INTERPERSONAL PERMACULTURE

9 04 2014

written by Martin

Twenty years ago, when I was living in Vermont, a friend of mine moved from there down to middle Tennessee to join a startup permaculture community that was going to be centered around one of the big names in permaculture–honestly, I forget just who.  She returned to Vermont a few months later, saying she had been unable to get along with the guy well enough to stay.  We’re not talking boyfriend/girlfriend here, just being members of the same team/community.  Apparently, she was not the only person who couldn’t make it work with this particular guy, whoever he was, because he is no longer here in middle Tennessee, nor is there a twenty-year old, permaculture-based community in this area, to the best of my knowledge.

While I would love to be proved wrong about this and have members of this community emerge from obscurity and say, “We are here, we have been here, and here are at all the amazing things we’ve done in 20 years,” this apparently failed community is only one of a number of examples I could cite.  It seems that the tricky part of manifesting the long-term vision that permaculture demands isn’t molding the landscape, but forming and keeping together a community of people who can forge a common vision and implement it.  The same holds true for the whole spectrum of groups committed to “paradigm shift,” including, to name the first few that come to mind, political/environmental activism, the Transition Town movement, and healing centers and intentional communities. I have seen such difficulties arise, and disrupt communities and movements, numerous times over the course of my life.  That’s what I’m going to be discussing in this blog post:  what I have learned from my 40+ year involvement with intentional communities.

In college, I joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and was one of those who burned his draft card in Central Park in the late 60′s.  I attended enough SDS meetings to become discouraged by its failure to address the egos and emotions of those with a neurotic urge towards leadership and/or martyrdom, and its failure to “be the change it wanted to see.”ghandi Later I moved to San Francisco and witnessed the unravelling of the Haight-Ashbury as a viable community.  (In retrospect, my own neediness and lack of social and material skills probably helped propel that downfall, although I’m sure it all would have come apart just fine without me!)  I joined a small group that aspired to the model Robert Heinlein created in the science fiction novel “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but that succumbed to the neuroses of its founders within a month.  I slept for one night and one night only at a Digger crash pad that had slid so far down the tubes that people were peeing in a sink full of dirty dishes, because the toilets had long ago stopped working.  (OK, that was actually on the Lower East Side of New York, but it was The Diggers.)  I attended what turned to be the last meeting of the San Francisco Diggers, where those who had been in the movement for a while bemoaned the fact that they didn’t own the buildings that they were trying to maintain as The Free Store and the Community Kitchen.  I met several times with a group of people who were getting together to buy land in southern Oregon. That disintegrated in the face of actually coming up with the cash necessary for the deal.  I hung out with the folks from the Harbinger Community, who had the use of a hot spring/resort hotel north of San Francisco.  They lasted a few months before dissolving in a cloud of bad drugs and irresponsible people. Read the rest of this entry »





O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

10 03 2013

I have been writing this blog and doing this radio show now for nearly eight years.  I have devoted about a quarter of my time to it every month, and many things around our homestead have not happened because I have been keeping faith with this blog, my radio program, and the Green Party of Tennessee.

More on the Green Party in a little bit.  My blog has had, according to WordPress, nearly 47,000 visitors in these eight years, but, on the other hand, my spam protector tells me that it has protected me from 36,000 spam posts, meaning, as I understand it, that only about a quarter of my readers are actually on site to read, with the balance–that’s fifteen out of an average of twenty a day–only here to peddle fake Viagra, knockoff watches and handbags, and other detritus of our consumer-driven culture.  I don’t understand where the payoff for these people comes from.  Nobody I know takes them seriously.  It would certainly save a lot of human and electric energy, not to mention bandwidth, if such nonsense could be eliminated.   But I digress, as I so often do.  One thought leads to another, in an endless stream.

Here’s the point.  I have spent about as much time as I can trying to wake people and point out to them that the building is burning, and they/we need to either fight the fire or get out of the building, or both.  It’s time for me to quit talking about taking action, and actually take action myself.  Not to follow my instincts on this would be co-dependent, I think.  I have been there, and done that, and don’t care to dwell there any more.

