Friday, August 31, 2007

$6,200,000 Screw Driver

Shocking Twist

I am beginning
to process a public event which
yesterday shocked me —

It was a City Council
budget hearing for preliminary
short term projects for
a Master Plan for Barton Springs Pool.

I have been paying attention
to the development of this because
I am a swimmer and preliminary
indications were that
construction projects poolside
could further pollute
the water
and keep the pool closed
intermittently for a decade
while the city did things like:
replace structurally sound
dams with new ones
that will have holes in them,
move the pool downstream,
build a bath house on a flood plain,
clear the last vegetative filter (woods)
alongside the pool,
cut down grand pecan trees,
and re-model the old bath house
so people will go through or past
the bathrooms and changing areas
to enter the pool area.

Most people I know
wanted more time to understand
these projects. Some wanted them
to immediately cease. Others
wanted to seize the moment
and get as much money as possible
for the pool.

Yesterday the city produced budget items,
totaling 6.2 million dollars including the
following items —

$233,478 to replace bypass grate:
(This is a steel grid, 10ft x 10 ft.)

$285,352 to repair bypass tunnel joints:
(Re-grouting maybe 30 seems that leak.)

$571,105 to build an accessible route at south side
(A path that will traverse 100 or so feet, winding
will make a bit longer.)

$278, 495 for a temporary skimmer:
(A PVC pipe — high end PVC pipe goes for about $5
running foot — bolted to the side of the pool, attached
to suction pumps aquarium style, only larger.
Bolts, expensive ones, maybe $10@.
Pumps start around $100.)

$35,000 for silt and algae disposal
(In the past the city solution to this has been
to push it downstream — more PVC pipe,
another pressure washer?)

$258,848 for a new pump to facilitate high-pressure
pool cleaning
(The most expensive gas free, high-pressure washer
I could find was $1,500.)

There is almost nothing I wouldn’t do
to save Barton Springs —
I want the city to spend money there.

There has been encouraging talk about
retrofitting the water, cleaning up silt and
algae by improving the flow regime,
but monies for scientific studies to accomplish
this weren’t funded.

The work was given to existing staff.
The Master Plan money is for capital
improvements, no expenditures to increase
staff whose scientific work would underpin
retrofit, no items to re-vegetate the pool.

They were going to use bond money
without a public vote to make this happen.

Is this the Pentagon?
Is this a 6.2 million dollar screw driver?

©Susan Bright, 2007

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Announcement: The Plain View Press e-store is online.

Photo by Pam Thompson showing cliffs
and natural path on south side of pool.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Fifth World

Just a few minutes ago, a good friend and reader called me and remarked about the post where we talked about this time as not only the end of the world but also truly the beginning. He reminded me that according to Hopi prophecy, we are now at the cusp of the fourth and fifth worlds. There are many prophecies in the native american culture, but the Hopi prophecies have been quite prescient.

Here's a quick introduction:

In 1959, a six-man delegation of traditional Hopi leaders led by the late spiritual leader, Dan Katchongva, traveled to the United Nations Building in New York to fulfill a sacred mission in accordance with ancient Hopi instructions. Because of their prophetic knowledge, the Hopi leaders felt it was time to go east to the edge of their motherland, where "a house of mica" [The United Nations building] would stand at this time, where Great Leaders from many lands would be gathered to help any people who are in trouble."

They were to go when the motherland of the Hopi and other Indian brothers were about to be taken away from them and their way of life was in danger of being completely destroyed by evil ones among the White Men and by some other Indian brothers who were influenced by the White Race.

The Emergence to the future Fifth World has begun. It is being made by the humble people of little nations, tribes, and racial minorities. "You can read this in the earth itself. Plant forms from previous worlds are beginning to spring up as seeds. This could start a new study of botany if people were wise enough to read them.

The same kinds of seeds are being planted in the sky as stars. The same kinds of seeds are being planted in our hearts. All these are the same, depending how you look at them. That is what makes the Emergence to the next, Fifth World.

The following extraordinary Hopi prophecy was first published in a mimeographed manuscript that circulated among several Methodist and Presbyterian churches in 1959. Some of the prophecies were published in 1963 by Frank Waters in The Book of the Hopi.

The account begins by describing how, while driving along a desert highway one hot day in the summer of 1958, a minister named David Young stopped to offer a ride to an Indian elder, who accepted with a nod.

After riding in silence for several minutes, the Indian said:

"I am White Feather, a Hopi of the ancient Bear Clan. In my long life I have traveled through this land, seeking out my brothers, and learning from them many things full of wisdom. I have followed the sacred paths of my people, who inhabit the forests and many lakes in the east, the land of ice and long nights in the north, and the places of holy altars of stone built many years ago by my brothers' fathers in the south.

"And now White Feather is dying. His sons have all joined his ancestors, and soon he too shall be with them. But there is no one left, no one to recite and pass on the ancient wisdom. My people have tired of the old ways -- the great ceremonies that tell of our origins, of our emergence into the Fourth World, are almost all abandoned, forgotten, yet even this has been foretold. The time grows short.

"My people await Pahana, the lost White Brother, [from the stars] as do all our brothers in the land. He will not be like the white men we know now, who are cruel and greedy. we were told of their coming long ago. But still we await Pahana.

"He will bring with him the symbols, and the missing piece of that sacred tablet now kept by the elders, given to him when he left, that shall identify him as our True White Brother.

"The Fourth World shall end soon, and the Fifth World will begin. This the elders everywhere know. The Signs over many years have been fulfilled, and so few are left. more

Whether or not this kind of stuff rings true to you or not,

The important part for me is this:

There have been many ages and epochs.

