Global Syn-WHAT?

The phrase “global syndemic” immediately drew my sustained attention when it first appeared as a result of an initiative and study produced by the science journal Lancet in January of this year.

tldr: Scroll down to the 3 minute video explanation.

Most folks know PANdemic as an outbreak of illness that brings about large-scale loss of health, impacting whole continents or multiple continents.

A SYNdemic is a cluster of related pandemics–a synergistic epidemic. The bad news is that together, their impact is greater than one pandemic alone. The good news is that, if we do the right thing for long enough and effectively enough, we reduce the risk of all the clustered pandemics–not at once, but over generations.

The Global Syndemic described by Lancet focuses on the inter-related and serious health threats of malnutrition(s)–undernutrition and obesity, along with the impending physical and mental and environmental health impacts of climate change.

I have been encouraged by this broad-brush, wholistic understanding of the ecology of human failure with regard to the future of our species. It seeks to lay the axe to the root of the problems rather than merely addressing the symptoms in the near term.

On the other hand, it would be easy to just go limp and do nothing. Or rage against the machine (insert your despised government, political party or politician) and keep pressing the accelerator of Business as Usual until we run out of runway.

This video does a pretty good job of introducing the concept of global syndemic, so that when you hear about it again, you’ll have some background.

The so-what for Floyd County going forward is that we can think ahead about addressing the Food System locally and its impact on human, soil and forest health, and in so doing, mitigate the combined effect of the looming syndemic.

The wetter wets, drier drys, colder colds and hotter hots of the uncertain climate future, of course, will be a wild card in this effort.

Toxic Economic Assumptions Drive Climate Chaos

You and I can replace our light bulbs and shop local and recycle and reuse and even conserve energy and natural resources like a champ.

But if we don’t change the drivers that churn Earth matter into profit as fast as possible (the Growth Economy/Consumption Machine model) — and in so doing,  consider corporate shareholders’ well-being ahead of ecosystems and forests and coral reefs and human communities like yours and mine…

Then it’s game over. We have almost used up all the time we have, and have not laid the axe to the root of the tree.

Do good. Recycle. Conserve. Shop local.

But unless we revolt against the Consumption Machine in much less than a generation, it will consume the consumers. What a perverse end to the story, don’t you think?


SustainFloyd Offers the Personal Climate Pledge

SustainFloyd’s Personal Climate Pledge asks YOU to be intentional about what you eat, drive, wear and throw away. I post it here for the couple of Fragments readers who might stop by.

Some of you have seen/heard this on Facebook from WVTF starting yesterday.

Robbie Harris put together a piece showcasing the Personal Climate Pledge created and now offered to all from SustainFloyd.

The hope is that this can be re-created in tiny to large communities across the country for true grassroots change in what I call our “personal ecology.”

The ultimate goal for me would be that we would stand against business-as-usual economics where GDP measures the health of our state in the world. People and planet must be at least equal priorities to profit.

All the goals of the climate pledge swim against the current of using up faster, spending more, consuming more, traveling more and eating thousand-food-mile groceries.

That is what I hope people with the Pledge magnet on their refrigerators will reflect on every time they do the “right thing” in their own homes. In the end, we have to make these principles the new order in our relationship with the natural world.

â–º You can help by sharing this post or the link to the WVTF spot on the Pledge.

Mt Valley Pipeline Hits a Speed Bump

Blue Ridge Mountains from the air

In case you once followed the progress (or potential devastation) of the 42-inch Mountain Valley Fracked-unNatural Gas Pipeline but had wandered away from the topic, seeing its opposition as a spitting-into-the-wind lost cause, you might want to take a few minutes to come up to speed.

