Energy Progress Elsewhere

Bangkok hosts key climate summit
A major conference on what needs to be done to combat climate change opens in Thailand's capital, Bangkok.

Solar loans light up rural India
Thousands of people in rural India have used an innovative loan scheme to install solar power units, the UN says.


Volunteer to Recyle at Women's Golf Tourney, Sou. Pines, NC

Keep Moore County Beautiful and League of Women Voters present

Big Recycling News!
For the first time ever, there will be recycling at the Women’s US Open – thanks to David Benne of Pinehurst Championship Management, and Betse Hamilton of the US Golf Association.

The Open runs from Monday, June 25 through Sunday July 1, at Pine Needles.
If you want to support recycling J or to see the golf, you can sign up to be a recycling volunteer –working 3 hours and receiving a full day’s pass to the golf for that day.

Help!! There are 88 slots to fill!

Sign up only if you feel sure that you can make the date- as we will not have a huge group to fall back on for substituting. Schedules will be determined by June 10. We will try to accommodate your requests.

Each person will be overseeing up to 6 recycle bins – removing anything put in other than plastic bottles and retrieving plastic bottles when practical from rubbish cans. If anything other than plastic bottles gets into the recycle bins—the whole container goes to the rubbish and to the landfill.

The job is to make sure that it goes to recycling.

It requires being on your feet for three hours. There are no uniforms.

There is no heavy lifting. Volunteers will wear a recycle sign to promote recycling and to help the public look for our containers. Remember, this is a first time, and we are not sure of what to expect.

By special arrangement with David White, Assistant Town Manager, Southern Pines will pick up all of the filled bags of recycle.

The three hour shifts are: A) 9-noon; B) noon to 3:00 p.m.; or C) 3:00-6:0 0 p.m.

Information about parking, ID, getting passes, etc. will be provided when assignments are made. Please email, call, or talk with one of the core community contacts listed below.

We are hoping to make this a real community effort of individuals and organizations.
Tell your friends, pass this along, and let us hear from you.

Contacts: Pat / Jon Bolles - 673-397
Yes, I will help RECYCLE David Klauder - 295-3191
At the US Women’s Open KMCB, Joan Neal - 947-3478
At Pine Needles LWV, Dot Greenwood -215-0443
Mon. June 25- Sun. July 1 dottom@pinehurst.net

Karl Marx in Fayetteville

The Gilbert Theater is pleased to present
Marx in Soho
Marx in Soho is a one character play, written by renowned people’s historian Howard Zinn, which combines hard-hitting information with humor, sharp politics and sheer delight.
Marx in Soho won the 2000 Independent Publisher Award for best visionary fiction.
Directed by Marcela Casals
Produced and performed by Fenton Wilkinson
Howard Zinn brings Karl Marx back to life to address a contemporary audience in Soho in this witty and insightful “play on history.” Marx has agitated with the authorities of the afterlife for a chance to clear his name. Through a bureaucratic error, however, Marx is sent to Soho in New York, rather than his old stomping ground in London, to make his case.
Zinn introduces us to Marx's wife, Jenny, his children, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin,
and a host of other characters.
Marx in Soho is a brilliant introduction to Marx's life, his analysis for society,
and his passion for radical change — and the relevance of Marx's ideas for today.
May 4th, 5th, 11th & 12th at 8:00 p.m.
May 6th & 13th at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.
The Gilbert Theater
Bow & Green Streets
Fayetteville, NC
Cost: $10.00
For reservations: 910 678-7186


Speaking of Throwaways

[from a well-travelled blog reader]

"Did you know that in Ireland one of the plastic grocery bags that we treat like confetti costs 25 cents Euro? At current exchange rates that is around 32 cents U.S."

Vagina Monologues Day, Sou. Pines

Vagina Monologues Day
Southern Pines 2007 accomplishment:
Donation to Beneficiary - Friends of Guardian Ad Litem = $7,311.78
Donation to Spotlight Campaign - Women in Conflict Zones = $812.42
Total Donated = $8,124.20
Thank you, Southern Pines!

Kucinich Moves to Impeeach

Kucinich Officially Moves to Impeach Cheney

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Tuesday introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney. Kucinich outlined three charges against Cheney:

that he "manipulated the intelligence process ... by fabricating the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" to justify the war in Iraq;

that he deceived citizens and Congress "about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" to justify the war;

and that he has " openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran, absent any real threat to the United States, and has done so with the United States' proven capability to carry out such threats."


Putting the Money On. . .

Plant vault passes billion mark

The Millennium Seed Bank, a UK "Noah's Ark" for plants, reaches a milestone with pleas for more cash.

Eyes in the sky grow dim

Budget cuts mean Nasa's capacity to monitor our planet is greatly diminishing, a major report has concluded.


Important Energy Bulletin


Summer on the Porch, Aberdeen, May 13

The Rooster’s Wife
Summer on the Porch

The Carolina Chocolate Drops
and Willa Brigham, Master Storyteller

May 13, 2007

The Postmaster’s House, South Street, Aberdeen, NC
Admission $8, Children under 12 free
Gates open at 5:30 Picnics welcome
Info: (910) 944-7502

The Rooster’s Wife is a private non-profit association organized to
celebrate the performing arts in Aberdeen , North Carolina.
Created to serve the community by preserving our cultural heritage and
presenting the talent of the next generation,
the Rooster’s Wife is committed to offering affordable programs for every age to enjoy.

Postal Rate Hike

Small Publications Face Crippling Postal Hike -- Based on Time Warner Recommendation

Nation magazine publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel speaks out on a new US Post Office rate change that could affect many small and independent publications in this country.

Postal rates for smaller periodicals could increase by as much as 30 percent while some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent. According to internal documents, the hike was accepted based on a rate structure proposed by Time Warner, Inc.



Environmental News to Use

Conservation Insider Bulletin
Published weekly for the Conservation Council of North Carolina
Conservation News to Peruse & Use
Editor: Dan Besse, earthvote@ccnccpac.org

April 20, 2007

The Navy's proposed landing field adjacent to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge continued to lose altitude this week. We present that story and more environmental policy news in this week's CIB:
--Washington Watch: More Congressional Voices Add to No-OLF Chorus; EPA Finally Allowed to Act on Small-engine Pollution
--CoastWatch: Endangered Neuse; Nags Head Skeptics
--Administrative Watch: Duke Won't Appeal Half-a-Cliffside Order

Washington Watch: More Congressional Voices Add to No-OLF Chorus; EPA Finally Allowed to Act on Small-engine Pollution

More Congressional Voices Add to No-OLF Chorus: The big turnout in Charlotte against the OLF, including participation from traditionally conservative groups like the NRA and "property rights" organizations, seems to have knocked Elizabeth Dole off the fence. The day after hundreds of North Carolinians from western and central North Carolina turned out to the Navy's final public hearing on the OLF, Senator Dole publicly voiced her opposition to the Navy's "preferred" site adjacent to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Also speaking out against the site this week were other N.C. members of Congress, including Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC13), who called for the removal of funding for the OLF from this year's defense appropriations bill, pending a satisfactory resolution of the siting question. Both major Democratic candidates for governor in 2008 (Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore) sent representatives to the hearing to oppose the proposed site as well.

EPA Finally Allowed to Act on Small-engine Pollution: It came after years of dispute, including being tied up by Congress at the behest of U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) (who was doing the bidding of his home-state small-engine-manufacturer, Briggs & Stratton Corp.). This week, the EPA finally issued proposed rules tightening pollution controls on small engines (less than 50 horsepower), primarily lawnmowers and outboard boat engines. (Studies show that in some areas those engines account for up to 10 percent of urban smog-forming emissions.) Environmental groups praised the rules as being needed and long overdue. Comments will be accepted on the rules through August 3.

CoastWatch: Endangered Neuse; Nags Head Skeptics

Endangered Neuse: The national conservation group American Rivers this week released its annual list of the top ten most endangered rivers in the United States, and once again one of our own has received this dubious honor. The Neuse River was included among these threatened waterways, making the list for the fourth time in the last 12 years. According to the group, the Neuse is threatened by sediment and stormwater runoff, excess nutrients, and massive hog waste operations. For more details, go to the Neuse River Foundation website at www.neuseriver.org or American Rivers' site at www.americanrivers.org.

Nags Head Skeptics: The voters of Nags Head went to the polls this week to say neigh...excuse us, nay...on a proposal to subsidize beach renourishment (i.e., sand pumping) in front of threatened private structures. The town's voters turned down a referendum to increase property taxes for five years to pay a $24 million share of a $32 million sand-pumping project. The measure lost both townwide and (narrowly) even within a special oceanfront/oceanside district which would allegedly benefit most from the project. It looks like even beachfront towns are starting to get tired of pouring their cash into the surf.

