Posts Tagged ‘oil spill’

Recently came across this view of the river through a magic portal.  Since it is double-sided, it allows me to look both forward and backwards from a fixed position.  I thought I would use this opportunity to go through some of the many photographs I have taken at the Falls and not previously used on this blog.  Many times I come across scenes that are visually interesting to me, but they don’t fit the post I have going at the time.  Consider this an attempt to cobble something together through a tangled theme.

I’m sitting here thinking whether I have chosen the correct words to entitle today’s post? My immediate thoughts are that this is a more complicated situation than I first considered.  Just thinking about things that are tangled up is ensnaring and hard to tease apart!  When I look at the root ball of a big tree I can see that the roots themselves seem tangled up not only with themselves but with the earth that helps it grow.  There the relationship is more obvious and seems purposeful in its interconnectivity.  The tree roots help stabilize the tree while providing the nutrients it needs from the soil.  The soil in effect is held together by the roots that run through it. 

String enough trees with their root masses holding things together and you have the beginnings of an ecosystem.  The relationship is one of symbiosis.  When I see trees that have been uprooted like this I imagine that the riverbank it once helped to support has been weakened and degraded in some way.  We see a lot of erosion around here and it isn’t just the river’s fault.

At the Falls, there is a lot of wood that gets deposited by periodic flooding.  That is how it has been since there has been a river here.  What has changed since the days of Lewis and Clark  is how much man-made stuff is now interwoven into the mix.  When it’s something like this old wooden palette, then it isn’t as bad.  Eventually, the palette will break down and be absorbed by nature.  But at the Falls, I also see many things that will not go away easily if at all.

Here’s a barge cable that has been snared by a tree during high water.  These large ropes I’m guessing are made from nylon and are very heavy.  They are used to secure along the shoreline, long strings of barges along the intercoastal waterway.  A lot of coal is moved on these barges and is burned to produce electricity.  On occasion, I find a lot of washed up coal too.  Water is powerful and does its best to reduce these ropes to something that is more manageable.  Interestingly, I have come across several bird nests made almost entirely from these untangled cable fibers.  In their own instinctual way, even the birds are trying to utilize these cables.  Many of the resident willow trees are “decorated” with these snags.

This large black hose washed up here during the last flooding incident.  It’s all tangled up into a much larger driftwood pile.  Even something like this isn’t going to get reabsorbed into the natural system easily.  It’s just tangled up and will lay there until the river moves it again or until one of the periodic river clean-ups where it might eventually get covered up in a landfill somewhere else.  It probably won’t get recycled, so burying it is more a matter of out of sight, out of mind.  This solution takes no inspiration from nature.  Since late winter, I have been watching and photographing this boom that just showed up here in all its yellowness.

I did look up the company name on this object because I wasn’t entirely sure as to what this is or why it’s here.? I suspected that this is a boom used to contain or protect something from contamination.  Like many people, the immense oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been on my mind.  What a colossal failure of imagination this has been all the way around.  I imagine that the company that made this yellow boom and is based in Houston , Texas is probably having a great year.  Here are some recent images.  The longer this boom stays here, the more it seems to catch things around it.

It is ironic that something that is supposed to be a tool to “protect” the river, winds up becoming another discarded piece of junk.  What is one supposed to do with this boom now?  I’m assuming that this was used somewhere along the Ohio River or its tributaries which eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico.  This boom’s appearance here suggests that the Gulf and the river were already in trouble long before the latest oil spill.

I know many people who feel as I do…that they are tired of feeling hypocritical about our relationship to the natural world.  Trying to untangle good answers to this dilemma while living lifestyles that promote and accept such waste has to be psychologically damaging too?  At the moment, we seem unable to act in our own ultimate best interests and it will probably take some even greater calamity to befall before we are forced to have the courage and imagination to go in another direction. 

The last couple times I have come to the Falls, I have run into this man.  We have talked a little bit, but there are some language barriers.  Anyway, he’s delighted to have discovered a source of materials he can take to the salvage yard.  I watched him nimbly moving from one log to another yanking out these old metal wheels.  I have a lot of admiration for him and it made me think of how people from less developed countries have much that we can learn about living on this increasingly global scrap heap.

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I never have a dull visit to the Falls of the Ohio.  Each time I come out here I can expect an adventure of one type or another.  On this day the river had noticeably receded and this large boulder of Styrofoam that I had been watching for days as it floated out here was finally on the shore.  I tried to move it, but it was so waterlogged and heavy that I gave up…for now.  All around it were Styro-bits that were ground off by abrading against logs and the sandy bottom.

