Reblogging today's post from the Seattle Audubon Society, where I've recently joined the board of directors.
Reblogging today's post from Sage House News:
Two bills were just introduced into the Washington State legislature that would permit the use of a neurotoxin to kill burrowing shrimp in areas where oysters are being grown commercially. This insecticide, imidacloprid, was not developed for marine use, and the overwhelming consensus of studies conducted both by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is that spraying this insecticide in the marine environment is too risky. In addition to killing burrowing shrimp, it kills crabs, zooplankton, and free-swimming crustaceans. It’s nasty stuff.
The new bills are an attempt to circumvent the State Environmental Policy Act, by basically stating that environmental impact assessments can not be conducted regarding the application of imidacloprid. The bill’s sponsors want the legislature to ignore an 885-page report that details the harmful impacts of this neurotoxin on the environment.
The answer is simple, according to the legistlation’s primary sponsor, Senator Dean Takko. He insists that negative scientific findings are the result of “agenda-driven environmentalists.”
Are environmentalists truly agenda-driven? Well, allow me to become the first environmentalist in Washington to cop to having an agenda. It’s no secret: my agenda is the preservation of the biosphere. This includes preserving the benthic community that Senator Takko is trying to poison.
I encourage my fellow agenda-driven environmentalists to speak out against Senate Bill 5626 and House Bill 1611. Aquaculture has developed effective ways to grow oysters by suspending them off the bottom substrate. Yes, it’s cheaper just to spay neurotoxins indiscriminately, but I don’t mind paying a bit more for oysters that have been grown in a manner that protects the underwater community. For now, my agenda has expanded to include helping the Washington State legislature to learn to respect the State Environmental Policy Act.
I’m back, but then so is commercial whaling.
Apologies for my absence from this blog. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in June, and went through an intensive regimen of radiation therapy through early December. November was particularly difficult: while I patronized the radiation oncology clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance five-days-per-week for a second month straight, Book #1 was being released and Book #2 was going through revisions and contract negotiations. I learned that it can be hard to focus on books when a linear accelerator is focusing on you.
As if cancer isn’t enough of a mind-blowing experience, the particular sequence of my diagnosis made it seem unreal. On June 11th I received a letter from the university president containing the welcome news that I was being granted the emeritus status my department had recommended me for. On June 12th, my wife’s birthday, we received the diagnosis. Commencement was on the 15th, and we began to clear out our dormitory apartment on the 16th, a process that involved donating 27 cartons of books to the university library. It some point during it all, we had to move a 46’ sailboat 900 miles to the north.
Since our arrival in Seattle in July, I would prefer to describe the ordeal merely as “onerous.” But herein lies the problem: I haven’t yet landed on a metaphor that accurately captures my experience of cancer. “Ordeal,” employed above, seems a bit melodramatic. My lived experience doesn’t justify the use of the term. Other than for a few moments of sharp pain, I haven’t really been in agony. I haven’t felt tormented, and it hasn’t been torturous, largely because of the genuinely passionate care extended to me by clinicians. There’s been a lot of fatigue, but this has been dealt with via frequent naps. Does one usually take naps during an ordeal?
Pugilistic and militaristic metaphors, similarly, fail to capture my experience with cancer. Family members have encouraged me to “kick cancer’s ass,” and while I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve never really been much of an ass-kicker. I’ve cultivated pacifist leanings long enough to cringe at the thought of engaging in a crusade or a battle. Out of earshot, my wife tells family and friends that I’ve been a trooper, but this comes from a woman who employs terms of endearment that many of my associates would find questionable. Let’s leave it at that.
Some clinicians refer to the cancer experience as a journey, but I find this equally cringeworthy. I indeed sometimes visualize my life as a journey, but at best cancer is an interruption of that journey. My metaphorical journeys are about places I want to go and goals I want to accomplish, and cancer isn’t one of those places. My education has been a lifelong journey, and book authorship has been a notable destination; cancer is a freaking nuisance, albeit one that can kill you.
I’ve been subjected to a gamut of inadequate metaphors: marathon; roller-coaster; struggle; quest; character test; crusade; disability, job. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs, and it’s been intense, especially from an emotional standpoint. It’s also been a tedious, frustrating, rewarding, nauseating, stimulating, confusing, fulfilling, love-filled and yet hard-to-describe process. Got a metaphor for that? Throw in hot flashes and some diarrhea and you’re just about there.
