Ms. Ann Thrope Avers


There is a website for an organization that describes itself as follows:

Founded in May, 2008, The American Energy Alliance (“AEA”) is a not-for-profit organization that engages in grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and environmental policies.

AEA believes that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society. AEA believes that government policies should be predictable, simple and technology neutral.

That can be paraphrased as, “The status quo works for us. Is there a problem?”

They posted Bill McKibben’s recent letter to members of 350.org, an environmental group devoted to preventing climate change, under the heading

350.org Declares War on Energy and Prosperity

They seem to find McKibben’s letter ludicrous, as it’s the first post on that blog in nearly two years under the heading Can’t Make This Up. I responded as follows (under my pseudonym, Ms. Ann Thrope):

McKibben is absolutely correct, as every scientist involved with climatology well knows. As every farmer knows, or is quickly learning. As everyone with children knows, whether they have the courage to admit it or not.

I never guessed, as I was coming of age in the 60′s and 70′s, that my generation of Americans would be so profoundly averse to change, or be so selfish as to be willing to sacrifice our own children’s future, not to mention the beautiful planet we enjoyed in our childhood, on the altar of convenience and quarterly reports.

We are craven, when we have an opportunity to be epochal heroes.

 

#RioFail: Report From the Latest Travesty of an Environmental Summit


News: The Summit at Rio has apparently already failed. Bill McKibben and 350.org are walking out – or sitting in. Hard to say from Twitter.

According to McKibben on Twitter, “@billmckibben Rio draft agreement contains the word “encourage” 50 times, the word “support” 99 times – but “we will” just 5 times. #riofail”

A young woman named Hanna Thomas tweeted, “We have #occupied #Rioplus20! Yay! Got a fistbump from Bill McKibben for my mic check.” This was apparently a Canadian youth Occupy action. Go Canucks!

The question before us is, without leadership, what must we the people do?

PNM Is (Not the Only Utility) On the Wrong Track


Do you know about the San Juan Generating Station, owned (in part) and operated by PNM? Or the Four Corners plant on Navajo land nearby, owned mostly by Arizona and Southern California utilities? These plants are each almost 40 years old, and are requiring hundreds of millions of dollars of upkeep because it’s older, therefore dirtier, technology.  Rather than retire these plants, and transitioning to wind, solar, and geothermal – energy sources that don’t generally cause asthma in children, for example – the owner utilities prefer to keep these behemoths limping along.

Bad business loves company, and we are not alone. Apparently much the same problem is occurring in Canada, where protesters, including one Nobel Prize laureate, blocked the train tracks taking coal to the offending plant.

Of course, somehow, the police in Canada have also come to believe that their responsibility is to protect smoke stacks that kill people and damage the environment, rather than helping the people to shut down the plant.

RCMP Police Chief Roseberry, also on the scene in White Rock, stated that her concern was for public safety, and preventing human injury as a result of protesters on the train tracks.

Which must be why she arrested protesters. It’s a crazy world.

“Coal is a likely target for climate stability advocates because it has the highest greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy of all fossil fuels and because there is enough economically available coal to trigger run away climate change.”

“Nobel Prize Laureate and SFU professor Dr. Mark Jaccard was among those arrested. “I’m a naïve product of working class Burnaby,” he said. “I’ve never broken a law in my life. I’m very uncomfortable taking this position. If governments were acting to reduce GHG emissions, or slow the rate of increase, I wouldn’t be here today,” he continued. “I’d be helping those governments to do that. But in the last few years, especially in Canada under Harper, the emphasis has been on accelerating the rate at which we are destroying the planet. So I have to ask myself and I have to ask everyone else, ethically, what is the right thing to do? It’s made me read more about civil disobedience, people like Mahandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau.””

PNM is holding their shareholders meeting at their offices at 4th and Silver in Albuquerque on May 15, a week from tomorrow. There will be a protest there that morning.

Inform yourselves. Here is PNM’s info on San Juan. And here is a statement from a New Mexico environmental group that gives an overview of the battle to close down dirty coal.

