Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 4, December 16, 2012 Preparation for Fish Story, Memphis, TN

The pictures I took on my last day in Memphis, preparing for May's "Memphis Social," were all about the trajectory of fish and water from one small tributary (the Ghost River) to the Mississippi, via the Wolf River. It is a path fraught with human infrastructural impediments to the free flow of clean water and that trajectory recapitulates many obstacles to either sustainability or resilience humans have instituted. Those obstacles often mitigate against our own survival and recapitulate questions about environmental justice and ecoregional linkage.

One of those obstacles is what may be contaminating the water. Most countries are now dealing with the "choice" between fracking for natural gas and the "environment," framed as choices about energy vs. water and air quality. But is energy all there is?

In TN, yesterday, where I spent most of the day researching for Fish Story, I drove thru healthy farmland. TN is not far from fracking activity in North Dakota. North Dakota is where TN water comes from and the TN dilemma is a paradigm for the rest of the world. Fracking is already an issue in Pennsylvania & an imminent issue for New York State. The UK is teetering on the brink of enormous decisions about fracking and much of Europe has taken sides on the controversy.

This recent article by Elizabeth Royte in The Nation, details the additional implications of potential impacts on food supplies:

I won't go into the insanity of trading not just water or wildlife but food for the short term energy "benefits" of "natural" gas. But consider: Royte writes of the tails dropping off of cattle and squirrels. There is currently no testing being done on animals and plants subjected to nearby fracking. We have no tails that might fall off when we consume our food. But as apex predators, the chances are that our bodies will concentrate even more toxins that will affect our systems.

In speaking with some of the Foundations in Memphis, Ducks Unlimited, a representative said, "we are moving as fast as we can slowly." The problem for us all, is that may not be fast enuf.

Royte's additional information speaks again, to the often difficult tension I, along with so many others, struggle to sustain, between urgency and calm reflection on challenging environmental issues. The advice from Royte was, ask your organic farmers, 'how close are you to fracking and have you tested your produce?' 

Approaching the Church of the River, which has prioritized good stewardship for its' location on the river.

The view from the Church of the River onto the Mississippi before the service, just past the point where the Wolf River historically emptied into The Big Muddy.

Singing Christmas carols at the Church of the River after the service.

The Rev. Burton D. Carey clowning with his congregation, as one of the lords a leapin' for the "12 Days of Christmas," at the Christmas carol sing-a-long at the Church of the River.

View of the Mississippi after the Church of the River service and caroling, 2 hours after I first arrived, with a subtle change in the light.

Band of erosion exposing the rich soil quality, down a country road near the beginning of the Ghost River that feeds the Wolf River, a tributary of the Mississippi.

At the end of the country road I drove down, it turned into a dirt private drive for what was apparently a large estate, possibly a former cotton plantation.

Once this countryside was part of King Cotton, the center of the economic world. Now, the remnants of field cotton look just like melting old snow, like another vanishing memory, the real snow of "real" winters, before global warming. The vast cotton industry was sustained with slavery, arguably, analogic to how the present world economy is sustained by fossil fuels including natural gas.

Rural Tennessee is just an hour outside the city,

I drove to the Ghost River and back before heading to the airport. The trajectory from Ghost River to the Mississippi via Wolf River will be the heart of my plan for the Fish Story events in May for Memphis Social.

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