U338: Uppity Women Unite!

We are at ease at the back end of the alphabet. Uteruses and vaginas are our cachet. Violence against us has also made a cleft in the letter stream. Witches are the double cut – in the W form. I want to present a large portion of the paper, Control of Uppity Women Behind Witchcraft Accusations? In this work Deborah M. DeCloedt Pinçon presents a literature search that investigates the relationship between a woman's communicative behaviors and the likelihood of her being accused as a witch in various regions of Europe from 1350 to 1650 a.d.

This is not my work, my writing, but I think it is a valuable chunk of research to document and keep at my fingertips. As Virginia Woolf said,
Inevitably we look upon society, so kind to you, so harsh to us, as an ill-fitting form that distorts the truth; deforms the mind; fetters the will.

This history is very rarely discussed or given the attention it should have. Since this blog post is not an academic paper, I have left out the citations to give the information better flow. Please look at the source article for these citations and the extensive bibliography.
This literature review investigates the relationship between a woman's communicative behaviors and the likelihood of her being accused as a witch in various regions of Europe from 1350 to 1650 a.d. This paper uncovers how women were expected to communicate during this period and what sort of deviation from this normative communicative behavior was present in those ultimately accused of witchcraft. The environmental and socioeconomic changes in Europe, as well as religious factors and the history of witchcraft that influenced the communicative behaviors of women in this period are reviewed.

Throughout Europe, between 1350 and 1650 a.d., as many as 500,000 people, primarily women, were executed as witches as part of the inquisitional process, and many more were accused of witchcraft and tortured to elicit confessions (Ben-Yehuda, 1980). Undoubtedly there were reasons why women in general and specific women in particular, were more readily accused of being witches during this period in Western history. While it is certain there were multiple factors involved, this paper will investigate the relationship between communicative behaviors and the likelihood of being accused as a witch in the European witch hunts.

[. . . ] Environmental Weather Changes
The importance of weather may be easy to overlook, but climate change has played a critical role in our history. It is speculated that a sharp drop in temperatures, referred to as the "little ice age" in Europe, contributed to the record number of deaths during the plague because people's immune systems were compromised by lack of nutrition . The temperatures in Europe varied significantly between 1520 and 1770 a.d., and particularly cold periods led to serious and widespread crop failure. Using empirical data to support a correlation between extreme cold and the number and frequency of witchcraft trials between 1520 and 1770 a.d., Oster explains that witches were blamed for magically controlling the weather. She suggests that a particularly cold period in 1560 a.d. coincided with increased numbers of trials after nearly 70 years of relative inactivity. Oster's view of the witch as scapegoat remains a recurring theme throughout this literature review.
Socioeconomic Factors

Weather was more intrinsically tied to agriculture and the economic system in this pre-industrial era, where crops were the primary means of economic exchange . Empirical evidence supports the positive correlation between temperatures and economic growth, where economic growth was negative when temperatures were colder than normal and crops failed . A new urbanization and reduction in rural population, due in part to the plague, likely contributed to the reduction of crop production in this period of great change.

In the 1500’s 40-60% of women between 15-44 were unmarried. The trend was also to marry later. In part this was due to post-plague need for workers.

These demographics contributed significantly to why those accused of witchcraft were often widows, spinsters, and midwives, as their lifestyles and practices represented a direct threat to the Church, traditional family structure, and the patriarchal status quo. Patriarchy was solidified or reinforced with the development of complex economies because they impacted women and men differently. [. . . ]

Female spirituality
During this period, men didn't want women to read scripture because women were meant to be perpetually subordinate to their husband. According to Haliczer, a home was a woman's prison, and interestingly, religion itself became a means of freedom for women in Spain. Women were able to express their spirituality through piousness, which not only got them out of the home, but evolved into a strong ascetic movement where women were called on by royalty to act as advisors or intercessors. Ana de Jesus was considered to be prophetic, and became an advisor to archdukes on matters of state under the Hapsburg dynasty.

This passage made me think of our contemporary haters like Phyllis Schlafly. Being a rabid anti-feminist and anti-abortion spokesperson or activist might be the only acceptable female voice in an authoritarian, fundamentalist movement. Just ask yourself, in a patriarchal household with a punishing view of religion, what chance does an articulate woman have of expressing herself? First and foremost, pity the captive children of a woman who needs (but isn’t allowed) interactions with adults.

In Spain, women were judged pious if they engaged often in prayer, were abstinent, austere, and if they practiced physical penance and even scourging and fasting. Gossip was ubiquitous in the early modern world. Gossip was viewed as feminine (although it was performed equally by men as well), and was viewed as a mechanism for female solidarity, and as something to be silenced. Legal writers in Venice claimed testimony from two women was equal to testimony from one man, since women's voices were unreliable. [. . . ]

Means of acculturation
The witchcraft trials may have been part of a campaign to Christianize the populace and expand the church's authority along with propping up patriarchy in general. Bever views witchcraft trials as a method of acculturation, where over generations repression reshapes society. Women were very aggressive at the outset of these witchcraft trials, but generations of persecution served to diminish woman's power and strengthen men's. Women learned to be ashamed of their sexuality and to avoid interpersonal conflict. Some scholars propose that the medical profession used these trials to marginalize or gradually eliminate the practice of herbology and midwifery, but Bever is not convinced of this argument.

Power over women
Whitney attributes the witch hunts to a greater emergence of the modern state and individualism, with conflict between male dominated "official" and female "domestic" spheres being played out with the witchcraft trials. She suggests the catalyst may have been economic change, and focuses on how it was mainly women that accused other women of witchcraft, which merely reinforced patriarchal norms of femininity. She reminds us that patriarchy intentionally divides women by rewarding those who maintain the status quo with more power, as they systematically disenfranchise other women by enforcing patriarchal norms. In New England witch trials, women charged of witchcraft were described as malcontents who refused to accept their place in the social hierarchy, and were guilty of anger, envy, pride, maliciousness, lying and seductiveness"

Violence against women
Whitney sees witchcraft trials as a form of violence against women because of the ways in which torture was used to elicit confessions. She thinks being female was a marker for deviance, and that with the reformation came an intensified need to control nature [nature being traditionally identified with the female]. [. . .]
Barstow is the first scholar to point out the regular practice of sending the executed witch's assets to the Bishop's treasury, implicating a more mercenary cause for accusing women who had no male relative to inherit her estate.

Some conclusions
Women who express "excessive" assertiveness, sexuality, aggressiveness, or autonomy, through verbal and nonverbal communicative behaviors, would be more likely to be accused of witchcraft than those who abide by their society's prescriptive norms for female behavior.

If these specific sorts of communicative behaviors are in fact more likely to result in a witchcraft accusation in these cultures today, this cross-cultural comparison would support the idea that patriarchy and control of women's autonomy and/or sexuality, was behind the witchcraft accusations in Europe.
A proud reclaiming of the label witch was a leading voice in the pagan movement, Starhawk. When she was asked in an interview if she regretted using the word witch she responded,
I think it's important that we use it and I still do. Whenever people take a word [like "Witch"] and use it to say "here are these areas that you are not allowed to think about and not allowed to identify with," then, to me, that says [that] it's important to USE that word, because if you use that word, you take away their power to control you with it. With the word "Witch" what they are saying is "don't identify with this whole constellation: everything from magic and the power of the mind and the power of intention, to the whole idea of women being strong and being empowered in our own right." They are saying, "stay in your place, don't be uppity!" By using the word "Witch" for the last twenty or thirty years, we have helped to take away some of its power to control us."

