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Thursday, September 29, 2011

IMPORTANT COURT SESSION on FRIDAY, SEPT. 30--- Sludge, Local Control, and Antiquated Ideas

At 1 p.m. on Friday, September 30, a hearing will begin in Cowlitz County Superior Court. Consider showing up. This hearing concerns an issue that matters to every citizen of this state. Your fellow Washingtonians in tiny Wahkiakum County are fighting a lawsuit filed against them by the office of State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the plaintiff being the State of Washington, Department of Ecology.

Biosolids being sprayed on the Zerr farm in Whakiakum Co.. Photo by Poul Toftemark

So what in the world has this little county done to deserve legal action? Their county commissioners passed an ordinance banning the use of anything less than Class A "biosolids" (a PR term, a made-up euphemism for SEWAGE SLUDGE) on agricultural land in their county. People in this rural area, where organic farmers are trying to build up their industry and people are worried about the environment, are upset about the Department of Ecology forcing them to accept the worst kind of sludge, Class B, which is very minimally treated and contains pathogens, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, industrial waste, etc. AFTER the county commissioners passed an ordinance to ban this material, the Dept. of Ecology allowed a farmer to have it spread on his land, adjacent to the Grays River, in a flood plain, and near an organic farm and a dairy.

The court case amounts to this: Ecology claims this ordinance is unconstitutional. The county argues that it is not. That might sound boring but it is anything but boring. As I stated in a previous blog post linked to here, titled WAKE UP WASHINGTONIANS! Your county could be the next sludge dump!  Democracy itself is at stake! If you haven't already read that post, please do. It explains what is going on and links you to more information on the dangers of sludge, including the EPAa's own incriminating website! Every day,  news stories appear about sludge and it's dangers, including this latest news story and video about the listeria outbreak from contaminated cantaloupe. Biosolids from New York were sprayed on a field adjacent to the farm where the cantaloupes were grown and investigations are taking place to see if that is the source of the contamination. This material can become airborn when it dries.

Unfortunately, this court case is not about proving or disproving the safety of sludge. It's about legislative matters concerning local control versus state control and what is considered constitutional. I have spoken with Wahkiakum County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Bigelow. I also read through 46 pages of court documents. The depressing thing is, that while the courts wrangle over constitutionality issues, more and more farmland becomes contaminated with toxic sludge. The produce you buy might be grown in it. Remember, everything that goes down the toilet, sink, or a drain at home, or in a hospital or an industrial plants, ends up in sludge.

HERE IS THE GIST OF IT... This is all based on legislation passed between 1987 and 1992, written before today's more thorough scientific information on the dangers of sludge. The waste water treatment industry is huge and they have great PR campaigns, as well as a major disposal problem. Our Dept. of Ecology has a clearly stated aggressive agenda to push the "beneficial" use of biosolids. "Beneficial" to whom??? To the waste water treatment industry, folks, not to you! Their definition of "beneficial" is spreading the stuff on land to solve the disposal problem. Let's face it, as a nation we're producing a lot of sewage that needs to be dealt with, but growing our food in it is not the solution. Don't let anyone tell you that this kind of "recycling" is a good thing. Don't be fooled.

Like I said before, "Wake Up Washingtonians!"

I contacted the Tacoma News Tribune (and other local news outlets) about this story when I first heard about the lawsuit. I was told by one of its representatives that "our readers wouldn't be interested in this." The reason? It was happening in Wahkiakum Co. way down in S.W. Washington, not locally. Is that really how people think? The subject of a county's right to pass an ordinance to protect the health and safety of its citizens and the environment should matter to ALL of us.

Let's use our power as voters. Pay attention to this case. Show up in court if you can. Contact your legislators. Educate yourself on what "biosolids" really are (you can start here.) And please support organic farmers and local farmers markets.

Added note: Rob McKenna's campaign website doesn't even include the environment on its list of "issues." Take a look. Not a word. His slogan is "A New Direction for Washington." I don't know about all other issues, but when it comes to the environment, I'd say that direction would be DOWNHILL.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Bet: Stowaway Daughter" -- Young Adult Novel Offers Exciting Look at Northwest History

Available exclusively as an eBook beginning Sept. 29, 2011

Like waves on the oceans he loves, Seattle author Joe Follansbee's non-fiction books and web projects keep coming, one after another, as more form on the horizon. But his latest, an eBook due for release on Thursday, September 29, launches this Northwest maritime history expert off on a voyage into new territory: young adult fiction. I have a feeling plenty of readers will want to come along.

The drama begins and ends in Seattle in 1932, during the Great Depression, but most of it takes place on a sailing ship in Alaska. The young protagonist, a thirteen-year-old Norwegian-American girl named Lisbet "Bet" Lindstrom shares her story of adventure, mystery, loyalty, and love in Follansbee's first novel, "Bet: Stowaway Daughter." Bet takes huge risks to uncover evidence that will exonerate her sea captain father, who was convicted and imprisoned for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.

Curious? You can download the first six chapters FREE through this link, to read on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or  personal computer.

