Friday, October 30, 2009

Monday legislative session scarier than Halloween

I don't normally repeat something without a lot of comment.  However, I just received this alert from Restore the Delta tonight and vote on water bills may take place Monday.  This alert is not yet up on Restore the Delta Site.  At least, having it here, I can refer to it from twitter, etc.  BTW.  I checked the facts on the bills and RTD is absolutely correct.  The comparison to CalFed is one that I have also made and everyone calls CalFed a failure.  We don't need another.
Call Your Assembly Member and State Senator Today
After two incomplete hearings in which the majority of the proposed 14 bills covering Delta legislation were not publicly vetted (or later ammendments) , Restore the Delta has learned that the State Assembly and Senate may be calling for votes on the Delta water package and Delta water bonds on Monday, November 2, 2009.
We need you to call your Assembly and Senate Representatives first thing Monday morning to express your opposition to the proposed legislation.  (You can look up their phone numbers this weekend and call them on your way to work Monday). 
Here  are 10 reasons why your representative should oppose the Steingberg Water Package, and all its potential ancillary bills, as well as the bond proposals.
1) The purported environmental benefits in SB x7 1 and SBx7 4 hinge on unfunded programs and unstaffed planning processes. There is no identified funding for the Delta Conservancy or the Delta Protection Council.  Without identified funding, the restoration projects and consistency processes intended for Delta health will fall
behind the construction of facilities in the Delta paid for by beneficiaries. This repeats a cornerstone failure of CalFed. This creates a real risk of the infrastructure and water supply projects proceeding without environmental gains.

2)There is no assurance that a permit for any future Delta facility will accommodate the instream flow needs of fish. Public trust criteria are not proven tool for ensuring dedicated water for the environment  Experienced water lawyers disagree whether the creation of public trust criteria compel the State Board to base apermit for a future Delta project on the public trust.
3)The bond allows public funds to be spent on required mitigation or necessary compliance with environmental regulation. Existing law requires beneficiaries to pay for those activities. This is a massive cost shift to taxpayers.
4) The Delta Stewardship Council holds no fee authority to carry out its mandate. Delta communities, most impacted by this legislation, would not have adequate representation.
 5)The Delta Plan is not required to reduce state dependence on the Delta. The objectives for the Delta Plan do not include reducing state reliance on Delta exports. SB x7 1 only states that it's an intent of the state to reduce dependency.

6) The bill lacks sufficient oversight of the BDCP. The Council lacks the authority to ensure the project does not cause greater harm to the fragile Delta ecosystem.

7) One-third ($3 billion) of the SB 7x 2 funds above-ground storage, which is the least efficient way to increase water supplies.
8) Less than 3% of the funds in the bond would be dedicated to disadvantaged communities most in need of safe drinking water.
9)  The proposed water conservation package lacks the enforceable goals needed to achieve 20% conservation by 2020.
10) A $9 billion bond will cost  taxpayers about $600 million a year for 30 years. The state's debt service on bonds already authorized by the voters will grow to about 10% of the state's budget and will contribute to more state funding cuts for public safety, health, education, and environmental protection have been slashed to the bone.  And the Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the state will see $10 to $15 billion deficits each year until 2014.  Even if a bond is delayed until 2015, we will just be at the beginning of financial recover and should not be piling up more debt.
There is one bill they should vote for however!
Delta Area Assembly Member Alsyon Huber, along with co-sponsor Senator Lois Wolk, have introduced AB 13 7x.  This bill would require lawmakers to sign off on any canal, and it would require the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal adviser, the Legislative Analyst, to put together an economic feasibility study of the potential project.   We commend Assembly Member Huber and Senator Wolk for pulling this piece of legislation together.
Tell your representatives to support AB 13 7x.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

California Water Use, Water Rights and Diversions‏

Outdated compacts between states and the federal government exist in regards to the needs of upstream and downstream water deliveries to those states through which rivers flow. Most of the requirements on the states were formulated prior to the massive population growths and increased demand for the water resource in Western states. For example, the Colorado River Compact was established in 1922.

The states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California are states included in the Colorado River Compact. In December 2007, new guidelines were developed by the Secretary of the Interior to address declining water flows in the river due to drought. Senator John McCain, to his credit, advocated the Compact be renegotiated.

Most states have not done so, often for fear of losing allocations. Instead, they have often had to face lawsuits from other states for delivery failures. Such was the case on the Pecos River, when the state of Texas took the state of New Mexico to court for failing to fulfill deliveries and for not establishing effective water management to protect downstream supplies. The result was a lawsuit that resulted ina federal Special Master being brought in to manage the waters of the Pecos in NM and the state paid $70 million to meet the requirements of the Compact. As a result of the law suit, the state of NM established a Strategic Water Reserve to guarantee downstream deliveries.

