Wednesday, September 30, 2009

California Ag and Climate Change

I have just finished reading Kari Hamerschlag's report for the Environmental Working Group: California’s Climate Change Policy Leaves Agriculture in the Dust: I quote a bit from the executive summary: (full report also available from that link.)
Climate change presents California agriculture with two major challenges: how to reduce its contribution to climate change while arming itself against the threats a warming planet poses to agricultural production.

Fortunately, many of the measures that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon in the soil will also make agriculture more resilient to extreme weather patterns, such as the current drought. Cover cropping, composting, conservation tillage, organic fertilization and other best management practices will increase the amount of soil organic matter, reduce erosion, conserve water and enhance fertility. This, in turn, will help increase crop productivity and drought and pest resistance in the face of an increasingly dry and hot climate. According to a January 2009, ground-breaking study by University of California at Davis researchers, these practices, when combined, will generate significant greenhouse gas reduction benefits, primarily through carbon sequestration.
This is just a reminder that there is a lot happening locally and that all to idiots are not in Washington. Some of them worked on California's strategy which might be summarized as "Build the Arnold Schwarzenegger Peripheral Canal".

Fortunately, Hamerschlag also provides a list of 10 things that need to be done and that had been inconveniently left out.

The Architecture of Change

In February, 2007, I watched a televised teach-in sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the New York Academy of Science. The speakers included Dr. James Hansen of NS.S.A. and Dr. Ed Mazria, a member of A.I.A. and the founder of a non-profit called Architecture 2030.

While all of the section are informative, I was particularly impressed by Dr. Mazria's presentation and the 2010 Imperative that his organization is championing. Here is the simple truth, known then and still valid. You can not solve the problems of climate change without addressing the building sector. If you do take on the building sector, then many of the other diminish in scale and the time frame to finish the job becomes much more manageable.

The title of Dr. Mazria's talk was Resuscitating a Dying Society. His original proposal was to get strong backing for what he called the 2010 Imperative. Many people listened, but few acted. Had they done so, I don't think we would be facing the possibility of a failure in Copenhagen. Had they done so, we would not have had to listen to the Palin-ites chanting "Drill, baby, Drill."

Now, however, more and more architecture firms are taking up the challenge. I quote from an Architecture 2030 release date Sept. 28, 2009. (2010 will soon be here.)
Building Sector Leaders Call for
Steep Energy and Emissions Cuts

SANTA FE, NM - Twenty-four of the largest and most influential architecture, engineering, and development firms based in the U.S., which are responsible for a combined $100 billion in building construction annually, have joined forces with Architecture 2030, a leading non-profit research organization, to call on Congress to update national building code standards to meet steep and achievable energy reduction targets.

Specifically, this group is pressing the Senate to pass the building energy reduction targets in Section 241 of the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (S. 1462) and incorporate timelines to reach carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.
Now we know what the Republican response will be: Lie, obfuscate, delay until it is too late. The leader of the charge is Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The initial Press announcement has already been made. A major chance was missed when OK failed to replace him in 2008.

So, here is the next challenge, for those who believe in thinking globally and acting locally. Attend the next meeting of your local planning commission and demand that they only approve projects where the architecture meets the standard laid down by Architecture 2030, that the Cities where you live only deal with architecture firms who have signed on like those listed.

This is not for you and me. It is to resuscitate a dying society for our children and grand children until the 7th Generation.

Climate Change - What to do

On a local, Santa Clara County, Green Party email list, someone requested that we discuss what to do about the climate change meeting in Copenhagen. Below the fold, you can read my response. I thought it important enough to repeat here and will also utilize facebook, twitter, Green Change and any other site to get more people to look at it.

I am glad that people are looking to take some action regarding the December, 2009 Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen. If that is what stirs up attention, then it is good, because climate change is the biggest problem that we face as a nation, in the long run much more significant than health care.

In fact, with the prospect of the meeting in Copenhagen providing the replacement for the failed Kyoto accord, the key events start today. Today we are supposed to get the first released copy of a new climate change bill that bears the name of Barbara Boxer and John Kerry. From what I have read, this is a stronger bill than the one that was passed by the House of Representatives.

What to do:
Make sure that you are working from a base of knowledge, not just reacting to the latest stir-em-up notification. The easiest way to do so is to follow one of the following blogs:

  • Climate Progress - owned by Physicist Joseph Romm, Sr. Fellow in the Center for American Progress. The link takes you to his announcement of the Boxer - Kerry bill. aka Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.
  • West Coast Climate Equity - A British Columbia based, low volume cite with strong backing. Dr. James Hansen (N.A.S.A.) and Bill McKibben are on the board. The link provided is to a post that contemplated the possibility of failure in Copenhagen, something that Romm's optimism will not allow him to do.
  • RealClimate - This is for those who want to understand the facts about the climate change events themselves and how to interpret the data. It is written by and for climate scientists and those in the media who need to know the facts.

There are two very serious problems inherent in the entire process.

