Archive for the ‘ecosystem’ Category

If you are going to attend the Minnesota State Fair be sure to check out the new Minnesota AFL-CIO Labor Pavilion. It is the first State Fair Building designed to meet ‘Green’ Building Standards and was built with union labor. Fox 9 News has video here. Check it out to see all the cool features. Senator Amy Klobuchar will be present for the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday.

Here are the details from the press release.

Media Advisory for August 21, 2008   


Diane O’Brien (651) 261-4173 (cell), 651-227-7647 (office) Andrea Gage (262) 309-0754 (cell)





Minnesota AFL-CIO Hosts Series of Events at New State Fair Pavilion

At 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 21, the Minnesota AFL-CIO will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at its new green, eco-friendly State Fair pavilion featuring a visit from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. The event will be followed with a performance by musician Tim Mahoney.

Throughout the day, journalists and members of the public are invited to tour the facility (the first State Fair building designed to meet ‘Green’ Building Standards) and take part in the following activities:

* Learn about Working America, the fastest growing organization for workers in the country

* Videotape your message on what you expect from the next president and see yourself on the Minnesota AFL-CIO Pavilion Media Wall

* Talk with union members about their work

For a full list of opening weekend activities, please visit http://www.mnaflcio.org.

To arrange an interview with a representative of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, please call Diane O’Brien at (651) 227-7647 or Andrea Gage at (262) 309-0754 (cell).

Minnesota AFL-CIO Hours of Operation

* Opening Day 10:00 a.m.- 8 p.m (Pavilion tours for members of the media beginning at 9:30 a.m.)

* Daily 9:00 a.m.-8 p.m.

* Labor Day 9:00 a.m.-6 p.m.


Who says labor and environmentalists can’t get along?

Here is some Ray Charles for your audio/video pleasure:



Peace & solidarity







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Well, not only is the bridge bad but the water under it leaves a lot to be desired. A few weeks ago I received the Rock River Watershed TMDL Newsletter from the Rock County Land Management office. In the newsletter it says, “Pollution is threatening the Rock River“. It goes on to offer an overview of the problem, lists a project summary, and announces an open house for the public to learn more and discuss possible solutions. Read it here: rock-river-tmdl.pdf

Back in 1994 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) gave notice that the Rock river was polluted with fecal coliform bacteria at the Minnesota/Iowa border. In 2002 the MPCA said it was also impaired for turbidity. During two open house meetings in Luverne and Edgerton the public was informed of the water cleanup project and given an opportunity to ask questions and provide input. According to the January 26 edition of the Worthington Daily Globe, Work begins to improve Rock River watershed, approximately 70 people were in attendance at the Luverne meeting to listen to the presentation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Water Resouces Center of Mankato. Another 60 people attended the meeting in Edgerton. The goal of the water quality project is to seek public input and finalize a written plan to clean up the river. Hopefully once this plan is completed there will be financial assistance to assist with the cleanup.

My local newspaper, the Rock County Star-Herald, also covered the meeting in Luverne. In ‘River cleanup process started’ the issue is covered in depth and editor Lori Ehde had these observations:

The Rock River is polluted, and some local livestock producers are afraid fingers are pointing at them.That was the tone of a public meeting Thursday, Jan. 24, that drew nearly 70 people to the Rock County Human Services building to discuss the state’s “impaired” label on the Rock River. The point of Thursday’s meeting was to provide information to the public and to seek public participation in order to garner state and federal dollars for river cleanup.But many at the meeting seemed worried the end result will mean more government restrictions on their livestock operations, and some discussion questioned the validity of the river’s “impaired” status.

The rest of the article is available in their online edition but you will have to give up most of a fifty dollar bill to view it.

In the same issue on the opinion page the Star Herald editorial headline was, The point isn’t who is to blame; the point should be how to clean up the river. Here are a few excerpts from the editorial:

Rock County farmers have long been leaders in soil and water conservation and in lobbying for development of agriculture as a renewable fuel.

and this

What was disappointing to the casual observer was that many of these vocal farmers Thursday night were the same ones who lobbied so aggressively for ethanol and wind subsidies in the name of improving the environment. It begs the question: does the environment matter only when a government check (or an ethanol plant dividend) is attached to the cause?

I have to agree with the Star-Herald that the emphasis should be on cleaning up the river. Certainly we have waited long enough. Rock County farmer Gene “Pucky” Sandager was one of those not sold on the idea and was quoted in the Daily Globe saying: “Take it a little slow, make sure we’re doing the right thing before we go off on a rampage,”  Well, it has been known as early as 1994 of the fecal coliform problem and in 2002 the turbidity issue was identified. Local officials have been working with state and federal personnel since 2006. It is now 2008 and the final report is still a work in progress. Hardly going off on a rampage.

Peace & solidarity,


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On November 28 two workers died as a result of an explosion and fire at an Enbridge Energy oil pipeline terminal in Clearbrook, MN.

On December 1st, just two days later, at the Marathon Oil refinery in St. Paul Park, MN an explosion and fire at a 10,000 barrel tank claimed the life of another worker. 

Our sympathy goes out to the families and coworkers of all three employees who gave their lives for their job.

