Thursday, March 25, 2010

Green Platform and Adaptive Governance

There remains a profoundly influential perspective within the Green Party that looks to polarizing constituencies rather than promoting inclusive processes that unify constituencies in addressing common issues of concern. The Platform of the GPUS remains a document rooted in the sixties. It has not grown beyond the conflicts of that decade. Locally, Greens have done a lot of work that goes beyond the definitions of these issues. We have established water as a priority in our work through Resolution 380 passed by the National Committee of the GPUS.

Why is this? One reason remains the underlying political agendas of the Democratic Left, who routinely party hop from the Progressive Democrats of America to the Green Party. It is long past time that we connect our vision of bio-regionalism to our proposals for structural reform and to have our candidates promote inclusive entities at the local level that are empowered and truly reflective of local stakeholders. Adaptive governance is focused on these goals and represents a distinctly political solution towards sustainable decision-making.

This model of ecological democracy and land and water management is critical in structuring the political and governmental entities that currently remain in a state of stasis regarding decisions pertaining to sustainability. Ecological preservation and restoration inherently impact on diverse stakeholders.

Currently, the preferred models for political action are through litigation or legislation at the national level. This is the primary activity of environmental and advocacy groups. As a Green Party we see not only issues of the environment, but we also are concerned about the capability of the people to make those decisions that will impact on them for years to come. As a political party, the Green Parties welcome the engagement of concerned stakeholders in environmental and resource management issues.

Our Platform, however, fails to raise the fundamental issues where decision-making circumvents those in our communities who are most impacted. We need to raise regional water planning and structural reforms of water authorities to make them elected and representative of the varied users, science and the environment working together towards the common goal of sustainability for future generations. Small farmers are squashed by sprawl. Major urban centers, such as Detroit, are shrinking in size. Drought in the West and SouthWest is resulting in massive diversions of water from one region to another. New tasks are required that integrate sustainability within the context of communities' social, economic and ecological needs. Our local municipal governments are simply not structured to provide sound leadership to these tasks.

It is time for the Green Party to distinguish itself by presenting to our communities the structural reforms needed for sustainability. View the GPUS Platform Committee website Add your comments to the GPUS Platform Committee blog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best way to end war is to avoid it's causes.

In the long run, it is always better to have been able to avoid wars than to have won them. Yet, it would seem that this lesson is one we are loathe to study.

We are beginning to see the inevitable effects of climate change. Entire island nations will disappear and their populations will have to go elsewhere. Will they keep their identities or be absorbed into another culture? Are their places willing to provide either the physical space for that to happen?

We are beginning to see climate refugees in Africa. Here again, the same questions arise. What nations are going to be willing to accept the responsibility for such refugees? Where will they be allowed to go and what will happen to their identities as a people?

I greatly feat that these dislocation will lead to hundreds of millions of dispossessed, disaffected peoples, a breeding ground for rage and violence.

We have it now within our power to slow down the rate at which our climate is changing. No one country has been more responsible for our current state of the world than the United States. We have legislators who are willing to discuss the matter, seemingly forever. Whether we have a government that is willing to act is another question.

Failing actions that consider the results until the 7th generation, the only choice for some will be violence, terrorism and war. The way of peace is to fix these problems before it is too late.

During the 2004 campaign for President of the United States. We heard a lot about the courage of John Kerry in Vietnam. Now, I think about the Mekong Delta, where so many lost their lives in a war that did not have to happen. This is what the Mekong Delta might look like by the end of the century if we can limit sea level rise to only 1 or 2 meters. The Mekong Delta has a population of ~20 million and is Vietnam's largest rice growing region. Sen. Kerry is now leading an effort in the U. S. Senate to craft a comprehensive climate change bill. Will he have the courage to do what really needs to be done to stop global warming, or will this turn into yet another salvo in the ware against the people of Vietnam?

Sen. Kerry, it is up to you. Have you reported for duty yet?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Disconcerting thought on offshore drilling.

While California has managed to put a stop to offshore drilling, it is still a very big part of the Gulf of Mexico. We have seen the coastline of Louisiana and Texas become a new ground zero in the climate change fight. It began with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita storming on shore with major impacts.

Some of it could have been avoided were it not for the fact that the coastal wetlands that could have blocked the storm surge associated with Katrina had been slowly disappearing, due in part to excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers in the corn belt of the upper Mississippi River. Today, scientists are working to restore the wetlands.

