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A message to our friends:
It's impossible to thank all of you loyal folks personally for supporting Lunatique! for the past two years. There have been so many of you who have come in regularly and enjoyed the great food and spirits, the incredible music scene, and the always present dialogue we sought to foster.
Our nights have been filled with delightful, insightful, sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad events, both personal and global. The conversations were endless, and we both got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to know many of you much better. We are truly better for all of it.
Times change though, and we find it necessary to consider moving to a more populous and trafficked business environment. Right now we are not sure when and where, but we will return with an even better Lunatique! with more music and more fun.
We sincerely hope that those of you who availed yourselves of our part-time home, hospitality, and joy will come to see us when we reopen sometime later this year.
And to those of you who haven't, get up off the sofa and come on down! (And ... sorry, guys, there won't be a TV, pool table, or peanuts on the floor in the new place, either.)
Thanks to all our talented and hardworking staff members, the vendors, our friends, and our massage therapists.
re: thanks to Signpost article, two more senior volunteers
Thank you very much for including the article on senior peer counseling and the Sandoval Senior Connection in the April 2003 Signpost. In response to the article we received two calls requesting more information regarding our sixteenth training session. Two men completed training and will be great volunteers.
Please contact us at 243-2551 for more information or if we can be of help to a Sandoval County senior.
Thank you again for your support of our program.
—Elizabeth C. Etigson
Sandoval Senior Connection
Range wars redux
I know at least one old-timer in Placitas who remembers the original Monkey Wrench Gang back in the days when they were destroying billboards along the interstate. Ed Abbey’s classic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang came out a bit later and referred to the escalation of environmental activism to include such things as disabling earth-moving machines and bulldozers by putting sugar in their gas tanks or draining their oil and running the engines until they burned up. In their most radical act of defiance, Abbey’s band blows up a just completed highway bridge over Glen Canyon. This fictional sabotage presaged Earth First! and later so-called ecoterrorism.
Now Wyoming writer C.J. Box in his suspenseful mystery Savage Run takes the tale a step further. He writes about the use of violence by anti-environmentalists in a battle between ranching interests and environmental activists. We used to call it range wars. It is actually a kind of war that has been going on for a century and a half throughout the American West. At the very least, today's ruling national politicians have a metaphorical relationship to this kind of war in the personages of Vice President Cheney from Wyoming and President Bush from Texas. Both men represent the attitudes and backgrounds of ruling oligarchies that have attempted to control the economies of the Far West since the mid-nineteenth century.
Howard Lamar refers to the New Mexican form of such oligarchies in The Far Southwest: A Territorial History: “The [Santa Fe] Ring reflected the corporate, monopolistic and multiple enterprise tendencies of all American business after the Civil War.” This small group of landowners controlled land, water, cattle, railroads, oil, mining, timber and, of course, government for their own private benefit. Box introduces an interesting historical dimension to it all by referring to the legendary range detective Tom Horn, who was hired by ranching oligarchs in Wyoming during the nineteenth century to settle scores with alleged rustlers and others that legitimate law enforcement in the western territories could not deal with. His version of Horn is a modern-day range detective named Charlie Tibbs, who is diabolical and effective in murdering a string of prominent environmentalists in a series of bizarre killings ordered by a cabal of ranchers calling themselves the Stockman’s Trust.
Box’s book may seem to stretch things a bit, but if we look back at territorial history in New Mexico we find that groups like the infamous Santa Fe Ring and incidents like the Lincoln County War reflect a tradition of small groups using violence and vigilantism to monopolize resources. These groups represented the decline of democracy, as Benjamin Franklin had predicted, into despotism—in a way that seems strangely akin to what national politics may have become today. These oligarchies, or small groups of the powerful few, have always posed a threat to democracy, especially in states with sparse, poor populations and rich, plentiful natural resources captured early on by a few families willing to use violent means to control them.
Ironically, in the context of popular novels like Abbey’s and Box’s, the counterforce to such petty despotism is often found in resistance groups like some of those in environmental movements today. In the twenty-first century, yesterday’s range wars may be the face-off between anti-environmental oligarchs based in Washington and environmental revolutionaries operating at the grassroots through direct action, or in the courts with organizations like the Sierra Club, or through the arts represented by such disparate writers as Abbey, Box, Nanao Sakaki, Gary Snyder, Charles Bowden, Dave Petersen, Terry Tempest Williams, Jack Loeffler, and many, many others. Because they take their cues from nature, environmentalists, unlike oligarchs, are often the true spokespersons for democracy. Terry Tempest Williams speaks for the democracy of open spaces and the harmonies of place and family; Abbey articulates more radical, democratic anarchism; and Gary Snyder spells out the politics of integration and community in bioregionalism.
