Kauai Community Coalition meeting

SUBHEAD: The Kauai Planning Department plan for the future needs to be fixed by the people.

By By Juan Wilson on 22 August 2017 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/08/kauai-community-coalition-meeting.html)


Image above: Detail ofillustration of County General Plan proposal superimposed over photo of the landscape of Kauai. From Kauai Community Coalition website.

WHAT:
All are invited to a public meeting to discuss changes needed in the Kauai General Plan Update as presented by the Kauai Planning Commission. 

WHEN:
 Thursday, August 31st 2017 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm

WHERE:
Lihue Neighborhood Center
3353 Eono Street
 Lihue, HI 96766

WHO:
Kauai Community Coalition
Website: https://www.communitycoalitionkauai.org/
Email:  communitycoalitionofkauai@gmail.com

For Kauai’s Future, for our Keiki – Fix the Plan!
Please join us in this coordinated community-wide effort to speak with one voice about the need to have a General Plan that first and foremost meets the needs of the residents of Kauai.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: We need "our" Kauai General Plan 7/24/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fact or Fantasy: Kauai General Plan 7/9/17
Ea O Ka Aina: A Plan to Beat Climate Change 6/30/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Commission accepts General Plan 6/15/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Lima Ola mess to begin in 2018 6/15/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Testimony against General Plan 6/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Nui Kuapapa 5/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Find and Limit Ourselves 2/17/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai General Plan open house 12/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Reject the Kauai General Plan update 11/30/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai County "Keep Kauai Rural!" 11/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Planet Kaauai 2/26/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai General Plan Update 9/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Plan disappoints 12/9/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Agricultural Goals 4/30/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai General Plan 4/2/09


.

The myth of "White Safety"

SUBHEAD: Stats on violent deaths shows that people are safer living in diverse places - especially white people.

By Mike Males on 22 August for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/41684-the-myth-of-white-safety)


Image above: Photo illustration of white crowd. From original article.

The latest manifestation of white Americans' open racial animosity, from the election of President Donald Trump to the recent violence in Charlottesville and the emboldened rhetoric of white nationalists since then, suggests continued anxiety that research indicates is grounded in an overriding fear of non-whites.

But new data show that fear is irrational.

While white people tend to feel safer when they dominate the population, and feel threatened by the visible presence of other races, they actually are safer in racially diverse communities.

Trump's voters -- nearly 90 percent of whom are white and average $72,000 in median family income -- were often motivated by anxiety over increasing diversity and "racial resentment," especially toward "illegal" immigrants. Trump stoked his constituents' fears associating immigrants with violence and drugs, claiming they kill "innocent American(s)" abetted by liberal, immigrant-friendly sanctuary cities that "breed crime."

Trump's demagoguery resonates because it comes amid one of the most dramatic public health declines on record: the fall in recent decades of middle-aged whites' from America's safest demographic to its most endangered today.

From 1990 to 2015, deaths of whites 40-64 from drug overdoses rose from 3,000 to 22,000, suicides rose from 9,000 to 19,000, and total violent deaths rose from 24,000 to 58,000.

According to Princeton University economist Angus Deaton, there is correlative evidence that Donald Trump is doing very well in the same areas that are hardest hit by this decline. "…I think it is pretty clear that Mr. Trump has locked into this group of people who are feeling a lot of distress one way or another," Deaton said in an interview with Politico.

They are stressing, overdosing, and dying violently at rates surpassing less-advantaged non-white, younger, and poorer cohorts. And their worst death trends and levels are in predominantly white communities.

Centers for Disease Control mortality data show that whites are actually safer in racially diverse areas -- not only from violent deaths in general but specifically from guns, drugs, and suicides.


Image above: Chart of violent deaths in various percentages of whites and other races. Source is Center for Disease Control 2015 data from 3,097 counties on homicides, suicides, accidents and overdoses. From original article.

There's irony in many Americans' long association of danger with mean downtown streets, and their association of safety with leafy suburban cul-de-sacs and rural lanes.

Consider the city Trump and others often identify with rampant violence: Chicago. It is true that African Americans and Latinos have high homicide rates in the city and surrounding Cook County. However, whites there are much safer, with homicide rates less than half the national average.

The same is especially true of whites in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, Columbus, and other large "sanctuary cities," where local policies seek to shield immigrants from federal persecution. whites living in and around diverse sanctuary cities are substantially less likely to die from violent death than anywhere else.

Fear-based white flight from "dangerous" cities to the "safety" of suburbs and small towns -- as their urban cores and schools became more racially diverse -- actually increased the odds that whites who fled would die violently.

Conservative politics of white-dominated areas seems to play a role.

The white-safety-in-white-numbers myth can be seen as emanating from a narrative of racial superiority.

A 2016 study found whites "living in racially isolated communities with worse health outcomes" is "one of the strongest predictors of Trump support." Isolation reinforces the sense of white grievance and siege mentality connected to high levels of racial anxiety many Trump voters seem to feel.

Deaton refers to this wave of grievance and anxiety as "white rage." It manifests in various reactions, he says, from support for far-right political candidates to "deaths of despair."

As middle-aged whites, stressed by socio-economic challenges, were most in need of health care such as mental health counseling, domestic violence and addiction services, budget cuts fueled by conservatives' anti-tax, anti-government politics were slashing these programs. These cuts not only eliminated vital services in predominantly White rural conservative places, they muted local alarms of just how serious White distress was becoming.

Conversely, the more progressive voting patterns of racially diverse, mostly urban residents sustained many vital services that may have helped mitigate the opiate and suicide epidemics in places like New York City and coastal California. Those whites more comfortable among diverse populations also may be less vulnerable to stresses over changing racial demographics. In New York City and urban California, for example, whites have had more time to adjust to their growing minority status.

And there's this. The white-safety-in-white-numbers myth can be seen as emanating from a narrative of racial superiority: whites are safer around other whites than around people of color because whites are better people.

Facts to the contrary may not change self-flattering prejudices. But, over time, mundane pocketbook issues might. A New York Federal Reserve Bank analysis shows the most robust economic futures lie in " areas that are less residentially segregated by race or income," favoring higher-quality schools and community cohesion.

Of course, continued analysis of the new violent deaths data is required. But, during this time of confronting whites' fears, it helps to understand that moving toward communities of diversity, integration, and multicultural environments -- and the progressive social policies that often accompany them -- may benefit whites in terms of both actual physical safety and economic well-being.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

See also:
White Supremacy in the Age of Trump By Keri Leigh Merritt

• Mike Males is a senior researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, San Francisco, and content director for YouthFacts.org. He taught sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has authored numerous journal articles, op-eds and four books on youth issues. He can be reached at mmales@earthlink.net.

.

Diminishing Returns

SUBHEAD: We'll soon awake to the reality of the reduced possibility for supporting 7-billion people.

By James Kunstler on 21 august 2017 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/diminishing-returns/)


Image above: Patrons from all over the Ridgefield, WA region turned out in April for the grand opening of the Ilani Casino. Many were seniors, and few were dressed up for the occasion. From (http://www.clarkcountytoday.com/2017/04/24/crowds-fill-ilani-casino-for-grand-opening/).

These two words are the hinge that is swinging American life — and the advanced techno-industrial world, for that matter — toward darkness.

They represent an infection in the critical operations of daily life, like a metabolic disease, driving us into disorder and failure. And they are so omnipresent that we’ve failed to even notice the growing failure all around us.

