Thursday, January 30, 2014

Conversation with Richard

   Richard is a man of the world, having travelled widely pursuing the aurora borealis and solar eclipse. Right now, at 66, he is penniless.
   Of late, Richard has taken to hanging out with various religious congregations who in addition to providing moral and sometimes pecuniary, support have filled his head with rather punitive notions of the nature of humanity.

Richard: So don't you think people are basically selfish and greedy?
Diane: About 20% are pathological wealth accumulators. They have an  addiction. It's like alcoholism or drug addiction. The vast middle are decent people who have learned to seek wealth because the wealth accumulators have it and use it to gain the support of others.
Richard: So where does this addiction come from? Is it genetic or the result of a bad childhood?
Diane: Who knows? Why are people alcoholics? Why do some people have shoe fetishes?
Richard: Is it like pedophiles?
Diane: I have said on Facebook that wealth accumulators are like pedophiles. Pedophiles go where children are. Wealth accumulators go where they can access money. Power and wealth go hand in hand. These addicts seek positions of control where they can access both wealth and power. But this is only about 20% of people.
Richard: 20% is one in five. That's a lot.
Diane: In early egalitarian societies, that leaves 4 out of five to put down the one wealth accumulator. And they did.
Richard: All people are selfish and greedy.
Diane: Not so. The 4 out of 5 in early societies were quick to put down the one wealth accumulator who was trying to scam the system. People lived in close proximity to others. Everybody knew what everybody else was doing. Hoarders just didn't make it.
Richard: So people are apathetic today, self-absorbed.
Diane: The system has gotten too big. People are just short-sighted. They can't grasp the  the whole picture. They don't know what their neighbor is doing. This leaves a vast playing field for the wealth accumulators. People aren't selfish, they are short-sighted. People don't see beyond a few inches from their own bodies, but education helps.
Richard: I disagree. All people are greedy.
Diane: No, all people are taught to see money as the only answer to every problem. This isn't greed, it's lack of creativity.  This is fostered by the wealth accumulators, who teach people that the answer to every problem is to buy something. Thus more wealth is always needed. Unhappy? Buy something. Unloved? Buy something. Confused? Buy something. Often this something is a pill. Or a dress. or a TV. Creative people have multiple solutions to things. Unhappy? Talk to a friend. Unloved? Write a poem. Confused? Go to the internet. Creative people are poor consumers. That's why wealth accumulators don't want  people to be creative. They foster mindlessness.
Richard: I'm sceptical... (but he looks like he might be considering this propostion)... Enter Jean...
Jean: Hope you have that matting stuff still here! I have a great photo to matte up!
Diane: Yeah, Mary left everything here. I'll set up a table for you. Richard and I were just solving all the problems of society, but I think we have it pretty much resolved.
Richard: Well I guess I'll be going. See ya later.
Diane; Bye, Richard.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday "Sermon" from the Rev. Billy Equates Bio-Diversity and People Diversity

Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping Choir are performance artists who cover issues of consumerism and environmental destruction. And they sing great too!
Sunday "sermon" from the Rev. in which he makes a connection between the organic diversity of neighborhoods which is being lost due to gentrification and the loss of biodiversity through the activities of big corporations like Monsanto. "...a healthy neighborhood needs lots of different people, who mingle with their rhythms, fashions, language, hips and hair." Keep this in mind those of you who want to sanitize Newport right into bland nothingness.