So, I am looking for someone else in the Nashville area who would like to do this show–I’ve had a few nibbles, but no firm bites yet.  John and Beth can’t do it all themselves, and would like to cut back on their involvement as well.  If nobody wants to take it from our hands, “The Green Hour” will slip into the dustbin of radio history.  I am thinking that I may repurpose the “Deep Green Perspective” blog as an autobiography, since I think my whole life has been lived, in effect, from a “deep green perspective,” and I’d like to tell my story while I still remember most of it.  Anyway, if you’d like to play radio host, get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »





COAL KILLS

9 02 2013

CORRECTION:  The opening power point presentation was given by Dodd Galbreath, not “Dodd Lockwood.”  My bad!

On Thursday night, I went to the Sierra Club’s “peoples’ hearing” on TVA’s proposal to spend a billion dollars on scrubbers for the stacks of its Gallatin, Tennessee, coal plant.  The meeting, along with a couple of other recent news items, was a pleasant, uplifting surprise.  All too often, public meetings and the news alike leave me with a hollow feeling closely associated with how it feels to be heading down a roller coaster curve that I know, just know, is going to make me toss my lunch.  But not this time.

First, the facts of the matter, to the best of this admittedly biased reporter’s ability to state them.  TVA’s Gallatin coal plant, just upriver (and usually upwind) from Nashville, is over fifty years old.  It consumes 9 to 12,000 tons of coal a day to supply electricity to 300,000 homes  (that’s 80 pounds of coal per home per day), and emits about 750,000 tons of CO2 per year to do that–that’s two and a half tons of CO2 per household, anda total of about 23,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, as well as large quantities of mercury, lead and other heavy metals and radioactive elements.  The EPA has ruled that all coal plants must install scrubbers to remove the sulfur dioxide, etc., or close down.  The  “coal ash” that results from the scrubbing process will, apparently, be stored in large piles and containment ponds on the banks of the Cumberland River, just like the piles and ponds next to the Clinch River near Kingston Tennessee.   (Remember what happened there?) and at every other coal-fired power plant in the country, because nobody’s figured out any safe use for all this highly toxic material.  (oops, sorry, I’m editorializing! ….well, that  IS the fact of the matter.)   Because these ponds and piles are going to take up a lot of room, TVA will have to close down The Cumberland River Aquatic Center, which specializes in growing endangered mussel species (essential for restoring stream health) as well as gar and sturgeon.  TVA has been strongly resistant to any kind of public input into their decision to do all this. Read the rest of this entry »





FARMER’S MARKUP

26 01 2013

There has been a flurry of concern in Nashville lately, in some circles, because the Nashville Farmers’ Market is not meeting its expenses, let alone returning a profit to the city, and so there has been some talk of “privatizing” it, in hopes that somebody will figure out a way to make running the market “profitable.”

This prompts two lines of thought for me.  One relates to the Farmers’ Market in specific, and the other is the much broader subject of government provision of public services being criticized for not being “profitable.”  Let’s look at the second one first, and then examine the specific case of the Nashville Farmers’ Market.

One prime example of a government agency (albeit now a semi-private agency) that is in big trouble because it is not “profitable” is the United States Post Office.  It is ironic to me that many people who style themselves “strict constructionists” also advocate privatization of the post office and criticize it for losing money, because establishment of a postal service is directly authorized by the U.S. Constitution, which says nothing about whether that service needs to turn a profit or not.  Good communication is essential to creating a cohesive political entity, and so “post offices and post roads” were high on our founders’ agenda–we’re talking Article One  of the Constitution here.  The Post Office was not some afterthought. Read the rest of this entry »





TVA WANTS TO MAKE AN ASH OF ITSELF-AGAIN

26 01 2013

In December of 2008, TVA’s Kingston Coal Plant was the site of a disaster, as unusually heavy rains washed away retaining walls and inundated the area downstream from the plant with highly toxic coal ash from “ponds” on the plant site.

Now, TVA wants to set the stage for an even more spectacular disaster.  Instead of polluting the small rural community of Kingston, their new plan puts the city of Nashville at risk.

Their intentions are good–the Gallatin plant they want to “upgrade”  has been listed as one of the most polluting coal plants in the country.  But TVA’s solution–to spend a billion dollars installing “scrubbers” that will remove the pollution from the plant’s exhaust system–will result in tons and tons of toxic waste being stored on the banks of the Cumberland River, upstream from Nashville.  All it will take is a flood like the one we had in 2010, and that coal ash, with its toxic load of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and more–will be all over Nashville.  Thanks, TVA! Read the rest of this entry »





AS WE FILL OUR PETRI DISH/PLANET…..

