Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for February 16 – 22

Posted by Trey Smith on February 15, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of February 16 – 22

Volume 3 No. 44

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Local Green Party Meetings
* The Old World Is Crashing Down, Welcome Back the Older
* Thoughts By the Way: Aesop
* Our Climate Crisis: Reduce Consumption or Die
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Vashon School Bond — Is it Time to Say ‘No’?
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Goober Pees
* News You May Have Missed

Local Green Party Meetings

Green Party of Whatcom County Monthly Meeting
Friday, February 20, Mount Bakery, 6 pm (after Peace Zone)
Cynthia McKinney, Riki Ott visits etc.
Contact: Johnny Grames

Future of Progressive Politics in Seattle
Thursday, February 26, 6:30 -9:30 p.m.
Cascade People’s Center, 309 Pontius Ave N in Seattle
Contact: Duncan Autrey

We will be having a potluck beginning at 6:30.

Starting at 7, we will have a world café style conversation about the how progressive political parties and those dedicated to progressive politics can or should fit into the local movement and politics, particularly in the new political landscape we are entering. World café discussions are designed to gather the collective intelligence of groups with similar goals and diverse perspectives, like the progressive political community. Everyone is encouraged to invite people who they think would have something to contribute to this important discussion.

After a break the official business meeting will begin at 8:55.

The Old World Is Crashing Down, Welcome Back the Older
by Jan Lundberg of Culture Change

This is the time we have been waiting for. Some of us, anyway. We wanted a better world, and we might just get it. The old one had to fall and get out of the way, and this must be finished for the sake of our faltering climate and for our own sakes. Meanwhile the old guard is floundering around and is as useless as tits on a bull, as my father used to say. People are still mesmerized by power and imagery, but the luster and facade are fading. While some government spending can be along healthy lines, it is certainly not “the answer.”

We have entered the time of the most rapid, sweeping change in culture. Great changes are in the works for the way people live and think. We are just beginning to see the failure of not just easy credit and overspending, but the failure of living for money and material things. Granted, most participants in the growth economy thought that’s how things were supposed to work, and now they feel at a loss. These are people who have had little use for traditions of their ancestors. They thought nature was something to dominate into submission and rape for pleasure and profit. They thought technology placed us above all life forms as well as primitive peoples, and that we could cast any number of them into the extinction bin. For we could continue to extract resources forever and solve any problem.

Now the humbling has begun, on several levels. By now only an idiot isn’t worried about climate change. Now that we know full well what we’re doing to the ecosystem, how can any sane person put the economy first instead of integrating it with ecology? How can defending our systemic destruction be tolerated?

There’s been progress from a rude awakening: now only an idiot trusts the big bankers and government regulators. Only a fool is comfortable with the oil companies and car companies. All these forces are seen to have brought us low, and no one can deny the joblessness caused by letting the big shots call the shots. And most people sense things will get worse before they get better. Printing money and throwing it at lenders and government programs is obviously just more of the same — the definition of insanity.

So far so good, in terms of better awareness. But real leadership would tell the people about the energy and oil reality and the consequences of overbuilding an economy based on a now depleted resource — the easily produced oil is bye-bye. Alternative fuels cannot pick up the slack meaningfully for hundreds of millions of consumers of petroleum-fed crops and animal foods.

Going further, real leadership admits the shortcomings of “our” system: the reward of greed and the acceptance of other antisocial values, and the unsustainable wrecking of nature for a higher overpopulation to ride out into oblivion. As the politicians and the sell-out columnists and commentators hold their tongues and pretend everything is still more or less in control — while nervously wondering what the free fall is going to do to their own security — the masses of people turn to whatever is at hand to survive. The answer for us in North America is not in Afghanistan or Iraq.

But let’s talk about goodness from the collapse of the established order. Keeping in mind that sudden decline is not pretty, and indeed is painful and tragic with many casualties on the way, there is reason for great optimism in the ending of big-money corporatism and the closing of the history book on unlimited growth. It had to be thus; any schoolkid knows that there can’t be an infinite supply of anything in a finite sphere. How can the abandonment of such stupidity usher in anything worse than the tyranny of denialists we’ve had to put up with?

Necessity is the mother of re-invention. We don’t need gadgetry invention; we need adaptations and skills to cope with a lower-energy world. We are increasingly forced to deal with a pissed off Mother Nature — she is overshadowing mere concerns about the growth economy, more and more each day. So our approach to meeting basic human needs has got to use common sense and — are you ready for this — mutual cooperation. Now that the economy is collapsing — I believe it will be final, total, and for good — essential needs have to be met locally. With food being shipped on average 1,500 miles from farm to the U.S plate, such extravagance and idiocy must give way to what is grown locally. And we’re stuck with our own local fresh water than can no longer be polluted by an employer, privatized by greedballs, or depleted for an animal-based diet.

