SUSTAINABILITY? GROWTH? OR GROWING SUSTAINABIILITY?

12 09 2010

I recently read the “Sustainable Tennessee Agenda,” issued by the Tennessee Environmental Council and Tennessee Conservation Voters.  You can find it online yourself at www.SustainableTN.org.  I had to double-check the date to make sure it wasn’t really written in 1980, at the close of the Carter administration, when the steps recommended in this report would have had a better chance of succeeding.

I know people who are involved with these groups, and I know their hearts are in the right place, but I would like to ask them a few questions, like:

“Are you candy coating the depth of what we face for mass consumption?”

“Are you soft pedaling what we need to do about it because you’re aware of how little political traction this will get in a legislature that’s barely willing to grudgingly admit that the world is not flat and wasn’t created in 4004 BC?”

“Do you really think our knuckle-dragging legislature would go for even these half-, or more realistically, quarter- and eighth measures, anyway?”

Sorry if I seem kinda unfriendly, guys.  It’s just that it’s time to stop fretting about replacing the Titanic’s incandescent bulbs with compact florescents and get our butts into some lifeboats.  Let me count the ways:

They start out on the right foot, giving us a good definition of “sustainability”:

The concept of sustainability can be defined simply as, “no waste”. Waste is a measure of economic efficiency, and a simple metric Tennesseans can utilize to measure how sustainable our lifestyles and communities have become. We can monitor waste generated, or lack
thereof, to track our progress toward sustainability as individuals, organizations and societies.  Sustainability can also be defined in more complex terms that include economic criteria, natural resources and equity of access.

Unfortunately, the very next paragraph steps off into liberal la-la land, with its invocation of the magic g-word:  “growth.”

A sustainable strategy for Tennessee will position our state to stimulate a growing Green Economy and Green Jobs sector. The Green Economy potentially represents an economic future like Tennessee has never seen before. It is a retooling of our failing infrastructure in a manner that promotes Tennessee heritage, our communities and our quality of Life. This strategy insures that labor-intensive Green Collar Jobs are created locally and training programs are initiated so segments of the population currently unemployed or underemployed can benefit from stable well-paying opportunities.

Initially, you might think a lot depends on interpretation: are they daydreaming about the never-never land of a “growing,” but somehow “sustainable” economy?  Or are they simply recognizing that our “green economy” is currently miniscule, and will need to grow to replace the functions of the “growth economy” as it rots like a dead cow in a hot field?  The report’s repeated invocation of “growth” gives me the distinct and disappointed impression that the writers of this report are clinging to the idea that “growth,” the cancerous destruction of the natural world, will still be happening in our future, somehow made “smart” and “green” by higher standards and new laws.

I doubt it.  The report talks of training “at-risk youth and young adults” to do energy conserving retrofits on existing buildings.  I got news, folks–there’s already plenty of well-trained construction workers with families and mortgages (or just the rented roof over their heads) who are “at risk” of becoming homeless if they don’t find work soon.  And the money for this project is coming from…..?  Sorry, we’ve got a war to fight, no money for domestic make-work programs.

But, if the housing and commercial real-estate boom, which has been the main driver of our economy ever since manufacturing jobs started going overseas, if that boom has busted, the only boom left is the coal and natural gas extraction industry, which aims to pulverize Tennessee’s countryside so we can keep the lights on in the cities.  Hey, nobody can afford to live in the middle of nowhere anymore, who cares what it looks like or if you can drink the water?  The report takes a strong stand against mountaintop removal and gas fracting–the idea of injecting fracting chemicals into Tennessee’s cave-riddled topography sounds like a recipe for nightmare to me, but since we’ve got a nightmare legislature (that’s probably only gong to get scarier), there’s no telling what they will approve for the sake of those generous campaign contributions.  I will stand with you on this issue, folks, even if I think you’re more than a little out of touch when you talk about “growth.”

Likewise, the section on solid waste recycling is…solid, calling for increased recycling and composting and an end to Tennessee’s bizarre practice of labeling landfilled construction materials as “recycled.”  Talk of composting leads to the subject of local agriculture, which the Sustainable Agenda, of course, strongly supports.