28 10 2012

Pre-election frenzy is reaching its heights here in the U.S., as foaming-at-the-mouth insanity runs neck and neck in the polls with cool, calculated insanity, and the world holds its breath to see whether the current faction  of thugs will retain control, or whether a crew that is even more out of touch with reality will take the reins in America.  Mitt Romney, in contrast to many Republicans, says he recognizes that the climate is changing, but denies human causation.  Obama admits that humans are the cause of the problem, but won’t do anything that will actually stop it.  The subject has been off the political radar in this election.

Meanwhile, on the weather radar, we have a nearly unprecedented, very late-season hurricane bearing down on the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., and forecasters are saying it’s likely to merge with a nearly unprecedented,very early season winter storm system that’s been making its way across the country, possibly wreaking havoc when the two systems have a party over the next couple of days.  (Gee…the two-party-system meets the two-system party!).  This follows a year of record drought, which shrank crop yields in this country and elsewhere, and has sent global food reserves to their lowest level in 40 years.  This, too, is “off the radar.”  As far as the duopoly  candidates are concerned, reality is, in general, “off the radar.”  This failure to acknowledge reality could destroy the planet.  Our political system is not just insane, it is suicidally, and ecocidally, insane, a danger to itself and others.

In the midst of all this madness, what’s a David to do but battle Goliath?  What’s Lot to do but warn Sodom and try to awaken enough righteous people to save it, especially since, this time around,  there is no place to go to get away from impending destruction?

That’s why we in the Green Party keep making what effort we can to turn the tide. Read the rest of this entry »





JILL STEIN TO VISIT TENNESSEE!

14 10 2012

Late-breakng news here–Dr. Stein, the Green Party’s Presidential candidate, will make a swing through Tennessee on Thursday, Nov. 1, the only Presidential candidate to visit the state during this election campaign.  She will speak in Pleasant Hill, Cookeville, Murfreesboro, and Nashville.  Times and locations are not yet set, but will be posted here, as well as at the Green Party of Tennessee’s website (http://greenpartyoftennessee.org/) and the Green Party of Middle Tennessee’s Facebook page.

Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein’s’s revised, redated schedule for her Tennessee visit:
Thursday Nov 1:
Pleasant Hill 7:00AM Political Forum Breakfast w/ Dr. Jill Stein
Cookeville at TN Tech U 11:00AM
Murfreesboro at MTSU 4:00PM
Nashville area TBD 6:30PM





U.S. GOVERNMENT DROWNED IN BATHTUB!

13 08 2011

Nashville’s municipal elections are over, and to nobody’s surprise, there were few surprises.  All incumbents save one were handily re-elected,including Jason Holleman,  and the measure to obstruct sale of the Fairgrounds to a private developer was passed by a truly impressive margin.  There will be five runoff elections in September, with participation likely to be even lower than the 20% turnout for this election.  May I point out that instant runoff voting,” a system in which people get to indicate a second choice as well as a first, ends the expense and bother of delayed runoff elections?  Just sayin’, as they say.

The one incumbent who failed to make the cut was Anna Page, a fairgrounds privatization advocate whose district just happens to include the fairgrounds.  She lost by twelve votes to Tony Tenpenny, who opposed redeveloping the fairgrounds but is, alas, a political conservative.  It’s funny how people can be in touch with reality in some ways, and out of touch in others–and I’m sure there are people who say that about me–or worse.  But….losing by only twelve votes.  Think about that.  I’m sure Ms. Page is.

I actually voted against the Fairgrounds amendment, but only because it seemed to require that auto racing continue at the Fairgrounds. I view automobile racing as one of the many modern equivalents of gladiator sports, as well as a prodigious waste of precious fossil fuels and a nasty source of pollution, so, while I was in sympathy with the overall aim of the preservationists, I couldn’t see voting for something that dumb.  But I don’t mind a bit that the measure passed.  The will of the people–to keep public property public–prevailed, at least in this case.

Nationally, we were not so lucky.  In spite of overwhelming popular sentiment for higher taxes on both wealthy corporations and wealthy real people, and growing questions about the wisdom of massive military spending, the debt ceiling deal our so-called government agreed to is a complete reverse-Robin Hood measure that shifts even more of this country’s dwindling wealth from the poor and middle class to the obscenely wealthy.

Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to “shrink the government down to the point where we can drown it in the bathtub.”  Well, folks, that’s what happened, and we didn’t even have to elect a Republican President to do it.  Mr. Hope and Change wrung his hands and tsk-tsked, but ultimately did nothing to stop it, like an abused wife who doesn’t like it when her husband beats the kids, but isn’t going to call the police on him.  After all, he says he’s sorry and gives the kids candy, doesn’t he?

In fact, you might be excused for thinking that Obama, deep down, wouldn’t mind getting rid of that pesky kid known as “government spending for the public good.”  Not so long ago, he appointed a commission to review Social Security and Medicare, and even his supporters complained that it seemed strangely stacked against our country’s already tattered social safety net.

But, before we get into the messy details, let’s back up and remember that Democrats and Republicans unquestioningly raised the debt ceiling for the Cheney/Bush junta seven times during the eight years of the junta’s rule, nearly doubling US debt–which stood at just under $6 trillion when Bill Clinton left office, and had ballooned to $11.3T by the time Cheney left office.  And did the Republicans insist on “fiscal responsibility” in exchange for those raises?

No.  Cheney cut taxes (mostly on the wealthy) twice, floated an unfunded, enormously expensive subsidy to the prescription drug industry disguised as a way to help Medicare recipients buy the drugs they are told they need, and burned nearly a trillion dollars in the bonfires called Iraq and Afghanistan, fires that the Obama administration has cheerfully continued to feed with our tax dollars and loans from the Chinese.

The Nobel Committee must be wondering if they can revoke a Nobel Peace Prize.

I digress–like every other real solution to America’s problems, ending our spending on foreign military adventures is “off the table.”

Back to the debt ceiling/budget cuts question–the point is, that it was completely disingenuous, if not outright hypocritical, of the Republicans to suddenly stand up for “fiscal responsibility” around the issue of raising the debt ceiling.  It has never been tied to budget cuts before–and we’re talking 74 raises in the debt ceiling since 1962–that’s quite a precedent, so it’s no wonder  many of Obama’s liberal supporters were flabbergasted when he failed to challenge the Republicans on this, and instead played right into their hands.  You start to suspect he’s secretly one of them.

Look at his record.  He didn’t prosecute anybody on Wall Street for the crash–in fact, the Wall Street firms that triggered the crash are among his strongest supporters, and their executives became his closest advisers.  By contrast,  when the Savings and Loan bubble burst twenty years ago, thousands of bankers went to jail, over a financial peccadillo that was a fraction the size of the 2008 mess–$160 billion for the S&L’s,  $7.7 trillion for the subprime bubble.  Do the math–the 2008 crash was 48 times bigger than the S&L crash, and nobody went to jail.   Can’t say the bankers didn’t learn a thing or two in twenty years!  To cap it off, not only did Obama continue Bush’s policy of bailouts for the Wall Street firms who milked the economy, his program to help individuals who were losing their homes because they had been suckered into unrepayable mortgages turned out to be a useless piece of window dressing.

There’s the war crimes issue.  Obama not only took a pass on prosecuting Bush officials for atrocities they were clearly responsible for under international law, he continued and expanded those policies, including the assassination of American citizens who might be terrorists–but only ones who are out of the country, so far, so far as we know-.  What part of “innocent until proven guilty” and “right to a fair trial” does our government not understand?

When Bradley Manning tried to blow the whistle on our government’s criminal behavior, the Obama administration just put him in jail and tortured him.   Trial?  Manana.  What part of “a right to a speedy trial” does our government not understand?   And of course, Manning is only one of many who have been persecuted by this “hope and change” guy for the thoughtcrime of hoping to change questionable government behavior.

But it’s not like Obama has changed.  In one of his first Senate speeches, on the question of whether to investigate voting irregularities in Ohio that cost John Kerry the election, Obama asserted that he believed Bush had won the election fair and square and there was no need for the Senate to look into the matter, thus stiffing the Congressional Black Caucus.  That should have been enough to sink him right there, but no……

Obama wasted no time in putting GMO-pusher Monsatan–excuse me, Monsanto–in charge of the nation’s food supply by appointing Monsanto shill Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture.  Again, a totally Republican move–let the corporations run the government–”what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”  Right.  But gee, Michelle has an organic garden at the White House–say it again, boys and girls:  “Window dressing.”