Regions should not presume allocations from sources outside the region and need to define the amount of surface flows that they can use, define groundwater use in the context of recharge needed for aquifers and balance growth with renewable supplies. California is a downstream user in regards to the Colorado River, but regionally, municipalities and regions within the state have frequently been fed supplies by aqueducts from one region to another. In accounting, the underlying issue is simply maintaining a balanced budget within the water basins of our state.

Countless users with water rights in California have not been adjudicated in regards to their current use of their guaranteed supplies. Unless water rights are adjudicated, there is no public protection in regards to actual beneficial use of the water allocated to them. They can sell their rights, as some are in the Central Valley and make more then they could by farming the land, even if they have not actually been using the actual amount of water to which they have legal rights to. Or municipalities can rob their water supply, such as Los Angeles did from Owens Lake or San Francisco with the Hetch-Hetchy. The peripheral canal proposal in the Delta is yet another example of diversions from one region to another determined by political clout.

The water bubble bursts when the river flows decrease significantly or when municipalities go after more water rights from agriculture but have no more actual water that they can draw on, or when diversions from estuaries impact salinity of freshwater. Like investment banking this is simply shuffling water around on paper without the actual water there to back them up or recognizing that freshwater supplies might actually be reduced due to seawater intrusion. Like the crisis in the financial system, this method of accounting has its own "day of reckoning". And it is coming sooner then most states, especially California, are prepared for.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Front line in the war on the climate

We seem to have declared war on the climate and appear to be winning, for a change. The front line in this war is in West Virginia and Obama is sending all of our troops to Afghanistan.

Please read this post by Bo Webb over at Grist. It tells you what is happening on to the ground. Then call Sen. Boxer's office (202) 224-3553 and tell her that enough is enough.  She put her name on a bill that is supposed to be about stopping climate change.  She even put out a video  to rouse up her supports are some timely house parties.  But, she does not have the guts to tell her fellow Democratic Senators Rockefeller and Byrd that there will be nothing for coal.

Then follow Bo Webb's example and send a message to Obama that he can not represent my country in Copenhagen if he allows this to continue.

This is not an environmental issue.  It is a justice issue: social justice, economic justice, ecological justice.  Boxer has proven that she can count to 60, but she needs to learn to count to 350.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Governor Stumbles Over Water Dilemma

Greens Suggest 'Rational' Plan

California Greens today said Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger has "stumbled" over the State's water issues. They say the recent rains don't fix the problems, because the problems are long-terms and deep-seated.

The following statement came directly from the Greens.

Recent heavy rains may solve home gardening dilemmas, but it won't fix California's water problems, and it won't help Gov. Schwarzenegger understand the state's deep-seated water troubles, the Green Party of California said in response to the governor's call for a special session to deal with the water mess. A session that never materialized this week.

California's most progressive political party approved, at its recent state convention, a new Water Planning Plank that would be "rational (and) workable."

"It appears the governor is trying to spend money that California does not have on solutions that California does not need," said Wes Rolley, Co-Chair, EcoAction Committee, Green Party US. "There are rational, workable solutions that will supply California's people with water for decades. Unfortunately, the political system seems not to be interested in pursuing them."

The Green Party water planning plank states, in general, that the "principle of bioregionalism - living within the means of a region's natural resources - should give direction for water policies." It's called "Values-driven Water Management," said Rolley.

Greens agree that conservation (reduce, reuse, recycle) is essential, and that "attention" to climate change requires this strategy, and by increasing costs for larger users will actually create new funds for research and development to decrease demand or increase supply of adequate water. Green solutions include everything from eliminating water subsidies for corporate agribusiness and supporting smaller "family" farms over higher polluting "factory farms" to favoring upgrade of water infrastructure, including levees, irrigation canals and aqueducts (California only spends 2.5 percent of the state product on water infrastructure compared with 20 percent 50 years ago).

Greens have watched the Governor grab every photo opportunity he can schedule, while the hard work to resolve the problem stalls in the back rooms of Sacramento. Families of the Delta worry about their livelihood being snatched away, Schwarzenegger has fallen in with those having the lowest priority water rights and using a high priced PR firm to create a crisis, said Rolley.

"It's long overdue for California taxpayers to quit footing the bill for expensive and environmentally unsustainable diversions. Regional long-term water plans need to be forged with input from water users, the science and the environment. These plans need to be implemented in regional water boards and authorities that represent stakeholders, hydrologists and environmental advocates," said Martin Zehr, a GPCA water planning plank author.
For details, see:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Green Talk on Climate Change

The following is my latest submission as the Green Talk Column in the Morgan Hill Times (publication date 10/27/09). Tomorrow is an international day of action for climate change. This post explains why I think we are losing the battle for the minds of America.

Click on Read more! for the entire OpEd.

Two events this week prompted me to return to the subject of climate change. The first that I became aware of is the fact that the heads of 18 leading scientific organizations sent a letter to each of the United States Senators urging them to take significant action regarding climate change. While the entire letter can be read on-line from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it is worth quoting from that letter.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”

The make it very clear that there is no doubt about what is currently happening and the conclusions regarding what will happen are unavoidable.

