Say No to Keystone: #NoKXL Civil Disobedience coming to a corner near you!

Thanks to Malcolm’s Radio Show for inviting me to talk about the civil disobedience movement growing across the nation. More than 76 thousand people have signed the NoKXL Pledge of Resistance opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline’s extension to Texas. They pledge to, if necessary, “join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.” Consider signing up for my action in Monterey! 

Do the MathWhy would so many (white liberals) be willing to get arrested over a pipeline? (Note: I completely understand why minorities often don’t willingly involving themselves in our racist ‘justice’ system.) But this isn’t just eco-chic guerilla warfare, it’s a growing collective consciousness that we are standing on the wrong side of history. If you believe the Earth should be preserved for future generations, we’ve strayed far from “leave it better than you found it” towards “race to the bottom”.

The Keystone XL Pipeline would move 830,000 barrels of oil every day over two-thousand miles from Canada to Texas. The tar sands are a heavy sludge compared to conventional oil, so chemical additives make it easier to move through the pipeline. Unfortunately when there’s a spill like in Mayflower Arkansas, they can’t stop the spill easily. It’s dirtier and more difficult to process, and destroys the Canadian tundra in the extraction.

Do the Math TourWe’re also asking for extinction if we tap the tar sands. According to Bill McKibben’s Do the Math tour, based on his article Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, there’s five times as much carbon in proven oil reserves (read: part of the balance sheet and stock price of some oil company) than we can afford to burn and remain below 2ºC (read: the uppermost limit of adaptable climate change for humanity). So if we don’t leave the tar sands underground, it spells “game over for the planet” according to NASA scientist James Hansen.

We’ve passed 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, and continue to contribute multiple ppm per year to our greenhouse gas load. Never mind how much China, India and South Africa will emit in the future, America has enough historic responsibility to go around, and enough money and know-how to lead the charge. More importantly, why would a developing nation curb its growth as we continue to commit to a toxic energy infrastructure?

We need to stop investing in last century’s problems, and start researching the next century’s solutions if we’re going to build a better planet. There have been multiple natural disasters this summer resulting in spills, including dozens of leaks following Colorado’s flooding, typhoons worsening Fukushima’s radiation leak, and the explosions in the Gulf of Mexico on deep sea natural gas rigs (nope, not BP’s Deepwater Horizon, there’s been many more spills and explosions since then!).

Pipeline SpillsThere is no such thing as spill-free, leak-free, explosion-free. There’s just a promise that eventually, there will be a disaster. Which the public will clean up while the private sector profits. Check out the map, and think about whether you’d want to live anywhere near that route.

So we’re considering building a pipeline that’s 10 times as big as the one that destroyed Mayflower, Arkansas, and we’re going to move this heavy crude laced with chemical additives through it across America, including over the Ogallala Aquifer (which waters a large amount of our nation’s grain). How many spills would it take to contaminate this irreplaceable water source, that creates billions in jobs and revenue every year? Is that still economic progress?

The jobs and economics arguments around the pipeline seem the most devious and disingenuous. Doesn’t building anything create jobs? What about a school, or a hospital, or repairing our failing infrastructure? Investing in our systems seems like a no-brainer (that only the no-brainers among our representatives could oppose).

Civilian Conservation CorpsWhy not pursue something like Civilian Conservation Corps? Update our electrical grids, bridges and transportation systems for the first time in 50 years. Try to hold on to the greatness of this nation’s past, maybe make a place for the U.S. in the future? If we decide to get really crazy, maybe even upgrade the New Orleans levees, put in some flood gates for seabaoard cities? Just in case you’re interested in traveling to New York, D.C. or San Francisco in a few decades. We need to start preparing for the natural disasters that were made worse by the carbon emitted in the last century, not continue down the same tired road!

I think what’s most important is being on the right side of history. As the great William Wallace said in Braveheart, “dying in your bed many years from now, listening to stories of tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, fires, and catastrophic oil spills, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and fight for the next generation!” Or something like that.

