home of Marv and Betty Burns, parents of WI activist and dear personal friend Amy Burns.

I arrived at 1:30 last night, from Minneapolis where I started driving around 9 pm. Betty had left the back door open for me and I just walked in and went straight to my assigned bedroom, which was spic-and-span as always, with a stack of fresh towels on the bed, and the faint night-lights left on. One of her two cats, Libby, was there to welcome me. As I had half-expected, I found the proof copy of “Homo Sapiens! SAVE YOUR EARTH” lying in the center of the bed facing the heavens. The first thing I did in the room after laying down my laptop and toiletry kit was to pick up the book and hold it in my hands. It was a magical sensation. Of course I’ve held thousands of books in my hands since I began reading some 60 years ago, but I’ve had this magical feeling holding a book only once before, and that was when I picked up a copy of my first book “Omni-Science and the Human Destiny” for the first time back in 2003. It must be what a mother would experience when she holds her new-born child in her arms…

*     *     *

August 1, 2008
Field Journal #5

I arrived at Janesville, Wisconsin, on July 17th, on the same evening of which I gave a talk to about a dozen people in the gazebo of a park in Beloit, including organizer Les Blumreich and my dear friends Amy Burns, her husband Mark Dwyer and their daughters Dejanique and Luciana, Allegrea Rosenberg, and a few others I did not recognize. When I was concluding my talk, it was twilight, and all around the gazebo the fireflies performed their magic. It was beautiful and enchanting. Unfortunately, there was no reporter there to witness it.

Amy’s parents are Betty and Marvin Burns, age 58 and 60, who are staunch Christians and Creationists, which normally would have set me diametrically opposed to them, but their caring hospitality has not only neutralized this intellectual barrier, but instilled within me a sense of unconditional love for them. While their son Michael has followed in their footsteps and become a pastor, Amy has struck out on her own into the realm of science, logic and evolutionary thinking, and is home-schooling her delightful younger daughter Luciana, while maintaining an uneasy yet loving truce with her parents. Marvin is a bit of a missionary at heart. After finally raising the money, he is now poised to go back to Uganda on August 3 for 15 days to help build a house for their Ugandan minister. He had had his luggage packed 10 days ahead of time, unlike me who seldom start packing until the very morning of my departure, even on a 4.5-month-long tour. Betty is a homebody, and could only look on in semi-amusement and semi-resignation, with their three cats around her heels. About Marv’s trip, I have always found Christian missionaries indoctrinating Third World people with their dogma objectionable, but again, on the personal level, I sincerely wish Marvin a safe and fruitful journey. Whereas they, fully knowing that I’m an evolutionist, have avoided broaching the subject even once for all the time I’ve known them, and that was 2005. On Amy’s side of the family, she has had recent heated debates against Marv in blog form about carbon-14 dating, but I have yet to see them duel it out verbally in person. Quite a few late evenings, I walked the several blocks from Bettys home to Amy’s to unwind and hang out, with Allegrea and Mark, and of course all nine of Amy’s cats. I love their whole family deeply.

And, oh, have I mentioned their cat Ivan, the hidden part of the name being “the Terrible”? He was so named because he would not allow anyone near him except Amy, Mark, Dejanique and Luciana. Even Betty and Marvin got scratched and snarled at. But, lo and behold, on the first day I met him in 2005, he came and sat next to me, and allowed me to pet him. Amy could not believe her eyes.

On July 29, Tuesday, I bade farewell to Amy’s family, and drove to South Bend, Indiana, for the engagement at the St. Joseph County Library scheduled for 6-9 pm, organized by Lisa Funkhouser, a dear friend from the old MySpace days, at whose home I’ve overnighted more than once. I arrived at 4 pm as arranged. She and her friend Jim, who brought his video and projector equipment, treated me to dinner in a Thai restaurant nearby…

The next 2 weeks will be busier than the last 2 weeks, with 2-3 presentations in Ohio and at least 2 in West Virginia prior to the AR conference starting the 14th. Alex Hershaft, head of FARM, organizer of the conference, just wrote me saying that Joanne Chang could not make the conference, and asked me to take on one of her talks. So now, I have 12 speeches at the AR2008 to make…

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August 12, 2008
Field Journal #6

… I had a lecture to give at the Lancaster campus of Ohio University the next morning, so… I drove the three hours to Lancaster and arrived in the late evening at the place of Janice Kobi, who had generously taken on organizing events for me in Ohio.