I believe that a woman blogging, a woman in politics, a woman asserting is herself just as frightening to the status quo as the women who were labeled witches in the middle ages and ever since. She who challenges place is uppity. Hilary Clinton knows this all too well.

U337: Utility Planners, Pay Attention

In a transformative post (for me personally) titled, The Power of Limits, Greenpa writes:
The problem we must tackle: All our supply systems are designed to work "on demand". Turn it on- the whole world supply of electricity/water/gas/waste handling/whatever is plugged in and at your command, your majesty.

It's a design guaranteed to CAUSE waste. It cannot fail.

We need to fix this in our own homes, first of all. I've found ways- mostly by just being unplugged from the big delivery systems. There have to be more ways- easier to put in place, more adaptable to cities- etc. We- you and I- need to find them.

But, what about the big delivery system? I am used to making the choice of turning things off and unplugging, but the utility system itself is an area I no very little about on my own. I often seek another source, earthfamilyalfpha, to hear from an engineer the things I don’t understand. One year ago I read this description of the utility delivery system and I want to share it with everyone I know, with everyone I possibly can.

Lexicon Electric
Thursday, November 29, 2007

This post is about a subject that many of you don't even know exist. It's about words, electric utility words. It's about how these words take on meaning and that meaning morphs into an understanding of system behavior. And it becomes a frame. That frame becomes both a tool and ultimately a prison.

In order to move from the present carbon based system that is presently running our energy needs, we will need to revise the lexicon of energy, and thus revise the way we model it in our minds and ultimately in reality.

If you were to go listen to an electric utility guy give a presentation, say at the Public Utility Commission, you would hear words such as base load, intermediate generation, and peaking generation. Base load plants are big plants that basically are on or off. They include most coal and nuclear plants and some combined cycle gas plants. Intermediate plants are mostly combined cycle gas plants, while peaking plants are often combustion turbine gas plants.

(from other article Thursday, May 11, 2006, The Solid State Utility – phrased like this: Most electrical utilities deploy a portfolio of resources to respond to the varying loads that it must serve. Generally this means a mix of base load, intermediate generators, and peak generators.)

This lexicon was not pulled out of thin air, it is based on the reality of our diurnal electrical loads. On average, we use half as much power at night which grows during the day, and then peaks (in summer) in the latter part of the day. The utility runs its base load plants at night, and then adds or ramps up its intermediate plants in the morning, finally adding the peaking plants during the peak demand, which may only last a few hours. On top of this, to add stability to the system, regulators and dispatchers want to see some "ready to go energy" which is called spinning reserve.

From this framework comes the word "dispatchable". It means that the plant's generation can be turned up or down depending on the load.

When utility planners talk about wind and solar, they often characterize them as non- dispatchable resources. The next statement that generally follows is "and we all know that the wind doesn't blow and that the sun doesn't shine all the time". (I wasn't aware of this.)

If you follow this frame, and walk down the mindform plank it supports, you are on the edge of descending into the dark waters of nuclear power and nonexistent clean coal generation.

"We must have base load plants, and solar and wind can't do that, let's be realistic" you will hear from those who reside in this frame. Hence, you have organizations like Environmental Defense talking about supporting nuclear energy because it is the least of two evils.

But two evils are still two evils.

So rather than make decisions between these two evils, let's reframe the model.

The Lexicon Electric that I propose is this:

All renewable generation from now on is called Foundation Generation. Renewables are moved from the top of the graph, where they are seen as an unpredictable nuisance, all the way down to the bottom of the graph.

Existing base load plants (those that have not been decommissioned) are laid on top of this foundation generation and they are viewed as Smoothing Generators. On top of this curve we add our intermediate plants which are now viewed as Matching Generation. On top of these generation profiles, we add our peak plants which are now viewed as Firmers. Firming may not just be generation, it would also include demand programs which allow the utility to reduce demand at peak by various strategies.

Firming would also include V2G strategies from the transportation sector as well as the capacity in the system from your solar customers who have their own capacitance and will offer it back to you (the utility) should you need it. Firming technologies would include the added capacitance to the system of advanced batteries and ultra capacitors which might be embedded into the grid to create what is now a very firmed up system with plenty of stability. The concept of Spinning reserve is thus replaced with the concept of "Reserve Capacitance"

With this new Lexicon, the problem of the "non dispatchability" of renewable generation disappears. And the new problem is now the old "must run" base load plants. Their inflexibility is now viewed as a liability.

Suddenly, the mind understands that what was once seen as the way it has always been done, is now seen as the old way we used to do it.

Words are important.

They create frames.

New Words create

New Frames.

And a new Lexicon Electric

creates a new world.

And though this still doesn't resolve the limitless, on demand perspective. It's basic foundation, "Foundation Generation" is created from renewables. My own proposal would have a transition including re-education of the new lexicon, the new framing, coupled with the concepts of limits. Higher prices for firming and smoothing seem logical to help control energy waste.

Cant see the Forest thru the Electric Tree-line-BK design

U336: Ubiquitousness Unlimited

It is that special day again, Buy Nothing Day. (International Buy Nothing Day is tomorrow.)

Take the Plunge!
As the planet starts heating up, maybe it’s time to finally go cold turkey. Take the personal challenge by locking up your debit card, your credit cards, your money clip, and see what it feels like to opt out of consumer culture completely, even if only for 24 hours. Like the millions of people who have done this fast before you, you may be rewarded with a life-changing epiphany. While you’re at it, what better time to point out real alternatives to unbridled consumption – and the climate uncertainty that it entails – by taking your BND spirit to the streets?

From Britain

U335: U.S. – Use Less

Today is a celebration of excess in food all across the country. A holiday of feasting isn’t a negative thing in itself. All of history has been stories of feast and famine. What is so uncomfortable for me this year is that every day is excess food in America while at the same time more people than ever before are on food stamps, 30 million at the last count. The disparity grows sharper all the time within this country and it doesn’t begin to touch the disparity internationally.

The future demands we turn around our nation’s way of thinking. I cringe at how cliché every sentence I write sounds, but I continue. Abundance doesn’t mean we have license or that we have blessings to plunder and waste. I have seen the Depression expression in many different internet posts.

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

Voluntary Change – Redux
I have written before about Your Money or Your Life being a transformative book for me here and here. It can’t hurt to again repeat the following piece subtitled, "Enoughness" by one of the authors, Vicki Robin.
  • I pledge to discover how much is enough for me to be truly fulfilled, and to consume only that.
  • I also pledge to be part of the discovery of how much would be enough for everyone not only to survive but to thrive, and to find ways for them to have access to that.
  • Through this commitment to restraint and justice, I am healing my life and am part of the healing of the world.
Ironic that I use the phrase, “the future demands” in the opening. In a transformative post (form me personally) titled, The Power of Limits, Greenpa writes:
The problem we must tackle: All our supply systems are designed to work "on demand". Turn it on- the whole world supply of electricity/water/gas/waste handling/whatever is plugged in and at your command, your majesty.

It's a design guaranteed to CAUSE waste. It cannot fail.

We need to fix this in our own homes, first of all. I've found ways- mostly by just being unplugged from the big delivery systems. There have to be more ways- easier to put in place, more adaptable to cities- etc. We- you and I- need to find them.

Even when I came up with a business model for my own entrepreneurial venture, make-a-plan, in 2003 I struggled with my target client. I wanted to provide services to the low and middle income person needing assistance in planning DIY changes and renovations to his or her home. As a design professional I’d spent my career doing space plans and working drawings for banks, government offices and the like. Most self employed designers realize their market was the rich. Frankly, only the rich will pay for design services because the rich can and most people rich and poor don’t understand the value of good design anyway. Design is often misunderstood as another word for decoration even by intelligent, educated people.