One deals with the possibility that the the US delegation will have to go to Copenhagen without having a bill through Congress. The Republican delaying tactics that you now see in the Health Care process will surely be used to prevent dealing with Climate Change in any substantive way. Boxer and Kerry will be pressured to water down their bill just to get any bill through Congress before Copenhagen. In particular, with an exact 60 votes, the Democrats will need the vote of the King of Filibusters, Robert Byrd, to invoke cloture and shut off debate. Byrd is from West Virginia and will sell his vote for removing any and all restrictions on coal... the biggest source of CO2 in the US. Note: Sec. of Energy Chu has been quoted that he would rather his family live next to at nuclear power plant than one that burn coal.

The second problem is the fact that Boxer - Kerry still has provisions for fossil fuel subsidies and nuclear loan guarantees. At Climate Progress, Romm has expressed the opinion that nuclear is so completely expensive that no more nukes will be built anyway, so having something in the bill is not a very big issue. I disagree... or let me say that he trusts Congress more than I do. Both of these would have to go before I would support the bill.

Then, if we really believe that Green Jobs as promoted by Van Jones, is part of the solution, if we really believe that individuals should have the right to generate their own solar / wind power and sell that back to the local utility, if you really believe, as did presidential aspirant Kent Mesplay, that radically distributed power sources is a national security goal, then we need to pressure the California State Legislature to pass AB 560, which the Democrats allowed to die in the State Senate Committees this past term. Current law cuts off net metering for individuals when the amount of power sourced in that manner reaches 2.5%. We will reach that next year for PG&E. AB 560 would raise that to 5%. It is time that every member of the state legislature gets to know us personally, since we need to camp in their office until they agree to get this done. That is the essence of thinking globally, acting locally. It is the essence of community based economics.

Last night, I posted information about the nuclear position in Boxer - Kerry. I will continue to use California Greening to post positions regarding global warming and California's water crisis along with actions that need to be taken to pressure our legislatures, both state and national, to act for the people and not just troll for contributions.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Boxer - Kerry Climate Change Bill nearly ready.

This is just to call attention to the fact that the Boxer - Kerry climate change bill is nearly ready for release. Actually, a text exists but the bill is such a moving target that by the time you down load it, it will have changed.

You can read a rather good synopsis on Joe Romm's Climate Progress blog. I won't repeat that here. I will agree with Romm that this bill is stronger than the House version from Reps. Waxman & Markey. It is still a long way from acceptable.

Let me just say that I am not as confident as Romm that the high cost of nuclear power will keep it from happening, even though the bill will contain subsidies for nuclear. I just do not trust this Congress that much. Of course, this is California and Boxer just might have to meet Nuclear Chuck DeVore in the Senate race next fall, no matter how much money Carly spends.

I will quote from the alert sent out today by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, calling for more pressure on favorite Senator... (Feinstein is the other choice.)
Sens. Boxer and Kerry are set to introduce their major climate legislation.

Senator Boxer said recently that this legislation would include a nuclear title, but indications have been that it would be minor and narrowly focused.

However, we are growing concerned that this nuclear title may offer much too much to the nuclear power industry. If there is a nuclear title--and, of course, there shouldn't be at all--it must remain minor and narrowly focused.

As Massachusetts or California residents, your voices can help everyone. Please call Senator Kerry or Senator Boxer today and urge them to stand strong against the nuclear industry and its incessant calls for taxpayer bailouts.

Senator Kerry: 202-224-2742

Senator Boxer: 202-224-3553

While we have not seen the actual language of the proposed title, these talking points would be helpful to include in your call:

*Nuclear power already receives a competitive advantage when a price is placed on carbon. If the nuclear industry cannot compete with such an advantage, that's its own problem, taxpayers should not be expected to provide more help to the industry.

*Nuclear power is not carbon-free. The nuclear fuel chain is responsible for fairly significant carbon emissions--at least three times those of wind power, for example. This study provides substantive backing for this.

So, make that call to Boxer and let her know what you really think about nuclear energy. Not only do we not want any new, we want to see the existing power plants de-commissioned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Health Care and Global Warming

As I mentioned in a previous post, global warming is already helping to spread tripical diseases into new areas. Even where the diseases are already present, the type of dust storms that plague Australia right now will come to California and the Southwest and spread disease.

Consider Valley Fever, which I had to read about in a UK paper.
Higher temperatures and more intense storms are also linked to "valley fever", a disease contracted from a fungus in the soil of the central valley of California. The American Academy of Microbiology estimates that about 200,000 Americans go down with valley fever each year, 200 of whom die. The number of cases in Arizona and California almost quadrupled in the decade to 2006.
You can not lower the cost of health care if you don't begin to address global warming.

We are running out of time and the face of disaster is not the polar bear, even though that is what and the NRDC thinks will make you open your wallet. Well, here is the human face of climate change and it is happening now.

October is Solar Energy Month

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, October is solar energy month. Great.

In my own locale, there is a San Benito County / South Santa Clara County tour scheduled for Oct. 3... notification from SJ Mercury News in my email today.

