| Striper Wars Eye of the Whale The Man who Knew Too Much
Black Genius Jesse Ventura James Hillman
Recently Posted Articles List
Monarch Butterfly Update
The White House recently released a joint statement from the presidents of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, following their meeting in Toluca to discuss "building the most competitive and dynamic region in the world." Thanks to the petition campaign organized by Mexican poet/activist Homero Aridjis, and signed by dozens of scientists and writers from the three nations, the leaders' official statement included these words:
"Our governments will establish a working group to ensure the conservation of the Monarch butterfly, a species that symbolizes our association."
Definitely a step in the right direction. - Dick Russell
Last Call For the Monarchs
My friend Homero Aridjis, Mexico's leading poet and environmental activist, recently wrote this devastating piece about the monarch butterfly that he's known and loved observing since he was a boy. I visited the monarch sanctuaries with Homero in 2000, and now it appears that they may not even exist for much longer - unless the governments of the U.S. and Mexico act quickly. On February 19-20, President Obama has been meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the state of Toluca. A letter has been delivered by Homero personally to the Mexican Secretary of the Environment and the U.S. and Canadian embassies. It was signed by prominent scientists and writers from both countries (including myself), calling for mitigation of breeding habitat loss for the butterflies as well as combating illegal logging that's continuing in the area of the sanctuaries. Please read Homero's article for the tragic story of what is unfolding for the monarchs, as well as the letter itself with the signatories below. - Dick Russell
The World Post
Feb. 20, 2014
Last Call For Monarchs
By HOMERO ARIDJIS
|Homero Aridjis is a Mexican poet and environmental activist. His seminal work is "1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezón of Castile." In 1985, he organized the Group of 100 -- a group of prominent artists and writers, including Octavio Paz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Rufino Tamayo -- to defend biodiversity in Mexico and Latin America.
MEXICO CITY -- Every winter of my childhood in Contepec, Michoacan, millions of orange and black monarch butterflies magically arrived to the oyamel fir forest at the summit of Altamirano Hill. When the sun was out, rivers of butterflies would stream through the streets in search of water. Altamirano was one of the five mountain ranges protected by the original 1986 decree that created the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve, for which I had petitioned Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid. In 2000, another decree enlarged the reserve's size and added protection for more butterfly colony sites.
I was born in 1940 and grew up with (and wrote about) the monarchs, but it was only in 1975 that their overwintering forests in central Mexico's Transvolcanic Belt were "discovered" by Canadian scientists.
On Jan. 29, news was released of a dramatic plunge in the monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico after flying thousands of miles south from the northern and eastern United States and southern Canada. This season's population, calculated by measuring the area of occupied trees, covers a tiny 0.67 hectares -- the smallest ever since these measurements began 20 years ago -- and a huge drop from the 1996 high of 21 hectares. The population has plummeted from an estimated 1 billion in 1996 to 33 million this year, scattered over seven sites. There have been no monarchs in Contepec for years.
In the past, most of the blame for the steady decline in monarch numbers has been placed on logging in the core and buffer zones of the reserve, out-of-control tourism and devastating climate events such as the 2002 storms in Michoacan or the severe 2011 drought in Texas. Now, it has become all too apparent that industrial agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt (and less in Canada) is largely responsible for the dizzying drop in butterfly numbers. In the last decade, there has been a huge increase in additional land planted with corn to satisfy the demand for federally-mandated corn-based ethanol.
The main culprits are the herbicides relentlessly applied to genetically modified corn and soybean plants (grown from Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds, among others) that guarantee sterile fields where only the engineered crops are allowed to flourish. Ninety-three percent of total soybean acreage in the United States is now herbicide tolerant (HT), while 85 percent of corn is HT. Graphs show an alarming correlation between increased planting of HT crops and dwindling monarch populations, for milkweed -- the only plant on which adult monarch butterflies lay their eggs and the only one the hatched larvae (caterpillars) will eat after devouring their own eggshells -- is a main victim of these deadly glyphosate herbicides.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), so named for the sticky white sap that oozes from broken stalks, branches or leaves, is a summer-blooming perennial pollinated by insects such as bees, butterflies, moths or ants that land on the fragrant pinkish-purple flowers to suck the sweet nectar. The sap itself is toxic, and when the monarch larvae feed on the leaves, they become toxic to monarch butterfly predators.
Until now, the Mexican government has denied that the monarch butterfly migratory phenomenon is in jeopardy, despite warnings since the 1990s from preeminent monarch expert Lincoln Brower, but for the first time has acknowledged the possibility of its disappearance.
When I was Mexico's ambassador to UNESCO and lobbied representatives of the 21 countries on the World Heritage Committee to vote in favor of including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve on the World Heritage List, my colleagues from the United States and Canada were reluctant to do so, alleging opposition from their governments. They finally did give their votes, as a personal favor to me, along with the other 19, and the reserve is now listed.
During negotiations for the inclusion of the environment in the North American Free Trade Agreement, as head of the environmentalist group the Group of 100, I proposed the adoption of the monarch butterfly as the ideal symbol of tri-national interdependence and cooperation. Now, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, I (and all who cherish the monarch butterfly) am urging Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put monarch survival on the agenda of their February 19-20 summit meeting in Toluca, in the state of Mexico, a scant thirty miles from the Piedra Herrada monarch colony at San Mateo Almomoloa.
To make up for the vast loss of grasslands to crops and urban development, we need a milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch -- with plantings on roadsides, in fields and ditches, along railroad tracks, in pastures and meadows and gardens, in parks and public spaces -- so that successive generations of monarchs can breed during their journey north. An abundance of nectar patches with flowering plants for the great-grandchildren of the previous year's butterflies to feed on as they fly southward to Mexico should not be so difficult to arrange.