Janice is all business by email and phone, but in person could not be warmer and friendlier. The next morning, she drove me to campus. In the audience was a bearded man name Fritz from the Parks Department, who paid laser-like attention to every word about RUNAWAY global heating and every picture of the Alberta tar sands. After the lecture, he said to me, “Very interesting. Too interesting.”…

*     *     *

West Virginia newspaper


Anthony Marr, author, lecturer, environmentalist and founder of the organization HOPE – Healing Our Planet Earth – stopped by Carriage Court for a visit with one of Lancaster’s own environmentalist, Grace Ray Moon. At 93 years old, Moon was the recipient of the Floyd Wolf Community Service Award in 1993. Today, at 98, Moon continues to offer her services to make Lancaster a “Green” community. Joining Marr to recognize Moon for her years of service were Janice Kobi, Fairfield County CARES President and Mitch Overton, Lancaster City Parks Director.

Marr was in Lancaster to present a program on Global Warming. Kobi arranged for Marr to make a stop in Lancaster on his sixth cross country tour in an effort to raise awareness to climate change and how it affects all life on earth. He also has a new book, just published, titled [Homo Sapiens! Save Your Earth].

This year’s tour is titled, “Global Warming and Mass Extinction.” Marr presented his program at Ohio University – Lancaster Campus on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. During the program, Marr made the comparison that the earth is a living planet. He pointed out by taking a terrestrial view from space that Earth has gone through many noticeable changes. He added that from a cosmic perspective, “the Earth is sick.” He listed six planetary diseases. “Any one of them alone can kill you but they are all linked together”, he injected.

Marr stated, “The Earth has a planetary fever…and it’s called Global Warming.”

During the presentation, Marr discussed the serious nature of high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but emphasized methane gas is a much more lethal gas, a major source of which being animal agriculture. His concern is that as the permafrost melts around the world more methane gas will enter the atmosphere and increase the speed of global warming.

Trees take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Marr stresses that as man destroys the rain forests worldwide we not only destroy trees but the “lungs of the Earth”, and of course the millions of species that depend on each other for survival. Scientists have warned for years that destroying the Amazon rainforest would have global impacts. These scientists predicted these areas would dry up and become deserts. Recent droughts in these areas indicate this may be their fate.

Shortly after the lecture, I called Lane and asked her about the books, suggesting that perhaps she should call her apartment manager to see if the books had arrived anyway. She did, and got back to me saying that the books had arrived, and actually arrived on Monday, but had the wrong apartment number for them, and the notice of delivery had been placed into the wrong mail box. Grrrrrr…

Subsequently, Lane wrote me an email saying: “… I have tried to call you but your voice mail has been full. I wanted to tell you that your book is utterly fantastic and I think every human that inhabits this earth should be made to read it cover to cover. I actually cried. I have it at work and am really pushing people to read it. I have even gotten Reggie to start reading it…”

Janice said that she could distribute a number of copies of the book to her contacts, so I left her one box, for now and upon my planned return to Ohio Oct. 6-9. In the early afternoon, I drove south to Athens for my two events. The first was thought to be a radio interview at WOUB, which turned out to be a TV interview, which began with a discussion on animal rights and the AR Conference, which then moved on to global warming and mass extinction. My local hosts John and Kati Davis, who went into the TV room to watch the interview, later told me that I had received a compliment. There were two program directors present, one of whom said to the other, “This guy’s good. Looks like he’s done it all before.”