The promostion sounds great, but just remember, the big companies and their political friends are trying to shut down distributed solar by not extending the amount of home generated electricity that the utilities are required to purchase. AB 560. According to Sponsor Nancy Skinner (Dem.. 14th AD)...
AB 560 – Renewable Energy Net Metering
> This bill seeks to address the current statutory cap on net metering for customers who currently are able to receive credit for energy produced by their solar or wind system, and offset energy usage on the electricity bills.
So, if you want to go solar, it is a good time to make this an major issue. This bill died in committee in the State Senate and I have not seen any official notice that it was carried over to the next session. The Democratic leadership could not even get this no-brainer legislation out of committee.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Civil Disobediance Pt. 2: People before Polar Bears

Yesterday, I received a mailer from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that was trying to raise money to act on behalf of the polar bears. After all, climate change threatens their very existence. You can even buy polar bear shopping bags at an inflated, gotta raise money somehow, price.

I used to think that way myself. Those days are long gone. The situation is a lot more drastic and the specie being threatened is homo sapiens. Don't think that climate change is something that we have until 2050 to deal with. It is happening now and we had better recognize that fact.

If you click Read more! I will give more detail on three events that I don't hear Greens talking about, but they should be at the very top of the list: the dust storms that swept across eastern Australia, the Dutch experts who are advising California on methods to protect San Francisco Bay and California Delta, and my finally getting around to read The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis published by the Global Humanitarian Forum, headed by Kofi Anan. Each of these underscores the fact that Climate Change is real, it is here now, and people are being affected every day while the US twiddles its thumbs and the Senate can not yet pass a climate change bill.

Australian Dust Storms:
If you have not yet seen the effect of this, you have to watch this video. Otherwise, you might not believe it.

This is climate change in Australia. It is also what is forecast for the Southwest of the United States. We have already begun to see some effect in the mountains of Colorado as they are reporting red snow .
It is, sadly, probably too late to save much of Australia. But it is not too late to save the U.S. Southwest and other key regions in or near the subtropics. We can still prevent the worst. (Joe Robb at Climate Progress)

Dutch Engineers to save the Delta?
This is climate change mitigation right here in California. No, it did not make the local news. It was not on television, absorbed as it is with all things political unless it is a crime story. It did, however, make the San Mateo County Times and was carried in its sister paper, the Contra Costa Times.
The inevitable effects of climate change in California, and how cities can adapt to them, are starting to get more attention from Bay Area planners. While no one knows exactly how sea level rise will play out 100 or 200 years from now, analysts agree that more severe and frequent floods are going to be a part of it.

Avoiding sea level rise is by now impossible. The Bay has risen 8 inches since the start of the 20th century, and scientists worldwide agree that the Bay Area in particular can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as 16 inches by midcentury and as much as 55 inches by 2100.
Here is a link to a map of the Bay / Delta with a sea level rise of just 1 meter... 39 inches rather than the 55 mentioned in the quote above.

This should begin to give you a feel for the fact that mitigation of the effects of climate change is going to be very, very expensive. You know that the Conservatives in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, will sing the song that after bailout and a big impact Health Care bill, we just can't afford to tackle climate change now. It would do too much damage to the economy.

Don't let them sell you that line. It just is not true. If the money for levee repairs in New Orleans had not been spent on a new freeway exchange to allow access casino boats, perhaps the 9th Ward would not have flooded. It would have been so little.

Paul Krugman is already labeling this a big lie.
So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.
The costs are right in front of our faces and California's politicians do not have the cojones (a Madeline Albright term) to take action now. They can't even pass a rational budget.

The Human Cost of Climate Change
It is not about polar bears, it is about people. Those who are fortunate to live in California can probably withstand whatever comes if we were on our own... and we just might be. However, there are hundreds of millions of people who don't have that ability. There people are the subject of Global Humanitarian Forum's Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.
We testify here to the human face of this dangerous problem. The first hit and worst affected by
climate change are the world’s poorest groups. Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations. If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change.
So, how bad is it. Here are some statistics from that report.
The findings of the report indicate that every year climate change leaves over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses of US$125 billion. Four billion people are vulnerable, and 500 million people are at extreme risk.
Even Anan admits that there is an element of error in these numbers. But how big do they have to be to get our attention? This is no longer an economic or technological question. It is now a more imperative. The time for talking in pleasant drawing room tones has long passed.

What to do?

I was somewhat surprised when Dr. James Hansen of N. A. S. A. not only called for civil disobedience, but actually went to the Appalachians to try and block yet another mountain top removal coal mining effort. Recently I read a paper by Dr. John Lemons. He also considers this a question of ethical behavior and, like Hansen, suggests that it is time for civil disobedience. If not, he is very pessimistic.
As a natural scientist I have been engaged in global climate change issues since the early 1980s, particularly with respect to the integration of science with public policy and ethics. However, at this point in time there is little that I see that is a cause for optimism in the battle to solve global climate change on an ethical basis, to reduce immediately and significantly the emissions of greenhouse gases based on the best available scientific information.