Almost concurrently, the Pew Center for Research released the results of a survey that show a declining percentage of the public who believe that climate change is happening, or that it is in any way connected to human activity. They summarize it as follows:

“The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.

Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.”

You begin to wonder what factors are at play when the scientific opinion is becoming increasingly certain and the public opinion is becoming less so. Conjecture on this question is now a popular blogging topic. Many rationales are given and most of them are too simplistic to be the whole story.

To begin with, these are times when our current economic problems have people fearful of their own future. Those who stand to gain by not doing anything about climate change were quick to play on these fears, making the connection between regulation of industry to prevent climate catastrophe and the loss of the very jobs that people are fearful of losing to begin with.

It was most clearly stated an OpEd by Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, a large coal mining company.
“Many times I’ve sat in meetings with executives who admit privately they doubt the certainty of the science behind global warming claims. And they acknowledge that global warming legislation will have a devastating effect on their companies in the form of lost jobs and lower output.”
It is very clear that one of the companies most affected would be Blankenship's. The OpEd was published in The Hill where every Washington insider would be sure to see it.

Those journalists whom one hopes would lead us to a version of the truth have put on ideological blinders and proceeded to publish erroneous information again and again. Writers like George Will will misquote sources and cherry-pick data to justify their false conclusions that nothing really bad is happening. In Will's case, it is especially troubling in that he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge his errors to the point where other Washington Post writers have had to apologize for him.

Professional rabble-rousers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have a great reach into the minds of those who will not look at the data for themselves. When NY Times, reporter Andrew Revkin suggested that there was a link between population and energy use... and therefore climate change, Limbaugh suggested that Revkin solve the problem by killing himself. Beck makes light of the issue, equating the weather today with the functioning of climate over decades and playing to his audience with statements like “The earth and the environment are the progressive replacement for God...” Would we be the people about whom it was said “In as much as Ye Have Done It unto One of the Least of These..."

We are all in this together. That is why I talk of ecology rather than the environment. We have learned to apply systems thinking to the management of our businesses. Why have we not taken the next step to apply similar systems thinking to the way we live; not alone but in communities; not just communities of people but communities of other living things.

I don't know how many of you have visited the magnificent groves of sequoias that we have. Their fate, locked as they are into micro-climates along the Sierras, is in our hands. I don't know how many are still around who fought in Vietnam, but that country's fate is also in our hands as the most productive agricultural regions, the Mekong Delta will be inundated and tens of millions of people will need to find new homes. I don't know how many of you follow the California water crisis. But here again, for all the special sessions of our legislature, they have not even begun to deal with the fact that those famous pumps will eventually be pumping salt water.

Do we care so little about this world that we would would risk it all on the words of Don Blankenship, Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

After you read this, do something.

Thanks to the feed that I get from Grist, I became aware of a new and very disconcerting poll from the Pew Research Center that says "Fewer Americans See Solid Evidence of Global Warming".
There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem – 35% say that today, down from 44% in April 2008.
Johnathan Hiskies at Grist does a good job of putting the poll in context. I want, instead to comment about what we should be doing, because it appears that what we have been doing in the past has not been working.

For example, Saturday, Oct. 24 is the International Climate Day of Action as called for by It is, however, not even newsworthy that there will be over 4000 actions in 170 countries. As far as main stream media is concerned, this is just another in a long series of non-events and I am not sure that mass protest is going to change anyone's minds. While these actions may involve 100,000 people, Rush Limbaugh is reaching 15 million and telling the N.Y. Times writer, Andrew Revkin, to go kill himself if he thinks that population contributes to climate. Of course, it is not the population but the energy that they consume. In this manner, Limbaugh has managed to characterize all of us as eco-zealots, or even eco-commies, plotting to lead us into a new police state controlled economy.

It does little good to sit around and read each other's blogs and columns because it is the same people talking to each other. We have to reach out to everyone else. Knock on your neighbor's doors. Send letters to the editor. Take over the next planning commission meeting in your community and demand that all new buildings be LEEDS certified… Univ. of the Pacific just did that for the campus.

Did you know that 40% of US energy use can be attributed to building operations, residential plus commercial? Architects and contractors would deliver what we need if we demanded it. Planning commissions should require that all new construction and major renovation have no more than 50% of the energy use of similar building in the same locale. That is what Architecture 2030 has been telling us for years and we are still not paying attention.

I have to deliver a column tomorrow for the Tuesday paper in my home town. What are you going to do to change someone's mind?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Obama's Collosal Blunder Part 2.

It is now almost a year and a half since the economy of the United States started to unravel.  Companies have failed.   Unemployment is at it's highest in decades.  States like California teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, lurching from one partial solution to another, all predicated on future growth to pay the debts. TARP was passed and some of the banks have even repaid their debts… mostly in the interest of avoiding future government regulation.