Mostly, these diminishing returns are the results of our over-investments in making complex systems more complex, for instance the replacement of the 37-page Glass-Steagall Act that regulated American banking, with the 848 page Dodd-Frank Act, which was only an outline for over 22,000 pages of subsequent regulatory content — all of it cooked up by banking lobbyists, and none of which replaced the single most important rule in Glass-Steagall, which required the separation of commercial banking from trafficking in securities.

Dodd-Frank was a colossal act of misdirection of the public’s attention, an impenetrable smokescreen of legal blather in the service of racketeering.

For Wall Street, Dodd-Frank aggravated the conditions that allow stock indexes to only move in one direction, up, for nine years.

During the same period, the American economy of real people and real stuff only went steadily down, including the number of people out of the work force, the incomes of those who still had jobs, the number of people with full-time jobs, the number of people who were able to buy food without government help, or pay for a place to live, or send a kid to college.

When that morbid tension finally snaps, as it must, it won’t only be the Hedge Funders of the Hamptons who get hurt.

It will be the entire global financial system, especially currencies (dollars, Euros, Yen, Pounds, Renminbi) that undergo a swift and dire re-pricing, and all the other things of this world priced in them.

And when that happens, the world will awake to a new reality of steeply reduced possibilities for supporting 7-plus billion people.

The same over-investments in complexity have produced the racketeering colossus of so-called health care (formerly “medicine”), in case you’re wondering why the waiting room of your doctor’s office now looks exactly like the motor vehicle bureau.

Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that the citizens of this land have never been so uniformly unhealthy, even as they’re being swindled and blackmailed by their “providers.”

The eventual result will be a chaotic process of simplification, as giant hospital corporations, insurance companies, and overgrown doctors’ practices collapse, and the braver practitioners coalesce into something resembling Third World clinics.

We’re still struggling to even apprehend the damage being done to people by cell phones — and I’m not even referring to whatever microwaves actually do to brain cells. Many find it amusing to see whole streets and campus byways filled with young people staring into their phones.

Whatever they’re gaining in endorphin hits from “being connected” is undermined by the immense losses they’re suffering in real social skills and the sinister effects of behavioral conditioning by the programmers of web-based social networks.

These failures are being expressed in new social phenomena like flash mobs and the manipulation of college students into Maoist thought police — and these are only the most visible manifestations.

A more insidious outcome will be a whole generation’s failure to develop a sense of personal agency in a long emergency of civilization that will require exactly that aptitude for survival.

Among the more popular and idiotic strains of diminishing returns is the crusade to replace gasoline-powered cars with electric-powered vehicles.

And for what? To promote the illusion that we can continue to be car-dependent and live in suburbia.

Neither of those wishful notions is supported by reality. Both of them will soon yield to the fundamental crisis of capital scarcity.

In the meantime, hardly anyone is interested in the one thing that would produce a better outcome for Americans: a return to walkable communities scaled to economic reality.

The convulsions over President Trump’s vivid clowning are just a symptom of the concealed rot eating away at the foundations of American life.

What they demonstrate most of all is the failure of this society’s sensory organs — the news media — to ascertain what is actually happening to us.

And the recognition of that failure accounts for the current state of the media’s disrepute, even if its critics are doing a poor job of articulating it.

.

Back to the Future

SUBHEAD: And the place to start looking for solutions may be human history not some techno-future.

By Chris Smaje on 19 August 2017 for Small Farm Future -
(http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=1252)


Image above: Scene of time travelling steam locomotive in "Back to the Future III". From (https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/scotstradmusicawards/travelling-to-mg-alba-scots-trad-music-awards/).

Last week I succumbed to a bad habit of mine that I’ve been trying to put behind me – leaving snarky comments on ecomodernist websites.

I won’t dwell too much here on the ins and outs of the issues, or on ecomodernism itself – hell, there’s a whole page of this site devoted to that, even if it’s not very up-to-date. In this post, I’d just like to extract a few kernels from the issue that are relevant to my next cycle of posts.

But first let me venture a working definition of the creed for anyone who’s lived thus far in blessed innocence of it: ecomodernism typically combines overenthusiasm for a handful of technologies as putative solutions to contemporary problems (typically nuclear power and GM crops), underenthusiasm for any social orders other than capitalist modernity, a fetishisation of both humanity and nature as surpassing splendours each in their separate spheres, questionable evidence-selection to support the preceding points, and high disdain for those who take a different view.

The question I want to address in this post is why I get so easily riled whenever I encounter professions of this faith.

Well, I guess I got off to a bad start: my first experience of it was a brush with the absurdly apoplectic Graham Strouts, and then the only marginally slicker Mike Shellenberger. I’d acknowledge that there are less strident voices within the movement who genuinely think it represents humanity’s best remaining shot at escaping the dangers encircling us.

And since all the remaining shots available to us seem pretty long ones to me, if the ecomodernists could only concede the likely length of those odds I wouldn’t so much begrudge them their schemes.

But – other than being the unfortunate possessor of a bilious personality, perhaps the likeliest explanation for my ire – I’d submit three general reasons as to why ecomodernism gets under my skin.

The first is that I think it suffers from an intellectual phoniness. Not deliberately in most cases, I’m sure.

But it reminds me of my time in academia. It reminds me of the kind of student, competent but coasting, who produces an overconfident seminar paper.

It’s not that they haven’t done the reading and marshalled some evidence – though not quite as much as they think. It’s not that they haven’t put it together into some kind of logical framework that they genuinely think best fits the data – though not quite as neatly as they suppose. It’s that they haven’t fully inhabited the task.

They’ve looked the world in the face, flinched, and written a Powerpoint presentation with a set of facts and bullet points instead.

It reminds me, also, of the kind of academic colleague who’s charming and persuasive, who has a good story to tell, who hangs out with the right crowd, who churns out a large quantity of mediocre work which won’t endure but which serves their near-term purposes pretty well.

It contrasts with the people who pursue the path of scholarship – meticulous, self-critical and questing after truths, rather than just a tale to tell.

I think everyone who does intellectual work should aspire to work of the latter sort, and worry that their actual work doesn’t measure up, worry that it succumbs to the worldly temptations of the former, of being a merely ‘successful’ intellectual.

I don’t think ecomodernism worries about this nearly enough to be convincing.

And when it comes to telling stories, ecomodernism has a great one to tell. People really want to hear and believe in it – which means it’s rife with the potential for mischief-making.

Essentially, it tells us that there’s nothing wrong with the way that we in the ‘developed’ countries now live – all that’s needed is for us to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation (which can be achieved relatively easily with some technological fixes) and for us to ensure that global resources are better shared among all the people of the world.

And along the way it delivers a pleasingly counterintuitive message: some of the things environmentalists have traditionally told us were bad – like nuclear power, GM crops, pesticides, and the expropriation of peasantries – are actually pretty good, and some of the things they’ve traditionally told us were good – like organic farming and photovoltaic or wind energy – are generally pretty bad.

It’s not hard to see why this story is so appealing to many people of goodwill living in the overdeveloped countries. All the more reason for its proponents to be sure of the line that they’re spinning and to welcome dissenting voices if they aspire to be scholars rather than spiritual preceptors.

And yet this is so often not the case. I’d better restrict myself to just one small example from one of the articles that triggered my ire recently, Emma Marris’s Can we love nature and let it go?, which involves so much tendentious reasoning in among the odd telling point that I’ll be chasing my tail for page upon page if I fully engage with her arguments. The article makes the familiar pitch for decoupling human consumption from resource drawdown.

