WI Townships Contend with Frac Sand Regulation – Editorial

*Editor’s note:  “THE PRICE OF SAND” – an advance preview of a locally produced frac sand documentary,  is tomorrow Thursday, March 28 at 7 PM – Grandview Theater, 1830 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN.

film trailer at: http://youtu.be/n4HYZQDgQbM
For more information, and advance ticket sales, visit www.thepriceofsand.com or on Facebook

Rural Western Wisconsin is known for its hospitable nature, and its “live at let live” method of getting along. Many families have lived in homesteads for several generations, but many “new” (less than fifty year residents) folks have sought out the rolling hills, valleys, and small rivers that call to those in touch with the land. The tradition is that you may not have much, but if you have land, you have standing. The rights of landowners are held sacrosanct, and what you do there is mostly your business. Many who have arrived bring a different ethic, that land is also a collective resource, whose environmental protection is a must. It is the stage for conflict when the frac sand mines come to town.

Vance Creek is a non zoned township. You need a dog license, county permits for building and related activities but other than that, do what you will. The residents near the “four corners” area of SW Barron County watched for mining to arrive. It has spread West from HWY 53, the New Auburn area, and erupted just across the line in Arland Township (TWP). The railroad line along Hwy 8 through Taylors Falls had been improved and ready for shipping sand. The perfect place for mining is in the corner of the county where few pay any notice. The first mining site in Vance Creek Township was targeted adjacent to a large tract of Barron County Forest land, on which the county had denied mining permits. What caused Vance Creek to erupt in concern was the township wide realization that  *** one of three town board members was having exploratory assessment for frac sand mining done on his land.

Area of mining exploration and existing mines in SW Barron County, Wi.

Area of mining exploration and existing mines in SW Barron County, Wi.

The strategy of concerned residents across Wisconsin is to avoid zoning, we don’t care for it here, thank you. Townships in the this area have been either passing “moratorium ordinances” on mining operations for anywhere from 6 months to two years, or they have been passing a township non-metallic mining ordinance that requires a permit for the operation of non-metallic mines and sets forth the application process. As soon as the mining exploration rumor was verified in the township a group of town residents started meeting, and asked the town secretary to put consideration of a draft moratorium ordinance on the agenda of the next town board meeting Jan. 8th 2013. Shit hit the fan. Continue reading

The Human Impact of Frac Sand Mining – Editorial

Microscopic Silica Particles Cause Lung Damage             photo: http://elcosh.org

There are several studies on the impacts of frac sand mining underway, from many different perspectives. There are no comprehensive studies that are available now.  Citizens feeling powerless to have any control over this intrusion into their environment are resorting to videos to get their stories out. I invite you to take a few minutes and listen to some of these, they say it best.

There is no doubt that jobs are created with any mining operation. The numbers used speculate on numbers of plants, rapid growth, and stability of the industry. Many of the jobs created are driving heavy equipment and trucks. These jobs require training often necessitating recruiting workers from outside the impacted areas,  and are seasonal. Numbers are computed based on “man-hours” of operation. The reality is often 10-16 hour shifts, and when allowed to mines operate 24 hours, seven days a week to maximize profits.

Proponents argue the increase in local taxes collected will help the local community’s tax base, lowering taxes for everyone.  Even in a heavily regulated local environment, the reality experienced in Wisconsin is that only with carefully crafted ordinances does the actual cost of mining on local services even get repaid. Often low traffic roads suddenly become truck freeways, and the affected towns and counties bear the cost of any improvements needed just to meet safety concerns.  In a well crafted ordinance the additional expenses of road maintenance, dust removal, sewer demand or waste water cleanup, and reclamation of the site are all protected with bonding in advance. For townships, there is no well-defined county or state testing of air and water quality that is required with these operations, so any specific testing to meet concerns of local residents must be funded by local government.

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Non-Metallic Mining takes Wisconsin by Dust Cloud! – Editorial

This is the start of a series about frac sand mining.  It is a contentious issue.  Is it rampant exploitation and environmental damage, or simple economic growth?  I believe it is of concern to Pagans because whatever you think of it, it is likely going to directly change the landscape you encounter when you leave the city. This article is mainly background (please investigate the many hot links) , but you need it to understand the issue.