It is that sticky question of regulation that should be in everyone's mind.  I listened to Andrew Ross Sorkin and Charlie Rose today discuss Sorkin's recent book, Too Big to Fail.  It is an enlightening conversation in that Sorkin has had access to almost all of the major players: Paulson, Geitner, Bernanke, etc.  The story he peaces together is mind boggling, especially when you consider the pace at which it was all happening.

What is even more mind boggling is the fact that not a single piece of new legislation has left Congress to land on the President's desk that would help us avoid such problems in the future.  I argued before that Health Insurance Reform was a critical mistake for Obama in that it is preventing us from having the discussion on climate change that we really need to be having.   Health Insurance Reform will save a few lives.  Dealing effectively with climate change will save millions. 

Yet, as Sorkin tells us near the end of the program, for all the demand for new legislation that accompanied the bailout, for all the public outcry for re-regulation, or at least for regulators who were willing to regulate, nothing has happened.  Maybe Congress is happy to have the tea baggers railing about Socialize Medicine.  It keeps us from having to deal with the substantive changes to our system that need to be made. 

In the meantime, our economy has improved a bit.  At least that is what investors on Wall Street think. They have run up the prices of many stock.  In fact, Sorkin tells us that banks are now re-inflating their balance sheet by valuing up those same toxic assets they tried to dump not so long ago.

Greens need to be reminding everyone that it will be harder and harder to make these needed changes as the remembrance of the catastrophe passes from Washington minds. We need to be sending letters to Congress asking where are the protections that they promised.  Otherwise, we will do it all over again, with mortgages on flooded properties along low lying coasts, with credit default swaps to cover the pricing risks of carbon trading.

An unregulated carbon market is not something I want to control my future.

The choices that this administration has made point to not the socialist / Marxist ideology that Republicans are so worried about. Rather they point to a group of political technocrats who are over confident in their ability to manage opinion that they are willing to risk our future by avoiding the hard problems.  Well, the hard problems are still there and we have done nothing.

Contrary to what contrarians say

There is a tendency, especially among those who view themselves as being shut out of the system, to accept any and all contrarian positions and to reject the word of authority. No one is more capable of walking the along this contrarian path than Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the new bestseller "SuperFreakonomics."

The authors are working the talk show circuit, appearing this AM on GMA where they pontificated on the effectiveness of car seats for children (marginally better than seat belts) while they suggested that regulations got in the way of finding more effective solutions to the real problem, that of keeping our children safe.

They picked a rather benign example for the show, easy to understand and illustrate. They ducked the major issue, that of climate change, even though it is headlined on the cover of the book (subtitle: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and why Suicide Bombers should byLife Insurance.)  The exerpt that GMA gives you to read is clearly about climate change with no chance of their having to answer questions.

Climate Scientists cited in the book have loundly complained that their positions were mis-characterized or even invented out of the rarified air of contrarian polemic.  Climate Progress's Joseph Romm, himself a physicist and one time official of the Dept. of Energy, has made extraordinary efforts to set the record straight, outlining in great detail just where Levitt and Dubner got the facts wrong, beginning here, and continuing again, and again and again.

Unfortunately, we have some sort of propensity to believe what we read on the internet, or in a book, as long as it is positioned as being critical of accepted knowledge.  Thus, we have the anti-vaccine movement when the facts show that vaccines have save millions of lives.

Sometimes, being a contrarian makes good sense.  It allows investors to buy low and sell high.  But, it also pays to due your homework and invest your energy in those ideas, issues, products that have solid evidense of their truth behind them.  The argument that climate contrarians must be right just because a contrarian named Galileo was right does not make sense.  It is a false anology just like SuperFreakonomics is leading us down a false path.  The consequences could be fatal.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Reality Check from the Brink of Extinction

I want to call attention to a thoughtful article by Chris Hedges… same title as this page. There are multiple themes that run through the climate change debate: chaning lifestyles, aggressive organizing, technological innovation, even ditching capitalism. A good composer can weave the themes into a symphony, but generally all we hear is cacophony… or at best picking out the one theme that we already know.

Hedge's article was first published at truthdig and then picked up and re-published at West Coast Climate Equity. It is about as revolution oriented as any that I have read. It may appeal to some Greens. He even quotes extensively from Derrick Jensen.
“If all we do is reform work, this culture will grind away. This work is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to use whatever means are necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet. We need to target and take down the industrial infrastructure that is systematically dismembering the planet. Industrial civilization is functionally incompatible with life on the planet, and is murdering the planet. We need to do whatever is necessary to stop this.”
Unfortunately, I don't think that there is time to do what he wants on a world wide basis. When the Prime Minister of the Maldive Islands calls a cabinet meeting at an underwater location to illustrate the fact that his country will eventually be submerged, you know that it is more than a publicity stunt. Even if we were to pull down capitalism, anarchy is not the answer and he offers no others.

This is not a multiple choice test where you get to pick the best approach. The answer is all of the above.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Structural Reforms Needed in Resource Management and Planning

I propose structural reforms in regards to resource planning and management in regions throughout California. What once were administrative responsibilities such as planning have long since evolved into political decisions with influences outside of the existing institutions. If the issue is land-use or water planning, the decision-making bodies need to include stakeholders, the science and the environment.

