Monday, June 30, 2008

Junk adrift

Thanks to the RSS feed from Aquafornia leading me to the LA Times, I finally wound my way to visit Junkcraft. While the site is mildly interesting, mostly from the sense of impending disaster that might confront the operators of Junk as they sail from Long Beach to Hawaii, or wherever the trade winds might blow them.

Take a quick look at the site and then think about this. We all know that there is a big area of the Pacific Ocean that is gathering a floating continent of plastic garbage. You know, all of those plastic duckies that some think it cute to send down our rivers as part of a good cause fund raiser, the plastic buckets left on the beach as families hurry back home, discarded water bottles that find ways down streams until they reach the ocean. At least, we should all know about it because it has been on television news.

It raises this question. Why do we need continued gimics like the voyage of the Junk to make us think, again and again, about what we are doing to this planet? Walt Kelly's Pogo said it best. "We have met the enemy, and they is us."

Remember, in the game of life, Mother Nature bats last.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When big government refuses to act.

There are several things going on regarding energy and climate change. One real question is that of what to do when big government fails to act. Architecture 2030 has the answer: local building codes.

If we have to do it ourselves, there are a number of guidelines that will get us part way there and hope to minimize the pain. However, the idea that there has to be any pain is a fabrication of those who have a vested interest in stopping change. A local architect in my home town, one who has won awards for their conversion of an old granary into a new office / commercial complex and meeting LEEDS certification in the process, told me that California Title 24 is the toughest requirement to meet. However, Architecture 2030 holds that Title 24 is still 10% below what we need to achieve for commercial buildings and 15-20% below what we need for residential.

Dr. Jim Hansen (NASA) tells us all that we don't have much time to act, 20 years after his first warning to Congress.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tipping Points

Tipping point is an easy concept to mis-understand. The term itself is used so frequently that its real meaning is lost without some life experience to drive home the idea. Maybe this will do it.

I had a large rock in my yard. I discovered it's existence in an effort to plant a flowering, fruiting shrub called a pineapple guava or, more rightfully, feijoa. This rock weighed much more than I could lift, so I used the old Archimedian lever and finally got it up on end. Once I did, it decided to go to the other side, somewhat down a slope and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Thankfully, I was standing on the up hill side.

Now, apply this to our climate. We are approaching such a tipping point where the earth systems will go where they will go and, like the rock rolling down slope, there will be absolutely nothing we can do to stop it.

On ABC's World News last night, Charlie Gibson allowed NASA Scientist James Hansen to have the last word.
"The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation."
Even more unusual was the fact that they did not see the necessity to give any time to one of the usual list of naysayers on global warming. Yet, there is a large segment of the general public that is totally convinced that the actions of man are so puny that it can have no bearing on climate. For instance, the following posted by Jim_Dutton following this story.
This is an extreme example of totally irresponsible reporting...."Climate Change" is a natural phenomenon....has been for the entire history of the Earth. There is absolutely no credible evidence that MAN is the a matter of fact....the evidence is mounting day by day that shows this is part of a pattern that repeats itself every 30 years or so. It's called Pacific Decadal Oscillation.....the Northern Pacific Ocean has turned cold....called "La Nina"....and this winter and Spring is classic La Nina weather in the Midwest. It's also strongly affected by Solar intensity, which is decreasing. This is why for the past 10 years....the average temperature of the Earth has been DECREASING...but you won't hear that on the news, because it will make a lot of VIPs look stupid.People need to research this issue for themselves, and not believe the brainless reporting that the mainstream media regurgitates because they are too lazy to report both sides, or intentionally distort because a crisis is good for sales.If you're not a mindless drone to the media....go to and read the hard evidence from the world's leading scientists who aren't corrupted by the viscous cycle of political funding.
Of course, this Jim_Dutton does not identify himself as a climatologist, or a meteorologist, or provide any other credentials. He just repeats the mantra of every petro industry sponsored pseduo-research the look for plausible theories to make themselves feel comfortable with non-action.

So, what does this have to do with the Green Party and GPCA?

For starters, we are about to go into a presidential nominating convention where the front runner, Cynthia McKinney, says little or nothing about this issue. With all of the focus on arousing righteous anger over the actions of Bush and Chaney, demanding his impeachment, a major opportunity for the Green Party to demonstrate leadership on a sinking ship will have gone by the wayside.

Here is a clue, Cynthia. The only people who will cast a vote for you on the basis of the impeachment issue are going to vote for you anyway. If you really want to grow this movement, you have to address those issues that are going to affect people and their daily lives. Impeachment does not make the list.

