Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

May 11 – 17

Posted by Trey Smith on May 20, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of May 11 – 17
Volume 4 No. 4
an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Greener Times Collective: Maryrose Asher, Duff Badgley, Tom Herring and Trey Smith (Editor)

In This Week’s Issue
* Burning Corn More Efficient Than Manufacturing Biofuels, Study Says
* Earth Policy Institute: Needed — A Copernican Shift
* Thoughts By the Way: Port of Tacoma Patriots
* Our Climate Crisis: Resist Obama: World’s First Biofuel-Free Zone
* Un-Spinning the Spin: War in the Woods
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: It Hits the Fan
* News You May Have Missed

Burning Corn More Efficient Than Manufacturing Biofuels, Study Says
from the e360 Digest

The most efficient way to convert corn into energy is to burn the kernels to generate electricity, rather than processing the plant into biofuels, according to a study in the journal Science. Research by a scientist at the University of California, Merced, showed that burning corn to produce electricity for electric-powered vehicles produces 56 percent more energy per acre than converting the corn to biofuels. The combustion of corn to generate electricity for cars also produced about half the greenhouse gases as the conversion of corn to ethanol, according to the study. Meanwhile, a study by the environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Earth Track projects that the continuing expansion of federal subsidies to produce ethanol from corn and cellulosic materials, such as cheatgrass, could cost taxpayers $420 billion through 2022. The Obama administration is calling for the rapid expansion of biofuel production from non-food crops, and anticipated federal subsidies for the program are likely to average $28 billion a year, according to the study.

Earth Policy Institute: Needed — A Copernican Shift
by Lester R. Brown

In 1543, Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus published “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres,” in which he challenged the view that the sun revolved around the earth, arguing instead that the earth revolved around the sun. With his new model of the solar system, he began a wide-ranging debate among scientists, theologians, and others. His alternative to the earlier Ptolemaic model, which had the earth at the center of the universe, led to a revolution in thinking, to a new worldview.

Today we need a similar shift in our worldview, in how we think about the relationship between the earth and the economy. The issue now is not which celestial sphere revolves around the other but whether the environment is part of the economy or the economy is part of the environment. Economists see the environment as a subset of the economy. Ecologists, on the other hand, see the economy as a subset of the environment.

Like Ptolemy’s view of the solar system, the economists’ view is confusing efforts to understand our modern world. It has created an economy that is out of sync with the ecosystem on which it depends.

Economic theory and economic indicators do not explain how the economy is disrupting and destroying the earth’s natural systems. Economic theory does not explain why Arctic sea ice is melting. It does not explain why grasslands are turning into desert in northwestern China, why coral reefs are dying in the South Pacific, or why the Newfoundland cod fishery collapsed. Nor does it explain why we are in the early stages of the greatest extinction of plants and animals since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. Yet economics is essential to measuring the cost to society of these excesses.

Evidence that the economy is in conflict with the earth’s natural systems can be seen in the daily news reports of collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, eroding soils, deteriorating rangelands, expanding deserts, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, falling water tables, rising temperatures, more destructive storms, melting glaciers, rising sea level, dying coral reefs, and disappearing species. These trends, which mark an increasingly stressed relationship between the economy and the earth’s ecosystem, are taking a growing economic toll. At some point, this could overwhelm the worldwide forces of progress, leading to economic decline.

These increasingly visible trends indicate that if the operation of the subsystem, the economy, is not compatible with the behavior of the larger system—the earth’s ecosystem—both will eventually suffer. Recent events in the economic and financial systems cause one to wonder if we’re beginning to see the effects of an economy outgrowing its natural base. The larger the economy becomes relative to the ecosystem, and the more it presses against the earth’s natural limits, the more destructive this incompatibility will be. The challenge for our generation is to reverse these trends before environmental deterioration leads to long-term economic decline, as it did for so many earlier civilizations.

