Wednesday, March 30, 2011

9to5 Regional Leadership Conference

Dear Special Friends of Peace & Justice,

This is it. This is the fight of our lifetimes. Working families are fighting for their lives in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. This war on workers is not being waged on the other side of the world, but right here in Santa Clara County, California. More than 400 Santa Clara County workers continue to face abusive misclassification as "dependent contractors".

Each year, the Bay Area Chapter of 9to5, National Association of Working Women convenes a public leadership conference to highlight changes needed for family friendly workplaces. Click the picture below to view a 6-minute video about issues at our upcoming conference:

Changing the Workplace, Changing the World
Leadership Conference

Erik Larsen, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Keynote Address:
Kim Bobo, Executive Director and founder of Chicago’s Interfaith Worker Justice Center

Special Luncheon Guest:
Sally Lieber, Former Speaker Pro Tempore California State Assembly


Brandy Davis, Labor Project for Working Families
Peter Woiwode, California Partnership
Tiffany Crain, Young Workers United

When and Where:
2302 Zanker Road, San Jose, CA – Second Floor
San Jose, CA 95131
Saturday, April 2, 2011
8:30 AM

Noted community organizer, author and workers' rights advocate Kim Bobo will address 9to5’s 7th annual leadership conference, "Changing the Workplace, Changing the World", in San Jose. Bobo is Executive Director and founder of Chicago’s Interfaith Worker Justice Center, the nation’s largest network of people of faith engaging in local and national actions to improve wages, benefits, and conditions for workers, especially those in the Low-wage economy. She is co-author of "Organizing for Social Change", a widely used manual for organizers, and of "Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of American Workers are Not Getting Paid and What We Can Do About It."

As I write this, it appears the State of California is headed for, yet another, budget meltdown. Join us for a day of workshops and discussions about how to fight for California's working families.

More Info:

9to5 Bay Area, National Association of Working Women
2302 Zanker Road
San Jose, CA 95131

We really need your support, now more than ever.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What can we celebrate on Earth Day?

It is less that a month until Earth Day comes again. I hope to have my Green Talk column in my local Morgan Hill Times then and have been trying to find a way to write something that is both new and positive. The more I consider the task, the harder it becomes.

The 1st Earth Day was a time of great hope. It appeared that a new future was upon us, one that promised to repair the damage we had already done to this earth. There seemed to be a determination to ensure that we would stop destroying the environment because, in the long run, that meant we would be destroying our own civilization.

In retrospect, that promise has never been fulfilled, even though some hare working legislators managed to codify it's intent. We might now have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, but we no longer have the hope and determination. Rather than pushing forward toward a better world, we are fighting a defensive war against an activist movement that would roll back these laws and defund or eliminate the EPA. It leave me asking "What went wrong?"

America has always had a sense that it was good to live small. Many continue to find their inspiration on the edge of Thoreau's Walden Pond. Not as many know and appreciate the Sand County Almanac of Aldo Leopold and have not considered his view of a land ethic.
All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

Leopold wrote this in 1949. Between then and Earth Day, we had the chance to read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. That gave us the truth about the problems we were causing and brought about the ban on DDT. Still, within the past month, we had people testifying to Congress that Carson was wrong and that the ban on DDT caused untold deaths from Malaria.

By the time that the 1st Earth Day arrived in 1970, it was a national movement, fired up by student enthusiasm. Not partisan, like today's discussion, there were 2 co-chairs: Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (Dem) and California Representative Pete McCloskey (Rep). But that spirit of working together soon vanished. By 2003, they were calling for a re-birth of the movement.
A letter sent March 17 to more than 4,000 student leaders urged them to help rebuild a constituency for the environment. It suggests organizing events in their schools and communities, and sending a delegate to a national student conference on politics and the environment in September.

Despite war, the sour economy, and threats of terrorism, the letter said, "There is no more terrifying legacy than a changed climate or an epidemic of extinction."

The letter was signed by Mr. Nelson. Mr. McCloskey, Mr. (Dennis) Hayes (former Stanford student body president), and Stewart Udall, a former congressman and Department of the Interior secretary.
Not much of that happened either.

So, I am asking you to tell me what went wrong. I have my own ideas. It has to do with our increased urbanization and detachment from the land. It has to do with the pace of events as we lurch from catastrophe to catastrophe, from earthquake / tsunami to civil wars in remote countries to the edge of nuclear catastrophe all in a week of 24 hr news. It may now be exacerbated by the ease with which communication takes place online and with some electronic device to show or mask you true meanings.

So, readers, tell me why you think we are where we are, fighting now to prevent an epidemic of extinction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Putting ecology first.