Municipalities are geo-political bodies and as such apportion representation based on the location of one's residence or business. Political parties currently define particular agendas for candidates and from there the decisions that are made upon election. What is lacking is the fact that Republican farmers and Republican CEOs in the same district really have nothing in common with each other when it comes to land use or water planning. Likewise, Democratic residents of a high rise have nothing in common with Democratic professors as to priorities in their lives in regards to water allocations.

Structural reform is the minimum needed to engage users of water and planning. High tech corporations have more political influence in local municipal decisions because their "buy-in" is based on their buying of local officials. It is not based on any reasonable apportionment based on their impact on aquifers or surface flows and the future consequences of such actions on the regional sustainability. Economic development establishes itself as a disproportional priority for geo-political representatives. The political influence of high tech corporations are not reflective of the array of people in the region prior to their locating in a region. Once built, corporate employers are disproportional in their influence because they become "too large to fail" to local officials.

Currently, expensive diversions drain energy and water in California. They increase environmental damage and cost ratepayers and taxpayers billions of dollars. The decisions remain focused in Sacramento and not in the regions impacted. The issue is not to cut-off the water and electricity from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The issue is to establish decision-making processes that can connect accountability for those decisions directly to those making them. Water and electricity are basic services and are too important to be left to others playing politics. People need to grasp the real costs of decisions and need to have the ability to construct the solutions that are based on their priorities, needs and concerns. There are no "free-rides" left for anyone in this state.

Californians have endured the Enron energy heist and the Owens Valley water theft. There is no change in sight, as indicated through the recent plan for diversion of water to the Central Valley. Some localities are using new methods for treating waste water to increase water supplies. Others are developing new sources for electricity. Much more needs to be done. But, absent governmental entities that represent distinct interests in the decisions, outside money will continue to dominate.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A colossal blunder from Obama?

I have really begun to think that Obama has made a colossal blunder in the way that he has chosen to handle climate change. It would seem to me that his presidency will be evaluated by history on the manner in which he has reacted to this crisis. It won't be Iraq, Bush's war, nor even Afghanistan… now known as Obama's War. It won't be health care. But those are the issues on which he has chosen to spend his time and his political capital.

It could be argued that he did not choose Iraq and Afghanistan. True about Iraq but he certainly has, from the days of the campaign, chosen to play in Afghanistan.

It is the focus on health care that concerns me and makes me question his judgment. It has the ring of a young man trying to prove that he could get done what Clinton could not, taking Obama forever out of Clinton's shadow.

But this is not issue number one. It won't determine the fact of our economy, or of our comfortable lifestyle. Climate Change will. Failure to address the biggest elephant in the room is a way to be trampled and I don't want my children to suffer for Obama's failure to take his biggest challenge head on.

In the mean time, opposition to Obama has had the opportunity to hone their economic arguments about big government and the costs to the tax payers. If the opposition to the economic bailouts has this ring, and the opposition to health insurance reform has this ring, what do you think will be the key element of the Republican opposition to doing anything about climate change? I can just hear Boehner and McConnel droning on now while Glen Beck stirs up the troops by labeling them "Commies".

There is only a very short time between now and the next meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference - Copenhagen. The best Obama can bring to the meeting is a flawed bill from the House of Representatives, a draft of a bill from the US Senate and a history of having climate change treaties not being ratified in the Senate. The prospects are bleak.

At this point, Obama has yet to expend any political capital to try and get a climate change bill passed in the Senate. Most of the heavy lifting about the economics of this issue has been carried by Joseph Romm at the Climate Progress blog. Even today, Romm cited Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard on Climate Change.
We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man’s activities. We’re virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There’s no good things that’s going to come of this. But what’s uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50% probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time. What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.

We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy — risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse — but at the same time we’re taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.
In the same post, he quotes Carol Browner as saying it would be a “big mistake” if Congress passed a clean energy bill without a cap on emissions.

I agree with her assessment. I just don't think that this Congress has the courage to do that. There are too many who are too willing to compromise too much for the sake of another vote. So, we will invest in oxymoronic clean coal technologies until we figure out that it is too late. We will shift to burning wood at our power plants because it will be called a "renewable" and the CO2 will fill the skies as before.

This the the issue where science and politics are on a collision course. We must not let the politicians win. How I wish that there were Green willing to stand up and challenge Barbara Boxer in the Senatorial Race this year. Her Republican Opposition seems to be demonstrating their ineptitude at every turn, though Fiorina could bankroll whatever she wants for as long as she wants. DeVore might have the so many manic Republican votes locked up that she will drop out rather than throw good money after bad and we know that DeVore's solution to everything is to go nuclear.

The challenge from a Green would be all about doing the right thing, about standing for ones values and not the value of a contribution. If done right, it would be about correcting Obama's big blunder and saving humanity.