Calling for better public transportation, on the other hand, is one of those too-little-too-late platform planks.  Our entire infrastructure is built around the private automobile, and the result is that there are not a lot of “masses” needing transportation–points of origin, destinations, and times of travel are so fractured that it would be difficult to locate a mass-transit system that would actually be serviceable for most people.  And then there’s two other factors:  construction money, and the continued existence of jobs to which people need to commute.

The “education” section talks about the importance of creating a “no child left inside” program, and generally instituting conservation/pollution awareness/environmental programs in our schools.  They don’t mention the movement towards hands-on gardening as a school project, but I’m sure they would approve of it being in the mix.  Maybe they thought it was a little too radical to mention out front.  I don’t know.

So, I’ve been a real Mr. Smarty Pants about this report–what would I do different?

Let’s start with education and “green jobs.”  Through most of history, most people have spent most of their time producing food, or providing the technology needed to produce it.  We’ve had a couple of hundred year break from that, but the break is drawing to a close.  Farmers, herders, hunters, gatherers, blacksmiths, basket weavers, barn and granary builders, harness and buggy makers are the wave of the future…oops, no jet backpacks….sorry ’bout that!  We also need clothes, at least part of the year, and shoes come in handy.  Weavers and spinners and tailors and seamstresses and shoe makers will once again be important as well.  It won’t all be a throwback to the past.  There will be plenty of work recycling and repurposing the detritus of our current consumer culture.   And, let’s not forget millers and bakers, and the facilities they need to ply their trades.

But we do not live by bread alone.  We need to educate people not only in these practical skills, but in the expressive arts as well.  We are not “going back” to lives that are “brutish, nasty, and short.”  We are going forward with the cultural heritage of the entire history of the planet.  Gilgamesh and James Joyce, Beowulf and the Beatles.  Local manufacture of paper and ink, and local printers, will be important.  The internet will not be with us forever, I suspect.

I  believe it is not too late to create a future in which nobody needs to, as Thoreau said, “lead a life of quiet desperation, and go to their grave with the song still in them.”  We need musical instrument makers, and millions of people to play, really play, those instruments, millions of people who are not afraid to sing while they work and when their workday is done, in millions of neighborhoods, not for fame and profit, but just for fun.

We also need to educate people to celebrate our heritage and history, to understand our triumphs and mistakes and our place in the cosmos, not to mention fostering an understanding of how our own minds work, and we will need truly creative teachers to foster this kind of education.

I haven’t even mentioned “the healing arts”…but I’m running out of time.

The “green jobs” future I foresee may not be “well-paying opportunities” as we think of them today, for the simple reason that there will not be that much “money” around in the future, but it will, in the report’s words, be  “an economic future like Tennessee has never seen before….a retooling of our failing infrastructure in a manner that promotes Tennessee heritage, our communities and our quality of Life.”

We won’t be rich, but we might just be a whole lot happier than we are on the current treadmill.  Whatever it turns out to be, I’ll see you there!

Burning Times, “The Only Green World”





WHO ARE THE REAL BABY KILLERS?

13 06 2009

Some of us were stunned and saddened last week when Dr.  George Tiller was murdered in church.  Some of us were not.

“I am glad George Tiller is dead”

That’s what “Reverend”  Wiley Drake, a former officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Fox News.  Drake said he has been praying for Tiller to  have a change of heart about abortion,but in the last year had been praying for Tiller’s death, because:

(Dr. Tiller) had obviously turned his back on God again and again and again,”

Drake called Tiller “a reprobate” and a “brutal, arrogant murderer” who “bragged on his own website how many babies he had killed.”

“Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war?” Drake asked. “Or would you have said, ‘Oh that is terrible for him to be killed’? No, I would have said, ‘Amen, praise the Lord, hallelujah, I’m glad he’s dead.’”