The decline in monarch population since 1994 coincides with the NAFTA years. If our three countries cannot prevent the extraordinary monarch butterfly migratory phenomenon from disappearing, then what's the point of this agreement?
We cannot allow the monarch butterfly to figure in the coming era of extinctions.
Monarch Decline and Changes in U.S. Agriculture Figures from EH Williams Feb 7. 2014
Fig. 1. Decline in monarch overwintering area compared to rise in US acreage planted in corn and rise is usage of glyphosate herbicide. To compare these on a similar scale, the monarch hectares have been multiplied by 5, and the glyphosate usage has been divided by 2 data sources: epa, ers.usda
Fig. 2. Figure from USDA showing rise in percentage of genetically modified crops. ers.usda
The World Post
Feb. 17, 2014
These Three Amigos Can Save The Monarch:
An Appeal From Margaret Atwood, Laura Esquivel, Junot Diaz And Others
|On Feb. 19, Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto, U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting in Toluca, Mexico, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The following is an appeal from 150 prominent scientists and intellectuals to the three leaders asking them to take urgent steps to stem the collapsing population of Monarch butterflies that migrate annually across North America.
President Barack Obama
President Enrique Peña Nieto
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Among the countless organisms that have evolved during the history of life on earth, monarch butterflies are among the most extraordinary. Sadly, their unique multigenerational migration across our large continent, their spectacular overwintering aggregations on the volcanic mountains in central Mexico, and their educational value to children in Canada, the United States, and Mexico are all threatened.
Monitoring of the butterfly population over the past two decades indicates a grim situation. Following a long-term decline, the total area occupied by the overwintering butterflies plunged from the 20-year average of 6.7 hectares to a record low of 0.67 hectares in the current season, a 90% decrease. This winter, only seven of twelve traditional sites had any butterflies at all, and only one of those (El Rosario, 0.5 hectares) was substantial in size.
The decline has two main causes:
1. Loss of breeding habitat. The major summer breeding area of the monarch butterfly is in the floristically rich grasslands of central North America, where the monarch’s milkweed food plants grow in abundance.
However, over the past decade the planting of corn and soybean varieties that have been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant has risen to 90%. Shortly after the corn or soy seeds germinate, the fields are sprayed with herbicides that kill all other plant life including the milkweeds, the only plants that monarch caterpillars can eat.
Furthermore, with economic incentives for producing corn ethanol, the planting of corn in the U.S. has expanded from 78 million acres in 2006 to 97 million acres in 2013. Fallow fields, row crops and roadsides that used to support the growth of milkweeds and substantial acreage of land previously set aside in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program have been converted to monoculture crops. Further loss of habitat has resulted from urban sprawl and development. More generally, the current chemical-intensive agriculture is threatening monarchs and other native pollinators and unraveling the fabric of our ecosystems.
2. Degradation of overwintering habitat. Overwintering monarchs depend on the protective cover of undisturbed oyamel fir forest canopy in Mexico. While the Mexican government has largely stopped the major illegal logging that threatened the forests used by the wintering monarch butterflies, damaging small scale illegal logging continues.
What can be done? If the monarch butterfly migration and overwintering phenomenon is to persist in eastern North America, mitigation of breeding habitat loss must be initiated.
As Mexico is addressing the logging issues, so now must the United States and Canada address the effects of our current agricultural policies. Managing roadsides for native plants, including milkweeds, could be a significant tool to partially offset the loss of habitat.
There are 3.2 million miles of roads east of the Rocky Mountains. If 25-foot roadside strips and medians were managed to support the growth of milkweeds, then eastern U.S. roadsides could contribute more than 19 million acres of milkweed habitat. If two monarchs were produced per acre of habitat, then these roadsides could produce nearly 40 million monarchs, i.e., about one tenth of the 20 year average number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico.
Within the agricultural heartland, a second mitigation effort should promote more extensive buffers of native plant communities at field margins. Collaborative exclusion of field margins in cooperation with farming communities could add substantially and help assure the continuation of the world's most revered butterfly. An incentive program to pay farmers to set aside toxin-free areas for milkweeds and pollinators could be a move in the right direction.
A milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch butterfly through our three countries must be established. This will show the political will of our governments to save the living symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement. We the undersigned hope that you will discuss the future of the monarch butterfly during the North American leaders’ Summit that will take place on February 19-20, 2014 in Toluca, state of Mexico.
