Down on the Ground with the Garden

By George Sibley

May and June are dominated here by the garden. Gardens, I should say; when we moved into our Gunnison home 20-some years ago, we were unimpressed with the expanse of bad lawn that came with it, and we resolved to annually convert 50 square feet of bad lawn to garden space. I lack my partner Maryo’s experience with plants, and undoubtedly some of her dedication – I mean, she grew tomatoes in a community garden in Chicago right by a bus stop, which involved defensive measures like painting the tomatoes with a flour mixture to make them look diseased to random hunter-gatherers. But I signed on as the project heavy-lifter, being no lover of monocultures, and now we have little gardens – some kind of growing together – all over the yard.

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On the Ground – Down on the Ground with Rationality Part Two

by George Sibley As birds have flight, our special gift is reason. … Should we choose, we could exercise our reason to what no other animal can do: we could limit ourselves voluntarily, choose to remain God’s creatures instead of making ourselves gods. – Bill McKibben, The End of Nature Reason is just not as …

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Down on the Ground with Rationality

by George Sibley I’m doing a seminar here at Western State this fall, titled “The Colorado River in the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene, as many of you have probably read or observed yourselves, is an acknowledgement that humans have, over the course of the past 200-10,000 years, begun imposing the kinds of largely irreversible changes on …

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On the Ground– Down on the Ground with Poverty in Paradise

by George Sibley A couple months ago I wrote about the “One Valley Prosperity Project” (OVPP) in the Upper Gunnison Basin – the western part of Central Colorado. This is our valley’s latest assault on the challenge of economic development for high remote mountain valleys. Most recently, to better inform the discussion, the county-led OVPP …

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On the Ground – Down on the Ground with Water Again

by George Sibley By the time you read this, something about the future of Central Colorado – this place where the waters of the West start – will be at least written down. I’m writing this a day after I sent off my part of a Gunnison Basin Water Plan out to 2050: an “appendix” …

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On the Ground – Down on the Ground with Prosperity

by George Sibley “Economic development” is again in the air in the Upper Gunnison Valley. For the past three decades, the Upper Gunnison River basin has periodically engaged in the quest for economic development. The first effort, in the 1980s, was mostly the conventional smokestack-chasing gambit typical of mid-20th-century local economic development. That effort ended …

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On the Ground–Down on the Ground with the Anti-Death Vaccine

by George Sibley I’ve been following the recent vaccination debate – if that’s the right word – with some growing confusion. I’m a believer in vaccinations if I don’t think about it too much. But, of course, I think about it too much, and I find myself wandering off into the swamps of ambiguity that …

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On the Ground – Down on the Ground with Democracy

by George Sibley We’re in the middle of an election season again, and again I find myself asking: Are we humans really ready for democracy? Have we evolved that far? That question rolls around in my mind as I watch the current political campaigns, where we are being asked to decide on our next governor …

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Down on the Ground with Beer and Whatever

By George Sibley

It is hard to find things to write about in a positive and optimistic way these days without feeling like Pollyanna – looking on the bright side of life, like those guys hanging on crosses put it in “The Life of Brian.” But, in an era when nearly everything seems to be going to hell, there is one thing that is getting better and better, and that is beer. All those ales, lagers, pilsners, stouts and other things along a spectrum from hoppy to malty that get lumped together as “beer.”

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Down on the Ground with the Good Things in Bad Climate

By George Sibley

We continue to slog through the ordained stations on the way to the selection of our American Idol for the next four years. We’ve done the primaries – and it is hard to imagine a more entertaining cast of characters than the raft of Republicans who played out that version of the “Survivor” show. Now, as I write, the conventions – all theater-with-no-drama – are behind us, and aside from the barrage of daily coverage that might occasionally turn up some kind of a “47 percent” bonanza, we have only the debates-with-no-discussion to look forward to having behind us. Oh, and the voting of course.

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Down on the Ground and At Home

By George Sibley

“Home is where one starts from.” – T.S. Eliot

When the publisher of this journal suggested we contributing authors contemplate the topic of “home” for the new year’s first issue, it got the brain to firing on most of its cylinders. Partly because this is frequent topic of conversation between my partner and me. At home, as it were, which is most basically wherever we are at the end of the afternoon when we can sit down together with a beer, a bowl of popcorn, and (in season) a fire.

