Tag Archive: resistance


There are currently 104 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in the US at 65 separate locations.

That puts One in Three citizens with 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. Which means, you should probably take the time to find out A) whether that means you and then B) what it means to you.

Given what the world is witnessing with the still unfolding disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, it would be prudent for all of us to understand just a little bit more about the risks and rewards of the energy source that provides about 20% of our power in the US. Whether or not you live in proximity to a plant seems like as good a place to start as any. MSNBC has a fantastic roll over map which should help you answer question number one pretty easily.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. What are you going to do about it?

I personally live in The Zone. Vermont Yankee, a virtual replica of Fukushima, is my neighbor to the north. One of the more vulnerable designs and aging rapidly to boot, this is a potentially risky situation. I already know I won’t be moving anytime soon. So where does that leave me?

Step One: Education. I start by going through the information I’ve encountered previously, searching for sources and individuals that can tell me more about Yankee or just point me in the right direction. This takes little more than a few rounds on Google. My goals were to learn about this plant in particular, general history of the industry (a la Wikipedia or the like), and the work already in progress among activists about Yankee itself.

At this point, I draw (at least) one conclusion which is that I personally would be much happier if the world did not generate power from nuclear reactions. To me, the risks far outweigh the benefits, not to mention the many other less dangerous ways of generating power available. So I decide that I would feel more secure knowing the Vermont Yankee had a plan to shut down at some point. After all, none of these plants can operate indefinitely, especially not when they insist on adding output from time to time effectively wearing out the mechanics faster.  It’s really only a matter of whether they shut themselves down or melt down.

Step Two: Action. Even trickier than the education phase for me personally. I never relish coming between an industry and their profits. Safely behind my computer, yelling into the abyss of the internet is one thing, linking arms to barricade a power plant is quite another! Besides which, my personal belief in the Net Positive philosophy leads me to believe that resistance is more effective when it’s not made of the same stuff as that against which it struggles.

So no grand gestures or angry mobs for me. At least not for now.

I resolve to find a way to be part of the solution. Increasing awareness among my neighbors, supporting the awareness raising efforts of others, calling for the plant to adopt a safe plan for decommissioning, and avoiding complacency by continually seeking new ways to contribute. My hope is that all of this will one day lead to:

Step Three: Resolution. Which might look something like this: An educated and aware citizenry marshaling their demands into a strength-in-numbers campaign to safely bring the age of nuclear power to an end through a three-fold approach. Demanding a moratorium on new permits and construction, Creating a workable and fair protocol for decommissioning the plants already in existence and Advocating at the Community and State level for the adoption of renewable power incentives which will both work to displace the lost power generation and create jobs to absorb the displaced workforce.

Maybe that’s an overly optimistic, pie-in-the-sky scenario, but we’ve revolutionized the way we do things before and I’m pretty sure we’ll do it again at some point. In fact I was witness to one such revolution two nights ago at my local town meeting. A special meeting was called to vote on a “Green Town” initiative put forth by our state. Towns agreeing to certain levels of energy efficiency in new constructions would be awarded a lump sum of cash (funded by corporate carbon payments and not tax dollars) to be used for updating efficiency throughout public town property. It’s a fledgling win-win policy being tested in a handful of states.

I was filled with pride listening to the honest and thoughtful discourse among my neighbors. There were so many bright and informed people around me empathetically assuaging the concerns of the folks who feared the initiative would cost them financially. In the end we got a majority and passed the measure! We’re a rural, small town full of quintessential Americans, hard-working people with very little free time to spend on “luxuries” like being an environmentalist. Yet, like several of our neighboring towns, clear heads prevailed, democracy worked, and we got one step closer to a healthy and just world.

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Former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt has something very important to say…to President Obama. He delivered a rally cry from the National Press Club podium on Wednesday challenging the President to stand up to the radically anti-environmental policy dominating The Congress these days, while also managing to offer actionable solutions. His speech is so powerful and so constructive it’s really worth a read in its entirety. It’s all too rare to hear this level of candor and actual information from the mouth of a politician these days. Here’s an excerpt of some of the juicy bits!

More than a hundred years ago, Rep. John Lacey (R-Iowa), made this observation: “The immensity of man’s power to destroy imposes a responsibility to preserve.”

It is now more than ten years since I left public office. I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history. Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources. And it is time for those of us who support our conservation tradition to raise our voices on behalf of the American people.

As these attacks escalate the urgent question for those of us who support and advocate for our conservation tradition is how to respond.

One alternative is to lie low, hoping that this storm will soon pass by without too much lasting damage.