Let the 99% Spring Bloom



Thought I would let you know, if you didn’t already, and ask you to spread the word, that there are trainings in nonviolent direct action all across America from today through Saturday. See the link below for times and places. There will be a number of actions taking place here in Santa Fe, around New Mexico and across the country shortly thereafter. For example,

April 22 is Earth Day. I haven’t heard of specific actions, but they may already be being planned.
April 28 is the March Against the War on Women, in every state capitol
May 1 is the Nationwide General Strike
May 5 is the 350.org action, Connecting the Dots

I have heard of plans to protest the media and corporations later on. We’re getting the ball rolling

The full training lasts 7 hours. (MoveOn is providing a 3 hour version in some places.) I took it a couple of weeks back, when being trained ro train others. It is informative and revelatory, especially for the historically well-behaved, like me. Participants will learn some of the history and effectiveness of nonviolent action, a bit about how our economy got into its current shape, and have opportunities to share and hear the stories of others who are adversely affected by the way things are.

One of the things I like about it is that it builds capacity in people without being prescriptive. There are 60 organizations involved, each with different, albeit overlapping, priorities. This is a truly collaborative effort, and each locale has the freedom and responsibility to use what they learn as they see fit. It is also designed to highlight the resources of those with a history of experience in direct action: there is no assumption that 99 Spring knows best, or that everyone is a beginner. They know that there are community resources ready to lead and educate; 99 Spring provides a context for that to begin.

Our situation is dire, as everyone knows, economically, socially, and environmentally. Let’s get this party started, shall we?


Info on 99% Spring: www.the99Spring.com
Training in Santa Fe: http://moveon.org/event/events/event.html?event_id=128899&id=

Thanks, neighbors. Remember: “People should not fear their governments; governments should fear their people.”

What To Do About the High Price of Gas


In a word: nothing. There is not a thing you can do about the high price of gas. Nope. Carbon companies are in business to maximize their price, margins and profits. If they don’t, their stockholders can sue them. They are not, after all, B Corps.

And please: if you see something like the following

Think about this for one minute

ignore it. It’s delusional, and Snopes debunked it years ago. Saying that we shouldn’t buy gas on this day matters to carbon companies as much as if you said we shouldn’t buy gas between the hours of 3 and 4 PM. They don’t notice, and wouldn’t care if they did. What you don’t buy between 3 and 4 you will buy before then or after then.

There are three problems with this suggestion, the least of which is that it won’t work.  The second problem is that it ignores the waste and pollution occasioned by cheap fuel. The third, and most important, problem is that, as activism goes, it is passive, not active. It makes us dependent on carbon companies to operate against their interests.

Let’s start with the good news: this protest won’t work. Not all misguided efforts benefit from being utterly ineffectual. If all we are doing is buying the same amount of gas a day earlier or later, it won’t raise a blip on the carbon companies’ weekly, much less annual, reports. Oil is becoming scarce. We learn in Econ 101 that as a commodity becomes scarce, it becomes more expensive. The most this protest will do is inconvenience protesters.

A friend in the auto industry declared that oil companies have no moral obligation to keep prices low, and he’s right. If anything, he said, their obligation to the environment would lead them to keep prices high, because high prices reduce demand and discourage waste.

Which suggests the next question and its answer: why would we want this protest to work anyway? We’ve had among the lowest gas prices in the industrialized world for the better part of a generation, and we have the lowest fuel economy of any auto-making country. The desire for lower gas prices is incompatible with environmental concerns. The only reason to want lower gas prices is that it costs us too much. That issue looms so large for some people that they can’t think clearly.

It’s like reading about the collapse of bee colonies around the world and worrying about whether the price of honey will rise.  We may understand some of the implications, but we’re missing the main point, which is close by.

Lowering the price of gas is not the only way to lower its cost to us. We are not so dependent and helpless as we think.

Whether we write letters, wave placards, sign online petitions, or send checks, we are sending one consistent message: we are unable to do anything about this ourselves, so we are asking the people in charge to help. But what if that’s not true, and not just about the price and cost of gas, but about other things as well?

Small changes can cause big change. If we stop focusing on price, and start focusing on cost, everything tilts. Suddenly we are in the position of taking action instead of asking for help with something we can do ourselves. We can begin to address environmental and other issues that we may be surprised to find are connected to the way we deal with our gas problem.

Here’s how to lower your costs. And I promise you – I guarantee you – that, unlike the April 15th placebo, this will work. It will be like magic: you will be able to lower your cost without the price of gas going down a penny. You can wait for someone else to lower the price for you, but they won’t do it. They don’t care. It’s not their job, anyway. It’s up to you, and it’s something you can do without asking permission.

