ASKING INCONVENIENT QUESTIONS

14 07 2019

As long-time readers of this blog know, I ran for an at-large seat on the Metro Nashville Council in 2015, mostly in an effort to publicize the long-term concerns I express. I received a couple of thousand votes and came in second to last. I said I’d be back, but when this election cycle came around, I didn’t file papers to run, for several reasons. First, somebody asked me to run last time, and nobody asked this time. Second, as I ran last time and got a better understanding of what was involved, it seemed that, if I ran again, I would have to run with the pledge that I would hire somebody as a legal consultant to help me translate my somewhat radical proposals into Legalese, the language in which our governments do business. From there, I concluded that it would be more efficient, and more credible to the voting public, if I, or the “we” that constitutes the local Green Party, simply found a lawyer who shared my/our values, and offered to help her or his campaign. And that’s as far as that got.

A few weeks ago, after attending a Mayoral candidates’ forum in which my concerns for Nashville’s long-term stability were not addressed, I wrote the following letter to all four major Mayoral candidates, and to the ten at-large council candidates I think have the best chance of winning. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Candidate:

I ran for at-large Metro Council in the last election. For a variety of reasons, I’m not in the race this time, but I still have the concerns I ran on four years ago, and I am still writing my blog and doing my radio show, and that is why I am writing you now. I would like to hear from you about “my issues,” and I would like to share your response (and comment on it) as my next radio show/blog post, which will air/be published in mid-July, so I am also asking your permission to publish your response. If I need to do any editing/condensing, I will share my proposed edit with you, to make sure that I have preserved your intentions. Here’s what I’m asking:

The way I see it, Nashville is currently enjoying an extraordinarily prosperous period, especially compared to a great many other cities in this country, and regions of the world. However, the same crises that have overtaken them loom over us—a runaway climate crisis, an increasingly fragile national economy, and the rapidly approaching exhaustion of many of the material resources our civilization depends on, from fossil fuels to rare earth metals to fish, forests, fertile soil, and clean water. To what extent do these factors inform your political agenda?

To what extent do you share my concerns? What do you think the city should, could, or is likely to do in response to them?

Thank you for your time and attention.

No mayoral candidate wrote me back, although Facebook Messenger informed me that John Ray Clemmons opened my letter–at 7:30 in the morning. I hope that some day we will find out that it served as a wake up call for him.

I did better with the council races, with six responses to ten letters sent. Three of the candidates who didn’t respond are the ones who are generally identified as Republicans, although technically Metro Council races are non-partisan. The fourth non-responder was Gicola Lane, one of the organizers behind the initiative that established a Police Review Board here in Nashville.

I can understand why a political candidate would be inclined to handle my questions very gingerly. Al Gore nailed it when he called climate change “an inconvenient truth.” It’s easy to see human history as an increasingly rapid spiral into greater wealth and technological complexity. By and large, people don’t want to imagine that things might move some other way– a spiral of decreasing resources, complexity, and expectations. As Bill Clinton is rumoured to have said, “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less.” When Winston Churchill told the British people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil, and tears,” he wasn’t running for office, he had just been elected, and the Germans were taking over Europe and saturation-bombing Britain as a prelude to invasion.

It’s difficult to get people to see that we are in a “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” situation with climate change. Instead of an invading army, we are threatened by the way our own actions are skewing the planet’s climate into a “normal” that is far less human-friendly than the climate in which we have evolved as a species. So far, for most Americans, that change is nibbling at daily life, rather than devouring it wholesale, and so, for most of us in America, and especially here in Nashville, it is possible to live as if nothing has changed or is going to change. City election issues can be restricted to budgets and taxes,  infrastructure, zoning, education, policing, and similar daily life issues. These mundane issues offer almost infinite details to keep us occupied and keep us from looking at the longer-term questions I have been asking. When our community governments do address these questions, they will tend to do so in the context of the short-term, daily-life issues they are used to dealing with. With that in mind, let’s go through the responses I received, with some commentary from me, and then I will suggest a few things the city could do that would tend to steer the city, just as it is, into an entity that is better prepared to deal with the financial and material shortages and extreme weather events that we are likely to see in the mid-term future. Read the rest of this entry »





THERE’S A NEW VAMPIRE IN TOWN

9 12 2018

A lot of people don’t realize that there are vampires in Nashville, even though those vampires are, in a fairly substantial way, responsible for the fact that our city is “The ‘it’ city,” while other  metropolises our size, such as Detroit, El Paso, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, are more like “she-it cities.” That’s because our local vampires have learned to turn the blood they suck into money, and spread that blood/money around town in the process of consuming it.. The new vampire has a different MO, however. He sucks metaphorical blood, which morphs into money just as easily as the red, sticky kind.

Gee…speaking of vampires, I am writing this around the death and funeral of former US President George H.W. Bush, whose father derived a good deal of his wealth from the blood of the young men of Europe and America, as well as the blood of European Jews, Gypsies, radicals, gay people, and anyone else who did not fit in with Hitler’s vision of “The Master Race.” The newly dead Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was one of the chief financiers of Adolph Hitler and his drive to Make Germany Great Again. Without Prescott’s backing, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and all those death camps might not have happened. Bush senior paid no price for this. He went on to become a U.S. Senator. His son became head of US intelligence, then Vice President and President, and his grandson, too, became President. All have shown by their actions that they possess (or is it “are possessed by”?) the ruthless selfishness that is the hallmark of all vampires,

I’ll mention, but don’t even have time to talk much about, how Prescott Bush was also part of the cabal of Wall Street bankers who plotted to overthrow the government of US President Franklin Roosevelt. Bush wasn’t prosecuted for that, either, nor were any of the other plotters. Perhaps the fact that they had names were Harriman, Mellon, Rockefeller, to mention a few, gave them a stay out of jail card.