Here’s the good news: my prognosis at this point is excellent. Having completed radiation therapy, I’ve got a greater-than-90% chance of surviving more than 15 years. That’s pretty much the best odds that I can be given for something that’s considered a life-long disease. I’ll continue with hormone therapy for at least another 18 months, but at this point that’s mostly about making sure the cancer never returns. I’m down for that, whatever the metaphor.
Like I said, I’m back.
It’s been less than a month now since I was diagnosed with cancer, but it wasn’t until today that the diagnosis became technical. As of this morning I officially have stage T2C prostate cancer, which means that the cancer has spread throughout my prostate, but it hasn’t yet spread beyond the prostate. I’m told that I have greater than a 90% chance of surviving for more than 15 years, given the therapy we opted for today, which sounds like pretty good odds at this point in my life.
So here I am, outing my Cancer. Beginning next week, Carol and I will be wearing cancer awareness bracelets designed by Good Hope, an organization founded by cancer victims that raises funds for cancer research. The color for prostate cancer bracelets is light blue, and it’s a color that Carol has alway thought looks good on me.
I ask forgiveness for keeping this situation secret up until now. The symptoms became apparent right around the time of my last lecture and my amazing retirement party as were were approaching commencement and other end-of-year celebrations in academe. Commencement has always been an emotional time for me—too many goodbyes to too many great kids—and my retirement festivities had already been befogged by the passing of my mother-in-law. I didn’t want the uncertainties about my diagnosis and treatment options to mar the various celebrations.
Life goes on. Our sailboat is in the process of being recommissioned in Seattle, and our powerboat is ready for the opening of crab season this Saturday up in the San Juan Islands. Construction on the new writer’s shack is right on schedule, and last week I was able to proof the galleys on the new book, due out in a few months. Things will probably slow down this fall when I go through radiation therapy, which will probably be administered five days a week for the better part of the fall quarter. I’m hoping to catch up on my reading, finally.
Please know that I'm in good hands: the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is one of the top treatment facilities in the country. My doctors are great, and they know what to do.
Prayers are always appreciated. A niece has already lit incense for me in her temple, the best man from our wedding has performed Reiki for me, a dear cruising buddy has been wearing a bracelet for me, and candles have been lit. Mom is sending her constant vibes. I embrace it all, and appreciate every gesture that propels creation toward good health.
I’ve just received a press release from the National Parks Conservation Association, of which I am a member, informing us that 9 of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board have just resigned in frustration. Despite repeated requests to meet with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the NPSAB has not had the opportunity to advise the secretary through all of 2017.
Founded in 1935, the NPSAB is entirely non-partisan. One of its major concerns, the past few years, is that our national parks currently have an $11 billion maintenance backlog.
Members of the NPSAB serve without compensation. Like me, they’re park service volunteers. Most of them, like me, are entitled to an NPS Volunteer Pass, given annually to NPS volunteers who have logged more than 200 hours the previous year in service. Year after year, around 250,000 citizens, 40% of whom are seniors, donate more than 6 million hours of service to the system.
And now we’ve lost nine of our most expert volunteers.
"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951
Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote that “words are loaded pistols.”
I read Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” while trying to earn one of my masters degrees, after which I wrote a seminar paper on Sprachregelungen, the language rules of Nazi Germany. Foremost among these rules was that the campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted against the Jewish community should never be referred to as extermination, execution or killing. Rather, it was to be called “die Endlösung der Judenfrage,” best translated as “the final solution to the Jewish question.”
Solutions, after all, are good—are they not? And every question deserves to be answered.
When I was first assigned to read Arendt I wasn’t sure of her relevance in the postmodern world. Hadn’t civilized society once and forever solved the problem of totalitarianism? However, since writing that paper I have always resisted attempts by those in authority to impose language rules. For example, my university wants me to call the dorm I line in a “residence hall.” I don’t. Swig Hall, where I live, is a dorm, and I’m proud to be part of the residential learning community that lives in this particular dorm. Euphemisms be damned.
Over the weekend I’ve read half a dozen news articles about the new language rules being imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In short, the CDC has been forbidden from using seven deadly words, including: “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “diversity,” and “vulnerable.”
Those words are indeed loaded pistols. They have power. So does this word: totalitarianism. We’d better start reading about it. I suggest you begin with Hannah Arendt.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature