Flooding and Pipeline Safety

This past week saw a flood in the St. Croix watershed.  The Upper Tamarack rose to the steps of the shack, and there is even evidence of it having run under the building which sits on cinder blocks.  There is standing water in the field below the hut and along one of the paths along the river.  It looks like our little cabin is sitting much further down the watershed in a Louisiana backwater swamp rather than along a north woods river.  All-in-all we escaped significant damage and loss.  We may have lost a gas can and a set of stairs.  It’s remarkable that the shack, sitting less than 60 feet from, and 4 feet above, the river for almost 50 years, has never been flooded.

However, the washouts of bridges and roads that occurred as a result of this week’s rains raises concern about the integrity of the Enbridge pipelines.  That’s especially so after having paddled the Totogatic and seen the pipeline crossing on that stream.  At that point the river is contained by steep banks and is narrowed into a funnel to flow under a railroad trestle.  When I visited there was already evidence of erosion at the bottom of the bank.  I imagine the currents there could be wicked during a flood.

It makes me wonder – I have to wonder because there are no regulations or required reporting – what steps Enbridge takes during events like this.  Have crossings been assessed and prioritized for responding in emergencies?  What types of responses does the company take during the flood – enhanced monitoring [e.g., on-site visual inspection] or preventative action [e.g., temporary shut-down]?  Those types of actions: assessment and prioritization of structures at risk and graduated monitoring and action are required for bridges.  It would seem prudent to do the same for structures that carry over a million barrels of toxic liquids under regionally important and nationally significant waterways.  Land, water, habitat, wildlife and scenic value are at stake.

But it’s an opaque system.  And opaque systems breed doubt and distrust, especially when profit and shareholder share price is a driving motivator.  So I wonder.

Beyond that, even: I wonder how it can it be determined if a pipe has been under-cut and is suspended above the bottom of the river during a flood and what is the increased risk of pipe failure if that occurs?  That leads to even more questions. Questions are also a consequence of opacity.

Walk to Raise Awareness

An ad hoc group of concerned individuals from around Wisconsin have come together to organize a walk along a proposed pipeline that will, if built, transport over a million barrels of Alberta tarsands through the state every day.  The line is being proposed by Enbridge and would run along a right-of-way through which the company already transports over a million barrels of oil a day.  The 33 day walk is sponsored by Sacred Water/Sacred Land and is taking place right now.  The group invites individuals to join for a day or more and/or attend any number of events planned along the route.

The proposed pipeline, Line 66, would 1] pose a risk to the the health, integrity and vibrancy of the watersheds and habitats through which it ran; 2] facilitate the extreme extraction of fossil fuels in Alberta, an incredibly destructive rape of the land; and, 3] contribute to further climate disruption.

I don’t know much about Sacred Water/Sacred Land, but intend to check out the walk while it is traversing the St. Croix River watershed.

Where Bodhidharma and Aldo Leopold Meet

Bodhidharma [483?-540?] is the reputed founder of ch’an buddhism in China, commonly known in the United States by its Japanese name: zen.  I use the image of Bodhidharma to represent zen teachings.

Aldo Leopold [1887-1948] is considered by many to be the father of the modern conservation and environmental movement and the United States’ wilderness system.  Among his best know ideas is the “land ethic,” which calls for an ethical, caring relationship between people and nature.  His writings have been influential to me and here he represents the present day effort to live in harmony with the earth.
For the longest time, I have been curious and passionate about the intersection of buddhism, zen, social activism, justice, the environment and politics.

With this website I hope to explore that intersection.  What does zen buddhism have to do with one’s engagement with the critical social issues that confront us: land, by which I mean soil and everything connected to it, i.e., the ecosphere; social justice; peace and harmony?  There will entries on zen, discussion of social issues, short essays on nature and links.  I hope some of what is here will be provocative.

Since first encountering buddhism and zen I have felt, at my core, that they offer something very, very important to our social discourse – a critically vital perspective as we collectively do our best to address the conflict, pain and suffering that is in-and-all-around-us in the form of poverty, racial domination, environmental destruction, war, hunger and violence.  I have personally tried to find balance and equanimity while effectively engaging in various social change efforts, even in the ego- and conflict-driven settings of a state legislature, a picket line, non-violent direct actions and the hurly-burly world of real estate development.  Sometimes I have been successful, sometimes not.

I’ve been a student of zen for over 25 years and a priest and teacher for the last 15.  I have been involved in peace, social justice and environmental movements for much longer, starting with the lead-up to the first Earth Day in 1972.  Since then I have been an anti-nuclear activist, training college students in nonviolent civil disobedience techniques; Teamster union steward; board member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and other non-governmental organizations [NGO]; lobbyist for environmental organizations; social worker in the fields of aging and hospice; executive director of a NGO that provided affordable, supportive housing to people living with HIV/AIDS; and meditation teacher in state prisons.

This website is an experiment, a project in progress.

Take care.