The Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain had a victory of sorts last week at the Planning Commission meeting.

Two hundred opponents of Cemex’s proposed horrible blight crowded into the hearing, spilling out into multiple hallways. Seventy-five people signed up to speak against the Cementos de Mexico eyesore.

And speak we did.

Dr. Richard Young, a NASA physicist, proved in his presentation that Fresno has more than enough aggregate to meet its needs for the next thirty years. Dr. Pat Cassen, another NASA physicist, pretty much destroyed Cemex’s claims about mitigating air pollution. The League of Women Voters representative showed that, contrary to what Cemex says, the land can never be reclaimed as the slope is too steep. Others spoke about Cemex’s hundreds of environmental violations and fines. (Look them up yourself. It’s shocking.) And finally, I pointed out that even very pro-business Republicans like Representatives John Ensign and Dean Heller of Nevada are fighting a similar Cemex aggregate mine in their state. They have decided that the few jobs created are not worth the devastation to the land, the air-pollution, the water contamination, and the lowered property values. Representative Heller is on the record saying that “This [aggregate] mine is detrimental to the community and should not go forward.” Representative Ensign’s testimony against the mine is available on YouTube.

Oh, and get this! When Xenia Township, Ohio refused to permit a Cemex aggregate mine in December of 2011, Cemex’s response was to consider filing a lawsuit to get its land annexed to the next county.

Do we really want extremely wealthy and powerful foreign companies redrawing our county boundaries to get what they want? Seriously.

At the end of the day—and I mean 5 pm on February 9th 2012— the commissioners were unable to vote to approve and had to schedule another meeting next month.

Folks, Cemex has had two and a half years to prepare a Final Environmental Impact Report on this mine. In my opinion, they failed to make their case, so what is another month going to do?

They changed the whole project from a strip mine to an open pit mine in response to problems uncovered in the Draft Environmental Report. What are they going to do? Change it back? Sprinkle fairy dust on the document?.

Next, they obfuscated the data on air quality to such an extent that the San Joaquin Air Quality Board accused them of making “capricious and arbitrary statements”.

What else? Oh yeah. They changed the grade of the mine so that it was so steep the Commission—by law— could not approve the project.

The only thing that seemed accurate was Cemex’s claim that the aesthetic destruction of the landscape would be severe and unavoidable.

Last week I showed you a picture of Jesse Morrow Mountain. Here it is again.

This whole area is a tourist destination know as The Blossom Trail. In the spring when the fragrance is incredible and the petals are blowing all around, all you want to do is drive very slowly down the tiny country roads with your head hanging out the window and just breathe all this in.

Ah, for one of those old fifties convertibles!

There are wineries popping up in the area, charming bed and breakfasts, and recently a destination restaurant—The Schoolhouse Restaurant— opened with a chef from Napa who wanted to be close to the farms.

If Cemex wins approval, the experience I just described to you will be destroyed. The fields of flowers and fruit trees will be facing the proposed Cemex eyesore. You’ll be smelling asphalt production, listening to blasting, breathing toxic dust.

Just to give you an idea let me show you a picture of an actual Cemex aggregate mine in Bolivia similar to the one Cemex proposes to build along the Blossom Trail and the Gateway to the Sierras. I guess when Cemex in its Environmental Report noted that the aesthetic destruction and degradation of the landscape would be “severe and unavoidable“, this is what they meant.

Wow.

Wherever you are in the world, if you come to the Sierras to backpack, to see the giant trees, to hike beside waterfalls and the Kings River, this affects you.

You’ll have to drive by Cemex’s toxic wasteland first. You’ll have to breathe in dust from the constant blasting and get your windshield destroyed by speeding gravel trucks. (Oh BTW what exactly is in the dust? Who knows? Cemex lost the core samples. I kid you not.)

You won’t be stopping at local wineries or staying in agritourism vineyards. You won’t be eating at local farm-to-table restaurants. You won’t be buying local fruit from farm stands or stopping at the old-time Minkler Cash store for penny candy like back in the day.

This blight will drive these small businesses out, all for aggregate we won’t need for thirty years, all for a handful of trucking jobs, all for Cementos de Mexico profit.

If you want to help, if you want to fight the appalachia-fication of rural California, please go to Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain and make a donation. (They have PayPal) We’re going to have to dig in for the long haul on this one, and the legal fight will be expensive.

