What does wealth mean to you?

 

I had long ago decided to be happy … but got distracted along the way by so many things that occurred to cloud the issue, the issue of living honestly and with integrity … finding joy as a child would, naturally.

One cannot be happy without this and there is no wealth without it either.  Where do you find your joy?

To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth.  As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn’t rich.

Mark Twain

Indian Mounds Park

GEOLOGY OF MINNESOTA AT THE MOUNDS (AS DESCRIBED IN A PLAQUE ON THE BLUFFS ABOVE THE MISSISSIPPI) indian_mounds_plaque THIS POINT COMMANDS A VIEW OF ONE OF THE GREAT WATER COURSES OF NORTH AMERICA.  THE STREAM WHICH ONCE FILLED THIS VALLEY NAMED THE RIVER WARREN WAS LARGER THAN ANY RIVER ON THE CONTINENT TODAY. DURING THE PAST MILLION YEARS MINNESOTA HAS BEEN PARTLY COVERED BY GLACIERS AT LEAST 4 TIMES. THE SHORT SUMMERS AND LONG WINTERS OF THE GREAT AGES CAUSED AN ACCUMULATION OF SNOW AND ICE TO A THICKNESS OF SEVERAL THOUSAND FEET. AS THE CLIMATE MODERATED AND GLACIATION CAME TO AN END ENORMOUS QUANTITIES OF WATER WERE RELEASED TO FLOW IN RIVERS AWAY FROM THE ICE FIELD.  THE VALLEY OF THE MISSISSIPPI FROM THIS POINT WAS ERODED BY SUCH A STREAM ABOUT 2000 YEARS AGO SCOURED TO A DEPTH OF 100 FEET BELOW THE PRESENT RIVER SURFACE. THE VALLEY WAS LATER FILLED BY SAND AND GRAVEL AS THE FORCE OF THE TORRENT SUBSIDED.

 

Migizi, gichi-manidoo

It was believed by the Native Americans that eagles served as messengers between humans and the Creator, a spiritual messenger and symbol of courage and truth and, to some, the embodiment of the Great Spirit.  To almost every Indian Nation, the eagle is sacred.

As one Indian legend tells it, a thundercloud appeared on the horizon when the Earth was created, descending upon the tree tops in thunder and lightning; and as the mists cleared , an eagle sat perched upon the highest branch. Gliding slowly from his perch, extending his talons to the ground, he became a man … and so the spiritual representation of eagles as messengers.

As Indian summer arrived this month in beautiful color along the Mississippi River bluffs, we spotted this bald eagle in a solitary old tree over the site of “wakon-teebe”, observing him for quite a while, well aware of our presence, until his descent to the ground out of our view.

On the Bluffs over Wakon-teebe

st_paul_overlook_2016

The pictured overlook stands on the bluffs above a cave that the Indians named wakon-teebe, known by various names as Dwelling of the Great Spirit or Mystery, House of Spirits  and the Spirit House.  It contains a crystal pool fed by spring water that had reported flows of 25 gallons per minute and held ancient Indian hieroglyphs, until they were destroyed by railroad construction.  A shadow of the original visited by Jonathan Carver in 1766, this cave stands on the banks of the Mississippi in the bed of what was once the great river, Warren, which discharged glacial waters from the largest lake ever known, Lake Agassiz.

What stood thousands of years took relatively little time to desecrate.  St. Paul & Chicago Railroad condemned the strip of land along its river bank, dug it down and nearly destroyed it.  Most of what was carved away held the cave’s petroglyphs.  The entrance is now sealed by a steel door following habitation during the Great Depression, curiosity seekers and landscaping for public and private use, all of which could not help to change the essence of what it was for thousands of years to the Native Americans.  The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is now home to this “spirit cave” and there have been improvements in the surrounding park.

The bluffs above wakon-teebe, designated Indian Mounds Park, hold sacred burial mounds many of which have been destroyed for expediency.  Only six were spared of at least 37 known in the area, to be registered as historic preservation sites.

At the overlook above the cave, garbage was strewn everywhere, the only two garbage cans, overflowing … plastic bags, pop cans, trash in abundance down the side of this bluff.  Votive candles on the stone walls below a solitary old tree testified to the still sacred nature of this place, where a vigilant bald eagle perched above the river valley.

Views from the bluffs are breathtaking and reveal the immensity of this river valley, filled now with artifacts of our “progress” — an airport, trains and tracks, barges and, among other things, Pigs Eye Waste Treatment Plant, while the Great Spirit has, evidently, been evicted and locked out, perhaps perched in the old tree above the cave.

The ironies still amaze and befuddle as mankind’s journey to full cognition remains, seemingly, elusive.