Homero Aridjis Dr. Lincoln P. Brower
President, Grupo de los Cien Sweet Briar College, USA
Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan
Co-Facilitator, Make Way for Monarchs
INTERNATIONAL MONARCH BUTTERFLY SCIENTISTS
Dr. Alfonso Alonso, Smithsonian Institution, USA;
Dr. Sonia M. Altizer, University of Georgia, USA;
Dr. Michael Boppre, University of Freiburg, Germany;
Dr. Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College, USA;
Dr. Linda S, Fink, Sweet Briar College, USA;
Dr. Barrie Frost, Queens University, Ontario, Canada;
Dr. Jordi Honey-Roses, University of British Columbia, Canada;
Dr. Pablo F. Jaramillo-López, UNAM, Michoacán, Mexico;
Dr. Stephen B. Malcolm, Western Michigan University, USA;
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, University of Minnesota, USA;
Dr. Robert M. Pyle, Grays River, Washington, USA;
Dr. Isabel Ramirez, UNAM, Michoacan, Mexico;
Dr. Daniel Slayback, Science Systems & Applications, Inc., MD, USA;
Dr. Orley R. Taylor, University of Kansas, USA;
Dr. Stuart B. Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observations, CA, USA;
Dr. Ernest H. Williams, Hamilton College, USA;
Dr. Dick Vane-Wright, the Natural History Museum, London, UK;
Dr. Myron P. Zalucki, University of Queensland, Australia
WRITERS AND ARTISTS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Kwame Anthony Appiah; John Ashbery; Paul Auster; Deirdre Bair; Russell Banks; Rick Bass; Magda Bogin; Sarah Browning; Christopher Cokinos; Robert Darnton; Alison Hawthorne Deming; Junot Diaz; Rita Dove; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Alexandra Fuller; Ross Gelbspan; Sue Halpern; Sam Hamill; Robert Hass; Tom Hayden; Edward Hirsch; Siri Hustvedt; Jewell James (Lummi Tribe); Robert Kennedy, Jr.; George Kovach; Nicole Krauss; Peter Matthiessen; Michael McClure; Bill McKibben; Askold Melnyczuk; Michael Palmer; Janisse Ray; Jerome Rothenberg; Dick Russell; Michael Scammell; Grace Schulman; Alex Shoumatoff; A. E. Stallings; Judith Thurman; Melissa Tuckey; Chase Twichell; Rosanna Warren; Eliot Weinberger; Alan Weisman; Terry Tempest Williams; Michael Wood; City Lights Books
Homero Aridjis; Lucia Alvarez; Juan Domingo Arguelles; Chloe Aridjis; Eva Aridjis; Alberto Blanco; Coral Bracho; Federico Campbell; Marco Antonio Campos; Ana Cervantes; Jennifer Clement; Elsa Cross; María José Cuevas; Ximena Cuevas; Pablo Elizondo; Laura Esquivel; Manuel Felguérez; Betty Ferber; Paz Alicia Garciadiego; Emiliano Gironella; Jose Gordon; Hugo Gutiérrez Vega; Barbara Jacobs; Daniel Krauze; León Krauze; Mario Lavista; Paulina Lavista; Silvia Lemus de Fuentes; Soledad Loaeza; Pura López Colomé; Jean Meyer; Sergio Mondragon; Angelina Muñiz-Huberman; Carmen Mutis; Gabriel Orozco; Carmen Parra; Fernando del Paso; Marie-José Paz; Elena Poniatoswka; Arturo Ripstein; Vicente Rojo; Cristina Rubalcava; Juan Carlos Rulfo; Pablo Rulfo; Alberto Ruy Sánchez; Isabel Turrent; Juan Villoro; Roger Von Gunten
Katherine Ashenburg; Margaret Atwood; Wade Davis; Gary Geddes; Graeme Gibson; Terence Gower; Emile Martel; Jann Martel; George McWhirter; Michael Ondaatje; Nicole Perron; Linda Spalding; John Ralston Saul
Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium); Ivan Alechine (Belgium); Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua); Yves Bonnefoy (France); Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa); André Brink (South Africa); Kjell Espmark (Sweden); Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (Member of Parliament, India) ; Gloria Guardia (Panama); Alejandro Jodorowsky (France/Chile); Nicholas Jose (Australia); Dr. Helga von Kügelgen (Germany); Prof. Dr. Klaus Kropfinger (Germany); Norman Manea (USA/Rumania); Hasna Moudud (Bangladesh); Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize, Turkey); Jonathon Porritt (United Kingdom); Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua); Lélia Wanick Salgado (Brazil); Sebastião Salgado (Brazil); Simon Schama (United Kingdom); Ali Smith (United Kingdom); Lasse Soderberg (Sweden); Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas, United Kingdom); Tomas Transtromer (Nobel Prize, Sweden); Lucy Vines (France); Per Wästberg, (Sweden); Fred Viebahn (Germany)
SCIENTISTS AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan (Make Way for Monarchs, U. of Arizona, USA); Dr. José Sarukhan K. (Mexico); Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute, USA); Ina Warren, (Make Way for Monarchs, USA); Scott Hoffman Black, (Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and IUCN Butterfly Specialist Group, USA); Laura Lopez Hoffman (University of Arizona, USA); Elizabeth Howard, (Journey North, USA); Don Davis, (Monarch Butterfly Fund, Toronto, Canada); Claudio Lomnitz (Center for Mexican Studies, Columbia University, USA); Amory B. Lovins (USA); Gail Morris (Southwest Monarch Study, USA); Serge Dedina (Wildcoast, USA); Eduardo Nájera Hillman (Costasalvaje, Mexico); Wallace J. Nichols (California Academy of Sciences, USA); Arturo Gómez-Pompa (University of California Riverside, Mexico/USA); Scott Slovic, (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment,University of Idaho, USA); Garrison Sposito (University of California at Berkeley, USA); Georgita Ruiz (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico); Manuel Grosselet (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico); Diana Liverman (Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, USA); Valeria Souza (UNAM, Mexico); Eduardo Farah (EspejoRed, Mexico); Daniel Gershenson (Mexico); Joaquín Bohigas Bosch (Instituto de Astronomia, UNAM, Mexico); Jo Ann Baumgartner, (Wild Farm Alliance, USA); Jack Woody(Regional Dr,Int.Programs,US Fish & Wildlife Service, Retired); Lummi Tribe; Native American Land Conservancy (includes the following participating tribal communities: Chemehuevi, Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Navajo, Paiute).
On Friday Jan. 31, I'll be part of a panel discussion and film showing about the Kennedy assassination, scheduled as a live Webcast starting at 7 PM Pacific Time, from the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
(click to enlarge)
Here's what producer John Barbour has to say about the event:
"The 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination has come and gone, but the major questions remain. On January 31 at UNLV’s Greenspun Auditorium, a panel including some of the world’s best known and most credible assassination researchers will participate in a live, world-wide webcast about JFK, in particular, the investigation launched by former New Orleans DA Jim Garrison. Longtime TV host and producer John Barbour will screen his groundbreaking film about Garrison, and the panelists will take questions from the audience. The onstage guests will include author Jim Marrs, whose book about the JFK plot was one of the inspirations for the Oliver Stone film, longtime assassination researcher and author Dick Russell, and historian-author Joan Mellen. Barbour says the panelists will tell what they know about Garrison’s investigation which constitutes “the greatest true story never told”. The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public. Among those helping to get the word out about the UNLV event is comedian and JFK researcher Richard Belzer."