It seems Mt Valley does not have a free pass to our forests, mountain vistas, ground water and precious places just yet. But the fox is now guarding the henhouse, even as likely thousands of late-indigenous Appalachians would put their own safety and freedom on the line, as my friend David Seriff (of a potentially MVP-impacted Blacksburg neighborhood) suggests:

Seriff: Will Standing Rock happen here? – Roanoke Times

Standing Rock Part 2? 16,000 Sign Petition Demanding West Virginia Gas Pipeline Be Stopped – Washington DC, DC Patch

EPA finds fault with environmental review of Mountain Valley Pipeline | Nelson News | 

Regional governments bash pipeline impact statement | Nelson News | 

An environmental news group from Roanoke ends their last newsletter as follows, indicating the fat lady is yet to sing:

The Bureau of Land Management states that:

FERC has failed to show a need for the project and seems to be concerned with the needs of the pipeline company rather than the needs they should be addressing for the nation The use of federal eminent domain from so many landowners – and BLM states that they listened to landowners – requires a very strong public need, which has not been established.
Hopefully we could have the following process outcomes recommended by DOI:

– A new or supplemental DEIS that meets the legal requirements identified by the DOI and others
– An additional comment period
– True public hearings by the BLM in areas affected by the pipeline proposal – rather than the sham hearings held by FERC November.

The Bad Luck of the Alleghenies: What’s Under the Ground

There was once a wide shallow life-filled sea that filled the bowl to the west of the Crystalline Appalachians–as the Blue Ridge geology is sometimes described. The area is now known as the Cumberland or Allegheny Plateau of the Central Appalachian Basin. Along with the Ridge and Valley Province from Pennsylvania to Alabama, the region’s bedrock consists of sedimentary strata laid down like a two-thousand foot thick layer cake.

When continents collided a few hundred million years ago, it lifted the ancient Blue Ridge higher still and rucked up the Fold-Fault mountains of the Ridge and Valley layer cake that have eroded since into long more-or-less parallel low sandstone ridges above less resistant limestone valleys. But the Allegheny Plateau was not impacted by the pushing and shoving of continents, so there, the layers are relatively undisturbed and neat–one on top of the other.

View the cross sectional image. The horizontal strata of the Allegheny Plateau are to the left of the image, the Blue Ridge to the right.

What is, in the rear view mirror of history, unfortunate for that geological land form (and in the end not so great for its people) is that one of those buried layer components of the ancient oceans consists of the oily carbonaceous deposits of millennia of dead algae and phytoplankton that piled up thick and stayed that way–compressed and in place over the years to form coal.

Or oil shale. And you know the rest of the story. Any place Big Oil can gain access to those deep-dead organic compounds (Carbon in the form of coal, oil or gas) it will do whatever it takes to extract it to the last possible drop. This black-gold rush create lots of jobs, then much fewer as mechanization and Mountaintop Removal replaced pick and shovel mining and the boom went to bust, as natural gas will and already is.

The latest verse of that song is fracking the Marcellus and Utica shale within this same geology–from which is extracted deeper, less efficient, unconventional energy that requires huge amounts of chemical-laden water and whose highest dollar return at the end of thousands of pipeline miles across private property is overseas.

Move over, landowners, just passing through on the way to end users in Europe. With the government in the pocket of industry, eminent domain hangs as a threat to force the taking of the land (and water) of thousands of Appalachian farms and homesteads “for the greater good” of society (provided they own the right corporate stock.)

This is NOT going down well with a people who take their identities from the places they have lived for generations. Communities like Floyd are insisting that they have a say–including veto power–to refuse to allow access and probable risks to the long term health of their land.

What we have here is a growing stand-off–not between NIMBYs and a legitimate only-choice / best-possible way forward in our energy future. It is a struggle between simple folk taking the seven generation view of things, looking at the BIG PICTURE standing resolutely against get-rich-quick maintain-the-status-quo Big Oil Hamfists and their bankers and lawyers and senators and spin-merchants-of-doubt.

The F in FERC is for Federal, and this rubber-stamp agency at the top of the peck order (F may also stand for Fox guarding the hen house) does not give a tinker’s damn about the well-being of you and me.

But the  increasingly organized and geographically spreading opposition is not just speaking out against this or that pipeline to but against PIPELINES and FRACKING and another generation of carbon in the air our great grandchildren will breathe. And in this struggle, we are seeing more clearly those things that we are against, but also those unalienable rights that we stand for.

See Our view: The big picture on the pipeline – Roanoke Times: Editorials

We have to end this HERE and NOW. Investors across the nation are saying NO to coal. Investors in natural gas had better be paying close attention.

Stay tuned. I think we’re about (within a generation or less) to witness a regime change. Or a revolution.