In Marris’s words, “we must reduce our per-capita and cumulative human footprint”, an appealing goal because “it does not pit the planet’s poor people against its endangered species” and it involves “no grand sacrifices”. And, Marris says, decoupling has already begun: “It took around 25 percent less “material input” to produce a unit of GDP in 2002 as compared with 1980.”

Not much to object to there in principle. No facts I’d seek to dispute.

The problem is the ecomodernist story Marris builds around it, because I see a wholly different one lurking in her text – I’ll briefly try to draw it out, with the caveat that I’m doing it in a back-of-the-envelope way to illustrate a point. I’m not offering polished scholarship.

So, taking Marris’s relative decoupling point (she doesn’t distinguish between relative and absolute decoupling), it’s true that there’s been some improved efficiency in resource use.

World Bank data, for example, show that between 1980 and 2000 (roughly the timeframe chosen by Marris to exemplify this point) global carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy used declined by about 5%.

They did then climb back up so that by 2015 they exactly matched those of 1980, which kind of makes me wonder if Marris’s timeframe was deliberately cherry-picked, but let’s leave that aside.

The more significant point is that from 1980 to 2000 actual emissions increased by 27%, and actual gross world product increased by 300%.

If we extend the timeframe from 1980 to 2013 (the last year figures are available from the World Bank dataset) then actual emissions increased by 84% and gross world product by 589%.

I’ve played with these figures to construe various future scenarios, but I ran out of time and enthusiasm to put them into any kind of presentable numerical framework.

However, I think I’m on firm ground in saying that if we want to achieve some modicum of global equity by 2050 while giving ourselves a shot at keeping climate change under 2ÂșC by following the kind of ecomodernist ‘decoupling’ and ‘no grand sacrifice’ scenario presented by Marris then we’ll probably have to find at least another world’s worth of economic activity in the next thirty years, adding another $80 trillion at a minimum to the existing gross world product of $80 trillion, and we’ll have to do that while decreasing carbon dioxide emissions year on year from now on at a little more than the rate we’ve been increasing them ever since 1980.

In other words, Marris’s figures for relative decoupling between 1980 and 2002 don’t even begin to capture the magnitude of that task.

Now, I acknowledge that her article is primarily about sparing land for nature rather than climate change as such (though it’s doubtful how much ‘nature’ will survive a rapidly warming world). And, sure, we can project the emergence of trend-breaking new technologies (nuclear power being an ecomodernist favourite, of course).

But I’m not seeing evidence that takes these decoupling conjectures out of the realm of wishful thinking.

Frankly, it amazes me that someone can invoke data suggesting a modicum of relative decoupling as any kind of harbinger of an adequately reduced cumulative human footprint in a world of ‘no grand sacrifices’ without conceding any plausibility to bleaker visions. This is the phoniness of which I speak.

And there’s a lot of it about – philosopher Julian Baggini was at it only last week in this Guardian article.

So let me state as clearly as I can the implications of the story I see written in the margins of the ecomodernist decoupling tale: it will be impossible to avert dangerous global climate change unless the current association between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth is reversed immediately, an event whose likelihood is not suggested by any current evidence.

If the solution to global poverty is sought through economic growth in the absence of fast absolute decoupling, then emissions will greatly increase, hastening the onset of dangerous climate change and threatening any anti-poverty gains.

So it seems to me we face a situation in which both absolute greenhouse gas emissions and major global disparities in wealth need to be reduced rapidly, and the familiar tools for achieving this of technological innovation and economic growth simply aren’t up to the task.

In these circumstances, I think we need at the very least to start considering some radically different ways of being – including the possibility of people in the richer countries living and farming more like people in the poorer countries.

It’s no longer a question of trying “to squeeze more out of less” as Marris puts it – something that in any case we’ve signally failed to do (at best, we’ve squeezed even more out of more). I think it’s now a question of trying “to do different with different”.

In fact, ‘doing different with different’ should always be a question – the ecomodernist notion that capitalist modernity is some kind of summit of human achievement (Anthony Warner: “By pretty much any measure you can think of, the golden age is now”) is an ethnocentric fancy.

And this is the second reason why ecomodernism makes me angry – its complete ideological closure to doing different with different, which results from a crude and unexamined commitment to the ideology of the modern: for ‘progress’, against ‘romanticism’.

Frankly, it annoys me that people trying to articulate agrarian populist approaches to intractable problems of poverty and environmental degradation have to waste so much time engaged in rearguard defences around these points – “No, I don’t think that peasants are all happy in their simple poverty, that we should ‘go back’ to living a simple, preindustrial life” and so on and so on.

Worse, under the star of ecomodernism this debate quickly turns into an argument for biotechnology as intrinsically pro-poor – Bt cotton, glyphosate etc. as saviours of the poor.

There’s a whole other side to that argument, but it’s a place I’m reluctant to go for fear of contributing to the unedifying spectacle of rich westerners arguing with other rich westerners about which of them is the true champion of the poor. We need to get over ourselves here, and debate how to overcome the scourge of poverty with openness. Moral high country blocks the view.

The third reason for my anger is the David v Goliath nature of the battle. I don’t know anything about the funding of the ecomodernist firmament, but it’s a slick old business, with its thinktanks, TED talks, manifestos and briefings telling politicians, business leaders and the general public pretty much what they want to hear.

Contrast that with the mere handful of academics, grassroots groups and lone wolf bloggers like me putting the case for agrarian populism and it feels like a losing battle.

A couple of years ago my critique of the Ecomodernist Manifesto, got a modicum of wider notice and briefly drew me into a minor flurry of online debate, including a comment I left on Ben Heard’s website in response to his statement that the ecomodernists were open to challenging debate.

I linked to a couple of my articles in which that debate was joined – to which Heard responded “At a smidge under 5,000 and 5,500 words respectively, I fear you may be writing to yourself rather than an audience.

Looks like some interesting discussion therein and if you seriously expect people to read it please, re-cut them with a whole lot more discipline in the writing.”

I only discovered this comment recently. At one level, the hypocrisy of it kind of amused me – my critique was pretty much the same length as the Manifesto, which Mr Heard happily read.

Nobody is obliged to read anything, but I’m not sure you can conscionably call for a debate and then duck out of it by retrospectively imposing editorial conditions on your interlocutors.

But ultimately, yes, I guess I am pretty much writing to myself, and though I feel honoured to have acquired a small online readership, no doubt my loquaciousness and lack of editorial professionalism limits my reach.

Most of the time, that doesn’t bother me. I’ve long been fully resigned to the fact that my words and deeds count for nothing in the world (OK, I’m lying: let me say instead that I’ve recently become partially resigned to it…)

I now just want to do the best thinking and writing I can within the limits of my capacities and circumstances.

But then I get to thinking that ecomodernism is making the world just that little bit worse, making the solutions to its problems just that little bit more intractable, entrenching those habits of thought and deed which in the end will have to be disinterred and reconfigured that much more laboriously.

And that makes me think that I ought to sharpen up my act, follow Mr Heard’s advice and try to make myself as slick as an ecomodernist.

Perhaps I should form my own institute – the Breakdown Institute? Well, if anyone wants to give me a steer on this, I’m all ears.