And to learn still more, here is a YouTube video about "The Last Word."
- Dick Russell
I recently did a 90-minute Podcast conversation with Michael Lerner of the New School, titled "Getting to Know James Hillman" and focusing on my biography of the archetypal psychologist published last year. Anyone interested in listening can go to this link
Here is the trailer for a new documentary by Shane O'Sullivan, "Killing Oswald," which premieres this week in Texas. It features yours truly and the whole show will be available soon on DVD. - Dick Russell
click here: Killing Oswald
My Internet radio interview with the Sync Book, on my biography of James Hillman, is now available for listening online...
click here: The Sync Book – 42 Minutes
My friend Homero Aridjis, Mexico's great poet and environmental activist, penned this tribute to Francisco "Pachico" Mayoral and the gray whales, for the Opinion page of the New York Times, October 31, 2013. - Dick Russell
Savior of the Whales
By HOMERO ARIDJIS
INTERNATIONAL NEW YORK TIMES: October 31, 2013
MEXICO CITY — Some 40 years ago a poor fisherman named Francisco Mayoral, who lived on the shores of San Ignacio Lagoon, halfway down the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, stretched out his hand to touch a gray whale that raised its head out of the water alongside his wooden panga.
Mr. Mayoral, who went by the nickname Pachico, would liken this milestone to the birth of his first child.
“I didn’t seek out the whale, she came to my boat,” he remembered. “I was fishing with my friend and suddenly the whale came out and curiosity got the better of me and I touched her gently and saw that nothing happened. The whale went under and came out on the other side of the boat and I felt more confident and I began to stroke her and rub her head, and nothing happened.”
This transcendental encounter was, sadly, not emblematic of the troubled relationship between humans and whales.
In the 19th century gray whales — which can reach a length of 50 feet and a weight of 35 tons — fought capture so fiercely that whalers dubbed them “devil-fish.” The whales were hunted nearly to extinction until the International Whaling Commission adopted a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Pachico helped to protect the whales by convincing other fishermen that they had nothing to fear from them. Soon they were ferrying tourists into the lagoon — the last pristine breeding and calving ground for thousands of gray whales that migrate every winter from their feeding grounds in the icy Arctic seas to the warm refuge of the lagoons and bays along the Baja California peninsula.
Pachico lived in a sand-floored hut with no electricity, phone service or mail delivery, but somehow, in 1994, he got information about a plan by Exportadora de Sal, an enterprise co-owned by the Mexican government and Mitsubishi, to build a giant salt-processing plant on the shores of the lagoon.
He passed this information on to an American graduate student studying gray whales, who called me from Baja.
The proposed plant would produce seven million tons of salt annually, flooding 116 square miles of tidal flats and dense mangroves and pumping 6,000 gallons of saltwater per second out of the lagoon.
Each month oceangoing freighters would dock at a mile-long pier jutting into Bahia de Ballenas (Whale Bay) — right in the path of whales heading for the lagoon — to take on salt brought by conveyor belts across the desert from evaporation ponds and a million-ton salt pile.
As head of the Group of 100, an association of artists and writers concerned about the environment, I denounced the project to the press, and then managed to get a copy of the project’s environmental impact assessment.
I was shocked to see that a mere 23 lines out of 465 pages were devoted to the gray whale.
Six days after I published an essay entitled “The Silence of the Whales” in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the government decided that the saltworks were incompatible with the conservation of the surrounding Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, which includes the lagoon.
But the company’s owners were not about to give up. They maintained that the project could be altered to accommodate the environmentalists’ concerns, and kept up their fight. Meanwhile, groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare joined our cause.
One evening in 1997, during a visit to the lagoon, a young fisherman told me that Pachico wanted to meet me. A grizzled man with leathery skin, he shyly took my hand and related his historic encounter with the whale.
He’d say to me, “Let’s go hunt whales, bring your binoculars, bring your camera, so you can take them away and leave them there.”
Caressing a gray whale is among the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
The Group of 100 was about to make public a petition to the Mexican government — signed by dozens of writers and artists, including numerous Nobel laureates — when, on March 2, 2000, President Ernesto Zedillo suddenly and grudgingly canceled the plan for the salt factory.
The fight to save San Ignacio Lagoon was the greatest environmental battle ever in Mexico, but it was not the last. Although conservationists working with the government have been able to protect 150 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of federal land around the lagoon, the gray whale is still threatened in its feeding grounds by offshore gas and oil development, and by climate change everywhere it swims.
Grass-roots activism has become more perilous in Mexico, as a result of the breakdown of the rule of law in areas where the drug cartels are influential. Some advocates have defended forests, farmlands and rivers at the cost of their own lives, with the killers never brought to justice.
On Oct. 22, Pachico, the man who used to say he would give his life to save a whale, died of a stroke at the age of 72.
This winter, when the gray whales return, his sons will be taking visitors out into the water to the thrill of watching up close — and, with luck, even touching — this magnificent creature with whom we share the oceans of the earth.
Homero Aridjis is a poet, novelist, environmentalist and former Mexican ambassador to Unesco. This essay was translated by Betty Ferber from the Spanish.
Guardian of the Gray Whales
FRANCISCO (PACHICO) MAYORAL, R.I.P.