I am sixty years old and I have a fantastic idea for a verdant vocation, make-a-(green) plan, and other ventures; but, I don’t have the capital, the collaborators or a compelling reason to work that hard to launch a viable business. It is selling a concept to people who think cheap goods, cheap food, crap television and corrupt government are life. The prevailing attitude is it always has been and will always be. Instead, I blog to the dozen or so reading with some ideas and tips on voluntary change.

Sometimes I think it’s useless. Hey, I think I could recycle that – Use Less.

This artist, Matthew Carden, uses his photography in part to tell the story of waste. Art and creativity can communicate this desperate situation far better than the cliché statements I made in the opening.

From the series: "Small World", Matthew Carden's work concentrates on the essential nature of food and the action surrounding its growth, preparation, consumption and disposal. Married to a chef and working as a commercial food photographer, Matthew realized that his daily focus on food and consumption were in great contrast to the passing thought that most people give to their food.

Carden sets out in his art work to make viewers more aware of what they eat and to simply think about food as an integral part of our world. His photographs juxtapose figures with seemingly colossal broccoli, macaroons, chicken wings and the like, and speak of abundance and the ultimate waste produced on a daily basis in our land of plenty. Despite looming issues, the blurry, dreamy quality of Carden's work allows the viewer a whimsical space to enjoy the pure pleasures of food.

Via Inhabitat

Thanksgiving Chuckle by way of Mock Paper Scissors. . . Would you believe Turkey-shaped Jell-O® Mold: 2008 Competition?

U334: Umkokolo or Umkolo or Kei Apple

The kei apple, Dovyalis caffra Warb. (syn. Aberia caffra Harv. & Sond.) is also known as umkokolo in Africa and this is abbreviated to umkolo in the Philippines. Source

I tasted one of these (9/25) when my neighbor brought one from the botanical gardens. What a wonderful taste. It is subtropical – so the ecology is all wrong. Ugh. It is tough to be tempted by the fruit, knowing that the local varieties of native foods have the better chance of surviving drought.

But wait . . . What is this?
The kei apple does well in almost any soil that does not have a high water table. It is extremely drought-resistant and tolerates saline soil and salt spray and is accordingly valued as a coastal hedge in the Mediterranean region and in California.
Now that is interesting.

This reminds me, talking about eating food in season and eating local is still a very foreign concept to many. I forget this. I recently have made statements about buying local and only seasonal food, as I did to the guy who brought it to me, a landscape designer no less and to a neighbor who prides himself on his knowledge of food, I feel like I have just spoken a foreign language or grew a third eye . That was my first impression, but he is gradually becoming a real bearer of good food and feral food locations.

Another fruit I sampled within the same time frame was a Strawberry Guava, a gift from one of the best farmers at my farmer’s market. I loved this little fruit. Oh, and did I mention how really thankful I am? I have such generous neighbors and local farmers. I am one fortunate woman.
Strawberry Guava, Psidium cattleianum, a.k.a. Cattley Guava Source

Dark red skinned guava, closely related to the common guava, with an excellent strawberry like flavor. Fruits are small, to 1.5" around, and the pulp is translucent and very juicy. It some varieties, the flesh can taste pleasantly spicy.

Description: Small bush or tree to 20-25ft, although often much smaller.

Hardiness: Strawberry guava's are hardy to 22F when full grown.

Growing Environment: The strawberry guava is very adaptable and can be grown outdoors throughout much of Florida and California. It will fruit in a container almost anywhere if protected from hard freezes. Trees grow well in full sun and with ample water, although short periods of drought will not harm the plant. Lots of water is needed during fruit development and for proper ripening to occur. The yellow strawberry guava (Psidium cattlenium var. lucidum) is said to be not quite as hardy as the standard red strawberry guava, but seems to survive temperatures to 25F.

Propagation: Usually by seed, sometimes by cuttings.
Uses: Usually eaten fresh or used to flavor beverages, ice creams, and desserts.
Native Range: Native to coastal areas of Eastern Brazil. The strawberry guava is now a weed in many parts of the tropics where it has quickly adapted to a variety of climates. There are major infestations on Hawaii and many Caribbean islands. In tropical climates, the strawberry guava is most often found growing at higher elevations, where the mean temperature is much cooler. The yellow form tends to be a bit less hardy and therefore is found at slightly lower elevations.

It is late for me to be posting about these two exotic fruits as their season passed this fall, but I wanted to include them in this year's food blogging. In the name of biodiversity and learning more about native plants, I’d like to think I might cultivate these fruits one day. Yes, I know that these two are not North American native plants and exotics have already caused real environmental problems as invasive species. This continent has lost thousands of species due to our mono-food culture and the tendency to drag European culinary history into the Americas. These more exotic plants have also been a problem. But, I want to ask around about the viability of these two really tasty alternatives to conventional market offerings.

On the other hand, survival in a changing climate calls for flexibility. Am I right? Native plants that did survive thousands of years have the genes we may need to depend on for resilience. It is Thanksgiving, so besides it being time to respect and honor the real stories of the indigenous peoples of North America and atone for the assault on those peoples, I think it fitting I respect the indigenous foods of the Americas. And I want to continue check out the native species from around the world.

U333: Understanding

Quote du jour from earthfamilyalpha.
There are enough people on the planet now who know that the Capitalist's World as it has grown over the centuries is in for a major rehaul.

There are enough people on the planet now who know that this world will tumble as sure as the previous world of Monarchs and Aristocracy tumbled 300 years ago.

And there are enough people on the planet who know where we are in the development of human and global consciousness.

There are also enough people on the planet now who know that it would take 9 planet earths for everyone to live like an American.

And that, for the moment,

We just have one.

And it's time we all begin

to act

as if we know it.

Like an earthfamily

U332: Ulterior Motive Purge

Utensils, Dishes, Glasses are ostensibly the category of this purge. I did this purge prior to moving from Arizona. I confess this particular purge was on my list because I share this alphabetical purge outline in my community newsletter and I had this great idea to collect cast off dishes, flatware, etc. for our community events. I even have a discarded picnic basket to store these things in between parties, potlucks. We shall see. I just distributed the newsletter.

The following is a rant by Bruce Sterling about possessions that I found entertaining for the eloquence as much as anything. Via Treehugger . . .
What is "sustainability?" Sustainable practices navigate successfully through time and space, while others crack up and vanish. So basically, the sustainable is about time – time and space. You need to re-think your relationship to material possessions in terms of things that occupy your time. The things that are physically closest to you. Time and space.

In earlier, less technically advanced eras, this approach would have been far-fetched. Material goods were inherently difficult to produce, find, and ship. They were rare and precious. They were closely associated with social prestige. Without important material signifiers such as wedding china, family silver, portraits, a coach-house, a trousseau and so forth, you were advertising your lack of substance to your neighbors. If you failed to surround yourself with a thick material barrier, you were inviting social abuse and possible police suspicion. So it made pragmatic sense to cling to heirlooms, renew all major purchases promptly, and visibly keep up with the Joneses.

That era is dying. It's not only dying, but the assumptions behind that form of material culture are very dangerous. These objects can no longer protect you from want, from humiliation – in fact they are causes of humiliation, as anyone with a McMansion crammed with Chinese-made goods and an unsellable SUV has now learned at great cost.

Furthermore, many of these objects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.

It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.

This material culture of today is not sustainable. Most of the things you own are almost certainly made to 20th century standards, which are very bad. If we stick with the malignant possessions we already have, through some hairshirt notion of thrift, then we are going to be baling seawater. This will not do.