The older world we threw out — when our parents and grandparents embraced techno-conveniences and slacked off on the responsibility of educating their own children to learn what the great-grandparents knew — is going to return shortly. Preserving food, repairing things, sitting down to all meals together, amusing ourselves with creativity and conviviality (instead of with machines in isolation), knowing our relatives well, respecting the land and waters that give us life — such traditions are not choices but requirements for survival. And it’s fun to survive, or more fun than the alternative. The individual will again feel pride that what one does matters to the community while not harming the planet. This does not mean that there won’t be opportunists and mistaken people obstructing positive change. But with the end of the old order and its narrow mindset of paving over the farmland for “progress” — largely because it will no longer be possible — we can’t help but restore our village ways and tribal ways of mutual aid, once again serving the common interest over personal gain. For we have just seen the era of personal gain start its free fall to the trash heap. Stimulus? Too bad there’s not any discussion on what might be stimulated for the needed fundamental change.

A common error is to promote sustainable systems in a vacuum as if their logical superiority over idiotic and subsidized capitalist anachronisms need only to be made available. It’s great to promote them, provided they are not pie-in-the-sky technofixes. The problem is that good models are suppressed as long as the dominant system is intact or while petroleum is available. Therefore, the right course of action is to pursue the kinds of alternative models that both starve the beast and educate people to reject the present system. Then people can start to glimpse a better culture of sustainability and all that goes with it: sensible economics, co-leadership, compassion for the rest of the Earth’s species, and the realization that we will never get another chance like now.

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

This column’s rotating corps of readers may not realize that it has but one thought. Yes, the title is plural, Thoughts BTW, but that’s just advertising. The thought is that people have no power other than the power of community, where by community I mean a group of people living in the same locality under the same government. Well, menwomen, we don’t have it. The evidence is the flood of pleas in my mail box for me to help run the government, a flood undiminished since the election. Here’s two days worth:

  • I should back up Senator Leahy’s Truth Commission on Bush.
  • I should send money to support a move to resist army recruiters.
  • I should ask George Mitchell to visit Gaza.
  • I should press congress to stop child cancer by supporting stem cell research.
  • I should phone Attorney General Eric Holder to ask him not to cover up torture.
  • I should tell Obama to protect wolves.
  • I should tell Congress to cut the “nuclear pork”.
  • I should send our Petition to Save Wolves to Interior Secretary Salazar.
  • I should give $30 to hold Senators accountable for tax cuts for the rich.
  • I should Stop Oil and Gas Leases of the “Polar Bear Seas”.
  • I should tell the State House to hear HJM 4009.
  • I should tell the Obama administration to probe 9/11.
  • I should demand bold and immediate action to stop global warming.
  • I should tell Congress no tax cuts for the rich.
  • I should not “forget the tremendous responsibility we have now, to see that Obama maintains his promise of change…(I) must not relinquish this moment nor his victory into his hands entirely. As he learns to lead us, so must (I) learn to lead him.”

Like the tumor tracker in one’s serum, this sad list means that our government is disintegrating. If we the people had any of our mythical “power” we could have elected Kucinich. He wouldn’t have been able to save us either, but at least he wouldn’t be kicking us as we lie prostrate. We never have had any more power than was granted to us by the establishments, and what little there was bit the dust behind Henry Ford’s tin lizzies. Then television put us in the idiot box for good. We could have been saved had we a sense of history, because what has befallen us was put into words in 300 BC by a Greek restaurant owner named Aesop:

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son:

“Break it.”

The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful.

“Untie the faggots,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.”

When they had done so, he called out to them,

“Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.

A person presented with the evidence and having read hiserher history book might reasonably be expected to conclude that a broken government means broken communities. Yet only a scattered handful of US communities have done so. Let’s compare the number of people presently tossing tomatoes at Congress, Wall Street, and Obama with the number of people in a medium sized city. You got it, the fat cats can duck the tomatoes but they could not duck a city that took a stand, say, on the stimulus bill. Is it rocket science to find where the power lies?

The process of finding the power leads down, down to the smallest social grouping and there at the dead grass root is a family watching NBC. No, it’s not the rot at the top, it’s the rot at the bottom.

We have Obama’s hundred days in which to figure out that he and his handlers are going to ignore us, our wolves, our polar bears, and our climate. We show no sign of figuring it out. We. Who? We, me and my 14,000 neighbors on Vashon, have to figure out that until our Council holds a referendum on the Stimulus package, one, and on sending more troops to Afgnanistan, two, and etcetera, the hundred days will land us right back where we were with dubya.