We have heard it all. especially here in California where our Senator Boxer Chairs the Senate Committee that has to write and approve any legislation. So far, she has delivered speeches and little else. Likewise, Governor Schwarzenegger has gotten a reputation as a Green Governor, but many of his actions have been ecologically destructive and none of them, even his expensive plans for dams and a peripheral canal, have begun to address the problems of rising sea levels for the Bay and Delta regions. Even here, he is solving the wrong problem and still screwing it up.

When I was a very little boy, stocking were filled with candy and fruit if you were good and with coal if you were bad. Maybe it is time for Schwarzenegger and Boxer to receive their stockings full of coal.

Californians do not have coal mines to block. The few we did have (e. g. near Parkfield) have long played out or are too dangerous to enter. But, we can do some things. For starters, buy no foods that were not produced in California... better yet... grow your own. It might put Trader Joe's out of business but they need a new business model anyway. It does not make sense in a warming world.

The place for Greens to follow the news is with EcoAction Committee's Facebook Pages. If you know of opportunities for action of any kind, post a comment on this post.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Civil Disobedience Now.

There are two issues that I have been writing about for several years. One is the situation with California Water and the California Delta. The other is Climate Change. Both have become politicized beyond all capacity to deal with them on a rational basis. I'm increasingly convinced that large scale, non-violent civil disobedience will be required to give our politicians the will to actually do what needs to be done. This will take two posts. This is the first, regarding the California Water Crisis. I assure you that these issues are linked.

The latest media alert from Restore the Delta called attention to Mike Fitzgerald's current column in the Stockton Record. I have always respected Fitzgerald, both for his knowledge of Central Valley Water issues and his willingness to tell the truth in print. This time, he takes on Sean Hannity and the manufactured myth that the water crisis is really about a "little minnow".
Where to begin? Hannity's show was set in a cotton farm outside Huron. The farm is fallow for lack of water. The Grapes of Wrath, Part II: The Joads of Huron.

Only those ignorant of the oceanic amounts of water needed to farm cotton are oblivious to the irony. If water's scarce, cotton shouldn't even be farmed.

"Turn the water back on!" Hannity intoned over and over, sounding like Moses crying "Let my people go!"

In fact, the water has been "turned on" since June 30. Last Sunday - to cite a typical day - the state and federal pumps exported 13,626 acre-feet of water from the Delta.

The pumps sucked hard enough to make Old River, Middle River and the San Joaquin River at Stockton flow backwards.
(emphasis mine)
That is only a taste of what Fitzgerald dished out. You should read the whole thing.

For my take on this, click Read more.

I don't live in the Delta, or the Central Valley. But my local water district, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, sources much of it's water from there. They are not different from most of the state in that regard.

This issue has been so completely politicized that most Republicans think they can not get elected from that region unless they recite the mantra of "Food Grows Where Water Flows" and promise to build more dams. Unfortunately, the only people who might profit from thost dams are engineers and construction companies who would build them.. but I digress... that is really part of the Climate Change story.

This is an issue that is tailor made for Greens. However, except for a very few, it does not get the attention it deserves. There is a long list of issues that always seem to take precedence. All of them are important but, when the water fails, as it surely will, we will see how much it costs to import water from Colorado.. even if we call it Coors.

Those who are manipulating the public opinion have learned to play the populist game and even to make it into a racial issue. Comedian Paul Rodriquez appeared on Hannity's program with his line about representing the Latino Water Coalition. For the real story about this Coalition, its funding from big land owners and its irrigation district engineer leadership, you need to read the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood by Lloyd G. Carter. Carter is a leading Green from Fresno and has a long history of writing about water for UPI and the Fresno Bee.
Despite the lack of tangible results from the March for Water, the Latino Water Coalition is now planning to take its show to Washington, D.C. to lobby members of Congress and the Obama Administration to suspend the Endangered Species Act and order more pumping from the beleaguered Delta Estuary. Meanwhile, the Delta ecosystem continues to collapse and the commercial and recreational salmon fishing season has been canceled for the second year in a row. No word on whether thousands of salmon industry families thrown out of work also plan to march on Washington, D.C. to demand that more water be kept in the Delta. Maybe the West Side growers can explain why their water needs are more important that the salmon fishing families.
Now, you know how Hannity picked this up.

We have the nexus of Green Leadership on this issue, but I sense no support other than good will. As mentioned, Lloyd G. Carter is a Green. Contra Costa Green Joseph Feller is trying to make is an organizing issue for the Delta Greens. Martin Zehr has helped. The Los Angeles Greens have taken some action, endorsing the sustainability principles of the California Water Impact Network. (Carter was previous on their board.) It is high time that we moved beyond endorsements and such.