The Louisiana Bayous are also the site of the first abandonment of a village due to sea level rise.
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.
But that is not the entire story. In today's edition of Yale University's Environment 360, Michael D. Lemonick writes about the fact that Sea Level Rise does not occur equally in all parts of the world. Along the Gulf Coast of the United States, it is accompanied by a sinking of the Continental Shelf under much of the Gulf of Mexico.
And in some coastal areas — most notably along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana — the land is falling as well: Thanks to massive oil and gas extraction, the continental shelf is collapsing like a deflated balloon. “The rate of subsidence measured at Grand Isle, Louisiana,” says Rui Ponte, of the private consulting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc, “is almost 10 millimeters per year, compared with two or three in other areas.” That’s especially problematic for a city like New Orleans, which already lies partly below sea level.
This makes the position of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D. LA.) all the more puzzling. While pushing for more exploration and more consumption… all in the name of economic recovery… Landreiu is sealing the fate of her own state, from subsidence, from the creation of more dead zones in the Gulf and finally allowing it to sink further into the ocean.

Is this the wisdom we expect from a Senate where the pace is supposed to allow contemplation of the full impact of an issue? It seems to be what we get. Louisiana Greens need to take this issue into the election cycle. If allowed to continue, it could be that Louisiana will be the first state to relocate climate refugees and the rebuilding of New Orleans might have been a waste of money as it sinks further below the level of a rising sea.

The lesson for California Greens is that our own California Delta is headed for a similar fate as coastal Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Have they all gone crazy?

I am beginning to doubt my own sanity. The more I read about the machinations of the U.S. Senate, the more I am convinced that they must still be eating Senate Bean Soup and breathing the fumes. How in the world can they come up with some of the proposals that the are airing… behind closed doors, of course. Does no one else find it strange that Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman (KGL) would come up with a plant at purports to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades, including provisions to limit business costs while ramping up domestic production of oil, gas and nuclear power." How do you reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making it easier and cheaper to use up the oil and natural gas that we have as fast as we can? Don't take my word for it, this was the NY Times reporting.

The Times goes on to the good news if you are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and don't believe in climate change.
In a bow to industry demands, the senators' proposal would pre-empt U.S. EPA climate regulations under the Clean Air Act and halt dozens of state climate laws and regulations now on the books. Also, only facilities that release 25,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases must participate in the climate program.

I thought the Kerry was supposed to be a leader, someone who had a vision of where this country could go. Maybe we were lucky that he lost in 2004, because with Bush in the White House, at least we knew who the enemy of mankind was.

You may note, that I mentioned the Chamber of Commerce above. According to the Times, they were one of the enterprises in the room, having their say before the rest of us get ours. Of course, the Chamber's position on Climate Change is well known. The want a circus trial like the "Scopes Monkey Trial", and more recently they asked the EPA to consider its greenhouse gas endangerment finding. And Kerry is briefing them on how we will stop global warming?

Allow me to take this one step more. If this is what Liberal Icon Kerry is doing, then what about one time darling of the progressive netroots, Jim Webb has going. He and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have a new bill called the Clean Energy Act of 2009. It is nothing more than a big boost for nuclear industry. According to an alert today from the Nuclear Information Referral Service:
Last fall, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced S. 2276, the "Clean Energy Act of 2009." But this bill is the opposite of a "clean energy act"! In fact, its primary intent is to encourage the construction of at least 100 new reactors in the U.S. by 2030, encourage reprocessing of radioactive waste, promote additional "small, modular" reactors, and build a new nuclear power infrastructure. Alexander and Webb claim they'll do all this with less than $20 billion over the next 10 years.
My goodness, you don't need Republicans to ram this through Congress, the Democrats will do it for you, and my own Senator Boxer will lead the way, ever bit a cheerleader for nuclear as is her erstwhile Republican opponent Chuck DeVore.

I am not a big fan of Michael Moore, but this is one time that I wish he had his camera in the room while Kerry and friends were making sure they didn't step on any corporate toes with their new bill. Maybe Moore could come up with KGL and me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Great Climate Change Hoax

The word hoax has been firmly associated with global climate change ever since Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe started to use it, calling climate change the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Only he got it wrong… again.