Administrative Watch: Duke Won't Appeal Half-a-Cliffside Order

This is a good news—bad news kind of item from an environmental standpoint. Duke Energy announced this week that it won't seek court review of the N.C. Utilities Commission's order which authorized it to move forward with plans to build just one of two proposed new coal-fired units at the Cliffside plant in Cleveland and Rutherford counties.

From a clean air and climate change standpoint, that's considered good news, in that it reduces the chance that two new coal plants will be built at that location. Tactically, it's also bad news to some degree for environmental groups fighting the plants, as an appeal by Duke would have taken months or years. If those groups want the Utilities Commission's approval of one unit reviewed by the courts, now they will have to bring the appeal.

Alternatively, they could wait for the N.C. Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to issue the plant's air emissions permit, and challenge it. Duke says it won't make a decision on whether to actually build the plant until it reviews costs further, after DAQ acts on the permit request.

Plant opponents say that the additional coal-fired plant is unnecessary, and that Duke should instead be required to submit a plan for energy efficiency investments—which will cut both costs to consumers and air pollution.

That's CIB's report for this week. Happy Earth Day!


Artspace in Fayetteville

Artspace Paints Fayetteville Street

Artspace Paints Fayetteville Street brings the creative energy of Artspace to the wide-open spaces of North Carolina’s "main street" – Fayetteville Street. We have more than 20 artists working in a variety of media, scattered along the event space – be sure to look for the balloons and you’ll find artists creating unique works of art.

We also have live music:
Dancers from Southeast Raleigh High School at 2pm and 3:30pm
Djembe Fire! (African drumming group) at 2:30pm
Mixed Water at 4:00pm

For the Family:
The children’s art activity tent is located close to Hargett St. Children of all ages are welcome
to make their own zipper pulls. Want to get your kids more involved in art and develop that creative side? Be sure to drop by the Artspace tent right next door and pick up a catalog
of classes for our Summer Arts Program.

For those 21 and up:
Mutual Distributing presents our wine & beer tent.
Drink cards can be purchased for $5 each and include four 4 oz servings of beer or wine,
your choice. Taste the great variety of wines available or cool off with your favorite beer.
Also, please visit our food vendors – The Big Easy and Yancey’s – both restaurants are located right here on Fayetteville Street and have items for purchase outside for your convenience.
Event sponsors:
City of Raleigh
Friends of World Music

What is Artspace?
Artspace inspires creative energy! We are a nonprofit visual art center dedicated to presenting challenging exhibitions, providing arts education and outreach programs, and engaging the community to explore its creative side.
Since 1986, Artspace has been inviting the public to experience the creative process first hand by visiting our 25 artist studios, open to the public
Tuesday through Saturday 10am – 6pm and on the first Friday of each month until 10pm
for the First Friday Gallery Walks in downtown Raleigh.

Enjoy nationally acclaimed art exhibitions, meet our studio artists, and immerse yourself and your family in the creative energy by signing up for some art classes.
Please visit the Artspace tent for more information.
Artspace is located in City Market, on the corner of Davie and Blount streets –
two blocks east of Fayetteville St.


democracynow.org headlines

Headlines for April 20, 2007
Gonzales Defends Firing of U.S. Attorneys
Justice Dept Plotted to Restrict Minority Vote Turnout
Virginia Gunman Managed to Buy Guns Despite Mental Illness
Luis Posada Carriles Released From Jail
Harry Reid: The Iraq War is Lost
Trial Opens on Leaked Memo About Bush Bombing Al Jazeera
John McCain Jokes About Bombing Iran
Justice Dept Asks Courts to Toss Out All Guantanamo Lawsuits


Kucinich on Impeachment


Seagrove Area Potteries Presents

Saturday, April 21, 9 - 5
Sunday, April 22, noon - 5
14th Annual Spring Kiln Opening 2007
Rain or shine, door prizes
44 participating potters within 15 mile radius of Seagrove, NC
in a 200-year-old tradition
See the new spring wares fresh from the kilns
call Julia Morgan 336 873 7304

Where Is the Public in PBS?



US Gasoline

U.S. consumers paid $38 billion more for gasoline in the first 6 months of 2006 than they paid in the same period of 2005, and $57 billion more than they paid in the same period of 2004, in large part because of rising oil prices, which reached a 24-year high in 2006 when adjusted for inflation. GAO

And Speaking of Food. . .




A new report from GRAIN reveals the new lobbying offensive from the global seed industry to make it a crime for farmers to save seeds for the next year's planting. This briefing traces the recent discussions within the seed industry and explores what will happen if a plant variety right becomes virtually indistinguishable from a patent.

Send a Candidate

[from NRDC]

Save Sou. Pines

FREE "NO PUD" yard signs and bumper stickers

Call Greg Z. at 692-6968, he is waiting to hear from you
(Please leave a message on his answering machine)

Optional donations, payable to Save Southern Pines Association,
to help pay for signs, stickers, and printing, and media
can be mailed to:

Save Southern Pines Association
Attn: Donations Escrow Account
PO Box 2531
Southern Pines, NC 28388
(donations are NOT tax deductible at this time)

Thank you for your interest in joining your neighbors, and displaying the
NO PUD yard signs and bumper stickers.

Best Wishes,

What Is Global Security?

[Terrorism is inside the box. We must make profound adjustments TO the box.]



Organic Valley: GMO Alfalfa Will Devastate Organic Dairy Industry

Organic Valley Farmers Call for Permanent Injunction of GMO Alfalfa
LA FARGE, Wis., April 17 /PRNewswire/

Organic Valley farmers are joining the Center for Food Safety in a fight against the sale of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seed. Products certified under the USDA Organic seal cannot be genetically modified, and GM alfalfa drift threatens the integrity of certified-organic alfalfa crops, says the organic farmer-owned cooperative.

"Consumers respect and trust what the USDA organic seal represents, which includes no GMOs," said Organic Valley CEO George Siemon. "If the seal no longer represents a GMO-free product, the integrity of the seal will be greatly compromised and consumers may no longer choose organic products. The organic dairy industry is now at approximately $1.4 billion in sales. GM alfalfa drift would severely impact the market for our farmers' products."

The Center for Food Safety recently won a lawsuit filed in northern California finding the USDA illegally approved GM alfalfa without conducting the required Environmental Impact Statement. A judge in the Federal Northern District ordered a preliminary injunction, stopping the sale of GM alfalfa seed. Monsanto and Forage Genetics, developers of the seed, are arguing against a permanent injunction, which is now being sought by the Center for Food Safety.

"The USDA cannot ensure GMO alfalfa can be grown without cross-contaminating other crops, so it should not be allowed and it is not needed. Farmers have been growing alfalfa successfully for a hundred years," continued Siemon.

In the Declaration in Support of a Permanent Injunction against the sales of GMO Alfalfa, Siemon is explicit about the problem. The 975 dairy and livestock farmers of Organic Valley "feed their animals an all-organic diet that is on average 60 percent alfalfa. Each cow eats approximately 32.5 pounds of certified organic alfalfa a day."

Siemon goes on to say, "Contamination of organic alfalfa stands or seed stock will devastate the organic farmers who market milk."

"Alfalfa is a perennial with a three-mile pollination radius, so farm buffers won't work," explains Fred Kirschenmann, Iowa Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow and a farmer in North Dakota. "It is impossible to contain."

"We still don't know the long term effect of GM crops on the health of animals and people," Kirschenmann adds. "It took us 40 years to find out that CFCs were blowing a hole in the ozone."

Organic feed is already expensive and in short supply, and if organic alfalfa becomes contaminated by GM alfalfa, it would greatly compound the feed shortage, according to Siemon. Organic dairy farmers in the UnitedStates need approximately 450,000 tons of certified organic alfalfa annually to feed their organic cows.

"If farmers can't source adequate organic feed, they will not be able to produce organic milk," Siemon said.

In addition, if GM Alfalfa is allowed, organic farmers will be forced to test at great expense. Each test can range from $179-$259.

The concern over GM crops and food is fueled by U.S. organic consumers who have expressed skepticism over genetically modified crops, which are banned in Europe. This concern is reflected in a 2006 Hartman Group study,"Organic 2006: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior," which showed one of the primary reasons organic consumers buy organic food is to avoid genetically modified products.
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative: Independent and Farmer-Owned Organic Valley Family of Farms is America's largest and oldest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 975 farmers in 27 states and one Canadian province and realized a record $334 million in 2006 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping family farmers farming, the cooperative produces 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice. Its sister brand, Organic Prairie( http://www.organicprairie.com ) producues organic pork, beef, chicken and turkey.


