Photo by Cotinis via Flickr

Oh bitter irony. It appears the Tea Party’s symbolic mascot may be in danger of extinction unless the dreaded Feds step in and invoke gub’mint regulation in the form of the hated Endangered Species Act.

Mother Jones reports that the coiled Eastern Diamondback that appears on the iconic Gadsden Flag  numbers only 100,000 critters compared to its  peak population of 3 million.

Which means there are probably more snake flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks than there are actual snakes.

MoJo notes that Ben Franklin himself took time out from inventing 5-and-dime stores to lobby for the Eastern Diamondback as a symbol because it  “never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.”

Unfortunately, it’s surrendered about 97 percent of its original habitat, which stretches from eastern Louisiana to North Carolina.

The Eastern Diamondback, or Crotalus adamanteus as it was known before the English-only types got ahold of it, is the largest and most powerful species of American rattlesnake. And best of all, it tastes like chicken.

The biggest ever recorded weighed 26 pounds, and they average over five feet in length. They typically live in pine woods, grass lands and coastal dunes and have even been known to swim among barrier islands.

It made its first appearance on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List in 2007 because of its declining population, which is largely due to habitat destruction and hunting. In fact, one Alabama community that holds an annual rattlesnake roundup used to get 400 Eastern Diamondbacks, but now only gets 70.

Which is just one of the reasons The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning to have it declared an endangered species.

And while that may not sit well with the anti-gub’mint crusaders,  it may be one way to let their snake-spangled banner yet wave a little longer.

But if they’re really conflicted maybe they should do a little soul searching. But instead of asking WWJD, they should punt to the Old Testament and ask, WWED — What Would Eve Do?

— John D’Anna


And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. — The Revelation of St. John The Divine, Chapter 19

“There’s something you don’t see every day.” — Bullwinkle

NOW THAT WE KNOW DEFINITIVELY  that the Rapture will absolutely and positively without a doubt occur on Saturday, you have to figure this can’t be good for the environment. Or could it?

After careful study of the great theologians, environmental scientists and bartenders of our day, I’ve come up with a list of Rapture pros and cons.

Pro: These raptures seem to involve lakes of fire and flaming rivers. In other words, a hydro-geo-thermal energy-palooza!

Con: They also involve seas of blood, which can get messy and attract flies. Plus it’s hard to swim in a lake of fire, but at least beachfront property would be cheap.

Pro: A big-ass bottomless pit is supposed to open up after the fifth trumpet sounds. Overcrowded landfill problem solved!

Con: Locusts and scorpions = pest control nightmare.

Pro: For every person who gets sucked into heaven, we reduce energy consumption by about 8,000 TOE (Tonnes of Oil Equivalent) a year — if they’re from the industrialized West. If they’re from the Third World, it might only be a thousand TOE each, but either way it’s a win.

Con: All those bodies flying through the air will wreak havoc on air-traffic control. And if they happen to be driving at the time, it’ll leave God knows how many engines idling and spewing carbon monoxide and other crap into the air.

Pro: Props to the Four Horsemen for using alternative transportation.

Con: Methane from horse farts is a greenhouse gas.

Pro: Fewer people = less agricultural consumption, easing food shortages.

Con: If  all our farmers get raptured, the organic movement is screwed.

Pro: Earthquakes and meteors could wipe out Utah, the Arizona Legislature and the set of Dancing With The Stars. Not really an environmental issue, but a bonus nonetheless.

Con: With all that sulfur, brimstone and wormwood, there’ll be hell to pay with the EPA.

Pro: If your mom gets raptured you can finally get a puppy.

Con: Every Starbucks bulletin board will be so filled  with found pet ads that there won’t be room for you to promote your blog.

Pro: Screams From Souls of the Damned would make a really cool band name.

Con: It might be hard to sleep with all that racket.

— John D’Anna

Had a great time today reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax to a bunch of third graders at Lincoln Elementary to commemorate Arbor Day.

“Out through the night and the whispering breezes, to the place where they keep the imaginary diseases…”

Oh wait. That’s Zappa. My bad.

Anyway, The Lorax is my favorite Dr. Seuss book because of its twin messages of hope and responsibility for the earth.

It’s also got all kinds of cool words — like “smogulous” — which I hardly ever get to use — unless I’m describing my last performance review.  (Incidentally, I was quite impressed that so many third graders knew that “smog” was a combination of the words “smoke” and “fog.” These teachers are doing something right, so STOP DEMONIZING THEM.)

Like The Lorax, Arbor Day also holds a special place for me because it was started by a newspaper editor, Julius Sterling Morton, who moved from tree-studded Michigan to pancake-flat Nebraska and was so aghast at the lack of trees that he started a movement.

The Lorax is a perfect complement to that movement because, in the book, the character’s refrain is, “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees,” much like Julius Sterling Morton did.