Failure to respond, however, is a form of appeasement that has not worked in the past and it will not work this time. Our adversaries prefer to operate in the shadows, outside the sunshine generated by public knowledge and participation. For our opponents know that when anti-environmentalism becomes a public issue they will lose. They know that American support for our environmental heritage is wide and deep.

There is no issue as lasting or as worthy as the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage. Theodore Roosevelt, more than a hundred years ago, put it this way: “We have fallen heir to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Who are you calling a dying city Newsweek?

Couldn’t be Grand Rapids Michigan! These guys were none too pleased to be included in a recent Newsweek piece on the bleakest cities in the land and decided to send a message to the media giant and their fellow Americans. Their medium of choice? A 9 minute, $40,000 music video set to “American Pie” featuring more than 5,000 of their citizens and a production that all but shut down downtown.

With almost 3,000,000 views on youtube as of this posting, it looks like they’re having no trouble showing the world how un-dead they really are. And really, it’s an important reminder that media outlets are in it to generate a profit like any other business. Bad news sells, even if it isn’t always the whole truth. Aren’t things tough enough without inventing more reasons to keep us up at night Newsweek?

Down but not Out! From Grand Rapids to America to the World!

It is vitally important to remember to be grateful for people like Bill Mckibben, the brave leader of the 350.org movement, who not only keeps shining the bright light of truth at us whether we like it or not, but does it with wit, eloquence and even occasional irony.

This video is a narration of Mckibben’s recent piece in the Washington Post set to the astonishing imagery of climate disruptions over the past year masterfully constructed by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia.com.

And if you didn’t think it was possible to laugh about climate change, there’s always The Onion!

Air Force veteran Tim Goodrich understands better than almost anyone else the perils of a policy of endless wars to secure precious resources. After his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s come home to a new start and a new perspective on how to achieve the oft discussed “National Security”.

He loves his new Nissan Leaf, the latest electric vehicle to hit the consumer market and the first one to be widely available since the oil and auto makers vanquished the very promising EV1 back in the late ’90’s, not just because his days of $100 tanks of gas are over, but because electric vehicles and any other path toward decreasing our dependence on oil make us safer globally and environmentally.

Goodrich says the military is even looking into using electric vehicles in combat since they have lower heat signatures making them harder to track, and they are obviously not an explosion risk since there is no combustion taking place.

As for common complaints about the 100 mile range and availability of charging stations, Goodrich has an app for that.

Ninety percent of Americans drive less than 100 miles a day, and to me it just means doing a bit more planning before I set out. I was recently concerned about the amount of driving I had to do, so I consulted the map on my Leaf iPhone app and found a station right near the UCS campus. When I pulled up there, they were just dedicating the station, and I became the first customer.

From a soldier on the field of battle to a soldier for a sustainable future, it looks like Tim Goodrich won’t be giving up the fight any time soon.

The Happy Planet Index is economics at its most basic: Input vs Output of a system. With one small difference. It’s focus is on efficiency or true economy. The New Economics Foundation, a “think-and-do-tank” that breathes some life into the musty theories of economics, has taken on the considerable task of demonstrating and then communicating that our lives can be rich and fulfilling without destroying the planet through their Happy Planet Index. It seems like they’ve succeeded in creating something imminently understandable yet profound.

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.

Attempting to quantify and measure the happiness level of a group of people is a daunting and controversial task whose very feasibility has been debated since the beginning of time. With a clear understanding of the complexities at play, here’s what the HPI team has to say:

In recent years, the debate has moved from philosophy to the realm of science, with a growing body of research identifying what it means to be happy, what drives it and how to measure it. For us, being ‘happy’ is more than just having a smile on your face – we use the term subjective well-being to capture its complexity. Aside from feeling ‘good’, it also incorporates a sense of individual vitality, opportunities to undertake meaningful, engaging activities which confer feelings of competence and autonomy, and the possession of a stock of inner resources that helps one cope when things go wrong. Well-being is also about feelings of relatedness to other people – both in terms of close relationships with friends and family, and belonging to a wider community.

Understanding the ecological footprint of an individual or group is relatively straightforward by comparison, but their attempt to break it down is still worth a read.

From here it’s just a matter of plugging the data into their elegant equation and making sense of the results.

The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being, and that it is possible to produce high well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.

The complete results for over 140 countries can be found here. You probably won’t be surprised to see that the US falls into the “blood red” footprint category and shares the crown with most of Africa, Cambodia and Iraq.

And why is this measurement not only relevant but critically important? Once again the near religious worship of Growth as the means to any end is proving to be no more than an academic concept that becomes incredibly destructive when put into practice.