Contact Your Legislator

One Person's Trash...Another Person's Energy

One person's trash can be another person's treasure-literally. In Orange County last week, the Board of County Commissioners initiated an innovative program to generate energy from the landfill. They're looking at siphoning off landfill gas to create electricity and heat.
Robeson County, earlier this year, began a public-private partnership to harness their landfill gas for use at a proposed ethanol plant.

These are great opportunities to turn something bad into something good.

Here's how it works: Landfills, stuffed to the rim with rotting garbage, give off methane and other gases. In most communities, of course, these gases are allowed to simply escape into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming. Methane is most worrisome because it's one of the worst greenhouse gases; it's many times more potent than car exhaust, for example.

The plan is to capture the landfill gas, pump it to a small energy generation facility, and create electricity. In addition, the process that creates electricity also creates excess heat, which can be used to heat nearby buildings. So, the community can get two bangs for our one buck.
These 'garbage-to-energy' projects, like the ones in Orange and Robeson Counties, represent the tip of the iceberg --or the tip of the trashheap--in terms of what we could be doing here in North Carolina. North Carolina is poised to become the first state in the southeast to seriously address climate change. Passage of some of the bills before the legislature will create a climate of opportunity for addressing global warming.

Creating energy from a waste product--like landfill gas--saves money and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. By looking at climate change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, we can accomplish several goals at once: reducing air pollution, addressing global warming, exploiting economic opportunity in a new sector, and saving money.

One person's trash really can be another person's treasure.

Saving Some Trees, April 24

The Concerned Citizens of Pinehurst are planning a "picnic in the park" to be held Tuesday, April 24 at 11:30 AM, in the triangle area on Rt 2, across from the tennis courts.

People are asked to bring their own lunches. Shirts have been made (dark green with white lettering -- Concerned Citizens of Pinehurst on front and a big roundabout with an "X" thru it on the back). Participants are asked for a $20 donation for the first shirt, with each one thereafter $10.

John Marcum has arranged for the TV and news media to be there. The group will then go to the Village Hall for a 1 PM meeting. John is asking for the group to be put on the council agenda.

If you need more information, call John, 295-6304.


The Long Emergency

James Howard Kunstler:
Remarks to the Commonwealth Club of California (transcript)
Author of The Long Emergency

Two years ago in my book, The Long Emergency, I wrote that our nation was sleepwalking into an era of unprecedented hardship and disorder – largely due to the end of reliably cheap and abundant oil. We're still blindly following that path into a dangerous future, lost in dark raptures of infotainment, diverted by inane preoccupations with sex and celebrity, made frantic by incessant motoring.

The coming age of energy scarcity will change everything about how we live in this country. It will ignite more desperate contests between nations for the remaining oil and natural gas around the world. It will alter the fundamental terms of industrial economies. It will ramify and amplify many of the problems presented by climate change. It will require us to behave differently. But we are not paying attention.

As the American public continues sleepwalking into a future of energy scarcity, climate change, and geopolitical turmoil, we have also continued dreaming. Our collective dream is one of those super-vivid ones people have just before awakening, as the fantastic transports of the unconscious begin to merge with the demands of waking reality. The dream is a particularly American dream on an American theme: how to keep all the cars running by some other means than gasoline. We'll run them on ethanol! We'll run them on biodiesel, on synthesized coal liquids, on hydrogen, on methane gas, on electricity, on used French-fry oil. . . !

The dream goes around in fevered circles as each gasoline-replacement is examined and found to be inadequate. But the wish to keep the cars going is so powerful that round and round the dream goes. Ethanol! Biodiesel! Coal Liquids. . . .

And a harsh reality indeed awaits us as the full scope of the permanent energy crisis unfolds. The global oil production peak is not a cult theory, it's a fact. The earth does not have a creamy nougat center of petroleum. The supply in finite, and we have ample evidence that all-time global production has peaked.

Of course, the issue is not about running out of oil, and never has been. There will always be some oil left underground – it just might take more than a barrel-of-oil's worth of energy to pump each barrel out, so it won't be worth doing.

The issue is not about running out – it's about what happens when you head over the all-time production peak down the slippery slope of depletion. And what happens is that the complex systems we depend on for everyday life in advanced societies begin to falter, wobble, and fail – and the failures in each system will in turn weaken the others. By complex systems I mean the way we produce our food, the way we conduct manufacture and trade, the way we operate banking and finance, the way we move people and things from one place to another, and the way we inhabit the landscape.

I'll try not to dwell excessively on the statistics since I am more concerned here with the implications for everyday life in our nation. But it is probably helpful to understand a few of the numbers.Oil production in the US peaked in 1970. We're now producing about half of what we did then, and our own production continues to run down steadily at the rate of a few percentage points of recoverable reserves each year. It adds up. In 1970, we were producing about 10 million barrels a day. Now we're down to less than five – and we consume over 20 million barrels a day. We have compensated for that since 1970 by importing oil from other nations. Today we import about two thirds of all the oil we use. Today, the world is consuming all the oil it can produce. As global production passes its own peak, the world will not be able to compensate for its shortfall by importing oil from other planets. Nor is there any real likelihood that new discoveries will be adequate to compensate. Discovery precedes production, of course, because you can't pump oil that you haven't discovered. Discovery of oil in the US peaked in the 1930s – and production started declining roughly thirty years later. Discovery of oil peaked worldwide in the 1960s, and now the signs suggest the world has peaked. Discovery of new oil worldwide in recent years has amounted to a tiny fraction of replacement levels. In fact, we may be burning more oil just in our exploration efforts than we will get from the oil we're discovering.

The oil industry has been dominated by what are called supergiant fields. The four reigning supergiant fields of oil our time were discovered decades ago and are now in decline. the Burgan field of Kuwait, the Daqing of China, Cantarell of Mexico, and Ghawar of Saudi Arabia. Together in recent decades they were responsible for 14 percent of the world's oil production, and they are now in decline. All except Ghawar of Saudi Arabia have been declared officially past peak by their own governments and Ghawar is showing clear signs of trouble – though Aramco itself won't say so. Ghawar has provided 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's production. Saudi Arabia's total production is down 8 percent in the year past, despite a massive increase in drilling rigs, and the incentive of high prices.

Last year, the Mexican national oil company, Pemex, declared its supergiant field, Cantarell, to be officially past peak and in decline. As in the case with Ghawar and Saudi Arabia, Cantarell has been responsible for 60 percent of Mexico's oil production. Cantarell is now crashing at an official decline rate of at least 15 percent a year – perhaps steeper. Mexico has been our No. 3 source of oil imports (after Canada and Saudi Arabia). The crash of Cantarell means in just a few years Mexico, our No. 3 source of imports, will have no surplus oil to sell to the US. It also means that the Mexican government will be strapped for operating revenue – and you can draw your own conclusions about the political implications.

The North Sea and Alaska's North Slope were some of the last great discoveries of the oil era. Plentiful North Sea and Alaskan production took away OPEC's leverage over the oil markets. This led to the oil glut of the 1990s, driving oil prices down finally to $10 a barrel. It is also what induced the American public to fall asleep on energy issues. It seemed as if cheap oil was here to stay. Forever.

Both The North Sea and Alaska are now past peak and in depletion. Prudhoe Bay proved to be Alaska's only super giant oil field. Several other key fields were discovered. None were even 1/6th the size of Prudhoe Bay. North Sea oil was produced using the latest-and-greatest new technology for drilling and guess what: it only allowed the region to be drained more rapidly and efficiently. Now 57 of Norway's 69 oil fields are past peak and the average post-peak decline rates average 17 percent a year. The UK's share of the North Sea has declined to the extent that England is now a net energy importer.

Russia, despite current high levels of post-soviet era production, peaked in the 1980s, and may now be past 70 percent of its ultimate recoverable reserves. Iran is past peak. Indonesia, an OPEC member, is so far past peak it became a net oil importer last year. Venezuela is past peak. Iraq and Nigeria are consumed by political insurrection. The companies developing Canada's tar sands have announced this past year that their costs will double original estimates – in other words, whatever comes out of the ground there will be very expensive.

Meanwhile, in the background, completely ignored by the US media, an additional problem is developing on the oil scene. Net world production is going down by just under 3 percent a year, but total exports from the top ten exporters are going down at an even steeper rate. Geologist Jeffrey Brown, among the excellent technicians at TheOilDruim.com website, writes that the top ten exporters are showing a net export decline rate of 7 percent the past year, trending toward a 50 percent export decline over the coming ten years. Why? Because on top of production decline rates, nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela are using more of their own oil at home with rising populations and more automobiles.

A few additional background items. Most of the easy-to-get, light and sweet crude oil is gone. We got that out of the ground in the run-up to peak. We found that high quality oil in temperate places onshore, like Texas, where it was easy and pleasant to work, and the stuff was relatively close to the surface. The remaining oil is, each year, proportionally made up more of heavy and sour crudes that are hard to refine and yield less gasoline. Most of the refinery capacity in the world cannot process these heavy and sour crudes and there is no world-class industrial effort to build new ones – and on top of that, existing world refinery infrastructure is old and rusty.