“Pachico,” as he was known to all in the small village that surrounds Baja’s San Ignacio Lagoon, changed my life. He changed the lives of thousands who have journeyed in recent years to this magical place to see and even pet whales in the wild. The guardian of the lagoon, Pachico “called” the Eastern Pacific gray whales to us for a generation. In 1973 he’d been out fishing alone when a group of whales surrounded him and, overcoming his fear, Pachico reached out a hand. “It was like breaking through some kind of invisible wall,” he once told me, as he became the first human being known to have touched a whale in its habitat.
That moment marked the beginning of what’s today called “the friendly gray whale phenomenon” – their approaches to winter boatloads of visitors at the Mexican lagoon where they’ve been coming to give birth for millennia. Only a little more than a century earlier, the gray whales’ ancestors had fallen victim by the thousands to whalers’ harpoons. Now they responded, with unspoken forgiveness, to our outstretched hands.
I will always remember: Perhaps a hundred yards off our bow, a massive torpedo shape rises to the surface like an island being formed. Pachico, the wizened captain of our small motorized panga, cuts back on the throttle and begins a gradual approach. A fan-shaped geyser of seawater erupts ahead and subsides with a whoosh. As the whale dives, arching its heart-shaped flukes, a sparkling waterfall beckons us forward. Pachico leans over the side and starts rapping his knuckles in a rhythmic pattern against the boat’s metal hull.
Now, a mother-and-calf pair surges toward our panga. Weighing over thirty tons, ten times the size of a large elephant, the mother dwarfs our boat, and the calf is already about one-third her size. Either whale could overturn us with a mere flick of the tail. Yet I feel no trace of fear.
The mother, using her body as a natural breakwater, seems to be coaxing the young one toward us. Slowly, they make the rounds of awestruck people bent almost double over the sides. They are surprisingly soft to the touch. Amazingly, the whales enjoy the rubbing of the long, bristly baleen plates they use to ingest their food. The mother turns on her side and gazes upward, her baseball-sized eye appearing moonstone-blue, like that of some unfathomably old, unjudging god. The look penetrates to the very depth of my being.
Because of that moment, I looked at the wonders of nature with new eyes. And I wrote a book, Eye of the Whale, about following the migration of these majestic creatures from Baja to their Arctic feeding grounds.
On the morning of October 22, 2013, Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral died after suffering a stroke. He was probably in his mid-seventies. I received word from my friend Serge Dedina, founder of the WildCoast organization, who wrote in his Email tribute: “Pachico played a major role in uncovering the plans by ESSA/Mitsubishi to build a $180 million salt facility on the shore of Laguna San Ignacio, when he gave me and Emily the blueprints to the project in early 1994. It was a courageous act, considering that he lived in a wooden shack with sand floors at the edge of the Lagoon and helped to launch a campaign that 20 years later resulted in the protection of more than 300,000 acres of lagoon habitat. It was never quite clear to me how he obtained a fresh set of blueprints for the project since he didn't drive much, had no telephone, and his only way of communicating with the outside world was via radio.
“Whether he was assisting scientists or conservationists or inspiring his sons to continue the family business of conservation and ecotourism, Pachico’s insights into the Lagoon, the wildlife there (of which he was a keen observer) and its need for protection were invaluable.
“And we could always count on Pachico to provide a moving and inspiring quote about the need to conserve the Lagoon and its whales to the New York Times, LA Times and NBC News among other media outlets from around the world that featured his inspiring message of the need to live in harmony with whales and nature.
Here is a video from NBC Nightly News with Maria Celeste where Pachico was the subject of a story about ‘Making a Difference.’
“Here is how Pulitzer winning reporter Ken Weiss ended his feature story on Laguna San Ignacio:
Mayoral said the gray whales, once hunted nearly to extinction, have much to teach humans about resolving conflicts. After all these years, he marvels how the curious cetaceans behave, the mothers sometimes boosting their calves out of the water so tourists can scratch their heads or rub their baleen gums. "They were attacked by men and yet they look to get closer to people," Mayoral said. "That is a great lesson for all of us."
Other tributes began quickly coming in. Emily Young, of the San Diego Foundation, wrote: “Pachico was such a wonderful, kind, and generous man whose love for the lagoon, whales, and the many people who knew him was boundless – his spirit certain lives on in the hearts of all those who were fortunate enough to know him.”
Beto Bedolfe, Executive Director of the Marisla Foundation, wrote: “This is a sad day but what Pachico started will live on forever. He made an incredible contribution to saving whales and nature and making life better for people.”
Fay Crevoshay, Communications and Policy Director of Wildcoast, wrote: “Pachico will certainly be missed. He was a lovely person, a great story teller, and you could hear his free spirit and boundless love for nature, the lagoon and his whales in his inspiring stories.”
Joel Reynolds, Western Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote: “This is the end of an era at Laguna San Ignacio. Pachico is one of those rare people I will always be proud to say I met, worked with, and admired for what he did for the lagoon, its communities, and our world heritage.”
Thank you, Pachico. I know in my heart that the whales will miss you deeply, too. – Dick Russell.
My talk, as described below, will take place at the CG Jung Foundation in New York City, 28 East 39th Street. They do charge $70 for non-members to get in (Jung Foundation Members $55), but I hope that some of you might still be interested in attending.
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
James Hillman, is considered the founder of archetypal psychology, an important post-Jungian school of thought. With Hillman's authorization, Dick Russell has been working on his biography for more than seven years. Volume One of Russell's The Life and Ideas of James Hillman was published in June by Helios Press. This workshop will include the personal story of Russell's relationship with Dr. Hillman, and he will read a number of excerpts from the book, with particular emphasis on some of the critical experiences that led Hillman to Zurich to study with Jung and on the evolution of Hillman's relationship to Jung.
a daylong program led by Dick Russell
They Killed Our President!