  • The price of gasoline does.
  • The disappearance of the middle class with falling home values, rising costs for necessities and stagnant wages makes the list.
  • The failures our national infrastructure that puts lives at risk every day makes the list.
  • LBJ fought two wars. A military conflict in Vietnam and the economic War on Poverty here at home. We ended up losing both.
In the June 13 edition of his Journal, Bill Moyers said "Truth is, there's been a class war waged in America for thirty years now from the top down, and the rich have won." One of his guests, author Holly Sklar put it in perspective.
Our wages now adjusting for inflation, average wages are lower than they were in the 1970s. Our minimum wage, adjusting for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1950s, and why is it? One of the things going on is that income and wealth inequality have gone back to the 1920s. We are back at levels that we saw right before the Great Depression.
Now, if global warming is not enough to scare you, Sklar's comments should.

Problems with the Green Party, and especially with the GPCA, stem from the battles we seek to fight. They are battles that consume many people, much as did the trench warfare of WW I. Many died, on both sides, but the battle lines did not move very much.

Where are the leaders who are willing to tell us the truth that energy prices will never return to their past levels.? Where are the leaders who have the guts to tell us what we don't want to hear and the to convince us that we can get ourselves out of this predicament... after all we got ourselves into it, didn't we?

I read long and interesting comment from Chuck Geise today at the DissidentVoice blog. It was all about Nader and McKinney and putting the blame on Greens for the manipulation of presidential politics.
The Green Party faces a problem — democracy. More specifically, how do you treat each person’s vote equally in a country where the two parties do their best to undermine participation of new parties?
If that were the major problem that we have as Greens, then we would be so very, very lucky. It is especially true when what you are arguing for would provide no protection from Mill's tyranny of the majority. Just maybe those small states who you would relegate to a rounding error in your political calculus understand that large, urban populations (where most of our Greens live) do not understand what it is like to live in rural America.

I took a trip through SE Oregon not too many years ago. We drove from Burns, OR to Winnemucca, NV.
View Larger Map
Don't tell the people here that bicycles are the answer to transportation, where the round trip from home to high school is often 150 miles. It is the rural poor who suffer most from the rising cost of gasoline, not the city dwellers. Maybe that is why the Green Party, for all it's urban activists, are silent on this issue.

The real problem with Greens is that too many activists, like Geise, are spending too much time and energy on the wrong things, re-arranging the deck chairs while the ship is sinking.

This is not a time for anger over the past, such also is a wast of energy. This country, and therefore this party, need candidates marching forward with new ideas and a vision of the world we could build, if only we would.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Broken Levee Blues

Maybe we are going to need a catastrophe to make us wake up. Maybe, the catastrophe is at hand, but we don't want so face that fact.

Lonnie Johnson faced it with the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. This was the time of press gangs of black sent to man the levees and who died when the levees broke. He wrote and performed Broken Levee Blues.

Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie remembered too, but this version if from Led Zeppelin.

Then came the Great US Flood of 1993.
From May through September of 1993, major and/or record flooding occurred across North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Fifty flood deaths occurred, and damages approached $15 billion. Hundreds of levees failed along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

The magnitude and severity of this flood event was simply over-whelming, and it ranks as one of the greatest natural disasters ever to hit the United States. Approximately 600 river forecast points in the Midwestern United States were above flood stage at the same time. Nearly 150 major rivers and tributaries were affected. It was certainly the largest and most significant flood event ever to occur in the United States
The can Karina and Rita and the levee failures of New Orleans. Much has been written about that and the disaster that could have been avoided if they had not spent levee money building bridges to gambling boats.

So, now we have another flood, washing out much of the corn crop in Iowa and now threatening 30+ levees on the Mississippi River, one of which has failed at Gulfport, IL.

So, what are we doing now? We all have out battles to fight... like sitting in the trees at Berkeley. And, guess what the media covers? You go it. Berkeley. I rather agree with both the content and the volume of Georgianne Nienaber post at OpEd News today.
Even the mainstream Associated Press is starting to tune into what will be the most massive infrastructure failure this country has ever faced. Meanwhile, all of the left wing pundits on these pages are so eternally distracted by politics as usual that they are missing the big picture. You are all fiddling the same tune while the Midwest is drowning.

The Heartland is under siege and as usual the left is ignoring the people who hold this country together.

There are now 33 levees in danger of breaching—up from 27 yesterday. New breaches and bridge and road closings are occurring by the hour and the pundits are worried about wasting time and energy on Bush and Cheney. What is the matter with all of you?

The great experiment of journalism on the internet is one big whopping failure as far as I can tell. Stop regurgitating intellectual crap about politics as usual and get on the stick and dig deep into the WHY of this story.

Did any of you go to journalism school? Who, what, where, when and why?

I’m mad and I’m not gonna take it anymore.
You might say that this is all far away and that Berkeley is at least on the CA Map. You should be asking what our State Laughaslaughter is doing about our own failing levees.

You might want to say that speech is important, and it is. You should be asking why we had a 200 year flood in 1993 and what, at least in Cedar Rapids, IA, has been called a 500 year flood. Those are pretty close together. Have we reached a tipping point?