After the interview, we drove on to a lake, on the bank of which the local Sierra club was holding its annual meeting. There were about 20 people there. The meeting also double-dutied as a vegetarian pot-puck. After the dinner, club president Loraine McCosker asked me to make a speech, which, judging by their questions and comments afterwards, seemed to have captured their attention and imagination. I said at one point that we should internalize environmental cost in fossil fuels extraction and charge it against the oil companies up front, and got many agreements on the stop, including one from Loraine. I gave each a copy of the book, and there were several $5-$20 donations without solicitation.

I was going to overnight in Athens, but received a dinner invitation in Columbus from Michelle Gatchell (Deputy Director of Communications for Nancy H. Rogers, Attorney General, State of Ohio) for Friday evening, so I drove back to my friend Sharon Christman’s friend Vicki Trachsel’s in Columbus for the night. In the course of the day, Michelle called to inform me that more people are joining the dinner, including Ritchie Layman, who had hosted a tiger preservation presentation for me at the University of Ohio at Columbus a couple of years back.

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August 19, 2008
Field Journal #7

Today (Aug. 19) is the second day of the 4-day Animal Rights National Conference. I gave my first 3 of 12 speeches, signed dozens of books, and collected a jarful of donations, but this journal entry is about West Virginia, and is a story unto itself.

Before I go on to West Virginia, I should relate a little story from a previous state (can’t recall which). When I pulled into one of the toll booths, the big guy in the booth took a look at the magnetic sign on the side of my car the said [RUNAWAY GLOBAL HEATING HAS BEGUN] and said, “Global warming – what a load of BS.”

“Al Gore doesn’t share that opinion,” I said.

“Al Gore is a nut job,” he spat.

“According to whom?”

“George W. Bush.”

“I rest my case. Have a nice day,” I said as I drove off.

“And you too,” he called after me.

Some 30-second chance-encounters while on tour.

I left Ohio, in the mid-morning of August 9th, and arrived at the UU Church in Charleston, West Virginia, in the mid-afternoon, slightly ahead of time. I walked around the building, and noticed a large caliber bullet hole in a window and another through its inner pane, with the two holes lined up at the house next door. My host Chris Higgins arrived shortly after, who introduced me to another man from another car named Julian, who explained to me that the bullet was fired by a young man next door while in a state of rage with his mother, and who was now serving time. This was something not often heard of in Canada, where almost no one owns a gun.

Julian then whisked me off to view one of West Virginia’s mountain-top-removal open-pit coal mining operations. After a lengthy gravel road traverse and a steep climb through forest, he parked the vehicle in a parking area with a few uninhabited houses. From there, we walked uphill, until we reached a rise. I topped it, looked down, and promptly exclaimed, “HOLY SHIT!” It was partly surprise and partly disgust. It was in fact a much smaller and drier version of the tar sands. Still, the whole mountain-top had been leveled, and a deep crater had further been dug into the plateau thus created. The general color of the near moonscape was black, and there were thick and opaque clouds of brown dust enveloping the huge machinery. I don’t know how the workers could see what they were doing… Julian pointed at the mountains all around (Appalachians) and said that they would all meet the same fate in due course. Painful just to imagine it. John Denver would turn in his grave.

As Alberta is the tar sands capital of the world, West Virginia could be the coal capital, or one of them. I hope I’m not misquoting Julian, but there are some 800 of these mines operating in West Virginia. The self-debeautification of America. And for what? A few more years of lung-wrecking jobs for young men who might otherwise have gone on to university? A stock price rise of $10? 10% higher dividends? These indelible scars on the face of Mother Earth will last until the end of time!

Julian dropped me off at the UU Church and I gave him a copy of my book, writing in it: “To Julian: Thank you for the Holy Shit experience.” He burst out laughing upon seeing it.

After waving Julian good-bye, I drove to a restaurant called A Taste of Asia for some veg noodles, then drove on up to the rural property of Don Gartman with its steep driveway and two artificial ponds complete with large coy fish and a protective net against heron predation. A very hospitable couple, who also led me by car to the UU Church the following day, the 10th.