Our Climate Crisis: Reduce Consumption or Die
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.

Did I get your attention?

Here’s James Lovelock, the grand old man of climate science and inventor of the Gaia Theory, in his 2006 bestseller from Basic Books, The Revenge of Gaia.

“The great party of the twentieth century is coming to an end, and unless we now start preparing our survival kit we will soon be just another species eking out an existence in the few remaining habitable regions.”

Here’s James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, in a March, 24, 2005 Rolling Stone interview.

“No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it.”

Let this stuff sink in.

Then compare it to the opiates we’re getting from Obama and Gang.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, even as he predicts climate change could wipe out all California agriculture and cities-yes, cities!-by 2100, pumps renewable energy and cap-and-trade.

“Renewables that cannot run “even a substantial fraction of…American life the way we have been used to running it”.

Cap-and-trade that our best climatologist, Jim Hansen, told Obama directly will be “ineffectual and not commensurate with the climate threat. It could waste another decade, locking in disastrous consequences for our planet and humanity.”

Why is it American politicians and their appointees are so craven? Why is it they so utterly lack the courage and integrity to prepare for the Climate Crisis? Could it be that we, too, are craven?

Now listen to a politician of another kind, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. “It is necessary for the US. and Europe to reduce their level of consumption and recognise that all of us are guests on this same land.”

Where’s our survival kit?

Can we survive by hogging world resources at a rate almost five times greater than what is sustainable?

Can we drive to survival?

Can we stop denying our Car Culture is what Kunstler calls our delusional “Happy Motoring Utopia”?

Can we stop denying new cars of any kind—gas guzzlers, electrics, hybrids, compacts— carry with them a grotesque carbon debt before you buy them? 20-40% of a new car’s lifetime carbon debt comes during its manufacture.
http://www.channel4.com/4car/ft/feature/feature/8074/2
http://www.ae-plus.com/key%20topics/kt-emissions-news4.htm

Is outlawing private cars the mandatory first step toward survival?

You bet it is.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Vashon School Bond — Is it Time to Say ‘No’?
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

At a time when Seattle is forced to close schools due to the economic crisis our city and state is facing, property owners on Vashon Island are being asked to support a $75.5 million school bond to renovate the high school. With interest included for this 20-year bond, the total will come to $150,000,000 for a community of just over 10,000 residents. The demographics also show that the community is getting older, with the number of students expected to decrease over the coming years.

However, education is highly respected here as elsewhere and is one of those untouchable subjects to voice a dissenting opinion. True, many of the dissenters are those who don’t want to pay taxes or feel we are taxed enough. My position is different.

There is no doubt Vashon High School has problems, outdated classrooms and a leaky gymnasium, as examples, but the school board has also decided to add a second gymnasium, additional parking (at a time when we should be encouraging less driving), artificial turf for the sports field, and a new grandstand, as well as a relocation of the tennis courts. The question is whether this additional cost correspondingly adds value to the basic education of the students.

Now, here’s where the “unspinning” comes in — not everyone who votes against a school bond is against education or a “bad” person.

Those of us working in the “peace” community would like our country to move away from a war economy to a peace economy.

If we truly believe this, should we support the high price tag of this particular school bond? In my opinion, to do so would in essence be saying, “It doesn’t matter how bad the economy is, how many may be losing their jobs or having their homes foreclosed, we are going to go ahead and give our community the best money can buy.” Instead of demanding more from our government in the way of better education and health care for all its citizens, as just two examples, and for an end to over 50 cents of every one of our tax dollars going to war, we say, “That’s okay. We, as individuals, will pick up the slack.” By doing so, how can we expect our government to re-prioritize its spending?

No one wants to see our school infrastructure resembling a third world country. However, there is a price to pay for the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan ($2.4 trillion by 2017) and an era of Wall Street executives seeking profits with little regard to risk and Congress not exerting regulatory scrutiny nor demanding accountability.

The global economy is collapsing and economists are saying we won’t see a quick turnaround. As of March 2008, 30% of Americans said the economic slowdown is forcing them to cut back on food, medicine, and other daily necessities. According to a report from Global Research, there will be a new tipping point in March 2009, “when the world will become aware that this crisis is worse than the 1930s crisis.”

I would like Green Party members, peace activists, environmentalists, all those working for a better tomorrow, to ask themselves, “Do you believe by continuing to support a broken system that you are exerting the influence necessary to exact change?” When we are given the opportunity to make a statement, such as with this school bond, we need to think about the broader implications.