Drake says Barack Obama is now the object of his “imprecatory prayers.”  Let me put it bluntly:  he is praying for Barack Obama to die soon.  Since Mr. Obama seems to be in excellent health, this sounds to me like a public call for the assassination of our President.  Now, I’m not a big Obama fan either, albeit for very different reasons, but that is going WAY too far.  C’mon, Homeland Security, ain’t this domestic terrorism?  But hey, he’s not a right-wing terrorist, he’s just exercising his freedoms of speech and religion…and the guy that murdered Dr. Tiller is one of the Lord’s avenging angels.  No causal connection between Drake’s hate speech and trigger man Scott Roeder.

Drake is just one example…. Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and many other right wing pundits have been beating the drum against Dr. Tiller for years.  Coulter, commenting on other murders of abortion providers, said that you could say they had been shot,

….or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure performed on them with a rifle.

OK, let’s change our focus for a little while…mountain top removal, anyone?

In spite of their stated commitment to science over politics, the warnings of every credible climate scientist in the book, and Al Gore’s call for civil disobedience to prevent more coal plants from being built, the Obama administration appears to be ready to approve at least 42 of the 48 mountaintop removal projects currently on the EPA’s table.

The coal that will be produced from this massive environmental destruction will make a few corporate balance sheets look good, but it will release more poison into what’s left of the waters of West Virginia, where mercury levels are already dangerous for women who are or might become pregnant, and also, of course, cause the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it will eventually contribute to the deaths of millions, possibly billions, of babies–and adults–all over the world, as global warming creates a world in which the living may well envy the dead.  Kofi Annan, former UN leader who now runs the Global Humanitarian Forum, estimates that global warming is already killing 300,000 people a year, not counting the number of miscarriages due to malnutrition, which would probably swell that 300,000 by quite a bit, since about 45 million of the world’s 900 million hungry people are considered to be directly affected by climate change.  My reaction is, “only 45 million?!  They must have had to work on the numbers quite a bit to get it down to that level!”

Dr. Tiller helped women who did not want or felt incapable of raising the babies they were carrying.  The coal industry is indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of thousands of children whose parents value them and do not want them to die. But hey, it’s totally indiscriminate–they’re killing parents and grandparents, too.  Not picking on the helpless unborn, nossir.

So, Reverend Drake, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, where are you on this issue?  If you’re really concerned about “the rights of the unborn,” maybe you should commence  “imprecatory prayers” against the coal companies and their many allies in Congress and the administration.  Or is it that “the rights of the unborn” is really just a cover, and your real agenda is the assertion of patriarchal control over womens’ bodies, and that’s why the destruction of the atmosphere and the murder of millions by the coal industry is irrelevant to you?

In the church I grew up in, we had a different name for “imprecatory prayer.”  Asking for bad things to happen to other people was called “black magic,” and needless to say, we did not recommend it.  Here we have a clear case of somebody who alleges he is a Christian practicing the dark arts….gee, just like Satan.  In my church, we all understood that if you asked for  evil to happen to someone  else, you had better be prepared for it to visit you.  So, when I consider the right-wing punditocracy and its sick, sad culture of death threats, I’m not going to wish evil on them.  They have already summoned it to themselves.  May God have mercy on their souls.

music:  Frank Zappa, “Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk“(excerpt)





CORPORATE TERRORISTS

10 04 2008

one on one….

That’s when everything changed. Charging around the further curve came a couple of four-wheelers, roaring up the road past our group. Immediately following them were all manner of vehicles (mostly pick-up trucks). Out of the vehicles poured what looked like the majority of the coal company’s demolition crew, along with their wives and even some of their children. They were all clad in identical sky-blue t-shirts with a logo on the back and the slogan “Protect An Endangered Species — Save a Coal Miner” or some such corporate drivel. They deliberately blocked our little group in between the mouth of the road and the No Trespassing barrier, like some group of penned animals they planned to slaughter just like the animals that die when they push the detritus of their “mining” into the valley below.

Since we’re fairly new to having our homes attacked by Mountain Top Removal here in my neck of Fayette County, some of us were surprised at the show of force. I checked with my friends down in the coal fields of southern West Virginia, however, and they said it’s a typical company tactic. Here’s what happens: the coal company tells its people (the people who are owned by the company) that the Evil Environmentalists (who, they’re told, love trees, fish and numerous species of snails more than people) are trying to take away their jobs. The bosses tell their wage slaves that America can’t have electricity without blowing the hell out of the oldest mountains on the planet. The slaves are told that they’re actually even “patriots.” They get some spiffy new T-shirts and are told, not asked, to take the wife and kids to help intimidate the “Environmental Wackos.” Failure to do so, can mean one of these peoples’ jobs.