Today Arbor Day is observed in all 50 states, but not always on the same day. Nebraska and others usually do it on the last Friday in April, but Arizona’s official observance is usually sometime in March. Probably to keep folks from bursting into flame by having to go outside in late April. Not sure why Mesa decided to do it on the traditional day today, but there you have it.

Anyway, if you’re interested in maybe doing something cool for next Arbor Day, here’s a resource on bringing The Lorax into the classroom. After all, somebody needs to speak for the trees.

John D’Anna

Earth Day has been around 41 years. Good Friday has been around for about 2,000. But today is the first time they’ve ever converged, and it won’t happen again until 2095, when we’re all worm food. Most of us anyway.

So today seems like as good a time as any to ask, WWJD about the environment?

We don’t have to look far for evidence. The Bible – go ahead, I’ll wait while you dust yours off or find another book to prop up that broken leg on your night stand – says quite a lot about the environment, starting with Genesis where it says God made man a steward of the Earth.

In fact, The Good Book contains some of the earliest – and finest — examples of environmental writing in the Western tradition.

 Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.0rg and the author the first and perhaps best book about climate change, points out that the 38th and 39th chapters of the book of Job contain some of the most gorgeous environmental descriptions ever written. It start’s with God’s question to Job about who created the glories of the earth, and culminates in Chapter 39 as God continues the interrogation:

 Do you give the horse his strength, and endow his neck with splendor?  Do you make the steed to quiver while his thunderous snorting spreads terror? He jubilantly paws the plain and rushes in his might against the weapons. ..Is it by your discernment that the hawk soars, that he spreads his wings toward the south? Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest aloft? On the cliff he dwells and spends the night, on the spur of the cliff or the fortress. From thence he watches for his prey; his eyes behold it afar off…

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, odes to the glories of creation abound. Genesis, Isaiah, The Song of Solomon and the Psalms.

In fact, Psalm 104 echoes the language of the book of Job, only as praise instead of rebuke:

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
   the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
 There the birds make their nests;
   the stork has its home in the junipers.
 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
   the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
   and the sun knows when to go down.
 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
   and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
 The lions roar for their prey
  and seek their food from God.
  The sun rises, and they steal away;
   they return and lie down in their dens.

The New Testament as well gives us guidance:

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Romans 1:19-20 – …since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

And Revelation 11:18 – The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great — and for destroying those who destroy the earth.

It’s pretty clear that God would not be happy with the way things are now. In fact, there’s  an old bumper sticker that said “Jesus is coming, and boy is he pissed,” which later became the lyrics to a country song, so you know it’s got to be true.


  • An effort to extract oil from the tar sands in the stunningly beautiful boreal forest in Alberta, Canada, has resulted in a denuded toxic quagmire the size of England. And they want to do the same thing in Utah.
  • A year since BP’s ill-fated Macondo off-shore  well dumped nearly 5 million  gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by  2 million gallons of chemical disbursing agents, we still can’t calculate the damage to fragile marine life, coral and delicate coastal marshlands, where tar balls are still washing up.
  • And in Japan, well, only God knows how that mess will wind up.

A few years ago, a controversial Anglican priest in the U.K. named Rev. Jonathan Hagger delivered a sermon on climate change and creation.

Unfortunately, it no longer appears on his highly entertaining and considerably irreverent blog, which is titled “Of Course I Could Be Wrong…,” but I did manage to save a portion of it:

“When God became human in Jesus Christ, God did not just take on the appearance of a human being, he took on the substance of a human being. The molecules that formed the body of Christ, were exactly the same, with nothing subtracted, as the molecules that form all our bodies. And these molecules can be found, in some form or another, in all animal life and plant life. In fact, they come from the very ground we stand on. They come from the very stars we would see in the night sky if we didn’t have such appalling light pollution in our city. They come from the beginnings of the universe. Therefore, just as we are part of everything, so was Jesus.

That is why we are told, that, at the moment God died on the cross, the whole of creation responded. The very fabric of our planet screamed out in pain and anguish because, it felt the crucifixion. Most human beings, alive at the time did not feel the crucifixion because in their arrogance they had cut themselves from creation. We still do not feel the crucifixion because we are still too arrogant. We do not feel the crucifixion of Christ and we do not feel the crucifixion of our planet. In our arrogance we believe Jesus died just for us. But Jesus is God incarnate in creation so he redeems all creation not just the miniscule little bit of creation that comprises of human beings.

God looked at everything he had made and he saw that everything was good. Everything pleased him.

It would be pleasing to God if we took more care of those things that please God. If we begin now to take proper care of the earth, to live in creation, not against creation, we just might, with the help of God, end up with a habitable planet to hand on to our children. But to achieve this we are first, like Saint Francis, going to have to learn to live in union with creation not at the expense of creation.”

I hope you’ll give that some thought this Earth Day. This Good Friday.