If you’re interested in getting involved in a local action, visit the #NoKXL website, Sign the Pledge of Resistance, and join an action near you.

Solar Spill = Beautiful Day

Just Say No To Frack!

Fracking DiagramAs an MBA and environmental advocate, I am very concerned about the negative economic impacts natural gas drilling would have on Monterey County if ever allowed. Natural gas is being advertised as a bridge fuel for a clean energy future that will reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, but the dangers that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, pose to the environment and local communities is incompletely understood and potentially disastrous. Water use is a particular concern, since sourcing, using and disposing of fracking water is extremely problematic.

Last weekend Director Josh Fox premiered Gasland II in Monterey, and revealed scandalous inadequacies in industry drilling practices. Unlike an oil deposit that can be sucked out as if through a straw, fracking is an extremely invasive approach that literally fractures rock beds underground. By pressure-driving millions of gallons of water laced with lubricants and toxic chemicals thousands of feet underground, methane trapped in rock formations is released and allowed to come to the surface. Continue reading

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”

Since starting my Masters (well, since being born) I’ve struggled to define my life’s purpose – taking endless personality tests, asking every mentor and psychic I cross paths with, doing flip-chart visionings at home. Much to my dismay, no one will tell me what to do with my life (jerks!), or more precisely, what to do with myself when I graduate. New strategy: make my own path.

defining purposeNo, I haven’t been listening to too much Tony Robbins, I just finally realized what everyone’s been saying – you can have any job you want, as long as you’re willing to create it. Or, in June Jordan’s famous anti-apartheid poem, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Why wait for a company to create the project management eco-comedy position of my dreams, when I can just start my own business, online platform, or menagerie? It seems ludicrous that I could create my own job, but isn’t that what all successful entrepreneurs are doing, and aren’t I in business school?

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No-Pocalypse and New Beginnings

So the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012. That was pretty crazy. Guess it was my Hale Bopp or something, and now I’m free of the cult!

I’m excited about the new year and all the possibilities, and have the awesome fortune of taking a 3.5 week intensive seminar about the Base Reuse Plan for Fort Ord. The decommissioned army base is shared by 7+ Jurisdictions, including the Cities of Monterey, Marina, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, the County of Monterey, CSUMB (overseen by UCSC?), the CU system. The army still monitors the ESCA munitions cleanup on the BLM land, while municipally held land is shared responsibility between FORA and the jurisdictions. A complex and charged issue, happening on the Peninsula, and touching environmental and economic current affairs. Overall, an amazing way to launch my IEP/MBA degree mashup party!

On the first day our brains were filled with amazing ideas – it’s important to try, and fail, a lot, a little bit, right at the beginning (rather than epically towards the end), we live in a post-normative world (more on that later), and development and policy creation need to be based in real numbers, not just outputs.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment: Imperative or Impractical?

OMG, so many white people!

There’s been a lot in the news lately about 350.org’s new Do the Math Tour, starring Middlebury professor Bill McKibben. They were able to get the New York Times article on the most-emailed list, ensuring it spreads further. But having been touring for a month, what kind of traction is 350′s endeavor enjoying with the universities it’s targeting?

The Monterey Institute has the interesting placement of being a graduate institute of Middlebury college, and therefore our endowment is theirs. I assumed (wrongly) that since I’m part of the institution that kicked off this whole movement, we would automatically be participating.

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Corporate Social Responsibility: A Unicorn or an Oxymoron?

Is CSR a unicorn, or a horse with a shell glued to its forehead? Is it a mythical beast that can only be seen by virgins and saves communities from the poverty pollution and problems they face – sometimes also caused by business? Or is CSR a way to dress up an old nag – business – and make everyone believe in the magic, when you just whitewashed horsemeat?