I promised someone yesterday that I would address the question they raised in response to one of my tweets.
Ecology loses when Greens first address creating a non-violent, just, democratic world.
The question was that of why this would be true. We have a small rat terrier who is an escape artist and took up my time last night… bringing him back home and fixing yet another pathway out of the yard… That may be a good example of how pressing needs transform priorities.

Now that I have started on this, it is not a very easy task and I admit that it will take more than one post. The short answer that I gave was "You can't do the rest w/o working in ecological terms." Not everyone would agree with that. Even among those who have thought seriously about ecology, there is a striking difference in approach. This is perhaps best understood by contrasting the ideas of Aldo Leopold and Murray Bookchin.

I have written about Leopold before, but not Bookchin. In Post-Scarcity Anarchisms, Bookchin places the root cause of our problems strictly in the deep soils of capitalism.
The notion that man must dominate nature emerges directly from the domination of man by man… But it was not until organic community relation … dissolved into market relationships that the planet itself was reduced to a resource for exploitation. This centuries-long tendency finds its most exacerbating development in modern capitalism.
Many, if not most, Greens would agree with Bookchin. However much he uses the concepts of ecology, Bookchin still relies on the social, economic organization of man to shape the rest of our relationships to the world. This leads him to develop the idea of Communalism… again a term that Greens should pay attention to… but that is a form of libertarian socialism.

Leopold, writing just before the time when Bookchin was formulating his ideas, defined what he called a "land ethic." He begins by recognizing that humans are essentially a member of the biotic community. He saw the problem as an ethical one and that humans were in need of evolving their ethical relationships to a new communal future. "
All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: the the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).
Maybe the difference comes from whether or not humans are granted free will or are pre-determined by their social structure, as Bookchin and all of the others who derived their thinking from Marx, seem to profess. If Bookchin is right, that we build our communal future to change human ethics, then I don't see clearly that there is a way out. However, Leopold's view that we need to evolve a new ethics, an extension of the process that moved us from treating other people as chattel to recognizing that "all men are created equal" gives guidance as to how we create the new society that Bookchin wanted.

Maybe my analysis is too simplistic. It probably is. The goal of creating a "non-violent, just, democratic world" seems to belong more in the realm of political action than ethics. I just don't see how we meet that goal without our actions being informed by an ecological consciousness, a new land ethic to use Leopold's term.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What happens in a post Fukushima world?

I found two posts today that addressed the nuclear power situation and all of the considerations that arise after the Fukushima reactor failures in Japan. Let me change that wording, the human failures in dealing with a potential catastrophic technology.

Ralph Nader, whose OpEd I found thanks to a tweet from Marnie Glickman, writes very directly about the need to prevent another Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima situation. He does a very good job building an economic case against any more nuclear facilities, based on the costs will all be borne by the public either as rate payers or as tax payers, that that is slanted more to the latter.

He then goes on to list the things we need to do if one is planned for our back yard.
* 1. Demand public hearings in your communities where there is a nuke, sponsored either by your member of Congress or the NRC, to put the facts, risks and evacuation plans on the table. Insist that the critics as well as the proponents testify and cross-examine each other in front of you and the media.

* 2. If you call yourself conservative, ask why nuclear power requires such huge amounts of your tax dollars and guarantees and can't buy adequate private insurance. If you have a small business that can't buy insurance because what you do is too risky, you don't stay in business.

* 3. If you are an environmentalist, ask why nuclear power isn't required to meet a cost-efficient market test against investments in energy conservation and renewables.

* 4. If you understand traffic congestion, ask for an actual real life evacuation drill for those living and working 10 miles around the plant (some scientists think it should be at least 25 miles) and watch the hemming and hawing from proponents of nuclear power.

Nader provides a good good set of talking point for being anti-nuclear. He does not, however, deal with the fundamental problems that we need to resolve to eliminate the need or desire for engaging in such reckless search for solutions to problems that we may not even have.

For that, I had to turn to The Nuclear Syndrome posted by Lorna Salzman at another not mainstream media site. In fact, you have to scan down the page to find it. Salzman, like Nader who she once supported as a Green presidential candidate, has a long history of ecological activism and makes it clear that she knows just what is driving the nuclear renaissance in America.
Unless there is a clear, strong message from the American public that they are ready to cut their consumption by paying more for energy and supporting stringent mandatory energy efficiency standards, we will be outflanked by those who will raise the spectre of hardship and sacrifice if growth does not continue. If we do not reject growth, we are agreeing with them that any and all risks associated with nukes or oil or gas drilling are acceptable because these are just part of "progress", jobs and development. We need to cut to the chase: either we are willing to take the steps necessary to curtail energy use and growth, or we accede to the arguments of the nuclear power proponents. There is no other choice.
California Greens have a lot to think about. There are two major reactor site in the state: Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. There is a current effort to build a new energy park near Fresno that would be home to yet another nuclear installation. As I posted earlier, the Fresno Energy Group is actively trying to circumvent the California law that places a moratorium on new nuclear power plants until there is a solution for the problems of nuclear waste.

