Friday, February 20, 2009

Was Obama's stimulus package green enough?

No, says Katheryn Matthewson, a San Jose activist. Though she is not a Green in the sense of political registration, I think that she is really green to the core, from her activism to her real job as a landscape architect consultant in the use of bioremediation for superfund site cleanup.

Follow the jump by clicking Read more! and read her most recently written opinion.

By Kathryn Mathewson

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” and its amendments do not go deep enough and are not addressing ecological systems especially as they deal with our cities. The Act is not yet listening to Main Street for the unique and creative green jobs and products which are in their infancy and need support. This discussion will affect our nation for the next century and, therefore, is important. The discussion should be how our future ecology and economy will come together. Fear without discussion is what led us into the Iraq war. Fear based decisions must not drive our country’s future. Keep up the discussion until we at least begin addressing these issues.

The discussion is currently too technological, energy, government, rural, building, big business. It appears to be a catch all for typical government programs rather than being driven by the unique green ideas being generated on Main Street. It should be more balanced and include urban land (Community Development Block Grants or CDBGs), small businesses (the drivers of most new job creation), biological research (the basis for new green jobs), manufacturing, land use, and a higher definition of green. It should have examples of complete sustainable processes (cradle to grave, closed looped systems) and not just a one idea project. This is how ecology and economy will come together. The word “eco” is from the Greek which means home, dwelling, and household affairs. It is a system and not a product or a single act.

Following are some thoughts which need to become part of the discussion:

  1. There are many low technology local green jobs and products that will solve sustainable problems for our country and the world. Some examples are: soil health as the best and quickest way to immediately sequester carbon; water-harvesting; soil biologists for bioremediation of urban Superfund and old agricultural pesticide sites, reduce water needs by 50 to 75 percent with healthy soil biology; solutions without pesticides/herbicides, weed reduction without herbicides along rivers and highways (hydro-mechanical obliteration), water purification system designs, retaining water on site with biological systems, green low tech job skills for prisoners, natural landscape solutions for biodiversity and less energy consumption.
  2. Sustainable sites are equally as important as sustainable buildings (see This program is to sites what LEEDS is to buildings. To exclude urban parks, fairgrounds, swimming pools and recreation sites from the Stimulus Package and lose the opportunity for them to develop more green ideas/jobs/products is ridiculous. Urban open space land is the best and quickest way to sequester carbon. The energy solutions will take years to reduce our carbon footprint. Healthy soil can become our quick fix but it will not happen until the development of public urban open space land stops. The Stimulus program could protect these treasured open spaces.
  3. Create urban centers to educate the public on sustainable issues. These centers should have sustainable examples for job training and for demonstrating goods and services. To stop urban green ideas because of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Laws and Regulations (CDLR) is neglecting the majority of urban U.S. citizens. The federal HUD and EPA programs desperately need these green ideas.
  4. In each large metropolitan city create entire private site sustainable communities as examples to emulate. Demonstrating examples of closed loop systems for future developments to emulate is urgently needed in all metropolitan areas because they are being forced to grow by state legislation.
  5. U.S. green conferences display thousands of small American companies with unique and good ideas to make America and every home/business greener. However, at these shows are increasingly found green/sustainable products from Europe, Australia, and Japan. This is a sign that we are beginning to lose momentum in the research and manufacturing green sector of our economy.
  6. Green elementary schools with an abundance of nature and not dominated by technology. Research proves that nature in young children’s lives will create adults who are more creative, better scientists, more balanced, and less susceptible to diseases and allergies.
  7. Instead of putting all the hospital funds into only technology we might want to consider placing some stimulus funds into alternative health research and centers using our natural systems (plants, soil, and horticultural therapy). The small Himalayan developing country of Bhutan supplies 100 percent health care for all its citizens. Through its Alternative Health Institute it provides native plant remedies for its citizens. They believe that modern medicine is too costly and not needed to solve all their citizen’s health problems. Increasingly American citizens are going in this direction. However, our government and the stimulus package is not in pace with this movement.

These ideas will stimulate hundreds of thousands of new and different kinds of sustainable and green jobs in research, manufacturing, product sales, and services. At the same time they also greatly help resolve our global warming problems. When we have recovered from this economic downturn with these jobs and products in place, we can become world sustainable leaders and export these new products and services worldwide. It is unfortunate that the Stimulus Package as passed does not help put us into this position.

Kathryn Mathewson
Environmental Planner/Designer/Biologist
San Jose, CA


Unknown said...

I really think that Green locals in CA should push hard for instant-runoff voting, so that small-g greens like Katheryn could join the Greens openly. Pretty often, registering Green is seen as an act of opposition to the Democrats, rather than what it is - signing onto Green values and working to make them political reality.
There are probably many prominent activists who are afraid to "come out" Green because their friends and colleagues (and possibly their employers) would see it as an affront. The changes that IRV could bring to our political system - like the idea of voting FOR something rather than against - could change the with-us-or-against-us culture of liberal society.
I see the coming attempt to introduce the third-party-killing top-two primary in CA as a prime opportunity to push IRV as an alternative.

Martin Zehr said...

This article pinpoints the divergence of a Democratic agenda from a Green agenda. Transitioning in urban planning, transportation, energy production, resource and land management are aspects of this distinction that are not integrated politically because the Green Party fails to organize politically and has not established working plans with goals and objectives in which individual Greens can work in a common direction.

The current ecological crises, climate change, water shortages, economic and financial crises are consequences of the existing political paradigm. Transitioning means developing concrete mechanisms that take our Vision from the drawing board to the political and social realities of our communities and our institutions.

Why should Greens promote bailing out GM or other automakers when their decline presents us with that precise set of circumstances that enables us to present options for alternative systems for transportation, reduction of energy and resource consumption and establishing renewable energy systems at the local level.

IRV is a sop as far as it is trying to minimize the significance of the changes that we propose. The writer is precisely the kind of individual who recognizes the need to establish a green agenda and that it cannot be presented without political representation. We are Greens because we are green.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Dave, we Green locals in CA have been pushing that IRV for decades, and will continue!

Lisa Taylor

March 18 - Josh Tickell, Director of "FUEL," Sundance award winning documentary film, and a
leading expert on sustainable biofuels, will speak at the Los Angeles Greens meeting

@ Peace Center, 8124 W. Third Street , Los Angeles.

Alex Walker said...

On March 3rd, Los Angeles voters will vote on Measure B - so-called 'Solar Energy and Job Creation Program' hastily put on the ballot by the Los Angeles Democratic Party Machine.

This is another excellent example of what Mato Ska correctly describes as the "divergence of a Democratic agenda from a Green agenda."

I may blog on this later, but for now I'll just post the link to the Los Angeles County Greens press release:

This is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be Green -- when all the little liberals are busy kowtowing to the Democrats' half-baked agenda, we Greens stand firm on principle -- not "liberal" principles but Green principles.

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