I don’t believe CSR is anything more than a case of the emperor’s new clothes – or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That’s not just because of the over-abundance of ‘sustainability’ and ‘stakeholder-driven’ acronyms and slick new-speak. CSR is in direct conflict with the sole objective of a corporation – generating profits for owners. Companies are actually money-mercenaries – they are sworn to generate profit. Aside from that, corps can do whatever they want. But what if they want to do something that would make – gasp – less money?! That could actually end in a lawsuit with stockholders. Continue reading

Changing the Climate: A Return to Science-Based Decision-Making

Apparently while I was on vacation this summer America officially entered the FUBAR zone. The first half of 2012 has some pretty apocalypt~ish weather trends, with the U.S. breaking thousands of temperature records, half of America declared a disaster area, and massive crop failures across the grain belt guarantee food prices will spike in September. Let’s not forget the hail storms, massive power outages, haboobs, derechos, and other End of Days occurrences of 2012. So when do the aphids and frogs arrive?

Yet Global Warming, Climate Change, or The Sky is Falling, depending on your perspective, has garnered nary a mention in the Presidential election. David Roberts wrote an excellent piece on the current state of affairs regarding climate change, saying “It’s as though the very term is an endangered bird — every time it flitters across a screen somewhere, it’s met with great excitement.” But if we drop the discussion on limiting carbon emissions, we’re all going extinct.

Scientific studies continue to demonstrate a correlation between carbon emissions and a spike in global temperatures and extreme weather events. See the shifting temperature distribution graph and the average temperature chart if you don’t believe me. Yet the cultural conversation in America is so scientifically illiterate and willfully ignorant that it overpowers peer-reviewed research, an international consensus, and the very future of stable human civilizations. Continue reading

Label GMOs: Your Right to Know!

Labeling and regulating Genetically Engineered crops has become my number one concern since starting Environmental Policy and Business grad school almost two years ago. Climate change, fracking, overpopulation – these are all big issues as well. But with GMOs, America, and California, have a watershed opportunity to create meaningful labeling laws for Genetically Modified Organisms.

This November Californians get to cast a vote to for our Right to Know what we’re eating, and require GMO labeling. The FDA currently requires more than 3,900 ingredients be labeled – don’t you want to know whether your food was Genetically Engineered?

GMOs have been genetically altered in a lab to introduce desired traits – the usual suspects are herbicide resistance and insecticide creation. So what’s the problem? Besides never testing these crops for human health effects, and nature’s SWAT team response to biotech’s attempt to play God?

That’s right, the USDA never tested the safety of GMOs for human consumption. The justification for never testing this novel technology? The FDA under Bush Sr. deigned that GMO crops are ‘substantially equivalent’. Yet Monsanto and other chemical agribusiness companies fiercely enforce their Patents on Life. Monsanto has collected more than $15 million from American farmers for patent infringements (aka Seed Saving, or the birth of modern agriculture and civilization!) to date. But considering they’re spending $10 million dollars to investigate and prosecute farmers each year, they’re probably barely breaking even. It seems that if Monsanto wants to protect their intellectual property that badly they should let me know I’m eating it.

GE crops are damaging the environment, and their economic benefits to farmers are dubious and short-lived. Nature has started to strike back against the herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready corn and soy Monsanto sells, with 22 ‘Super Weeds’ having developed glyphosate tolerance in a few short years – forcing farmers across the country to increase herbicide use, whether or not they used Monsanto’s maize in the first place. Meanwhile the European Corn Borer, the major insect pest targeted by Monsanto’s Bt-producing (read: serious insecticide) crops, has already developed a resistance in many states. Now Dow Chemical is lobbying the USDA to use a major ingredient of Agent Orange as their next herbicide, continuing to climb the toxic ladder towards profits and market-share. Do you really want to eat neurotoxins without your knowledge or consent?