Are Greens going to limit themselves to being yet another, admittedly small, portion of a re-awakening anti-nuclear movement, following a path clearly laid out by Nader, or can we go beyond that with to push for a new, economic future that does not depend on tomorrows growth to pay for yesterday's excessive risk taking?

Nader outlines the actions that are necessary in any case. It is a clear way to slow down or stop future nuclear expansion. But the unique view that Greens bring to the table sounds much more like Salzman. Perpetual growth is a Ponzi scheme at best. Now is the time to stop what we have been doing and focus on a Green future.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ecology before Earth Day

Before there was an Earth Day, even before Rachel Carson described the possible Silent Spring, Aldo Leopold had a Wisconsin farm from which he wrote A Sand County Almanac. Writing in 1949, he challenged his own time.
Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. Despite nearly a century of propaganda, conservation will proceeds at a snail's pace:ogress still consists largely of letterhead pieties and convention oratory. On the back forty, we still slip two steps backward for each forward stride.

The usual answer to this dilemma is "more conservation education." No one will debate this, but is it certain that only the volume of education needs stepping up? Is something lacking in the content as well?

I would urge Greens to find a copy (I found mine at the public library) and read it because it still challenges the way that we have gone about changing our future.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why think about water now?

As Grist's Dave Roberts tweeted recently to the effect that with war imminent in Libya, nuclear catastrophe in Japan and floods in the US, he wants the world to slow down so he can understand it all. So, with all of that happening, plus a good soaking rain in Morgan Hill and reservoir managers at Oroville and Shasta opening the gates for increased flow now, why am I posting about water?

March 22 has been designated World Water Day and AlterNet is marking that day by having a book release party for their new publication: Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.
Authors take on both the good and the bad -- the impact of climate change on water resources, the threat of privatization, and the challenge of thirsty agriculture, as well as a growing grassroots water justice movement, tools for watershed literacy, and success stories in conservation and efficiency. This book is a must read for everyone concerned about the future of our planet.

Time: Event begins at 6 pm, panel discussion featuring leading environmentalists until 7 pm and party until 9 pm.

Location: Project One, 251 Rhode Island St, San Francisco CA 94103. Map

RSVP by emailing for a chance to win a free copy of Water Matters!

We may think that this is not pertinent, or maybe no so important in the global scheme of events, but as is the case with climate change, if we don't act now it will be too late to act when the shit hits the fan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hubris of technology and human error: Do we need a new nuke in Fresno?

During the 2010 Senatorial Race in California, one of the Republicans running was Chuck Devore. I am so glad that he did not win. He is yet again one of those who will back up their policy with whatever number makes their case look better. In a facebook comment this week, Devore attacks environmentalists and contrasts the situation at Fukushima as being caused by an earthquake while that at Chernobyl was caused by human error. He then states that the death toll from Chernobyl was "only 50."

I am not sure where he gets his information, since the governments of Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine put the death toll in the thousands while other organizations go toward 100,000. So much for Devore's credibility. It is falling dangerously close to that of Rush Limbaugh.

The most intriguing element is that he also ignores information as to how human error contributed to the disaster at Fukushima. News analysts have always wondered why the diesel generators failed and today the news is that a worker failed to double check that the fuels tanks were full.

This is what I mean by technological hubris. We still have not been able to engineer any complex system that is immune to the effects of human error, neither failures to act as it appears to be the case here, nor failures in judgment as affected some of the Space Shuttle spectacular failures.

As the dangers continue to build in Japan, the nuclear industry in the United States are active convincing everyone, especially members of Congress, that is could never happen here. Is this because we are so smart? Because we are so careful? No, they say that it is because we do not have exposure to the scale of the earthquake / tsunami that has swamped Japan's ability to manage multiple disasters.

Even now, this is part of the justification for a new nuclear plant facility that some want to build near Fresno. Even as the reactors in Fukushima are in danger of complete meltdown, or at least the spent fuel storage tanks... not in any kind of containment... are seriously compromised... the Madera County Board of Supervisors has voted its support for the proposed new reactors. This, in spite of the fact that California law has put a moratorium on new nuclear power plants until the problem of nuclear waste disposal has been solved. Remember... those highly reactive spent fuel rods are not in any containment facility.

John Ellis's report in the Fresno Bee portrays The Fresno Energy Group as cynically planning to circumvent California's moratorium.
In December, Hutson and the group said they had found a way around the moratorium. The reactors would be characterized as parts of a water-treatment system instead of power plants.