Our increasingly erratic climate is another crucial issue on which Obama’s approach has been to continue Republican policy, but with a kinder, gentler spin.  In spite of the Deepwater Horizon mess, his administration has approved the even more dangerous step of offshore drilling north of Alaska. In spite of Fukushima (not to mention Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island!), he remains committed to serious expansion of nuclear power.  After acting like he was going to slow down coal mining, which every responsible environmental scientist agrees needs to happen to keep the planet from going completely haywire, his administration has kept on approving mountain top removal mining, just like Bush (and Clinton) before him.  At Copenhagen, according to Albert Bates, who was there, Obama sabotaged the possibility of a real agreement and spun it like he had accomplished something.  This stands in sharp contrast to the Cheney-Bush approach, of course–they just sneered and hoisted the bird.  Some people loved it and some people hated it–but you know, the same is true of the public’s reaction to Obama–it’s just that the demographics of the lovers and haters has flipped.

It’s ironic–Obama is giving the Republicans everything they want, but can’t get when they’re in power.  Well, OK, abortion is still relatively legal and they said they weren’t going to defend the Defense of (Heterosexual-exclusive) Marriage Act–but ultimately, that’s just more window-dressing–and besides, they’re deporting  an Australian man who’s legally married to another man and citing DOMA as the reason.  Oh gee, they’ve declared that health insurance has to cover women’s’ birth control?  Great, if you can afford insurance–and, by the way, another subsidy for the pill-pushers.

Let’s take a music break–here’s a little James McMurtry for ya…a song called “God Bless America.”

So, the Republicans are on a roll.  They’re going to make sure that we don’t levy any taxes on wealthy Americans, whom they have renamed “job creators,” even though these so-called “job creators” haven’t created any jobs to speak of, lately, and in fact have been abolishing every American job they can possibly outsource for the last twenty-five years.  Rich people are “job creators”?  Can you say “big lie,” boys and girls?  How about “doublespeak”?

And reducing the debt by reducing taxes is another kind of double speak–the rate at which the government taxes the wealthy and big corporations has effectively declined by two-thirds over the last fifty years. Instead of raising money from taxation, the government generates income by selling treasury bonds, often to the rich people it used to tax.  This has the effect of reversing the cash flow–instead of corporate/high earner taxes going to help fund government operations, taxes from the middle class go to pay off the government’s debt to the wealthy.  In other words,cutting taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans drives the government deeper into debt–debt that will have to be paid off by the middle class, under the tax regime that has been imposed on us.

The Republicans have made it clear, and the Obama administration has pretty much agreed, that cuts to the military portion of our budget–which is about half of it–are off the table.  But, somehow, in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to be funded independently of the main part of the government’s budget, Social Security is on the table.  Services offered by Medicare and Medicaid are likely to be cut–without any attempt to limit the profits of the pharmaceutical and illness care industries, even though that’s a major factor in increased medical costs.  The Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education, and all Health and Human Services programs will likely be given a serious trimming.  Bottom line:  if you’re poor or middle class, and need help, there’s going to be a lot less help available–medically, educationally, and environmentally.

I have often been, and continue to be, sharply critical of the conduct of many of these government agencies.  They tend to be corporate-friendly, heavy-handed, and resistant to radical innovation–but they need to be reformed, not abolished or hamstrung.  Simply shutting them down will result in a tidal wave of corporate abuse of the environment, shoddy treatment of American citizens–the latest food contamination news is that Cargill has had to recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey, while the FDA was busy sending in armed storm troopers to arrest the head of a small raw-food co-op whose products hadn’t made anyone sick.  In a better world, it would be the head of Cargill who was getting perp-walked, and those who wish to produce or drink raw milk would be free to do so without fear of arrest.  And, of course, in an even better world, there would be no Cargill and we would all live within a few miles of a producing dairy cow and some free-range turkeys.  But we’re not there yet.  I hope I live to see the day!