(quoting Lorna Salzman).
Under discussion is the rate at which these things are initiated and how fast they proceed. If the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheet are lost, ocean level WILL rise at least 25 metres, but over what period we dont know. What we do know is that when the earth's temperature was last about 2.5 degrees C. and CO2 was 400 ppm more or less, the sea was 25 metres higher than it is today.

Since we are now at about 389 ppm CO2 now, and this is increasing by 2 ppm each year, it seems rational to conclude that we have only about five years to avoid the CO2 concentration tipping point.

Like Georgiane, I am getting close to my own tipping point where I don't give a damn about all of the political games being played, triangulations for ever smaller and smaller blocks of votes and fewer and fewer people vote.

In the words of Bill Cosby's Noah routine... "How long can you tread water?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The hunt for bin Laden.

Brian Williams is in Afghanistan and, on Nightly News this evening, he will report on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. We can, however, already report that while we appear to be no closer to finding out where he is, there are a few places that we can rule out.

It can definitely be shown that he is not in Nancy Pelosi's office nor at Diane Feinstein's Washington Conference Center, site of that meeting between Obama (not Osama) and Hillary Clinton.

He is definitely not in the West Wing, either. We can not, however, rule out the possibility that he might be at the famous undisclosed site in Washington conferring with the Veep.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No one deserved this.

When the good citizens of CA-37 had a chance to elect a sincere and dedicated Daniel Brezenoff last year, many of them fell back on the old ways of identity politics. Daniel did not have a chance, not because he was a member of the Green Party. It was more like that fact that identity politics determined who it was politically correct to vote for.

So, they chose Laura Richardson, knowing little about her. Now, we know more. Consider the following that appeared in the Sacramento Bee today. Headline: Watchdog group labels California congresswoman a deadbeat
A congressional watchdog group blasted Rep. Laura Richardson on Tuesday as a "deadbeat congresswoman" following recent news reports on the Long Beach Democrat's failure to pay creditors.

The charge by Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, followed reports that Richardson failed to pay auto repair loans and defaulted on mortgages, including one for a Sacramento home she owned while briefly serving in the state Legislature.

"Not only has Rep. Richardson defaulted on home loans eight times since 2004, she failed to pay a mechanic, a print shop and an auto body shop," Sloan said. "And those are just the debts we've read about."
Reporter David Whitney of the Bee does not like scum in politics. I guess that guarantees him a lifetime of agina and a string of stories. I followed his stories on the soon to retire John Doolittle (R. CA04). This is more of the same with the difference that Richardson's failings are so petty. It is more like she just does not give a damn.

In cases like this, I am tempted to say that the voters got what they deserved. However, no one deserves this... but they are stuck with her for another 2 years as she won the Democratic primary and NO OTHER PARTY is challenging here in the General Election.

Monday, June 09, 2008

More on California Water.

While the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters lament our lack of political will to do the wrong things, at least I have tried to make a difference in local attitudes towards water. In a recent OpEd for my very local Morgan Hill Times, I was happy to reference the work of Dr. John Overpeck (University of Arizona, Institute for the Study of Planet Earth.) Dr. Overpeck has studied rainfall patterns and temperature changes over many millenia. In recent work, he concludes that "The outlook for climate-related changes in U.S. water supply is not positive, particularly in the West, Southwest, Texas and into the Southeast." From this, I reached my own conclusions.
We have experienced two years of below normal rainfall. If Overpeck is correct, we need to be acting as if these past two years are, at best, the new normal, or may even represent above normal rainfall. The implications of this may be profound. While I don't profess to be able to outline all of them, a few things are obvious. We need to make water conservation a habit of life, beginning now. That is the reason we are making the changes to our landscaping. There is not going to be a single, big thing that government can do to save us from ourselves. It will be the cumulative effect of millions of little decisions coalesced into habits that will save us from ourselves.
It is this tyranny of small decisions that worries me. It really comes down to things like whether I let the water run while brushing my teeth.

The view of life in extreme that Frank Herbert provided in his ScFi world, Dune, may be our own future condensed to its ultimate act, as the Fremen (Free men?) learn survival in an arid world.
The most notable custom of the Fremen is their water conservation. Living in the desert with no natural sources of water has spurred the Fremen to build their society around the collection, storage, and conservative use of water. The Fremen think about moisture conservation, not simply water conservation. Dune (Arrakis) is a desert planet parched to such a degree that no natural open water exists on the entire planet. Thus water conservation is of utmost importance for survival.

Walter Sac Bee Column offers, unfortunately, only simplistic solutions. New dams and a peripheral canal. It never questions the manner in which we choose to use water, or the growth that fuels the demand.

Unfortunately, Walters has more readers than I do... but not more ideas.