Water on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is tainted with a variety of salts that make it unsuitable for crops. Power generated could be used to power a desalination plant.

Actually, this sounds to me like a plan hatched by the Westland Water District who understands that their land is becoming increasingly less productive due to the accumulation of salts. Economist David Zeitland has even blogged that we could save a lot of taxpayer money by buying out the entire water district and all of it's farms. That solution to Westlands' problems is significantly better than a new nuclear plant. It does not require anyone to engineer a system that is immune to human error.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The left's view of science

In yesterday's post, I mentioned a post by Chris Mooney at desmogblog where he asks "Are liberals science deniers: now is a good time to find out". There are many ways to approach this problem. Mooney chooses to do so in the context of liberal efforts to shut down nuclear power. Is there a valid scientific rationale, or is it just a knee jerk reaction?

What Mooney does not acknowledge is that there is stream of self identified progressives who do not consider science as an important mechanism to understand our world. Most of these so called progressives are more likely to quote Noam Chomsky than anyone who actually values science. The thread from Chomsky goes directly to Howard Zinn and Glenn Greenwald.

Chomsky, very much revered by many progressives and his view on science give those acolytes permission to ignore science completely.
Science talks about very simple things, and asks hard questions about them. As soon as things become too complex, science can’t deal with them. The reason why physics can achieve such depth is that it restricts itself to extremely simple things, abstracted from the complexity of the world. As soon as an atom gets too complicated, maybe helium, they hand it over to chemists. When problems become too complicated for chemists, they hand it over to biologists. Biologists often hand it over to the sociologists, and they hand it over to the historians, and so on. But it’s a complicated matter: Science studies what’s at the edge of understanding, and what’s at the edge of understanding is usually fairly simple. And it rarely reaches human affairs. Human affairs are way too complicated. In fact even understanding insects is an extremely complicated problem in the sciences. So the actual sciences tell us virtually nothing about human affairs.
It is not likely to be the cast that liberals will "misuse" science, as is Moody's concern. It is more likely that they will ignore it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Finding the energy to do it right.

The severity of the earthquake tsunami catastrophe that struck Japan last Friday is just now being absorbed, in bits and pieces of anecdotal commentary. The idea that they were able to rescue a man from the rooftop of his home some 15 km at sea is an indication of the power of the tsunami and his own good fortune. Those of us with friends or relatives (my wife Rumiko's entire family) in Japan can only worry if they were in the north or breathe a silent sigh of relief if, as with Rumiko's family, they are all in the Tokyo or Osaka areas.

Still, the horror of this event is unfolding as we watch not only the search, rescue and recovery efforts, but also the effort to prevent a complete nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plants. The facilities there suffered major damage and were not able to maintain cooling. In a final effort to prevent a Chernobyl scale event, the operators have been pumping large volumes of sea water on to the reactors to cool them, but in doing so have rendered these facilities permanently unusable.

It is inevitable that the United States must re-examine it's own posture regarding not only the future of nuclear power, but also the management of the 104 nuclear power plants already operating here. Perhaps the best assessment that I have seen, and every news source has given at least one, is the one that Joe Romm and Richard C produced for CNN. The sober assessment is that "The U.S. government and nuclear industry must take new actions to ensure that nuclear power is safe for the American public."

Four of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US are located in California. Most of the attention has been given to the 2 reactors at Diablo Canyon. It is right on the coast and was constructed with full knowledge that it was close to 3 active faults including the San Andreas fault. Recently, a 4th fault has been discovered under the ocean just off the Diablo Canyon site. There is risk. No one denies this, but we have always been told that the risks are know, have been quantified, and that the Diablo Canyon plants have been designed to be able to withstand such a risk.

The lesson that I take from Fukushima is that we are not really good at quantifying risk. There is too much pressure to down play risk so as to not panic a public with scant technical knowledge and many fears.

The Green Party, and especially the Green Party of California has always taken an anti-nuclear stance. Some of the opposition is merely emotional, but mostly it is based on a sober risk assessment and the knowledge that there are better alternatives which can meet our energy needs. As Romm noted in the item linked above, the one time cost advantage for nuclear is no longer true.

I don’t think that we have yet absorbed the lessons of Fukushima. There is a hubris, sometimes nationalistic, that allows us to say that we have planned for all contingencies. If you listen to those who talk about Diablo Canyon site this week, they make the point that it was over designed to withstand the largest possible quake on the nearby faults. The same was said about Fukushima, and yet we did not truly understand just how great a quake was possible there.