This is a list of things that we, as Greens, need to be doing:
  • It is time that we put energy into re-establishing the Green Party as an effective organization in San Joaquin County. It has been said that such organizing efforts are a waste of time and energy. But, if we don't make the effort, the big agribusiness interests and the big developers will control it. There is little difference between Republicans and Democrats on this. It is as if the entire Congressional or Legislative delegations spoke with Hannity's voice.
  • It is time that we all start following the Lloyd G. Carter's blog, following his stories to the source and then laying out a Green solution.
  • We need to put full support into all efforts for bio-regional ownership of all resource issues. In the Democratic Plans for a new Delta Commission to plan California's water, the only area that was left out of the proposed commission was the Delta itself. Like they should trust their future to everyone else. If nothing else, this should tell you that the back room deals have been done. This support needs to include the financial.
  • We need to make a concerted effort to let all of our legislators know that voting for back room deals like Darrell Steinberg proposed is asking to be voted out of office. We know that even so-called progressive Democrats will sell out their constituents for a big donation.
  • We need to start showing up at meetings, wearing our Green shirts.
  • We need to actively locate and recruit Greens to run for Water District boards. There are some on the boards who might be small "g" green but we need full political presence there.
I ask all of you to sign up for Restore the Delta newsletters, either from their web site or through facebook. (I only see 30 fans there. Make it 300 or shower in salt water.)

PG&E Withdraws from US Chamber over Climate Change

Pacific Gas and Electric has created a major stir by its very public withdrawal from membership in the US Chamber of Commerce and condemnation of the Chamber's position regarding climate change. The announcement on Tuesday has been picked up and repeated by every serious climate related web site.

My reactions were submitted as a Green Talk column to my very local paper this AM and are scheduled to appear on Friday. You can read them now by clicking Read more.

The withdrawal came in a letter from PG&E Chairman Peter Darbee to the Chamber of Commerce, a portion of which appears on the PG&E web site. “We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.”

PG&E is not the first major corporation, nor even the first utility, to make such public withdrawal. Duke Energy has withdrawn from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy over that organization's opposition to climate change legislation. Some have even begun to advertise their actions, as S. C. Johnson has done, highlighting the fact that they have sought clean power for their manufacturing plants or Subaru with their zero-landfill automotive manufacturing plant in Indiana. They have found that these are good business decisions, not just publicity stunts.

Time after time we have seen national organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce take ideological positions that are at odds with facts and in doing so reflect a disdain for even the well being of their own membership.

Mis-information abounds, takes on a life of it's own and is repeated so often as fact that the original sources are so far down the trail of citings that they might never be found. Politicians, those who most loudly claim to have only the interests of their constituents at heart, allow their staffs to make up stories as long as they remain true to the ideology, never mind the facts. No one is worse at this than Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe whose previous chief of staff, Mark Marano, is now becoming the guru of climate change denial. The good Senator's mind has long been made up and facts will not change it.

Sadly, we have come to expect this of politicians. But, it has also entered the realm of journalism where the object lesson in non-objective writing is surely George Will and his blatantly erroneous columns on climate in the Washington Post. Not to be outdone, even the venerable NY Times falls for a similar trap, coming from their in-house climate maven, Andrew Revkin.

Revkin, in writing about the UN Climate Change Conference held Tuesday, was at best mis-leading when stating that the temperature has been comparatively stable for a decade. What he did not mention was that it was still the warmest decade on record. It is so easy to pick the facts to suite your explanation rather than making sure that your explanation fits the entire set of facts that we have, so far, discovered.

It would appear as if many expect the universe to be swayed by their ideological interpretations, much as they expect voters to react, to fall in line as soon as they trot out a litany of focus-group refined slogans. I wonder how many molecules of methane they had in their focus group.

It seems clear to me that the universe does not care about, is not swayed by, does not change it's course because of some senator's ideology. The world is what it is and seems rather immune to what we think. It is not, however, immune to what we do. Just as words have meaning, actions have consequences. So far, the actions of mankind have not generally been benign with regards to maintaining any ecological balance.

I could speculate as to how PG&E's actions will work out at the local level. When I was a member of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, one of the major corporations involved was PG&E. The Morgan Hill Chamber also has a good history of working with the City and other organizations toward creating a green business environment. I would hope that this continues, along with the assistance of PG&E.

This is the way that the world should work, but unfortunately does not. When we have local businesses making decisions to manage their business in such a manner as to work with the local ecology rather than against it we will probably have better outcomes, not only for the business but also for the entire world. That is not easy to do. It takes commitment, work and an open mind. There are a lot of people willing to do the hard work, but far fewer who maintain an open mind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Urgency to Address Global Climate Change

There seems to be no urgency in the US. I mean, even Sen. Boxer looks at the problem as something to do when they clear health care reform off the table. Well, it is a hell of a lot more important than that.

I want to call everyone's attention to a paper by Dr. John Lemons that was posted at Climate Ethics earlier this month. I quote from the Introduction:
The goal of this paper is twofold: (1)to briefly describe recent scientific information on global climate change that suggests a greater need for urgency of action than might have previously been thought, and (2)to suggest that philosophers develop ethical stances that support nonviolent civil disobedience action to mitigate the problem of global climate change given its urgency.
(it loads faster from the 1st link).

