Following Up and Following Down: November 2015

In addition attempting to digest an outsize Thanksgiving supper, WC has been working on the monthly look back at updates, minor news that didn’t make a post, and the usual mish-mash of stuff that happened to catch WC’s eye. Plus, it’s good to nod at journalism at least once a month. As always, the Magpie Principle applies.

WC wrote earlier this month of the environmental consequences of the failure of two tailings dams in Brazil. The toxic sludge from those spills, containing mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese, has traveled 500 kilometers (310 miles) downstream, reaching the Atlantic Ocean. 11 deaths are so far confirmed, and 15 people are still missing. Over 600 others had their homes washed away, as the wall of water, toxins and mud ripped through their villages. No one knows the impact that the toxic sludge will have on the wildlife in the Atlantic. Environmentalists are worried that if the winds and tides take the toxic mud north, then the Abrolhos Marine National Park could be at risk. The park contains an archipelago of islands and reefs that are a hotspot for marine life, including turtles, dolphins and whales. Try not to imagine a similar chain of events in Bristol Bay.

Billionaire Bob Gillam still isn’t getting any respect. His RBG Bush Planes was caught by the Alaska Public Offices Commission giving deeply discounted plane rides to Billionaire Bob’s candidates for the Lake and Peninsula Borough Assembly. He was fined $25,500, $10,668 in adjudication and investigation costs, and $19,100 in attorney’s fees. APOC may have been a little tougher on him because he’s a repeat offender. Billionaire Bob appealed the conviction and the fine all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court. Where he lost. Again. Billionaire Bob also claimed that APOC is biased against him. Well, APOC may be tired of dealing with him; that owuld be understandable. But the Alaska Supreme Court didn’t buy that whinge, either. It’s more proof, if we neeeded any, that APOC is too important and serves too critical a role to be shafted by the Republican majority caucus.

The United Nations, on the eve of the Paris climate summit, issued a report that documents a frightening increase in the number of natural disasters world-wide. According to the U.N., weather-related disasters in the past two decades have killed more than 600,000 people and caused trillions of dollars in economic losses. The U.N. Warned that the frequency and impact of such disasters is only going to increase. In total, an average of 335 weather-related disasters were recorded per year between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14% from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995. Of course, Rep. Lamar Smith doesn’t think any of this is happening, so that makes it all right.

Several of you have written, taking WC to task for leaving Alaska. WC reminds his readers again that WC needs just two things to be reasonably content: birds to photograph and light with which to photograph them. WC has written about the birds in his backyard; readers should also be aware that Boise, Idaho had nine and a half hours of daylight right now; Fairbanks had less than five. And the Idaho light is the real stuff, not the gloomy, low angle glimmer you can’t even feel on your skin that afflicts Fairbanks this time of the year. Several more of you have written telling WC that as a nonresident he has no business commenting on Alaska politics. WC’s six decades of Alaska experience didn’t vanish when WC left the state. About all that has changed is that WC can’t cast his vote in Alaska in a mostly futile attempt to effect change.1 But if it really bothers you that WC continues to tilt at Alaska windmills, stop reading.

The climate summit get under way in Paris, France tomorrow. WC is cautiously optimistic that the 140-plus national leaders will be more successful at curbing greenhouse gas emissions than in the past, and will be more honest than, say, your average U.S. Republican congress person. It’s kind of the last chance to avoid truly catastrophic climactic changes.

Finally, yesterday was the 7th Anniversary of Wickersham’s Conscience. More than 2,450 blog posts. Over three quarters of a million views. How very strange.

WC needs to go rake leaves before the snow buries them. Boise styles itself the “City of Trees;” this time of year it’s better described as “the City of Leaves.”  And, yeah, they get recycled.

  1. Even the business about WC’s elective franchise is clouded. The Alaska Supreme Court has thoroughly muddled who is a “resident” for purposes of voting. See generally Lake & Peninsula Borough Assembly v. Oberlatz