The United States is alone in refusing to label GMOs. Forty other countries, including the European Union, have labeling laws or have banned GMO crop cultivation entirely. Hungary burned a thousand acres of illegally planted Monsanto and Pioneer GE corn last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. produces half of the global GE crops, and has GMOs in 60-80 percent of processed foods.

The environmental impacts of these crops and the associated herbicides and pesticides are well known and severe, and the human health impacts are unstudied (although research on rats and mice shows frightening liver and kidney failures, reproductive issues, and inter-generational damage from consuming GE food).

More than 90 percent of Americans support Labeling Genetically Modified Foods. Yet Monsanto and other biotech companies have successfully squashed GMO labeling efforts by state legislatures and activists. Most recently, this spring more than a million signatures were submitted to the FDA demanding labeling of GMOs, with no response. Now 20 food companies have donated nearly $25 million to defeat Proposition 37 in California, with three months left until the vote. Check out this Grist article about the top 10 lies Monsanto is telling consumers this fall.

Proposition 37 gives consumers a unique chance to force government regulators and corporations to be accountable to citizens, not merely profit off of us as consumers. Please support this valiant effort to protect everyone’s right to know what we’re eating. If you love Genetically Modified Foods, it will let you eat more of them. As an environmental policy student concerned by the lack of independent research, I’ll probably avoid them. If we require McDonalds to put Caution: HOT on their coffee, why shouldn’t Monsanto tell us about changes to the genetic code? America claims to be based on free and informed consumer choice, so Labeling Genetically Modified Foods seems obvious and necessary. Only tyrants and liars should fear an informed populace.

Can Corporate Social Responsibility Save the Planet?

My first day of the MBA portion of my joint Environmental Policy and Business Administration degree, our Business Sustainability and Society professor asked students for word associations with ‘Corporate America.’ Here is a wordle of the class crowdsource.

Corporate America: A Culture of Psychopaths? 

I contributed the world psychopath, because what else do you call a ‘person’ who lacks a conscience? Through Citizens United we have declared corporations to be people, but they have no moral compass, no Jiminy Cricket. People need to sleep at night with the choices they’ve made, but corporations rest easy after serving their shareholders and executives. To complicate matters further, it seems that the personality types that excel in financial and corporate leadership exhibit abnormally high psychopathic tendencies (up to 10 times societal averages). By allowing psychopaths to run our businesses and government, the American people have lost control of our country, and humanity may lose control over the anthropocentric climate change we’re causing through our shortsighted economic policies. Continue reading

Memorial Day: In Memoriam of …?

Memorial Day – a day of remembrance. We say it’s to honor those who fought and died for freedom. And to barbecue. But what does freedom actually mean as a concept? To me, freedom is the right to pursue personal happiness, to practice the religion and belief system you choose without fear of oppression. Freedom from the tyranny of the masses – those monolithic viewpoints that tread minority opinion underfoot. Basically, the freedom to disagree.

So does this memoriam apply exclusively to soldiers fighting ‘sanctioned’ wars for nationalistic and corporate ends? What about the freedom fighters that have suffered harassment, imprisonment, torture and death for me to have the right to say… whatever I want, basically. Or the gay rights activists around the world fighting for the right to openly love the consenting adults they choose, the people of other political viewpoints that fight for equality and justice in America and overseas. I am a pacifist, and don’t think America has gotten into a war for the ‘right’ reasons in my lifetime, or in my grandparents’, if ever. But I honor those poor souls used as cannon-fodder for bigger, and pettier, causes than they often know about or understand.

Let’s honor the solders by not having any more pointless wars based on false pretenses, by not pitting one nation’s men against another and pretending we don’t all descend from the same ancestor (that’s Lucy, not Adam and Eve, for those of you who were napping during science class). As Kevin Costner said in The Postman (way better post-apocalyptic film than Waterworld!), “Wouldn’t it be great if wars could be fought just by the assholes who started them?” Just a thought… then maybe we’d be more interested in Presidents with MMA skills instead of backgrounds in corporate malfeasance. Continue reading