It's blog acton day and this is my contribution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The "City by the Bay" is Running Out of Water

San Francisco's "plan" for water is to: 1) make the Hetch-Hetchy pipeline "earthquake-proof" and 2) begin towards a back-up desal plant and 3) pump for post-earthquake supplies from groundwater. There is no question that 1 will happen before 2. Groundwater mining has yet to confront public review (meeting due this month). Issues of saltwater intrusion and contaminated existing groundwater will undoubtedly come up in the review. Recycled water will always plug the dikes for a little while. In the meantime, the Gov is pushing ahead on the diversions to the Central Valley.

The real problem is that no one wants to stop running from one place to the next for water. Instead regions in California need to stop what they are doing, sit down and get an assessment of their situation and make a long-term plan that goes beyond the status quo. Without reducing population, stopping diversions to urban and rural users, or developing comprehensive regional plans, there are no solutions that anyone can rely on. All the public officials are really doing is coming up with stop-gap measures at best. It is certainly NOT a long-term water supply plan.

"Average annual supplies [in the San Francisco Bay Region- MZ] with existing water management programs are inadequate to meet average net water demands in this region, resulting in a shortage of about 30,000 af by 2020. During droughts, without additional water management programs, annual drought year shortages are expected to increase to about 484,000 af by 2020."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Water Diversions Are Not Real Solutions

The state of California is still looking to aqueducts and diversions as a quick out. Gov. Schwatzennegger is currently holding up 700 bills on his desk until he gets yet another diversion approved. The California Aqueduct, the proposed diversion of the Delta waters to the Central Valley, Owens Lake and the Hetch-Hetchy are examples of such projects.

Continuing this model is simply running from one source to the other without addressing the impact on local users. The issues of population growth, efficiency of uses, implementation of urban and rural conservation or the needs and concerns of those from whom the water is taken are not even on the scale when it comes to such diversions. The state legislature currently has its fingers choking off the pulse of water flows and the Governor is attempting to hold his breath until he gets his way.

The fact is that diversions are stop-gap measures with inherent limitations in addressing either supplies or demand. Past practice has not provided long-term solutions. There are aqueducts galore in California and yet the state continues to run from one crisis to the next. And the best they have come up with is yet another massive diversion!

The Green Party of California stepped forward at its state Plenary session October 10th by approving a Water Planning Plank for the state Platform. Unlike the other parties, the Green Party begins on the foundation to: “Develop regional water plans that assure public input into the state water plan that in turn must be based on sound science and on priorities that are in the public interest.” There are no supplies of water that are not connected to the people, wildlife and ecosystems of the regions in the state. There is no state plan absent the formulation of regional plans based on an open and transparent process and inclusion of the input of the stakeholders, the science and the environment.

The present controversy around the diversion from the Delta to the Central Valley has made visible the inherent inequities on those from whom water is taken. A recent article in the Tampa Tribune illustrates how regional processes are becoming increasingly recognized to assure equity and input into water decisions. The collaborative regional effort in regards to the Tampa Bay was so successful that: “This will be the first time nationally that pollutant load limits have been developed by such a local cooperative effort.”

Greens are increasingly becoming engaged in the water issue. As a political party, we have a distinct agenda that is represented by our candidates and elected public officials. At the National level, the Eco-Action Committee was set up as a Standing Committee of the GPUS. Also, the National Committee passed Resolution 380 establishing water as a priority of the work of the GPUS. Now, the Green Party of California has presented an alternative to the policies of the Democrats and Republicans.

Section 10 states that we propose to: “Use an ecosystems/watershed approach to ensure sustainable water use. All stakeholders need to participate in the planning. Environmental justice, ecological impact, and depletion of groundwater supplies need to be integrated with the ongoing process for approval of new withdrawals.” Section 14 declares: Integrate land use with water use for urban planning decisions. Political bodies, such as municipal water authorities, need to be more inclusive in the representation of users, hydrologists, environmental health professionals, and environmental advocates in the region and address the issues affecting the regional supply and demand of the resource, as well as water quality. Presently, the interests and concerns of real estate and development interests have a disproportionate voice in new allocations.”

Our Water Planning Plank presents to the public our direction to: “Achieve a truly sustainable water policy in the light of climate change considering, for example, snow packs, aquifer recharge, available water supplies and rising sea levels.” We have the edge in being able to unite with farmers, urban users, planners, and various communities that have been subjected to diversions to other regions in the state regardless of their impact.

The Green Water Planning Plank for California promotes a sound decision-making process that assures grassroots democracy while representing the needs and concerns of our voters and supporters in defining and supporting legislation to implement our state Green Party Platform. Structural reforms in our political entities are a fundamental focus in accomplishing both goals. Population increases, increased agricultural land use, dedicated surface water inflow increases, aquifer depletions and salt water intrusions in our estuaries pose challenges that simply cannot be addressed through political machinations in the State Legislature.