An environmentally sustainable economy—an eco-economy—requires that the principles of ecology establish the framework for the formulation of economic policy and that economists and ecologists work together to fashion the new economy. Ecologists understand that all economic activity, indeed all life, depends on the earth’s ecosystem—the complex of individual species living together, interacting with each other and their physical habitat. These millions of species exist in an intricate balance, woven together by food chains, nutrient cycles, the hydrological cycle, and the climate system. Economists know how to translate goals into policy. Economists and ecologists working together can design and build an eco-economy, one that can sustain progress.

Just as recognition that the earth was not the center of the solar system set the stage for advances in astronomy, physics, and related sciences, so will recognition that the economy is not the center of our world create the conditions to sustain economic progress and improve the human condition. After Copernicus outlined his revolutionary theory, there were two very different worldviews. Those who retained the Ptolemaic view of the world saw one world, and those who accepted the Copernican view saw a quite different one. The same is true today of the disparate worldviews of economists and ecologists.

These differences between ecology and economics are fundamental. For example, ecologists worry about limits, while economists tend not to recognize any such constraints. Ecologists, taking their cue from nature, think in terms of cycles, while economists are more likely to think linearly, or curvilinearly. Economists have a great faith in the market, while ecologists often fail to appreciate the market adequately.

The gap between economists and ecologists in their perception of the world as the 21st century began could not have been wider. Economists looked at the unprecedented growth of the global economy and of international trade and investment and forecast a promising future with more of the same. They noted with justifiable pride the sevenfold expansion of the economy since 1950, which raised output from $6 trillion of goods and services to $43 trillion in 2000 and boosted living standards to levels not dreamed of before. Ecologists looked at this same growth and realized that it was the product of burning vast quantities of artificially cheap fossil fuels, a process that destabilizes the climate. They looked ahead to see more intense heat waves, more destructive storms, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels that would shrink the land area even as population continued to grow. While economists saw booming economic indicators, ecologists saw an economy that is altering the climate with unthinkable consequences.

Economists rely on the market to guide their decisionmaking. They respect the market because it can allocate resources with an efficiency that a central planner can never match (as the Soviets learned at great expense). Ecologists view the market with less reverence because they see a market that is not telling the truth. For example, when buying a gallon of gasoline, customers in effect pay to get the oil out of the ground, refine it into gasoline, and deliver it to the local service station. But they do not pay the health care costs of treating respiratory illness from air pollution or the costs of climate disruption.

We have created an economy that is in conflict with its support systems, one that is fast depleting the earth’s natural capital, moving the global economy onto an environmental path that will inevitably lead to economic decline. This economy cannot sustain economic progress; it cannot take us where we want to go. Just as Copernicus had to formulate a new astronomical worldview after several decades of celestial observations and mathematical calculations, we too must formulate a new economic worldview based on several decades of environmental observations and analyses. A stable relationship between the economy and the earth’s ecosystem is essential if economic progress is to be sustained.

Although the idea that economics must be integrated into ecology may seem radical to many, evidence is mounting that it is the only approach that reflects reality. When observations no longer support theory, it is time to change the theory—what science historian Thomas Kuhn calls a paradigm shift. If the economy is a subset of the earth’s ecosystem, the only formulation of economic policy that will succeed is one that respects the principles of ecology.

The good news is that economists are becoming more ecologically aware, recognizing the inherent dependence of the economy on the earth’s ecosystem. For example, some 2,500 economists—including eight Nobel laureates—have endorsed the introduction of a carbon tax to stabilize climate. More and more economists are looking for ways to get the market to tell the ecological truth.

The existing industrial economic model cannot sustain economic progress. In our shortsighted efforts to sustain the global economy, as currently structured, we are depleting the earth’s natural capital. We spend a lot of time worrying about our economic deficits, but it is the ecological deficits that threaten our long-term economic future. Economic deficits are what we borrow from each other; ecological deficits are what we take from future generations.

Adapted from Chapter 1, “The Economy and the Earth,” in Lester R. Brown, Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), available for free downloading and purchase.

