Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Road to the Future: California Water Management Reconfiguration

The real politics in California has nothing to do with environmentalism. This is simply self-promotion by urban metropolises for increasing water supplies. The conflict is for the diversion of surface water supplies. This takes place while California's coastal cities continue to disregard
new supplies through desalination because of its costs. Rural regions have painted themselves in the corner through their depletion of groundwater supplies.

It is a classic urban vs. rural water war. Cities gave themselves a blank check for growth through diversions of surface water from rural regions. Now, every diversion sparks conflict. This has nothing to do with the environment, just users fighting for supplies of surface freshwater. It could be resolved simply by regional planning and sustainable prioritization of regional supplies by regional users. The longer the diversions are the focus of the conflict the more intense it
will become.

Two large sub-states should be mapped, with Los Angeles included in the southern sub-state. The secessionist map of the Central Valley separatists did not include Los Angeles. Clearly, this was a self-serving proposition. All supplies stay in the sub-states. Regions are established within the sub-states that are basin-based and anticipate imbalances within the sub-states in regards to supplies, but NO diversions can be authorized outside of each sub-state. Mull it over. California simply is unable to dodge desalination. It cannot continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. Regions need the capability of defining their own priorities in water use and resource development.

Rural regions are rapidly transforming with the growth of population. Their economic uses and residential uses are increasing coming up against the stone wall of restricted supplies. This proposed water management reconfiguration is the only one that will open the door to users and avoid economic and political catastrophe. Without new supplies, there will be only ghost towns and agricultural crises. Without increasing supplies of water, there is no way to avoid running out and the only question will be: "Who will take the fall?".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nation of Consumers in Hard Times

We have become a nation of consumers when once we were the manufacturing leader of the world.  We now measure our economy by how much we buy rather than how much we make.   Almost every media outlet this weekend underscored that fact with story after story about surge in consumer buying on Black Friday followed by estimates of our need top spend that will come today, Cyber Monday. 

It seems that the 1980's bumper sticker is apropos: He who dies with the most toys wins.  

It is against this backdrop of rampant consumerism and, inevitably, people behaving badly, that Scott Pelley showed us the other side on 60 Minutes last night. When consumerism rules the day, what happens to people when you can't consume, when you reduced to living in a car?  We have given names to generations.  The seems to be the Hard Times Generation.
Never has unemployment been so high for so long. And as a result, more than 16 million kids are living in poverty - the most since 1962
According to Pelley, this is pushing near to 25%.  That is 25% who can not participate in the spending spree that fills our news and encourages Wall Street. That is 25% who should have learned something.  As 15-year old Arielle Metzger told Pelley:
Every time I see like a teenager or any other kid fighting with their parents or arguing with them and like not doing what they're told it really hurts me. Because they could be in my shoes. And of course I don't want them to be in my shoes. But they need to learn to appreciate what they have and who they have in their life. Because it may be the last day they might have it.

In spite of the effort of OWS to call attention to this income disparity, to the rapacity of some of the super rich, we continue down this road to ruin.  I am not sure what the Occupy movements will end up accomplishing.  If they don't get more people on their side, it might not be much.  

I know a lot of Greens support, or participate in various Occupy efforts.  They are very clear about what they are against.  Most seem unclear as to what they are for.  Greens need to articulate the vision of where this country is going, what the future will be.

So, here is my challenge to you now:  What is the future we want?  Let's start a conversation here.  There is a wider effort going on elsewhere:
That session is just getting underway at  www.futurewewant.org, at facebook.com/futurewewant  at @futurewewant on Twitter, and at the UN’s web site. http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture .
I plan to join in there.  They need to have the Green Party vision of a sustainable future with all that means for people, resources, energy, etc. Clearly, it needs to be one not driven by consumerism. This is a conversation that all GP candidate should be having with the voters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The EPA is under attack, but what about natural gas.

I normally keep the tube on while washing dishes. It is mostly audio wallpaper. However, last night it was on MSNBC and when Rachel Maddow said that she was going to interview EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, I stopped working, poured a glass of a Paso Robles barbera and sat down to listen.

It was an intriguing opportunity for Jackson to score some points and she almost hit it out of the park, but missed an opportunity to deal with climate when discussing fracking and the use of un-natural gas.
I can't imagine a better setup to this piece that Maddow provided. She started with Nixon's establishment of the EPA and led that into the current Republican presidential candidate unbridled antipathy for even using the initials. This led her into the interview where she gave Jackson the opportunity to defend the EPA, which Jackson did very well. And that is where things diverged. Yes, Jackson wants to protect air and water from the excesses of fracking (after they get the science right)… right.  But then she repeated the same things that we hear from all of the petro-industry commercials.

I think natural gas is important to our country.  I do think that it is a potential big change for us.  It has immediate benefits from a pollution side.  It has immediate benefits from an energy security side, but what we have to  be able to say to the people is that in the process of getting this natural gas, we're not going to screw up your groundwater or drinking water or your air.

This coming election cycle is going to feature a concerted attack on "regulation" by the Republicans and that pushes the EPA to the top echelon of issues. While we know that both Mesplay and Stein would be staunch protectors of the EPA, it is not yet clear which will be most able to articulate a narrative in which we can:
  • protect our water resources,
  • manage to control greenhouse gases,
  • provide useful employment for all our population. 
That is a tough task, but it is what we have to do if Greens are going to make even a ripple in the national political pond.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bio-Regionalism and Immigration

As someone who has been engaged in public education and water planning there is a vital need for local Greens to propose bodies and committees that integrate immigrants into decision-making process to address their needs and concerns. I know California is lagging in providing real support systems for Spanish speaking students and this is wrapped around the issues of teacher training AND budget cuts. Further, the rapid rate of increasing student populations with specific needs and the impacts of growth on water quality and supply are responsibilities that can most effectively be addressed by those directly impacted. We begin to break down the kinds of antagonisms that have been allowed to fester for so long when we work together in our communities. People who are labeled as "anti-immigrant" are often responding to the failures of current systems to address the profound demographic changes and often are unable themselves to impact on local policies.