The Water Planning Plank for the Green Party of California creates a new vision for reform. It provides the means to include the concerns of state residents. It advocates for real solutions at the regional level and presents new priorities at the state level in supporting them. It provides our candidates, voters and supporters with a clear blueprint from which the ideas can become the reality. Leadership will emerge from those whom we are able to motivate through our work and the alternative that is the Green Party.

The Earth is the model for the Green Party. The water is its life force. Its people are its creative force.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

350 or what?

A Santa Clara County Green recently asked me what the Green Party was going to do on the International Day of Climate Action sponsored by Sadly, as far as I have found, the answer is "nothing." We seem to be able to generate more passion for the prosecution of a Dick Cheney than we can for preventing 100 million deaths from the effects of global warming. That, my Green Friends, is an abdication of our history as Greens and our responsibility to the earth.  At best, we had a timely press release about the shortcomings of the Kerry - Boxer bill currently in the Senate.

In the middle of all of this, I continue to get fund raising letters from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Natural Resources Defense Council to stop global warming in order to save the polar bear. If that is what it takes to be successful, then we would have solved it a long time ago. It illustrates just how out of touch with realities some well intentioned environmental organizations really are. Such framing of this issue allows climate change deniers and ecology destroyers to position the discussion as people vs. polar bears. The specie headed for extinction may well be our own. The problem is that our world is warming now and concerted, effective efforts are required… now.

Consider the problems of the Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe in Louisiana.
For at least 170 years, Isle de Jean Charles—a narrow ridge of land lying between Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Pointe-aux-Chene in southeastern Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish—has been home to members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe, native people related to the Choctaw and part of a larger confederation of Muskogees.

But the tribe’s history is about to take a dramatic turn due to climate change.

Albert Naquin, chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha, recently announced that the group plans to leave its ancestral island homeland and build a new community behind levees on higher ground. He told the Associated Press the decision came because the community was flooded five times in the past six years. About 25 families now live on the island, a number that’s fallen in recent years due to the constant flooding associated with global warming.
I will discuss the issues around the magic of 350 and what we have to do in order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at that number… or even 450. But you will have to click on Read more! to get to it.

Throughout the discussion of climate change, the avoidance of catastrophic warming hinges around our ability to stop the increase in atmospheric CO2 at 350 parts per million. The implications of that number and our possible ability to achieve it, were discussed today by Joseph Romm at Climate Progress.
The bottom-line on the technical side: Decarbonizing by 2050 is possible with, roughly, the suite of technologies now available or on the near-term horizon. Very aggressive policy, however, will still be required very soon to drive down the costs of renewables, to redesign cities, reimagine transport and agricultural systems, and insure that all efficiencies are captured. Doing all this gets the world to 350 by 2200. Taking the additional steps to achieve negative emissions (and 350 by 2100) would require the development of large-scale, cost-effective sequestration technologies that go well beyond reforestation.
Two impending events bring climate change to the front page. One is the upcoming (Dec. 9, 2009) United Nations meeting on Copenhagen that is supposed to see the approval of a new treaty to supersede the Kyoto Accord, which the United States Senate failed to ratify. The other is the fact that the U.S. Senate finally has draft legislation to discuss. Known variously as Kerry-Boxer after it's two main sponsors or as the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (a name that surely disguises what should be it's primary objective), this bill fails to even mention a goal of achieving the magic number of 350.

At least the Green Party U. S. has taken the authors to task. Unfortunately, the voices raised against any bill are well organized and loud. An astroturf organization that calls itself Energy Citizens is already attacking all climate change legislation over the erroneous assumption that it will "raise prices and kill jobs".

The facts are very much against Energy Citizens. The post at Climate Progress references a larger study from the E3 Network that conclude just the opposite. The Economics of 350 is too long (50 pg) for a quick read, but worth the time to go through it. They summarize it this way.
This report demonstrates that the 'go slow' recommendations are unjustified. A number of economic analyses,
informed by recent scientific findings and using reasonable assumptions, suggest that more ambitious targets and quicker action make good economic sense. The warnings about climate change are growing steadily more ominous — but it has not, as a consequence, become impossibly expensive to save the planet. We can still afford a sustainable future.
The bad news about climate change relates mostly to the costs of inaction. As greenhouse gas emissions grow, it is the cost of doing nothing that is becoming unbearable, not the cost of taking action.
So, where are we? Well, it seems that President Obama has demonstrated his ability to deal with more than one thing at a time, but Congress has not and at this time, the one thing seems to be health care. As important as that is, the single thing that Congress could do to reduce future health care costs is to fix Global Warming. A study from the Univ. of Oregon puts the number conservatively at $1.3 Billion. This underscores what Romm was saying.