And if nobody responds, then I’ll readily embrace the truth of Mr Heard’s words and follow my heart – which I think is to write as I please, for myself, for trying to understand the world as I see it, trying as best I can to be a scholar and not a phony, and (let me admonish myself) focusing on an effort to do good work for its own sake rather than wasting time practicing the arts of rhetorical war in the battle over ecomodernism…

…which is just as well, because next up is my ‘History of the world in ten and a half blog posts’ – an essay considerably longer than the ones that so exasperated the ever-so-busy Mr Heard. Well, I’m pretty sure that ecomodernism lacks persuasive answers to our problems, so I think I need to look elsewhere, at my own pace.

And the place to start looking is human history, in case it can turn up anything more promising. I’ll readily admit that past history is a poor guide to the future. Unfortunately it’s the only one we’ve got.

Marris argues that the good thing about her decoupling approach is that it doesn’t rely on “a sudden and unprecedented improvement in our moral character”.

An interesting point – did the proliferation of our contemporary environmental problems stem from a sudden and unprecedented degeneration in that character? I don’t think so.

So maybe that suggests we might be able to learn some useful things for the future by looking at the past – which is not, of course, a very ecomodernist sort of thing to say. It ought to be.


• Chris Smaje works a small mixed farm in Somerset and blogs at smallfarmfuture.org.uk. He’s written on environmental and agricultural issues for publications like The Land, Permaculture Magazine and in Dark Mountain: Issue 6, and also in academic journals (Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems; the Journal of Consumer Culture; the Journal for the Study of Religion,...


.

Object Permanence

SUBHEAD: I brush a lock of hair from my face and catch the scent of the garden still on my fingertips.

By Jaclyn Moyer on 1 April 2017 for Orion Magazine -
(https://orionmagazine.org/article/object-permanence/)


Image above: Artist Ian Strange deconstructs buildings damaged in 2011 earthquake in suburbs of Christ's Church, New Zealand. This piece is titled "untitled house 3".  From (https://www.designboom.com/art/ian-strange-deconstructs-homes-in-christchurch-for-final-act-01-24-2014/gallery/image/ian-strange-final-act-designboom-11/).

After four years of farming vegetables in the foothills of Northern California, my partner, our nine-month-old daughter, and I left our farm for a salaried job and a rented house in Austin, Texas.

My first morning in the city I surveyed our backyard—a garage-sized rectangle thick with chickweed, an unruly patch of cactus, three leafless trees—then headed to the store to stock our empty kitchen. In the produce section, I floundered in choice.

Accustomed to constructing meals with vegetables from our farm, I circled pyramids of tomatoes, stacks of cauliflower. I lifted a bundle of kale, but the leaves were floppy and yellowed. I reached instead for broccoli, the stalk a shade closer to white than green, the flowers dry.

At the checkout line stood a rack of seeds. I slipped two packets into my cart: Georgia Collards and Ruby Red Chard.

That night, I hardly slept. Though my daughter had slept fine at the farm, in Austin she woke every few hours. Night after night, in the dark that wasn’t dark at all but aglow with the light of street lamps, I rocked her, rubbed her back, murmured lullabies.

Separation anxiety, I read, often caused sleep trouble in babies my daughter’s age as they developed “object permanence”—the understanding that things continue to exist even when they can’t be observed.

When my daughter woke to find herself alone, the theory explained, she was less content to fall back asleep because she now understood that something was missing; something she loved existed out in the world but she couldn’t see it, couldn’t touch it.

A friend suggested I place a piece of my clothing in the crib. “Sometimes the mother’s scent can be enough comfort,” she said. I unwound a shawl from my neck and spread it across my daughter’s mattress.

Our rented house was nice in ways I wasn’t used to: it had good insulation, double-paned windows, a dishwasher. No rats hid in the walls, no hornets under the eaves. There was also no woodstove. Instead of building a fire each morning, I turned on the heater with my iPhone.

Without produce to harvest or eggs to collect, without kindling to cut or rows of lavender to prune, I began to feel like just a guest in this life, wandering the grounds of some hotel. I felt severed from the world, as though I were wilting—I felt like the store-bought-broccoli version of myself.

A month passed and my seedlings began to outgrow their pots. I set my daughter on a quilt in the backyard and started to dig, forming long mounded beds. I dug all afternoon, cultivating as much of the yard as I could, not sure what I’d do when there was no space left to dig.

That evening, a siren neared and I waited for the sound to wake my daughter. The ambulance came within a block, but she didn’t stir. I tiptoed to her crib, leaned in to feel her breath on my cheek, and suddenly I wished she’d cry.

Brake lights poured through the curtains, and in the murky light I realized my fear wasn’t that city life would continue to grate, to feel foreign. I wasn’t afraid that my family and I would never feel comfortable in Austin but that—soon enough—we would.

It’s been two months now and my daughter, at last, sleeps all night. I wonder if her separation anxiety is abating. Perhaps she’s learning how to be apart from the things she loves, how to trust in their return.

In our backyard, my seedlings grow. I spend an afternoon weeding, working my fingers through each row until the soil settles deep into the creases of my palms.

That night in bed, I brush a lock of hair from my face and catch the scent of the garden still on my fingertips: tang of grass, musk of loam. I cup my face in my palm, press my nose into the skin, and fall asleep.

• Jaclyn Moyer’s work has appeared in The Normal School, Salon, High Country News, and other journals. She lives in the foothills of Northern California with her partner and two-year-old daughter

.

The wisdom around us

SUBHEAD: Societies that were healthy, educated, happy that had little waste, government or need for energy.

By Brian Kaller on 27 July 2017 for Restoring Mayberry -
(http://restoringmayberry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-wisdom-around-us.html)


Image above: Retouched photo of the village of Glenoe in County Antrim, Ireland in the 19th century. From (http://www.newsletter.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/picture-special-nineteenth-century-ireland-has-been-revealed-in-a-series-of-photochrom-postcards-1-7914650).

If we want to learn from people in more traditional eras, we can do several things; we can read books and journals from that era, from before fossil fuels or electricity, before cars or internet, before everything became cheap and fast and thrown away.

Some books from that era remain widely read; Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder from the USA, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens from England, and I would encourage readers to can go back farther in history to medieval writers or Ancient Greeks and Romans.

We can also read historians who specialise in everyday life, or people today who still practice traditional crafts and write about it – I recommend John Seymour and Scott Savage, among others.

Many people today are forced by poverty to live simpler lives, as in the Third World, but their circumstances are often less healthy, literate or safe than those of 20th century Ireland.

We in the West have too few first-person narratives from people who grew up in such poverty, and their cultures, climates and languages often pose a barrier to understanding.

We can talk to people closer to home who grew up with very little – say, people who grew up in trailer parks or slums – but again, they experienced a different kind of poverty.

Most families I know in my native USA grew up with a lot of television, little freedom and the constant threat of violence; in many ways, they experienced the opposite of my Irish neighbours.

We can talk to people Western countries today who grew up living more simply than most Americans today – say, Amish, Mennonites or plain Quakers.

Such groups, however, typically withdrew from the world because they have a rigid and insular culture, making them reluctant to share with outsiders and making their habits less relatable.

I wasn’t just interested in sitting and watching television shows about people living simpler and more traditional lives; I wanted to learn how to do so myself.

We can talk to elderly Americans who remember the mid-20th century, and I have talked to quite a few over the years and learned a great deal. Their world, however, is not too unfamiliar; if you talk to a 70-year-old American, you are still talking to someone who grew up watching television and sitting in traffic.

