Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for January 26 – February 1

Posted by Trey Smith on January 28, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of January 26 – February 1

Volume 3 No. 41

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* A Green Party First: Contested Primary in Illinois Race for Emanuel’s Seat
* Slouching Towards the Barackalypse
* Thoughts By the Way: Ball & Chain
* Our Climate Crisis: Battling the Biofuels Hydra
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Time for a Time-Out
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Our Own Not-So-Green Mile
* News You May Have Missed

A Green Party First: Contested Primary in Illinois Race for Emanuel’s Seat
Less than two weeks ago, the Web site for Matt Reichel’s 5th Congressional District campaign prominently featured that staple of Democratic politics, the stars-and-bars donkey silhouette.

Now, the donkey is gone.

That’s because Reichel, a 27-year-old Chicago activist, decided to jump the fence and run as a Green Party candidate in the race to fill Rahm Emanuel’s vacant seat. He’s one of five Greens in the crowded Mar. 3 primary, which will be the Illinois Green Party’s first-ever contested run-off outside of a presidential election.

“Ideologically, I’m a lot more in-tune with the Greens,” said Reichel. “Initially, I didn’t want to do it because I figured, ‘[The Greens] have their candidate, I don’t want to run against a Green [in the primary]. I’d much rather run against Democrats.'”

Candidate Deb Gordils unsuccessfully ran as a Green for Chicago Ald. Dick Mell’s 33rd Ward seat in 2003. She’s registered as a Green Party candidate once again for the upcoming primary.

“I’ve always been an independent, and I’m very bipartisan, so it is very difficult for me to choose Democrat versus Republican,” Gordils said. “I began to do some research on the Green Party, and it just seemed like it was the right mix for me.”

But both Reichel and Gordils said their decisions to go Green also came down to campaign calculus.

Because the party’s candidate won more than 5 percent of the vote in the 2006 gubernatorial race, it’s now a lot easier for Greens to get on the ballot in Illinois. In order to run in the upcoming primary, for example, Green Party candidates had to gather 30 signatures; independent candidates must collect at least 12,586. “That’s ridiculous, to collect that in three weeks,” said Illinois Green Party Representative Patrick Kelly. “There’s just no way. I’m not even sure Ralph Nader could do that.”

Slouching Towards the Barackalypse
by Albert Bates for Culture Change

Watching the drama unfold in Washington last week, and listening to the sound as it echoed around the planet, I was struck by how bi-polar our shared political reality has become.

Many of us, probably the majority, are still hoping and praying that now that the wicked witch is dead, the Wizard will whisk us back to Kansas and Auntie Em will have a hot apple pie waiting. People in that category think either the recession will be shortened by Keynesian infusions or Rooseveltian public works, or if that fails and it enlarges into The Greater Depression, it will rebound eventually, perhaps a decade hence, just in time for the bulk of the baby boom to retire to their gated communities and golf courses, bent but unbroken.

The other hemisphere of our brain is populated with EROIers, Malthusiasts, the Club of Rome, 2012ers, and doomers of various stripes. Of course, one is only a “doomer” if one turns out to have been wrong. If one turns out to have been right, the correct term is “visionary.”

We inhabit the bicameral mind of Joan of Arc or Nostradamus, and wonder, are the voices to be taken literally, or can we just write them off to hallucination?

President Obama’s inaugural address, a bouquet of big tent politics with fragrant notes of a tent revival meeting, embraced both ends of that schizoid spectrum.

Who could argue with this:

… our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

The problem is, those two very agreeable sentences were preceded by this:

We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But…

Now, saying we are of undiminished capacity is something a great many people would take issue with, and have. Let me quote a few.

On the bioregional list David Haenke said,

We no longer have the vast bounties of nature to burn, and the enormous capacity of nature’s sinks to absorb, dilute, and neutralize the entropies of a deliberately wasteful economy. Mr. Obama purports to go back to the playbook of 1933 and Lord Keynes and rev up the economy (viz.: burn resources, primarily fossil energy) to get us back “growth”. As well, the total level of public and private debt for the U.S. has reached levels that are barely calculable, and then unfathomable. It’s neither 1933 nor Kansas anymore. China took it as collateral.

To Clusterfuck Nation, James Howard Kunstler said,

Credit may be in extremely short supply this year, and hence crops may be in short supply as we turn the corner into spring and summer. Just as in the case of WalMart versus Main Street, the reform of farming in America is one of those “changes” much larger than most of us imagine. I’d go so far to say that a large proportion of young people now in college will find themselves not working in office cubicles, but in some way or other in farming….

