The Weather

Bum Logic: Yer A-Trespassin’ on My Dirt Farm

This is the fifth installment in Peter’s “Bum Logic” series, about his investigation into our inadvertent complicity in climate change, continued from his last post, The World is a Trout.

Iconoclast: noun

1 – a breaker or destroyer of images, especially those set up for religious veneration.

2 – a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition.

 Pundit: noun

1 – a learned person, expert, or authority.

2 – a person who makes comments or judgments, especially in an authoritative manner; critic or commentator.

I’d returned to the dictionary. I was feeling uncomfortable with my thoughts, my actions. I’d just watched the election night orgasm. It had sent chills down my spine.

I watched the election in the student cafe at CalArts, on a TV hung high up on the wall, like the one in the movie about flying over a cuckoo clock. As time passed and drinks dwindled, it became evident that Obama had won the majority vote. It also became evident that Romney had far more supporters than a rational mind could fathom his irrational mind meriting. To his credit he was conciliatory in his concession speech.

But what shook me most was witnessing people’s garish displays of happiness. It put R.E.M.’s It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine, in my mental music box, followed by the Pixies’ With your feet in the air and your head on the ground / Try this trick and spin it, yeah / Your head will collapse / But there’s nothing in it / And you’ll ask yourself / Where is my mind?

With time, my anxiety dwindled and was replaced by self-analysis. Why did I feel so shitty? Because the person I voted for, Jill Stein, had been arrested days earlier and even that drama had not earned her a minute on the evening news.

Stein was arrested in Winnsboro, Texas. She was charged with trespassing. She had been delivering food to individuals living in trees. The folks in the trees were participating in what was known as, and might still be, the Keystone XL Blockade.

Keystone XL refers to a pipeline, one that if actualized would transport crude oil from the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta, Canada, to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico and eventual combustion. The prospective builders of the pipeline—a company by the name of TransCanada—must clear trees from their intended path. People who do not want that path to open are inhabiting the trees, trespassing in the conventional sense, because they find that crime to pale in comparison to the crime of allowing more oil to be brought to market. Such action is known as non-violent direct action.

Texas has a reputation. It isn’t one that is friendly towards trespassing. When I think of it, I think of a Simpsons from my youth where Cletus, the slack-jawed, shotgun toting, lovable yokel, informs Homer, the archetypal American Father Figure, “Yer a-trespassing on my dirt farm.”

Martyrdom: noun

1 – a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.

2 – a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: a martyr to the cause of social justice.

The TransCanada goons are well behaved, for now. They won’t be filling the blockaders with buckshot, as Cletus would. Their commanding officers still have the folly of the segregationist South fresh in mind. They know that the Civil Rights Movement never would have become capable of commanding legislative momentum if not for martyrdom, if not for violence done to the seemingly peaceful, if not for acts such as the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, snuffing out the lights of four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair. Acts that resonated unconscionably with statements coming less than a week earlier from the governor of that state: “To stop integration Alabama needs a few first-class funerals.”

Also the TransCanada folks are likely aware of the irony, the double entendre, present in Miss Stein’s trespass. The instigators of this Revolutionary Union chose to base their ongoing upheaval upon the tenets of Life, Liberty, and Property. The last of that triumvirate they coined “happiness,” and I suspect that euphemism was an attempt to obfuscate the ongoing genocidal slaughter of indigenous peoples. Property. Proprietary. Proper. Appropriate. The revolutionary instigators knew property was important, valuable. They had felt that value because for them it had become scarce. The king had prohibited the westward expansion of the colonies. He had also housed his army, in a time of perceived peace, on and in the instigator’s habitats. That value was forgotten less than a generation after the defrocking of the Anglican Pontiff because the continent’s tillable soil seemed to be without limit, renewable. So a farmer could raise his son in Virginia and then send the boy west to Kentucky or Kansas to sow his wild oats as best the adolescent could. Well the value of land is being recollected now, thanks to the behavior of fools every bit as nostalgic and cynically inbred as royalty, fools such as TransCanada.

Pollution is trespass.

Not long ago, there was a reported nationwide Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) scare. A recall was posted in an attempt to mitigate any inconvenience:

Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle said the recall is limited to a single lot of its Field Fresh Wrapped Single Head Romaine that was available at retail stores starting Aug. 2. The company said some 2,095 cases were potentially affected. Of those, 1,969 cases were shipped to Puerto Rico and the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[1]

What wasn’t reported was details of the havoc E. Coli can wreak:

Incubation: People get sick 3 to 4 days after swallowing the organism, on average (within 2 to 8 days possible).
Symptoms: Most people infected develop diarrhea (usually watery and often bloody) and abdominal cramps.
Resolution: Most illnesses resolve on their own within 7 days.
Complications: Rarely, a severe infection called Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can begin as diarrhea is improving. HUS, a type of kidney failure, is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly, and can lead to serious kidney damage or death.[2]

Reports also didn’t provide the rationale behind the recall other than to say it was based on “the testing of a random sample by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”[3] Well I can assure you, the Canucks didn’t shit on the spinach. E. Coli lives in the digestive tracts of many mammals. It is a bacterium. Outbreaks are rare because the majority of the time that the bacteria contaminates food, it contaminates meat. Meat is normally cooked prior to serving and E. Coli dies when exposed to temperatures exceeding 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, not many people are in the habit of cooking their salads, which is okay because at least to date salad has not normally been contaminated with E. Coli. But with the advent of mass bovine feedlots coupled with changing climates—e.g. the aridization of previously moist environments—more doo-doo is becoming dust. That doo-doo dust can be picked up by wind and deposited on neighboring, irrigated fields of leafy greens. Which are packaged fresh.

Now I beg the question: Is the aerosolization and subsequent mobilization of cow poo an act of colonization, an act of trespass? Yes.

Now I beg the question: Is there any significant difference between E. Coli laden cow poo and carbon dioxide? Yes: carbon dioxide poisoning is more dangerous and more ubiquitous. And the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t putting more cow poo in the atmosphere.

I suspect Jill Stein will be exonerated by the judiciary of Winnsboro and venerated by future historians. Acts like hers and those of the tree dwellers are truly demonstrations of homeland security. I hope that Winnsboro also attempts to prosecute TransCanada for trespassing on our presents and futures.

But after all that analysis, I still felt antsy. I wanted to demonstrate homeland security, too. I wanted to prosecute TransCanada, or force them to martyr me. But Texas was a twenty-four-hour drive away. So I looked around. I checked my email.


[1] http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/08/19/california-company-recalls-lettuce-over-e-coli-fears/

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/Features/EcoliInfection/

[3] http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/08/19/california-company-recalls-lettuce-over-e-coli-fears/

Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.