The other lesson that we should learn, but again one that no one is talking about, is that there is a risk in putting so much emphasis on large scale, single site capabilities. Yes, it may be economic when all is well, but the economic consequences are very bad when all is not well. The argument for a distributed system with multiple generation technologies: solar, wind, wave, co-generation, etc. makes the system much less prone to the effects of the loss of a single site. This would make the United State more secure. It would make the US economy more robust and better able to absorb shocks, whether from single site failure or from conflict fed spikes in the prices for Middle East Oil.

And, just as importantly, the economics of nuclear have never considered the health effects of the entire process system from mining to transportation to processing to the storage of nuclear waste. At each step, we need to understand the long range effects before we commit to increased nuclear power plants, and the users of that technology should bear the cost.

It is also clear that all efforts to analyze the situation in Japan and to develop a sound US policy for the future will be met with equally political diatribes. Just read the comments to Chris Mooney's question: Are Liberals Science Deniers: Now is a good time to find out.

Follow the science for then entire process system. That is what the science of ecology tells us to do. Follow the economics that the science says is true. I don’t think that you will end up supporting nuclear or coal or any other fossil fuel.

More than any other

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Isn't there a law?

When you get to be a member of Congress, you now have dispensation to say anything you want with no regard for it's factual content, and then use tax payer money to publish it for all to see.

Case in point: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) get a lot of free press with his fact deficient rants against the idea of climate change actually taking place. However, since the Republicans do not control the Senate Committees, he can not to everything as he pleases. However, that does not stop him from trying, as the minority party also gets a chance to put a "minority opinion" statement on the committee's web site. Since Inhofe is the ranking member of the Environments and Public Works Committee, he controls what gets posted.

The most idiotic is the statement at the infamous paper of lobbyist Marc Marano entitled "More Than 700 (Previously 650) International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims". This has been debunked again and again. Many of those who were named, have been shocked to see their position so grossly misrepresented. Still, Inhofe puts it out there for all to see and you, my fellow tax payers, are paying for it… in more ways than one.

I wish that there was a way to get at a Senator who intentionally uses tax payers money to spread a convenient lie. Aren't Republicans supposed to be for reigning in wasteful spending. Well, they ought to start here, unless they are all foot soldiers in the Republican War on Science.

Hell,I lived in Inhofe's Tulsa and he wasn't even a good mayor.

So what, you ask? Well what should the Green Party do to specifically address the fact that The War on Science has turned into a War on our Children. We gotta care more than it appears.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What are we doing to our children

I grew up in rural Illinois... at least through attending the 8th grade. Then we left Illinois for Flagstaff, AZ because I was developing asthma and N. Arizona's dry climate was supposed to good for me. I hope that this gives me a greater sympathy for the children who now have to endure the same illness.

I recently posted about the toxic city designation for Bakersfield and Fresno. That same designation could have been applied to a number of other areas in the San Joaquin Valley had the list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas not been limited.

This all makes me wonder exactly what the Republican members of the House of Representatives are doing with their attacks on the EPA and it's efforts to clean up America's air. Joe Romm had a re-post (from NRDC Switchboard) today at Climate Progress entitled Fred Upton's bizarre ware on 24 million children with asthma.
Just about every major health group in the United States is now telling Chairman Upton that he is putting the welfare of millions of Americans at risk who suffer from asthma (that’s 24 million people right there – including seven million children!) and other respiratory diseases.
I started to pay attention to Chris Mooney after he wrote The Republican War on Science back in 2005. Mooney continues to blog about the intersection of science and policy. It seems that the war is not over and that Upton considers our children to be just collateral damage.

California has it's own Upton's. Their names might be Darrell Issa or Buck McKeon. For a party that still talks of "family values" it appears that these Republicans are only talking about voting adults.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

CA Power Shifts

In a recent post that asks Greens to get down and dirty, I made the point that the communities of the Central Valley had a set of problems that were not getting solved by the Parties that Be and which cry out for Green Solutions. While this was picked up and re-published elsewhere, including on the GPCA facebook page, the reactions were predictable At best, there was a suggestion that we need to take advantage of our largest groups of Greens and build out from there. I had been arguing that we need respond to the greatest need.

This week, we got a first glance at the 2010 census data. The quick story is that CA will begin to look a bit more red. While coastal areas had little growth in the past 10 years, the Central Valley has grown rapidly.

According to a recent listing of state wide vote statistics, the only county where we had over 10K Greens was Los Angeles with 21,091. The other large counties were Alameda, San Francisco, San Diego, Orange, Sonoma, Sacramento, Santa Clara with all having over 4000 registered Greens. Of that group, only San Diego County grew by as much as 10% in the past decade. Our largest county, Los Angeles, only grew by 2%.