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

Once again Tacoma’s tide flats shake with the tread of war machines and once again true patriots are set upon by elected patriots, the officials of the City of Tacoma. Once again Vashon exudes lots of sympathy, some empathy, and no action. But why pick on us, smarty, how about Gig Harbor, Fife, Lakewood, how about them? Right. The reason that Ft. Lewis can stomp regional sensibilities in the doubtless toxic mud of the flats is that the military by definition is patriotic, and of course aren’t we all. Now, that is toxic logic indeed. Pierce, and to a more dire extent, King, county are as patriotic as their bank accounts will allow. To administer this patriotism, Pierce has the News Tribune while King has Patty Murray. The mayors, one and all, have become expert tight rope walkers, upright and true, lest they fall to the right on the petard of outright graft or to the left on the petard of wanton peace. It’s the money, stupefied, that rolls those Stryker vehicles.

Now hold on. I have my dictionary right here: Stupefy — to dull the senses of, to put into a stupor.

On the tide flats it’s the money, but here on Vashon it goes beyond money, does it not, it’s stupor. We have been living with our failed responsibility for years, and the reason we did not join our patriots this past week in blocking war material is personal and private and very reasonable for it is the solid conviction of each of us that, if we break ranks and hit the street, in fact we will be breaking ranks, breaking our vital associations with community, with neighbor, with friend, with relative, with spouse. I readily convince myself that Fort Lewis will soon not have to move its goods through the Port of Tacoma, problem solved, I can go now to my workshop and its warm, familiar smell.

Ft. Lewis is the local metastasis of US military cancer. The Pacific Northwest should make it clear to Ft. Lewis that it must not abet a failed, immoral, national policy. That bombing Pakistanis is not permitted. That a US military vehicle treading upon Afghan soil violates US moral belief. That sending war material through the Port of Tacoma is toxic to our soul.

Our Climate Crisis: Resist Obama: World’s First Biofuel-Free Zone
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.

Obama pushes mass death by biofuels. I said it during the 2008 campaign. I said it after his election. I’m saying it now as Obama takes Institutional Insanity to new biofuels lows.

This week, Obama did what I expected from him: he ignored science, gravely worsening climate change, starving humans, burning rainforests, rampant species extinctions, indigenous peoples displacement, drinking water crises and common sense. He shilled for American midwestern agro-business interests. He created the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which will be jointly chaired by the secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

This new federal Frankenstein will funnel almost $800M in taxpayers’ funds to keeping the sinking biofuels industry afloat. The obscene current federal subsidies ($1 per gallon for biodiesel) haven’t been enough.

The Purveyors of Planetary Death, the biofuels industry and their hostage politicians, are rejoicing. “With this directive, a national strategic vision for the role of biofuels in America’s future has been established,” said North Dakota Governor John Hoeven, chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition. The vice chair of this group is Iowa governor Chet Culver. That’s Iowa, the home state of federal Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and where 53,000 people work producing corn ethanol—the most murderous biofuel.

Let’s resist Obama and Institutional Insanity!

Let’s declare the State of Washington the world’s first Biofuel-Free Zone. And then expand it to all of Cascadia stretching from Eugene, Oregon in the south to Vancouver, British Columbia in the north.

Here’s why the time is now for our Biofuel-Free Zone: We have momentum!

(1) Biofuels are a scourge locally, nationally, globally. All crop-based biofuels—that’s ALL mass consumption biofuels—cause mass human hunger and starvation while they greatly worsen our Climate Crisis by causing rainforest destruction that releases vast amounts of CO2.

(2) One Earth has already succeeded in having Cascadia’s most populous jurisdiction, King County, WA, quit all biofuels.

(3) One Earth has already moved the city council president of Cascadia’s largest city, Seattle, to commit to legislation prohibiting use of biofuels by city vehicles.

(4) The State of Washington recently had to largely exempt state ferries from a state law that would have required the boats to burn a 20% blend of biodiesel. This B-20 blend would have cost the state $8M more to operate the ferries. The ferries now must burn a 5% biodiesel blend. The entire Washington legislature now knows how biofuels can wreck the state budget.

