Bare Bones Biology 315 – Canaries and Snake Oil

This is the end of the Bare Bones Biology mini-series on canaries. For now, that is. We will come back as events arise. Only it reminds me this time of year, as the seasons turn and the tourists and snake oil salesmen pour into our clean little villages and turn the sky from azure to an off-white skim milk hue. Canaries, of course, refers to “canaries in the coal mines” of earlier days (you can look it up on the web; I only have 600 words here).


And so as we canaries are forced to flee the villages into the ever-diminishing safe places of our land, the snake oil salesmen converge, with silver-tongue fairy tales such as “My asphalt is environmentally friendly,” and if challenged are likely as not to fall back on Jesus. I have read the Bible (old and new) and am quite sure that Jesus said nothing at all about asphalt, but He did have some things to say about money. I recommend you read it.
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But that’s not what I want to say today. I want to say, for the canaries of our world who are more sensitive to health hazards, or more aware of the causes of them, if you are a true canary, then your problems are not your body. They are your sensitive awareness of your body that in better times, olden times, some of which I can actually remember, would have made you a leader.

In a culture where money is reverenced over health, and dominance over leadership, you and I will just naturally be inclined to believe the snake oil, because our culture doesn’t tell us the real story. We can (and some do) spend all our lives trying to find our answers in “fixing” this or that about ourselves, our homes, our towns, when the cause of the problem is, literally, the “fixes.”

AND YET THE FACTS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET from organizations that have actually tested these ingredients. That’s why producers do not want to label their products. They don’t want us to know.


Please, canaries, never believe a sales pitch until you go to an authoritative web site (not another sales pitch) and get the real facts.


Your doctor cannot “cure” a problem that is not a part of your body; your psychological counselor cannot cure a problem that is not in your mind. Make sure, of course, that’s the first thing you should check. And if that’s not it, look for the cause elsewhere.   Buying stuff cannot cure a problem if the stuff you buy makes you sicker than you were before you bought it. And while we blame our own bodies and minds, we are only shoveling money, into the pockets of the snake oil salesmen. And so we experiment over and over, in the belief that something is wrong with Us, when the cause is in fact the growth and pollution of the places in which we live.


We could be using it to clean up the environment that really is sick. We could, for example:


1 – Remove the perfume and candles from public places; they are as bad as cigarettes or worse;
160428-BrazosCliffs-ASC_4068RLSs copy2 – Lose the cleaning products that you don’t need that simply turn your clothing and your home into environmental hazards for you and your children;

3 – And as for the asphalt and any other thing that sounds too good to be true – ask for a genuine government-approved fact sheet, listing all ingredients, and look up each ingredient on a reputable web site. It happens I did this for a report last year and I have a few words left here so I’ll quote one sentence from that report.

“Asphalt processing and asphalt roofing manufacturing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation.” [EPA, The United States of American Environmental Protection Agency].

The air you breathe and the water you drink are at least as important to your health as the food you eat, and the ingredients that we put into the air and water deserve at least as much responsible reporting.

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Bare Bones Biology 283

151118-Los Alamos-ASC_9855RLSsIn the morning, we jumped into our new-old gray truck, and drove up the hill to the Sargents Wildlife area, to check out Old Grey and our favorite tree with our own particular mountain in the background – believe me, it is back there. We made the very first set of tracks in the eight inches of new snow.


Old Gray did very well, without snow tires or chains, and, back down the hill, we drove back and forth over the entrance to our Winter Palace to trample down the piles of snow and other debris that our friendly neighborhood snow-dozer enjoys piling right in the place where our driveway meets the road, so we can’t get out with the car, though she could handle the rest of the driveway with no problem, and I don’t have time today to re-learn how to use our personal snow blower before my appointment in Los Alamos.


151118-Los Alamos-ASC_9890RLSsSo we mashed down the snow, switched to the car, made it out onto the very well dozered road, and headed out on this beautiful snow day to take our time on the road to Los Alamos and take some pictures. On the way out, we passed a cold-looking cowboy riding a black horse and leading a fully loaded bay packhorse through the roadside snow. Pictures? No way. First, he was crossing a long bridge, and second, after the bridge, there was no shoulder to the road where the snowplow had been. No place to safely stop until we got almost to Ghost Ranch.