Finally, most of the remaining oil in the world exists either in geographically forbidding places where it is extremely difficult and expensive to work, like deep water out in the ocean or in frozen regions, or else it belongs to people who are indisposed to be friendly to us.The natural gas situation is at least equally ominous, with some differences in the technical details – and by the way, I'm referring here not to gasoline but to methane gas (CH4), the stuff we run in kitchen stoves and home furnaces. Natural gas doesn't deplete slowly like oil, following a predictable bell curve pattern; it simply stops coming out of the ground very suddenly, and then that particular gas well is played out. You get your gas from the continent you're on. Natural gas is moved to customers in the US, Canada, and Mexico in an extensive pipeline network. To import natural gas from overseas, it has to be liquefied, loaded in a special kind of expensive-to-build-and-operate tanker ship, and then offloaded at specialized marine terminal, all adding layers of cost. The process also obviously affords us poor control over not-always-friendly foreign suppliers.

Half the homes in America are heated with gas furnaces and about 16 percent of our electricity is made with it. Industry uses natural gas as the main ingredient in fertilizer, plastics, ink, glue, paint, laundry detergent, insect repellents and many other common household necessities. Synthetic rubber and man-made fibers like nylon could not be made without the chemicals derived from natural gas. In North America, natural gas production peaked in 1973. We are drilling as fast as we can to keep the air conditioners and furnaces running.

That's the background on our energy predicament. Against this background is the whole question of how we live in the United States. I wrote three books previously about the fiasco of suburbia. There are many ways of describing it, but lately I refer to it as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Why? Because it is a living arrangement with no future. Why doesn't it have a future? Because it was designed to run on cheap oil and gas, and in just a few years we won't have those things anymore.

Having made these choices, we are now hobbled by a tragic psychology of previous investment – that is, having poured so much of our late-20th century wealth into this living arrangement – this Happy Motoring utopia – we can't imagine letting go of it, or substantially reforming it.

We have compounded the problem lately by making the building of suburban sprawl the basis of our economy. Insidiously, we have replaced America's manufacturing capacity with an economy based on building evermore suburban houses and the accessories and furnishings that go with them – the highway strips, the big box shopping pods, et cetera – meaning that our economy is now largely based on building more and more stuff with no future – on a continued misallocation of resources. Roughly 40 percent of the new jobs created between 2001 last year were in housing bubble related fields – the builders, the real estate agents, the mortgage brokers, the installers of granite countertops. If you subtracted the housing bubble from the rest of the economy in recent years, there wouldn't be much left besides hair-styling, fried chicken, and open heart surgery. Much of this housing bubble itself was promulgated by an equally unprecedented lapse in standards and norms of finance – a tragedy-in-the-making that has now begun to unwind.

What are we going to do about our extreme oil dependence and the living arrangement that goes with it? There's a widespread wish across America these days that some combination of alternative fuels will rescue us; will allow us to continue enjoying by some other means what has been called "the non-negotiable American way of life." The wish is perhaps understandable given the psychology of previous investment.

But the truth is that no combination of alternative fuels or systems for using them will allow us to continue running America the way we have been, or even a substantial fraction of it. We are not going to run Wal Mart, Walt Disney World, Monsanto, and the interstate highway system on any combination of solar or wind energy, hydrogen, nuclear, ethanol, tar sands, oil shale, methane hydrates, thermal depolymerization, zero-point energy, used french-fry oil, or anything else you can name. We will desperately use many of these things in many ways, but we are likely to be disappointed by what they can actually do for us, particularly in terms of scale – apart from the fact that most or all of them are probably net energy losers in economic terms.

For instance, we are much more likely to use wind power on a household or neighborhood basis rather than in deployments of Godzilla-sized turbines in so-called wind farms. The key to understanding what we face is that we have to comprehensively make other arrangements for all the normal activities of everyday life. It is a long, detailed "to do" list that we can't afford to ignore.

The public discussion of these issues is impressively incoherent. This failure of the collective imagination is reflected in the especially poor job being done by the mainstream media covering this story – in particular, The New York Times, which does little besides publish feel-good press releases from Cambridge Energy Research Associates, the oil industry's chief public relations consultant.

These days, the only aspect of these issues that we are willing to talk about at all is how we might keep all our cars running by other means. We have to get beyond this obsession with running the cars by other means. The future is not just about motoring. We have to make other arrangements comprehensively for all the major activities of daily life in this nation.We'll have to grow our food differently. The ADM / Monsanto / Cargill model of industrial-scale agribusiness will not survive the discontinuities of the Long Emergency – the system of pouring oil-and-gas-based fertilizers and herbicides on the ground to grow all the cheez doodles and hamburgers. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this.

We will find out the hard way that we can't afford to dedicate our crop lands to growing grains and soybeans for ethanol and biodiesel. A Pennsylvania farmer put it this way to me last month: "It looks like we're going to take the last six inches of Midwest topsoil and burn it in our gas tanks." The disruptions to world grain supplies by the ethanol mania are just beginning to thunder through the system. Last months there were riots in Mexico City because so much Mexican corn is now being already being diverted to American ethanol production that poor people living on the economic margins cannot afford to pay for their food staples.

You can see, by the way, how this is a tragic extension of our obsession with running all the cars. In the years ahead, farming will come back much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human attention. Many of the value-added activities associated with farming – making products like cheese, wine, oils – will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America's young people. It also presents huge problems in land-use reform. Not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history.

We're going to have to move people and things from place to place differently. It is imperative that we restore the US passenger railroad system. No other project we could do right away would have such a positive impact on our oil consumption. We used to have a railroad system that was the envy of the world. Now we have a system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of.

The infrastructure for this great task is lying out there rusting in the rain. This project would put scores of thousands of people to work at meaningful jobs, at every level, from labor to management. It would benefit all ranks of society. Fixing the US passenger rail system doesn't require any great technological leaps into the unknown. The technology is thoroughly understood. The fact that from end-to-end of the political spectrum there is no public discussion about fixing the US passenger rail system shows how un-serious we are.

There's another compelling reason we should undertake the great project of repairing the US passenger rail system: it is something that would restore our confidence, a way we could demonstrate to ourselves that we are competent and capable of meeting the difficult challenges of this energy-scarce future I call the Long Emergency. And it might inspire us to get on with the other great tasks that we will have to face.

By the way, it is important that we electrify our railroad system. All the other advanced nations have electric rail systems which allow them to run on something other than fossil fuel or to control the source point of the carbon emissions and pollution in the case of coal-fired power generation. Electric motors are far simpler and way more efficient even than diesel engines. The US was well underway with the project of electrifying our railroad system, but we just gave up after the Second World War as we directed all our investment to the interstate highway system instead.

We're going to have to move things by boat. But we've just finished a fifty year effort in taking apart most of the infrastructure for maritime trade in America. Our harbors and riverfronts have been almost completely de-activated. The public now thinks that harbors and riverfronts should only be used for condo sites, parks, bikeways, band shells and festival marketplaces. Guess what: we're going to have to put back the piers and warehouses and even the crummy accommodations for sailors. We're going to have to move a lot more stuff by water or our ability to do commerce will suffer. Meanwhile, if we use trucks, it will be for the very last local increment of the journey. Leaders in business and municipal politics will have to wrap their minds around this new reality.

We are probably in the twilight of Happy Motoring – as we have known it. The automobile will be a diminished presence in our lives. I'm not saying that cars will disappear, but it will become self-evident that our extreme dependency will have to end. It is possible, but not likely, that affordable electric cars will come on the market before we get into serious trouble with oil. More likely, we'll be facing an entirely new political problem with cars as motoring becomes increasingly only something that the economic elite can enjoy.

For decades, motoring has been absolutely democratic. Everybody from the lowliest hamburger flipper to the richest Microsoft millionaire could participate in the American motoring program. Right now, let's say six percent of adults in this nation can't drive, for one reason or another: they're blind, too old, too poor, et cetera. What if that number rose to 13 percent, or 26 percent of Americans because either the price of fuel or the cost of a vehicle rose beyond their means. Do you suppose that a whole new mood of grievance and resentment might arise against those who were still driving cars? And how would the large new class of non-drivers feel about paying taxes to maintain the very expensive interstate highway systems?

Back to the task list:We're going to have to make other arrangements for commerce and manufacturing. The national chain discount stores that took over American retail in recent decades will not survive the discontinuities of the Long Emergency. Their business equations and methods of operations will fail, in particular their remorseless cancer-like drive toward replication and expansion. They will lack the resilience to adapt due to their gigantic scale of operations – a scale that will no longer be appropriate to the contracting available energy "nutrients".