The great hoax is that Sen. Inhofe understands climate, understands science and is moral enough to tell the truth. For all the clamor, for all the barbs thrown at everyone who does not agree with ex-Mayor of Tulsa, there has yet to be any science put forward that explains the observations that we have. They have no theory. They have no facts. So, being the professional politician that he is, Ihofe can only attack the measurements, the numbers were fudged, the scientists cheated, etc., etc. It becomes a conspiracy that requires more suspension of disbelief than about any other. The number who had to be in the know about Kennedy's assignation is small. Maybe the 911 Truthers need to account for a few more. But this requires the secret collaboration of tens of thousands of scientists. Preposterous.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Free Market Water

One of the blogs that I follow daily is Aquanomics run by David Zeitland. Zeitland frequently makes that point that water problems will not be solvable unless we put a price on its use such that using too much becomes un-economic. He favors market solutions for water management.

I mention this after reading a new editorial, Water policy should be comprehensive in the Visalia CA Times Delta this week. This begins by stating a fact not well publicized unless you are really following water.
Sacramento lawmakers are preparing to take action to prevent water transfers from agriculture users to urban users. A bill in the Legislature would prevent sale of water from an ag user to an urban user for a contract that lasts more than 10 years.
We know that this has been going of for a long time, not much, but enough to make a few people richer.

I am much more concerned about the level of thought that did not go into one of the comments.
The $74 million purchase price set the price of the water at $5,250 per acre-foot, anywhere from 15 to 50 times more than a farmer would pay for water."
Guess what? This is a "free market" example at its best. Demand outstrips supply and the price goes up. There is little or no regulation and the profit makers have a field day. Everyone better get ready for more and more expensive water in CA because the supply is finite and the demand isn't.
Where people are taking water secured at a steep discount from market rates, and then reselling that on the open market, they are getting rich off the tax payers of California and taking no risk themselves. Yet, this seems to be another part of the Conservative mantra about free markets. This is not a free market. There is already massive intervention by government, both state and local, to support the ag industry. You have to be like a lame brained Glenn Beck not to understand that much.

Zeitland gave a glimpse into just how much that water is worth when he posted this letter about the value, and use, of additional water allocation being given to the Westlands Water District now that we have a normal rainfall year.
How growers elect to "spend" that is anybody's guess:

1. Plant more acres (Cotton?)
2. Substitute for Supplemental water (no acreage change; lower input costs; shift to capital spending?)
3. Substitute for Well Water (no acreage change; lower input costs; add margin to financing package?)
4. "blend" all water costs; farm more acres (NOTE: +35% = 0.8925 AF/acre)
Do we need a new Howard Jarvis to save CA taxpayers?

Radical Centrism

I have tried to find the right words to describe the relatively new site California Independent Voter Network ( It has it's own site, promotes that site on facebook and twitter and even has a list of writers. Almost none of the writers at CAIVN are as well known as those at the California Majority Report, but then CAIVN has not been around as long, but they are getting there. I compared CAIVN's internet rankings on and they are gaining on some more established sites like

Still, I wonder how they define themselves. A Green Party friend of mine thought that they were conservative. One of the members of the committee that runs calitics called them "radical centrists". I would guess that the later description is closer.

There seems to be a notion that centrism is a good thing and the all politicians need to compromise. I find a number of fallacies in that. Primarily I don't think that it is very accurate to define a political spectrum in one dimension except as an explanatory simplification like left / right. The very term centrist, especially as used by the media these days merely to describe a position less strident than that of the ardently polarized major parties in California, an environment in which civil discourse is almost impossible.

When I first looked at caivn, I facetiously asked if independents were ever to organize, would they still be independent. It might not be a bad question. Now, I see that the folks at caivn are using facebook to try and find out just who are these independents in California. The comments being left (only 4 at the time I am writing this) indicate that they have multiple reasons for being dissatisfied with the majority parties.

I think that it would be a good focus group task to find some 20 self-identified independents and to test Green Party messages. I would love to see that undertaken by a competent team of opinion analysts. The comments that caivn are eliciting at facebook provide good anecdotal evidence that some independents are just as ideological as members of any political party.

Green Economics

I have spent more time over the past eighteen months than I should have had to spend just to try to ascertain exactly what Green Economics is all about and why the Green Party has seemed so un-articulate when challenged with economic problems that demand immediate solutions. As I have been going through the economics sections of some of the various incarnations of a Green Party platform, I think I finally figured out why I was having such a problem.