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Down on the Ground with Jobs and Life

By George Sibley

“Employer wanted.” We saw that sign in Missouri, along US 36 – a good “heartland” road: if you laid a ruler on the map with Denver at one end and Indianapolis at the other, you’d see a line already there, US 36. Interstate 80 runs above it, Interstate 70 below, if you want to zip past and avoid it all, but if you want to go through the so-called heartland, US 36 is a good transect. A lot of it is still two-lane blacktop through Kansas, but it’s a fast two-lane with very little traffic, so long as you keep watch for the occasional tractor the size of a dinosaur traveling 17 mph.

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Down on the Ground with Capitalism again

By George Sibley

A couple months ago I broached the idea in this column that one of the problems with “capitalism” in America is the American bias that equates it with “private-sector capitalism.” Meaning, a system for investment during the production and distribution of goods and services controlled by individuals and organizations who have money and are looking for ways to use it to make more money.

What made me think of this again was a story from the New York Times business section back in April about a difficulty that big online virtual mall Amazon.com is encountering today – what might be called an enviable difficulty, I suppose, from a business perspective. Amazon is making a lot of money these days. How they are doing that, we will look at more closely in a minute, but the fact is, in a time of “weak economic recovery,” as we’re euphemistically putting it, Amazon’s first-quarter revenues this year were up 38 percent over the same period last year.

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Down on the Ground in My Backyard

By George Sibley

Over here in the Upper Gunnison valley, we have a problem – one that not everyone in central Colorado would call a problem. Leadville, for example, would probably love to have our problem: a mining company with a bunch of money wants to develop a molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons, the mountain that presides benignly over the town of Crested Butte.

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Down on the Ground with the Ecology of Fear

By George Sibley

Cruising into election time, I find myself thinking about wolves. And fear.

I have been following, in a layman’s way, the wolf restoration project in the northern Rockies. One thing I’ve learned is that wolf restoration is credited with restoring the unraveling valley ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park. Without going into details, this is mainly due to the way the wolves have shaped the elk herds. Without the wolves, their main natural predator, the elk had not only over-populated the valleys, but had also become fat and lazy “meadow potatoes” (Dave Foreman’s term), loafing around the valley floors trashing the vegetation foundation to any ecosystem.

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Cultural Climate Change Down on the Ground

by George Sibley

We’re hearing a lot about “climate change” these years – apparently an article of faith, like God: something you believe in or you don’t, or don’t really believe in but pretend you do, or sort of do believe in but pretend you don’t, as suits your politics and political friends in other more immediate matters.

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Down on the Ground with Personal Responsibility and Health Care

by George Sibley

I have a friend here in the Upper Gunnison with whom I argue politics a lot, mostly electronically. We are always sending each other e-mails with editorials, news stories, and essays attached, mostly focused on aspects of the political economy – which should be distinguished from the real economy, the miraculous helter-skelter whereby most of us manage to find enough food, energy, shelter, and other necessaries to stay alive and fairly healthy. A political economy, on the other hand, is the paste-up of philosophies, ideas, ideologies, and religion we each hold about how the real economy ought to work. A political economy always seems to fit some aspect of the real economy well enough (if beaten into shape with a bigger hammer) so that we can continue to believe in it.

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Down on the Ground with Another Love Story

by George Sibley

I’m writing this column from a cabin on the bank of the Wisconsin River, again. A lazy, lovely river, attractive to big gaggles of geese, a snag across the way in which a eagle often sits, occasional resting place for a sandhill crane or two, a couple egrets, and a daily parade of turkeys down by the beach. A beautiful place in which everything and nothing dependably happens daily.

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Down on the Ground with Water and Democracy II

by George Sibley

Last month in this column, I began an exploration of “hydraulic societies” – societies whose existence depends on their ability to move water around. I quickly got in too deeply to get out in one column, and am picking it up again this month. The purpose of the columns is to serve as background for consideration of Colorado’s 2005 “Water for the Future Act,” now entering its fifth year – an interesting “experiment in democracy,” although it is seldom portrayed or perceived as that.

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Down on the Ground with Water and Democracy

by George Sibley

Colorado’s “Water for the Future Act” is now going into its fifth year. Is it working?

Well, I am betting that most Coloradans who read that paragraph will say, “Huh?” “Colorado’s what?” This could be taken as a measure of the extent to which the “Water for the Future” process is not working, not yet anyway – in part because it involves “water”, which we are all aware of needing, but which we have all been sort of psychologized to tune out on when someone brings up the technical, legal or legislative underpinnings of our water systems. “That’s too complex for us citizens to understand.”

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