That’s what makes my Irish neighbours so valuable; they are among the last Westerners on Earth, speaking English and now living in a familiar modern world -- to grow up in the pre-modern world, before electricity and modern media, before cars and modern devices.

As late as the 1960s in Ireland, by contrast, fewer than one per cent of Irish owned a car, relying instead on feet and horses. As late as the 1970s many areas lacked electricity, meaning not just electric lights but radio and television.

Their lack of modern influences kept the culture parochial and traditional even into modern times; birth control was legalised only in 1978, and divorce only in 1995.

My elderly neighbours grew up with different priorities from people today; they had skills, not career tracks, and lived not as individuals but as members of something greater.

Their homes were filled with family members who pitched in with the work of getting food and water and warmth, and the ones who worked outside the home brought in the little money they needed for a few luxuries.

At gatherings they sang songs and told stories that were hundreds of years old, passed down like prayers from father to son, mother to daughter. They grew up knowing the histories of their cousins and neighbours, who were often the same people.

When I ask them to remember a certain decade in their lives, they remember their childhood adventures and adult duties, the aging and passing of family, the passing down of traditions.

Of course, the Ireland my neighbours talk about has mostly disappeared, replaced by a modern country not very different from the USA or Britain; drive along the major roads near our house and you sit in traffic jams, pass billboards and fast-food stops, see advertisements for Hollywood blockbusters, and hear wacky morning-zoo DJs on the radio.

Cities are filled with young people constantly staring at little glowing rectangles, addicted to video-games or social media, increasingly dependent on touching a screen to get the basic needs of life.

Raising a teenager here means talking about “sexting,” drugs, date rapes – the same uncomfortable parent-child discussions as you need to have anywhere these days.

It’s difficult enough for older Americans who grew up with television and movies, albeit an older and gentler variety. Older Irish I talk to feel like they are living in a foreign country.

When I moved to rural Ireland 15 years ago, I admit, there was a lot to get used to. Ireland lies at the same latitude as southern Alaska, so the winter nights can be eighteen hours long, and the days quite dim.

During the summer we have the opposite problem, and I have to cover the windows with tinfoil to get any sleep. It rains one day out of three – that’s the price you pay for the lush countryside – and even in summer it never gets very warm.

Nonetheless, my family and I made a go of living here, building a house and garden and turning the land into a homestead.

We grew some of our own food, kept chickens and bees, and learned as we went. I’d always loved traditional crafts, so I learned whatever I could about skills being kept alive by a few devoted aficionados.

I tried my hand at blacksmithing, basketry, hedge-laying, natural building, bush-craft, leather-working, book-binding, brewing, pickling, cheese-making and wine-making, sometimes just dabbling, sometimes making it into a hobby.

I had to work in Dublin to pay the bills, which meant three hours a day on the bus and back each day. That meant devoting the few remaining waking hours each day to doing chores on the land, feeding possibly checking the bees, doing some traditional crafts, giving my daughter home-schooling lessons and having a writing career on the side.

Thankfully, I discovered that was much more feasible than you might imagine; a garden, animals and crafts can take up perhaps an hour or two a day, and you can learn a great deal while working around a regular life. It’s not being entirely self-sufficient or off the grid, in the manner of doomsday preppers or reality-television eccentrics, but I don’t need that kind of life, and you probably don’t either.

Many people I know just want to be more self-reliant, or have fun learning skills, or to pollute less, or spend less money, or work with the land instead of against it – all things that go along with the old-fashioned skills I was learning.

Most of all, I talked with elderly people, and realised what a different world they had grown up in, and what an underappreciated resource they were.

I struck up conversations with neighbours passing on the road, or having tea at their house, or sitting next to them on the long bus ride to Dublin, or visiting the local old folks’ home. Occasionally I asked them if I could sit down for formal interviews, and sat down with a camera and audio recorder.

I found that Irish radio had done occasional documentaries on traditional life, that school-children had collected the memories of their grandparents, that documentarians had filmed Irish villagers decades ago, and that historical societies and local experts had scrapbooks filled with the minutiae of day-to-day life.

I listened to hundreds of hours of recordings and read thousands of pages of transcripts, collecting the details of their everyday lives.

Again, I’m not trying to romanticise their difficult lives, or claim that they didn’t have their own problems, or that the world hasn’t improved in certain ways – of course it has. I’m not saying that we could or should do exactly what they did, or that all traditional societies were as beneficial as the examples I use.

Of course Ireland in the fifties was quite different from America in the 1950s, and from many other traditional times and places, and of course I’ll be cherry-picking good qualities from many times and places and ignoring the downsides of each era. There’s no perfect past that I’m demanding we emulate.

I am saying that certain peoples in history created societies that were healthy, educated, clean, happy – by their own testimony – and ran on little energy, generated little waste and needed little government. I want to look at how they did these things, and what we can learn from them.

.

Civil Beat views US military in Pacific

SUBHEAD: Will a military buildup in far-flung Pacific island territories destroy their unique environment?

By Juan Wilson on 20 August 2017 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/08/civil-beat-views-us-military-in-pacific.html)


Image above: Phboto of WWII military plane wreck on Pagan Island. the island is now to be used by American forces for target practice. (http://www.civilbeat.org/2016/12/can-these-islands-survive-americas-military-pivot-to-asia/).

Civil Beat is a Hawaiian news agency that has done an excellent job in investigating a wide range of interests throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It stands head and shoulders above the pathetic efforts of the Garden Island News (owned by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser which is owned by a Canadian corporation Black Press).

Civil Beat is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt news organization dedicated to cultivating an informed body of citizens, all striving to make Hawaii a better place. It uses local reporters and covers local, national and international issues. It is one of the few online news sites IslandBreath supports with donations.

Civil Beat has made an important contribution to a better understanding of American military domination in the Pacific. That imperial effort goes back to the Spanish American War and the takeover of Hawaii and continues to this day. 

Civil Beat has put together several articles in one place called Outpost Pacific (http://www.civilbeat.org/projects/pacific-outpost/) covering issues on the Mariana Islands with specific pieces on Pagan Island, Tinian Island, Guam and Farallon de Medinilla.

Already plans for  RIMPAC 2018 are racing ahead. Those are the Rim of the Pacific war games conducted by the US Navy every even numbered year in and around Hawaii that includes more than a dozen navies.

Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) and Makaha Ridge Tracking Facility play a large part in those war games and any real war in the Pacific. That makes Kauai, and those other strategic islands occupied by the US military ground zero for any major conflict involving China, North Korea or Russia.