The Platform of the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) arrives at its economic policies from a very different starting point than that used by the Green Party of California (GPCA) and that difference makes it difficult to articulate a coherent set of policies.

The GPUS platform is clearly founded on ecological understanding.
No economic system is sustainable unless it accommodates the ecosystems on which it depends. Our current system - based on the notion of perpetual economic expansion on a finite planet - is seriously flawed.

The GPCA Platform presents a solution, that of community based economics, but there is no underlying set of principles from which the need for community based economics is developed. Even considered as the solution to a problem, the problem is not mentioned. Rather, the GPCA states that "Economic value should reflect our social values." This is not the basis for a theory of economics but rather a standard by which to judge the policies that result.

I am reminded of a statement from Buckminster Fuller.
When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
Ecology provides us with the tools to properly structure an economy, our social values determines whether we got it right or not.

It looks like the task is really to synthesize these divergent views. If anyone has some ideas about how to do it, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What does selenium taste like?

Californians first learned about the effects of selenium in their water when Lloyd Carter was writing about death of the wildlife at the Kesterson Reservoir. That was back in the 1980's when Lloyd was a reporter. He was still writing about this in 2007, as mentioned in this Badlands Journal post. The entire story, long version, can be found in Carter's 2009 paper for Golden Gate University's Environmental Law Review: Reaping riches in a wretched region: Subsidized industrial farming and its link to perpetual poverty.

I suggest that you read enough of the items above to understand what is heading for Los Angeles.

The situation is really untenable right now. Westland Water District farmers need to irrigate, but along with the irrigation comes the accumulation of salts, borax and selenium in the groundwater. Eventually, it ruins the land. Since they can no longer dump the drainage into Kesterson, their new plan is to drill wells to pump out the contaminate groundwater and run it through the California Aqueduct. The overview of this plan is posted on the Westland Water District Web site. Even the project name seems to be designed to make it look benign, or to confuse the reader, or both. The "Conveyance of Nonproject Groundwater from the Canalside Project using the California Aqueduct" Project

One key question is that of what happens to the Nonproject contaminated Groundwater. The project description would make you believe that they will just use it elsewhere.
WWD is proposing to pump groundwater from land near the California Aqueduct and convey it through the aqueduct for distribution on other land within the district.
Yet, the aqueduct does not stop here. It is 444 miles long and the Edmonson Pumping Station lifts it over the Tehachapi Mountains to LA. I guess that Westlands assumes it will all be so mixed out with other water that no one individual will get very much of it.

There is an announced plan to have an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Westlands is soliciting public input.
Public comment is an integral part of the EIR process. The “scoping” process, which we are currently conducting, is a period in which WWD asks the public to recommend additions to the scope of the document by identifying problems that may arise as a result of the project or resources that may be significantly affected. The scoping period for this project lasts from February 1, 2010 to 5 p.m. on March 5, 2010. You can send your comment letters to:

Westlands Water District
Attn: Russ Freeman
3130 North Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93703
Before you do, as I hope you will, you might also want to ready what Restore the Delta says about this: A little salt will bring out the flavor. (2nd topic).

If this has not yet gotten you motivated to do something, take a little more time to read this letter directed to Tom Birmingham (Head of Westlands and the lawyer who defended the Metropolitan Water District's use of Mono Lake Water) and Congressmen Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, both Democrats. The important fact to note here is that these farmers, the ones who went on 60 Minutes to bemoan their plight and had Sean Hannity do a full segment about farmers vs. fish, those same farmers are going to make an additional $140,000,000 this year from increase water supply and have more what then they know what to do with. That is our money. Ours, the tax payers of CA. Time for action folks. But then, I always knew that these Westlands farmers were the salt of the earth.

Yet another reason I never became a Democrat

You may have at times wondered why I continue to link climate change, coal, mountain top removal and Green Party politics. If you would read this article today at Ken Ward Jr.'s Coal Tattoo, you would wonder no more. There is a great deal of irony in Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D - WV) pimping for the coal industry. Ward explains it in much more rational terms.

There will come a time when the environmental organizations begin to understand that the Democratic Party is only their friend when it convenient. I hope that time will not come too late.

Read Ward's post on Rockefeller and his recent post on Congressman Nick Rahall. Then go get 2 of your Democratic friends to read them. Then hand them a form to re-register.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Removing Mountain Top Removal

Readers of California Greening should know that I have been very critical of Mountaintop Removal Mining, of House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, and very supportive of the efforts of the Green Party affiliated Mountain Party of West Virginia's efforts to stop that practice.