That last paragraph reminds me of one of my pet peeves–the fact that Americans are far more often referred to as “consumers” than as “citizens.”  We need to change that meme.  “Consumers” implies a level of passivity–a “consumer” brings to mind the image of an overgrown baby suckling at a corporate bottle.  (Corporate persons do not have teats, after all!) and periodically needing to have its poop taken care of.  “Citizens,” on the other hand, participate actively in civic life, take care of their own poop and take care not to take any poop from the government OR private industry.  I would have a lot less problem with the Tea Party if they were as hard on corporations as they are on the government.  But, at this point, the Tea Party is a puppet of corporations who want to use populist outrage to smash the only thing standing in the way of corporate domination of America.  Barack Obama, alas, is not enough of a David to stand up to this Goliath.

And that gets us back to–what can we do about the orgy of destruction that the Republicans and their Democrat enablers have unleashed on the country?  One thing we can do is to challenge it, every step of the way–politically, legally, and by where we spend our money and how we spend our time.

Politically, there has been a noticeable uptick in interest in the Green Party, as the illusion of difference between Democrats and Republicans becomes plainer to more people.  Legally, the situation is somewhat daunting, due to Democratic complicity in the Republicans’ appointment of outright fascists to the courts and the Republicans’ unhesitating blockage of any even slightly-liberal-leaning Democrats to those positions, but some legal redress of grievances is still possible.

We need to remember the example of Vaclav Havel, who started out as a beatnik-hippie poet, courageously defending his right to own Velvet Underground records and publish weird poetry against the Monolithic, All-Powerful, Communist State, and, who, over the course of twenty years, sparked a revolutionary change in the outlook of the people of the former Communist bloc that ultimately toppled a once-monolithic, all-powerful state.  If they could do it, so can we.

At the personal level, the level of our own time and our own money, it’s important to cultivate skills of self-reliance, to simplify our lives, and help our friends do the same.  Everybody has different innate talents and developed skills, and, just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a couple of hundred real, live, fully-present people to make a village.  That looks to me like where we’re headed.  I’m not sure how we’ll get there.  But that’s what makes life interesting, isn’t it?

music:  Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat”





A WAKE-UP CALL

9 05 2010

There was no earthquake.  There was no tornado.  There was no hurricane boiling up from the Gulf.  And Wolf Creek Dam didn’t even break.  It was just, as the Army Corps of Engineers put it, “a thousand-year flood.”

And suddenly, life came to a screeching, splashing halt here in middle Tennessee.  Interstate highways were closed and impassible.  The electricity went out over large parts of town.  There was no way to pump gasoline, if you could get anywhere, and grocery stores, their freezers, coolers, and cash registers disabled, closed down as tons of food. albeit only a three-day supply for the city,  spoiled.  Rising waters overwhelmed one of the city’s water treatment plants and came within a foot of flooding the other before starting to recede.

Up where I live, we were lucky.  Our homestead is at the head of a hollow, so although on Saturday and Sunday  we had a whitewater stream rushing down the dirt road that leads up our hill, damaging the road and washing away material we had stockpiled to expand our garden, the water quickly moved on and we have only had to deal witht the relative inconveniences of a 14-hour electrical outage and an intermittent supply of city tap water.

Things have been much more dire elsewhere.  Just a mile downstream from us, White’s Creek has expanded across its floodplain, inundating houses.  Here’s a quote from a friend who lives along the Harpeth:

Beth and I just got back from a 2 hour canoe ride to assess the damage to our place and to the neighbors…Hundreds of our neighbors no longer have houses to come home to. We paddled across the big lake to Beech Bend Subdivision where every house was at least partly submerged along with their cars and trucks. The Harpeth was taking the shortest route by cutting off Beech Bend and running a strong current right through the yards and houses. People had to wade quickly out and had no time to gather anything. We ferried a man back to his house from the shore so he could get his skidoo out of the garage. It barely fit between the water and the top of the door. You could hear the sound of a broken water main inside. He tried to wade  through the house in chest deep water to retrieve his wallet but said his bed was pinned against the ceiling and he couldn’t get to it. A National Guard helicopter was buzzing us, probably thinking we were looters, but they didn’t shoot. A cop back on the shore said that a kayak had just flipped over a few blocks away and the people had to be rescued. He said we had better leave quickly or the authorities would probably not let us get back out. So we stroked hard for home, the current strong between every house.

Except for the fact that the authorities didn’t shoot (hey, my friends are white!), it sounds like New Orleans, doesn’t it?

As an aside, I think the May family should be very grateful that they were stopped from building Maytown, because this flood would have washed it all away.  How ’bout it, Jack?  But, I digress…..