The emphasis is mine as this was the central theme for me in my own purges and my own sustainability challenge, even though I could never have written it so well.

Having said that, I confess to my fantasies of tabletop beauty. Just the other day I caught my breath when I saw this image. Fiesta china is something I longed for, for decades. And, I’d forgotten. I will even admit that I used to keep a clipping file of table décor ideas. Feeding the eyes, doing more than just feeding the body is such a personal view I value. I kept aside a small set of fiddlefern flatware for special.

Last year around the holidays I sent my mom a whole bunch of visually delicious table setting images. This delight was something we used to share. When I spoke to her later she told me that the family gatherings are no longer seated around tables. I guess lifestyle changes or something has happened in the intervening years. That seems like a loss.

If my particular path wasn’t one of living alone with austerity and minimalism, I would approach this purge differently. (And I don’t close the door on this aspect either . . .) Sharing meals together is such a wonderful thing to do. Eating is the most basic thing we do daily that doesn't demand privacy and eating food together is a ritual worth cherishing.

Fiesta photo

Post Script: I had so many fuck ups in trying to post this, one could get dizzy trying to read it as I was editing every few moments. Sorry.

U331: Underlings!

It is true, the media frenzy is all about a handful of Obama’s top cabinet positions. And it is true that so far it is leaning toward more of the same. But today one of Melissa’s McEwan posts was about taking back our country teaspoon by teaspoon and I am celebrating the exciting announcement.
Meet Melody Barnes.

During a press conference earlier today, President-Elect Obama announced that she has been chosen as his Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, a role that entails coordinating the domestic policy-making and –makers for the White House. As Shaker Afroacademic aptly described the role in comments, Barnes will be "the Domestic policy czar leading the Cabinet secretaries of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Energy, Treasury, Agriculture, Transportation, Interior and Veterans Affairs on a mega-board."

But I read the following by afroacademic in this comment thread that gave me even more excitement:

If Obama continues to slowly and without note add young, smart, progressive people to his administration I'll be happy. I mean, the media didn't get this one earlier and plenty of people were surprised. This tells me that half of the talk we get from the media is centered on four or five positions and the usual suspects, but that a lot of these positions they have no idea about.

I'd also note one thing that I've been telling folks: the best thing we can hope for a diverse progressive majority in the mid and under secretary levels. Why? Because these people will become the unquestioned go to folks in the future democratic party. I'll point to Bush, while his Secretaries may have been diverse (sort of) every level below was white and male. These people will come to dominate politics and policy. So, for a look at progressive power brokers of the 2020s and beyond, look at Obama's administration below the cabinet level.

This is what we should be concentrating on doing as progressives and as sustainability activists. Train hosts of bright, committed and smart people to learn how to dismantle this dysfunctional system from within. It can only be one aspect, but a valuable one if we continue to pay attention. How often do people willing to serve get corrupted? That is only possible if we stop being vigilant.

This rationale is continued in an extensive look at the USDA potential, This is laid out beautifully by guest poster Steph Larson at Ethicurean: Chew the Right Thing. Think under-secretaries and below.

This is brilliant. I wait with baited breath. Bring on the under-secretaries by the dozens, the chiefs by the thousands. Also, good bye Repuglikkkan xtian kids in the Department of Justice.

T330: The People

This image is from changethethought.com. Since the election on November 4th I have been in a drifting mode. Nationally, the people of this nation thrilled me with the high turnout numbers and the vote for Obama. Locally, the people of my community voted two worthless incumbents and the people of my state voted in favor of bigotry in the H8 proposition against legally approved marriage between gays.

Consciousness or conscience or awareness or perception – whatever one calls it – I am fascinated. This is central to why I blog, why I write.

This morning I woke with an idea of how my local City Council might act to engage an awakened community in confronting the issues of our time. I start with the premise of a consumer culture that markets this consumption message 24/7 all year every year. We are soaking in it, to use the Palmolive commercial of my youth. When I was a child this command to consume was more heavy-handed. My belief is that the 60’s counter culture was possible only because the ad men were stupid about young people, mistakenly not realizing how to harness and distract youth energy into consumption. Once the capitalist marketer grasped the youth zeitgeist, this rebelliousness has been diffused into consumerist model. Add to this the targeted markets of African Americans and Women. Attention: I believe there is no crisis, tragedy or human injustice that can’t be utilized for profit in the existing capitalist structure.

How people, real people who seek sustainability, justice and the commonwealth (using an old fashioned but appropriate term) take back the power? Today I can’t speak to the national, to the entire federal government and the US as a whole, because I believe that wresting control of the media from corporate control is fundamental. And for this to happen huge numbers of citizens have to be awake and demanding. So, today I write about the first step – engaging the people, educating the people. The goal is to rouse the sleeping giant that is the people. Following the election energy of wonderful turnouts, we should keep people awake. I start with my community. Here is the hook. Bribe them. Look, it sparkles!

Damn, I know I could candy coat that. I invite anyone to steal this idea and pretty it up for the press and the precious. The thing is, marketing is about pretending something is being given for free or for a low price: stuff, information, caring, dignity, patriotism, beauty, image, friends, altruism and love. Yes, even altruism. Look at that mendacious ‘Run for the Cure’ campaign as just one example. Those hundreds (if not thousands) of corporate sponsors spend billions on pink labels, ads and gimmicks to sell their $hit. What is to stop those corporations from simply giving? All of their advertising could say they are supporting this or that drive or fund or foundation. No, they are seeking brand loyalty. Wave pink labels at people who have been ravaged by breast cancer or have know someone close lost to breast cancer or simply are moved by the need for this cure. Now that is cold.

Obama’s team figured branding out at the earliest moment following the Democratic Primary victory and there was a big roar and much mocking. Now the amnesia has kicked in and the “over-the-bright-red-hill -into-the-clear-blue-sky-O” triggers hope and change. It elicits positive associations with the fields of the plains, the rising sun, the flag, moving toward the light, and the inclusiveness of the circle, the organic and feminine shape. Done. We have been trained.

I am not pointing this out to disparage the President-Elect. It is an example of utilizing these potential specious tactics to DO THE RIGHT THING. For the rest of this post 'do the right thing' is the concept but WE NOT ME will be the label, the placeholder for my imaginary community project to engage the people in sustainability and the activism that used to simply be call citizenship. None of the bribes below specifically addresses homophobia. What it does do is show real people and their opinions more respect. The LGBTQ community is all around and a part of this town and every other. Just respecting real people moves us closer in eliminating hate and homophobia.

I believe we can utilize this consumerist model that people respond to so well. I can imagine a challenge to the community to come up with the logo for making our community WE NOT ME. A prize of several thousand dollars and public recognition would keep this from being completely exploitive. The City Council’s Environmental Committee could offer the criteria based on the City’s stated goals for 2009. The local media and a website poll could facilitate reaching as many people as possible. The schools are a must. I still remember coloring poster for anti-litter campaigns, “you too can prevent forest fires” campaigns of my childhood. Graphic designers could be a round 2, to take the winning image and compete with other graphic designers in the community for branding proposals. Among these would be the stipulations about creating only how to utilize a logo without creating more useless stuff, destroying more natural resources or encouraging waste.

Bribe 1:
We are soon to begin the first phase of banning plastic bags in our community. This is a perfect start for the first bribe. Let’s just say $6,000 is earmarked for this kick-off project. Everyone who shows up to a Council meeting gets a WE NOT ME bag. Local businesses will be given bags to give to their customers. This first bag will be higher quality and a limited number will give the first one’s some status. No out of town, corporate owned, big box store will be given bags. (Another version that is smaller in size and in a puce color? And maybe a variation on the branding like, TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING can be bought by these outlets on the condition they not be sold to the public, but given away).

