People Power: Climate, Our Part and the Elephants in the Room

As the talk about climate change escalates I keep glancing at plans, suggestions, demands, etc. and making mental notes about what massive change would really entail.  The main things I keep seeing are (1) we the ordinary people have a much bigger role to play than most “change” advocates seem to acknowledge and (2) the massive shift we need will have much greater consequences to the world economy than is generally being discussed.

First, I see a world in which governments for the most part are broken.  Corruption and ties to big money have so infiltrated governments everywhere, I find it odd so many environmental advocates are still calling for governments to do something.  Really, what on earth about how they operate leads anyone to believe they would?

Until we can make sweeping changes in who is elected — keeping corporate money out of the electoral process altogether — democratic governments are not going to pass laws that hamstring global corporations.  And even if we can elect politicians with no such ties, let’s be realistic.  If global corporations are reined in to the necessary degree, massive economic issues, including widespread layoffs and falling profits will result.  No elected politician wants to preside over such a potentially cataclysmic shift.

I’m not saying the process doesn’t also need help from government, but because they’re unlikely to change so radically in the short time frame we need, I think it is going to be regular people working locally along with municipal and maybe state or provincial governments that will create the faster changes we need.

Politicians who discuss “the Green New Deal” or climate change more globally are by and large stepping around the issues of failing corporations and falling GNPs.  They don’t want to say out loud what the real impact of making radical change may have. The youth who are striking often seem to me to be a little naive when it comes to understanding the likely results of the degree of revolutionary change they demand — as did the “radical revolutionaries” of the Viet Nam era; the one sticking point that kept me slightly apart.  I’m not saying they’re wrong that we need it, but I also see you have to face this issue as a probable outcome.

I’m seeing a lot of movement toward more local solutions.  As I’ve mentioned, the world wide co-op movement is very heartening.  It’s been going on long enough I’m seeing studies showing they’re making profits, employing a lot of people and paying them better, etc.  They also allow women and people of color to get a fair shake.

Clearly there are already people who see this is the way to go.  I just think we need a wider-spread consciousness about the need to quickly form local co-ops (or similar) for everything from banking to manufacturing to farming to housing, etc. See previous post for more on co-ops.

What I don’t see is enough individuals advocating on how much WE have to change.  The U.S. is the worst as far as over-consuming.  Our citizens need to step it up more than most pundits are telling them and quit the constant buying.  The assumption that women need a 150 square foot closet and more than enough clothes to fill it needs to stop.  Buying a new computer or cell phone every time a small change in technology comes out needs to stop.  Driving gas-guzzling SUVs needs to stop.  Buying food you don’t need and throwing it away needs to stop.

In my lifetime we’ve moved from a society in which many families had one car and men formed carpools at work so wives and children had the car some days and not others to a society in which every body in the family has at least one vehicle.  We should be demanding expanded public transportation and driving fewer cars instead of more.

No one — especially no politician — wants to tell people they MUST dramatically change their lifestyles especially regarding consuming habits.  Generally speaking the population is resistant to being told big changes must be made .  But this time we have to be agents of change.  Part of that change is also to remake governments to serve the people, but till we do, we’re the best hope we have.

And if we all really start cutting back as much as we must, sales fall, profits decrease, corporations downsize and lay people off, etc.  Some will go out of business.  We should also be using consumer boycotts to express our wrath at their destructive practices and the same consequences are likely.

We need to have a plethora of local opportunities ready to hire displaced workers.  Some places are working on plans where the shift to more sustainable plans and programs includes many new jobs.  We’re talking about a shifting of business and jobs on a scale never seen by the world.

We need to shift to a Thrive Economy instead of one that always grows bigger:

It’s time for us to be poring through Project Drawdown to see which solutions we could support with funding, which solutions we could work on in groups or alone, whether new ideas can be spun from the many offered there.
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Government as it is constituted right now isn’t going to accomplish this for us.  It’s up to us.  What can we do to shift the mentality from grow to thrive?  How can we start businesses and co-ops operating to thrive while being sustainable?  What are WE going o do to save the world?

People Power: Going local with water

The Kentucky River by Halls at the River, photographer Leigh Gaitskill copyright 2019

Environmental impacts on water have been of interest to me since the late sixties, when big water issues near me on the Great Lakes were in the news.  In recent years I’ve been following with great concern the conversation about clean water becoming scarce around the world.  Then when crisis hit my home town of Flint, Michigan, alarm bells started sounding.