What is a good Green to do? Start by contacting your elected officials at every level: local, state, federal. Here are some talking points that we need to use:

  • Climate Change is a moral issue that goes far beyond saving polar bears.  Future generations will evaluate us as to whether we were able to rise above selfish concerns and work toward a sustainable future. 
  • Climate Change is an economic issue and the cost of doing nothing exceeds the cost of  managing toward a goal.  That should be apparent if you read this post and followed the links to the hard data. 
  • No climate change plan at any level is acceptable if it does not show how it can achieve 360 ppm of CO2 and the date by which that will happen. 
  • No climate change plan at any level is acceptable if it does not deal with the energy load that arises from building operations.  This goes far beyond Green Jobs or turning your roof white. It means that we have to be involved with every planning commission and zoning change request in every community to ensure that it meets with the most stringent standards as defined by Architecture 2030 and the American Institute of Architects.  No organization is doing more of the right things than Architecture 2030 and for all of the 1000 Mayors that have signed  U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement , no community has fully achieved what they pledged. I know my own City Manager down played the fact that our Mayor was an early signatory to the agreement and did not feel bound to it since there was no City Council discussion / vote prior to his signature.  Hold their feet to the fire.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Changes at California Greening

Over the next week or so, we will be adding a new author to California Greening: Martin Zehr (a.k.a. Mato Ska). He will be keeping you up to date on water issues and I will focus more of my time on Global Warming. I need to take a day or so to set things up correctly, but I am sure that you will find his posts to be right on target.

However, there is one today that I want to bring to everyone's attention. It started with a Twitter update from Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee. He noted that the Big 5 was meeting on water.

Then, thanks to Aquafornia, I was pointed to story of that meeting as told by the LA Times.
So as the clock ticks toward a Sunday deadline for signing or rejecting more than 700 bills on his desk, Schwarzenegger has engaged legislative leaders in a game of chicken, threatening a mass veto if lawmakers don't strike a deal to upgrade the state's water system.
Imagine that, almost every bill out of the Legislature left to rot on the Bill Terminator's desk. To think that I took the legislature to task for not passing what should have been a no brainer bill, AB 560.

Aside: At one time, I had hopes that the constitutional convention would help structure a way out of this mess. Now, I am not sure. Waiting for an update which I hope to get today.

Our friends at Restore the Delta did not let this go by without comment.
Where are the adults in Sacramento?

Yes, the Governor has told Legislative Leaders that he wants a water package on his desk by Friday night before he will act on the 700 bills sitting on his desk. But with a significant portion of the Legislature not in town, and members scattered all over the world presently, can that really happen?
I only see one legislator in Sacramento whom I trust to deal honestly with water, to require the type of regional water planning that Martin ardently and articulately champions. That is Lois Wolk. She may be the only adult that got elected.

If you have not signed up for the Delta Flow from Restore the Delta, please do. (Kalmran did.) They are not frequent but they do let you know how the politicians are failing us all. You can find a list of the back issues of Delta Flows here as well as a box where you can fill you email address to sign up. Better yet. Join.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where to go? How about Fresno.

I have been told that it is a waste of time for Greens to try and organize in the Central Valley, that we need to build on the areas where we have the most electoral success, already have some recognized politicians and are more likely to be be able to tap local money.

I want you to read the complete picture of Fresno in this Alternet published piece by Mark Ames. It will give you a very different view of the Central Valley than you get from Coastal megalopolis TV news. Ames manages to combine the background of a workplace shooting and the appearance of Sean Hannity and make sense of it… well as much sense as the two situations allowed.
Although the connection is tenuous between the site of the workplace shooting -- a dealer in agricultural machines -- and the larger issues in Fresno -- agribusiness and water -- nevertheless, as in so many other shootings, by digging into the Fresno Equipment killing, I started to get a taste of just how rotten and corrupt Fresno is these days, and the larger context in which the shooting took place.
This is the same Hannity exploitation that I referenced here and with this link to the Daily Show.
By now, you should be getting the picture, it is all a show.

"In reality, this is not a farmworker march," said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, the 27,000-member union founded by Cesar Chavez, which did not participate in the march. "This is a farmer march orchestrated and financed by growers."

And in July, a couple thousand Latino farmhands were pressed into marching on Fresno City Hall to demand the repeal of the Endangered Species Act, opening up more cheap water, and ultimately, building the loathed Peripheral Canal, which would cost taxpayers billions of dollars and deliver enormous amounts of cheap water from Northern California to the Central Valley, converting their farm land into much more valuable suburban tract-home development land.

Tell me again why the Green Party should not be organizing in the Central Valley. It would be a return to the gut issue of ecology and social justice that was the foundation of this party in the first place. If we want to GROW this party, then we had better start in Fresno County.

The Real Story about the Delta Smelt

I know that y'all have probably heard enough about the delta smelt, the suffering farmers in California's San Joaqun Valley and the poor Latino's who have to pay Paul Rodriguez's new salary since he can't get a comedy club booking any more. If you really want to understand the nuances behind the shimmering water, you need to pay close attention to Jon Stewart.

I linked to Mike Fitzgerald on this story before. He got the facts right. Stewart got the target right and I love his simple, nuanced skewering of the whole thing. Follow the link. The Daily Show is a friend tonight.