There is a real opportunity to do something about this, now, not later. Obama gave a good speech today at the UN, mouthing all the right words as is his style. However, he can not deliver a good product out of a Congress where his party has overwhelming majority control. That is really sad. It says loads about the ethics of our leadership in Washington. Even our Senator Boxer seems to think that Climate Change is something that they will get to when health care is finally off the table. That just may be too late. The world will watch what the US does in Copenhagen in December and, based on past performance, it won't be much except talk.

This is no longer purely an economic issue, nor only about technology. As Dr. Lemons lays it out, our ethical standards are being challenged and we are failing.

Time for Greens to save this planet.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Green need to press the Press.

There are a lot of blacks who get really upset with Bill Cosby because he does not accept excuses for educational failures. His work in Detroit right now is a case in point. Cosby is willing to go door-to-door to say what he feels needs to be said, that people need to take responsibility for educational outcomes, no matter how bad the system is or now much racism still holds people back.

I feel that something similar needs to be said about the relationship between Greens and the media. There are many who would ignore what the deride as "corporate media." They know that the "corporate media" does not give Greens any space, or time, so they just don't try.

We need a Bill Cosby, who can say with conviction, that we help create our own vacuum. There is absolutely no reason that Greens can not be working the media in the same manner that the other parties do. It is all about building relationships. The more you get to know the hard working folks in the press, the more you realize that we are on the same side... telling the truth about the story of America. That is where the best of them are and it is easy to find them. You may have to read, or listen to, a bit of dreck, but the end result is that you will find reporters who are willing to carry a good story if you help them find it.

We have to do our home work if we expect to past the test. I am sure that Cosby would agree. There are no excuses for poor media coverage.

Friday, September 18, 2009

United with whom

There is a tendency among Greens to view labor in a classic, Marxist way. That they are struggling in opposition to their capitalist masters and that all good progressives have to support their work. I only buy part of that line. Unfortunately, I have had enough bad experiences with bad unions to question such overall approval.

The best example I know came in NY where a customer, as local trucking company, was about to go out of business. The owner, one of those executives who would put on coveralls and get in the middle of a dirty diesel engine to make sure that things were done right, called in the shop steward and informed him of the shut down. When asked why it was happening, he said that theft from shipments was so high that he could no longer get any insurance that he could afford. At which point the shop steward asked "How much pilferage could you stand?" There are crooks everywhere.

But you don't have to be a crook to do a lot of damage. Now, I am wondering what will happen with the union connection to the Democratic Party. As anyone who follows this blog knows, I have been adamantly opposed to King Coal, to mountain top removal mining, to coal fired power plants... and that is still the major use of coal.

Now, Richard Trumka, one time president of the United Mine Workers of America, born of a coal mining family, heads the AFL-CIO. For all the good that Trumka has done for the movement, and that is a lot, if he chooses to use the power of the unions to convince Democrats to continue coal's dark path, then he will be using that power to destroy the future, not to build a better one.

As an ecology advocate, I am holding my breath, but I don't have a lot of hope.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Congress Critters at the trough.

We all have this vague feeling about politicians, that chances are they are either dirty, or lack the fortitude to follow through on all of those glorious promises they made. Maybe they don't have... what was that word Madeline Albright used... oh yeah... they don't have the cojones.

Then, it is not surprising that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) can always keep their list of the 15 Most Corrupt Members of Congress. One of the functions of the big losses that the Republicans took in 2008 is the fact that now the Democrats outnumber the Republicans on this list. As for this info, you might say that a little frog reminded me.

Nor is it surprising that there are four critters on that list from So Cal. Two white male Republicans (Jerry Lewis-41st CD and Ken Calvert 44th CD and two black female democrats (Maxine Waters 35th CD and Laura Richardson 37th CD). It might be a shock, however, that Richardson made it on to the list so quickly. You generally need to have been around Washington for 4 or 5 terms to be so honored.

I guess that this backs up what Alex says about the LA County Democratic Machine. Big City politics at it's worst turns out a string of self serving slickers and then keeps them in office solely because they are the incumbent.

At least we had a good Green make a run for the 37th CD when Richardson first got elected. I sure wish that Daniel had won.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Van Jones info

When I first went through the list of "fans" of Draft Van Jones at facebook, I saw mainly the familiar names that I would have expected. Today, I saw another name that I did not expect but it does give me hope. That name is Kelpie Wilson. Not only did she list her name as a fan, she also wrote a great post on her own web site: Thomas Paine Would Have Loved Van Jones.