(5) King County, Seattle and Washington State have discovered this truth: biofuels are, and always will be, more expensive than petrol.

Resist now! Join us. We are currently crafting our biofuels resistance campaign for the State of Washington. We need you.

Un-Spinning the Spin: War in the Woods
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

“Money plays the largest part in determining the course of history.”
— Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto

Following a recent visit to Canada, I picked up an unread book that had been on my bookshelf for quite some time, Clayoquot Mass Trials by Ron MacIsaac and Anne Champagne. The word Clayoquot (pronounced Klak-What) is from the Nuu-chah-nulth people whose territory included Clayoquot Sound located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The temperate rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia represent half of the world’s remaining temperate rainforest. Only one-third of Clayoquot Sound’s rainforest is protected.

In the summer of 1993, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound began what became known as the “War in the Woods.” On one side were loggers holding protest signs saying “kiss our axe” and “eat a spotted owl and save a logger’s job.” On the other side were over 10,000 activists from Canada, the USA, Europe, and Australia who had joined forces to save Clayoquot Sound and, according to the authors of the book, begin “the largest protest in Canadian history.”

The book paints a rather rosy picture of that Clayoquot summer stating the success of the movement. MacIsaac and Champagne applaud the eco-feminism, Gandhian nonviolence, and the consensus system of operation. All 932 arrests were for the nonviolent acts of blocking the logging roads. The book focuses on the trials of these “protectors” through court transcripts and defendants’ statements. One particularly amusing story was that of a 64-year-old woman who was given double the sentence of her co-defendants on the grounds of “intellectual arrogance” since she dared to offer as defense a definition of civil disobedience and quoted Mark Twain.

However, there is another side to the story. Researching for this column, I came across a press release dated August 3, 2006. The press release was a commentary by Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

In April 1993, the Sea Shepherd ship, Edward Abbey, sailed into Clayoquot Sound.

With a smile I touched a spark to our replica civil war cannon and 8 oz of gunpowder let out a thunderous roar that echoed across the Sound causing the loggers to dive cowardly for cover. My shot was a blank, of course, and the loggers looked pretty damn sheepish as they got to their feet. It was, however, the opening shot in what would be a summer of protests that would see 12,000 people blocking logging roads and nearly a thousand arrested.

The Sea Shepherd did not participate in the “War in the Woods” since the mainstream environmental groups felt it was “overly aggressive and outspoken.” In turn, the Sea Shepherd was in disagreement with the position of the other environmental groups to accept the decision of the Tribal Council regarding logging. It argued that the Tribal Council would join the logging company if they were given a share of the profits. This is exactly what happened as the logging company Intefor partnered with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s company, Iisaak Forest Resources.

Again from Captain Watson’s commentary:

In the end there was an appearance that environmental gains were achieved but we knew that this was just the government and industry putting other areas on the shelf to go after later. In the end, the government set aside part of Clayoquot Sound and allowed logging by Natives and non-Natives in the rest. Some of the environmental groups responded by declaring a victory just before the chain saws began roaring. I also said at the time that once they logged what they were given they would be back asking for the rest of the Sound and that is exactly what is happening now.

He goes on to report that at the end of July 2006 the British Columbia government allowed for eight major watersheds to be opened to logging, including areas environmental groups have stated are “irreplaceable,” such as Pretty Girl Lake, Ursus Valley, Upper Kennedy River, Clayoquot River and Fortune Channel.

Closing with on a very pessimistic note, Watson states, “The bottom line is that the Tribal Council will follow the money and there is plenty of money to be made destroying the Clayoquot Sound.”

On August 2, 2008, there was a rally in Tofino, a fishing village on the Clayoquot Sound, due to increased threats from logging, ongoing drilling, and a hydro power project for Bulson Valley. Click here to watch Victoria’s CHEK TV news coverage of the event and to see footage from the 1993 “War in the Woods.”