My fifth book with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura is being published by Skyhorse this week. "They Killed Our President! 63 Reasons to Believe There was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK" is a collaborative effort between the governor, myself, and David Wayne. It coincides with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's death on November 22, and leaves no stone unturned in revealing that more than one gunman was involved.
I'll be speaking at two conferences, LANCER and COPA, in Dallas come November. Gov. Ventura will be appearing on numerous national and local TV and radio programs, including Piers Morgan on October 1. (see the tour schedule below)
- Dick Russell
Recently I made my debut as a "talking head" on the Web-based weekly talk show, Buzzsaw, hosted by Tyrel Ventura on LipTV. For this episode, about 40 minutes long, we talked about Syria, economic inequality, 9/11, and climate change.
- Dick Russell
MY BIOGRAPHY OF JAMES HILLMAN
The first volume of my new book, "The Life and Ideas of James Hillman," is being published in June by Helios Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Volume one of the biography is sub-titled "The Making of a Psychologist." This is the result of more than seven years of research, and I hope that even those with even a passing interest in psychology will find it of interest. I'll be updating here concerning my appearances, reviews, etc. Meantime, please check out the book cover, the publisher's press release, and an announcement concerning my upcoming lecture at the Jung Institute in Los Angeles. - Dick Russell.
The Winter of the Monarch
by Lincoln P. Brower and Homero Aridjis
In 2000, I visited the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico with Homero Aridjis, Lincoln Brower, and others. It was one of the most memorable experiences I've had in recent years - the stunning beauty of millions of these wondrous creatures festooned in the trees above us. As this piece in the New York Times by Homero and Lincoln demonstrates, the future existence of the monarchs - surely one of the great natural wonders of our planet - is theatened in several ways. This is a tragedy, and calls for action, especially on the front that Americans can fight: the proliferation of genetically modified organisms.
- Dick Russell
50 Reasons For 50 years
Recently Len Osanic interviewed me about my research into the Kennedy assassination, as part of his ongoing series "50 Reasons for 50 Years." I hope you'll check out his five-minute YouTube video.
- Dick Russell
December 20, 2012
Bottom of Food Chain is Top Priority
by Dick Russell
On behalf of a little baitfish that’s not consumed by humans, it was amazing to witness 350-plus fishermen gathered in a Baltimore hotel conference room on Dec. 14. The 15-member Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) had come together to decide, at long last, whether to regulate the annual harvest of Atlantic menhaden. Over 150 people from eight states, including 18 from four Massachusetts fishing organizations, were on hand. So were dozens of workers from Virginia’s Omega Protein Corporation, whose “reduction” fishery in the Chesapeake Bay accounts for 85 per cent of all the menhaden landings.
Menhaden are a vital link in the ocean food chain, a major food source for striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds. As menhaden numbers have plummeted, striped bass are suffering from malnutrition and bacterial disease. Omega Protein’s is the largest fishery on the Atlantic coast and, until now their political clout had forestalled any effective menhaden management. Scooping up thousands of metric tons of menhaden to be cooked and crushed into fish oil and livestock feed, the 125-year-old company’s take is primarily responsible for a 90 per cent population decline in recent decades.
This year, after ASMFC scientists finally declared menhaden overfished and that overfishing is continuing, a record 128,333 comments flooded the agency. The majority of these called for cutting the allowable catch in half. In Baltimore, Massachusetts fisheries director David Pierce set the meeting’s tone by declaring that “ecological objectives should be first and foremost.” The initial vote then shifted the management regime toward achieving maximum spawning potential; as things had stood, 65 per cent of the menhaden were being removed before they’d had even one chance to spawn.
Shortly before noon, as the board members took up the question of whether and how much to reduce landings, dozens of fishermen left their seats and stood to face them, holding aloft yellow signs listing their home state above the words “I support Menhaden Conservation!” They were quickly joined by Omega Protein men wearing union T-shirts, and the atmosphere was tense. The company has claimed that any curtailing of its catch would mean two of its eight remaining factory ships going into drydock, with accompanying loss of jobs. This is despite revenues of $78 million in Omega’s latest quarterly report, the highest in its history. “This is not about jobs, but about the fish!” someone in the crowd shouted. At one point, an ASMFC official threatened to clear the room.
While Virginia fishery officials tried at every turn to postpone action or keep it minimal, Massachusetts led the charge toward ecosystem-based management. David Pierce introduced a motion calling for a 25 per cent reduction in landings. Given uncertainty about the latest stock assessment, a compromise 20 per cent reduction was eventually voted in — which will give Omega Protein a quota of 170,800 metric tons. That, most conservationists agreed, doesn’t go far enough — but it’s considered a big step toward curtailing an industry that’s been unlimited for decades.
“It’s good,” said Patrick Paquette of the Massachusetts Striped Bass Association, “because given the high menhaden landings in 2012, it’s more like a 28 per cent reduction from that. A year ago, I thought we’d get maybe a 10 to 15 per cent reduction.” Bill Goldsborough of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation called what happened “a tremendous move in the right direction, though they had plenty of reasons to go further. These [Omega] guys have a standard m.o. of confuse-and-delay, while they keep hoping for a good year class. But guess what? They haven’t seen one for 20 years.” Ken Hinman of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation was also pleased with an outcome showing that “menhaden are not just a commodity, but have an ecosystem role.”
But Jim Price of the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation pointed out that the measure fails to address the fact that striped bass historically feed on juvenile menhaden, which have made up 43 per cent of Omega’s catch over the past six years. If that trend continues, stripers will continue to feed heavily on blue crab and white perch in their Chesapeake spawning grounds, and show diminished amounts of body fat in the fall. “You won’t believe what bad shape the Chesapeake Bay is in. With the 2011 big year-class of striped bass, a lot of those fish are stunted in growth,” Mr. Price said.