Not only does Wilson defend Jones, she takes a hammer to the convoluted illogic of Glen Beck.
They say Van Jones is a Marxist, anarchist, Communist, socialist revolutionary. Now, we are getting closer to the real grip Beck and company have on this country and the president as well. McCarthyism has never been far from the skirmish line in post WWII American politics. McCarthyism is based on a string of lies that tie Stalinism to Marxist theory, to socialism, to the labor movement and, finally, to modern liberals. It's like saying all Christians are torturers and pedophiles because the church burned women at the stake, tortured heretics and harbored child-abusing priests.
We need a new Murrow, but it is easier to expose a politician than to have the courage to expose the rants of a new McCarthy embedded in the media.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to get 10 more people to become Fans of Draft Van Jones... today. Then go read some more of Kelpie Wilson. You won't be sorry that you did.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Democrats v. Republicans v. Greens: Van Jones

So much has been written about the saga of environmental activist Van Jones, that there is little that I can add. At the top of the California Greening blog my friend, Wes Rolley, has written "Greens come from many backgrounds. There are more than a few who were, like myself, once Republicans and who left that party... or rather found that the party left them. Right now, having found a political home with the Greens, I want to make sure that the Green Party of California does not leave me. I am too old to go through this again." So true. The Van Jones saga is painful for me personally because even though I do not know Mr. Jones well, I have followed his career and read his writings with great interest, because his path has been so similar to my own.

Accordingly, I will here just post links to my favorite commentaries about the firing of Van Jones by the cowardly Obama Democrats and conclude after the jump with the full text of a powerful statement released by the Green Party.

Dumping Van Jones: Why Give In To Republicans' Tantrums? by John McWhorter, posted on the web site for (of all media) The New Republic.

Meet the Real Van Jones by Judith Lewis published as an Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times.

Obama Has Fed His Green Jones to King CONG by Harvey Wasserman posted on Common Dreams.


For Immediate Release:
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why Van Jones Should Give Up On Obama and the Democratic Party, Come Home to the Green Party

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders invited Van Jones, who stepped down recently as President Obama's advisor on Green Jobs, to abandon the Democratic Party and "come home to the Green Party."

Greens called Mr. Jones, who resigned last Saturday after coming under rightwing attack, the best of what the Obama Administration had to offer America, but said that Mr. Jones' principles were bound to clash with President Obama's capitulations to corporate lobbies and to 'blue dog' Democratic and Republican ideologues.

"The Green Party invites Van Jones, with his decades of experience working for justice and the environment, to join a political party that embraces and defends that agenda and the people who work for it -- the Green Party. Like the Greens, Van Jones sees green jobs and a healthy environment as interconnected pillars of a sustainable and just economy. We encourage Van to bring that agenda into the electoral arena as a Green Party member, leader and possible future candidate, either nationally, statewide in California, or locally in Oakland, his home," said Mike Feinstein, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and former Mayor of Santa Monica, California.

Greens offered 'Top Ten reasons why Van Jones should give up on President Obama and the Democratic Party, and come home to the Green Party"

  1. The Obama Administration's failure to defend Mr. Jones recalls similar retreats by the Clinton Administration, when Bill Clinton allowed Republicans and some Democrats to bully him into removing Assistant Attorney General nominee Lani Guinier and Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. The targets tend to be Black -- consistent with Republican fury over the election of Barack Obama to the White House.
  2. The extremists who sought Mr. Jones' removal see their action as part of a wider plan to derail measures against global warming and block greens jobs programs: see "How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next," by Phil Kerpen, Fox Forum (Fox News), September 5 ( They smell blood, and the Obama Administration and Democratic leaders are cowering.
  3. Van Jones is a national leader for human rights, public health, and the environment. As 2004 Green presidential nominee David Cobb said, "The Democratic Party is the graveyard of progressive ideas." These ideas -- including green jobs, the 'Green For All' agenda (, and other ideas expressed by Mr. Jones -- are thriving in the Green Party.

  4. Among Greens, Mr. Jones need not play down his activism on behalf of the lives and well-being of Black Americans. He will not get called "reverse racist" of "anti-white" by Greens for addressing persistent racial disparities in economics, employment, health, treatment by the justice system, the response to Katrina and post-hurricane rebuilding, etc. The Green Party shares Mr. Jones' goals of racial justice.
  5. Among Greens, Mr. Jones will not get scolded for calling former President George W. Bush a 'crackhead' in the context of Mr. Bush's obsessive devotion to industries that are feeding America's addiction to fossil fuel energy.
  6. Among Greens, Mr. Jones need not apologize for questioning the behavior of the Bush Administration in connection with the 9/11 attacks. (See
  7. Mr. Jones has called for an end to coal energy, while President Obama continues to repeat the myth of 'clean coal.' Mr. Jones' analysis of the global warming threat and the need for conservation and a green economy are reflected in the Green Party's platform and principles. (See also
  8. If the epithet that Mr. Jones used to describe Republicans was offensive, imagine the words people will use later this century, when the effects of global warming have grown more severe, to describe Republican (and Democratic) officeholders from 2009 who refused to take necessary action to curb global warming's advance.
  9. The media have given Glenn Beck and the 'Tea Party' crowd generous coverage. (Compare the minimal and dismissive reporting on the hundreds of thousands of Americans who protested the Iraq War in 2003.) Republicans have benefited from the current political paradigm, which places extreme Republicans like Mr. Beck at the right end and 'moderate' Democrats like President Obama at the left end of the spectrum of allowable debate. Van Jones is a target for the same reason that former US Representative (D-Ga.) and 2008 Green presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and others have been dismissed and ridiculed -- because they offer ideas unacceptable to media dominated by corporate interests. The emergence of the Green Party is key to overturning this paradigm, changing the political landscape, and expanding the public debate.
  10. The Green Party sees no reason to appease Republicans, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Democratic leaders, or others who've used their power to serve corporate elites, to the detriment of working people and America's future. Greens call Van Jones too important for America to disappear from the public forum.