The so-called "warehouse on wheels" composed of thousands of trucks circulating incessantly around the interstate highways will not work economically in a new era of scarcer and expensive oil. Not to mention the 12,000-mile supply line to the factories of Asia which we have tragically come to depend on for so many of our household goods.We have to check all our assumptions at the door about how things will work in the years ahead. Lately, thanks to Tom Friedman and other cheerleaders for the global economy, we've adopted the notion that globalism is a permanent condition of life. I think we will be disappointed to learn the truth – that globalism was a set of transient economic relations made possible at a particular time by very special conditions, namely half a century of cheap energy and half a century of relative peace between the great powers.

Those conditions are about to end, and with them, I predict, will go many of the far-flung economic relations that we've come to rely on. When the US and China are contesting for the world's remaining oil resources, do you think it's possible that our trade relations might be affected? These are things we had better be prepared to think about it. China has way outstripped its own dwindling oil supply. China has gone all over the world in recent years systematically making contracts for future delivery of oil with other nations, including Canada, as that nation ramps up production of the tar sands in Alberta.

I want to remind you that there is such a thing as the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy position that essentially forbids nations outside the western hemisphere from intruding in or exploiting affairs in this part of the world. It may be an old and perhaps an arrogant policy – but I predict the time will come when the United States will invoke it in order to preserve our access to Canadian oil supplies. And if-and-when that occurs, what do you suppose that will mean to our trade relations with China? How many plastic wading pools and salad shooters will WalMart be ordering then?

These are the kinds of things we are not thinking about at all, and which leave us woefully unprepared to face a very uncertain future.Getting back to retail trade in the US – it is important to recognize the damage that the national discount chain stores have already done in systematically destroying local commercial economies. If you travel around the main street towns of this nation, as I do, you see places in Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and Alabama, and Oklahoma, and Connecticut, and in my region of the upper Hudson Valley in New York that look like former soviet backwaters. The destruction, the abandonment and desolation in the fabric of our towns is just out of this world.

This era of chain store supremacy will not continue far into the future, and as it wobbles and falls we will be faced with a tremendous task of rebuilding the fine-grained, multi-layered local networks of economic interdependency that the chain stores destroyed. As that rebuilding occurs we will restore social roles as well as economic roles that have long been absent in our home places.In destroying local retail infrastructures, the chain stores wiped out a whole mercantile middle class. These were the people ran local businesses, who sat on the library and hospital boards, who sponsored the little league baseball, who employed their neighbors and had to behave decently toward them, as well as treating their neighbors decently in matters of trade. They were people who uniformly had to take care of at least two buildings in town – the place where they did business and the place where they lived. These were the people who were the caretakers of our communities, and the extermination of this class of citizens has been devastating.

We don't know how we are going to make things again in America, for instance, ordinary household products. We're not going to re-live the 20th century, when the US was on a great upswing of energy resources and we made everything for ourselves from toasters to record players. Where I live, in the upper Hudson and Mohawk Valley region of New York, most of the factories have actually been knocked down in the past 20 years. The water power is still there in many of these places, but the buildings are gone. Among all our other wishes, there is a wish that we will innovate stunning new methods for making things, such as nanotechnology. I'd repeat that we'd better check all our assumptions at the door and that we are liable to be disappointed by what these wishes will eventually lead to.

I think the truth is, we are going to have fewer things to buy. The blue-light-special retail orgy of recent decades will fade into history, and shopping will retreat into the background of daily life. Consuming things will not be our sole reason for living.

The role of finance as we know it today will be severely challenged by the Long Emergency. Declining energy supplies have one particular grave implication for industrial societies: that they can no longer take for granted the 3 to 7 percent annual growth in gross domestic product that has been assumed to be normal throughout recent history. In fact, the energy picture – the dwindling of a particular, extraordinary, one-time, very special resource – implies a general contraction of productive activity. Our expectations for growth are vested in tradable paper certificates – currencies, stocks, bonds, and other instruments that represent our confidence that society will produce more wealth, and that this increase can be enjoyed in the form of profits and dividends. What happens when that consensus about reliable increase falls apart? What happens to the entire edifice of finance when these abstract certificates are no longer backed by the faith of people who have been trading them?

We can see the beginning of this process right now in the unwinding of the home mortgage sector. This recent experiment in the abolition of moral hazard, in the suspension of norms-and-standards in lending, in the fobbing off of risk, is climaxing in one of the great debacles of modern economics. It was based on the idea that immense numbers of promises for future payment could be bundled into bonds, resold, and parlayed to leverage evermore abstract casino-like bets masquerading as investments. This is anything but investment in future productive activity.It is now being discovered that at the foundation of all this jive-finance activity lie bundles of broken promises, "non-performing loans," as they're called. It remains to be seen how this mortgage-and-housing bubble fiasco will play out, but I think it will be one of the major events leading to an overall loss of presumed wealth for American society. And is likely, as well, to infect the jury-rigged structures of global finance to a disastrous degree.

The key to all our everyday activities in the future is scale. We will probably have to live more locally than has been the case in recent decades. I think we can state categorically that anything organized on the gigantic scale, whether it is an agricultural system, or a finance system, or a corporation, or a chain of stores, or a school, or a government, is going to run into trouble.

School is another item on our "to do" list of things that we have to make other arrangements for. The gigantic centralized public school systems all over America that depend on the massive fleets of yellow school buses for collecting the students every morning around the 50-mile-radius `pupil sheds' – this way of doing things will probably encounter failure. Not to mention that we used the same kind of sprawling, one-story, flat-roofed buildings in Florida as in Minnesota – and given the situation with natural gas we'll have trouble heating these buildings in the colder states. Of course there are plenty of reasons to suspect that schools this large, designed like medium security prisons, are not optimum settings for learning even if oil and gas were plentiful.

Complicating the issue is the fact that our school systems are at the center of the psychology of previous investment. We have put so much of our collective wealth in these sprawling, oversized, vehicle-dependent institutions – with all their fabulous amenities of swimming pools, video labs, and free parking – that it will be very difficult for us to let go of them – even after it is self-evident that they are no longer working.

What will replace our giant centralized public schools? School districts will be starved for cash in the Long Emergency. I doubt that we will be able to replace the centralized schools with a whole new system of smaller buildings distributed more equitably around the places where people live. If anything, I suppose a replacement may arise out of home schooling, especially as home schools aggregate into larger neighborhood units so that every parent doesn't have to duplicate the vocational role of teacher (and of course not all parents would even be capable of acting in that role).

The destiny of higher education ought to be especially troubling. The giant universities are exactly the kinds of institutions that will prove unwieldy and unsupportable in the Long Emergency. College will cease to be the mass consumer activity it became in the cheap energy heyday. If it survives at all, it is likely to be – as earlier in history – an activity for a much smaller economic elite.

The question of class relations per se will be affected by our energy situation, since it is necessarily linked to our economy. The Long Emergency is going to produce a lot of economic losers – a whole new group I call the formerly middle class. They will lose jobs, vocations, and incomes that they will never get back. They are going to be full of grievance, anger, resentment, and bewilderment at the loss of their entitlements to the "non-negotiable" American way of life, including home ownership and affordable happy motoring. They are likely to express these feelings politically. We will be lucky if they do not turn to demagogues who promise to mount one sort of campaign or another to restore the entitlements of suburbia. Such a campaign would be an enormous exercise in futility and a gross waste of our scarce remaining resources. But it is the kind of thing that happens when a society comes under extreme stress, and we had better be prepared for it. Social friction may also be prompted as agriculture comes closer to the center of our economic life, and we're faced with conflict between those who retain wealth in productive land and those who must resort to working in agriculture to make a living. In history, this typically sets the stage for the radical redistribution of property, seizure of land, in short, for political revolution. It could happen here.

We are certain to experience epochal demographic shifts in any case. The 200-year-long trend of people leaving the rural places and the small towns to go to the big cities will very likely go into reverse. Our hyper-gigantic cities and so-called metroplexes are a pure product of the 200-year-long upward arc of cheap energy. Like other things of gigantic scale, our cities will get into trouble. They are going to contract substantially. The cities that are composed overwhelmingly of suburban fabric will be most susceptible to failure. Orlando, Houston, Atlanta. The cities that are overburdened with skyscrapers will face an additional layer of trouble – the skyscraper, like the mega-city, was a product of cheap energy, and we are going to have trouble running them, especially heating them without cheap natural gas.