The UU church event had two components. A 9 – 10:30 a.m. forum to about 50 people, and an 11 a.m. sermon to about 150 people, both with ovations. Many accepted the book with gratitude and volunteered donations. In the forum audience were Capri and Mandy, university students, both going to the AR conference. So, the connection overflows into another state.

After the sermon, I drove on to Rebecca Goth’s home in Wheeling some four hours due north, re-entering Ohio, then re-entering West Virginia and almost entering Pennsylvania. There, you could walk from Ohio through West Virginia into Pennsylvania within an hour or two. The only way to beat this is to walk in a small circle around the 4-Corners – 4 states within seconds.

Rebecca’s home is of a log-cabin-type construction sitting on a fairly steep slope overlooking a forested hillside well away from the city. She received me warmly and treated me like a prince as all other hosts do…Shortly after my arrival, her husband Helmut came home. Almost immediately after our introduction, he said that thanks to the “interference of environmentalists”, West Virginia’s economic development had been negatively impacted. Then he bluntly said that global warming was non-factual. Ensuing was a bluntness-versus-bluntness verbal collision in which I in all these years and tours had never engaged with a host. While I was telling him about the Alberta tar sands, he was of the opinion that the environmental damage was not important, since northern Alberta was by and large uninhabited. I said, “The native peoples don’t count?” He said nothing. At one point, Rebecca interjected, directed at Helmut, “Difference of opinion is one thing, but you don’t have to be sarcastic about it.” This more or less ended the debate.

Some time later in the evening, I opened my laptop and showed him a picture of the tar sands. He looked intensely at it for a moment, then said, “This does look bad, but as I’ve said before, it’s in the middle of nowhere. So what does it matter?” I said, “It matters because it poisons the whole water shed as well as the aquifer for hundreds of years and thousands of square miles, toxifies fish and moose alike, besides causing cancer in the native people.” Somewhere along the line, I asked him about his profession. He told me that he was an accountant. This explains a lot of what he was coming from – the world of numbers, numbers of dollars, dollars of other people, dollars of corporations. His clients are businessmen and CEOs, not grassroots activists. On the other hand, in all his bluntness and environmental insensitivity, and though he cannot exactly be said to be bursting with warmth, he was not discourteous, and at no point made me feel that I should not accept their hospitality. In the three days of my stay at his home, he had never made me feel unwelcome or intrusive. Whenever he returned from work, he always shook my hand in renewed welcome. I hope to have gotten through to him a little. A note of interest: Along with Rebecca, he is a vegetarian, and has lived in India for several years, yet he says Christian grace before dinner, and talks red neck talk about the environment. One strange combination.

… Rebecca drove me to see the local Cabelas. Not that I haven’t heard of those colossal dens of iniquity, but I’ve never been in one. I must say, even having checked out so many hunting stores, such as Gander Mountain in Ohio…, this one is so grand that hunters come from all over the country to pay it homage.

Would you believe that inside it is a 50’-high artificial mountain all over which stand taxidermy-mounted North American fauna – bears, mountain goats, Dall sheep, cougars, wolves, elks… All over the walls are mounted countless more, including Asian and African animals. The gun department alone is bigger than most sporting goods stores in their entirety. There is a section displaying dioramas of African wildlife, and even a great hall of the Whitetail deer, containing hundreds of magnificent specimens – of magnificent specimens. And there were groups of children being led around by docents telling them how the hunting heroes brought down such fleet-footed prey, while the children looked around in awe, in process of being brain-washed as we speak. The poisoning of a new generation in progress before my very eyes.

August 12 was a busy day. We had a 3:15 pm radio interview lined up, and a library lecture to deliver at 6 pm. In the early afternoon, Rebecca drove me to visit the Krishna Palace – easily the biggest Hindu temple complex in North America, covered with black and gold paint in every ornate corner, marble flooring and chandeliers in every hallway, amidst a sea of trees covering five private square miles. Wheeling, West Virginia, is a city of contrasts and extremes – the largest hunting store and the biggest Krishna temple in one small city of one small state. How likely is that?