Fruits of Fossil Fuel

We can all agree that the advent of fossil fuel extraction and use has changed our world.  What does this mean?

Benzene is found in the air from burning coal and oil, at gasoline service stations, and in motor vehicle exhaust.  Some effects from short term inhalation are impaired driving from dizziness and sleepiness, and unconsciousness (at high levels).  It is known to cause irritation to eye, skin, and respiratory tract as well as creating changes in the composition of red blood cells, increased incidence of leukemia, risks to the fetus in pregnancy among other toxic risks.  It is known by the EPA as a known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) are known to cause acid rain which affects our waterways and forests, destroying these natural environments ability to sustain life.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/acid-rain-overview/

Petroleum Coke (Pet Coke): abundant toxins in heavy dust from bitumen: chromium, vanadium, sulfur, selenium … being used now in coal-fired power plants and emits 5-10 times more CO2 than coal.  Even so, it is excluded from most assessments of climate impact because it is considered a refinery byproduct.

Formaldehyde (from natural gas) a carcinogen with known links to leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancers, a potent allergen and DNA alterative, also contributes to ground-level ozone.  It is commonly used in fracking for which the industry does not report details of its use.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) an entire class of toxic chemicals which are known as carcinogens and genetic mutagens are endemic in the production of oil and gas. We can already see the effects on wildlife after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mercury, largest single source of airborne mercury emissions in the U.S is from coal-fired plants from and is known as a dangerous neurotoxin.   It will affect the brain development of a child, delaying walking and conversation, attention span … high doses in the womb and in infants can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness.  In adults it is known to affect a person’s ability to reproduce, can cause memory loss, numbness in the extremities ….

Silica Dust or crystalline silica (frac sand) is a carcinogen and breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, which is a form of lung disease with no cure. Commonly used during fracking operations, each stage of the process requires hundreds of thousands of pounds of silica quartz–containing sand. Millions of pounds may be used for a single well.

Radon used is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas which though it comes from a variety of natural sources, the fracking industry represents a significant new and increased source of radon exposure to millions of citizens. Radon is released into local groundwater and air during fracking operations. It also travels through pipelines to the point of use—be it a power plant or a home.

Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) / Hydrogen Fluoride from oil and gas production is one of the most dangerous acids known and can damage lungs, moving into deep tissue, including bone, where it causes cellular damage.  It can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

These are only 10 of the toxins attributed to the fossil fuel industry but there are other far reaching effects of oil, gas and coal production.

Greenhouse gas-induced climate change

Massive highway systems and traffic jams

War and increased Military, being one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels

Loss of Wilderness

Pollution of the aquifers and air

Mountain-top removal

Earthquakes from fracking

Mining of water reserves

Species extinctions …

 

The automobile:  Could Henry Ford have imagined the long term results of widespread personal automobile use, the massive highway systems, the infrastructure to supply oil, pipelines through aquifers, offshore drilling and spills in marine ecosystems to supply an insatiable thirst for energy and wealth from its production, the danger to our air, water, foods and our health … the health of not only our species, but all others on Earth at stake?

Ford was a pacifist and believed that mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers would make life better for all. He believed that consumerism was a key to peace.  Has it been the answer?  Is money and access to all manner of disposable goods the panacea for what ails the human race? Are we all richer for having this kind of access?  The more money we have the more is spent … better yet to provide a life worth living to all in a fair and equitable world where money does not rule. Has material accumulation made us richer and created a peaceful world?  The results are obvious.

There is no end to this kind of consumption, because it never truly satisfies. While the renegade fossil fuel industry destroys sacred lands in North Dakota, the news media turns a blind eye and consumers head to the gas station to fill their tanks.

Fall color?

To take a trip to look at the leaves, observe and enjoy the changing season perhaps might seem a distant and impractical use of limited time in a busy schedule, but don’t we all need this at some point in our lives?  Isn’t it a necessity to enjoy whatever color lights your path along the way? It has been said so many times that life is all about moments and that the best things in life are free.   In spite of this age tested advice, we have traveled too far away from true wealth, so that we can make a life that looks good on a balance sheet.

Too many people are living on a see-saw in a volatile financial market.  The “worst in us running the rest of us”.  As vested pensions were replaced by market driven portfolios, retirees, then, were chained to perpetual investment strategies at a time when enjoying the fall color might be warranted.  A lifetime of  paying into social security (double for baby boomers) and medicare, wall street retirement plans, insurance policies, mortgages and rents have left retirees wishing they could take that time. While young people with a lifetime of college debt ahead and low paying jobs, high rents and food costs are literally immersed in a world that sells everything but the things they need for happiness.

Perhaps we could all use a little color.