Since Flint, there are increasing numbers of cities with lead problems popping up and eerily little media attention to the issue.  I’m pretty aware of a number of cases because I do a lot of poking around in environmental issues, but you’d have to be really looking to realize how widespread the issue of lead in water due to old pipes is.

Among those who are more aware of the water problem, there’s often a call for federal action  It’s another place where I think local plans from communities coming together may provide more and better answers  Given the many problems besides old pipes that are coming to a head about even having sources of clean water, I don’t think a giant plan to put in new pipes is our best answer.

Looking at Flint

For Flint, there’s an immediate problem of organizing enough drinking water for the populace.  There are a couple of passionate folks I’ve encountered on Twitter who are raising money for bottled water — Lance Cooper @escapedmatrix and Mari Copeny @LittleMissFlint; check them out and donate if you can.  But I can see the problem requires a bigger solution and something more sustainable.

I’ve been looking at rainwater collection as an interim possibility.  First, the technology already exists for both collecting and purifying it and it’s widely available.  Second, it would help them keep an ongoing supply of water.  Third, if you could throw holding tanks into the deal and a give-away of good-sized re-usable jugs, with a number of centers (probably churches and/or community centers), people could collect decent amounts of water as needed.  Not a permanent solution as rain fall is too unreliable, but possibly helpful while a better answer is sought.

It’s a poor community and this would cost a lot more than a fundraiser can garner.  The City of Flint is broke (thanks so much General Motors for abandoning the town).  So I’ve been looking at the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, which happens to be located in Flint.  In fact, Flint is one of the foundation’s missions and they also have an Environmental mission, so I can see a grant proposal that ties these two arenas together.

Not every state allows rain water collection so not an answer for some places, but Michigan doesn’t have a law in place that prevents it.  I’ll be exploring some other technologies and potential drawbacks below.

A second phase would involve something like water purification systems for homes in the area.  Possibly the right person or group could get a company that makes them to give a break or make a donation and a grant could cover the remaining cost and installation.  Below I also look at a few other up and coming technologies for supplying water without using current sources or pipes.  Mari has started a fundraiser to buy purifiers.

I don’t have connections in the area any more (and was too young to have this kind when I lived there), so don’t know community groups who could put in a grant proposal, and I am not an expert at writing a winning grant proposal, so I’m hoping there are people who DO know who can step up.

Foundation support will likely not be the answer as the problem grows more widespread, but Mott is not alone in offering grants for communities and/or for environmental projects so the towns with immediate issues could potentially use grants to help create local supplies of water.

For an excellent analysis of the issues for Flint and why the community should take charge: Flint Water Crisis: The Importance of Building a Grassroots Environmental Justice Infrastructure

Keep It Local

Throughout this series I’ve been advocating a shift to local forums for everything from jobs to manufacturing to governance.  While many who are looking at the growing water crisis and demanding federal action on large scale infrastructure, I’m not so sure the feds are our best hope nor that simply replicating the current water supply system is our best long-term answer.

Given the scale of climate change, I think the current water crisis is a perfect moment to think in terms of sustainable answers.  And the means and methods of sustainability are going to vary widely with locale given differences in climate, water sources, etc.  As I continue explore the growing co-op movement around the world, I’m thinking that local and, in the case of large cities, sometimes neighborhood, co-ops dealing with water may do a better job.  At the least, local governments are better situated to work on the specific needs and possibilities of their communities.

In Texas, for instance, after the big drought of 2011, a number of cities instituted serious changes in how they collect water and their chosen means were very much suited to the local climate and how water is available.  See Six Alternative Water Sources for Texas.  See also: Alternative Water Sources: Supply Side Solutions for Green Buildings for discussions of a number of solutions being used in cities scattered around the U.S.

 Community Groups

Poor neighborhoods are particularly under-served when it comes to safe water and in some areas strong community advocacy groups have been instrumental in getting things done.  If your town or area is having trouble about water and you don’t have such a group, I highly recommend that you look into some of the already-existing ones and create a group that suits your issues.

I’ve read a few things about a group in L.A. which advocates for south L.A., where Black and immigrant residents are disproportionately harmed by environmental issues.  Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education’s (SCOPE) work for social, economic and environmental justice is impressive.  Other groups to explore:  Detroit, West Harlem Environmental Action, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice partners with various communities around the South to promote environmental justice.