While Rebecca was driving me to the radio station, I asked her how long the interview was supposed to last. She said anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on how interested in the subject the host was and how the interview went. 45 minutes was what the host gave to Howard Lyman when he was in town, as organized by Rebecca herself. By this measure, then the host must be enormously interested in our subject matter, and the interview must have gone incredibly well, since it lasted 1 hour 15 minutes.

But not smoothly. It was an open-line program, so a few phone calls came in, and all said essentially that global warming was a hoax. And while the host was open-minded, his side-kick wasn’t, who interrupted me several times in mid-sentence. At one point, the guy interjected, “West Virginia is having one of its coolest summers for some time. So, talking about global warming is complete and utter nonsense” I’ve about had it with this guy, and fired right back at him, “We’re talking about global average temperature. Every time you name one example of cooling, I can name you ten examples of heating. Are you willing to bet your children’s future on an anecdotal anomaly?” He did not respond. Near the end, he interjected again, this time loudly, “So, you want us all to just stop eating meat and stop using our power lawn-mowers tomorrow?!” Without hesitation I found myself saying, “OR SOONER!” The host wound up by saying that climate change is the most perplexing subject he has encountered by far, adding, “So many say that Al Gore is wrong, then carry on business as usual. But what if he’s right?”

The library talk was attended by about 20 people, including a few from the Krishna Palace whom Rebecca had invited (she had been vigorously inviting everyone she came across), and maybe a few who came as a result of the radio talk show. As with almost every other speech, this one was video recorded. So far, unlike the radio audience, I haven’t had one live lecture audience member who dissented on global warming.

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August 13, 2008

I drove the 7 hours from Wheeling WV to the place of Charlotte Templeton in St. Michaels, Maryland, arriving in the late afternoon. The most memorable part of the drive was the Bay Bridge, probably the longest bridge I’ve ever driven over.

On the morning of the 14th, Charlotte went to her parents’ place to exchange her small car for the a pick-up truck. I GPSed my way to it at an agreed-upon time, and met her there at the Alternative Mini Storage where 1650 copies of [Homo Sapiens! SAVE YOUR EARTH] lay waiting in 45 cartons, 44 copies per carton. We loaded 20 cartons into the truck and I led the way by GPS to the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria VA 1.5 hours away. Upon arrival, I parked my car right next to the rear entrance of the hotel on the lower level of the car park with “FIX GLOBAL WARMING or kiss our children’s future good-bye” catching the eyes of most conference attendees who entered through that entrance. One woman was heard saying to her companion, “I LOVE this!”

To make a long story short, for now, I made my dozen speeches at the AR2008 Conference, and continued with the tour for a while in New Jersey, where many of my best AR friend resides, including Angi Metler, Barbara Metzler, Doris Lin, Carol Davis, Steve Ember, Susan Kehoe), New York (Adam Weissman), New England (Linda Dionne). And then, in September, news came from Vancouver that my mother was declining fast. The CARE-6 tour still had two months to run, with over a dozen talks already booked ahead. But all friends, to a person, urged me to go back to Vancouver ASAP. Who was I to argue. With regret I cancelled the engagements ahead, and made it back to Vancouver within three days, making just two overnight stops, one at the Burns’ in Janesville, Wisconsin, and the other at Denver, home city of my dear friend Krystal Parks who once conducted a solo 12-day water-only hunger strike at the gate of the Ringling Bros when the circus came to town – her totem animal being the elephant.

I visited my mother everyday upon my return to Vancouver in late September. Just like my father, my mother had no life-threatening disease. She just gradually faded away. And then, on the morning of November 8, I received a phone call, informing me that she had passed away peacefully in her sleep.

R.I.P. Deeb-Shui, Green Butterfly – 1919-2008.


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