Allergies are causing me to think about the environment. I’m wondering, did the old ancestors have allergies ? I know they weren’t killing trees to wipe their noses. Was it only with the proliferation of all kinds of vegetation that allergies were precipitated in Indian people? Arizona used to be a very good place for allergy sufferers, but people could not help themselves, they imported all the air-pollinators for landscaping.
I thought I outgrew my childish hay fevers, but they are back with a vengeance. It’s those cottonwood trees and their bitter outputs that are toasting my sinuses. Worsening allergies are yet another symptom of global warming so it’s said. But they also say cottonwoods are beneficial to the ecology of the riparian ecosystem. Cottonwoods help cool the river for salmon and stabilize riparian land. Cottonwoods grow fast, die young and become organic fodder for many living things. Cottonwoods do grow delicious mushrooms, hípaw. As the bugs kill off the conifers, perhaps the cottonwood will become our main tree, besides the black locust tree.
Pioneers used to benefit from planting locust trees on their land claim, as trees of any kind increased the value of the land. The locusts nativized. That’s how the Umatilla Indian Reservation came to be full of thorny locust trees.
I try to be complacent about the environment. We are downwind from the Hanford nuclear reservation and downwind from the Boardman coal-fired plant. I try to put it out of my mind as much as possible. As I have grown to old age, I figure it’s more of a concern to young people and people of childbearing age. There are folks of my generation who had their thyroids excised. That could possibly have been the consequence of Cesium 127 leaking into the Columbia River back in the mid-20th century. We are a small population, too small for epidemiological measures.
By July 2012, the Boardman plant will knock its mercury emissions down by 90 percent. We will be grateful for that. In 2020, Boardman will stop burning coal, the main source of mercury emissions. The mercury mainly affects humans who eat fish. It’s said that mercury exposure can make us stupider and stupider. No one has noticed anything like that, have they? Then there’s the cement plant down south of us, but I don’t know if it blows this way, or if it’s still operating.
Have you noticed how few aspen trees are on the reservation? I see a few sad patches of aspen toward Weston and up on Kanine Ridge. It’s blamed on the elk herds that the aspen has declined as well as other factors like climate change. The aspen is a sensitive tree. Because the elk have become bigger populations, they literally eat themselves out of house and home. It’s only with the comeback of the wolf, that elk numbers may drop, and aspen survival may improve. I don’t know what kind of trade-off that might be–wolves, elk, aspen trees. The sheepherders have complained that wolves kill, kill, and kill, whereas the bear says, “I’ll just take one [sheep], thank you.” I read that at OPB’s Earth Fix.