Any and all Council workshops and votes related to the plastic bag ban will be special invitations to all who are carrying the WE NOT ME bag. Prior to any of these this group will be asked to comment first if only to fill out polling questions to be gathered at each meeting pertaining to this theme. This isn’t just marketing. These are real people with real experiences with changing the way they shop. The community needs to hear these voices, not the Council or the Staff or the Business Lobby. The goal is to help real people WE NOT ME, not listen to vested interests or officials who believe their personal experience is what is supposed to guide their votes.

Another event related to the bags could be taken to the schools, senior centers and domestic shelters. A ten year old came up with his own business of making bags from t-shirts and named his company t-bags. A person should be hired to visit each school with a stack of t-shirts (used would be best) and the kids at the school will have brought a shirt from home. They will be taught how to make a t-bag and encouraged to make more and give them as gifts to family and friends. They will be given WE NOT ME logos to sew onto their bags. Incidentally, learning to sew and re-purpose clothing, fabrics is a basic sustainability skill that is part of the education.

Bribe 2:
Our town gives lip service to biking. The Council makes one week a bike to work week like so many communities. I insist that a real commitment could be launched with bike bonanza giveaways. We are a beach community. How many bikes could be purchased for the ubiquitous $6,000 bribe? My own personal vote would be to give 500 mothers bikes on Mother’s Day with a WE NOT ME basket. (Note: Give in to your guilt, but buy a bike for mom instead, its guaranteed more useful than jewelry.) The only request that will be made is to encourage participation in any community activities including Council voting related to biking. And, secondarily to pass the bike to another if it isn’t being used.

Just as above, these mothers’ voices of the people are the newest and most vital focus for our media and our decision makers. They will become the WE NOT ME corps – or core group of engaged citizens. It will be important to be vigilant that the focus doesn’t become the bike (product for consumption) over the biking as an alternative to driving. Imagine, the message might be to drive with care there are mothers out there.

In the schools the adjunct activity might be bike swaps, bike maintenance, bike adoption. Just as a trained seamstress visited the schools for the bag project, a bike technician should be hired to visit each school for a bike bonanza day(s). This is an opportunity to educate for bike safety, to show how money doesn’t define the biking experience and to learn new skills.

Bribe 3:
Give away native fruit and nut trees throughout the community and create a feral food map. Again, $6,000 can go a long ways in engaging the community. The kids can be involved in mapping, but also planting native nut and fruit trees at each and every school location. Every native fruit and nut tree will have a WE NOT ME border and sign. At the beginning stage there could be a call for local arborists, landscape designers, etc. to be invited to participate. Their opinions and contributions should not be discouraged. This idea is lifted from Transition Towns.
The idea stems from a previous project of the Bristol Permaculture Group that was trying to promote biodiversity, food security and traditional agriculture within the city limits. When investigating the site for a potential community orchard in the Easton area, and coming up empty handed, members suddenly realized they were thinking too literally – land was all around them, only it was parcelled up into small lots in people’s back yards etc. They ordered a large number of local-variety fruit trees in bulk, and then organized discount sales, as well as tree-care workshops, for Easton residents. Over the course of a couple of years, the group arranged the distribution of hundreds of fruit trees, significantly increasing the amount of food grown in the neighbourhood while providing habitat for pollinating insects, and preserving some traditional apple varieties. The city-wide initiative will follow similar lines, and the group is looking for volunteers to help coordinate the effort – especially those with admin skills.

Bribe 4
Water is key for our drought now and for the future. This is where those now controlling our City Council votes have been most egregious in granting unsustainable growth – for the precious water tables alone. I see several different projects, but the first would be to spend $6,000 on stainless steel water bottles to replace the one time use plastic bottles. Naturally the WE NOT ME logo will be affixed on the pitcher. I also see rain barrels and eaves to catch the precious half inch of rain that might fall at a typical rate for Southern California. WE NOT ME has the most important education task in combating water waste. I believe the local water district (which the council sit on) should give free water service to any household using only 10% of the local average. That would be the highest goal of 90% reduction and I suspect the water district wouldn't have to grant too many of these.

These are just a beginning. I believe the food waste bribe might need to be developed even prior to these 4, because that is really our easiest way to start saving our communities. The four though, modified to make them work however they can with the $6,000 allocated for each (or a higher number for each with some research) is a minimal $24,000. This paltry sum could be secured in one decision by the City Council; that is, taking it from the city’s generous vehicle and fuel perks or one consultant. Last year I raged that a mobile home consultant was brought in to do a study. It was a really shamefully shallow piece of drek with self-fulfilling eyewash that didn’t begin to address the real people living in the mobile homes or attending the workshops. But, this shill (a mobile home park owner himself) was paid $32,500. Gah. He was one of dozens the city has hired in the last several years. All have given the same low standard.

We in the United States have drifted very far from a true democracy. Sometimes I wonder if we ever had one as I discover so many, many Myths America. We are consumers who are offered consumer choices at our polling places. How candidates make us feel, the look, the bearing, the voice, the repetition of the name in the news . . . are the rationale for choosing. We consume, it’s what we do. What a candidate’s words evoke more than what is said or true facts have won the day so often. So, in spite of this or because of this I propose we utilize the magic of people’s self-involvement and acquisitive habits to help people relearn citizenship. The toys, the tricks, the shiny things and branding can be used to DO THE RIGHT THING if we keep sustainability, the resilient community goals at the center.

Bribe Tally

A tally from a self-serving, grasping wanna-be citizen here. I could score a grocery tote, a bike, an native fruit and/or nut tree, a water bottle, rain barrel and free water service. I could learn sewing, make my own bags for fee, learn bike repairs and bike safety, learn the edible plants to forage in my neighborhood, save lots of money by drinking tap water, utilizing rain water and set an example to all those I interact with and my neighbors. All this and a respected, sought after voice at City Hall in four major areas of my communities commitment to sustainability and resilience.

A disclaimer. . . I have the good fortune of having a Deputy Mayor and one Councilwoman who are anxious to do the right things. The three others, including the Mayor (labeled the Bully Boys in the local blog) defeat the best actions and champion the toxic. The loss in this election of a third vote to end their reign was huge. There is one Councilwoman in my community who is a true public servant. She sends emails each week to anyone who wants to be informed. In these emails she gives links to news articles of importance to our community. Her website is filled with resource links of the most progressive themes in the state and the nation. Prior to City Council meetings she sends a link to the agenda and staff reports as well as her own summary of what is important. Unlike the majority of the Council, she does her homework prior to each meeting. She weighs any and all business of the Council against the community’s General Plan and Specific Plan. She attends training sessions all over the state on California laws, codes and issues of importance. Sometimes I feel she carries the weight of this small town on her back. She is loved, especially for bringing sunshine to the City Council chambers through live feed videos of Council and planning meetings. She is up for re-election in 2010, so all that I am writing today is with her campaign and governance in mind. I won’t link to her website, show a photo or name her because my endorsement is not official or approved by her. I have not sought her out to discuss this. I am simply a grateful citizen.

T329: Turkey

Transition from the color identification test yesterday is this turkey image. These neutral colors in nature are my favorite color palette in the world. I am right now giving a neighbor a new interior including a color palette based on these neutral colors. He’s an older man with conservative tastes. His favorite recliner is upholstered in a geometric pattern using this range of browns.