At Club Orlov, Dmitry Orlov said,

According to the latest International Energy Agency projections, the half-life of industrial civilization can be capped at about 17 years: it’s all downhill from here. All industrial countries will be forced to rapidly deindustrialize on this time scale, but the one that has spent the last century building an infrastructure that has no future — based on little houses interconnected by cars, with all of the accompanying moribund, unmaintainable infrastructure — is virtually guaranteed to fall the hardest. An American’s two greatest enemies are his house and his car. But try telling that to most Americans, and you will get ridicule, consternation, and disbelief.

From The Automatic Earth, Ilargi said,

Our economies are shrinking, not growing, and they will continue on down that path for a very long time. Perpetual growth is over, and if you look closely, it has been for at least 30 years. Education, health care and many other fields have become more expensive and less affordable during that time. Who needed day-care in the 1960’s? Who could not afford to go to a doctor? Today, both parents need to work full-time — or more — just to pay the monthly bills. It wasn’t like that in the 1960s. Not at all. So were our parents so much less happy than we are? Not at all.

The fallacy of perpetual growth has led us into a sense of entitlement that is based on complete blindness and utterly wrong assumptions. If we are not awake enough to lave that behind, we will be the reason for fighting in the streets, in our own Barbie neighborhoods. If we want to prevent that from happening, we need to take not one, but 826 steps back. But the president of Hope and Belief talks about resuming the economy of growth. That is not possible. People need a reality check. They need to adjust to living on less personal, corporeal, space. If you think or hope that the PM of Iceland is the last one to be thrown out by the wayside, you need to start thinking instead of believing.

Obama was right about one thing. This is not a crisis that can be solved by government. It won’t be fixed by printing money. It will be a rough slog, no matter what, but to repeat again what our first President said at Valley Forge,

Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.

Now, truth be told, old George knew that the odds of the American Revolution succeeding at that point were slim to none, and this is as much a wishful recruiting statement as a St. Crispin’s Day rallying cry, but it contains some nuggets of eternal truth. As Mr. Kunstler said,

Many Americans of good will also stand ready to face reality, to roll up our sleeves, ditch the video games and the Nascar and the microwaved cheese treats, and the internet porn and all the other noxious, narcolepsy-inducing distractions of our time, and put our shoulders to the wheel to haul this nation into a plausible future.

So if, in distant days, our progeny look back to where we coalesced our will, assembled our tattered permaculture army, joined hands between city and country, laid back the carbon under our desertifying farmland, and Hudson-River-landed our rusting steel spaceship into a brighter, more realistic future with a sustainable volume of frugal humans living in harmony with nature, then let them say this is where it began.

We listened to the voices in our head and we picked up the banner and marched.

Albert Bates is the author of Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, available from New Society, 2007. He directs the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Tennessee.

Thoughts By the Way: Ball & Chain
Tom Herring is a Community Council member on Vashon Island. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

Slave to ego being the driving force behind this column, surely a topic other than the Inauguration would be in character this week. But duty calls. Reporting for service, the column finds that Obama cannot honor his oath because he wears a ball and chain.

Most blogs, pronouncements, and quotables that are taking the measure of the Inauguration fail to uncover the central fact that Obama has little power, that all he can do is keep his fan club motivated. And there is a lot of Bush scat to sweep up, grist for motivating his fans. He is good at this, and his chain is long enough, but that ball on the end is his corporate backers. It will position him where they will.

He has little power to effect change, but great power to affect hearts.

>From Kenyans to Arab Americans, to Black Americans, and to Progressive America, this Inauguration reveals heartache and craving for honest leadership. Think back to that long shot of the Mall and its sea of massed hope and feel the knife of foreboding twist slowly in your breast. How’s that? What kind of talk is this about a man who will fight for US victory in Afghanistan? Well, I’ll tell you, he can’t take credit for that because the US will keep bombing the place regardless. Wait a minute while I search for a metaphor that can fission the kernel of irony that Obama presents, fission to reveal to all the enormity of empty words spoken to an anguished populace.

Hey, he’s gonna close Guantanamo! Do you think he will ensure that those detained will get a jury trial? Scrutiny reveals that he reads the polls like a prompt card. The public wants to win in Afghanistan, done. The public wants Gitmo to go away, done. And on key votes he has consistently voted for the establishment. He wants to “reshape” Social Security!