It is fine to support immigrants. But as things stand now too many in California are denied adequate education, often end up in jail and prison (or held in virtual bondage)and they cannot get the support they need for their communities' water systems, such as in the Central Valley cities. We are disregarding that "sanctuary" as it is currently implemented remains rested in proclamations. We need to define that "sanctuary" in reality means safety, security and opportunity for a new and brighter future. The public is aware and frustrated at the failures of public schools and water systems. Getting people to interact begins to break down the walls and establishes a common and shared vision for their communities that is not exclusive to any given group of people.

In NM the Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) had a Stakeholder Advisory Committee until it was dissolved administratively. When it was functioning it enabled users and stakeholders to engage directly with the ABCWUA and provide input and present concerns of different groups as to what things they were dealing with regarding the resource. From there, it is up to a Green Party to provide the electoral and political leadership that begins to break down the walls as they exist today. The dismantling of the Advisory Committee demonstrates how those determined to preserve the status quo have no desire to open our governing entities. It also demonstrates the real role of a Green Party in building change. We need to promote candidates who present new opportunities and the campaigns should not just focus on the debates as they are constructed today by the duopoly parties. We can make real proposals in the structure of the governing entities of our communities that begin to break down the animosities as they may exist. Our neighbors are not our enemies; they are the source of new solutions and alternatives that will improve sustainability and improve the quality of life for all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Pelosi's Office

I would like to suggest that the Occupy Wall Street folks, especially the Occupy San Francisco demonstrators, seek to Occupy everything Pelosi.

If there is anything wrong with Congress, it is the idea that they are different from the rest of us. They love to give themselves special privileges. Nothing exemplifies this more than the manner in which Pelosi and her husband accepted an IPO stock deal with Visa and then Pelosi kept legislation for new regulation of the Credit Card industry bottled up, not allowing it to come to a vote in the House while she was Speaker. The current Speaker, John Boehner, is not better.

All you need to know came from Steve Kroft on 60 minutes this week, yet no one seems to pick this up. If it were Boehner, you know the crowd at MSNBC (O'Donnell, Maddow, Shultz) would be all over this were it a Republican Speaker, but Pelosi is the 2nd best fund raiser for the Democrats and that gives her a lot of power.

If Occupy San Francisco wants to be non-partisan, they should go after the powerful and that includes San Francisco's favorite Congresswoman. Maybe CA Greens need to nudge them a bit.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Immigration: is a policy of compassion possible?

In my previous post I mentioned Laurence C. Smith's The World in 2050 and promised to connect his ideas to Green Party Policies. I still was not sure where this was going to take me and therefore, overly ambitious about the time frame. It will take a lot more than the two weeks I mentioned.

In the meantime, I did get an OpEd for my local paper out of it. It will be run on Friday Nov. 7 in the Morgan Hill Times, but you can read a copy at Polizeros.

There are two forces that will drive the movement of people in coming decade. One is obviously the mounting pressures from population growth. If one has to leave their homelands, then why not to a wealthier America? or a more welcoming Canada? The other is climate disruption where drought causes famine, where sea level rise floods coastal cities and delta farmlands and some places just become unbearable.

Estimates of the number of climate refugees vary widely. We know how many people live in affected areas... but it only a guess as to how many will chose to leave when not yet forced to do so. Some estimate it to be as high as 50 million.

Even if we don't agree to such a high number, still we have to admit that there will be some. Pacific Islands will be under water. Increased desertification already affects Africa, the Mediterranean, even Texas (sub's req'd). How many will be displaced by this? I don't know but the refugee camps in Kenya are already over full.

Along with this climate disruption, we will will have political disruption as well. There has always been a resentment against new immigrants in the US, even though this country is the product of a succession of immigrations. Now state after state, most recently Alabama, have passed laws claiming to protect the US from "illegal" immigration, but in reality with a strong racist motivation.

Then, as I was thinking on this issue, two news items game me the impetus to start writing. One is the release of a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that gives a very sobering assessment of climate risk. According to the UK's Guardian:
"The door is closing," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. "I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."
That prettymuch tells us that we need changes in energy policy now. But we also need to understand how it will affect immigration here.

Before this week, I might has painted a bleak picture, one of the US demonstrating a fortress mentality closing all its borders with Herman Cain electric fences or moats filled with alligators. Then, a stunning thing happened. Arizona voters successfully recalled State Senator RusselPearce, President of the Senate and the author of Arizona's infamous immigration law, a law strongly opposed by Arizona's Green Party. Arizonans have had enough of militancy and racism. The election turned on the fact that Arizonans wanted their legislators to have a bit of compassion.

I expect that there will be more political dislocations. If the US accepts climate refugees, they will compete for existing jobs. The Democratic Party has always tried to make immigrant communities as part of their political base. But they also have leaned heavily on labor union support that will act to protect their jobs for existing membership. This will not sort out quickly.

What does this mean for Greens? Neither of our presidential candidates, Kent Mesplay and Jill Stein, seem to have paid much attention to this issue. If they were to do so, if they were to focus on building a national policy based on compassion, I am sure that they will find acceptance in the electorate.

Additional Information: Green Party Platform on Immigration / Migration.