Succumbing to the river’s charms– and other pertinent notes by Robert Kimber

Let’s close the month of June on a poetic note.  Here’s a favorite passage from Robert Kimber’s A Canoeists’s Sketchbook.

“Succumbing to the charms of any river tosses you on the horns of an impossible dilemma.  Do you spend the rest of your life going back to that same river, knowing that no matter how many times you see it you will only have just begun to see it?   Or do you move on from one river to another and from each bend in that river to the next bend, knowing that each river and each bend has its own personality and mystery?  Most of us deal with this dilemma by resorting to those sloppy compromises so rife in human affairs.  We keep exploring the new while fitting in, whenever we can, return trips to those rivers and places that have spoken most powerfully to us.   Monet did not compromise.  Devoted to an art that can capture only static moments in a constantly flowing world, he went back to the same bend on the Seine time and time again.  Monet was not a canoeman.  His way of knowing a river was not to climb into the flow and become part of it, but to be in the same place next to it season after season, day after day, to capture–hour by hour and minute by minute– the shift from blaze of noon to evening shadow, from water hidden in the morning mists to ice flows glinting in the winter sun.   What he wanted to do, as he said himself, was record his impressions of the natural world “in the face of the most fugitive effects”.  No wonder he painted rivers and river scenes so often.  The river is a fugitive effect, always in constant flight from us, slipping through our fingers no matter how diligently we attend to it.  The river in constant flow and change is the image not only from our own lives but of everything alive.”    

Robert Kimber, A Canoeist’s Sketchbook,  1991

Sales pitches for reservoir seem like bait-and-switch

When the idea of the dam and reservoir was initially expressed by Anderson businessman Quinn Ricker, it was described as for the purpose of creating more economic development in the Anderson area.  The Anderson Corporation for Economic Development quickly adopted the idea, calling it visionary. It has studied the concept for about 3 years and disclosed it publicly in March, 2013.

During the recent efforts to promote the idea to different audiences and agencies, the CED has expressed the intended purpose in different ways.  At the April meeting of the Technical Advisory Group of Citizens Water, the CED’s Robert Sparks said the purpose was for public water supply for central Indiana–  with no mention of any of the other rationales which had been previously stated in various settings– economic development, flood control, recreation, and lifestyle enhancement.  There are other similar examples of the apparent tailoring of the rationale to the particular audience.  In other instances, some rationales were indicated to be “out” (e.g. recreation and economic development), but were then surprisingly resurrected in the same meeting.  Mr. Sparks has also publicly stated the CED’s intent to avoid supplying written material to public agencies because such documents would, by law (the Indiana Access to Public Records Act,     I.C. 5-14-1.5), be subject to public disclosure.

Considering the CED’s tailored presentations and the lack of consistency of stated rationale, some of the classic sleight-of-hand idioms come to mind–  bait-and-switch, Trojan horse, shell game, pig in a poke, etc. Essentially, they translate to Caveat Emptor— Buyer Beware!

The frequency by which the CED changes its expressed Purpose & Need makes the reservoir plan rollout seem like a bait-and-switch intended to confuse or deceive.  Whether it’s deception or merely “waffling”, it does not inspire confidence for the public that the Purpose & Need case for the plan is either well-founded or publicly transparent.

At a future point, if/when the plan might be considered feasible from an engineering perspective and the promoters decide to push ahead, the CED might feel the need to retain the services of a firm specializing in public relations and government lobbying in order to garner public and political support and possibly also to obtain public financing and subsidies..  If that occurs, we’ll see if the plan’s proponents continue to manipulate the Purpose & Need rationales thus increasing public confusion, or if they’ll present a clear and consistent – and compelling– rationale.

Likely, they’ll ultimately choose to emphasize the rationale which purportedly might serve the greatest public good, i.e. more public water supply for Indianapolis.  However, it will remain to be seen whether even a claimed water-supply need, with no other source alternatives evaluated, could justify the high public costs and many destructive impacts of the plan.

Archery center in Hamilton County was a missed opportunity for Anderson and Madison County

Andrea Davis in today’s Indianapolis Business Journal  reported on a plan to build a competition-grade archery facility near Strawtown, the site of a former Lenape (Delaware) village, in Hamilton County at one of the county parks (Koteewi Park).

It’s unfortunate that Anderson’s Girt Archery (the proposed operator) and Madison County officials and economic developers couldn’t have implemented this worthwhile concept.  Perhaps they’ve been distracted with the plan for the destructive dam and reservoir.  Or perhaps they have succumbed to the much-too-willful-will condition for which Eugen Herrigel admonishes the student in his Zen in the Art of Archery.

Impact upon critical climate change

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently reported that “Just last month, the level of heat-trapping CO2 cracked the once-unthinkable barrier of 400 parts per million — for the first time in at least three million years.”

There’s that not-very-merry-month-of-May theme again.

We wonder what the impact upon CO2 levels and global climate change might be with the planned destruction of hundreds of acres of mature riparian forest along White River.  We should be holding on to our remaining forested areas instead of thinking of more ways to eliminate them.

Disconnected in Madison County

Yesterday’s incoming e-mail contained an interesting piece entitled How American Indians Would Teach U.S. History.  It contains excerpts from two new  books– Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education By Four Arrows (May, 2013 Peter Lang Publishers)  and Indigenous Curricular Alternatives: How Indians Would Teach American History by Barbara Alice Mann.

Barbara Mann notes, in part, that “in communal cultures, everyone’s point of view is respected.”   The statement is reminiscent of the previous ill-founded decision by Connect! Madison County to oust several persons who attempted to distribute flyers to attendees of the CMC’s April 30th “Community Discussion” in the lobby of Reardon Auditorium at Anderson University regarding the planned dam and reservoir plan.   Connect! Madison County had rented the auditorium for a panel presentation about the dam and didn’t want any of the plan’s doubters to pass out informational flyers or speak with other attendees.  It’s unclear if the order to oust (carried out by the uniformed security staff) came at the urging or approval of the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development which is promoting the dam plan.

Both Anderson Indiana and Anderson University took their names from Chief William Anderson of the Lenape who were repeatedly forced out of their homelands by advancing European settlement.   It appears that the attitude of empire (i.e.pushing people out) remains to this day as an unbecoming surviving legacy of those years of extirpation and forced relocation.

Perhaps some of Anderson’s community leaders could set aside time for some worthwhile summer reading.