Cassandras like me and Albert Bates (Albert much more emphatically than I, to be sure) have been warning local governments for years that we are woefully unprepared for disaster.  Our police, fire departments, and hospitals have little or nothing in the way of long-term backup for motor fuel or electricity.  Maybe this brief, but dramatic interlude will bring official Nashville to its senses.

The IPCC has warned that one consequence of global warming will be more intense storms, and more of them.  What just happened in Nashville has been termed “a thousand-year storm,” but I have an uneasy feeling that we will see its equal, or worse, a lot sooner than the thirty-first century, quite possibly in the next decade or two.  Maybe even next year.

My eighty-year old neighbor, who has lived in this hollow just about all her life, said she had never seen it rain like that before.  “Is God punishing us for being bad?” she asked my wife.   I would have to say it’s not some God out there that’s punishing us, but this is a fate we are bringing on ourselves.  Can we wake up enough to stop before it’s too late?  Or is it too late already?

music:  The Band, “Look Out Cleveland





METRO COUNCIL SHOOTS DOWN CHICKENS

11 09 2009

After the high-stakes drama of the Bell’s Bend hearings,the Planning Commission meeting about the proposed chicken ordinance earlier this month was practically a love feast.  Hardly anybody, it seems, had a bad word to say about the birds.  One commissioner reminisced about turning his no-longer baby duck loose in Shelby Park.   Andrea LeQuire enthused about chicken tractors she had seen while visiting west coast urban gardens.  Citizens came forward to testify that hens are so quiet that they had had chickens for years and their neighbors only found out when they offered to share surplus eggs with them.   Sure, Jason Holleman’s bill, based on a Cleveland ordinance,  needed a few adjustments–as another commissioner pointed out, “six quail is not a lot of quail, but six turkeys is a lot of turkeys.” Regulations about the minimum size of the home site that can have chickens, the maximum number of birds allowed, and coop placement might need a little adjustment, but nothing too difficult.

Besides, Metro Council generally passes anything the Planning Commission recommends, right?

Councilman Holleman, in a phone interview, told me he had consulted with Councilman Paul Burch, who, along with Councilman Jim Gotto, was sponsoring a bill to completely ban chickens in the Urban Services District (anyplace your garbage gets picked up by the city, basically), and that it had seemed that Burch and Gotto would go along with a bill that simply set strict limits on domestic fowl.  Much to his surprise, Burch and Gotto did not vote for Holleman’s bill, and it was defeated, 15-20, setting the stage for the Gotto-Burch bill to be voted on at the next Metro Council Meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 15.

It seems to me the Council is “straining at gnats and swallowing camels” here–making trivial, hard-to-enforce rules instead of dealing with the many serious issues that face our city–and one of those issues is our lack of a viable local food supply.  If Burch-Gotto passes, it will constitute a giant step backwards.  A whole lot of otherwise law-abiding citizens will become outlaws, and even more law-abiding citizens will be prevented from doing something to feed themselves.  In fact, we can now say,

“IF CHICKENS ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE CHICKENS!”

Please join me in contacting Metro Council and urging the defeat of the Burch-Gotto  chicken ban (which is up for consideration this Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 PM!) and a reconsideration of the urban bird issue.  You can find Metro Council contact info online at http://www.nashville.gov/council/feedback.aspx

Here’s my letter:

I am extremely disappointed that Metro Council defeated a bill that would have legalized and regulated the keeping of small fowl in the Urban Services District.  I hope you do not go on to pass the Burch-Gotto bill which will create an outright ban on keeping birds in the USD.

Such a move would create a problem where none exists.  There is no history of complaints about chickens; in fact, many urban chicken-keepers have already testified that their neighbors only learned of their birds when they were told, and had not noticed any noise or smell coming from them.  Are we going to have a “chicken hot line” where people can turn in their neighbors for unauthorized fowl activity?   There’s a word for that, and it starts with “chicken” and ends with —t.  Are we really going to send codes or the police around to bust people for keeping chickens?   I think both city departments–not to mention Metro Council–have much more serious things to deal with.

I hope you will vote against the Burch-Gotto chicken ban and move to reconsider the Holleman-LaLonde proposal.  Please let me know your thoughts on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Martin Holsinger

to be continued….

music:  Rufus Thomas, “Funky Chicken








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