Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for Dec. 29 – Jan. 4

Posted by Trey Smith on December 28, 2008

Greener Times for the Week of December 29 – January 4

Volume 3 No. 37

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Trey Smith – Publisher/Editor
Tom Herring, Duff Badgley & Maryrose Asher – Columnists

In This Week’s Issue
* Tennessee Coal Waste Disaster and a New Approach
* Green Party Touts Environmental Action Plan
* Thoughts By the Way: Something in Your Eye
* Our Climate Crisis: A Crime Against Duff
* This Week in History

* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Will You Kill for Me?
* News You May Have Missed

Tennessee Coal Waste Disaster and a New Approach
by Jan Lundberg of Culture Change

Notions such as “clean” solar and wind power on a massive scale for a renewable-energy panacea, and the idea that roads are a good thing, are why idiocy and tragedy continue. The doomed petroleum infrastructure is just one reason, and all are ignored by our society wearing blinders. We’re the animal that errs — the incorrectly named homo sapiens sapiens. And when we consider “clean coal” or “clean cars” homo idiotus comes to my mind (someone correct my Latin).

The Kingston power plant whose lagoon of toxic waste gave way this week, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, tell us what’s wrong in the in large sense in their very names, and gives us an indication of what must be abolished: “King’s town” and “boss of a valley.” Question authority, question “reality.”

It a wrongheaded mindset that has allowed “more than 1 billion gallons of waste containing potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, as well as radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium, impurities typically found in coal.” [from Southern Exposure’s Dec. 26 report]

Self-defeating reforms are the rule, not the exception: “In recent years, the technology for capturing the pollutants from stacks of coal-fired power plants has become more sophisticated, which means coal combustion waste contains even higher concentrations of toxins.” The article exposed the absurdity of mining and development, as in “developers used 1.5 million tons of coal ash to build a golf course over a shallow aquifer in Chesapeake, Va.” But the conclusion of the Tennessee article was only a call for better regulation. Oh, sure.

You can expect nothing from the Obama regime or the dominant culture to directly rectify or transform the problems that plague us and the whole Earth. Even if there were 1,000 Ecovillage Training Centers (in Tennessee at The Farm), and as many Earth University’s (in Chiapas on autonomous land), plunked down from on high, there’s no logical argument that can herd the “sheople” to try a new approach to living, even if we could commandeer NPR, PBS, the BBC et al for a good spell. For the boss man is too strong, and there’s not an open commons where the land ain’t fenced or paved, so that people can gather food and erect shelters in peace and freedom. Too many people, divided as they are — what leader in power has ever tackled overpopulation? Doing so toppled Indira Gandhi. The Chinese have tackled it but rather too late.

Only a collapse of the entire system of industry and consumption will change the playing field. Are things finally crashing down as we speak? Being compassionate is essential. But to fight for changes on the policy level and possibly legitimize the system is in the end not compassionate, if we neglect to prioritize fundamental cultural change. Meanwhile some of us on the latter track continue to develop and point to ways of sustainability. Some of us even risk getting arrested for what we believe in. May the new year make more sense to us in terms of a positive flow of consciousness.

Green Party Touts Environmental Action Plan
Green Party leaders today said that Obama has the chance, when he becomes President, to take the lead on curbing global warming.

In May, 2008, the Green Party’s Eco-Action Committee announced a set of recommendations for environmental actions for the first 100 days as a guide for Green presidential candidates.

Greens are now promoting the “First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy” as a plan for the Obama Administration.

“This is the Green Party’s holiday gift to the new administration — a set of policies and actions that would place the US in the lead among nations fighting the advance of catastrophic climate change,” said Wes Rolley, co-chair of the EcoAction Committee. “After the inconclusive results of the Poznan talks, President Obama has the opportunity to put the US at the forefront by the time nations meet again in Copenhagen next year.”

“Evidence presented by climate experts in Poznan that alternative energy may not be sufficient to solve the crisis. The emphasis must shift more towards conservation, lowered consumption, and drastic reduction in car traffic. The steps taken against global warming and to repair the current economic meltdown must include all three,” said Mr. Rolley.

On December 10, the Green Party published six recommendations for economic recovery that included environmentally based public works, expanded public transportation, and other conservation-based measures.