H. Bruce Franklin, whose book The Most Important Fish in the Sea raised national awareness about the menhaden, said simply of Omega Protein: “This is an industry that should not be allowed to exist. There is no rational justification for it.”
The big day in Baltimore marked a start, but whether it will result in an improvement for the menhaden situation remains very much an open question. The next stock assessment won’t happen until 2014. Until then, the managers voted to let Omega Protein continue to grab 85 per cent of the allocated fish, while bait fisheries in all of the other states split the rest. “This is just wrong,” Wellfleet fisherman John Duane said afterward. “Because you’ve got somebody pillaging a resource for so long, they get rewarded for their huge recent landings?”
LEGITIMACY OF THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM
|My longtime friend Randy Foote, who teaches political science at Roxbury Community College in Boston, recently gave a talk at MIT titled "Legitimacy of the U.S. Election System." As you will see, this is more of a question than a declarative statement. Harkening back to the idealism he knew as a Harvard student in the late 1960s, moving through the questionable election of George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, on to the current election and the threat of another possible theft by the Republican-controlled electronic voting machines, Foote's talk offers food-for-thought. - Dick Russell|
Click here: LEGITIMACY OF THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM
THE RUSSELL ARCHIVES
I have begun boxing up and donating a vast collection of research materials that I've gathered over the years in writing hundreds of articles and ten books. My extensive collection related to the Kennedy assassination and recent American history is going to Baylor University, which already has amassed material from numerous researchers in the field. (See www.baylor.edu/lib/poage) Files related to my book on "Black Genius" will be going to Northeastern University in Boston. My papers related to striped bass and fisheries conservation, utilized for my book "Striper Wars," are available at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. See the following link:
Click here: Finding aid for the Richard B. Russell striped bass and environmental journalism papers
NOT AN ACT OF GOD
My good friend Ross Gelbspan, author of two path-breaking books about climate change, has written a powerful piece about the impact of Hurricane Sandy and has given me permission to put it on my website. Go to www.heatisonline.org to keep up with Ross's up-to-the-minute postings on the climate crisis.
read: Not an act of God
November 1, 2012
BILLFISH CONSERVATION ACT
In the 1980s, along with some ocean activist friends, I made the rounds of a number of seafood restaurants in the Boston area. If we found any that served marlin on the menu – even if the fish came from a far-away place – we made a big stink. We demanded to see the manager and not-so-politely informed the restaurateur that marlin along the Eastern seaboard were endangered and that they should stop buying marlin from anywhere and take them off the menu immediately.
Generally, the restaurant manager was apologetic but defended himself by claiming that these were striped marlin from Hawaii – not white or blue marlin being taken from the Atlantic. We continued to insist, because after all, how could you really tell the difference? Besides, it was a matter of good conscience. Why create a taste for this beautiful billfish, where there hadn’t been one before?
Massachusetts did end up outlawing any sale of marlin caught in the Atlantic Ocean, and we considered that a big victory at the time. In 1989, sale of Atlantic-caught billfish was prohibited by the Federal government, and later so was any sale of striped marlin caught off the West Coast. But America remained the largest buyer in the world of foreign-caught billfish – importing a staggering 30,000 Pacific marlin and other billfish every year, along with black market fish taken from the Atlantic. These continued to be sold in mainland restaurants and seafood markets.
And populations of marlin continued to plummet. A global assessment made in 2011 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed white, blue, and striped marlin as threatened species. The only way they could recover, said the IUCN, was to reduce fishing pressure.
The U.S. has finally taken a step to do just that. Remarkably, bipartisan support in both houses of Congress resulted in passage of the Billfish Conservation Act. President Obama signed the Act into law in October, effectively banning the importation of any and all billfish into the continental U.S.
Ken Hinman, whose National Coalition for Marine Conservation had organized a nationwide “Take Marlin off the Menu” campaign, called this “a tremendous victory for these highly migratory species. Marlin, sailfish, and spearfish do not know country boundaries and travel through three of the planet’s oceans. Giving them greater protection in the United States sets the stage for better protection worldwide.”
It took more than twenty years since my friends and I invaded the restaurant scene, but what we helped put in motion finally happened. In Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea, the aging fisherman Santiago had said of the huge marlin that he’d battled: “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother.” Now, thanks to the action taken by our federal government, the noble marlin and its brethren may yet survive the greed of humankind.
Oct. 11, 2012 - The Kennedy Assassination: New Developments
Sep. 11, 2012 - The Madness of Drilling in the Chukchi Sea
Aug. 30, 2012 - Striped Bass: A Grim Update
Feb. 05, 2011 - Of Whales and Fish
Feb. 25, 2010 - Toward a New Policy for the Oceans
From a young climate activist colleague, Yoni Binstock:
"I've recently added a new feature to the Climate Scores website where I've graded the Presidential candidates on how they stand on climate change."
| On the day that I wrote the following "Commentary" op-ed for the Martha's Vineyard Gazette, extremely troubling news came from the Chesapeake Bay. The annual young-of-the-year index of juvenile striped bass, completed this fall, determined that spawning success of the fish in 2012 fell to the lowest level ever recorded in the 35-year history of the survey. Maryland officials blamed the poor results on weather, a warm winter and dry spring. Nothing was said about a declining striper population due to lack of enough nutritional food, specifically menhaden. Why not?
October 18, 2012
Menhaden Harvest as Fish Oil Jeopardizes Ocean Food Chain
by Dick Russell
For centuries, probably millennia, the small, oily fish known as Atlantic menhaden have been the protein-filled food of choice for striped bass and many other large species in our waters. Fishermen call them pogeys or bunker, often using them as bait to entice stripers to their lines. Menhaden were once so abundant that early Americans spoke of them swimming in schools upwards of 25 miles long. Today, more menhaden are pulled from the sea — between a quarter and half a billion pounds a year — than any other fish in the continental U.S., primarily to be ground up into fish meal for aquaculture and fish oil for vitamin supplements. Eighty per cent of those menhaden are netted by a single Virginia-based company, Omega Protein, the last of the “reduction industry” fleet. And the toll has been huge. Since 1983, the fish’s numbers have declined by a staggering 88 per cent.
