Sunday, November 20, 2016


Have you missed me?  I'm trying something new.  You can subscribe to the urbanecology tinyletter here:   Meanwhile, one more post here.


What This In-Vogue Verb Tells Us About Our Divided Culture
Did reading this bother you? Referring to “truthiness", a term coined by Stephen Colbert "But in this election, truthiness has become fully weaponized by social media …” (Oct. 26, 2016 NYTimes opinion page)

Like a bunny in the headlights of an oncoming truck (Watership Down) I admit to being fully “tharn” in the wake of the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Some of this is shock and fear,  but most of it is a lack of clarity about how to respond to the terrible fate our new president-elect promised to unleash upon the powerless, “the historically disenfranchised”, the sick, the young, the old.  An important part of the conundrum for me is my struggle with non-violent language, avoiding language that is weaponized.  As a Buddhist I try to adhere to its ethical principles, The Five Precepts.  

Rather than describing my engagement with the Precepts as frequently failing, let’s just say I have the privilege of frequently starting over.  Two of them, numbers one and four, are especially relevant to the issue of the election, right action in relationship to it, nonviolence and me.  The first precept is, “I undertake the training vow to avoid taking the life of beings” and the fourth precept is, “I undertake the training vow to refrain from false speech.”  These two feel deeply connected to me, even In times when I am distracted from my practice.  As I have investigated and sat with the first precept it has become very focused on the environment and the evolving realization of how my actions contribute to harm and killing of beings.  And the fourth encompasses more than not lying or deceiving.  It includes the five standards for right speech one of the factors of the Buddhist Eightfold Path.  What is spoken...
  • Is truthful
  • Is not divisive
  • With goodwill
  • Is beneficial
  • Is timely
While this may all sound very monkish, there is a part of a sutra attributed to the Buddha that begins, “And how is one made pure in four ways by verbal action?” And goes on to describe participation in
EPA Town Hall Meeting, Mossville Louisiana
a community meeting (AN 10.176).

Under the best of circumstances I struggle with the fourth precept and right speech.  This election season I have, perhaps we all have, been exposed to and wallowed in the opposite of right speech, that which is false, divisive, abusive and idle.  I am struck by how words destroy, and how words lead to destructive action.  This focus on right speech does not preclude resistance to that which is destructive and harmful to all living beings.  Right now I just don’t know what my role is in countering these harms without doing more harm myself.

I know I probably need to just let it go, open my eyes and see the speeding truck is not just bearing down on me but all of us, regardless of who we voted for, and engage.  The good thing about the precepts (or any truly generous spiritual practice) is a girl can always start over. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stop the Sasol Land Grab of Mossville!

East side of Mossville 2012 at
Industries Fenceline
In case you missed my e-newsletter, here is the email I wrote to Administrator Gina McCarthy:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

Last week your Region 6 office participated in the ongoing injustice being suffered by the people of Mossville Louisiana, and thereby became complicit in the land grab being 
perpetrated by Sasol, the apartheid era
East side of Mossville 2016
South African oil company. When Re
gion 6 endorsed the suspect industry Voluntary Property Purchase process they helped cover up Sasol's coercive, deceptive and financially inadequate program to take possession of this 225 year old community. I urge you to make Sasol return to negotiations with Mossville residents and Mossville Environmental Action Now. Impel Sasol to make Mossville residents whole, debt free, and fully housed.

Please write EPA Administrator McCarthy today!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stop the Sasol Land Grab of Mossville: What's a Voluntary Property Purchase Program

Environmental Justice Elders Lead Off Demo at
Sasol Houston Headquarters
Many of you have asked what's up with my blog.  I'm hoping to make a transition to a website with the blog embedded but I don't seem to have the skill or talent to accomplish that.  I'm looking for help.  I'll let you know how it goes. On to the main event!
Sasol, the apartheid era South African synthetic fuel company is perpetrating an coercive, deceptive and financially unjust grab for the land of people of Mossville Louisiana.  You all have read about Mossville over the years.  This post is about the collusion of the oil and chemical industries in creating something called the Voluntary Property Purchase Program to buyout communities and avoid liability for industrial toxic pollution that drives down property values, poisons the environment and destroys the livelihoods and health of the communities they are "benefitting."

I have found 4 other instances of oil refiners and chemical processing companies using Georgia-based Community Interaction Consultants (CIC) as their front organization in the negotiation of buyouts, all highly contested -- 2 in Michigan, 1 in Arkansas and 1 in 1999 in Baltimore.   The Port of Corpus Christi seems to be taking bids on one now.  John Mitchell, the president and founder of CIC, describes the company at his LinkedIn page as providing  

  • "community relocation consulting, program development, and program administration services for heavy manufacturers facing diminution of value claims"... and, 
  • "Beginning in 1989, consulting for the development and administration of property programs focused on green belt expansion for heavy manufacturing sites."
Green belts are supposed to be areas protected by zoning policy to maintain wild, agricultural and open space as a buffer between industry and settled areas.  International environmental justice activists have created a Green Belt Movement.  Of course international mega-corporations see these areas as expansion opportunities, greenwashing their buyouts as relocations, property value protection programs, and most egregiously, as voluntary.

Dislocation from ones home and land (especially in Louisiana where multiple generations live and build on the family property under the ownership of one family member) after your property has been polluted by dioxin, oil spills, benzine releases and other chemicals, your family's health destroyed and the concerted effort of community members and their allies to gain the attention of, and action from government, industry and the judiciary ignored -- in the case of Mossville for over two decades -- does not lead to a freely made decision to voluntarily sell one's property to the perpetrator (or the perpetrators' stalking horse) of the harm the community has experienced. 

There is probably need for a Department of Justice investigation into oil and chemical industry collusion in creating the VPPPs in order to avoid the true cost of their egregious disregard for the communities they have driven out and whose land they have come to own.