Societal disconnect

Two events that I’ve attended recently in Belfast, the informational  meeting about the salmon “farm” and "The Age of Consequences" movie at the Colonial, have added more fuel to my sense of wonder, and alarm. Specifically I wonder about where we are headed as a society in this lovely place and what our collective vision is. In pondering this I’ve felt outrage, cynicism, ineptness, sadness and most probably depression. My wish here is to offer a heartfelt contrast to these feelings and some exciting ideas.

It is clear to me that doing what we’ve been doing the last many decades — in part capitalism, fossil fuel dependence and the diminishing of a vibrant rural life — is not providing or leading us to a place of happiness and joy, but instead offering up uncertainty, apathy, disillusionment and fear, with side dressings of disuse, disrepair, blight and disease.

There are numerous crises around our world and I’m certain that most of you could name those that are directly affecting you. I feel that my experience of the two events listed above can lead to questions worth asking and maybe different answers for us collectively.

After listening to the eminently likable CEO of the fish tank business, I do not find the idea of a very large, high-tech corporate fish enterprise in our region appealing. I find “very large” “high tech” “corporate” “tank farm” to be the exact opposite of what is called for in these times.

Then, during the discussion after "The Age of Consequences" movie, a new solar array project in Belfast was being touted. Meanwhile, Belfast continues to market itself as a tourist and retirement destination actively encouraging any and all to drive on up here from everywhere.

In an effort for some businesses to operate “capitalism as usual,” we are encouraging a mass migration of “vacationers.” So the city will put heat pumps in while having vast influxes of people driving around as they wish, with city sanction.

I find green attempts and initiatives coupled with simultaneous fossil fuel continuance deeply disturbing. There is a societal disconnect here. High-tech gadgets made with nonrenewable materials mined or stolen from other nations is not a rational sustainable proposition, no matter how “green” it sounds.

In contrast, how different would our county look and feel if all of the unused, worn out farmland was reclaimed and renovated with sheep, pasture-raised broilers and county-grown grains? Can we imagine a number of new abattoirs and tanneries and the renewing of a woolen industry? And how about a countywide forestry and firewood initiative geared toward using resources that are currently being ignored or wasted?

Any of this and so much more would provide work for many more people than this salmon corporation will. This would be work that could definitely be done by those of us who live and eat here. We are now experiencing a resurgence of farming among young people in our county. What would it be like for us to scale this up with a much larger segment of our population working to enhance this and adding many more ancillary businesses and co-ops to this blossoming of rural life and splendor?

Can we now recognize the calamity of capitalism rooted in “me, mine” and create something different? Living simply and working close to or at home with our neighbors, providing much more of our basic needs for ourselves would be radical in these times.

Creating many small-scale, site-appropriate, low-tech, non-polluting, people-powered endeavors could lead to an economy of neighbors being neighborly. People inhabiting the places where we live, a community rooted in the land — a beautiful community.

Let’s do this, neighbors.

Matthew Scala


A deal for dog owners

Dear Dog Owners:

The City of Belfast has taken great care to create beautiful accessible parks for use by the public to walk in, sit in, picnic in, etc. It has a dog park for dogs and Sportsman's Park where dogs can also visit, unleashed, and many miles of coastline where for three seasons a year they can run unleashed; and then of course there is one's own property or other private land.

Please, consider leaving walking trails such as the Steamboat Landing Walking path available for humans to walk, unhindered by dogs. As an older person, I walk for my health; as is the way with many elders, this is a very important and inexpensive way to keep diabetes and weight in check.

In the last 10 days, many when snow was still on the ground, I went down, parking by the Boathouse and started my walk, sometimes with a grandson helping, sometimes with a cane, sometimes free-standing. One day an unleashed dog bounded all the way from French and Webb to the Boathouse, at me until I raised my cane, horizontally, and called "halt," then the owner called him from far away. I suggested the dog should be leashed and she waved a leash at me as if having it in her hand controlled the dog in my face.

