Archive for June, 2012

Mountain Water Respite

June 22, 2012

People ask why I need to spend so much time hiking in the mountains. Because water is so central to our health, I read constantly about conditions the world over that threaten our water supply and our access to clean water.  I read about the persistent way US corporations like Bechtel have gutted rivers in India with dams and reservoirs, destroying farmlands and natural means of irrigation that have worked for centuries. Bechtel and others have stolen livelihoods and left poor people not only without enough drinking water, our most basic right, but no water for all the cooking, bathing, and general use we take for granted.

 When I see the video of a 5 year old girl balancing a 4 gallon container on her head to carry the long way home, or mothers holding infants staring with vacant, starved eyes, I despair at the helplessness I feel to stop the carnage.

 When I read that Jenna Bush was sent to Paraguay to seal the Bush family deal to buy 100,000 acres of land sitting on the biggest aquifer in South America, I realize that our service people are being set up for water wars just as they were for oil wars.

 And I head for the Falling Waters Trail or Gorge Brook, or Smart’s Brook to savor the sounds, smells, and sights of clear running water. I can still carry two liters of clean water from my kitchen tap. I wonder how much longer we’ll enjoy these luxuries in New Hampshire. How long will I be able to enjoy Bunchberry plants lining the paths of the mountains and abundantly filling the upper slopes? How long will we be able to count on the White-throated Sparrow’s song in the high peaks?

 Bechtel’s same water scenario is being played out in the James Bay area (also a Bechtel contract) by Hydro Quebec. Home to 80,000 indigenous people, on not exactly ‘uninhabited’ land, 6,000 people have been displaced by dams and their reservoirs. Even more have lost their income from fishing and wilderness guiding. And we haven’t begun to talk about irretrievable damage to the ecosystem in general.

 People say, “Oh, that’s Quebec’s problem.” But, in order for Quebec to continue to thrive on the income they make at the expense of their own indigenous people and their once beautiful province, they now want to share the destruction with New Hampshire. They went overboard destroying their own environment and now have an overload of energy. A vote for Northern Pass is a vote for corporate wealth gained on the backs of poor people. It’s no different than what Bechtel is doing in India and we haven’t begun to see the long term effects of scale in store for us.

 Bolivia demonstrates for us that if enough people actively pursue their rights, they will be able to claim them as Bolivia’s people did by kicking out Bechtel, which was robbing them blind of their water rights. Hopefully, NH citizens will learn from their ordeal as our rights are threatened, and now, more than ever, we need to be on the alert and band together to claim those rights. We can no longer say that we didn’t know or weren’t warned.

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Here’s to Franconia Ridge and No Waste!

June 16, 2012

On Friday, I parked at Lafayette Place in Franconia Notch and started hiking up Falling Waters Trail. I passed three types of granite: white, pink, and gray, depending on what combination of feldspar and quartz variations it held.  Falling waters made the colors more vivid, especially the pink granite.

 I was suddenly living in that world McDonough and Braungart wrote about in their book, Cradle-to-Cradle. Their theory is that “in order for humans to prosper, we will have to learn to imitate nature’s highly effective cradle-to-cradle system of nutrient flow and metabolism, in which the very concept of waste does not exist.”  The idea is for us to figure out how to live like a tree that completes its life cycle by providing rich soil for new life.

 Perhaps what draws so many of us to hike in the mountains is that they are a place where the world looks fresh and waste does not exist – a positive boon today.

 When I began hiking in the Whites, there was plenty of trash on the trails and behind every lean-to. As far back as 30 years ago, as AMC members, we all carried, and filled, a small trash bag to carry out on every hike. Eventually, “leave no trace” and “carry out what you carry in” slogans became a way of life on the trails. Today, whatever rare trash I find usually fits into a pocket.  Hiking is truly a way to experience the good life!

 My plan was to check out the Diapensia on Haystack Mountain and return the way I came. Due to an early spring, the little white 5 petal ground huggers had already left without a blooming trace. But, the sky was so clear we could see mountain ranges around us forever. Maybe there would be a few diapensia blooming higher up if I went over the ridge and down the Bridle Path.

 The ridge is a leisurely trail running from Haystack, gaining elevation as it rolls north over Mt. Lincoln to Mt. Lafayette. Near Lincoln, I found a few Diapensia stems and spent blossoms and sure enough, just before Lafayette, a small community of sweet blossoms greeted me! Because Diapensia only grows in high mountain areas where they are exposed to all the extremes of weather, people come here from all over the world to see them in June usually. The amazing thing about them is that they can withstand hail, sleet, ice, wind; yet, one carelessly planted heel can wipe out a little patch that took 30 years to grow! 

There were lots of people on the ridge, including a well chaperoned group of 42 school kids from Quebec and 15 UNH hikers continuing on the Appalachian Trail to Galehead, but at no time did I feel crowded. There was plenty of room for everyone. At the summit, I remembered the day my granddaughter and I joined this raven for a long pause  to inhale the spectacular view east, including Mt.Washington.

Hiking out the Bridal Path from Lafayette, I passed the place that was once an open rock area with a circle of sitting logs where I celebrated finishing the 48 4000 footers with friends 29 years ago. The logs have completed their cycle and are part of the duff that inspired a robust stand of spruce to now claim that space.

And my mind raced to what would happen if I didn’t bring anything home that would end up in the wastebasket when no longer useful? There’d be no need for a landfill. What if everything I used could eventually be recycled or laid on the compost so there was no waste, like a tree, that lies down to enrich the ground for generations to come.