In contrast, the inland counties grew much faster: Kern, Tulare, Merced and San Joaquin Counties all had over 20% growth while the larger Fresno County grew by 16%. Most of these areas are conservative enough that it takes skilled gerrymandering to generate a Democratic Congressman there. In Southern California, it was just as striking, with Imperial County growing by 23% and Riverside County by a whopping 42%.

Inevitably, political power is going to shift in this state as soon as the Redistricting Commission finishes it's task. There is no doubt that California Republican Party Chair Ron Nehring is feeling good. Green, with no representation on the Commission, need to be very focused in our effort because no one is going to help us out of the goodness of their hearts.

I am still waiting for economic data to be available. Still, when you look at the need, and the growth, it seems clear to me that we need to be much more active in those portions of the state undergoing the greatest growth and having the greatest need. The greatest change should provide the greatest opportunity. Green growth will only happen with Greens from all over decide to make it happen. A farmer does not reap a crop sitting in front of the TV.

Monday, March 07, 2011

UN Independent Expert on Water and Sanitation Deserves Criticism

Recently, the UN Independent Expert on Water and Sanitation as a Human Right went on a fact-finding tour of the United States and released a press statement. “I call for legal action to change the status of unrecognized and terminated tribes to enable all American Indians to gain the respect, privileges, religious freedom, and land and water rights to which they are entitled,” she stressed, calling on the US to ensure that water and sanitation are available at a price people can afford. said UN independent expert Catarina de Albuquerque, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to examine human rights obligations for access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

It is significant to see that the langauge of the California Green Party plank on Water Planning includes a declaration that the GPCA"Uphold the water and land rights established under the Treaty of Guadelupe-Hidalgo and the sovereign claims of Native American bands, tribes, rancherias, reservations, Mission Indians, and non-federally recognized bands and tribes." The Green Party of California supports the efforts of all Native Americans to their claims and rights to land and resources as paramount in all water rights issues. Further, it proposes to cut through the legal and administrative processes of the Interior Department by acknowledging the rights of those bands and tribes who have made claims as remnant tribes and bands.

That being said, the Independent expert deserves criticism for lacking a substantial input process upon which to base her conclusion. She had 8-9 people in Sacramento testify. Her press statement did not reflect the limited input provided and the input provided did not justify the issue of discrimination being the sole focal point, as she raised it in her press statement. Green, Martin Zehr, testified and submitted a 7 page review of the relation between regional water planning and water as a human right. Included in the written review, it was noted that Greens in Detroit have also been active in opposing water shutoffs due to economic distress and the impact of the depression in Detroit.

Also testifying were representatives of the Unitarian-Universalists. Debbie Davis of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water testified concerning the contamination of public water supplies in the Central Valley of California. The effort of the UN Independent expert pales in comparison with the recent publication of the Public Policy Institute of California of the study entitled: MANAGING CALIFORNIA'S WATER: FROM CONFLICT TO RECONCILIATION. I attended the release on the study in Sacramento on February 24th. It is a shame that these two events, that were held so close to each other in time and place, were not able to contribute to the efforts of the other.

Chief Gary Harrison, who organized the Alaska leg of the Peace and Dignity Journeys, was also there to testify. Chief Gary ran with me in 1996 in the Peace and Dignity Journey, a Native American cross-continental spiritual run . He testified and submitted a paper to the UN Independent Expert on Water and Sanitation.

Chickaloon Village presents its case against Coal Mining to United Nations Expert on the Human Right to Water