As our cities contract, I think they will re-densify at their centers and around their waterfronts, if they are located favorably on water, and depending on how (or if) rising ocean levels might affect them. The process of contraction in our cities is likely to be difficult, disorderly and unequal. Some cities will do better than others. In my opinion, Phoenix and Tucson will be substantially depopulated. They will face additional problems with their ability to produce food locally and with water. In Las Vegas, the excitement will be over. That will be a good thing since it has become the holy shrine of America's new chief religion: the worship of unearned riches – based on the belief that it is possible to get something for nothing – a belief that underlies, by the way, a great deal of the delusional thinking abroad in this land about the ability of alternative fuels and energy schemes to rescue our current mode of living.

It is hard to be optimistic about the destiny of our suburbs. My referring to them as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world pretty much says it all. There will be a wish to rescue them, of course, but it is unlikely to go beyond the wishing stage. We will be a less affluent society in the years ahead than we were when we built the suburbs in the first place, and we will have fewer resources to fix them or retrofit them. The Jolly Green Giant is not going to come and move the houses closer to the shopping – to undo the vast absurdities of single-use-zoning.

We could reform our codes and regulations which have virtually mandated a suburban sprawl outcome in every American locality – but it's a little late for that. The horse is out of the barn on that one. And anyway, I believe the mortgage-and-housing bubble fiasco will mark the end of the whole project of suburbanization per se. I don't believe the production home builders will ever recover from it in our lifetimes; we certainly don't need a single additional WalMart or fried food joint; and the energy problems we face will eventually overcome all our wishes to keep that system going, whether we like it or not.

Realistically, I think we will have to return to a set of traditional ways of inhabiting the terrain – towns, smaller-scaled cities composed of walkable neighborhoods, and a productive rural landscape with more of a human presence than we see in today's countryside. We have thousands of smaller towns and cities waiting to be re-inhabited and re-activated. Most of them occupy geographically important or valuable sites, especially the ones near fresh running water.

For the past two decades I have been associated with the New Urbanist movement. The New Urbanists were architects, planners, and developers who recognized the tremendous weaknesses and liabilities of the suburban pattern and have been campaigning to reform the way we build things in this country. Their methods are consistent with what we are going to need in the decades ahead to refashion human habitats that have a future and which are worth caring about.

The great achievement of the New Urbanists was not in the projects and new towns that they designed and caused to get built in recent years, but in their heroic act of retrieving lost knowledge from the dumpster of history – a whole body of principles, methods, and skills necessary to design places worth living in. This was knowledge and principle that we had thrown away in our mad rush to become a drive-in utopia. We threw it away thinking that we could replace urban design and artistry with mere traffic engineering and statistical analysis. The result of that is now visible for all to see in the tragic landscape of the highway strips and the single-income housing pods. What we managed to do was build a land full of scary places that turned us into a nation of scary people. But this was the final tragedy of suburbia: we put up thousands of places that aren't worth caring about, not understanding that when we had enough of them, we might be left with a nation not worth defending.

So there you have a comprehensive "to do" list of efforts we can make to meet the challenges of the permanent global energy crisis, things we can do to mount an intelligent response to these circumstances that reality is sending our way. Growing more of our food locally; restoring our railroads and other forms of public transit; rebuilding local networks of commerce and economic interdependency; reorganizing education at an appropriate scale for the future.

We cannot assume a seamless transition between where we are today and where we're going. It maybe turbulent and disorderly. We cannot assume that technology alone will rescue us. In fact, one of the major obstacles to clear thinking these days is the mistaken belief that technology and energy are the same thing; that they are interchangeable; that if you run out of one, you can just plug in the other.

Energy and technology are related to each other but they are not the same. Technology may help us get energy resources, or use energy resources, but it is not an energy resource itself. We assume magical properties for technology largely because, in our lifetimes, the energy has always been there behind it, steady, dependable, and cheap.

What's more energy and technology both entail very insidious side effects. Energy throws off entropy, a protean force of disorder and loss that manifests in everything from the wasted heat coming out of an engine tailpipe to the immersive ugliness of the American commercial highway strip – which is entropy-made-visible.

Technology throws off diminishing returns, in the sense that the more complex you make things, often the worse the effect on society as a whole. My favorite example is the telephone system. For more than two decades we have invested billions in computerizing every phone system in the land. The net result, after all that investment and effort, is that it is practically impossible to reach a live human being on a telephone – not to mention the monumental ten-times-a-day aggravation of getting booted into a computerized phone menu leading to the purgatory of terminal "hold."

I hope we can overcome our tendencies to try to get something for nothing and to engage in wishful thinking. The subject of hope itself is an interesting one. College kids on the lecture circuit always ask me if I can give them some hope. Apparently, they find this view of the future to be discouraging. It may mean fewer hours playing Grand Theft Auto with a side order of Domino's pepperoni pizza, but there are many positive implications for our lives in the future. We may once again live in places worth caring about, where beauty and grace are considered everybody's birthright. We may work side-by-side with our neighbors, on things that are meaningful. Instead of canned entertainments, we may hear the sounds of our own voices making music, see the works of our own dramatists and dancers.

Hope is something we really have to supply for ourselves. We are our own generators of hope, and we do it by demonstrating to ourselves that we are capable of facing the circumstances of our time, of working competently to meet these challenges, and of learning the difference between wishing and doing. In fact, what we need is not so much hope, but confidence in our inherent abilities and the will to act.

We've got a lot to do. We've got to put down the iPods and get busy. There's no time for hand-wringing and whining. As Yogi Berra said, our whole future's ahead of us.


Annoying, and Not Just to Us?


Good-bye, Kurt

Published on Friday, April 13, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
Peace Be With You, Kurt Vonnegut
by Harvey Wasserman

As the media fills with whimsical good-byes to one of America’s greatest writers, let's not forget one of the great engines driving this wonderful man—he HATED war. Including this one in Iraq. And he had utter contempt for the men who brought it about.Kurt Vonnegut was a divine spark of liberating genius for an entire generation. His brilliant, beautiful, loving and utterly unfettered novels helped us redefine ourselves in leaving the corporate America in the 1950s and the Vietnam war that followed.
Having seen the worst of World War II from a meatlocker in fire-bombed Dresden, Kurt’s Sirens of Titan, Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, cut us the intellectual and spiritual slack to seek out a new reality. It took a breathtaking psychic freedom to merge the interstellar worlds he created from whole cloth with the social imperatives of a changing age. It was that combination of talent, heart and liberation that gave Vonnegut a cutting edge he never lost.
Leaving us in his eighties, Kurt also leaves us decades of anecdotes and volumes of writings—and doodlings—about which to write. But lost in the mainstream obituaries—including the one in the New York Times—is the ferocity with which he opposed this latest claque of vicious war-mongers.
Vonnegut gave his last campus speech in Columbus. He and I met here many years ago, after another speech. Not knowing me from Adam, he was gracious enough to give me his home address.
Out of the blue, I sent him a book-length poem about the passing of my parents. I was shocked when he called me on the phone about it. I asked for his help in finding a publisher. He said to publish it on my own, and gave me advice on how to do it, along with a blurb for the cover.
From then on we talked by phone. His conversation was always friendly, funny, insightful. When last I asked him how he was, he replied: “Too fucking old!”
Last year, apparently on the spur of the moment, he agreed to speak again at Ohio State. It would be his last campus lecture.
When word spread, a line four thousand students long instantly formed at a university otherwise known only for its addiction to football.
Anyone expecting a safe, whimsical opener from this grand old man of sixties rebellion was in for a shock. “Can I speak frankly?” he asked Professor Manuel Luis Martinez, the poet and writing teacher who would “interview” him. “The only difference between George W. Bush and Adolph Hitler is that Hitler was actually elected.”
Holding up a book about Ohio 2004, he said: “You all know, of course, that the election was stolen. Right here.”
Explaining that this would he his “last speech for money,” Vonnegut said he couldn’t remember his first one. But it was “long long ago.
“I’m lucky enough to have known a great president, one who really cared about ALL the people, rich and poor. That was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was rich himself, and his class considered him a traitor.
“We have people in this country who are richer than whole countries,” he said. “They run everything.
“We have no Democratic Party. It’s financed by the same millionaires and billionaires as the Republicans.
“So we have no representatives in Washington. Working people have no leverage whatsoever.
“I’m trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending! It’s becoming more and more uninhabitable because of our addiction to oil.
“Bush used that line recently,” Vonnegut added. “I should sue him for plagiarism.”
Things have gotten so bad, he said, “people are in revolt against life itself.”
Our economy has been making money, but “all the money that should have gone into research and development has gone into executive compensation. If people insist on living as if there’s no tomorrow, there really won’t be one.
“As the world is ending, I’m always glad to be entertained for a few moments. The best way to do that is with music. You should practice once a night.
“If you want really want to hurt your parents, go into the arts.” He then broke into song, with a passable, tender rendition of “Stardust Memories.”
By this time, the packed hall was reverential. The sound system, appropriately tenuous, forced us all to strain to hear every word.
“To hell with the advances in computers,” he said after he finished singing. “YOU are supposed to advance and become, not the computers. Find out what’s inside you. And don’t kill anybody.
“There are no factories any more. Where are the jobs supposed to come from? There’s nothing for people to do anymore. We need to ask the Seminoles: ‘what the hell did you do?” after the tribe’s traditional livelihood was taken away.
Answering questions written in by students, he explained the meaning of life. “We should be kind to each other. Be civil. And appreciate the good moments by saying ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’
“You’re awful cute” he said to someone in the front row. He grinned and looked around. “If this isn’t nice, what is?
“You’re all perfectly safe, by the way. I took off my shoes at the airport. The terrorists hate the smell of feet.
“We are here on Earth to fart around,” he explained, and then embarked on a soliloquy about the joys of going to the store to buy an envelope. One talks to the people there, comments on the “silly-looking dog,” finds all sorts of adventures along the way.
As for being a Midwesterner, he recalled his roots in nearby Indianapolis, a heartland town, the next one west of here. “I’m a fresh water person. When I swim in the ocean, I feel like I’m swimming in chicken soup. Who wants to swim in flavored water?”
A key to great writing, he added, is to “never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You’re reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you’ve been to college.”
Make sure, he added, “that your reader is having a good time. Get to the who, when, where, what right away, so the reader knows what is going on.”
As for making money, “war is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he’s a Republican.
“Our economy today is not capitalism. It’s casino-ism. That’s all the stock market is about. Gambling.
“Live one day at a time. Say ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!’
“You meet saints everywhere. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.”
The greatest peace, Vonnegut wraps up, “comes from the knowledge that I have enough. Joe Heller told me that.
“I began writing because I found myself possessed. I looked at what I wrote and I said ‘How the hell did I do that?’
“We may all be possessed. I hope so.”
We were joined for after-speech drinks by the professor and several awe-struck graduate students. Kurt expressed an interest in renewable energy, so I sent him another book, and he called back with another blurb, and more advice on how to publish it.
We planned to have dinner. I wanted more than anything to introduce my daughters to him. But when I finally made it to New York, he was too ill. Now he’s gone. When a national treasure and a being of beauty like Kurt Vonnegut invites you to dinner, don’t make plans, hop on the next plane.
The mainstream obituaries are emphasizing Kurt’s “off-beat” career and the “mixed reviews” for his books. Don’t believe a word of them.
Kurt Vonnegut was a force of nature, with a heart the size of Titan, an unfettered genius who changed us all for the better. He was possessed of a sense of fairness and morality capable of inventing religions that could actually work.
Now he’s having dinner with our beloved siren of social justice, Molly Ivins, sharing a Manhattan, scorching this goddam war and this latest batch of fucking idiots.
It hurts to think about it. But we should be grateful for what we got, and all they gave us. So it goes.
Harvey Wasserman read Cat’s Cradle, Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse Five in college, sought Boku-Maru, and has never been the same. He writes at www.freepress.org and www.solartopia.org