Frac Sand Minephoto: La Crosse Tribune

Frac Sand Mine
photo: La Crosse Tribune

First, you need fracking sand to engage in “fracking”.  Second, from Rueters, Houston, TX. , “There’s been a sand shortage in the U.S. … Those who have sand or have access to sand can pretty much charge what they want.”  So there’s lots of money at stake.

photo: About.com

photo: About.com

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is called, is taking place in many parts of our country, particularly North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  It is usually either touted as the miracle technological solution to gain economic growth and energy independence, or condemned as a reckless exploitation of resources that endangers our ground water, air, and land, and has way too many unknowns associated with its environmental and geologic effects. What is confirmed is this highly profitable method of gaining trapped oil from tightly bound deep shale deposits, not accessible with conventional drilling methods has exploded as a phenomena nationwide. This is what the ‘Keystone pipeline” expansion is proposed for;  to get fracked oil from North Dakota and Canada to Texas refineries. National Geographic has a headline story about it in their March, 2013 issue. While fracking has been used in the development of America’s natural gas resources for nearly 60 years. The development of horizontal drilling process has allowed its use to rapidly expand and include oil drilling. It is a hidden process, tightly held as corporate proprietary property, while leaving a small footprint above ground and visible to the public. Fracking boomed after the Energy Policy Act in 2005 exempted oil and gas production from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act. Also, the CERCLA Superfund Act doesn’t cover fracking sites.


History of Fracking

The basic fracking process is to drill down through the water table, maybe 2000 feet or so until you hit the layer of shale where the oil lies trapped. You then drill sideways within the layer of shale. As you proceed, a slurry of silica sand, water, and proprietary chemicals (some known carcinogens) is rammed out a  porus drill point, “fracturing” the shale so the oil is released and can be pumped out (mixed with water and chemicals). This also releases natural gas. The natural gas is being flared off at the well by burning, it is not apparently profitable enough to collect it. This is why the ND night sky is lit up like Chicago. News stories of inflammable faucets and large stores of chemical laden water waiting to be treated and pumped back down through the water table into deep repository holes,  accompanies the process.

Unsaid, but many think, “It is only North Dakota, if my gasoline is cheaper and American drilled, it is a small price to pay for oil self-reliance and “national security”. It is so easy to talk this way when it happens somewhere else. Wisconsin happens to be extremely rich in the silica sand used in this process, and this year that sand wealth has brought these issues smack into our face.

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Editorial: Watching Teo be the Bishop in San Jose

Editor’s Note:  PNC-Minnesota reprinted this editorial from PNC-Bay Area as Teo Bishop is a featured guest for 2013’s Sacred Harvest Festival.

I enjoyed several rituals and workshops this year at Pantheacon and felt very happy to be a part of such a magical event. This year I had the privilege of going to a workshop in the Ár nDraiocht Fein (ADF) suite that actually turned out to be one of my all-time favorite experiences at Pantheacon. Teo Bishop did a talk called “Being the Bishop”; where he openly reflected on his life, career as Matt Morris, spiritual transition into Teo Bishop, and the merging of both sides of himself today. As the writer of the blog, Bishop in the Grove, I have been reading his blog for some time, yet did not know what to expect. I was not disappointed.

Not only was Teo engaging and transparent in his sharing of his life but he showed a very intimate side of himself through his stories and his music. It was the first time I got to hear Teo sing in person, I had only heard one or two songs online after finding out about his career as Matt Morris. I sat with my husband and a hand full of close friends as if I were at a concert in someone’s living room. He sang and I cried. He talked and I listened. He smiled and I smiled; it was a truly transformative experience to see someone talk about the introspective transition between fame and spirituality.

teo presentations pconThere was no special stage, no lighting crew and no back-up band. There was only Teo and a bunch of people immersed in the world of his magic inside of a small hospitality suite on the second floor of the Double Tree Hotel.