Sustainable Water Sources

There is so much info, I can’t provide an exhaustive list but there are a couple of promising avenues to discuss and then I have a lot of links to articles discussing various alternatives to draining all the rivers and lakes, etc.  One thing I’m finding I want to emphasize is potential environmental impacts if some of these things are done on a large scale.

A number of inventors have created devices using solar to create water by drawing water from the air.  Sounds great if you’re talking about one or a few.  But I can’t imagine there’s not an environmental impact down the road if you put thousands and thousands in place, sucking all the moisture out of the air.  So far I’m striking out at finding any environmental impact studies on them at all.

Rain water collection systems are not legal in every state.  Particularly in places with water supply problems, rain water run off is part of the water eco system and states have outlawed it, claiming the state owns that water.  Michigan at the moment has a big supply of water so has not outlawed it, but as water becomes more scarce everywhere I can see potential for multitudes of rain water collection systems also causing detrimental environmental impacts.  Right now they’re available but not that common and it seems like a good solution but I’d like to know if there’s a tipping point where collecting rain would become more of a hazard than a help.

There are also a variety of desalinization devices, including solar, many already in operation in places where it’s suitable.  Again I’ve not seen an environmental impact assessment regarding widespread drawing on salt water sources and taking out the salt.  Seems like another spot with an eventual tipping point from help to harm.

There are other innovations coming along all the time for creating potable water so it’s worth snooping around on the web every now and then to see what’s new.

More info

The latest issue of the alumnae magazine from my Alma mater, Northwestern University, had a really good article about water and efforts being made by various professors in various departments to find solutions.  Solutions for Troubled Waters.

The whole article is worth reading but I particularly noted a couple of resources.  Chemistry professor Will Dichtel has a company offering some of the solutions, from home purifiers to waste management and more, CycloPure.

The director of the Environmental Advocacy Center of the law school’s legal clinic was highlighted and I was interested to note that the Advocacy Center offers help to communities in many places, not just Chicago, so a good potential resource in the U.S.- and apparently they’re working on becoming international.  Their solutions are not just legal, but include help in solving problems, sometimes in conjunction with other NU departments, so a good resource to know about.

The EPA also has a grants program that offers up to $30,000 to community organizations working on environmental justice issues.  Seems like a great place for people in a town like Flint or Newark to propose a program to help with the water crisis.  Environmental Justice Small Grants Program

And some miscellaneous articles on water issues:

The People Power posts:

 

People Power: Government, the Environment and Us

For some years I’ve been increasingly fascinated by the degree to which Americans want government to do everything for them yet don’t want to pay taxes for it and simultaneously dislike “big government”.

Lately I’ve been finding it especially ironic that many are reviving the old “red scare” which completely misunderstands socialism (and conflates it with Soviet Communism) while also wanting government to take care of everything from roads to health care to the environment to jobs, etc.  Which is kind of socialist…

Liberals have always been more complacent about government but in some ways the widespread assumption that government intervention is the most important source of help for multiple problems is misguided in my opinion.

For instance, the liberal/left keeps jumping up and down about climate change and making the federal government’s role in it central and crucial to any success.  In the meantime, though, if you look around at what’s happening around the world, the greatest and most vibrant projects with potential for saving the earth arose from individuals, non-profits and local governments taking initiative to work on new and creative ideas.

Project Drawdown is an extremely heartening book detailing innovations already under way with potential to turn around climate change if they continue and expand. Multitudes of projects are already happening and almost none of them were implemented by national governments. See also Yes Magazine, Planet tab, and note this article in particular: How to Not Be Completely Depressed About Climate Change.

I’m not saying that government can’t play an important role or that it isn’t a huge help if national governments get on board.  But the reality is most federal governments are so ruled by corporate interests and so deeply corrupted by those ties that to me it isn’t realistic to assume even the “right” elected representatives can create changes of the magnitude we need.

The one heartening piece I’ve seen lately was the number of newly elected representatives to the U.S. House who raised money only through individuals, not through corporate PACs.  If we could accomplish a turnover in which the majority of those elected are doing it without corporate money, we might start shifting the corruption because they might be less subject to influence.  I also think that might take too long.

Too me the great hope for the world is in having more of us participating, from trying out the kinds of innovations others have already launched, to financially supporting non-profits with viable programs to creating your own climate saving project.  From projects you can do in your own yard to ideas for solar buildings and/or neighborhoods, etc. there are multitudes of ways people power can expand and create ever greater impacts.