Near my polystyrene giant was this section of the riverbank.  It’s the aftermath of a tug of war we are engaging in with the planet.  In this type of struggle there are no winners.  Recent images from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico come to mind which incredibly still flows unabated weeks later.  Since much of the garbage in this photo is derived from petrochemicals, I wonder if this also could qualify as an oil spill?  If I scooped up a handful of sand around here…I would see tiny bits of plastic and the ever-present polystyrene bead.  This stuff is likely to never go away.  But life does try to keep carrying on as it always has.  I also came across this interesting beetle and a smile returned to my face.

I have seen these out here before.  It’s an Eastern Eyed Click Beetle and I think I read somewhere that this is our largest click beetle.  If you placed this beetle on its back, it would flip right side up with an audible “click”.  Hence click beetle.  There are other species, but they are all smaller.  This one is just under two inches (about five centimeters).  It’s coloration is similar to a bird dropping, but it also has these dramatic eyes on its pronotum.  These guys do fly, but most of their lives are spent as larvae living in decayed wood.  I passed by the mulberry tree with its ripening berries and there are birds who just can’t resist this plentiful food source.

Among the bird species eating fruit from this tree included this Blue Jay…

…and this Catbird which does make odd sounds which sometimes sound like the mewing of a cat (hence catbird!).  They can be quite territorial to their own and other species too.

Not too far from this tree, I could hear some squabbling going on and I moved towards the sound.  You can imagine my surprise when I came upon this scene!  I stayed hidden behind a large willow and just observed.

There were these two little figures and one of them was tugging on a rope attached to a plastic gasoline container and his “friend” with the wierd hairdo was jumping up and down on one leg trying to get him to stop!

The figure with the rope eventually succeeded in knocking the container over while his friend continued hopping!  What he thought he was going to do with this gas can is a mystery?  He soon grew frustrated with his efforts and a shouting match between the two began.  That deteriorated into another contest where each tried to take the rope from the other.

All this effort must have been exhausting because after a little while they gave up and abandoned the rope and the gas can leaving them lying on the sand.  They reconciled and walked away from here hand in hand. 

Perhaps they realized the futility of their struggle and came to their senses?  Perhaps they recognized that it was better to conserve their energies for more constructive pursuits?  Who knows, but while I pondered these questions I came across another image of futility and I will leave you with that until next time.

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I am always photographing the junk I find at the Falls of the Ohio.  Looking through my newer images I was amazed by all the toys I have come across recently.  Now these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  All time, this would be an immense category on its own.  When I’m doing my usual posts, I’ll throw in an odd find if I think it contributes to the story.  Otherwise, this stuff just gets buried in my computer.  Maybe when I’m an old man, I’ll come back and revisit this stuff.  By then, a lot of this junk will appear dated and nostalgic.  I’ll probably look that way too!

All the stuff I’m about to present is made of plastic, which is made from resins derived mostly from crude oil.  I remember seeing a picture of a middle class American home with all its plastic contents arranged in the front yard.  It looked like just about everything this house contained was made from plastic and it was shocking!

I have been following the news lately about that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it has me feeling very anxious.  I don’t know why more people aren’t getting freaked out about this?  Essentially, you have a hole drilled deep into the ocean’s floor that’s hemorrhaging oil and the attempts to plug this hole haven’t worked.  The slick is already hundreds of miles long and will soon come into contact with the Gulf Coast’s rich estuaries.  A couple of years a go, my family vacationed in Gulf Shores, Alabama and it was fun and beautiful.  I don’t want to imagine those white beaches fouled with oil.

I debate with myself about whether something like this event can be considered a “natural disaster”?  Granted it probably doesn’t fit the usual definition, however, haven’t we (as a species of animal) that originated here make us “natural” as well?  Isn’t a big part of the problem that we have successfully convinced ourselves that we are on some other plane and that life’s rules don’t apply to us?  Aren’t all man-made disasters in effect natural disasters?

Often it seems more convenient to bury our heads in the sand and pretend events like this oil spill have no long-term effects.  Where is the outrage and our will to do the right thing?

Life is interconnected to life and it is ridiculous to think our mistakes don’t affect other organisms that have a right to exist in their own right.

Everywhere life is under pressure from the global scale of our activities.

The sad truth is unless we find ways to reconnect and revere nature…we will eventually will be  hammered by it.  One thing I see over and over at the Falls is that life is indifferent and doesn’t play favorites.  Will we be the architects of our own undoing?

If crude oil is a disappearing resource, doesn’t it make sense to use it for things that really matter?  Do we truly need to lock so much of it up in uses that are this disposable and forgettable?

Often it seems to me that we are in a big rush to go nowhere as fast as we can.  Why the big hurry?  Life is short enough and consuming everything we come into contact with isn’t going to make the experience more meaningful.  It’s past time to slow down and rearrange our priorities.

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