— John D’Anna

This is truly amazing (click here). If the BP oil spill had happened in Arizona, it would cover a blob shaped area ranging from Ajo to Sedona and from Blythe to White River.

The only good news, we suppose, is that it would also cover the state Legislature as well as Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks supposedly play.

You can move the spill around to see what it would cover in your part of the world.

According to PBS Newshour, here’s a breakdown of the various estimates of how much oil is actually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

— John D’Anna

An excerpt from our forthcoming column in The Mesa Republic:

We’re glad to see our fair city is encouraging everyone to participate in Earth Hour.

In case you didn’t get the memo, Mesa will be among 4,100 cities from 87 countries whose residents will dim their lights for an hour Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. local time to call attention to climate change and energy conservation.

Around the country, monuments such as like the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, the Las Vegas Strip and Simon Cowell’s soul will go dark for an hour.

The Earth Hour Web site, myearth, has a bunch of cool videos with ideas on how to observe the event, but frankly if you can’t figure out what to do for an hour in the dark, you’re not watching enough Cinemax.

We know some of you don’t believe in climate change, but, still, turning out the lights can save you a few bucks, which you could then donate to your favorite charity. Did we mention we were on furlough last week?

Anyway, it must be OK because a bunch of red states like Florida, Arkansas and Georgia are doing it along with as well as the pinko states.

— John D’Anna

Everyone in Arizona it seems is all giddy these days over an impending execution.

It’s supposed to go down this weekend and will be attended by all kinds of dignitaries, singers, Apache Indian dancers and even school children.

We even got an invitation to share in this special moment.

The instrument of death in this case will not be lethal injection, however. Most likely it will be an axe or a chainsaw, or possibly both.

And the sad thing is, the accused committed no crime, other than being stately, majestic and beautiful.

On Saturday, folks will gather up in the White Mountains of Arizona, a region whose gorgeous forests have been ravaged by wildfires and bark beetles, to pay homage to the most beautiful tree they could find left standing.

And cut it down.

This year, Arizona has been chosen to supply the “People’s Christmas Tree,” which will stand outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington this holiday season.  Each year a different state gets the so-called honor, and this is Arizona’s first time. The excitement has been building. This week’s arborcide will be feted in all the press, and kids across the state have been asked to make ornaments to adorn it.

An exhaustive search began after last year, and this summer a fine blue spruce specimen from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest was finally chosen above all others. It is 85 feet tall — the tallest tree since the Capitol tree tradition began in 1964 — and has a canopy of some 30 feet.

Some folks say it could have sprouted before Father Kino came to Arizona in the 1600s, but most likely its seedling days were about 200 years ago, or roughly the time Abe Lincoln was born.

And irony of ironies, it’s being called the Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the year the great author and environmentalist came to work for the U.S. Forest Service in what was then the Arizona Territory.

Now, we enjoy the pagan tradition of the Christmas tree as much as anyone. Even live trees, because most of them are grown and harvested specifically for that purpose. But we think Aldo Leopold would join Druids everywhere in being appalled.

We’re guessing that nobody really thought through the environmental implications of this particular case.

Fear not. We did the math. Or actually got someone else to do it for us.

Believe it or not, there are actually formulas for calculating the weight of a living tree based on its height and the diameter of its trunk.

Esther Bowen, a graduate student in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, crunched the numbers for us and found that Arizona’s tree has a biomass of about 2,200 kilograms, which is a scientific way of saying it weighs more than 2 1/2 tons, at least half of which is carbon that is not being released into the atmosphere.

That’s just for starters. The plan is to truck this trophy around Arizona to show it off, and then take it on a circuitous path across the rest of the country so everyone can get a gander at it.

Esther found a formula that calculates the the carbon intensity of trucking — who knew? —  at  0.288 kg CO2/ton-mile. Given that the straight line from Arizona to D.C. is about 2,300 miles, they’ll  belch 1,600 kilograms — or nearly 1.75 tons of carbon into the atmosphere from that one truck alone. Actually more, because as we said, they plan to take the scenic route.

We found other calculations that indicate that if this tree were to be left online, it would continue producing as much as 100 pounds of oxygen a year while taking a similar amount of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And the kicker is that they don’t plan to cut down just the one tree.

There will be 75 smaller “companion trees” apparently to keep the People’s Tree company.

Even if they’re half the size of the guest of honor, that’s 80 tons of carbon we’re pumping into the air to get them to the nation’s Capitol. And don’t forget that there’s an entire semi-truck they’ll need just to carry the 5,000 ornaments we’re shipping as part of the deal.

And we didn’t even ask who’s paying for all this, but our guess is that at least some of your tax dollars will be at work here.

We keep hoping our environmental president will issue some sort of last-minute pardon, like the one traditionally bestowed on the White House turkey at Thanksgiving, but it seems unlikely.

Which is too bad, but that seems to be the way Washington works.

They get the tree, we get the stump.

— John D’Anna