See:
Civil Beat Chapter 1: Can These Islands Survive America’s Military Pivot To Asia?
Civil Beat Chapter 2: The Fight To Save Pagan Island From US Bombs
Civil Beat Chapter 3: Tinian - "We believed in America"
Civil Beat Chapter 4: Guam - Many In This Military Outpost Welcome More Troops
Civil Beat Chapter 5: Missing Data Plagues Military Training Plans In The Marianas

See also:

Ea O Ka Aina: South Korea's stubborn Peace Effort 8/4/17
Ea O Ka Aina: "No!" to America Militrarism in Hawaii 4/11/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Air Force plans to bomb whales 2/6/17
Ea O Ka Aina: MV-22 Osprey landing at Salt Pond 2/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai and Niihau endangered 9/24/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: DLNR responsibility on RIMPAC 7/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Oceans4Peace Pacific Pivot Panel 6/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean 4 Peace Events 6/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Prepare for RIMPAC 2016 War in Hawaii 5/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to "take" millions of mammals 5/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: US court RIMPAC Impact decision 4/3/15
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 Impact Postmortem 10/22/1
Ea O Ka Aina: Marines backing off 8/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Unproved Osprey on Kauai 8/21/12
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 in Full March 7/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: 21st Century Energy Wars 7/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War on the Ocean 7/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Voila - World War Three 7/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Pacific Pivot 6/28/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC IMPACT 6/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC Then and Now 5/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Asian Pivot - An ugly dance 12/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Help save Mariana Islands 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End RimPac destruction of Pacific 11/1/13 
Ea O Ka Aina: Moana Nui Confereence 11/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to conquer Marianas again  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Pagan Island beauty threatened 10/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy license to kill 10/27/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Sleepwalking through destruction 7/16/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Okinawa breathes easier 4/27/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy Next-War-Itis 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: America bullies Koreans 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Despoiling Jeju island coast begins 3/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Islanders protests Navy Base 2/29/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii - Start of American Empire 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12   
Ea O Ka Aina: Military schmoozes Guam & Hawaii 3/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: In Search of Real Security - One 8/31/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Peace for the Blue Continent 8/10/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Shift in Pacific Power Balance 8/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RimPac to expand activities 6/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War Games here in July 6/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific Resistance to U.S. Military 5/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: De-colonizing the Pacific 5/21/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC to Return in 2010 5/2/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Living at the Tip of the Spear 4/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Living at the Tip of the Spear 4/15/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam Land Grab 11/30/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam as a modern Bikini Atoll 12/25/09
Ea O Ka Aina: GUAM - Another Strategic Island 11/8/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Diego Garcia - Another stolen island 11/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: DARPA & Super-Cavitation on Kauai 3/24/09
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 - Navy fired up in Hawaii 7/2/08
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 uses destructive sonar 4/22/08
Island Breath: Navy Plans for the Pacific 9/3/07
Island Breath: Judge restricts sonar off California 08/07/07
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 sonar compromise 7/9/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 - Impact on Ocean 5/23/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2004 - Whale strandings on Kauai 9/2/04
Island Breath: PMRF Land Grab 3/15/04 



.

Electric cars don't reduce CO2

SUBHEAD: An inconvenient fact is they mostly use oil, gas and coal to get recharged and also have exotic batteries to be replaced.

By Tyler Durden on 18 August 2017 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-18/inconvenient-fact-morgan-stanley-says-electric-cars-create-more-co2-they-save)


Image above: A Tesla two-seat sports roadster is displayed while it charges at an auto show. From (http://unitedcarsnow.com/2017-tesla-roadster/2017-tesla-roadster-interior/).

For all the funds out there looking to fill their portfolio with "environmentally conscious" companies working diligently to avert an inevitable global warming catastrophe that will result in the extinction of the human race, we guess in lieu of their actual fiduciary duties to simply make money for their investors, Morgan Stanley has compiled a list of how you can get the most 'environmental healing' per dollar invested.

As MarketWatch points out, it's not terribly surprising that of the 39 publicly-traded stocks analyzed, the solar and wind generation companies landed at the very top of Morgan Stanley's environmentally friendly the list.

Morgan Stanley identified 39 stocks that generate at least half their revenue “from the provision of solutions to climate change,” something it said was a central component of investing to make a difference, as opposed to just a making a buck.

“In our view, impact investing needs to begin with companies whose products and services have a notable positive environmental or social impact,” wrote Jessica Alsford, an equity strategist at the investment bank.

Not surprisingly, alternative-energy companies ranked the highest in terms of their positive impact, and the “top five climate-change impact stocks” were all manufacturers of solar and wind energy: Canadian Solar, China High Speed Transmission, GCL-Poly, Daqo New Energy, and Jinko Solar.
What is surprising, however, is that publicly traded electric car manufacturers, darlings of the environmentally-conscious Left, were actually found to generate more CO2 than they save.

As a stark reminder to our left-leaning political elites who created these companies with massive taxpayer funded subsidies, Morgan Stanley points out that while Teslas don't burn gasoline they do have to be charged using electricity generated by coal and other fossil fuels.

This is where Tesla, along with China’s Guoxuan High-Tech fall short.

“Whilst the electric vehicles and lithium batteries manufactured by these two companies do indeed help to reduce direct CO2 emissions from vehicles, electricity is needed to power them,” Morgan Stanley wrote.
“And with their primary markets still largely weighted towards fossil-fuel power (72% in the U.S. and 75% in China) the CO2 emissions from this electricity generation are still material.”
In other words, “the carbon emissions generated by the electricity required for electric vehicles are greater than those saved by cutting out direct vehicle emissions.”

Morgan Stanley calculated that an investment of $1 million in Canadian Solar results in nearly 15,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide being saved every year. For Tesla, such an investment adds nearly one-third of a metric ton of CO2.

.

"Green" Houston isn't for everybody

SUBHEAD: The Texas capital plan for sustainability does not include some minority neighborhoods.

By Raj Mankad on 15 August 2017 for Grist -
(https://grist.org/article/the-newer-greener-houston-isnt-for-everybody/)


Image above: In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring fossil fuel industry. Photo by Paul Hester. From original article.

Juan Parras gives one hell of a tour of Houston’s east side. He’s charming and funny. Wearing a beret, he strikes an old-world look, like he might lead you to a cafe on a plaza. He doesn’t charge a fee for his services. After all, you’re on a “toxic tour,” and Parras is on a mission.

Parras grew up in 1950s West Texas. He remembers segregated schools, the restaurants that wouldn’t serve him, the unpaved roads, and the people who lived closest to the local refinery. Those experiences led him to a career as a social justice advocate.

The resident of Houston’s heavily industrial east side has worked in a city housing department, for a union, for a law clinic, and on a campaign that stopped a PVC factory from being built in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

For the last decade, he has served as executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (better known as t.e.j.a.s.). Part of his work is leading tours past the heaping piles of scrap metal along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou and by Cesar Chavez High School, which opened in 2000 within a quarter-mile of three large petrochemical plants.

Parras can go all day, up and down the Houston Ship Channel to Denver Harbor and neighborhoods like Galena Park, Baytown, and Pasadena. Surely you’ve read about the Keystone XL pipeline and other controversial proposed projects that would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries? Parras can show you where many of them would end.

The toxic tour sometimes concludes in the neighborhood of Manchester, a six-square-mile grid of streets where the petrochemical industry towers directly over small homes. Where, according to EPA databases, Valero Refining can produce up to 160,000 barrels a day of gasoline and other fuels.

 Where the Ship Channel Bridge, one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 610, carries tens of thousands of vehicles per day (along with their emissions) directly over homes. And where about 4,000 people live — more than 95 percent of whom are people of color, and 90 percent low income.

The cancer risk for residents of Manchester and the neighboring community of Harrisburg is 22 percent higher than for the overall Houston urban area, according to a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists and t.e.j.a.s. 

While the city works to overcome its image as a dirty oil town, these neighborhoods remain solidly dominated by the petrochemical industry. And despite the work of Parras and his team, the environmental and health issues that Manchester’s residents face are not gaining enough political traction to garner real change.