Solar At a Discount?


How 'Bout One For the Rest Of Us?


Permaculture Yard YouTube


Food, Not Lawns


Water Greeting for Easter


Moore Co. Beekeepers, April 10

April meeting of the Moore County Beekeepers

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 7:00 PM

Agriculture Center in Carthage
A "What Do You Know" session consisting of a series of questions displayed on-screen. Members will have time to answer each question, and after everyone has completed all the questions we will go over each one to make sure we are all in agreement on each particular category. Bring a pencil.

If time allows, we may also have a short program on Bee Stings.


DemocracyNow.org Headlines for April 6, 2007

Pentagon: No Pre-War Ties Between Iraq & Al Qaeda
Additional 12,000 National Guard Soldiers To Be Sent To Iraq
Number of Iraqis Detained by U.S. Skyrocketing
British Sailors Were Gathering Intel on Iranians Before Capture
UN Warns Poor Will Suffer Most Because of Climate Change
Study Says Southwest USA Could Face Permanent Drought
Amnesty: Situation at Guantanamo Deteriorating
U.S. Admits It Is Working to Undermine Zimbabwean Gov't
Miami Theater Cancels My Name is Rachel Corrie


Solid Waste in NC,

[contact YOUR legislator]

April 5, 2007

Dear Legislator:
This week's HotList examines solid waste in North Carolina.
In response to proposals to place up to 4 mega-landfills in North Carolina, landfills that could receive garbage from up and down the eastern seaboard, the state legislature passed a 12 month moratorium on the siting of new landfills in North Carolina last year. The idea behind the moratorium was to give the state time to craft new regulations to govern landfill operations in our state.
The state worked diligently and new recommendations recently came out of the Division on Solid Waste. The "Solid Waste Management Act of 2007" (SB1492/HB1233) will put these recommendations into effect, and we encourage you to support this legislation.
Passage will give the state the additional tools to manage solid waste as our state grows.
Mike NelsonDirector of Government Relations Conservation Council of NC 919-839-0020

Solid Waste Management Act of 2007
Legislation that was introduced this year, "Solid Waste Management Act of 2007," (SB 1492 / HB 1233) is a good bill that addresses many of the concerns with landfill operations. But what steps can the state take to minimize the necessity of landfilling waste?
Land fills are expensive to build; they are politically unpopular; and they often raise concerns about environmental justice. There is a lot we can do to minimize the need for new landfills, and in the process create jobs and business opportunities right here in North Carolina.
NC is home to a growing number of recycling companies--companies that employ our workers and make money from taking refuse and recycling it into useable products. By diverting waste from landfills and redirecting it to business interests, we can create a win-win-win situation that benefits government, business, and the environment.

Here are a few key points about recycling.

Recycling saves energy. It's usually takes less energy to manufacture goods from recycled material than from virgin products, therefore recycling saves money for the business community. DENR reports that if we were to increase the recycling rate in the US from the current 30.6% recovery scenario to 35% by 2008, energy savings would be the equivalent of 13.7 billion gallons of gas.
Recycling saves landfill space. Each pound of waste that it is recycled rather than going into a landfill extends the lifespan of existing landfill operations. Siting new landfills is expensive and burdensome for local governments, and often negatively impacts surrounding communities. Extending the lifecycle of existing landfills will save local governments money and time.
North Carolina's 'recycling economy' is one of the fastest growing job engines in the state. Companies across North Carolina are recycling things like plastic bottles, wood waste, and cardboard, and creating new products which they sell for a profit. The complaint heard most often from recycling businesses is that they can't get enough supply. For example, recyclers often struggle to compete against relatively low tipping fees to get materials.
With a greater supply of recyclables, these businesses could expand, thus hiring more employees and expanding our state's tax base. The state can help by adopting policies that drive materials out of the waste stream and into the hands of recyclers.
The NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance recently conducted a survey to track recycling's impact on jobs and North Carolina's economy.

Some of the findings include:

Recycling companies now occupy old textile factories and other industrial plants abandoned by some of the state's more traditional industries.
Recycling companies in North Carolina range from Fortune 500 manufacturers to single proprietary, family owned businesses, handling hundreds of different types of materials and products.
Recycling employs approximately 14,000 people across the state.
Recycling employs more people than the bio-tech and agricultural livestock industries in North Carolina.
In 1994, recycling employed 8,700 people, rising 60% in 10 years to its current level.
Recycling jobs as a percentage of the state's total employment has increased 40% in 10 years, from 0.25% of the total labor force in 1994 to 0.35% in 2004.
Fifty-four percent of the businesses surveyed forecast creating more recycling-related positions in the next two years.
The number of companies listed in the state's recycling markets directory increased from 306 in 1994 to 532 in 2004, a 74% increase.

Legislative Summaries

H36 Hazardous Materials Task Force Recommendations This legislation improves the oversight of hazardous waste facilities, as recommended by the Governor's Hazardous Materials Task Force. It requires commercial hazardous waste facilities to provide financial assurance for clean-up measures, and off-site screening for potential leakage of hazardous substances into the environment. It requires applicants for permits for hazardous waste facilities to consult with local government and emergency response agencies. Support.

H49 Remove Vegetation From Billboards This legislation would change the Department of Transportation outdoor advertising selective vegetation removal policy to authorize a five-hundred foot removal zone, as recommended by the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee. Oppose.

H77 Promote Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency This legislation promotes the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Carolina, implementing a 20% renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard. Support.

H332 Preservation of Farmland This legislation would appropriate funds, $10 million, for the aquisition of agricultural conservation easements, or for farmland preservation. Support.

H449 Funds for Sylvan Heights Water Fowl Park This legislation would provide funds ($150,000) for the construction of Phase II of the Sylvan Heights Water Fowl and Eco-center in Scotland Neck. Support.

H463 Conservation Tax Credit Modifications This legislation would give tax credit to any corporation that invests in real property located in North Carolina, such as public beach access use, public access to public waters or trails, or fish and wildlife conservation. Support.