Ken Ward's Coal Tatoo post today provides a very good run down on what Rahall could be doing about the problems of the coal industry... but isn't.
As I’ve written before, Rahall is in quite a fix on mountaintop removal, and his position on it is certainly in conflict with his great leadership on so many other environmental and conservation measures:
Ward goes on to list the things that are not being done, the leadership that is not being shown.
And Rahall isn’t doing many of the things that he could … as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rahall has jurisdiction over the Department of Interior and he could use that position and that committee to hold some interesting hearings and push some tough legislation. I often wonder why he doesn’t do things like:
  • Call in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik for a committee hearing, and demand to know why they haven’t yet started writing a tougher and more clear definition of the approximate original contour reclamation standard. And if the Obama administration won’t take on the task, Rahall and his committee could put forward legislation to do it themselves.
  • Haul some coal executives — maybe he could start with Blankenship — before his committee and ask them to explain why so few flattened mountaintop removal sites are being developed for new businesses or other community assets.
  • Schedule another hearing with Salazar and Pizarchik, and demand to know how in the heck OSMRE is going to accomplish the tougher enforcement oversight it has promised given the budget cuts proposed for the agency by President Obama.
This is just one more example of the failures of Washington to match action to rhetoric and the result can only be a growing cynicism about the ability of Washington to do anything that has a time horizon beyond the next election. Even those Senators who appear to be bulletproof, like California's very senior Senator Feinstein, seem almost to go out of their way to kowtow to entrenched corporate interests, leaving most of the public to wonder who is running whom.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

All this rain, should we worry about water? U betcha.

With all of the rain, coming nicely spaced so that it soaks in rather than runs off… or at least that is what it is doing where I live… is there any reason to be worried about water issues? I list three current items that made me think that it had better be near the top of the list of our concerns.

Steven Solomon has an item on Grist yesterday in which he discusses Water and the War on Terror. It is a good introduction to his recent book WATER: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization. His major focus is the Middle East and Pakistan in particular. The situation that I noted in a recent post about the Amu Darya and the Aral sea apply equally well here. Those Himalayan glaciers that climate change deniers love to reference are still retreating and providing less water each year to a region already deemed arid. The difference is to be found in the description of Pakistan.
As dangerous as Yemen is as a failed state, it pales in comparison to Pakistan, which is nuclear-armed, Taliban-besieged, regionally fractious, and severely water fragile. Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida’s core leadership are believed to be hiding out in its rugged northwest regions.
That in not near, but points out just how dangerous the situation could be.

To bring it back home to California, it is all about the Sacramento / San Joaquin River Delta. That is where one very powerful, well funded Irrigation District has enough clout to have Sen. Feinstein call for a review of biological opinions to be conducted by a Committee from the National Academy of Science. One of the members of that panel reported tonight via twitter that
NAS committee's Bay-Delta report went to reviewers today. Expect to come close to meeting release date of 3/15. #sacdelta
I am under no illusion that this will close the debate especially if the conclusions of this report fully substantiate the Biological Opinion under which the current water use undergoes periodic curtailment for ecological reasons. Such is the anti-science bias in the irrational public that the members of this committee will undergo the same intense cyber bullying that climate scientists do.

And in one last story for all of those you would sip a latte in any place except Starbucks, a story that combines climate change and water, the price looks like it will go up no matter what you do. Coffee growers are already experiencing climate change effects. They are having to relocate to higher altitude groves.
“There is already evidence of important changes,” said Nestor Osorio, head of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which represents 77 countries that export or import the beans. “In the last 25 years, the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee-producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before,” he said.
OK, I understand that, but what about the water?
And the new race to the top comes amid already increasing demands for resources between farmers and energy firms.

“Land and water are being fought over by food and energy producers,” said Osorio. “We need to make an assessment to guarantee the sustainability of and demand for coffee production.”
Already, UC Davis Ag Researchers are planning for similar changes in all of the commodity crops in CA. Those farmers who expect a return to the status quo if only they can capture enough water need to start thinking a few years out and looking to change what they grow.

As long as this remains in the political venue with the public shut out as in the case of everything that Sen. Feinstein works on, we will on suffer the consequences. The processes championed here by Martin are what we need, what the Green Party should be working to put in place.