Sorry, can’t find a strong enough metaphor and mere words struggle to assist in comprehending the bind we are in. Do you realize that the drift of the blogs is that we, you, them, us, are supposed to “help” Obama do good work, that we, et al., have as president a lump of clay to be molded into a god? If we had that much clout you’d think that eight years of trying to influence Congress would have paid off. What we tell Obama to do is water off a lame duck’s back. He will go along with whatever the banks and corporations say.

My hat is off to every effort made by the brave and energetic menwomen in the streets and on the phones trying to steer the Government towards the light. My head aches with the knowledge that the effort is ten times ten out-gunned by the power that put the Bushes into office and has let Bush, the bully baby, get off scot free. The only adversary with the power to force Obama to buck corporate orders and listen to Jeremiah Wright is the power of municipalities. Town by town, county by county, and city by city, only these can lay the bricks needed to entomb the monsters bringing ruin upon us.

Our Climate Crisis: Battling the Biofuels Hydra
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.

Come join us this Thursday (1/29/09) noon at Seattle City Hall as we battle the biofuels Hydra. It’s our monthly protest against city government’s wanton use of biodiesel.

You’ll remember the Hydra from Greek mythology. It was a many-headed monster. When Hercules cut off one of its heads, two more heads grew to replace the severed one.

Last year, we slew the King County biofuels Hydra – at least for now. We helped convince King County Metro to drop biofuels from all its buses.

We savored our success briefly — only to have the biofuels Hydra from the City of Seattle and the State of Washington breathe rainforest destruction and carbon fire on us and the planet.

We now battle the City of Seattle to stop its flagrant use of planet-ruining biodiesel.

And here comes another biofuel Hydra head: a new state law starts June 1, 2009 forcing all state vehicles to burn B-20-a 20% blend of biodiesel. This is calamitous.

It means Washington State ferries will now sail and burn our global rainforests. It means the UW fleet vehicles must soon go from a 2% biodiesel blend to a 20% blend – this, after our protest and negotiations last year persuaded UW to cap their biodiesel fuel at 2% and abandon plans for an increase to 5%. It means all state cars and trucks will be pressed into the service of destroying our beleaguered Planet.

We need YOU! to help us craft and execute a state campaign like we’ve conducted, or are conducting, with King County and the City of Seattle. We need a presence in Olympia – in the streets, in the pols’ offices and in the press. Help us help our One Earth!

Biofuels are a defining issue.

Biofuels separate those who seek to keep Business-As-Usual from those who recognize how our Climate Crisis demands profound structural change – not simply changing what we put in our gas tanks. Biofuels separate those who seek to perpetuate their Happy Motoring Utopia from those who know we must dismantle and rebuild our Killer Car Culture.

We’re making some progress in Seattle, maybe.

Our recent testimony before City Council accusing city government of “knowingly participating in a Crime Against Humanity” by burning biodiesel is getting response. So far, two city council members, plus the staff of a third, have written us. The responses range from mildly hostile to concerned to supportive.

But we got their attention. Accusations of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ will do that for you.

City Council President Richard Conlin said he agreed with us that burning “crop-based biofuels is not appropriate”. This may be hopeful. We will closely track what Conlin and the others actually do. We’re also lobbying for meetings with city advisers and decision-makers of whom the Council has now made us aware – Office of Sustainability head, Mike Mann, and city Fleet Services Director, Dave Seavey.

Oh, by the way. Hercules finally killed the Hydra by cauterizing each severed head so it would not sprout two new ones. Hercules buried the final head beneath a rock, and the Hydra died. Sorry for the violent metaphor. But biofuels are doing amazing violence to our Earth each day.

Will One Earth’s biofuels resistance campaign have a happy ending like Hercules’?

Join us Thursday to discuss.

See you in the streets!!

Un-Spinning the Spin: Time for a Time-Out
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Sometimes the wheels just churn in my head with multiple topics that I want to write about. I had intended to write about Hamas and some of the things the Green Party could learn from Hamas. Just as the Black Panther Party did here in our country, Hamas gained the hearts and minds of the Palestinians through their social welfare programs. It was this groundwork that enabled Hamas to win the 2006 elections. But, I suspect the proposed title, “What the Green Party Could Learn from Hamas,” would be a little controversial and dropped the idea.

