Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And The Beat Goes On

You may not keep track of these things but I do, so I will update you on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision about Asian Carp. Chicago and Illinois – and the Obama Administration – continue to come out ahead in this continuing contest. In the words of Great Lakes Law

The Supreme Court’s order in the Asian carp case this morning says it all: “The motion of Michigan to reopen [Wisconsin v. Illinois] and for a supplemental decree is denied. The alternative motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied.” This effectively ends any hope for Michigan and the other Great Lakes states to get the Asian carp case before the Supreme Court.

Given the current court and President Obama’s ties to Illinois, this is not a surprising decision, but we can’t just blame the current court for wanting to stay out of this, although they had a great opportunity to make a difference in the health of the Great Lakes. Aspects of this dispute date back a century. The original case of Wisconsin v. Illinois goes back to 1922 disputing the reversal of the Chicago River.

Are there other ways to stop the carp invasion besides closing the locks? Maybe. One of the FAQs on the Asian Carp Management website asks “How can the public help prevent the spread of Asian Carp?” I have to say the answers seems pretty ineffective.

So what does this mean for the Great Lakes? Will we see a feeding frenzy this summer, next year or somewhere up the road? Only time will tell, but I don’t think we will have to wait as long as a century. During that time, whatever it will be, the efforts to stop the carp invasion will continue both in the courts and in the water.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now It's Water in Conversation

First, I wrote about water in reading, then in music. Today, it will be water in conversation because of a conversation I had today.

This conversation took place at the Kenosha Literacy Center where I volunteer in a tutoring program. In my teaching, I often use illustrations to encourage the students to speak English rather than their native language. This afternoon, I was working with two Mexican women, both in their early forties. They both women read, write and comprehend English fairly well, but their conversational skills are lacking. The only place they speak English is at the center because as one of them told me, the people in their family who do speak English outside the house have no patience to speak English to them at home.

The pictures I used today had to do with rooms in the house and what you do in those rooms. One picture of a bathroom showed a man taking a shower. Another showed a woman luxuriating in a deep bath tub. We talked about what the people were doing using words like showering, bathing, washing, soap, towel and so forth.

“Do you like to take a shower or a bath?” I asked, looking for conversation.

“No bath,” said one. The other nodded her head.

“You like a shower better?” I asked.

“Shower, yes, but not this shower. Not like this.”

I was puzzled. Did I not understand? These women were both well groomed and had impeccable hygiene, but they went on to explain in their broken English that in Mexico they do not stand under a shower. One laughed and said “with a cup” and demonstrated by tilting an imaginary cup over her head. She then searched for a word and I suggested the word she wanted was “rinse”. Yes, that was it. They rinse off from water in a cup.

They went on to tell me how in Mexico they save rainwater, including cooking water, which is then used for plants. They giggled when talking about how they save water when using when the toilet. They clearly know about water conservation better than I do. They have always been careful with water using techniques that conservationist are now trying to teach the American public.

I felt very American during that conversation and more than a little guilty. Sure I have stopped running water when I brush my teeth but as I have said many times before, I can’t stop myself from standing too long under the shower. I left my tutoring session thinking more about water than language and realizing that as so often happens, the teacher had learned something from her students.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Water in Music

Here’s a change of pace for you.

My last post was about water in words. I had not planned to write today about water in music but when I learned that it is this week’s theme one of my favorite radio programs Exploring Music , I felt the need.

Listening to Bill McGlaughlin’s program is often part of my early evening routine. I have learned so much about music from Bill and this week is no exception. The brief introduction to the topic on the WFMT website (WFMT produces the program; I listen to it on Wisconsin Public Radio) says:

In the 5th Century BC, water was classified as one of the four essential elements. Over the centuries artists, poets, philosophers and composers have returned again and again to the mysteries of water for inspiration. This week, we’ll focus on Water Music with works by Vaughan Williams, Mahler, Debussy and (of course) Handel.

Listening to water music is a very pleasant change from thinking about water shortages, bottled water, water pollution and all the other not so pleasant water-related topics. Actually, I have had a very nice day when it comes to water – I swam a half mile this morning, sat in a hot tub for a bit, and drank cool water to quench my thirst following an unusually warm spring day. And I washed the dinner dishes while listening to Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, which was written about a cave in Scotland but hearing it always takes me to Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park in Maine.

Yes, today was a good water day for me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

No Shortage of Water Related Reading

There maybe a water shortage, but there is no shortage of reading materials on the topic. I have been taking advantage of an empty schedule and a raw April afternoon to read the special issue of National Geographic on Water, Our Thirsty World. A few weeks ago, I downloaded a digital copy of the issue, but I am still partial to holding the volume and flipping pages. However, there are some additional features such as videos online so you can check them out if you like. I plan to later, after I spend more time with a cup of coffee and my “real” issue. Whichever way you choose to look at the magazine, there are good articles, including one by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, and as always fabulous photography and illustrations.

I did read some things on-line today. Great Lakes Echo reports that there has been an increase in the number of pelicans on the Illinois River. They speculate that this could be a potential solution for the Asian Carp invasion. Is that tongue in check? Or should I ask, is that fish in pouch?

Also, on WaterWired, I learned a new term – hydrophilanthropy. This website is written by “AquaDoc” AKA Michael E. Campana, whose describes himself as a hydrogeologist, hydrophilanthropist, and Professor of Geosciences at Oregon State University. Dr. Campangna defines hydrophilanthropy as the “altruistic concern for the water, sanitation, hygiene, and related needs of humankind, as manifested by donations of work, money, or resources”.

Although the website is fairly academic, it’s worth reading more – and you can also learn on it what the acronym WASH means.

Also on my pile of reading materials is Water by Steven Solomon. I recently heard Solomon talk about his book on the radio and thought it would be interesting. He traces the history of water and how it has shaped civilization. I started the book, but it too is fairly academic and forgive the pun, a bit dry. I am sure there is a lot to learn but on an afternoon like this, it might be a bit somnifacient. Now, there’s another good word for you.