Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A plea for Science, and Barack Obama's re-election.


As a man well- grounded in the realities of business, government, natural resource use, and science,  I urge you to vote for Barack Obama.

I’m 54 years old.  As a forestry undergrad at the University of Arkansas-Monticello—maybe the best “dirt forestry” school in the United States when I was there—I was well-grounded in statistics, dendrology, photogrammetry, and surveying.
I worked as a logger, and in the sawmills of southern Arkansas.   I cut down trees and made them into lumber.  

In the way loggers treated rivers, I saw a disconnect between sound science and policy.  So I went to grad school, hoping to fix that.  Then I worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and was able to reach that goal – I got paid to teach people how rivers worked; farmers and miners and loggers. 

I left that job to found Little River Research & Design in 1991—to be my own boss and work nationwide in support of better river engineering and conservation.

I still do real-world river engineering, but lately I’ve dedicated LRRD to education.  Because I care about our natural world.  And because our civilization, as a democracy, depends on eduction and understanding.

The Right in this country has set us on a policy pathway to disaster.  It is proudly anti-science; and uses environmental issues as political footballs.

It perverts science and thrives on confusion, not education and understanding.

The Republican Party has made climate change denial a litmus test.  This position is anti-science, and puts the United States on a dangerous, unsustainable path.  Clearly, the GOP is willing to subvert scientific truth to divide voters and win elections.

The GOP advocates reduction in funding for our most important science agencies.    
Mitt Romney and his party have denied climate change, and proposed cuts in all the science agencies that monitor natural hazards.  The chaos in the Northeast now shows us how important these agencies are – and here I’m not counting federal disaster relief; something Romney has also proposed to cut.

These GOP positions against environmental science are are plainly wrong.  Most GOP leaders who advocate them know this.

Shame on them.

At LRRD, we work to educate and enlighten with hands-on science.   I hope we’re not too late.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Freedom Rider dies in Carbondale.

Freedom Rider Genevieve Hughes Houghton died last night in Carbondale.

In 1961 she was nearly killed for her convictions, in a firebombed bus with white men holding the doors shut.

My wife Kate was a good friend, and adored her, and last month honored her by dedicating a local trail.

Genevieve was featured in this American Experience documentary.

I was born in 1958, in Hope, Arkansas.  I can’t watch these documentaries because they are too painful; as I grew I heard grownups say terrible things, things a child knows are wrong.   The awful poison of racism. 

My Mom and Dad are both gone now.  When I was ten I leaned out of Dad’s truck and spit at a raggedy nigger pedestrian. White people did that, said that.  But, second to when I pointed a loaded gun at a man as a joke, it was the most angry I ever saw my Dad.  In a way he told me it was wrong.   But “nigger” was such a common word, always in a bad way.  Jokes.  Everybody knew it was wrong, but few fixed it. 

Genevieve tried, and nearly lost her life.  Back to my story.

In 1969, a traveling salesman named Byron De La Beckwith, visited my Dad, and I shook his hand.   De La Beckwith assassinated peaceful civil rights worker Medgar Evers in 1963

De La Beckwith was a sociopathic terrorist, by any definition.  He was acquitted by an all-white jury.  A cowardly, cold-blooded killer made a hero.  In 1994 he was, finally, convicted.

Here is the story I heard many times as a young boy.  I don’t know if it’s true: 

During the murder trial, Prosecution:  “Mr. De La Beckwith, have you ever seen this bullet.”

“No, but it sure did mushroom pretty inside that nigger.” 

(Laughing, jury laughing.)

Not sure if I can ever wipe that De La Beckwith handshake off.    

We have a horrible racist past in America.   Still.  It's alive in the South, alive in the suburbs, alive everywhere.   In our Presidential race.  Still.

Love to my Kate for taking care of Genevieve.

[Edit]:  Adding a few good links as I see them; not hard to find.  We don't hear nigger nowadays, we hear a dog whistle, and when the target reacts the whistler says "Get your mind out of the gutter, YOU are the racist here."    Sununu calls Obama "lazy."   Federal Judge steps down after admitting to sending racist email about bestiality and Obama's mother.  October 2012; Arkansas Legislator Jon Hubbard self-publishes book saying slavery "may have been a blessing" for African Americans.

(Burning bus in Anniston Alabama, May 14, 1961, from Birmingham Civil Rights Institute)