Then, I happened to have a long discussion with a Native American friend of mine. She gave me a little history lesson on how there were attempts on the part of some tribal leaders to unify the tribes against the American colonialists. I thought that might be of interest to show how there has always been a struggle to unite groups to fight off aggressors. But, that would only be depressing as it would just prove the incapability of Earthlings to work together for the common good.

Another thought was to do a book review as I have just finished Avraham Burg’s book, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from its Ashes. Burg comes from a distinguished Orthodox Zionist family and is a former member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) but found it easier to just direct you to a better review than I could write.  Well worth reading if you are interested in the conflict within the Jewish community regarding Judaism vs. Zionism.

So, the deadline is approaching and I have nothing of substance to offer, not that I feel anything I write has “substance” but at least more than I feel I can offer this week. I hope to be up to the task for next week’s Greener Times. Talk to you then.

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.

January 26, 1951: The first atomic test was conducted at the Nevada Proving Ground as an Air Force plane dropped a one-kiloton bomb on Frenchman Flats. The Proving Ground was created by President Harry Truman. The final nuclear test, Divider, was conducted on September 23, 1992, after 99 above-ground tests and over 800 subterranean tests there.

January 30, 1956: As Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the pulpit, leading a mass meeting during the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, his home was bombed. By luck, King’s wife & 10-week-old baby escaped unharmed. Later in the evening, as thousands of angry African Americans assembled on King’s lawn, he appeared on his front porch, and told them: “If you have weapons, take them home…We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence…We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us.”

January 31, 1876: The U.S. government ordered that all Native Americans must move to reservations by this date or be declared hostile. Most Sioux do not even hear of the ultimatum until after the deadline.

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.

No letters received.

Pencil Shavings: Our Own Not-So-Green Mile
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.

Over the past week I’ve read Stephen King’s brilliant novel, The Green Mile — I’ve also rented the video and watched it several times. It has only underscored for me my absolute revulsion to the death penalty. Capital punishment simply has no place in a just and civilized society. If a person believes that premeditated murder is wrong, then it’s wrong for individuals AND the state.

If the US Supreme Court or the Congress tomorrow struck down capital punishment as a means for punishing criminals, it would do nothing to lessen the death penalty sentence that everyone in the world — the guilty and the innocent — have been handed. As long as we continue our mad dash toward ecological ruin, we are condemning people the world over to walk their own not-so-green mile.

While this walk is to not to a hangman’s noose, electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad nor lethal injection gurney, it is a walk toward certain death. We may not know the precise day and hour, but when that day and hour comes, there will be no call from the governor to save us. We’ll be staring the death of our planet square in the face and death won’t blink.

What keeps me up at night is the fact that we already may be beyond atonement. Even if all the people of the world came together right now and we decided that we would collectively put an immediate end to all this non-ecological foolishness, our past sins might be enough to convince the jury that we’re beyond hope. We can’t know for certain if we are indeed beyond hope, so we need to get our act together like there’s no tomorrow because, one day, there genuinely will be no tomorrow!

We need to do whatever we can today and tomorrow to save our progeny from having to walk the not-so-green mile.

News You May Have Missed

An Atheist’s Perspective on the Inauguration: Enough With all the God Stuff
We have the very fact that this inauguration was opened and closed with a prayer. The fact that Sunday’s inaugural concert was opened with a prayer. The fact that the oath of office was sworn on a Bible, and concluded — unrequired by the Constitution — with the words, “So help me God.” The fact of the insistent repetition of the phrases “God bless you” and “God bless the United States.” The fact that God was all over this inauguration like a cheap suit…

A “Green Tsunami” in Brazil: The High Price of Clean, Cheap Ethanol
Brazil hopes to supply drivers worldwide with the fuel of the future — cheap ethanol derived from sugarcane. It is considered an effective antidote to climate change, but hundreds of thousands of Brazilian plantation workers harvest the cane at slave wages…

2 U.S. Airstrikes Offer a Concrete Sign of Obama’s Pakistan Policy
Two remote U.S. missile strikes that killed at least 20 people at suspected terrorist hideouts in northwestern Pakistan yesterday offered the first tangible sign of President Obama’s commitment to sustained military pressure on the terrorist groups there, even though Pakistanis broadly oppose such unilateral U.S. actions…

Study Says Antarctica Warming, Too
Antarctica, the only place that had oddly seemed immune from climate change, is warming after all, according to a new study. For years, Antarctica was an enigma to scientists who track the effects of global warming. Temperatures on much of the continent at the bottom of the world were staying the same or slightly cooling, previous research indicated…

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