But, I’m stalling. Turkeys - I feel an obligation to acknowledge the theme this week. I heard that turkey breeding for our tables has obliterated the characteristics common to a turkey’s ancestors. Now, I know I have heard this for many Thanksgiving seasons, but it’s time for me to delve a bit deeper. No ace research skills here, simple Google and Wikipedia digging, but a cornucopia of information before the coffee was brewed (in a fry pan, strained over the sink – another story for later). Okay, I used the cornucopia on purpose. It is written somewhere that one must use the cornucopia during Thanksgiving and we all must eat turkey. When I was a kid in the fifties, I don’t think most people considered turkey as food suitable for the rest of the year. The other thing that stands out in my mind is how complicated the preparation is and how women (of course) needed to wake up pre-dawn to get the turkey into the oven. It was treated as some esoteric ritual and filled with potential disaster.

Imagine my surprise when the executive chef at the Jesuit community where I was hired to cook taught me how to fix turkey. We turned the commercial ovens up to 450-500 degrees or so and essentially seared the birds, dropped the ovens back down. I stuffed the cavities with quartered onions, Granny Smith apples, herbs and I also used white wine in the cavity and the pan – basting was included. Anyway, it wasn’t the silly production of manufactured difficulty of my youth. From then on, turkey was a regular part of my family cooking, with stocks made from the meat and bones after each time became habit. The stock was always put into the refrigerator to separate, with the fat to be skimmed off before I made soup or froze the stock. I love the taste, the smell and the frugal wonder of so many meals from one bird. Turkey has always meant either a holiday meal or a frugal menu item. I have not thought about turkeys at all – except to eat – in my life. Correction, coloration has also figured into my experience as I described in the opening.
Turkeys are highly individual birds. The females are as maternal as any mother hen. The males (stags) fluff up their fine feathers and 'gobble', to establish their role as protector of the harem. The wild turkey flies at speeds of up to 50 mph and roosts in tree tops. Stags weigh around 17 lbs, females considerably less. Turkeys like to roam in woodland, eating insects and vegetation. Seeds and berries are a favorite food.
This is a description of the turkey within nature. The photograph up in a tree: Wild mother turkey protecting her young. by Gary W. Griffen

Contrast this with corporate ownership. (Insert creepy, ominous music here.)
For over 35 years, the overwhelming majority of the 280 million turkeys produced in North America each year have been the product of a few genetic strains of Broad Breasted White. The breeding stock for these birds are owned by just three multinational corporations: Hybrid Turkeys of Ontario, Canada, British United Turkeys of America in Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms in Sonoma, California.

The emphasis is mine. Food sources owned by a corporation? Really bad idea.

According to a British source,

. . . most turkeys live crammed together in dimly-lit windowless sheds. 25,000 in one shed is typical of the bigger units. Though not caged, turkeys nearing slaughter weight have little more floor space to themselves than a battery hen. Moving around the shed becomes a stressful challenge and the overcrowding induces aggression. Some, reared especially for the Christmas trade, are kept in 'pole barns', in natural daylight. These may have a little more room, but are still kept in grossly overcrowded conditions.

The description of conditions is vile. There are several groups who began working together to save the heritage turkeys.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), Slow Food USA, the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPAA), and a few hundred key poultry enthusiasts launched a major effort to restore breeding populations of heritage turkeys in the late 20th century.
Just as with heritage seeds, we owe a debt of gratitude to the individual farmers across the United States (and other countries as well) for keeping the biodiversity of turkey breeds alive when selective breeding of the corporations have all but eliminated hundreds of breeds in favor of the one, Broad Breasted White. Turkeys were (are) useful for keeping insect populations down. Greenpa has written extensively about bringing in domesticated birds to keep the tick population in check on his property. And yes, there is violence in nature. Greenpa’s saga is filled with birds being eaten by each other, predators and his own dog. But, this kind of struggle is in no way comparable to the factory farm.
. . . the Heritage Breeds still exist and are making a comeback. Most breeds of heritage turkey were developed in the United States and Europe over hundreds of years, and were identified in the American Poultry Association's turkey Standard of Perfection of 1874. These breeds include the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, and White Holland. Later added to the standard were the Royal Palm, White Midget and Beltsville Small White.

It is about flavor and it is about the resilience of our food supplies with biodiversity and it is about simply respecting life.

This time of year there will be birds sold as heritage which are not.

To be a true heritage turkey, birds must meet three specific criteria.

Naturally mating
The first criterion is that heritage turkeys are able to mate naturally with no intervention from humans, and with expected fertility rates of 70-80%. Hens can lay fertile eggs, and brood their clutches to hatching. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, birds must be the result of natural reproduction in order to truly be called heritage turkeys.

Long productive lifespan
Except for a few flocks of toms kept for semen production, commercial turkeys generally never live past the point at which they reach market weight. But true heritage turkeys are capable of a full, productive lifespan just like wild turkeys. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years. They are also more well-suited for outdoor and/or free range conditions.

Slow growth rate
All heritage turkeys have a relatively slow to moderate rate of growth. Turkeys raised in industrial agricultural are slaughtered at 14 to 18 weeks of age, while heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in about 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass. This growth rate is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century.

Thanksgiving is a week away. I found through the Heritage Link that there is a store in my community that carries Heritage poultry. But, I am not sure. I have spent several days letting my community know that I won’t be working with them to figure out a group Thanksgiving. I think my son and I will do something. We spoke in the summer about fixing Middle Eastern dishes. I just don’t know what that day will be for now. But, I feel a lot smarter about turkeys.

Updates: Unsurprisingly there are other posts on the turkey and I will add links as I discover them. Crunchy Chicken

T327: Toast

Okay, I got nothin’ and I will need to reach out to the interwebs for inspiration. My lack of inspiration has even persuaded me to bring the toaster in from the shed. It’s true . . . And I have spent November buying cheap bread, bargain brand nonsense from conventional grocery stores. This was in part because I have been taking a neighbor with a broken arm to 4 grocery stores every week. (I used to do this when I measured everything by frugal alone, instead of fossil fuel, factory farms, blah, blah blah). But, throughout these weeks I’ve felt so hypocritical or sanctimonious or something when I tried to keep my own carbon footprint very small while I was the helpful accomplice to an entirely different lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong; my neighbor knows how to cook, was persuaded to let me sew up the bottom of his cotton knit tank tops for grocery bags (he loves this now) and he buys whole food, vegetables and a very little convenience food. But, it didn’t help that I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of shoppers around me these last 4 weeks who are consuming without any apparent realizations we in the sustainability group of people are beginning to take for granted. Carts are piled high with non-local, non-seasonal, high fructose products, mountains of packaging for so-called convenience foods. It has been disheartening and de-motivating. It doesn’t help that I am at the end of 2008’s budget where I don’t feel I have three nickels to rub together. Boo fucking hoo.

This too shall pass . . . the new year promises much hope.

I turned to Farmgirl Fare, a beautiful website I visit every day for the photographs alone. The recipes and posts are just bonus. The following title caught my eye: Five Things to Eat Before You Die.

After describing her first responses from exotic places with unique cuisines she switches gears. This speaks to what I would like to hear and one day will say in my own way.
Then I changed my mind. I realized that all of these delicious memories were as much about the place as they were about the food itself. I once ate a perfectly recreated dish of that Balinese black rice pudding in a suburban Northern California kitchen, and it simply wasn't the same. So while I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of these far flung delights (and doubt I would pass up the opportunity to experience them again myself), my new list is completely different--like my life is now. Less fuss, more flavor. It's all about the food. These five things will taste absolutely wonderful no matter where you are. Each one is a celebration in and of itself. I hope someday you'll have a chance to try them.