Los Alamos is set on the top of a very high mesa with a mountain behind it. You get there up something that feels like the donkey trail into the Grand Canyon, but shorter and two lanes wide, some parts of which never receive the warmth of the sun, which is why we decided to come a day before our appointment, and even at that we got the last motel room in town, or so they told me. Who ever heard of motel overload on a Tuesday at 3 pm??? Fortunately we lucked out, and also fortunately the toxic chemical level was within tolerable limits, so we stayed two nights.


This odd little town, which is presumably the world center of nuclear power, is perfectly situated for defense. Just close off that donkey trail, and the surrounding cliffs are hundreds of feet steep. The town seems to be overflowing with cars but no people, outside of the places of business, of which there are not very many. I found the – actually Bitsy found the Coop, so we shopped for organically grown goods and dumped our recycle into their bins, neither convenience being available at home.120806-Nukes-ASC_9633s

Last week we were here the back of the car was flowing over with recycles that we took to the massive central facility, a story for some other time, but even Bitsy remembered the place; she loves a parade, and we have photographed two or three Peace demonstrations along this road. To our surprise, they have changed the road, and you can’t get there any more. So, the demonstrators did manage to influence someone; sometimes it’s hard to tell.


151118-Los Alamos-ASC_9911RLSsAnd the next day we retraced our steps, back down the goat trail, through Espanola, and this time stopped at the Abiquiu Inn for a snack (raspberry chimichanga, it was good), and then, chugging on back up the hill, we met our cowboy riding the black horse and leading the bay packhorse down the long hill, along the shoulder of the four-lane highway. While we drove all the way from the top of cowboy country to the home of the most advanced life-saving and death-dealing techniques in the world, and back again, he had traveled 20 miles.


To tell you the truth — this culture-shock hopping – I find it disorienting.   It’s one thing to go visit for six or eight months and actually learn something. Three days, no. I wish we would all get together and talk about what it means to be human – choose – and start making the effort. Even with the chimichanga booster, I was exhausted when the little car pulled us up over the last rise where we greet our own particular mountain and on to home, where we crashed.


Back again next week, and then – I am told the mountain version of Thanksgiving community dinner is a spectacular display, and I’ve been invited by three different people. Shall I take the camera or concentrate on the festivities?


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This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS radio, 89.1 in Bryan, TX.


A copy of this podcast can be downloaded at:



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In the morning I get up early, just because I do, and let the dog out for a run and feed us and then sit down to read or watch something interesting and meaningful. Now I am reading three books.



I am reading Wm Gass because I learned so much from Professor Brooks Landon, of The Great Courses, “Building Great Sentences.” Prof Landon recommended and seems to greatly admire Wm. Gass. Or maybe he just wanted us to read an extreme manifestation of complex sentences in the hands of a master writer. I have not learned nearly as much from Gass as from Landon.


Why did I learn so much from Prof. Landon? Because he showed me the difference between a great sentence and the modern craze of “writing for your audience,” at the other literary extreme. Writing what and how the corposystem says we should write, in fact must write if we want to become famous and popular, which seems to be the main thing we should want, according to the corposystem.


You can even buy How to Write Books computer programs that set up your book for you, organize the paragraphs, and remind you, if your sentences become too long, that your audience is or should be people of some predefined level of reading skills, somewhere around 7th grade, that can be measured according to the numbers of clauses in your sentences and/or the numbers of syllables in your words. Subject, verb, object; one or two syllables. That is what a sentence must be.


True enough, if you pick a modern paperback nonfiction book off the rack or the library shelf, any one, they pretty much all sound the same; not like Wm. Gass. Reading Gass can be hard going, especially if you haven’t read the authors he reviews. But interesting, admirable.


I do not write great sentences, but I am thankful to Prof. Landon for pointing out that I am not required to write either great sentences or corposystem rote.


I knew that, but somehow it’s nice to have permission; often things do not happen without “permission,” even things we already knew.


Of course, I won’t get published by the corposystem press, but then who wants to march lock-step into the unknowable future, having left behind the essence of her (Gass would have some amazingly creative sentence here, but then, I am also not required to write like Gass, and after reading one of his essays I was already getting bored trying to untangle his admittedly magnificent metaphors among the commas).


Self? Do I mean her Self? Probably everyone will understand that. It may be a metaphor, but is only one syllable, and it seems to me expressing one’s self is more important than expressing either corposystem rote or great sentences.