Which means that the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, where menhaden play a crucial role as a filter feeder on algae, is suffering. And that increasing numbers of emaciated and bacterially-diseased striped bass are going hungry. And that bait fishermen, who provide menhaden for lobster pots and anglers, are hurting economically.
That’s the message being sounded at a series of public hearings currently being held in states across the Eastern seaboard, leading toward a Dec. 14 meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) where stronger regulations on the allowable catch of menhaden are finally being considered. On Tuesday night in Bourne, some 30 residents came to voice their concerns and listen to Massachusetts fisheries officials describe “a sense of urgency.” This was somewhat heartening, considering that the ASMFC has long resisted taking any action that would affect Omega Protein’s bottom line...
complete article here
Click for more...
Climate Scores... where Congressmen are scored
on climate change legislation
including bills and amendments on
renewable energy, climate change mitigation, subsidies and tax policies, and greenhouse gas regulation.
Mexico Cancels Controversial Baja Resort Project
- This announcement by Mexico's President Calderon represents a huge victory for environmental activists fighting to stop a mega-resort development proposed for one of the most productive coral reefs left in the world. My friends and I, who have a residence not far away on Baja's Sea of Cortez, were very involved in the battle against a Spanish development outfit, Hansa Urbana. So were Mexico's great poet and environmental leader, Homero Aridjis, along with the NRDC and Wildcoast organizations as well as local groups from Cabo Pulmo. This is the most important grassroots achievement in Mexico since President Zedillo cancelled the proposed saltworks at the gray whales' pristine birthing habitat in Laguna San Ignacio in 2000, a story recounted in my book "Eye of the Whale." - Dick Russell
Click here: Mexico Cancels Controversial Baja Resort Project - ABC News
New From Homero Aridjis
"The Sun, the Moon, and Walmart"
My friend, the Mexican poet/environmentalist Homero Aridjis, has just released through his Group of 100 organization a petition signed by more than 150 writers and artists from 30 countries, asking Mexican President Felipe Calderon to cancel gold and silver mining concessions granted to Canadian companies in Wirikuta, the sacred territory of the Huichol people. The survival of Huichol culture is at stake. - Dick Russell
petitions: Writers Intellectuals
Dick Russell has been added to the roster of clients of the AEI Speakers Bureau. For anyone interested in booking a speaking engagement to hear Dick on any of several topics, here's a link to their website: www.aeispeakers.com
TESTIMONY OF DICK RUSSELL
Author, Striper Wars
H796, An Act relative to the conservation of Atlantic striped bass
Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture
January 14, 2010
I thank you for allowing me to testify today on what I believe is an urgent conservation measure, vital to preserving for our children and grand-children the most magnificent fish that swims our near-shore waters. I am an environmental journalist and the author of six books, including one called Striper Wars, about the fish that is the subject of this hearing. And today I hope to offer some historical perspective, along with the reasons why H796 needs to be passed during the current legislative session.
Striped bass have been called the aquatic equivalent of the American bald eagle. Without Native Americans having taught the Pilgrims about how to take striped bass, they would not have survived their first difficult winters in the Plymouth Colony. Protection of striped bass was the reason for America’s very first conservation law, in 1639, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony general court ruled they were too valuable to be ground up and used for fertilizer. The first fishery management measures, in 1776, were also drawn up on the striper’s behalf...
complete article here
Published June 23rd, 2005...
Dick Russell's latest book:
An American Fish Story
The remarkable story of how one species was brought back from the brink of extinction only to face new and even more daunting threats...
When populations of striped bass began plummeting in the early 1980s, author and fisherman Dick Russell was there to lead an Atlantic coast conservation campaign that resulted in one of the most remarkable wildlife comebacks in the history of fisheries. As any avid fisherman will tell you, the striped bass has long been a favorite at the American dinner table; in fact, we've been feasting on the fish from the time of the Pilgrims. By 1980 that feasting had turned to overfishing by commercial fishing interests. Striper Wars is Dick Russell's inspiring account of the people and events responsible for the successful preservation of one of America's favorite fish and of what has happened since...
Click here for more...
hardcover: 288 pages / Island Press Shearwater Books (June 23, 2005)
Now in Paperback!
Eye of the Whale
"Once in a while, a book comes along that redefines its subject to the extent that most previous works immediately become obsolete. Eye of the Whale is such a book...it will change the way you think about the natural world."
RICHARD ELLIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Named a Best Book of the Year by three major newspapers upon its initial publication, and now available for the first time in paperback, Eye of the Whale offers an exhilarating blend of adventure and natural history as Dick Russell follows the migration of the gray whale from Mexico's Baja peninsula to the Arctic's Bering Strait.
Click here for more...
Paperback: 688 pages / Island Press Shearwater Books (September 20, 2004)
In this collection of essays and interviews journalist Dick Russell examines the role of African Americans through two centuries of American history. He focuses primarily on the role of blacks in the cultural life of the United States. Russell writes about notable figures such as educator Mary McLeod Bethune, speaks with Harvard professor Cornel West about W. E. B. Du Bois, and discusses Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin in an essay titled "Timeless Voices, Parallel Realities." Black Genius and the American Experience, with an introduction by Alvin F. Poussaint, takes a thoughtful and fascinating look at the contributions to U.S. history made by Americans of African descent.
Click here for more...
Paperback: 497 pages / Carroll & Graf Publishers (February 1, 1999)