First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy: summary of major recommendations

  • No new coal fired-power plants; no new nuclear power plants; reduce by 90% the mercury emissions of coal-fired power plants by 2012; protect human health and the environment.in the disposal of coal-fired power plant wastes
  • Ban mountaintop coal removal; ban the dumping of mountaintop removal wastes in stream beds and valleys
  • Reduce CO2 and SO2 emissions by 80% by 2020
  • Provide incentives for industry and citizens to reduce energy use through conservation and generate more renewable energy sources; enact a mandatory 25% renewable energy mix in the national grid by 2015; encourage all states to do the same (using oil and nuclear subsidy funds); encouraging local energy generation
  • Increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 60 mpg for cars and 45 mpg for light trucks by 2012
  • Set a national phosphorus standard for all US waters that will protect steams from nutrient growth; strengthen bacteria standards to protect human health
  • Require labeling of imported foods, foods with growth hormones, and foods produced by Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
  • Stop export of any technology abroad for projects that involve fossil fuel or deforestation
  • Require that all federal agencies continue their policy of direct negotiation with Indian tribes on a government to government basis
  • Protect the rights of Environmental Justice communities to be free from new proposals for permits that would potentially increase their burden of toxic contamination, and prioritize these communities for cleanup

Thoughts By the Way: Something in Your Eye
Tom Herring is a Community Council member on Vashon Island. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

Ever since I was dropped, diaperless, into the world of politics a mortal dispute has raged between the Democrats and the Third Party. It has been a long eight years. The dispute has taken on the life of something lodged in your eye. No amount of pulling down the lid, washing, rubbing, will make it go away because you have worried it to the point that you cannot tell if it is there or not. Here’s how it goes: the problem is the two-party system, but when Ralph, wearing his Green sport coat, tries to bust it, he is crucified for abetting the worst administration in US history. It’s there, menwomen, and it ain’t going away. Would Gore have murdered fewer Iraqis? Would Kerry have gotten rid of the Patriot act? Wring of hands and worry of heart, but nothing could resolve the dispute, could let the good guysngals win. And now with the election of Obama, the Democrats have vindicated their sabotage of the Third Party: He is Change. Well, that thing in our eye may have been voted out but it is still there and it hurts like hell.

The reason we the public could not resolve the dispute in favor of the good guysngals was that we could not agree on what is really at issue, what that thing in the eye really is. We still don’t. That’s because the two-party system is only a tool. The well-hidden issue is the golden grip of capitalism on the public, a grip facilitated by the two-party system. And so on the eve of 2009, at the obvious brink of an obvious unknown abyss, we foolishly bury Dennis, Ralph, and Cynthia and eulogize Obama.

Look again at 2000. Gore losing by fraud was the lesser message. The big message was that capital was running the Capitol, and if one were to have read this message then, the thing in hiserher eye would have gone away. If one were to have read this message then, heershe would have quit beating up on Ralph and looked with a clear eye at the role of capitalism in modern elections.

Now, back to 2008 going on 9. Capital has run the Capitol as usual, but this time it was forced to pick a Democrat because its batboy Bush had soiled the Republican trousers. This time the thing in our eye was smaller but hurt more. This time the only way Dennis, Ralph, and Cynthia could have gotten points was to have walked across the Potomac. This time, again, still, we do not realize that the issue is capitalism. Just as the bull is decoyed time and time again by the cape we do not realize that the issue is capitalism.

Therefore we stand at the brink and wring our hands. Give Obama a chance. Urge Obama to make good. Write to your congressperson. Send money. Enough. It is we who should do this and not do that. It is we who are the problem.

We had the knowledge, in spite of the media filter, to have stopped Bush from invading Iraq. To have stopped Kissinger from inciting the coup in Chile. To have deterred Israel from its genocide of the Palestinians. To have prevented Suharto from massacring half of East Timor. To have forced Bush to call off his DHS thugs in New Orleans. To have closed the torture School of the Americas. To have forced Congress to create national single payer healthcare. To have outlawed incarceration for profit. For eight years, however, we have steadfastly refused to give up consuming the things capitalism sells, and this has muzzled our outrage. We are the problem.

The brave sacrifices of the progressive opposition have failed because we the comfortable have not backed them. We are the problem

America’s path from rugged individualism to drugged consumption is paved with the concrete of roadways and lined with the billboards of television. We are the problem.