How about this one from my other reading of this morning:


“The goal of life

is to make your heartbeat

match the beat of the universe,

to match your nature with nature.”

Joseph Campbell, or maybe Diane Osbon,

From A Joseph Campbell Companion.


How different this kind of goal, compared with measuring one’s self against some human goal of full, lock-step equality among all selfs and Heil to the corposystem.   Or on the contrary comparing and competing metaphors among persons of amazingly intellectual selfhood.


Human intellect is a good thing, only if put to good purpose.


And then Campbell (remember his expertise was in the study of religion and mythology, and I’m pretty sure he also read Gass) he went on to say:


“In terms of historical action, Christianity and Islam have the same character. They’re going to remake the world for their God. I find this repulsive, but it’s what makes history, so you have to say ‘yes’ to it. If you say ‘no’ to one little detail of your life, you’ve unraveled the whole thing. You have to say ‘yes’ to the whole thing, including its extinction.” Page 149.









Bare Bones Biology 240 – Reality Check

FAX to BLM 140812 (FAX receipt filed)


U.S. Bureau of Land Management
New Mexico State Office
Fax: 505-954-2010
• I am protesting parcels NM-2014-001, 004 through 015, which are in the Rio Chama Watershed and East of the Continental Divide.

I am an 80-year-old retired career basic scientist who planned to spend the rest of my life in the Brazos Valley of Texas and was forced to move because of the destruction of the quality of the air that was threatening my health. I am not alone. Large segments of the American people are becoming homeless or mobile. It is excellent business for the travel trailer parks, but not for building healthy productive communities.

I lived in this location in Texas for 35 years, and invested much of my life savings in four pieces of property in Texas. When I arrived in Texas the air was always as crystalline as that in northern New Mexico on a good day like today. When I left, the air was consistently, daily, gray with a dank smog that damaged my lungs and other organs.

This fug is still there on most days, over the entire region of the hill country and eastward, and up to about 200 feet elevation, and of course it continues to get worse as all those wells leak (I was threatened when I photographed effluent being poured into the local creek). This change took (for the worst of it) about 5 years and was very clearly, the most of it, the result of intensive fracking north of us.

In addition, of course, I know many other people who owned land and homes in the Brazos Valley of Texas who have had personal health problems, have been forced out of their rural homes, have lost their jobs to people brought in from outside to work the oil and gas jobs, and even have observed flights of birds drop from the air, killed or disabled by the fumes from those local processing stations the gas companies try to hide back in the boonies. I can document these things.

Some of the negative effects of fracking are very well known and well documented.. This destruction does not sit there on top of the BLM lands. Among these problems documented in regions of fracking, worldwide. Destruction of air, water and the almost completely unstudied underground biosystem are among them. Earthquakes that indicate unknown kinds of damage to underground bio and geo systems.

Our air water and soil are the commons. They belong to the people – not to the gas or oil companies, and not to the BLM. Money is not more important than the common welfare, and a little more money now will not solve the human problem of depleting resources. In fact, it will make the problem worse for children who are born today, because we did not try to solve the real human problem, but only tried to do more of what caused the problem in the first place.

I am a basic career biologist – not a technician or a technologist. Regardless of the opinions of technicians and technologists, I and other basic scientists know that what we do to the earth today we can never undo. Before we do anything we should deeply consider what will be the effect on the future of humans in New Mexico and beyond, because the effects of this toxic technology are not only local. But expand far across the land air and water, and into the future.

I sincerely hope I will not need to sell out and move away from New Mexico as fracking continues, but I hesitate to invest further – to buy a property where I can live in winter – until I find out to what extent New Mexico is willing to protect her citizens and the natural wealth of her Biosystems from fly-by-night developers who bring temporary jobs, use up the infrastructure of the communities, and then sell off a portion gas and oil overseas and go away to feed off of the next community. It is the function of government to protect its citizens from these snake-oil salesmen who promise temporary riches rather than help to grow sustainable communities for the welfare of all the people.

I have purchased land here. Again, I hope this is a place where I can live healthy to the end of my days.

Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux
Lumberton, NM 87528

Copy to:
Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens
POB 934
Abiquiu, NM 87510

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS Radio, 89.1 in Bryan, TX

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

Again, this link does not appear to respond to my efforts to open it, but the address is:
You have to precede the above with http://


For a more inclusive and very well informed account of the biological and human consequences of fracking go to Alternative Radio and download the audio or the transcript (or both) of Fracking and Public Health, Sandra Steingraber.