It is frustrating and disappointing that with the technology available and the really deep pockets of the oil industry that these tragedies still happen. WorkdayMinnesota has a story about oil refinery hazards and the efforts of the United Steelworkers union to raise awareness and encourage action to prevent further tragic accidents. The USW recently released a report from an extensive survey they did about Process Safety Management in the oil industry. While I must confess I have not read the entire 108 page report yet it shows the need for more emphasis on the industry to comply with the PSM standard that was implemented in 1992 by OSHA. Progress has been slow since the 2005 Texas City, Texas refinery blast that killed 15 and injured over 100 people. The USW report shows that the lessons learned from Texas City are not being widely implemented.

The Sky Blue Waters Report, a blog written by Tom Elko, has an informative piece about oil pipeline expansions and safety.

There is much more to write on this subject but I will get to that later.

Good night!

Peace & solidarity,


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This stupid job interview question reared it’s ugly head when the wife of a coworker of mine went to a job interview. Needless to say, it dominated our conversation during an otherwise boring day. What is an appropriate answer to this question? Are there type A and type B trees? Do you have to know the scientific name? If you prefer a shrub would that be OK? Is deciduous better than a conifer?

I have done some quick research and have a few suggestions:

Sassafras-Now that is an interesting name for a tree and it sorta rolls off the tongue.

Norway Spruce-Uff Da, great if the interviewer is Norwegian.

Downy Serviceberry-Duh! Jobs in the service sector.

Mexican Plum, Japanese Zelkova, Chinese Pistache, European Beech-great choices for employment in a multinational company.

Ginkgo-use in the health/organic industry

Joshua Tree-the interviewer is a Bono fan

Oak-show your patriotism by selecting the Oak tree. This is our national tree according to The Arbor Day Foundation. Don’t forget to wear your lapel pin!

My quick-witted spouse had a good question that one could ask the interviewer:

If you had a brain, what would you be?

Plant a tree, offset your CO2 emissions.

Peace & solidarity.


filed under the category of really stupid stuff

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Living in corn country you have your ear (no pun intended) to news about ethanol.  It was the subject of my post, Beer or Biofuels, The Utimate Challenge. I recently ran across the following interesting commentary from It’s Getting Hot In Here:

Before We Get Drunk on Ethanol, Let’s Make Sure We Get It Right

Not all biofuels are created equal: in fact, depending on how they are produced, biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel can be environmentally destructive, raise the price of food, and even hurt efforts to tackle global warming.

Biofuels – ethanol and biodiesel – present a potentially important (partial) solution to concerns about global warming and our over-reliance on oil. However, to paraphrase a great LA Times op ed on the ethanol craze, alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation, and the same goes for these alcohol-based biofuels. Read the rest here.

Peace and solidarity,


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A disturbing story appeared today in the UK’s Independent.

Biofuels may be good for the environment, but they are bad news for German beer drinkers. Prices in the country’s pubs look set to rise by 40 per cent this year, because Germany’s farmers are growing less barley for beer production and more crops for biodiesel and bioethanol. read the rest here.


Richard Weber, the head of the German brewers association had this to say, “The energy and food sectors are competing for the same raw materials and the same acreage.”

This story raises several questions and the first one is; Isn’t beer a food? 

Ethanol plants and biodiesel refineries are popping up all over Minnesota and the Midwest and everyone is going yea, rah, rah. Politicians are giddy and eager to pass legislation that promotes biofuels. You really can’t blame them because it helps the agricultural industry, creates jobs, and supposedly helps the environment. It is a win/win situation.

Or is it?

Corn prices are escalating which results in higher food prices. Crop farmers are now looking at land that is in conservation acres, hoping to convince the government to let them plow it up and plant more corn. Large national and multi-national corporations are eyeing up the local plants.

Are we creating many problems trying to solve one?

Maybe the beer drinkers will have to figure this one out.


 You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. — Frank Zappa

Peace & solidarity,


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walking through the tall native bluestem grass

Walking through the tall native bluestem prairie grass

A friend of mine recently emailed me inquiring about the location of the scene in the header of this blog. The photograph was taken by me two years ago at an open house and tour for Touch the Sky Prairie, located north of Luverne, Minnesota.

This project to preserve the native prairie is located on approximately 800 acres in Rock county and is a collaboration of the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Blandin Foundation, Southwest Minnesota Foundation, the community of Luverne and others have also been active in making this project a reality.

Jim Brandenburg, the founder of the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation, is a world renown nature photographer and a native of Luverne. You may recognize his name for the work he has done for National Geographic and numerous other publications. If you go to his website you will see examples of his work and you will see the vast difference between my photos and the work of a professional artist. Minnesota Public Radio has audio and pictures from a 2006 interview with Brandenburg. There are also additional links for more information on this subject.

The prairie ecosystem is very fragile and needs to be preserved. Touch the Sky Prairie is part of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie which represents less than 1 per cent of the original Midwestern tallgrass prairie.

The photo at the top of this post shows how tall the bluestem prairie grass can get and it had not yet fully matured. Bluestem can grow up to eight feet tall. Imagine traveling through that in a covered wagon.

If you would like to help the cause contact:

Brandenburg Prairie Foundation

c/o Brandenburg Gallery, 211 E Main Street, Luverne, Mn 56156

Peace & solidarity

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