"As a Green, Van Jones can be a strong national voice for justice and the environment, independent of the constraints of the Democratic Party hierarchy, the corporate lobbies that pull their strings, and the right-wing appeasement and selling out of grassroots social movements that appears to be their strategy," said Marian Douglas-Ungaro of the DC Statehood Green Party and the Green Party Black Caucus.

Recruiting Candidates

It seems that Greens are always trying to recruit a candidate from outside the party as we don't have that many inside who have both the integrity that we demand and the name recognition to be successful. Even when we do bring a bigger name into the party, the fit is not always there, as witness the 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, we have an opportunity to try it again and this time I am fully supportive. Let's recruit Van Jones to run for California's Governor in 2010. It may be a long shot, but I can not think of a better choice, especially as his standing with the Obama Democrats is now somewhat diminished.

There is now a facebook based effort to draft Van Jones as a Green Party candidate for Governor. The list of those supporting this idea is growing and filled with Greens that I respect: Erika McDonald, Gary Ruskin, Genevieve Marcus, Ben Manski, etc. If you have a facebook account, now is a good time to go become a fan of Van. (note to self.. put a banner on this site that says "I'm a Fan of Van" and link it to the group.)

There are a number of thing that might argue against this.. not the least of which is Jones's long time association with the Center for American Progress, a John Podesta run think tank that provided many Obama Administration advisors. Remember that Podesta was one time Chief of Staff for Pres. Clinton. At lest Jones left the Center when joining the Obama team and now is a member of neither.

If we are going to make this happen, then we need to be talking to Jones quickly and have a long list of fans who are willing to donate time and money to make a real campaign.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All Politics is Personal

The death of Ted Kennedy filled television, I think even Fox News did a eulogy. Most of it was the same, no matter what channel you happened to have on the screen. The recent publication of his memoir, True Compass, only brings a lot of it back again.

Out of it all, there were only two comments that stuck with me. One came from John Kerry and the other from Joe Biden. Kerry continued to return to his paraphrase of Tip O'Neill's dictum that "All Politics is Local." Kerry said that he learned from Kennedy that "All politics is personal."

Biden gave a great example of what that really meant. Talking to GMA on the morning after Kennedy's death, Biden recounted this story.
On the day Barack Obama and Joe Biden were inaugurated as president and vice president, Sen. Ted Kennedy had a seizure that nearly took his life.

The next day Biden received a call from Kennedy, who joked about the seizure and then asked in a very serious tone how Biden's granddaughter was doing.

"What do you mean, Teddy?" Biden said.

"I'm afraid I frightened her. Is she OK?" he said.
Biden's granddaughter, Naomi, then 15 years old, had been sitting at Kennedy's table during the inauguration luncheon where he had the seizure. That is the essence of personal politics. Really caring about the people that you deal with. I don't see that often enough in the Green Party, especially in California. What I do see in personal attacks, innuendo, hurt feelings, retribution, grudges that have gone on far too long. None of these are Green and, as personal politics, none of them are effective. Maybe that is the way things are in other parties. I think all of the conflagration that surrounded Howard Dean and the Dems. Greens need to be better than that to be successful.

Health Care and Big Pharma Advertising

I would not generally quote Dr. Andrew Weil. My general reaction to his many appearances on PBS fundraisers is to wait for a flock of purple martins to nest in his beard. However, in a recent book, and a news letter that he sent out today, he makes the following statement: (emphasis is mine)

Ban Prescription Drug Commercials

This week, my new book, Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, became available. One of its key recommendations for reforming American health care aims at helping to end the reckless overuse of pharmaceutical drugs.

A main engine behind this overuse is direct to consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical marketing (think of Sally Fields' Boniva commercials). In 2004, American drug companies spent nearly 25 percent of their sales revenues on promotion, versus only 13.4 percent for research and development.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers wouldn't invest so much money in TV commercials and advice to "ask your doctor" about a drug if it didn't pay off. In 2000, every $1 drug companies spent on DTC advertising yielded an additional $4.20 in sales.
Now, this will not get all the so called progressives as excited as would yet another documentary from Michael Moore. (Sorry, I forgot, he is now advertising his latest: Capitalism: a Love Story. However, it just might reach more of Middle America. I hear that they have gotten somewhat over the series of documentaries that have flooded our theaters and returned to just plain entertainment.

Some people have such short attention spans.