Teo sung several songs from his 2010 album When Everything Breaks Open. He played his acoustic guitar and pulled from a place deep within his spirit. While he mentioned that his songs were not Pagan, I still heard the internal struggle of where he was spirituality, at the time, in his lyrics.

teo bishop

Picture courtesy of David Salisbury

As one of the upcoming 2013 national guest for the Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota, Teo Bishop is transcending beyond his blog and moving into an arena of Pagan artists that comes from behind the screen.  If this presentation at Pantheacon is a small portion of what I can expect from his spot on the upcoming Sacred Harvest Festival ticket, I am even more excited to share Pagandom with him. This version of spiritual transformation went beyond the typical talk about an author or a singer, and went into the intimate and authentic life of a true artist.


Crystal Blanton, Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area

Pagan Leader Passes – Obituary Editorial

I received word at Pantheacon Sunday morning of a friend’s passing. He was not a famous author, or leader of a tradition, or a major contributor to the intellectual development of Pagan philosophy. For many in the Madison, WI area and the Midwest, Circle Sanctuary, Pagan Spirit Gathering ( PSG ), and hand drumming community, he was their rock.

Dennis Presser1958-2013

Dennis Presser

Dennis Presser passed peacefully and unexpectedly of natural causes Saturday, Feb 16th at the age of fifty-four. He is survived by his loving wife of 25 years, Laurie Blue Heron, and his two children; Hunter and Allegra all of Madison, WI.

The details of his long history of service, as a veteran and through his dedication to environmental organizations are elaborated on his official obituary. As an activist conservationist he worked, often in leadership positions, to preserve and improve the outdoors he loved so much as a Pagan, hunter, and trout fisherman.

The loss of Dennis is felt across the breadth of his influence as a force of dedicated service to others.  In the Pagan community, he was known as a man of great personal strength, generosity, commitment, and ethical responsibility. He was willing to speak out and act in support of the people, community, and the natural environment he so loved.

Dennis was generous with his time and hands. He was an avid brewer and mead maker, and always a cheery and welcoming host. His easy-going and good-natured disposition made him a natural choice for anyone who needed help. If you were in need, he would do whatever he could to help. He was a man of his word, a commitment from Dennis was one you could count on. In a world of opportunistic ethics, Dennis was one who would stand for his beliefs, whatever the cost. Continue reading

Who’s at the door? Ex-Offenders – Interview

In the next few years many Pagan groups and communities will be confronting how we receive released and reformed prisoners.  How Pagans answer this question will in part define who we are, an important question.

At Paganicon this year,  Morninghawk Apollo is offering a workshop/discussion on the topic.  He describes it as:  “Many new members coming to the Pagan community are former prison inmates who became Pagans while locked up.  At many institutions, either Wicca or Asatru is the largest religious group, not counting solitary practitioners.  The vast majority of these inmates will be released at the end of their sentences and wish to join the Pagan community.  Statistically, if your group hasn’t been approached by an ex-con yet, it will be. Have you considered your response? What reception should we give these Pagans when they are released? Bring your thoughts, fears, and ideas for a lively discussion of this important topic. “

Photo: workinglinks.co.uk

Morninghawk has been offering prison ministry with his wife since 2004.  He took a three-year break in the middle, and is back serving two Moose Lake, MN facilities.  The Minnesota State Correctional Facility (MCF Moose Lake) is a regular prison and has inmates, called “offenders,” who wear uniform clothing.  The Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) is a post-sentence medical treatment facility that houses inmates, called “clients,” who wear whatever they want within reason.  Many inmates convicted of certain sexual offenses are civilly committed by the court to the MSOP program after completing their MCF prison sentence.  Both are secure facilities, and look like prisons when you drive up.

I talked to Morninghawk about his work:

What are the facilities you minister to?
Morninghawk:  At the MCF is a level three medium security facility, meaning many have served their “hard time” at a facility like Stillwater or Oak Park Heights.   They are generally on their way to release in the next five years.  At MSOP, there is no defined release time.  If they graduate from this program, they are transferred to the MSOP program in St.Peter, MN.  If they graduate from that program they may be released to society from there.   In the seventeen years the program has been running, only one client has been released from St. Peter,  just this past year.  Both facilities are all men.
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Am I a Pagan? – Editorial