The next time you go to the high country, you’ll be glad you did.

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Save Jesse Morrow Mountain

Posted by admin on Thursday Feb 9, 2012 Under Uncategorized

Jesse Morrow Mountain with big sky

It’s spring in the Central Valley when the Fresno County Planning Commission’s thoughts turn to . . .

. . . granting a permit for a toxic aggregate mega-mine on Native American burial grounds smack dab in the middle of prime orchard country where the cattle and horses peacefully graze.

Dumb idea. You’d think, huh?

See the little mountain in this picture? Now imagine it leveled by Cemex, the Mexican multinational concrete company. Imagine blasting noise, imagine dust, imagine the air pollution you can’t see, the ground water pollution from the facility seeping into farmers’ wells. Imagine the trolleys running up and down the side of the hill carrying the mountain down rock by rock.

Imagine the cherry orchards covered in dust, the fields of poppies buried under it.

And all for road-building materials that studies show Fresno County won’t need for thirty years!

Well, not without a fight.

Tomorrow a bunch of us are coming down off the Sierras to speak in front of said planning commission. It’s times like this I remember what Gandhi said. “What you do is unimportant. That you do it is of the utmost importance.”

That was Gandhi’s way of saying,”Time to cow-girl up!”

I’ll be there with a hundred or more people, staring down the high-paid lawyers from Cemex. Let’s not forget what a small group of determined individuals can do, and my friends, I am one of them. Just ask Dave!

If you live in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, you may think what happens in the Central Valley doesn’t affect you.

Think again.

The next time you’re at the fancy-schmancy San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market with the Hoity and the Toity, ask where the stuff comes from. Half the time it’s from the Central Valley, from right here.

Next week, I’ll post an update to this story and tell you ways you can help.

Jesse Morrow Mountain, closer view

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Palace of the Blue Butterfly: Chapter Nine Posted

Posted by admin on Friday Feb 3, 2012 Under Uncategorized

I love this picture of a bookstore/cafe in the historic center of Mexico City. I imagine, but I’m not certain, that the cafe is on the second floor, and that (if I were there) I could buy a book, climb the stairs, order an espresso and read a novel well above the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets.

But I’m not there. I’m sitting at my desk slooooowly proofreading my book. I remember a well- known mystery writer telling me he always held carrots in front of his nose at this point in the novel writing process. “Eight pages and I can get up and play with the cat. Eight more pages and I can make some tea. Eight more pages after that and I can check the mail.”

In order to speed things up, I’m forgoing blogging about life on the ranch this week so that I can put up another chapter. Since each one takes me about three hours to proof and post, and since life on the ranch doesn’t come to a dead stop just because I need time to do this, I’m going at a snail’s pace. But, I really want to get this book up on Amazon sooner rather than later, and in order to do that, I have to apply seat of pants to seat of chair and not drift off into some dreamy state. In my case, it’s eight more pages and I can go fill the cattle trough!

Writing is fun, but copy editing . . . uh, not so much. That’s why there were some glitches in Chapter Eight. I wandered off. The glitches have now been corrected. If you haven’t gotten that far, then just ignore this message. If you have, well I’m sorry for the pronoun confusion — there’s a reason that happened. However, now you can go back and take a look.

Rest assured that after I’ve gone through all this, a professional copy-editor will have a go at it. Then it’s off to the e-book formatter and up on Amazon. com.’s Kindle store.

I suppose this is always the kind of thing you see if you lift the hood up and take a look at the engine of any creative endeavor. All that sort of messy stuff. Still, the engine is not what I want my readers to see. Kind of breaks up the narrative dream. While that’s all very post-modern and stuff, it’s not my style. I’m a traditional women’s fiction writer through and through.

But, back to the chapters at hand . . .

If you’ve been to Mexico City, you’ll know the Plaza Tolsa where Lili is having lunch. If you haven’t been, well, here’s a photo on the right.

You’ll get the feeling.

And just to nudge your imagination a bit more, here’s the restaurant Los Girasoles on the left where she’s dining.

BTW—Fabulous food. Great margaritas.

Before I sign off here, I’ve got a little announcement. Any of you within range of KVRP Public Radio (FM 89) can listen to me read El Tropical, an excerpt from my novel Bird of Paradise. It airs February 8 at 7 pm. Hope you’ll tune in.

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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link