  1. A thick, warm slice (or hunk) of bread from a loaf you made with your own two hands. No mixer or bread machine involved. Plenty of organic butter recommended but not required.
  2. Something you grew yourself.
  3. Homemade potato chips, preferably made with thin slices of freshly dug, organic red potatoes (scrubbed, not peeled), fried in homemade lard in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and prepared by someone you adore who is willing to stand over a splattering pan of hot oil for an hour or two while you both devour batch after batch of warm, salted chips as soon as they are cool enough to touch. Serve with lots of laughs and plenty of iced tea or cold beer.
  4. A grilled hamburger made from a freshly ground chuck steak (from grass-fed, naturally raised beef), served on a toasted, freshly baked bun & smothered with slices of vine-ripened, organic heirloom tomatoes.
  5. A crisp, juicy apple you plucked from the tree.
  6. And my Bonus Beverage Answer: Champagne for breakfast. Just because.
Yes a toast!

These are worthy items, all done with Farmgirl attention to taste and the eye.

T326: Tree Climbing Goats

I mistakenly thought I'd posted this video from WebEcoist before. I guess I was confused with the goats the cry like a man and the fainting goats. The wind affecting the sound quality aside, this is incredible to watch.

T325: Transition Towns

From the Transition Towns website,
The community also recognises two crucial points:
  • that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy upslope, and that there's no reason for us not to do the same on the downslope.
  • if we collectively plan and act early enough there's every likelihood that we can create a way of living that's significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.
I’d planned on writing about Transition towns again, as I am an adoring fan. When I wrote about them last June I mentioned I’d downloaded the Transition Initiatives Primer pdf here. It is something I need to remember to refer to often.

Today I see that Treehugger covered the recent London Times article on Transition Towns.

One of the points I have been thinking about and I shared in a comment yesterday, the first stage of transition is to educate. This can be frantic or friendly. The bold is my own emphasis in the Times article:
“In Sandpoint, Idaho - birthplace of Sarah Palin, who really wouldn't approve - residents have prepared the community garden for its first winter and plans are under way for a local biomass-fired power plant. In Bell, a district of Geelong, Victoria, Australia, they are making wood-fired pizza ovens in each other's gardens and have negotiated bulk-buy discounts on solar power equipment for local residents. They have also planted more than 150 trees in a push to become the “fruit and nut tree area of Geelong”.

Viewed in isolation, these well-intentioned community efforts are laudable, yet insignificant. But Sandpoint and Bell are two examples of something much bigger - the Transition Initiative, a movement barely two years old that claims to have the answer to sustainable living in a world without oil. In some 700 towns, villages and cities worldwide, Transition is under way, and more communities are signing up every day. Most of the groups are “mulling” - Transition-speak for gearing themselves up - but 114 have launched publically, or “unleashed”.”

The Times Online, via Transition Culture

Further Reading on Transition Towns
Transition Towns and Cities Emerge in the US
Transition Towns New Zealand Gains Strength
Transition Towns Reach Japan
Transition Towns Reach New Zealand
Transition Town Plants Up Nut Trees for Food Security
Interview with Rob Hopkins, founder of the movement
Transition City Bristol
The Transition Handbook
Transition Towns Reach Australia
The Virtual Orchard Project

T324: Transforming Transportation

In the 1940's FDR ordered GM to begin making tanks, jeeps, etc. for the war effort. It is that time again. No bailout, just a contract to provide electrical transport, high speed trains, trolleys for the new century. The bill to be covered by Big Oil, whose partnership in crime with Big Automobile and possibly Big Insurance, killed mass transit in this country and kept the business insoluble by refusing to respond to market demands more than thirty years.

This is my take on the following articles in today’s news, blogs and opinion pieces.

New York Times Op-Ed: Have you driven a bus or a train lately? By Robert Goodman
The federal government is giving General Motors, Ford and Chrysler $25 billion in low-interest loans, and the companies are asking for up to $25 billion more. These same companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying against federal fuel-economy standards and are suing to overturn the emissions standards imposed by California and other states.

[snip] As transportmakers, the companies could produce vehicles for high-speed train and bus systems that would improve our travel options, reduce global warming, conserve energy, minimize accidents and generally improve the way we live.
This better way forward has been kicking around Washington for more than 35 years. In a prescient 1972 article in The Atlantic, Stewart Udall, an interior secretary under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, warned of America’s excessive dependence on cars and called for this approach.

[snip . . .] Mr. Udall recognized that the country could not afford the economic consequences of losing all of the automobile industry’s jobs and profits. He proposed that the auto companies branch out into “exciting new variants of ground transportation” to produce minibuses, “people movers,” urban mass transit and high-speed intercity trains. Instead of expanding the Interstate highway system, he suggested that the road construction industry take on “huge new programs to construct mass transit systems.” And he called for building “more compact, sensitively planned communities” rather than continuing urban sprawl.

As we now know, warnings like these went unheeded, and Americans became ever more car-dependent. And now, the auto industry is asking for government money that promises, even with more fuel-efficient cars, to give us more of the same. Instead of supporting companies that want to put as many cars on the road as possible, we need a transformational strategy.

There are now two newly elected Udalls in Congress (New Mexico and Colorado) and I daydream that this sentiment is a familial thing.

I suspect that a good percentage of the American population is completely unaware of the monopoly that GM and Big Oil had on the transportation system of this country, before and after WWII. Of course, some of us were introduced to this via Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That movie introduced me to this national conspiracy in an animated way, and centered on Los Angeles mass transit. Rent it, you won’t regret it for a number of reasons. Wikipedia covers the conspiracy, yet says that is has been debunked. The publications by the CATO institute don’t convince me though. I’ll come back to that.

No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, cites the following excerpt from Harvey Wasserman. It provides the outline of this sabotage of America’s rail transport system.

In a 1922 memo that will live in infamy, GM President Alfred P. Sloan established a unit aimed at dumping electrified mass transit in favor of gas-burning cars, trucks and buses.

Just one American family in 10 then owned an automobile. Instead, we loved our 44,000 miles of passenger rail routes managed by 1,200 companies employing 300,000 Americans who ran 15 billion annual trips generating an income of $1 billion. According to Snell, "virtually every city and town in America of more than 2,500 people had its own electric rail system."

But GM lost $65 million in 1921. So Sloan enlisted Standard Oil (now Exxon), Philips Petroleum, glass and rubber companies and an army of financiers and politicians to kill mass transit.

The campaigns varied, as did the economic and technical health of many of the systems themselves. Some now argue that buses would have transcended many of the rail lines anyway. More likely, they would have hybridized and complemented each other.

But with a varied arsenal of political and financial subterfuges, GM helped gut the core of America's train and trolley systems. It was the murder of our rail systems that made our "love affair" with the car a tragedy of necessity.

In 1949 a complex federal prosecution for related crimes resulted in an anti-trust fine against GM of a whopping $5000. For years thereafter GM continued to bury electric rail systems by "bustituting" gas-fired vehicles.

Then came the interstates. After driving his Allied forces into Berlin on Hitler's Autobahn, Dwight Eisenhower brought home a passion for America's biggest public works project. Some 40,000 miles of vital eco-systems were eventually paved under.
In habitat destruction, oil addiction, global warming, outright traffic deaths (some 40,000/year and more), ancillary ailments and wars for oil, the automobile embodies the worst ecological catastrophe in human history...

...So let's convert the company's infrastructure to churn out trolley cars, monorails, passenger trains, truly green buses.