Follansbee's writing career includes countless freelance articles for print and online venues and five previous books, including three on media streaming. But most recently, maritime topics seem to captivate him. His book "Shipbuilders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona" is now a priceless treasure for Northwest maritime history fans, because the once beautiful three-masted Wawona ended up being demolished, in spite of the efforts of Follansbee and other preservationists. At least the extensive knowledge he gained enabled him to write detailed and technically correct descriptions of the ship on which young Bet stows away, making the story of her experiences all the more realistic.

The Schooner Wawona        Photo credit: Northwest Seaport

 After writing about the doomed schooner Wawona, Follansbee's desire to make people care about such things led to the creation of his fascinating website called Fyddeye. Next he wrote "The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History" which is available as an eBook or print version. Now his desire to expose younger readers to their country's maritime heritage, combined with all he knows about ships, history, and girls (as the father of two daughters,) have come together in this work of historic fiction.

I especially like the fact that the story will carry young people on a journey back into a time they might know little about, and forward toward enlightenment and maturity through this book's positive and inspiring themes. By traveling in either direction, they are guaranteed to learn plenty. That would include an appreciation for the hard lives of commercial fishermen in those days and the character of Scandinavian immigrants who settled in large numbers in what is now the neighborhood of Ballard, in north Seattle, once a separate town.

Those who know Seattle and its history will appreciate the realistic sense of place and time. Those who know something about commercial sailing ships will appreciate the author's extensive and careful research into every facet of life and work for the brave souls who fished for cod at the end of the age of sail. According to Follansbee, the final fleet of such vessels still sailed from San Francisco and Seattle to fish the Bering Sea into the 1930s.

Cod Fisherman       Photo credit: Northwest Seaport
Having grown up around the water, I can say that he definitely puts the reader right on location, with all five senses stimulated. I swear I could smell the salt spray, hear every hiss of the water and creak of the wood, feel the deck pitching and see the canvas sails fill with wind. And that's not all. It contains plenty of conflict and suspense.

After a beginning paced to reflect the slow torture of awaiting her father's trial, the action picks up dramatically. Follansbee gave Bet both vulnerability and strength, as she walks the fine line of growing up in a hurry. I felt her fears, sadness, determination, growing confidence and ultimate joy. And he surrounds her with other interesting characters based on real people.

I rarely read books in the "YA" (young adult) genre, but I'm glad I was asked to review "Bet: Stowaway Daughter." 

So mark September 29 on your calendar. Treat a young person who know, or yourself, to a novel that will educate while it engages and entertains, offering vicarious experiences not soon forgotten. I'm sure this book will succeed in the marketplace in fresh new ways. Even thought it contains many scary scenes, including one with a huge and aggressive sea lion, you won't find a single vampire in it anywhere. Imagine that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

AMERICAN BANJO CAMP 2011- Four Days in Banjo Heaven

L to R: Instructors Mac Benford, Jere Canote, Tom Auber, and Greg Canote jam on the
grounds of Fort Flagler some free time at the American Banjo Camp
I saw no puffy white clouds and never heard a single harp during my recent four days in heaven. In fact, I saw no clouds at all, only golden autumn sunshine, blue water and blue skies, not to mention seagulls, deer, and a lot of blissfully happy souls wandering through what felt like paradise to those who love bluegrass and old time music. 

This version of a fantasy afterlife was actually the American Banjo Camp, held at the waterfront retreat center at historic Fort Flagler, near Port Townsend, Washington. And although the strings of harps make a lovely sound, nothing could have thrilled and delighted me more than the melodies that surrounded me day and night, set free from the strings of banjos, mandolins, fiddles and guitars. Many of the best instructors from around the country joined about one hundred or so eager attendees for an intense weekend of classes, jam sessions, and entertainment. Classes were held both indoors and out.

Dawn of another day at American Banjo Camp
Organized by Peter Langston and Ken Perlman, with a tremendous amount of help from the onsite coordinator, Janet Peterson, the camp ran from September 8-12, its ninth year. This was my first time there, but as soon as the registration form for 2012 comes online, I'll be signing up again. The ten year anniversary session should be even more special.


The talented faculty FOR 2011 is shown below in alphabetical order.


Janet Beasley                               Mac Benford
Pat Cloud                                     Bob Carlin
Bill Evans                                     Cathy Fink
Gerald Jones                                Tom Sauber
Alan Munde                                  Laura Smith
Mike Stahlman                             Molly Tenenbaum

Paul Elliot
Peter Langston
Chris Luquette


Seattle's own famous twin brothers...

Greg Canote and Jere Canote

Here are a few more photos of the fun.

Professional folk musician and recording artist Barry Luft, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
 joins a jam session.

Beautiful inlays on the fretboard of Luft's banjo

Rob Danby plays along in clawhammer style.

Instructors Mac Benford (L) and Jere Canote (R) get some accompaniment from
Bill Haglund playing harmonica.

Students listen and jam with instructors in the shade, during the heat of afternoon.
Jere Canote and Molly Tenebaum in foreground.
Here's the grand finale of our Saturday night concert.