Only when faced with a crumbling infrastructure and the realization that we are at the end of an era of having everything we want will people take more of an interest in the kind of government they have. War spending is way out of proportion to that in other countries and we need an outrage here in this country. Facing the reality that we need to maintain the schools we have and not have the luxury to do better, may wake our neighbors to take action.

Ask the school board to come back with a cost more in line with today’s economy or to defer this bond until there is less economic uncertainly.

For a better tomorrow, vote “no” today.

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.

February 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol went into effect after countries responsible for 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions had ratified the treaty, following Russia’s agreement to its terms. The agreement’s purpose is to reduce such gases to 12% below their levels in 1990 by 2012 and, thus, slow global warming. 180 countries had agreed (except for the United States and Australia, two of the world’s top emitters of GHG per capita) to rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on July 29, 2001, in Bonn, Germany. Pres. George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the process shortly after he took office. The U.S. is responsible for 25% of the earth’s GHG (with 5% of its population).

February 19, 2004: After sanctioning more than 2,800 gay marriages, the city of San Francisco sued the state of California, challenging its ban on same-sex marriages.

February 21, 1848: “The Communist Manifesto,” written by 29-year-old Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, was published in London (in German) by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet-arguably the most influential in history-proclaimed that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and the inevitable victory of the proletariat, or working class, would put an end to class society forever.

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: Goober Pees
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.

I’m sure most of you either have read or heard about the mounting evidence that the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut butter all across the country. Hundreds have been sickened and nine people have died to date.

Right after the tainted pb was fingered as the most likely culprit, the peanut growers trade group came out with a statement to the effect that this was an aberration and other peanut producers weren’t so crass nor sloppy. Well, of course they said that! What else could they say? They certainly couldn’t release a statement commending PCA for a job well done!!

This past week PCA filed for outright bankruptcy. This scandal has ruined them.

And why did they sell bad pb in the first place? Because they thought they could get away with it.

I really can’t blame them for adopting this kind of attitude. Lots of big corporations lay a heavy burden on the taxpayers, yet get away with it. Timber barons routinely clearcut vast tracts of forest. When a landslide on clearcut land occurs (wiping out homes, roads and/or bridges), the barons argue that no one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the clearcut itself is the culprit. So, the timber moguls keep on raping the land and we taxpayers end up paying for it.

Chemical companies regularly release vile pollutants into the air, water and soil. When neighboring folks become sick and people point fingers at the polluters, their team of lawyers argue that no one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the their chemicals were the chief cause. So, the chemical companies keep us gagging and puking, while we taxpayers clean up the mess.

I’m sure each of you can come up with many other such examples. Unfortunately, in this day of lax regulations and minimal enforcement, it ain’t that hard to do!

In a business climate such as this, I think it’s easy to understand why PCA was willing to take the risk that they too would get away with it. I mean, I’m sure they thought the authorities would never be able to trace it back them beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In this case, PCA turned out to be wrong — dead wrong.

News You May Have Missed

Obama and Liberals: A Counter-Productive Relationship
The New Republic’s John Judis today has an excellent analysis of the politics behind the stimulus package — one which applies equally to most other political controversies. Judis argues that the stimulus package ended up being far inferior to what it could have been and points to this reason why that happened: “But I think the main reason that Obama is having trouble is that there is not a popular left movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where he would even ideally like to go. Sure, there are leftwing intellectuals like Paul Krugman who are beating the drums for nationalizing the banks and for a $1 trillion-plus stimulus. But I am not referring to intellectuals, but to movements that stir up trouble among voters and get people really angry. Instead, what exists of a popular left is either incapable of action or in Obama’s pocket…”

Things They Don’t Tell You About the Bailout Bill
Most members of Congress didn’t read it before they voted for it and then – along with Obama – left on a three day holiday prior to its ceremonial signing. Never in American history has so much money been appropriated in such a careless fashion. The huge and largely useless portion devoted to tax cuts had its origins in Obama’s obsession with palling around with Republicans. If he had approached the issues as a good negotiator, the original – and hence the final – sum would have been far smaller…

Death by Moron
Here is my strange confession: I miss my hate mail. It’s an odd thing to admit, but in a perverse sort of way, I actually miss the wretched river, the rancid flow of puerile, nasty, sickeningly homophobic email I used to receive on a regular basis from the ultra-right and the Christian right and the Mormon right and the Bush-impaired whenever I would post a friendly, pointed column full of tangy liberal attitude. Which is, of course, all of them. Oh, I miss all the lovely and positive email too, which outpaced the nasty stuff by a huge margin. But the hate mail was (and still is, what dribble I now get) very special indeed, great fodder for live readings, for the reaction of horrified disbelief of anyone who saw it, for the charming reminder of just how ugly and violent and grammatically challenged the human animal can be…

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