Photo: kitchenwiccan.com

Quite a few people anguish over their personal answer to this question.   We should all know what to say, but usually stammer around a little and say something vague.  There is a discussion among Pagan intellectuals about whether your beliefs and practices can safely fall under the broad definition this term offers.  The modern definition of Pagan arose with a pretty Wicca-centric focus, so the further your practices and beliefs get from that, the less safe this umbrella term may feel.  Can we agree to a term or definition that works better in the future?   I don’t know.  Nearly everyone has a different answer, when asked, “So what is a Pagan?”   I see the value for those who embrace the word in finding a good definition for the term we can all use.  A definition that is accurate and inclusive, and doesn’t offend anyone.  I will leave that to others to technically work out, it doesn’t interest me that much.  I just like the term Pagan.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when the word “Hippie” was kind of similar.  For some it conjured up dirty, disheveled, long-haired lazy people, self-absorbed in mind expanding drugs and having loose moral standards. I never minded when someone called me one as hate speech.  I knew they meant one thing, but it meant something else to me.  I embraced the label for its vision.  I saw it as representing a new way of looking at life, as re-assessing of what was important, and letting go of the expectations of others and our society.  I liked the “Peace and Love” platform.  I soon learned in personal application it often meant “my” peace, and “my” love, as  interpreted at any moment. The Hippie movement quickly degenerated, maybe because it didn’t have a clearly articulated definition that guided and sustained people who claimed the term.

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Crossed Quarters – Guest Editorial by Lisa Spiral

Most Pagans are aware that the eight sabbats of Wicca are an artificial construction. They combine festivals of hunter/gatherer peoples with festivals of agriculture and animal husbandry. When you add to that an international following and crazy modern scheduling you have a practice of worship that is truly Neo-Pagan.

Our quarter celebrations, the solstices and equinoxes, come to us from people’s who understood astronomy. These are real and measurable events in time and space. The tools and precision of measuring when these sabbats occur have changed over time. The events that they celebrate are fixed.

The cross quarters, however, are seasonal celebrations. They mark events of weather and harvest that happen when they happen in the local area. We know from the names we call them by: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhein that these are sabbats from more northern climates. These are celebrations of a people who were dependent on an unpredictable weather.

They may have marked migration cycles. They may have marked the end of a harvest season. They may have marked blooming plants. They may have marked fertility of farm animals. But these kind of events occur at different times in different places in different years.

Our calendars come to us from the Romans and the Roman Catholic Church. When these local festivals were assigned patron saints and attributed to saints days on the calendar they became more fixed in time. Of course the church calendar has changed once or twice over the last several thousand years and saints come and go. Continue reading

In Syria and Egypt, Pagan voices fall silent

Areas where there is political turmoil or fighting are often difficult places for even those in the mainstream of a culture to live in.  It’s even harder for people on the fringe of society as they face confusion, uncertainty, deteriorating living conditions, and daily fear for personal safety.  Those set apart by ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, political views, or religion are the most vulnerable to loss of property or even loss of life.  In Syria and Egypt, two countries currently experiencing political turmoil or civil war, one by one Pagan voices have fallen silent.

There are eight Pagans, three in Egypt and five in Syria, that I have regular contact with online.  They had always been cautious about revealing their religion to people within their country and expressed dismay over their isolation, but they were happy to talk online and wanted to know what American Pagans, especially those who practice Mesopotamian or Kemetic religions, were doing.

The Egyptian Pagans, who were elated at the fall of Muburak, expressed hope that a truly democratic government would emerge in Egypt.  Then,  concerns crept in at the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Karim saw the Brotherhood as a threat to both his country and to him, as a Pagan, personally.  Over the past seven months, the lag in communication grew as he became more politically involved and went to rallies and protests.  He expressed fear that pagans and other religious minorities were in increasing danger and that the Christians would sacrifice people like him to the Brotherhood to appease them.  The other two Pagans I communicate with followed a similar pattern.  Elation, followed by concern, followed by fear and determination.  Then silence.  I have no way of finding out if they are simply too involved with the political turmoil in Egypt to respond, if they are keeping quiet to avoid suspicion, or anything else.  It’s been three months since I have heard from any of them.

The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly.  They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut,  buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets.  They detailed neighbors going missing.  Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars.  Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

email for article

Last email received from Yana.