Biologists talk about physical growth as a process which has an optimum level beyond which further growth is not beneficial, and can indeed turn malignant. Economic growth can be subjected to the same analysis. Aside from the obvious environmental impacts which we have already discussed, there is gathering evidence that an obsession with growth may have led us to ignore other aspects of life critical to our well-being. This is where the HPI has a crucial role: pointing us towards a new vision of progress which does not depend on ever-increasing growth.

During an economic crisis, it may seem inopportune to question the centrality of economic growth. Now more than ever, governments around the world are desperate to restart growth by any means possible. And yet we should not lose sight of the fact that economic growth is just one strategy to achieve well-being and, in terms of natural resources, a demonstrably inefficient one. Rather than pursuing growth at all costs, even if detrimental to well-being or sustainability, leaders should be striving to foster well-being and pursue sustainability, even if detrimental to growth. The horse and the cart need to be returned to their rightful places.

 

One of our favorite Pioneering spirits here at Net Positive, Douglas Rushkoff, has recently launched the Contact Summit. Just about 6 months away, this counter-conference as Rushkoff lovingly refers to it, will take place in the big apple on October 20th. Our favorite part is the non-heirarchical structure. All attendants are also presenters if they so choose. The whole event is designed with collaboration in mind and all are welcome to bring their projects to the table. Sounds like a priceless opportunity to mix it up with people who are walking the walk. Here’s the intro from Rushkoff:

We might open with some short “provocations” from people in the field sharing their greatest challenges, but the object of the game is to spawn, share, and develop our hopes and dreams. What will come out of this process is anyone’s guess. At at the very least, we’ll convene meetings about the ideas we care about, and vote on the ideas we want to pursue and push forward. We’ll have a giant Bazaar where everyone can demo their works in progress for one another and seek help, customers, or collaborators. We’ll have the chance to get the advice of leading technologists, entrepreneurs, and theorists on our work, and to educate ourselves about what everyone else is doing.

More than that, we will have planted a flag in the sand that social media is evolutionary in spirit, and capable of addressing the greatest challenges facing humanity at the brink of economic, ecological, and cultural crisis. And to celebrate this fact.

Social media is about more than socializing or creating affinity groups around consumption preferences. If you want to counter the commercialization of this incredible part of the commons, this seems like the chance to do it.

photo: tourism-review.com

These days there seems to be quite a lot to protest about, and quite a lot of people actually acting on their frustrations and taking to the streets. From the burgeoning civil war in Libya and the dramatic revolutions under way in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and on and on and on, to the labor struggles in America and the riots over economic injustice in England, there are clearly many different ways to redress grievances. A few decades ago in America, as people struggled for an end to the various social injustices plaguing their country, a debate also raged about the most effective approach to protest.

It boils down to “non-violent” or “violent”. That’s a major simplification but it speaks to the basics of the protest. I can understand how people can feel so hopeless and powerless that they see no choice but to resort to more extreme measures. While this may sometimes seem like the only option, in my opinion, it is rarely the best one or the most effective. Which is why I was so heartened to hear about the peaceful demonstrations underway in India. A week-long fast in protest against corruption in that country resulted in an amazing gathering of people from all walks.

My most recent personal experience in the protest department was last October when I traveled to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity. It’s a worthy goal to strive for in these frenzied times and I couldn’t wait to stand beside other sane people and show solidarity. I was so excited in fact, that my group and I tried to get as close as we could to the action, not really thinking through how difficult that would be in the confined space of the National Mall (who knew the mall could ever seem small!). The next thing we knew, we were completely surrounded, body to body with fellow rallyers. I can’t recall ever feeling more confined and helpless in a crowd as I did in that moment. We could see no clear space to walk toward. Everyone was trying to get somewhere or stay near someone. At any other rally it might have actually been a dangerous situation. The kind of thing where wild heads result in trampling, stampeding, and general mayhem with possible bodily harm. Fortunately this was the rally for sanity and it truly was the most respectful, mild-mannered mob you could ever hope to see. Everyone was sincerely polite, making every effort to accommodate each other, let groups stay in tact, keep voices at reasonable levels given the extreme proximity we were in. Initially I felt myself becoming slightly terrified as I noticed the crowd closing in around me, but the fear immediately gave way to wonder at the conduct I was witnessing around me.

Speaking out and standing up against tyranny wherever you find it is vital to a promising future for the human family. Don’t forget that the most important place to take a stand isn’t always somewhere distant, but right in your own home, in your own heart. Every decision, every day is a revolutionary act that creates the world you see around you. If you think something should be different, try changing yourself first. Then don’t be afraid to take it outside, stand up and be counted!

photo: human flower project