FDR forced Detroit to manufacture the tanks, planes and guns that won World War 2 (try buying a 1944 Chevrolet!). Now let a reinvented GM make the "weapons" to win the climate war and energy independence.
It demands re-tooling and re-training. But GM's special role in history must now evolve into using its infrastructure to restore the mass transit system---and ecological balance---it has helped destroy.

The last piece to this current GM hoopla relates to the many dog whistles that will be sounded by the corporatist irritainment industry’s 24/7 drone. This drone is all about blaming labor for GM’s demise. As I said above, the CATO Institute’s “debunking the conspiracy” contained one such dog whistle.

Federal subsidies to transit advocacy groups and misguided environmental and labor regulations also encourage a large investment of taxpayer money in wasteful transit systems.

The emphasis is mine. This sounds like standard republican deregulation and labor busting framing. From Think Progress a scattering of these:

Congress and the Bush administration are currently considering whether to spend $25 billion to rescue Detroit automakers. The proposal has generally been met with stiff resistance from conservatives, who have increasingly been pinning all the blame for the crisis in Detroit on labor unions:

Sen. Jim DeMint: “Some auto manufacturers are struggling because of a bad business structure with high unionized labor costs and burdensome federal regulations. Taxpayers did not create these problems and they should not be forced to pay for them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl: “For years they’ve been sick. They have a bad business model. They have contracts negotiated with the United Auto Workers that impose huge costs. The average hourly cost per worker in this country is about $28.48. For these auto makers, it’s $73. And for the Japanese auto companies working here in the United States, it’s $48.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “You know, if you pay the auto workers or the benefits and all of those things, are maybe too high. … We have, like, in America, you sell a car, and you have $2,000 of each car just goes to benefits. So I think that there’s a way of reducing all of that, make them more fiscally responsible.”

These men know they are blaming the wrong source with lies. This is deliberate strategy to subjugate. Organized labor is one of the biggest threats to imperial power. I am so sick of these tools with the life approach of “I’ve got mine, screw you.” There seems to be no end to the how far this group in power will go to loot this country and to steal from the people.

Much better things can come from this country now filled with hope. It demands the people stay awake and alert and make a very loud noise. Like the weekend marches say no to H8, we need the heady power of being people together, people who make demands, people who take to the streets and feel the power of a people united.

First image by Jason Logan

T323: Television News

Aside from short clips with a blog or on Democracy Now, I haven’t watched television news since Katrina. When I have watched these clips, or read transcripts or a summary of the news – I am disgusted with how stupid it seems to me. Sadly, this opinion became a bone of contention between my BFF and I because she watches corporate news and I won’t. Similarly, she doesn't read the blogosphere, so we hit an impasse. My gut says that we may be more at ease since the elections because the outcome was so positive. Update: Just as I was posting this I got a wonderful card from my BFF. I am hugging her.

But, back to television news . . . Today I found the following in the gmail inbox:

Hi Kate,
Just discovered make-a-(green)plan and am addicted already. I am working on a project for ABC News that covers some of the same topics you address in your writing. The program is going to be pretty formally ambitious, and it will include a fair amount of viewer-generated content. I'm in the process of contacting some of my favorite green bloggers and sustainability-focused organizations to see if they are interested in participating. Details are below, I would love to talk more about the project if you have any questions. Thanks so much for the great site; look forward to reading more!
Lynn R. Levy

ABC News All Media
157 Columbus Avenue
4th Floor
New York, NY10023

ABC News wants YOU to report from the future

In an unprecedented television and internet event, ABC News is inviting you to help imagine the future. In our upcoming two-hour special, Earth 2100, the world’s brightest minds will explore two alternate paths through the coming century—one leading to the collapse of society, the other to a world of exciting possibilities.

Earlier this year, we asked viewers to create short video reports documenting the worst-case scenario many experts have predicted—a perfect storm of climate change, population growth and resource depletion that could destabilize our world. You can view the impressive results on our website, http://earth2100.tv

Now we are asking you to show us another path. What kind of future can we hope for if we act now to create a more sustainable world? What kind of homes will we live in, what kind of food will we eat, how will we communicate with each other? What choices will we need to make in order to get there? And what is happening right now to propel us in the right direction?

Below you will find guidelines to help you create a short video report. You can choose to report from the present, from the year 2050, or from the distant future in 2100. We will select some of the most compelling videos to appear in our primetime ABC News broadcast Earth 2100, airing in early 2009.

This is a unique chance to join others around the globe in creating a future we can all look forward to.


Scenario 1: Document what’s happening right now, in your community, to create a more sustainable future.

Use one of our suggestions below, or generate your own:

Are wind turbines generating renewable energy in your region? Show us the turbines and tell us about the positive impact they’ve had on your community.

Are you retrofitting your house or office with solar panels? Let us know why you made the switch and show us the results.

Do you have access to a plug-in car? Take us for a test drive.

Are you raising vegetables on your porch, chickens in your yard, or grass on your roof? Show us what you’re working on.

Scenario 2: The year is 2050 in our sustainable future.

Because of damage caused to our ecosystem before 2009, we have experienced some of the negative effects of climate change, including a moderate rise in temperatures, worldwide food and water shortages, and a general economic downturn.

But because of ambitious positive changes made by governments, businesses and individuals over the last 40 years, things are finally starting to improve. Speaking directly into the camera, talk about the hard choices you have faced and let us know why you are optimistic about the future.

You can use one of our suggestions below, or create your own:

You lost your job in the automotive industry, but were able to get re-trained in solar panel installation and maintenance. Now you are able to earn a living and support your family again.

Some of the things you used to buy at the supermarket are no longer available, or are too expensive. But you have become interested in organic farming, and can now supplement your diet with fruits and vegetables grown on your own rooftop garden.

To reduce population growth, you have chosen to have only one child. Even though the decision was difficult, you feel better knowing your child will be growing up in a sustainable world.

Scenario 3: The year is 2100 in our sustainable future.

All the positive changes and hard choices made over the last 90 years have resulted in a truly sustainable world. Although we have given up some material comforts, our lives are fuller and richer.

Tell us about the exciting new world you’re living in.

Some of the things you might be experiencing include:

Humans have stopped using fossil fuels. Our minimal energy needs are met using low-cost sustainable sources, including solar, wind, wave-generated, and other innovative energy sources that were not even on the horizon in 2009.

Cities have become smaller, denser and more vibrant. People who live in urban areas are able to walk everywhere, making cars obsolete. The cities are also greener, with plants and animals integrated into the urban environment.

People who live in rural areas can keep in touch using communications technologies, and can work from home instead of commuting.

Due to advances in genomics and nanotechnology, there is a lower rate of disease and average life spans have increased.

Environmental issues are dealt with collaboratively, on a global scale, with cooperation between nations.

Without much thought I dashed off the following:

Lynn, I am delighted you have read and enjoyed my blog. What's not to like about this kind of praise and attention? But, I must decline any involvement with the project. I don't trust the Corporate Media to get it right in any way. Everything I have ever seen has used stories, blogs like mine as irritainment and for titilation. That doesn't interest me in the least.

But, as an individual I would love you to continue to read make-a-(green) plan.

Regards, Kate

Did I mention I find architectural competitions, and public submissions as competition exploitive?

Update: Jeebus, I followed the link and it was a disgusting concept of fear-based survivalist crap. Of course it was.

Image Banksy

Update 11/19/08: Reply received
Hi Kate,

Thanks for your reply, sorry to hear about your reservations. I do think this project has the potential to get it right -- even if you won't participate, I hope you'll watch.

In any event, keep up the good work!