Throughout this series I’ll be calling for local action and for more conscious meshing of ideas, groups, volunteering etc. within communities in order to separate ourselves on many levels from the greed of the 2% and corporate power.

A topic for another day is using people power to break corporate power and thus the global corporate tendency to destroy the environment.  In the meantime, yes, work to elect “green” candidates and push for helpful legislation, but even more important look at your local landscape and see what YOU can do.  What’s happening that you could participate in with friends?  What organizations are doing great things that could use volunteers or more funds?

And for the spiritually-minded, who believe in the power of prayer, visualization and energy:  holding a vision of a healthy world, raising your own vibration to help raise the world’s vibration, sending healing energy to Earth and affirming the positive innovations by bringing attention to them are all ways to contribute.

The People Power series so far:

We are the World Blogfest July 2017 edition

Sorry I’m a little late with this month’s WATWB.  Love, love, love this news, so definitely wanted to share!  Check out the Good News Network to keep up with positive news.

Goals of Paris Agreement May Be Met Sooner Than Expected

July 29, 2017

waynejparker
Displayed with permission from Good News Network

The precipitous drop in costs for renewable energy technology-even from prices a few years ago-means that carbon emissions may decrease faster and hit the targets earlier than those envisioned by the Paris Climate Agreement. Here are three technologies making that happen:

1. Solar – the average price of a MWh of electricity from solar cells has dropped from $394 in 2009 to $55 today. Solar accounted for 39% of all new electric generating capacity last year, topping all other methods for the first time.

2. Wind – the cost of wind power has likewise dropped dramatically, from an average of $135 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to $47. Wind energy is currently generated in 41 of the 50 U.S. states, with capacity of 82,000 megawatts, double the amount 6 years ago.CHECK OUT: India Plants Record-breaking 66 Million Trees in 12 Hours

3. Electric Vehicles (EVs) – the changes in EV availability, cost, range and customer acceptance are remarkable.

EVs like the Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt have a range of over 200 miles. Even the 25-30 mile range of many new plug-in hybrids covers over 80% of the trips most people take, with the gasoline engine available for the remainder. The cost of the new Tesla and Bolt is around $35,000, yet the average cost of a new car in the US this year is $34,000. Over 20 new EVs will be introduced in the next year, with the cost per mile for electricity usually less than half the cost of gasoline, depending on fuel costs in each area.

Recharging EV batteries takes less time today; some of the newer technologies can charge batteries to 80% capacity in 30 minutes or less-which makes the growing network of recharging stations at restaurants and highway stops more pertinent.

MORECompany is Offering to Retrain Coal Miners as Wind Farmers For Free

Tesla’s Model X was tested as the safest SUV ever, of any type. Without a gasoline motor or transmission, EVs can have larger ‘crumple zones’ and the batteries under the floor create a lower center of gravity reducing roll-overs. They often accelerate faster than gasoline-powered cars because of the greater range of torque in electric motors.

Non-hybrid EVs also win the maintenance test since they have no transmission, engine, radiator, water pump, oil pump, etc. to service. Because of their simplicity and the reliability of electric motors, EVs may last 500,000 miles or more.

While coal currently provides about 30% of US electricity, that number is declining with each passing year. In contrast, the share of renewables is growing rapidly and will surpass coal, perhaps sooner rather than later. Thus, as time goes on, EVs will be even better for the environment as their source fuel becomes cleaner.

RELATED10-Year-old Boy Invents Device That Will Save Children From Hot Cars

The economic momentum of renewably-powered cars is also moving governments to support the trend. India’s new policy is that the country will sell only EVs by 2030. China is singing the same tune, with new requirements and support of their own EV industry. Britain and France just announced an end to fossil fuel cars in their countries by 2040.

Wayne Parker is a consultant who helped develop one of the earliest electric car competitions and was Deputy Director of California’s SolarCal office. He lives in Eugene, Oregon now and has a Tesla Model 3 on order.

Click To Share The News With Your Friends – OR,  (Photo by Topaz Solar Farm

The co-hosts of We Are the World Blogfest:

Belinda WitzenhausenCarol Walsh,Chrissie ParkerDamyanti BiswasEmerald BarnesEric LahtiInderpreet Kaur UppalKate PowellLynn HallbrooksMary GieseMichelle WallacePeter NenaRich WeatherlyRoshan RadhakrishnanSimon FalkSusan ScottSylvia SteinSylvia McGrath

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