February 28, 2011

(SitNews) Chickaloon Native Village, a federally-recognized Athabascan Indian Tribal government in Alaska, filed a communication to the United Nations Independent Expert on the human right to water and sanitation in conjunction with her first official visit to the United States, which began today.
Chickaloon Village’s submission asserts that the new open-pit coal strip mine in its traditional territory proposed by the Usibelli Corporation would contaminate local drinking water sources as well as rivers, streams and groundwater that support salmon, moose and other animals and plants vital for subsistence, religious and cultural practices. The US Federal Government and the State of Alaska have, to date, not responded to Chickaloon’s firmly-stated opposition to the mine.
The visit to the United States by the Independent Expert, Mrs. Catarina de Albuquerque, a Portuguese human rights expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, includes stops in Washington DC, Boston Massachusetts and Northern California, where she will meet with the Winnemem Wintu and other Indigenous representatives. Her US visit will end on March 2, 2011.
During her visit she will meet with the US State Department and relevant Federal agencies as well organizations, communities and experts to receive information regarding the human right to water and sanitation and the federal and state policies and practices that affect this right. She is expected to make recommendations to the US government at the conclusion of her visit.
Quoting the news release from NAY’DINI’AA NA’ (Chicaloon Village) Traditional Council, the right to water for Chickaloon and other Indigenous Peoples is not limited to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. It is closely linked to a range of other rights including Self-determination, subsistence, health, land and resources, cultural and religious practice and free, prior and informed consent. International standards including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognize Indigenous Peoples’ right to determine their own priorities for development and to exercise free, prior and informed consent regarding activities which may affect their traditional lands and resources, including water.
Coal mining in and around Chickaloon in the early 1900’s had devastating impacts, including contaminating rivers and decimating traditional food sources such as moose and salmon said the NAY’DINI’AA NA’ Traditional Council. The tribes’ long years of effort to restore its culture, subsistence, language, health and ecosystems, including its waterways, will be severely undercut if not nullified by the proposed new mining.
Explaining the reasons behind Chickaloon’s filing, Traditional Chief Gary Harrison stated: “International standards like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognize our inherent sacred right to protect our water and keep it clean for the animals, fish and future generations of our Nation. Our right to water is the same as our right to life. We can’t sit back and allow our human right to water to be violated again”.
Chickaloon is a census-designated place (CDP) in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, United States. It is part of the Anchorage, Alaska Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 213 at the 2000 census.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Food prices rise to new height.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the cost of food increased in February for the eighth consecutive month and reached an all time high. You heard a bit of this in the news coverage of the grassroots protests in Tunisia and Egypt. While not even the major cause of the unrest, frustration over the cost of food played a part.

I read a comment today at Climate Progress that had posted it's take on this fact. Someone said “In the U.S., where we spend less than 20% of household income on food, at least at first, this will have little impact on us. However, over time it will become more and more of an issue.

I had to disagree. It is already becoming an issue. Most residents of this suburbanite enclave might be somewhat immune to the rising costs, limiting their reactions to a bit of grumbling while loading up at Safeway or Nob Hill. That would not be the case were you dependent on a Food Bank for your next meal. They are being forced to purchase a larger portion of their supplies and these are costing more every month.

It is useful to understand the causes of this unprecedented rise in prices. I find three of them to be key: extreme weather events, the cost of fossil fuels and US Energy / Agriculture policy.

We have seen enough of the extreme weather events in the news that some have begun to write about catastrophe fatigue. Most importantly, the extreme heat in Russia last year severely damaged their wheat crop. Russia has stopped exporting wheat. That might not be so bad had we not had two more extreme events that affect world wide wheat prices. There is a long lasting drought in the Shandong province of China, their major wheat production area. This will reduce the 2011 crops and maybe eve 2012 depending on how long the drought lasts... remember that we are just coming out of a three year drought. Among the other wheat exporters, Australia is very limited due to droughts in the Southwest and floods in Queensland.

Without opening up the discussion of whether or not climate change is human caused, this increase in extreme weather events is to be expected given the undeniable fact that our weather is warming.

Most of world-wide agriculture is very dependent on factory scale application of fertilizers, chiefly nitrogen that is derived from natural gas. That is only one link. Another is the fact that less and less of our food supply is grown locally, requiring significant fuel use just to transport it from the field to the table. It is no longer like the days when I was a student when we ate whatever was available locally and a mandarin orange was a Christmas stocking treat. The next time you go shopping, look at the country of origin on the item and think about the cost of getting that into your shopping cart.

It is a privilege to be able to eat peaches in February and kiwi in July. We just need to acknowledge that there is a cost for that privilege and that cost will continue to rise. We are using more fossil fuel energy every year and finding less new energy reserves. That can not be good for reducing costs.

Finally, I listed US Energy and Ag policies as one of the causes. At present, over 10% of the world-wide corn production is consumed to produce ethanol for fuel. In the US, this is over 30%. This is good the for big corporate agribusiness which is getting massive governmental subsidies while it over uses inputs of natural gas derived nitrogen. It is not good for you and I, but we can't do anything about it. The politics is such that corn state senators will block any effort to change either the ethanol requirement or the subsidies for corn.

Come to think of it, our CA Senators favor subsidies for Ag's commodity crops themselves, just cotton and rice rather than corn.

So what are we to do? My wife and I grow as much of our own food as we can. We share with neighbors. We joined the California Rare Fruit Growers to learn more about what we should be doing. I registered Green as the big parties just don't get it yet. I have joined Transition California to help us all prepare for the days when the costs of fossil fuels and the price of food leads us down the same path followed by the Tunisians and Egyptians.

This is scheduled to appear in Green Talk column of Morgan Hill Times on Tues. Mar. 8, 2011.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Time for Greens to get Down and Dirty

Once again I am going back to a subject that has bewildered me since I began this blog, most recently here. I have just never figured out exactly why the Green Party of CA has not made more of an organizing effort in the Central Valley. My point has always been that this is where Greens have solutions to the very real problems the everyone is experiencing.