One of the early modern environmental classics was written in 1975 by Ernest Callenbach. It is called Ecotopia. I remember Ernest spending several days blowing my students’ minds with his articulate humor and ecological wisdom around the time the novel came out—and I was happy to come across a copy for sale at the Joshua Tree National Monument West Entry Visitors Store recently. The story takes place in the twenty-first century and details how northern California, Oregon, and Washington have formed an independent country called Ecotopia. The new country is based on sustainable, ecological principles and communitarian social ideas long embedded in American natural philosophy. Ecotopia maintains its independence by nuclear deterrence: a bomb secretly planted in Los Angeles which Ecotopians threaten to explode if they meet interference.
Now that we have reached the twenty-first century, numerous elements of Callenbach’s book make startling and insightful reading. For example, the value of forests and trees over money, the imperative of population control, the sanity of conservation of land, air and water resources, and the primacy of love. Ecotopians also ritualize war and present an interesting alternative to our own current militaristic regression into a nineteenth-century range-war mentality on the home front and abroad.
Who needs Superfund when we’ve got reality TV?
By the end of the year, only $28 million will be left in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund account. Superfund pays for the reclamation of abandoned toxic-waste sites, and $28 million barely affords a study just to figure out how to clean up one of the twelve hundred deserted dumps wasting away in American communities.
How did Superfund, which used to have an annual account ledger of $1.5 billion, end up functionally bankrupt? Going back to 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress killed off the corporate "polluter tax" that levied money from petroleum and chemical industries that are responsible for the abandoned toxic messes. The tax was a keystone in the creation of Superfund by President Carter in 1980, and it supplied more than $1 billion annually. Without the tax, states and taxpayers were left footing the bill after 1995.
Toxic sludge infiltrating the water and air quality in twelve hundred communities sounds like a pressing issue. But President Bush has halved the number of annual Superfund cleanups compared to President Clinton, and he’s refused to reauthorize the "polluter tax" even though he could easily jockey the bill through Congress.
Meanwhile, the EPA made its boldest budgetary allowance by announcing the allocation of $30,000 to promote "environmentally beneficial behavior" on prime-time television sitcoms and dramas. Through the new campaign, the EPA will place environmental messages on popular shows hoping viewers will mimic their favorite actors.
Picture Will and Grace composting in the back alley of their Manhattan apartment. Or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation detectives properly disposing of their forensic lab by-products. Malcolm in the Middle might sport a canvas bag with the EPA logo to carry his recyclables from the school cafeteria.
Of course, $30,000 is just a drop in the tube, and the modest budget would afford about a second of commercial time during the American Idol finale. The agency admits it will pursue charitable partnerships with TV producers, since to buy a product-placement spot in a prime-time show the EPA would have to pay up to $1 million.
The campaign allows the EPA to reach the American people where they’re most attentive and vulnerable: on their couches. Jay Leno’s curbside interviews on The Tonight Show prove that more people know the names of the American Idol finalists than the recently resigned EPA administrator (Christie Todd Whitman, for those playing along at home). The EPA’s prime-time push allows President Bush to do some cheap green-washing in people’s living rooms while Superfund dwindles and other environmental quality laws such as the Clean Air Act are gutted.
Thirty thousand bucks is just a drop for Superfund, too. The chump change allocated for TV wouldn’t clean up one-thousandth of an average Superfund site. What the television campaign reveals is that the administration cares a lot more about being popular than being proficient.
If the EPA is going to dive into prime time, why not do it Hollywood style? Take the leftover $28 million from the dregs of the Superfund account and put on a reality show!
Choose Whitman’s replacement as the new EPA chief through a show like Survivor. Challenges for the contestants could include sidestepping around U.S. compliance with the Kyoto Protocol or rolling back the regulations of the Clean Air Act. Chemical manufacturers could hand down immunity. The process would whittle down contestants for the EPA-chief position while bringing Americans up to speed on President Bush’s environmental agenda and attracting commercial revenue.
A second approach is for the EPA to boost its sagging Superfund program through a show like American Idol. Imagine communities littered with toxic waste competing for funding by showcasing their talents in the face of environmental degradation and mysterious health afflictions. The winning towns could use their newfound cash to perform the cleanups the government won’t, while local economies left stricken by industries that ran out on the bill would be revitalized.
But if the EPA really wants to promote some "environmentally beneficial behavior," the agency might as well just use its $30,000 to print thirty thousand bumper stickers reading Kill Your Television.
Josh Zaffos is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He lives and writes in Paonia, Colorado.