Having now belabored the point that the presidential elections embody everything that is wrong with America, which is that the public has gone soft on consumption of capital, I will spell out a cure so sound that the foregoing polemic recedes into window dressing. The cure is to dispense with all existing political parties and the like in favor of talking to everybody within walking distance. Before electronics, you see. Before cars, you see. Before de-humanization, you see. Then, step by step, we might retreat from the brink.

Our Climate Crisis: A Crime Against Duff
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

When you drive your car, you are committing a Crime Against Duff – against me.

When the Israelis slaughter masses of Palestinians in Gaza, as they did right after Christmas, they are committing many hideous crimes, including a Crime Against Duff.

When Barack Obama stacks his staff and cabinet with war-mongers (Emanuel, Gates, Clinton) and despoilers of our Earth (Vilsack, Chu, Salazar), he commits a Crime Against Duff.

The connection?

All these actions kill chances for our species acting collectively to cope with our greatest threat ever-what Ross Gelbspan calls “the overwhelming power of inflamed nature”- our Climate Crisis.

Driving your car cripples the Right to Exist for me and my kids and grandkids. It may be your car, but it’s my Planet! You as motorist become a criminal threatening my life.

The Israelis wantonly murder Palestinians under the approving eyes of Bush, Obama, Emanuel, Clinton and Gates.

As they mass-murder, the Israelis inflame hatred and division among billions of humans. And dramatically reduce the chances of global cooperation to adapt to and mitigate our Climate Crisis.

The Israelis’ murdering, and Obama & Gang’s murder-by-proxy, refutes the fundamental Climate Crisis lesson: We are ONE! What happens to some of us, literally happens to all of us.

Ken Salazar, Obama’s Interior Department pick, wants to mine public lands for coal and oil. Steven Chu, Energy Department nominee, wants to dedicate 50 million acres to ‘energy crops’. Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilscack pushes corn ethanol in defiance of all science and reason. These Men from Obama are poised to inflict great harm on the Earth and me. And compromise my future.

What to do?

Gelbspan calls for “an elevation of public mission above private interest and an end to the free-market fundamentalism that has blinded much of the American public with its mindless belief in the divine power of markets.”

You driving your car is in your private interest-at least in the short term, you believe.

But I must breathe air, and endure a future, poisoned by carbon you produce when you drive your car.

You driving your car and harming me would not be possible if we had “an elevation of public mission”. I’m part of the public. Every one of us Earthlings is part of the public. We share a planet and share a fate.

We are not Americans. We are humans, one of a rapidly thinning tangle of species sharing this precious Blue Planet.

So, leave your car home. Throw away the keys. Take the bus each Saturday to Westlake Plaza to help us rally in support of the Palestinians. Rallies go from noon – 2 p.m.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 29, 1890: The U.S. Army killed approximately 400 Oglala Sioux at Wounded Knee, in the new state of South Dakota. The 7th Cavalry (Custer’s old command) fired their artillery amidst women, children, and fleeing men. The Wounded Knee Massacre was the final major military battle in the genocide against Native Americans. 18 soldiers received Congressional Medals of Honor for their “bravery.” The wounded and dying were taken to a makeshift hospital in the Pine Ridge Episcopal Church. Ironically, above the pulpit hung a Christmas banner which read: Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

January 1, 1994: On the day NAFTA took effect, more than 2,000 native Mayans in Mexico’s Chiapas state marched into the state capital, San Cristóbal de las Casas, and five neighboring towns, and seized control. Calling themselves Zapatistas, or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a “declaration of war” was issued. Chiapas is among the poorest parts of Mexico. The indigenous peoples of Mexico long suffered as second-class citizens due to the dominance of the Roman Catholic church and the traditional Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry) political leadership of the country. The EZLN was certain that NAFTA would permanently lock in the top-down economic situation in Mexico. The Zapatistas’ slogan was !Ya basta! (“Enough is enough”). Employees at the Mexican stock exchange were evacuated by riot police. 25,000 Mexican soldiers arrived in Chiapas equipped with automatic weapons, tanks, helicopters and airplanes. 145 deaths were reported, mostly civilians. Massive arrests and subsequent torture of prisoners by the government took place.

January 3, 1961: A nuclear reactor exploded at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho, killing three military technicians, and released radioactivity which, in the words of John A. McCone, Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, was “largely confined” to the reactor building. One technician was blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod. His body remained there until it was taken down six days later. The men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands and heads had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste.