Of course, the bosses DON’T tell their demolition crews that as quick as the last seam has been scraped from the earth, as soon as they’ve pushed the last bit of mountaintop over into the valley that is my home and killed every living thing that walks, creeps, swims or crawls, they’ll be gone like an itching john from a low-rent bordello. They don’t tell their “associates” that two or three spins of the Wall Street roulette wheel will reduce those much-vaunted “profit sharing plans” to the value of your great-granny’s cache of Civil War Bank of Montgomery Confederate notes. Nope. All those pathetic people hear is that “Coal Keeps The Lights On.” All they know is that as long as they keep up the bombing, the paychecks keep coming.

more

working through the legal system….

In the majority of cases where Monsanto sues, or threatens to sue, farmers settle before going to trial. The cost and stress of litigating against a global corporation are just too great. But Pilot Grove wouldn’t cave—and ever since, Monsanto has been turning up the heat. The more the co-op has resisted, the more legal firepower Monsanto has aimed at it. Pilot Grove’s lawyer, Steven H. Schwartz, described Monsanto in a court filing as pursuing a “scorched earth tactic,” intent on “trying to drive the co-op into the ground.”

Even after Pilot Grove turned over thousands more pages of sales records going back five years, and covering virtually every one of its farmer customers, Monsanto wanted more—the right to inspect the co-op’s hard drives. When the co-op offered to provide an electronic version of any record, Monsanto demanded hands-on access to Pilot Grove’s in-house computers.

Monsanto next petitioned to make potential damages punitive—tripling the amount that Pilot Grove might have to pay if found guilty. After a judge denied that request, Monsanto expanded the scope of the pre-trial investigation by seeking to quadruple the number of depositions. “Monsanto is doing its best to make this case so expensive to defend that the Co-op will have no choice but to relent,” Pilot Grove’s lawyer said in a court filing.

With Pilot Grove still holding out for a trial, Monsanto now subpoenaed the records of more than 100 of the co-op’s customers. In a “You are Commanded … ” notice, the farmers were ordered to gather up five years of invoices, receipts, and all other papers relating to their soybean and herbicide purchases, and to have the documents delivered to a law office in St. Louis. Monsanto gave them two weeks to comply.

more

taking over the legal system!

News last week of former White House lawyer John Yoo’s recently disclosed 2003 memo positing, among other things, that the president’s authority as commander in chief allows him to override federal laws prohibiting “assault, maiming and other crimes” against suspects in the “war on terror” was followed by a second revelation: an alarming footnote on page 8 referring to another secret memo, written shortly after 9/11, and, in the name of national security, dispensing with the Fourth Amendment.

In the age of the “war on terror,” according to the footnote, the Department of Justice “recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The Fourth Amendment, of course, lays out “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Critics of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program — which was started in the same weeks the memo was written — have staked their claims in part on its violation of this right. Proof that the program originated at the same time that the White House officially jettisoned the Fourth Amendment in the name of national security is a damning — if not surprising — revelation.

more

ignoring the legal system!

Babak Pasdar is a computer security expert who was hired in 2003 to help restructure the tech infrastructure at a major wireless telecommunications company. What he found shocked him.

The company had set up a system that gave a third party, presumably a governmental entity, access to every communication coming through that company’s infrastructure. This means every email, internet use, document transmission, video, text message, as well as the ability to listen to and record any phone call.

It is also believed the system would allow the government to be able to trace the physical location of cell phone users. The secret system is known as the Quantico Circuit, named after the city in Virginia home to the FBI Academy.

AMY GOODMAN: Babak Pasdar has not named the company where he worked, but the publication Wired reports his claims are nearly identical to allegations made in a federal lawsuit filed against Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless is one of several major telecoms facing lawsuits over its role in the government’s spying program. Congress is still debating on whether to give Verizon and other telecoms immunity, even though their actions broke the law.

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