And while you are there:
Thomas Linzety. Corporations, communities and the environment.

Diary – 140804

Sackcloth and Ashes
©2014 Lynn Lamoreux, Photos by Lynn

140802-canyon-asc_0672RLSsOh my, it is difficult to know just who I am now, so many changes; when I look in the mirror I don’t recognize my essence anymore. I think it got lost somewhere around the year 2000 when I retired, and before we Americans started asking God to bless our bombs (ref. Fr. John Dear, “The Narrow Path”; “James Nachtway WarPhotographer”) and before we took on the Biosystem as one of our many enemies.
I remember once when visiting a foreign land how proud I was (this was long ago) that I could go anywhere on my American passport and be welcome and safe. Now there are very few places left for me to live safely. Well, you remember that’s what I predicted on this blog when we reacted like a passel of cowards to a few petty crooks who managed 911. It was obvious. What comes around goes around. We could have stopped the cycle. Now it reaches even to our lying mirrors, though it’s usually pretty peaceful up here in the boonies.

Last Tuesday morning Bitsy and I awoke early as usual in the crisp breathable mountain air, grabbed the can of bear spray, and headed for our morning walk, this day opting for the meadow. Down by the waterless creek, we found a bedding spot where some large animal had spent the night. This immediately activated Bitsy, me trying to keep up, puffing up the hill to the elk trail, where we found fresh scat – extremely fresh — and she took off. I wandered more slowly back toward our trailer when, of a sudden, the most awful uproarious sounds split the morning air – elk in rut sounds plus I didn’t know what. Dog? Two elk duking it out? Just one elk proclaiming his dominance?.

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0643RLSsOK with me, he can have his dominance, and I guess Bitsy felt the same as she came timidly back and we jumped in our truck and zipped down to Santa Fe. In two hours we were enveloped in smog, cars, honking horns and nice people. Odd, that. Nice people, but the communal dream they inhabit is not at all nice, and it’s just — not real. Or is it? Was I once part of that dream? Am I me here, back in the trees? Or am I me there, sick with smog? Is there a me anymore?

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0652RSLsThree nights in a motel with the back door wide open (to a balcony) and the fan on full, trying to eliminate the toxic fumes they now use in motel rooms to make you believe there are no toxic fumes in the motel room. My guess is they have finally discovered a chemical that kills your sense of smell – it also kills quite a few other parts of my body. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night, nauseous, and so I tried sleeping on the floor with my head out the back door; it wasn’t much help. Give me a mad elk any day, but the car must be fixed. Leaky gas tank. And the local guy upstate – well, his fix lasted less than a year. Talk about toxic fumes.

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0656RLSsWe got it fixed, but gas fumes and toxic chemicals are not the only problems we citizens of the dominant nation must deal with if we take our responsibilities seriously, and this trip was timed so we could also attend Pax Christi Sackcloth and Ashes, with Fr. John Dear that commemorates the USA dropping atom bombs on Japan. (

A big conference and non-violent demonstration are planned for September 2015, but just for now, we made what peace we could, and you can read the recent announcement of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu, with David Kreiger, on Truthout

James Nachtwey, warphotographer, a Film by Christian Frei Filmproductions & SwissTV
The Narrow Path, a film by Gerard Thomas Straub,

Tom Dispatch

Yes indeed, if you want a little reading that is true and light-but-not-simple, and doesn’t claim much of anything except reality.

“Twain was careful to mind his manners when speaking from lecture platforms . . . He bottled his ferocious ridicule in the writing (much of it in newspapers) that he likened to “painted fire,” bent to the task of burning down with a torch of words the pestilent hospitality tents of self-glorifying cant. He had in mind the health of the society on which in 1873 he bestowed the honorific “The Gilded Age” in recognition of its great contributions to the technologies of selfishness and greed, a society making itself sick with the consumption of too many sugarcoated lies and one that he understood not to be a society at all but a state of war.”

Keystone XL will “hardwire” increased use of carbon fuels

Why are we letting our corposystem invest money into the destruction of our climate and our civilization when we could be putting the money into positive leadership (educating people about the factual reality of our ecosystem) and dealing positively with the problem by taking actions to prevent destruction of our commons — air, soil and water — by reducing the burning of carbon-based fuels and foods of all kinds.