A few days later my grandson and I were walking and the folks with dogs would not move off the path so we had to step, cane and all, into the snow to let the dogs pass. And a third time I was walking behind a lady with a stroller and we all had to step in the snow, stroller, baby and all, so dogs could pass…all this within a 10-day period.

So, let's make a deal: I promise neither I nor my helpers will jump on your dog, lick its face, sniff at inappropriate body parts or knock it down if you will show us the same courtesy. Thank you.

Aynne Ames


Ramrodding plans

Don’t Call it ANWR — it’s a refuge.

No matter what the public thought about protests against the Keystone XL pipeline up until last year, at least people had a chance to weigh in, to examine arguments for and against. At least oil developers had to produce an environmental impact statement with time for scientists, government officials, stakeholders and others to respond.

Now there is no time. The Trump administration is ramrodding its plans to mine and drill just about anyplace it can, from up and down all our coastlines, to national parks and monuments, and now to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge has been in the GOP’s crosshairs since its earliest days, after it was first set aside by a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. During Reagan’s and both Bushes' administrations, oil companies nearly achieved their goal, to open up the entire 1.5 million acres to drilling. It took the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, then the largest spill in U.S. history, to slow the momentum on efforts to drill.

The largest protected wilderness in the Arctic, the Refuge has a greater variety of plants and animals than any other Arctic area. It encompasses six different ecozones, supports the long migrations of caribou, is the northern terminus for millions of migrating birds. It is home to the Gwich’in people who have subsisted in this area for thousands of years. It currently has no roads. It is a jewel.

Now Mr. Trump’s interior secretary and others have descended on the Refuge, which they refer to as ANWR, an acronym that belies its special qualities. The public may have little if any chance to weigh in, just as we have had little chance to speak out on behalf of national monuments that may be all but destroyed — our national monuments. There’s not even consensus as to whether it’s worth it to drill in the Refuge, and to the extent that oil may be extracted, economic indicators predict an insignificant difference in the price of worldwide oil.

It boggles my mind to understand how making America great again means to disturb and possibly destroy any environmental quality we’ve worked to achieve over the last 50 years.

Beverly Roxby


Spoiled discussion

Once again, Tom Seymour raises an important question, the apparent degeneration of our culture, and then soils and spoils his discussion of it by generating someone to hate. A few months ago, it was “Christmas haters.” Now, it’s “God haters,” as Tom labels atheists.

I was going to let it pass, but then I read about a candidate for Congress who is currying votes by claiming “my opponents hate God.’” What is it about self-styled conservatives that they all seem to need someone to hate?

In his column, Tom unwittingly gave himself away in saying that atheists are God-haters. Think about it. It is impossible for atheists to hate God because, by definition, atheists are people for whom, in their considered view, God does not exist. It is nonsense to hate something that, in your mind, does not exist. If I were to say, “I hate flying horses,” no one would take me seriously because there is no such thing as flying horses; indeed, my wife would likely suggest a visit to my geriatrician.

Maybe what Tom Seymour meant to write, but lacked the honesty and courage to write, is not that atheists hate God, but that he, Tom, hates atheists. Why might Tom feel that way? We would have to ask him, but to me it suggests that Tom is threatened by anyone who does not endorse his belief system because his self-confidence depends on everyone agreeing with him.

And that’s why I said “self-styled” conservatives a few sentences earlier. True conservatives, those who really are conservative to the core, men and women like William F Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Peggy Noonan, know very well that not everyone agrees with them, and they don’t mind. They are so confident in their beliefs that they truly believe, deep down, that as long as they continue to speak out honestly and courageously, sooner or later all the rest of us will see and endorse the wisdom of their view. Even if we think they are nuts, they do not attack us. They simply continue their efforts to convince us, thoughtfully and politely. I read none of that in Tom Seymour’s column.

Francis Sinclair