"BIO-DIVERSITY AND PEOPLE DIVERSITY. I was on the phone with a Huffpo writer named Kathleen Kiley who wanted to ask about our relationship to Jerry - the news vendor of Astor Place, a 27 year veteran of this 5 street intersection. The instinctive politics of our singers is that a healthy neighborhood needs lots of different people, who mingle with their rhythms, fashions, language, hips and hair. Astor Place was such a place, at the center of the East and West Villages in downtown New York, but then fell on monocultural times as yuppies and logos proliferated. The small shops, flea market and all and any neighborhood eccentrics were pushed into shelters, hospitals or jail. Just as the young college kids that are everywhere now are smoothed and simplified down into the corporate choices of status, youth, power and money. Those are the garments of much of the Astor Place traffic nowadays, except the humble Greek-American Jerry at the news kiosk, the last person that is allowed to stand on the sidewalk and converse in an unhurried way with passersby. Jerry is a throwback to the old days of immigrants in the street down in the village, and in his ordinariness he's become a controversy. Jerry has a pace, vantage on life, and his own wisdom. He is like a highly evolved species, a life form, holding forth in a forest that was leveled for cars and careers. As Astor became homogeneous, there was no human comedy left to talk serious politics. Am I making sense? And it suddenly dawns on us: the more monocultural we get, the more difficult it is to know instinctively how diversity is also crucial in the natural world. The honey bee hive is more like a neighborhood, but to Monsanto the bees are pests, free, uncontrolled, making crazy spiraling designs in the air, in constant communication - they need to be replaced by pesticides and fertilizer, to maintain that single monoculture, that industrial crop, one plant, row upon row, as far as the eye can see. Astor Place will die without diversity. Without diversity, that larger intersection, the Earth, will hold silent extinction on its rocks."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mary Brenner Gets Mad---About Vermont's "Energy Plan"

The Department of Energy has effectively shot itself in the foot with the State Energy Plan. Did your analysts really consider the consequences of some of its policies? 
The subsidies for wind and solar installations have gone to the large, mostly out-of-state profit driven carpetbaggers who have built huge installations simply to garner the subsidy. Unintended consequences are destruction of Vermont’s mountain tops, largely ineffective projects, small poor rural areas disproportionately affected by negative impacts; negative environmental impacts; and all the energy and profits going south. The individual homeowners and public facilities do not get the tax breaks, the large companies do. 

Net metering cap has blunted any effect the original idea of net metering had. The cap enriches the utilities while discouraging individual homeowners. The impact of the inconsistency has been detrimental to the new struggling Vermont companies that do home installations of solar and wind.

The support for importing natural gas shows a basic confusion about ‘green energy’. Yes natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than oil, but it is still a fossil fuel and depletes the energy reserve somewhere. Likewise the transformation of wood burning to wood pellets to save on use of fossil fuel of living trees only expanded the market for wood,,,, and profits for stove manufacturers. The wood pellets do not produce that much less environmental pollution.... and contribute to wholesale deforestation or at least de-stabilization of existing woodlands by encouraging harvesting above preservation.

The de-commissioning of Vermont Yankee has been the only bright light this year. Not due to the Department of Energy. The state needs a policy of nuclear energy ban until or unless someone comes up with a better idea of how to use nuclear energy without creating tons of radiated nuclear waste with a half-life beyond anything we can imagine. Permanently poisoning the earth is not a good trade off for energy.

And the biggest disaster of all is allowing tar-sands oil to cross Vermont. The tar-sands oil is too expensive environmentally to be even considered as an energy source for anyone.

The very idea of energy as a utility has been upended. A utility provides a needed service to the public. Energy is necessary for survival (if we are to avoid going back to pre-industrial life). A certain amount of energy is need for each individual to have light, heat, cooking facilities, communications, transportation, security. But the idea that everyone should pay the same for such energy is inconsistent with our social reality. Not everyone can afford to pay the same. So why is pricing not income sensitive? Not everyone uses the same amount of energy. Why haven’t we considered taxation on energy use above the level of necessity? Why haven’t we really talked about heavier taxation of recreational use of energy? We may eventually have to consider rationing anyway. 

Energy conservation measures seem hit or miss. An overhaul of the system of support, inducements and consistency of conservation programs is needed. Persons living on low income cannot take advantage of tax write-offs for home energy conservation improvements. For many on social security, there is no money available for caulking, weatherization, or other energy saving measures. 

Reliance on technological measures to regulate energy use is a cute gimmick for the rich to make them feel good about all their energy gobbling appliances. Real conservation is a mind set as much as anything else. Yes it is unamerican to say you cannot spend your money on snow-mobiles, Christmas lights, gas-guzzling automobiles. But is also unamerican to leave some of us out in the cold. The availability of energy from all sources may be limited. The pool of fossil fuels is not expanding. The ability of the environment to absorb heat and fossil fuel pollution is limited and we have well gone beyond that limit. Climate change is real. Our response to that so far has been disaster relieve! Life style change is considered untouchable. Public policy must prepare us to make the inevitable changes we face as a society.

January 6, 2014