H557 NC GREEEN Act This legislation would work towards a renewable and energy efficient economy in North Carolina by establishing a green business fund, to be administered by the state energy office, that would provide seed grants to encourage the development of NC's green economy. Support.

H838 Ban Incandescent Light Bulbs This legislation would prohibit the sale of general service incandescent light bulbs in the state. Support.

H839 State Energy Office Funds This legislation would give a total of $15,000,000 over two years from the General Fund to the Department of Administration to the State Energy Office to be used for energy related programs and purposes. Support.

H1115 Swine Farm Env. Performance Standards/Funds This legislation would make permanent the swine farm animal waste management system performance standards that the General Assembly enacted in 1998, and assist farmers with the early adoption of innovative swine waste management systems. The bill would also rename the Emergency Drinking Water Fund as the Bernard Allen Clean Well Water Fund and establish a reporting requirement under this fund. Support.

H1134 Cleanup of Abandoned Manufactured Homes This legislation would protect public health and the environment by encouraging counties to develop plans for deconstructing abandoned manufactured homes and removing reusable or recyclable components. The legislation would impose an environmental remediation tax on the sale of new and used manufactured homes to fund the deconstruction of abandoned manufactured homes. Support.

H1154 Oak Island/Erosion Setback Line This legislation, which applies to the Town of Oak Island, alters setback rules in cases of beaches that have undergone renourishment programs. Altering the setback rules undermines sound planning principles and prudent coastal management rules that have been in place for some time. Oppose.

H859 / S603 Extend the Sunset for Nutrient Runoff This legislation would extend the sunset on the law that sets the per pound factor used by the Environmental Management Commission to calculate nutrient off-set payments, and requires that the nutrient off-set payment for nitrogen be calculated as it was prior to certain rule amendments. Oppose.

H990 / S1522 Land & Water Conservation Bond Act of 2007 This legislation authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds of the state, subject to a vote of the qualified voters of the state, to address statewide needs regarding land conservation, water quality protection, historic preservation, and job creation. Support.

H1073 / S927 Green School Construction Loan Fund/Program This legislation would create the green school construction revolving loan fund to be used for no interest loans to local boards of education for certain energy related construction, commissioning, and installation projects. It would also establish the green school construction program, a voluntary program for the construction or major renovation of high performance school buildings. Support.

H1233 / S1492 Solid Waste Management Act of 2007 The "Solid Waste Management Act of 2007" includes a number of substantive changes to the state's laws that govern solid waste. This act would clarify the circumstances under which an application for solid waste management could be denied; increase penalties on solid waste violations; clarify that parent/affiliate companies are financially responsible; require environmental impact and traffic studies by all applicants; provide for state-level review of proposed multi-jurisdictional facilities; and establish a disposal fee and a transfer fee to for remediation funds. Support.

S3 Promote Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency This legislation promotes the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Carolina, implementing a 10% renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard. Support.

S150 Remove Vegetation From Billboards This legislation would change the Department of Transportation outdoor advertising selective vegetation removal policy to authorize a five-hundred foot removal zone, as recommended by the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee. Oppose.

S215 Litter Reduction This legislation would reduce roadside and other littering, as well as encouraging recycling by requiring a deposit on beverage containers and requiring redemption centers to accept returned beverage containers and refund the deposits. Support.

S241 Conservation Tax Credit Modifications This legislation would give tax credit to any corporation that invests in real property located in North Carolina, such as public beach access use, public access to public waters or trails, or fish and wildlife conservation. Support.

S273 Funds for Sylvan Heights Water Fowl Park This legislation would provide funds ($150,000) for the construction of Phase II of the Sylvan Heights Water Fowl and Eco-center in Scotland Neck. Support.

S505 Income Tax Credit for Energy Efficient Homes This legislation would provide an Income Tax credit for the building or improvement of energy efficient homes. Support.

S539 Chapel Hill Energy Efficiency Incentives This legislation would amend the Charter of the Town of Chapel Hill, allowing the town to provide development incentives in return for reduction in energy consumption. Support.

S569 Wildlife Conservation Property Tax Relief This legislation would provide property tax relief from qualified wildlife conservtion land. Support.

S634 NC GREEN Act This legislation would work towards a renewable and energy efficient economy in North Carolina (GREEEN= to Grow a Renewable and Energy Efficient Economy in NC) by establishing a green business fund, to be administered by the state energy office, that would provide seed grants to encourage the development of NC's green economy. Support.

S668 Energy Conservation in State Buildings This legislation would promote energy and water conservation in state, university and community college buildings. Support.

S670 Energy Devices that use Renewable Resources This legislation would ensure that city ordinances, county ordinances, and deed restrictions, covenants, and other similar agreements cannot prohibit the installation of devices that use renewable sources of energy. Support.

S679 Consolidation of Commissions This legislation would would do away with all the existing environmental regulatory commissions and create a new consolidated full-time “Environmental Management Commission.” The bill would eliminate the following commissions: existing Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources, Marine Fisheries, Mining, Radiation Protection, Sedimentation Control, Soil and Water Conservation, Water Pollution Control System Operators, Water Treatment Facility Operators, Well Contractors Certification. It would transfer responsibility for rulemaking on solid waste management, drinking water, and wastewater from the Commission on Health Services to the new mega-commission. Oppose.

S853 Disapprove Animal & Vermin Control Rule Last year, the NC Commission on Health Services adopted a rule to protrect pre-schoolers from arsenic treated wood on playgrounds. This bill would disapprove that rule. Oppose.

S939 State Energy Office Funds This legislation would give a total of $15,000,000 over two years from the General Fund to the Department of Administration to the State Energy Office to be used for energy related programs and purposes. Support.

S1553 Recyling Discarded Computer Equipment This legislation would the establish the North Carolina Producer Responsibility Program for the recycling of discarded computer equipment. Support.

Mega-Landfill Legislation, NC

Legislative Watch: Landfill Bills Advance, and Hugo Neu Hits the Road

Since last year's General Assembly adopted a temporary moratorium on the permitting of new mega-landfills, the watch has been on. What would the legislature do this year with this issue over the longer term, and how would the companies proposing to site huge new dumps in our state react?

This past week, the first of those hanging footpieces fell. The Hugo Neu corporation announced that it was pulling out of plans to site a regional "auto fluff" landfill near the small town of Navassa in Brunswick County. The corporation's decision followed forward progress of two bills in N.C. House committees last week. Both bills (sponsored by Rep. Bonner Stiller, R-Brunswick) would have the effect of giving control of the proposed landfill site back to the county, which opposes the landfill. Hugo Neu felt the cold breeze blowing and bowed out of the fight.

In the longer run, important legislation to provide a more systematic regulatory framework for dealing with such issues has been prepared and introduced. CCNC lobbyist Mike Nelson says that, during the past months of "moratorium" time, "The state worked diligently and new recommendations recently came out of the Division on Solid Waste. The 'Solid Waste Management Act of 2007' (SB1492/HB1233) will put these recommendations into effect, and we encourage [legislators] to support this legislation. Passage will give the state the additional tools to manage solid waste as our state grows."

The "Solid Waste Management Act of 2007" would clarify the grounds for denying an application for a solid waste management permit; increase penalties on solid waste law violations; clarify that parent/affiliate companies are financially responsible for violations by their subsidiaries; require environmental impact and traffic studies by all applicants; provide for state-level review of proposed multi-jurisdictional facilities; and establish a disposal fee and a transfer fee to cover costs of remediation.

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

What's Happening to the Bees?
Beekeeper James Doan first began finding empty hives last fall. Entire bee colonies seemed to have up and vanished, leaving their honey behind. Noting the unusually wet fall in Hamlin, New York, he blamed the weather. Unable to forage in the rain, the bees probably starved, he reasoned. But when deserted hives began appearing daily, "we knew it was something different," he says.

Hardest On the Poor

Billions face climate change risk
Billions of people face shortages of food, water and increased risk of flooding from climate change, experts warn.
Full story:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/science/nature/6532323.stm



William Fisher The Right Seeks to Rein In Presidential Power

William Fisher conducts an exclusive Truthout interview with Bruce Fein, who served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is a founder of a conservative movement known as the Liberty Coalition.

The Coalition has launched a new initiative known as the American Freedom Agenda, in which leading voices in the conservative movement are demanding that the Democrat-controlled Congress restore checks and balances within the government and rein in the power of President George W. Bush.

What a Gotcha!

First they create the problem with procesed food and high fructose corn syrup, and now this:

GM Insulin In the Field
Firm in GM insulin breakthrough
Insulin produced by GM plants - with a human gene added - could be on
the market in three years, a Canadian company says.

Full story:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/health/6518787.stm