Today, I offer one more reason that we need to be working our buts off there. Forbes magazine has released (as of 2/28/2011) a study that lists the 10 most toxic cities in the United States. Anyone who has really experienced life in the Central Valley would not be surprised to learn that there are two CA cities in the top 5. Bakersfield and Fresno are listed as numbers 2 and 3 respectively. In both cities, poor air quality was a major factor.

Another study, released in 2006 from CSU-Fullerton put the cost of poor air quality in the San Joaquin Valley at $3 Billion. That was when the economy was good and there could have been some revenue to fix things. Now, the only fix might be to organize, because all solution are political and never more so the the current Republican attacks on the EPA.

This is what CSU-Fullerton study team found:
According to the study, the cost of air pollution averages $1,000 per person per year, and represents the following:

* 460 premature deaths among those age 30 and older
* 23,300 asthma attacks
* 188,000 days of school absences
* 3,230 cases of acute bronchitis in children
* 3,000 lost work days
* 325 new cases of chronic bronchitis
* 188,400 days of reduced activity in adults
* 260 hospital admissions
* More than 17,000 days of respiratory symptoms in children

Greens are always sensitive to ethnic issue, so we should not be surprised to learn that…
The report indicates that some communities, including those with high populations of Latinos/Hispanics and African-Americans, are harder hit than others, due to the varying concentrations of dirty air around the region.

This seems to define the mileau in which the vision of a new Green future would win many adherents, but sadly this has not been the case. Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, has only 0.2% of the registered voters. Fresno County is better, with around 0.4% but neither of these is really more than embarrassment to mention.

I believe that this is not due to the fact that our message is wrong, but rather that we have never even gotten our message out. If the current politics of the San Joaquin Valley is such that it allows two of it's most important cities to become so toxic, then it is time to change the politics.

Greens can not wait for some group of like minded public citizens to decide to form a local and then come to the GPCA for support. We need to be organizing the organizing. We need to look to the history of the unions for the model. They did not gain strength by workers rallying around to join them, but rather they sent out organizers to make sure things happened. Fresno needs to understand that we are there, we are not going away and we intend to change things. Bakersfield needs to understand that we will not allow, as some have reported, workers to lose their jobs by registering Green, but rather that registering Green in the only way to make sure that they get off the toxic cities list.

What I would like to happen is for the GPCA to set aside $5,000 for radio & TV campaign in those two markets and let them all know we are there as long as it is need. Then to follow that up with large scale registration drives in each city, even if we have to bus in volunteers. And, I think that the effort should be approved at the next General Assembly.

None of this will happen if we don't raise the money to make it happen. This week, I donated $150 by clicking on the Donate Button on the GPCA web site. They set a really low goal on $7000 by May 1 (plenary...). It will only take 42 more similar donations to make the $7K. Who will join me?

Twisted Priorities

(Cross posted from Calitics)

In a time when Lester Brown is writing about a World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse it seems that the political forces in California make for strange reading. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose overall environmental polices were as destructive as any CA governor, made an impassioned speech this week on the need for strong action on climate change. It may be the only environmental issue that he got right.

At the same time, Representative Jim Costa was voting with the Republicans to continue subsides to the petroleum industry... subsidies that cost the US Taxpayers Billions a year. It is yet one more piece of evidence that cutting the federal budget is not really a goal, but rather a question of whose ox is going to be gored. In this case, Republicans in Congress are making sure that their ox is protected.

We all know how we are being manipulated, first by a national that considers Charlie Sheen to be the big story of the day year, but also by the political operatives who draw a public salary to be lobbyist. One time John Doolittle / John Ashcroft aide, Kevin Ring, made that very clear on his Daily Caller blog post this month.

If I did not know these critical facts as the lead staffer on the bill, how little did other Hill staffers (and their bosses) know when they agreed to let this bill pass? I know this for certain: If someone had objected, I would have recommended that we accuse the objector of not being serious about saving Americans from this deadly threat.

Ring was talking about how federal legislation regarding methamphetamine and the manner in which offenses are punished. But we surely know that the same type of manipulation goes on in every are. BTW - Ring awaiting sentencing for Abramoff associated dealings. In California, we need to pay attention to how demands for additional growth and invective against the EPA will play out, especially with CA Reps Buck McKeon and Darrel Issa in positions of power right now.

Schwarzenegger was right. This is a time when we will have to manage the climate as best we know how or pass on the consequences of our non-action to our children and grand children. The Climate, Energy, Water nexus of issues will define our future.

As a one time thespian, I am thinking of the line from Death of a Salesman: Attention must be paid.