“Environmental justice issues become all too easy to grasp when you take people into neighborhoods,” Parras said when the Sierra Club awarded him its 2015 Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award. So Parras gives the toxic tour over and over again, hoping that, eventually, people will listen.

In 2016, Houston was lauded for its “green transformation.” The D.C.-based nonprofit Cultural Landscape Foundation brought visitors from around the country to study new investments in the city’s parks, as well as an 150-mile network of trails alongs its bayous.

Long the whipping boy of the urban-planning world, the fourth-largest U.S. city will soon have half a dozen signature parks designed by internationally known firms.

Yet Houston’s attempts to appear greener have thrown longstanding inequities into sharper contrast. Two-bedroom apartments in a downtown highrise overlooking Discovery Green park rent for more than $4,000. Seven miles east, chemical storage tanks dot the landscape around Hartman Park in Manchester, where nearly 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

Beyond financial disparities, the region’s signature industry inflicts a staggeringly disproportionate burden on east-side residents.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report, the airborne concentration of 1,3-butadiene, which causes cancer and a host of neurological issues, is more than 150 times greater in Manchester and Harrisburg than in West Oaks and Eldridge, relatively affluent neighborhoods on Houston’s west side.

Adrian Shelley, director of Texas’s outpost of the watchdog group Public Citizen, describes Manchester and the neighborhoods that abut it as sacrificial lambs, where the situation is “unjust, offensive, cruel, racist, ridiculous, tragic, and costing lives.”

Juan Flores has lived in Galena Park, right across Buffalo Bayou from Manchester, since the age of four. One of his earliest memories, as a kindergartner, was “seeing all this white stuff on the cars” and thinking it was snow — a rare occurrence in Houston. He played in it until his mom yelled out, “Hijo, no! We don’t know what it is!”

When he would play with friends over in Manchester, he remembers smells that “were so unbearable you had to go inside.”

“Most of the people who live in the area, like my dad, work in the industry,” Flores says. “We are aware of the dangers. We can smell the chemicals.”

He recalls “his first explosion,” which happened in the nearby Pasadena neighborhood in 1989, when Flores was in sixth grade. He remembers seeing “a big mushroom cloud.”

The so-called Phillips disaster — which was actually multiple explosions at the Houston Chemical Complex owned by the energy company Phillips 66 — broke the windows of his school. Twenty-three Phillips 66 employees were killed and 314 people were injured.

Flores was a member of the Galena Park city council from 2014 to 2016. He helped get an ordinance passed that limits the time trucks can idle on city streets, a substantial source of air pollution along the Ship Channel. The neighboring Jacinto City community adopted the policy, too.

According to Flores, truck drivers were at first upset with the new regulation. But he helped them understand the impact of running engines on the neighboring communities. “I told them, ‘Guys, it is your own kids,’” he says.

Local advocates say the only remedy for really helping the people trapped in Manchester and its toxic surrounding areas would involve a public buyout of their homes for the full cost of rebuilding their houses. (Market prices for Manchester-area homes are depressed by their hazardous neighbors). But even if residents were suddenly able to move to more pristine surroundings, Shelly says, doing so would disperse an entire community.


Image above: In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring fossil fuel industry. Photo by Paul Hester. From original article.

Meanwhile, it’s tough to argue that Houston — despite its new park-building boom — isn’t prioritizing industry over the health of its vulnerable communities.

In May, Houston agreed to sell Valero several Manchester streets near its refinery for $1.4 million. The energy company will expand its footprint, adding auxiliary buildings and more parking for the facility.

In recent years, according to Parras, Valero has bought out some residents in a piecemeal approach. (Valero did not respond to requests to comment for this story.)

But he still didn’t see the deal coming.
“I found out about the sale of the streets through the newspaper,” says Parras, who was taken aback after reading a Houston Chronicle article. “We are ignored.”

Policy that would help Houston control its pollution problem is tough to enact in a town dominated by the petrochemical industry. In 2005, a Chronicle investigation on industry-reported emissions spurred then-Houston Mayor Bill White to approach companies about voluntarily reducing air pollution — 1,3-butadiene, in particular.

In Manchester, Valero took the step of placing a sophisticated air monitor at its facility’s fenceline. Citywide, the impact of White’s entreaties on emissions appears to have been inconsequential, and the effort likely cost him in his subsequent campaign for governor.

City-led initiatives are consistently challenged in courts by the Business Coalition for Clean Air, an industry-lobbying group that represents ExxonMobil and others. Last year, it convinced the Texas Supreme Court to strike down Houston’s Clean Air Ordinance, which was adopted during White’s administration.

The court ruled that the city does not have authority to enforce clean air regulations. During the last legislative session and the current special session, state politicians have put forward a range of bills using that and other pro-industry precedents to undermine the city’s ability to police environmental issues.

Lawmakers have attacked tree-preservation ordinances, fracking bans, and policies to reduce single-use plastic bags.

A 2016 report by the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Texans for Public Justice found that the three state oil and gas regulators raised $11 million in recent years, 60 percent of which came from the industries they’re charged with monitoring.

A 2017 report by the Environmental Integrity Project found that Texas penalizes only 3 percent of the illegal pollution releases reported by companies.

“In a different political environment, self-reported violations or reports of air-emission events would result in fines of $25,000 per day,” Shelley says. “But it is not done, even though the authority is there under the law.”

T.e.j.a.s. argues that the state should require chemical facilities to use safer substances, update their technologies, continuously monitor and report emissions, and avoid the construction of new facilities near homes and schools.

But Bakeyah Nelson, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston, says that putting such changes into effect “is tied to civic engagement and voting.” A real shift will happen, she explains, only when “elected officials reflect what the population looks like and vote in a way that is consistent with what people want, which is protection from environmental toxins.”

Last year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a Mexican-American running on a platform that included environmental justice issues, challenged incumbent Gene Green, who has represented Texas’ 29th district, which includes Manchester, since 1993. Despite the district having a population that is 76 percent Hispanic origin, local and national Latino leaders backed Green, praising his consistent stand on immigration issues.

Green retained his seat with a message that voters were more concerned about the jobs that industry brings than curtailing its unchecked growth.

According to the Air Alliance’s Nelson, that economy-versus-environment framing is a false dichotomy. She says that greater regulation at a national level has coincided with continued economic growth and helped spur technological innovation.

Countering industry’s hold on the region would involve raising awareness among locals that they don’t have to choose between their health and their livelihoods, Nelson says. But the very fact that people choose to live in places like Manchester, which has been heavily industrialized since the 1970s, points to fundamental problems with access to safe, healthy, affordable housing, she adds.

“People need living wages so they don’t have to purchase homes that put their health at risk,” Nelson explains. “It is about environmental, health, and economic justice. All of those things are tied together.”

In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring industry.
 Paul Hester Houston-based and other Texas nonprofits — like Air Alliance Houston and Environment Texas — have recently banded together to try to bring the air quality around so-called fenceline communities (meaning they border the fences surrounding industrial facilities) into the public consciousness.

“Through storytelling and good science, we are informing people that we need better air for a healthier and prosperous Houston,” says Matthew Tresaugue, who manages the newly formed Houston Air Quality Media Initiative.

The strategy includes amplifying the voices of residents, like Bianca Ibarra, a recent graduate of Galena Park High School, whose video PSA won a competition held by the media initiative and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The collaborative effort is funded by the Houston Endowment, a charitable organization that gives out $80 million in grants yearly to local nonprofits. (Though the Endowment has fewer direct ties to oil and gas wealth than other local foundations, it’s previous president, Larry Faulkner, sat on the board of ExxonMobil while at the organization.)