Let me run that by you again: Prescott Bush knew full well what the Nazis were doing, had no problem financing them, and in fact tried to do the same thing here, and his son became the President of the United States, and now we are being asked to mourn that son’s death, even though it is clear from his record that the main lesson he learned from his father was to hide his sympathy for the notion of a master race that is entitled to ruthlessly assert itself, but nonetheless pursue the fascist program. Somewhere, Adolph Hitler is laughing his ass off.

But I digress. I was talking about local vampires, and about the new vampire in town.

Read the rest of this entry »





NASHVILLE’S BREXIT VOTE

13 05 2018

th+graph+1I recently wrote about Nashville’s plans for a better transit system, calling it “another big-ticket neoliberal scheme to make the rich richer,”  and now the voters have spoken. By a nearly 2–1 margin, with nearly twice the expected turnout, the transit plan was voted down. The analyses of the issue that I have read treat it as a failure of strategy and tactics, and largely ignore the fact that the funding mechanism was pure neoliberal flim-flam: they were going to do this wonderful thing for the low-income people of Nashville, that the lower-income people were going to have to pay for themselves. According to the Tennessean, nearly 90% of the revenue for the project would come from an increase in the sales tax. If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to remind you that sales taxes are highly regressive in nature, paid disproportionately by low-income taxpayers. The other sticking point was the widespread perception that the plan did not do nearly enough to address the already rampant issue of gentrification in Nashville, which even proponents of the plan admitted would likely come to neighborhoods with better public transportation. Indeed, Metro sees increased property values as one of the benefits of infrastructure projects, whether they’re sewers or light rail lines. Liberals in the city can make all kinds of cluck-clucks of sympathy about the plight of low-income Nashvillians, but their actions, which promote gentrification, belie those words, and lower-income Nashvillians were rightly wary of the latest set of promises and the likelihood of increased exploitation.

Let me spell that out: people earn low wages in large part because their labor is being exploited. By “exploited,” I mean that their labor produces considerably more value than they are paid for, with their employer skimming off the difference. Nashville’s largely Democratic/neoliberal power brokers blithely assumed that they could successfully exploit the exploited still further, rather than ask the businesses who exploit those workers, and who are disproportionately wealthy as a result, to pay a fair share of the cost. As with Brexit and Trump’s upset victory, the exploited took advantage of the ballot box to do what they could to indicate that they did not want to be exploited any further.

Like Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is a three-sided issue, not a bipolar one, although every attempt is being made to portray it as such. I hated to see the GOP screw-the-poor crowd get to chalk this up as a victory about as much as I would have disliked seeing the plan win, since, to say it again a little differently, it screwed low-income people by making them pay for the plan and not doing enough to address the rampant gentrification that was all too likely to follow the tracks. The big-ticket construction plan, and the gentrification, would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, in the name of “doing something for the poor.” Excuse me for repeating myself, but I think this is an important point to make. That’s how the Democrats roll.

The third position is the one taken by The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment, which, in its recent “People’s State of Metro” called for the following: Read the rest of this entry »





HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM…..

8 10 2017

music: The Band, “Look Out, Cleveland

This is a story about Harvey, Irma, and Maria. What an awesome threesome! A lot of ink, pixels, and hot air has gone into telling their stories, but not much of that has taken a “deep green perspective.” They’re part of a much bigger picture–really, part of a couple of “much bigger pictures,” one nested within the other, like a small shark intent on snapping up a fish, not realizing that he’s about to be snapped up by the jaws of a much larger shark. To explore this hierarchy of hungry sharks, but let’s start with Tropical Storm Harvey.

Twelve years to the day after Katrina flooded New Orleans, America’s forty-sixth largest city, Harvey, a much bigger storm, inundated America’s fourth largest city.

Consider the Houston recipe: Establish a sprawling, extremely toxic chemical industry pretty much at sea level on a low-lying, hurricane-prone shore. Run lots of pipelines full of oil, gas, and other toxic substances from all across the country to this area, making it one of the essential nodes that supports our whole way of life. Allow a large city to grow mixed in with all these chemical plants and pipelines, so that virtually the entire residential area of the city is within smelling distance of a chemical facility. Don’t do zoning. In fact, take an “anything goes” ethic when it comes to environmental safety standards, including a good strong dose of climate science denial.

Put this mixture on a shelf for a few decades and pay attention to other things, while carbon emissions due to that chemical industry raise the temperature of the planet, causing sea level and the intensity of storms to rise.

What could possibly go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »





WORKING ON A BUILDING

9 05 2015

citylimits2-1The Nashville Scene recently published the map above, along with a short article about the persistence, and spread, of poverty in Nashville. The map comes from the 114-page “executive summary” of Metro’s Social Services Department’s annual report, and has a lot of very revealing information about “the it city.”  Forget the hipster/country music glamour stereotypes–“it’s” about poverty.  While about a quarter of our city’s residents have incomes of $100,000 a year or more, another quarter are living at or below the poverty line, with incomes of less than $25,000 a year, including yours truly.  The maps show how poverty has spread in Nashville, moving into the suburbs.  They are also a good springboard for a discussion of housing policy and zoning.

Gentrification is a major issue in Nashville, often coupled with increased population density, as developers purchase small, older houses on large lots and replace them with structures, frequently duplexes or apartment buildings, that more nearly fill the lot.  Although I think greater urban density is a good idea, I don’t think this is the way to go about it, for a variety of reasons.  Some of these reasons are ecological, others are social, others are psychological.

Read the rest of this entry »





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 »








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