Here are some alternative ways to spend April 15th. Go online to cars.com. Click “Research Cars”. Find a used car that gets at least 20% better gas mileage than your current car. You want it to be significantly better to make it worth your trouble. Do this for each and every car you own. It may take you an hour, but probably not. If you have a car that gets 22 MPG, combining your usual city/highway usage, and you replace it with a car that gets 20% better mileage (26.5 MPG, roughly) you will, in effect, lower your cost of gas from $3.75/gallon to $3.00/gallon. You don’t have to wait for some overpaid CEO in Gucci loafers (does Gucci still make loafers?) and a Rolex watch to give a damn.

Want to do more? If your used car has a lower insurance rate attached to it, you’re saving money on insurance. If you send e-mails to co-workers or friends and begin planning to carpool one or more days per week – and maybe have breakfast that day before work, or play pool and have a beer after work – then you have kept still MORE money out of the pockets of Big Carbon and Big Insurance and in your own, and you’ve had a chance to network or visit with friends. Without having to ask permission. It gets better.

Are you paying to go to a gym and ride a stationary bike? You know where I’m going with this. Get a real bike and ride it to work. Spend less on gas, insurance, and that gym membership. Also, save visits to the doctor about your cholesterol, your high blood pressure . . . That’s not all.

By doing it yourself, all manner of things begin to fall into place. Opportunities arise to spend more time with friends and co-workers, to get into shape, to make the difference you told yourself you wanted to make after New Year’s or during Lent or after your last doctor’s visit.

Doesn’t it make you wonder why we’ve allowed ourselves to become dependent on others to do what we can do, especially when they are unlikely to do it?

If we can, single-handedly, lower the cost of gas, the cost of owning a car, and diminish our impact on the environment, all without asking permission, without waiting for a response, without the price going down a penny, what else can we do?

Don’t like the commercialism of Christmas?

Don’t like stores selling you food sprayed with poison and dripping with trans fat?

Don’t like what the US government is doing with your taxes?

Worried about the mass extinction that is already under way?

Don’t like how banks can play fast and loose with the rules (which they have written, remember), and yet get bailed out?

Using the model above, we can do something significant about every one of those things, without waiting for someone else to fix it. If we just can’t abide that these problems persist, we can enlist friends and family members to join us in getting it done ourselves.

We must begin with the realization that being concerned or angry is not enough. Asking corporations and government to fix it has not, and will not, work. Have you noticed them do anything to turn back climate change? Even the ones who squeal about debt have had no trouble borrowing and deferring payment when their party has been in office. Hell, who knew you could buy a war – or two – on credit?

Action is no longer just one option. It has become an urgent necessity.

We need to begin by doing, rather than by asking someone else to do what is against their interest – a futile request if ever there was one. Once we’ve begun, we find that we can affect more than we thought possible on our own. But what do we do when our government suspends habeas corpus? Or when a corporation, in a Mordor-like frenzy for short-term profits, fouls the food, air and water needed to sustain life itself?

We don’t ask them to stop. We tell them they must stop. If they have bought politicians who have allowed them to write laws to say that they can do what they want, putting profits before people, as they are used to doing, we either run for office (people do, you know), or we come to understand that these are, truly, matters of life and death for us and our children. And then we do whatever is necessary.

We made dozens of advertisers flee Rush Limbaugh’s show.

We made the Komen Foundation reverse their decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

We made the US Justice Department and a grand jury investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Spring has just begun. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Timequake, “We have been sick for a long time, but we are better now, and there is work to do.”

This is a Do-It-Yourself Revolution. Outsourcing is so 20th century.

Making the Old Ways Obsolete

The Fire This Time


If Only They Had Prayed Harder . . .

Governor Perry, you may want to re-think slashing the funding of your volunteer firefighters and Forest Service in Texas. Perry cut funding support for volunteer firefighters by 74%, and the Texas Forest Service budget by 34% this year, before requesting federal help with the worst fire season in Texas history. These firefighters are not getting paid in the first place – and he wants them to provide their own equipment, maintenance, and supplies?

As if the 2011 fire season – with over 21,000 fires in Texas alone – was not enough…

Is it warm in here, or is Texas burning again?

If this prediction of soil moisture “anomalies” is right, Texas – and most of the American Southwest, and all of Mexico – will be either a desert or engulfed in flames by the end of this century. (If the chart is wrong, it will probably be because it happens earlier.) You can find the entire IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report here. But, as Joe Romm says on ThinkProgress.org, its main failing is that it inserts uncertainty where there is none. And as Bill DeBuys, author of A Great Aridness, said recently in Albuquerque, what the Southwest and Mexico are about to endure is not a drought.

Because you don’t say the Mojave is experiencing a prolonged drought. You say that the Mojave is a desert.

And where will 100 million Mexican refugees go?

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