Letters to the Editor
Got something you want to get off your chest? Did an article in a previous edition of Greener Times make you madder than a hornet or cause you to stand up to say, “Right on!”? Well, this space is reserved each week for your comments and opinions.

Duff — Regarding your commentary on proposed cabinet picks Vilsack and Chu I suggest withholding judgment until we see how Obama uses their expertise. Who better than Vilsack to lead the farmbelt in a compassionate transition to a more sustainable economy? He understands the people and businesses entrapped in this government-created mess, and I think they trust him to some extent. And Chu — Steven Chu is a truly great scientist with good leadership and communication skills, who is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He has no illusions about what that will take. What a huge change from the Bush administration cutting and pasting scientific reports to hide the truth. I expect the Obama administration will make some mistakes, because we are in uncharted territory, and because there is a lot of Washington DC inertia tugging on his every move. It is going to take grassroots support to overcome the entrenched interests. I wince when I see the blows coming from the left.
~ Donna ~

Pencil Shavings: Will You Kill For Me?
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

Last Sunday evening in snow bound South Bend, my wife & I enjoyed a quiet night in front of the fireplace. A little before 8:00 p.m., we start flipping through the cable channels to find something to watch. My wife’s preference is to watch a movie. One of her favorite channels is Lifetime. I immediately recoil. “If you’re going to watch that crap, I will retire to my upstairs cave.”

So, we continue flipping around until we happen to notice an MSNBC documentary entitled, “Will You Kill for Me?” It’s all about Charlie Manson and The Family.

I know a lot about this topic. When the best seller Helter Skelter came out, I read it from cover to cover (and reread it several years later). I’ve probably watched most of the documentaries made concerning Manson and I’ve read a lot more than the aforementioned book. I find the whole topic very disturbing, yet interesting. As a former social worker, I’ve always been interested in why people commit heinous acts.

However, as I watched this program, I grew a bit uncomfortable. The main thesis seemed to be focused on the cult aspects of the Manson family and the observation that the events that took place were from a bygone era. More importantly, the viewpoint behind the program seemed to say that killing for someone else is a societal anomaly.

People kill for others all the time! It’s not an anomaly at all.

Right now the U.S. has over 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their underlying mission is to kill for our country — all of us here stateside. Our opponents are bent on killing our soldiers to defend their own supporters and countrymen.

While Manson used drugs and sex to mold and manipulate his disciples, the governments and insurgent forces alike involved in the current “wars” use religion, nationalism and sentiments like patriotism to mold and manipulate soldiers, freedom fighters and terrorists to commit unthinkable atrocities. How is this so different than Manson?

And it’s just not in “war” that we find this tragic circumstance. People are recruited everyday into companies that develop and peddle products that kill people and destroy the environment. Some do it solely for greed, but a lot of these people believe in what they’re creating and selling. The capitalist ethos has molded and manipulated them into believing that they are each serving a higher purpose.

Remember DDT? It was supposed to revoltionize agriculture and, thereby, be beneficial to humankind. And what did it really do? It made the planet and people very sick. Yet, the people who manufactured this vile substance defended it as beneficial until there absolutely was no question that it was anything but.

DDT is but one solitary example. I’m certain each reader can think of 100 more.

If truth be known, what scares people so much about the Charlie Mansons of the world, is that these individuals are not outside of the mainstream as much as we might like to believe. Yes, their tools of manipulation tend to be beyond the norm, but the end results aren’t altogether different.

News You May Have Missed

Rail Takes Back Seat in Obama Stimulus Plan
Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure. Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways. While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit…

Obama Betrays Gays, Placates the Right with Rev. Warren
I don’t know why we need any religious leader delivering an invocation at a President’s inaugural. I thought we’re supposed to have separation of church and state in America. But the custom persists, and Obama announced on Wednesday that the Reverend Rick Warren would be giving the invocation on January 20. This has understandably ignited a firestorm of protest from Obama’s progressive base. For one thing, Warren is anti-abortion. For another, he threw his considerable weight behind Proposition 8, outlawing gay marriage in California…

We’re in for a Year of ‘Economic Hell’
Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now “economic recovery plan” — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010. But what comes after that?…

US: Soaring Rates of Rape and Violence Against Women
A new government report showing huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period in the United States deserves immediate attention from lawmakers and the incoming administration, Human Rights Watch said today. The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault…

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