Yana dropped off first.  I last heard from her in June of 2012.  Bayan, another Syrian Pagan, also hadn’t heard from her but said fighting in her area was intense.  He said he had seen patrols targeting young women and men, beating them and he said it was rumored they were raping them.  He thought perhaps she fled to a safer area or was silent to avoid detection.

That was the last email I received from Bayan.  Like dominoes the other Syrian Pagans went silent.  No emails or texts.  No word on their safety.  I keep hoping I will hear something, but it’s been several months and still no word.

I reached out to a Pagan in Lebanon, Adon, to see what he has heard about his coreligionists in Syria and Egypt.  Although he’s not in the same country, he’s much closer than I am.  I asked Adon if he had heard from Pagans in Egypt and Syria.

I haven’t heard of my pagan friends in Syria for a while too now, i know at least three of them who moved to other countries, especially Algeria, and United Arab emirates, but i have lost their contact in the process. The others are still silent, so they’re either disconnected, moved from the country, or worse. It’s hard to tell at the moment, pagans in the Near East were already several secluded clusters of individuals who don’t have a lot of contact with each other before everything started to happen. This is the case even in Lebanon where it’s relatively easier to be open about one’s religious identity.

I didn’t had any contact previously with Egyptian pagans, but they’re probably fine, but everyone in Egypt is too distracted to think about anything but politics and survival at the moment, i’ve had trouble having a decent conversation even with non-pagan egyptian friends in the past few months.

Anyway, you’re right that the atmosphere is getting a lot less safer for non-muslims in general and even for less devoted muslims. It’s very risky to even discuss religion in Syria at the moment, whether we were in the areas controlled by the regime or by the rebels. In Egypt the situation is a bit brighter since there’s a larger civil society and minorities in general and things are still relatively peaceful. However, the general feeling here is that this is temporary, the Islamists are taking the lead now after being in the shadows for decades, and all this will catalyze the process of getting over fundamental Islamism faster.  – Adon

My hope is that peace and liberty come to this region of the world.  I hope my friends are safe and that someday soon, they can live without fear.  That their voices are once again heard and this terrible silence ends.  May Anu and Horus watch over them.

Gifts and Thank You’s – Editorial

Photo: vec.ca

Gifts, they are on most of our minds this time of year.  We anguish over giving them and receiving them, who needs one, who might give us one, why we give them.  It is residue from that dominant holiday in our culture, at least the anguish is.  Most of the gifts we really appreciate are the ones given from the heart, and specific to ourselves and the receiver.  There is a strong alternative movement against all the commercialism.  Give some cookies, or a hand-made necklace, a poem, hand-made card, or a special artifact of nature.  Give something really personal, these things often have more meaning.

Thank you.  Our thank you conversations are the flip side of gifts.  We always say thank you, but we can’t help but betray what we feel most often.  The enlightened honor that old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” and really endeavor to feel it.  It doesn’t matter if we already have two, or don’t need want or like it.  It may even feel like an obligation or burden.  Why did we not think of them and have a gift?  Whatever we feel, as we accept it, we also know most times the giver instinctively senses our reaction, and it falls into a couple of categories.  We loved it and appreciate it, we are ambivalent and it is a little awkward, or they sense our subtle dread at the responsibility of accepting it.  However it takes place, we complete the gift-thank you ritual and keep moving, it is that busy time of year.

Twin Cities Pagans

How can we avoid the stress of this time of gifts and thank you’s?   What got me thinking about this was the ending of the Paganistan weekly. What a gift.  JRob took the task of building a network of people, and a place to share personal and community events, applied his love and vision of a better community, and just ran with it.  The list, Twin Cities Pagans had been around since year 2000.  I found the post when JRob got involved , message # 649, Aug 18th, 2008:

Blessings All,
I couldn’t find a place which listed the area Pagan events in one calendar, so I asked Robin and he said I could use the calendar from this group to keep track of events.  So if you want to keep up on local Pagan events, check this group’s calendar.  I’m on a bunch of local groups and I continually add things as I find them.
Oh, and I also updated the links section. But I’m not calling dibs.  I hope that other people also feel free to add things.

Many Blessings, Jrob

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