Tresaugue stresses the need to move people to take action and put pressure on policymakers by connecting people in areas far from the Ship Channel to the challenges faced by residents of communities like Manchester, Harrisburg, Galena Park, Baytown, and Pasadena.



Image above: Photo of Juan Parras who has led Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services for the past decade. From original article.

That’s something Juan Parras has been doing for years now. And while the new initiative gets its feet under it, he’ll continue his tours, giving them to anyone from students to fellow activists to public officials. That way, people can see and smell and reckon with what Manchester’s residents live with every day.

“This is considered the capital of the industry for gas and oil,” Parras says. “We learn that on a daily basis.”

.

Family life without fossil fuels

SUBHEAD: A visit to the Possibility Alliance reminded me life can be slow and satisfying.

By Peter Kalmus on 7 August 2017 for Yes Magazine -
(http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/family-life-without-fossil-fuels-slow-and-satisfying-20170807/)


Image above: Porch with swing seat and bike at Possibility Alliance homestead. From original article.

I stepped off the train in the farm town of La Plata, Missouri, with my 9-year-old son, Zane. Thomas was waiting to meet us with two well-maintained bikes, one with a trailer for our backpacks, the other with a long wooden seat for passengers, to make the 6-mile trip to the Possibility Alliance.

The PA is a 110-acre homestead run by Ethan and Sarah Hughes, who have two young daughters. Their reliance on fossil fuels is limited to trains for long-distance trips, municipal water, and a telephone landline.

They purchase bike parts, bulk grains, and tin roofing, as needed—but that’s about it. 

No electricity, no gas, no cars, no planes.

With the imminent release of my book on how life using radically less fossil fuel turns out to be more satisfying, I’d been curious to visit the PA both to glean technical knowledge and—more importantly—to see whether their experience of increased joy and satisfaction matched my own.

While my stay was brief, it felt full in terms of the ingenuity, beauty, and love I experienced. The sun set as we biked from the train. A bit later, the land lit up with fireflies. With only candles to light the darkness, the stars and the quiet took center stage.

The next morning at dawn, I walked through the lush greens of gardens, orchards, pastures, and forests, then joined Ethan and other members of the community for an hour of meditation.

In addition to the Hughes family, the PA is home to two permanent members, Dan and Margaret, as well as two long-term visitors, Thomas and Maggie. Thousands of other visitors have come and gone over the years.

A few have settled on adjacent homesteads, while others left to start far-flung urban permaculture centers. All are contributing to a more beautiful and just world, as they feel uniquely called to do.

Ethan and Sarah have given away tens of thousands of trees and plants over the years—they are still in awe of nature’s abundance, the way life regenerates and propagates through time, a key difference between a tractor and a draft-horse—but perhaps more significantly, they’ve seeded the world with the people they’ve taught and inspired.

Thomas cooked all meals over ultra-efficient wood-fired rocket stoves in an outdoor kitchen, starting with multigrain porridge and autumn olive jam. (Autumn olives are considered invasive, but they do make great jam.)

Breakfast is a time for community members to check in with each other; this was especially important on the day of my visit, with a dozen visitors due for a weeklong class on post-fossil-fuel living.

Ethan shared his disappointment that after a long remission, symptoms of the Lyme disease he’d contracted 15 years earlier seemed to have returned. I was touched by this glimpse of his vulnerability, the intimacy with and reliance on the community he’d helped build.

After breakfast, Zane and I milked the PA’s four goats and helped in the garden. Dan hitched the two horses to a sledge and pulled a large log to the woodlot near the kitchen, which one new visitor and I cut with a two-person saw.

Not only was the work great exercise, it was meditative and conducive to conversation. I then split the pieces with a maul, a thoroughly enjoyable task. The fossil-fueled wood-splitter might be among the worst inventions ever created.

After a sumptuous lunch of vegetable and goat-milk soup, cornbread, and a salad of wild arugula and purslane, Ethan gave a tour that emphasized the deeply interrelated topics of natural building and gift economy.

The PA is living proof that both work, and together are indeed more satisfying than modern industry and consumerism.

After a dip in the pond and a light supper of leftover soup, Thomas, Zane, and I bicycled back to the train station. The freight trains thundering past every few minutes as we waited for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief seemed somehow just a bit larger, louder, less necessary than the day before.

The PA is a success, yet Ethan and Sarah are in the process of moving toward something new.

When they acquired the land in 2007, it had met 18 of their 20 criteria for a teaching homestead. The two unmet criteria, however, represent deep personal needs: for Ethan, to live near the ocean; and for Sarah, artistic expression through classical singing.

As these needs have called more insistently over the years, these pioneers of sustainability are discovering at a personal level what they’ve long taught others: sustainability begins by listening to the heart—“zone zero” in the language of permaculture.

They’re now searching for a community ripe for their vision of transition—someplace near the ocean and with a decent choir.

My visit with the Hugheses affirmed what I know about sustainable living. They reminded me also that the one constant of life is change. The Hugheses are restless in exploration of the good life: bold authors of the new story we desperately need. With gratitude, I wish them well.



.

Warren on the Warpath

SUBHEAD: Centrist Democrats riled as Warren says days of 'Lukewarm' policies are over.

By Jake Johnson on 18 August 2017 for Common Dreams -
(https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/08/18/centrist-democrats-riled-warren-says-days-lukewarm-policies-are-over#)


Image above: From ().

She says;  "The Democratic Party isn't going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill."

In a wide-ranging and fiery keynote speech last weekend at the 12th annual Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) relentlessly derided moderate Democratic pundits calling for the party to move "back to the center" and declared that Democrats must unequivocally "fight for progressive solutions to our nation's challenges."

As The Hill's Amie Parnes reported on Friday, Warren's assertion during the weekend gathering that progressives are "the heart and soul of today's Democratic Party"—and not merely a "wing"—raised the ire of so-called "moderate" Democrats, who have insisted that progressive policies won't sell in swing states.

But recent survey results have consistently shown that policies like single-payer healthcare, progressive taxation, a higher minimum wage, and tuition-free public college are extremely popular among the broader electorate. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—the most prominent advocate of an ambitious, far-reaching progressive agenda—has consistently polled as the most popular politician in the country.

For Warren, these are all indicators that those pining for a rightward shift "back to the center" are deeply mistaken.

Specifically, Warren took aim at a recent New York Times op-ed by Democratic commentators Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, who argued that Democrats must moderate their positions in order to take back Congress and, ultimately, the presidency.

Warren ridiculed this argument as a call for a return to Bill Clinton-era policies that "lock[ed] up non-violent drug offenders and ripp[ed] more holes in our economic safety net."

"The Democratic Party isn't going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill," Warren said. "We're not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice.

We're not going back to the days when universal healthcare was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected."

"And," Warren concluded, "we're not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street."

For months media outlets have speculated that Warren is gearing up for a 2020 presidential run, but she has denied the rumors.

Warren's remarks came as a large coalition of progressive groups is mobilizing during the congressional recess to pressure Democrats to formally endorse the "People's Platform," a slate of ambitious legislation that includes Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) Medicare for All bill.


Video above: Watch Warren's full speech at Netroots Nation. From (https://youtu.be/Rc2D9pn8mjc).

.