As I sit here writing this, which is over a week before I post it because I'm loading the blog so that it will update even when I am too busy with fieldwork to write new updates (because I'm clever), I am sitting and having dinner in King City waiting for the work truck to cool down so that I can check the oil and determine the exact meaning of the rental vehicles "low oil" indicator.
This oil issue is ironic, as I am the lead archaeologist on a 3-D seismic oil exploration project*.
The way that this works is that a survey crew places source points across the landscape. At the source points, a vibration will be generated, either by a vibrating plate from a special truck or by a small explosive charge, and it will be measured at receiver points, where recording equipment measures the nature of the vibrations to generate a 3-D "sonar"-type map of the subsurface constituents, identifying mineral deposits including oil.
Currently, there are two survey crews, and each crew has a biologist and an archaeologist acompanying it to prevent damage to historic sites and to threatened/endangered specieis habitat. Another set of archaeologists, one that I overseee personally, works behind the surveyors, identifying and recording archaeological sites to ensure that nothing is damaged. It's a fairly good system, one that saves time and money on everyone's part, and effectively protects biological and cultural resources from damage.
However I have been working with a small crew. The reason for this is simple - the usual steady flow of field technicians has been slowed to a trickle by the introduction of a large number of projects throughout the state, and neighboring states. As a result, we have a few techs who've worked with us before, good folks all of them, and alot of new people (who, thankfully, have worked out pretty well so far).
The problem is that we need a large crew. Larger than the current one, which is already of quite a respectable size. So, you can imagine my surprise when I received a call from my boss asking me where I had gotten 14 field technicians for the project.
I did not have 14 field technicians (edited from the future: I have more than that now), and I stated as much.
"Oh, I just got off the phone with the lead biologist, and he said that you were bringing fourteen archaeologists out."
"Ummmm" I wittily replied.
"So, you don't have fourteen people?"
"Well...not as such..."
"Okay, good. I didn't remember you saying that you were bringing that many people." he said, sounding relieved.
"Where did this rumor come from?"
"Well," the boss began, I could hear him scratching his whiskers through his tone of voice "it's a seismic project. Gossip is gonna' be worse than in a small town full ofold ladies."
Yeah, it's going to be a long few months.
*And before any of my friends or readers start commenting or complaining about me working with oil exploration teams, let me point out that these companies have enough political sway that they woud be doing this with or without environmental workers on the scene. At least as long as the environmental team, of which I lead the archaeology/cultural resources portion, is present, the damage to the environment is minimized from what it would otherwise be. It's for this reason that I will work with oil companies, the military, land developers, and just about every other entity that is usually the "bad guy" in political/environmental morality plays.
The fact of the matter is this: it's all fine and good to march, go to rallies, and circulate petitions - these activities have their place and use, but the organizations that have to clean up their act aren't going to police themselves, we all know that, and unless someone like me is willing to roll up their sleeves and actually do the work of environmental compliance, all of the various environmental laws that the rest of you are so proud of would never actually be enforced. For all the flack that I get, I am one of the few environmentalists that I know who can actually point to resources protected and laws complied with, and the others that I know who can make the same claim also work with the "bad guy" organizations - we have to, it's the only way that anything actually gets protected.
In other words, if all you do is talk, then get off of my back. I have work to do.
Why yes, I have had some very irritating conversations with self-proclaimed environmentalists. Why do you ask?