JASPER CREEK
I was up above Jasper Creek
Falling a stand of big rotten cedars –
you know how cedars swell at the butt and spread out their roots.
Well these was like that: real big
and hollow, like wood caves.

It was first thing in the mornin
I starts up the chain saw
and lets her roar into the wood
making it bite deep to break through the shell, ya know
and then it goes into soft stuff

I figure it’s just rot
but then the saw jerks back hard.
Starts choking
and throwin up blood and meat with cedar chips.
Scared the shit outa me!

Anyhow that’s how I killed that she-bear
She was holed up inside one of them damn cedars
I pulled the saw back.
And sees the damn thing is smoking
With all this red blood runnin down the blade.
— David Day, The Cowichan (1975)

Articles and books referenced:
1. Clayoquot Mass Trials, book by Ron MacIsaac and Anne Champagne
2. Review: Clayoquot Mass Trials
3. Scoop: Clayoquot Sound condemned to bleed
4. Friends of Clayoquot Sound
5. Key Frontier Forests: North and Central America

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.

May 11, 1973: Charges against former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg (including conspiracy, espionage, and larceny) for his role in the release of The Pentagon Papers (a comprehensive classified study of the origins and conduct of the Vietnam War) were dismissed. Judge William M. Byrne, citing government misconduct, including attempts to bribe him with an appointment as FBI Director, and previously undisclosed wiretaps of Ellsberg. His compatriot, Tony Russo, a former RAND Corporation analyst, was also released.

May 15, 1935: The National Labor Relations Act was passed, recognizing workers’ rights to organize unions and bargain collectively with their employers.

May 17, 1954: In a major civil rights victory, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, ruling “separate but equal” public education to be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed equal treatment under the law. The historic decision, bringing an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African American girl denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.

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: It Hits the Fan
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.

For months now angry American citizens have wondered why members of Congress have steadfastly refused to vigorously investigate and bring members of the renegade Bush administration to justice for all their nefarious spying activities. Many of us on the far left have responded that the prime reason the Democratically-controlled Congress has been engaged in collective foot-dragging is because many were in on it from the get go. The Dems, of course, have flatly denied this.

But news is coming out slowly that our suspicions were correct! As the LA Times reported on Friday,

Congressional leaders were briefed repeatedly on the CIA’s use of severe interrogation methods on Al Qaeda suspects, according to new information released by the Obama administration Thursday that appears to contradict the assertions of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The records describe dozens of congressional briefings about CIA decisions that since have emerged as major sources of controversy — including the agency’s use of waterboarding and its destruction of videotapes of interrogation sessions.

You see, when too many hands are culpable, it’s rather easy to see beyond the rhetoric. The Democrats aren’t pressing the issue because this would necessitate exposing their own guilt!

News You May Have Missed

Buying Brand Obama
Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest…

Environment Emerges as a Major Casualty in Gaza
Countless fruit groves across the Gaza Strip are now gone, entire farms bulldozed. The remains of thousands of destroyed homes emit toxic asbestos, while dilapidated infrastructure dumps raw sewage into the Mediterranean Sea. An already deepening environmental crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip has been further compounded by the recent war. Throughout the three-week Operation Cast Lead, Israel targeted almost every aspect of the coastal territory’s infrastructure. Homes, businesses, factories, power grids, sewage systems and water treatment plants were reduced to piles of rubble across the Gaza Strip…

Capitalist Pigs: What the Wall Street Meltdown & Swine Flu Have in Common
Even if you don’t dig on swine, it has become impossible to avoid them. If you’re not pummeled by television reports about Wall Street oinkers, you’re bombarded by talk-radio rants about congressional pork and newspaper dispatches about swine flu. The bacon-flavored themes probably aren’t purposefully repetitive, but that’s OK because these seemingly unrelated story lines share a common bond: They are each part of what might be called piggish capitalism — an economic theory that mixes subsidization, consolidation and deregulation and that now endangers us all…

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