Call them worlds if you like.

The Hopi saw their world end when the white man came.

And now the world of the white man

is getting ready to see the kind of change,

that they saw.

The Fourth World is ending.

And the Fifth World comes.


What it is About
Earthfamily Principles

Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
Earthfamilyalpha Content



art courtesy of cold river galleries


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Your Money or Your Life

Thanks to the Energy Bulletin, here is a bit of a piece from Guy McPherson's Nature Bats Last blog. I've edited it a lot because the piece is actually a pretty long speech. It's worth a full read though.

"They say the truth will set you free. The truth does not set you free, it just pisses you off. At least, that's my experience. (clip)

Oil supply -- at the level of the field, county, state, country, or world -- follows a bell-shaped curve; the top of the curve is called "Peak Oil," or "Hubbert's Peak." We passed Hubbert's Peak for world oil supply and began easing down the other side about two years ago.

We'll fall off the oil-supply cliff next year.

Because this country mainlines cheap oil, it is easy to envision the complete collapse of the U.S. economy within a decade. The Great Depression will seem like the good old days when unemployment approaches 100% and inflation is running at 1000% per year.

Obviously, this is a very good thing … for the world's cultures and species, other than our own.

After all, in the name of economic growth we have ripped minerals from the Earth, often bringing down mountains in the process; we have harvested nearly all the old-growth timber on the continent, replacing thousand-year-old giants with neatly ordered plantations of tiny trees.

We have hunted species to the point of extinction; we have driven livestock across every almost acre of the continent, baring hillsides and engendering massive erosion.

We have plowed large landscapes, transforming fertile soil into sterile, lifeless dirt; we have burned ecosystems and, perhaps more importantly, we have extinguished naturally occurring fires.

We have spewed pollution and dumped garbage, thereby dirtying our air, fouling our water, and contributing greatly to the warming of the planet.

We have paved thousands of acres to facilitate our movement and, in the process, have disrupted the movements of thousands of species.

As I wrote in one of my recent books, the problem is not that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions -- it's that the road to Hell is paved.

We have, to the maximum possible extent allowed by our intellect and never-ending desire, consumed the planet and therefore traded in tomorrow for today. And we keep making these choices, every day, choosing dams over salmon, oil over whales, cars over polar bears, death over life.

And when I say we keep making these choices, I do not mean you and me -- we have essentially nothing to do with it -- I mean the politicians and CEOs who run this country. They are killing the planet and, when they notice the screams, they turn up the volume on Fox News.

Meanwhile, most Americans took the blue pill without really thinking about the consequences. (clip)

When I tell people about Peak Oil, the immediate response is something like, "C'mon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is setting records; the economy looks great."


Never mind the asset bubble built by shaky investments. Never mind the manipulation of the money supply by the Federal Reserve Bank since the Fed's monetary policy was removed from public view by Ben Bernanke. (clip)

..what about runaway greenhouse? Runaway greenhouse simply means that positive feedbacks are overwhelming Earth's climate system and we cannot stop the warming of planet Earth. Had we passed the oil peak a decade earlier, we would have been forced to reduce CO2 emissions and therefore prevent the frying of the planet.

But Peak Oil came too late to save us. (clip)

Therefore, I am forced to conclude that: 5,000 generations into the human experience, with the end of humanity in clear view, our shared goal must be …
for the common good.

And I further conclude that: As friends, we reveal our differences, we appreciate our differences, and then we set them aside …
for the common good.

With hope shining like a beacon, we struggle together …
for the common good.

We have in our hands the destiny of our planet... more

Towards the end of the speech the author lays out 10 steps that mark the agenda that lays ahead. And he concludes with this:

Can we get from here to there? We have the best excuse in the world to not act. The momentum of civilization is powerful. Resisting those in power will almost certainly lead to imprisonment, torture, perhaps even death. Those are pretty good excuses to forego action.

So the question becomes, in the words of author and activist Derrick Jensen: "Would you rather have the best excuse in the world, or would you rather have a world?"

It reminds me of the Jack Benny skit, when the robber comes up to him and says "Your money or your life!"

Benny puts his hand to his chin, and pauses, then says,

"I'm thinking."

"There is no torrent like greed." The Buddha


What it is About
Earthfamily Principles

Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
Earthfamilyalpha Content




Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Walk Scores

Several weeks ago, I came upon this walkability site. I tried my neighborhood and it did pretty good with an 80.

Glenn at the Oil Drum recently found it too. So, he tested his home in NYC and then he tested Amory Lovins' home in Snowmass. Here is a piece of his post:

"Typically, when people think about how sustainable a neighborhood is, they probably think of neighborhoods with lots of organic stores, solar paneled roofs, small hybrid cars and a strong recycling/composting culture.

And all of those ideas have their place, but I would argue that the most important is how walkable/bikable a neighborhood is. From Streetsblog, we discover a new website, Walkscore gives us a chance to calculate this aspect of different neighborhoods. While this is admittedly a crude measure and has some fairly obvious flaws, it is in many ways a good rough measure of how walkable a given location is compared to others.

Just pure density does not a walkable neighborhood make. It requires a healthy mix of residential, retail, services and office space. It means basically being able to accomplish pretty much any of your necessary daily trips by foot and not requiring an automobile.

For instance Amory Lovins' Rocky Mountain Institute gets a fairly low score since pretty much anyone that works there or wants to get lunch off campus HAS to drive there. However, most of Manhattan gets a 90+. cllip

One key lesson from walkscore after taking a tour of various places that I have lived before is that while DENSITY is pretty important, ZONING is probably even more important. My childhood home in Staten Island, which was in residential only zoned area, received a score of 50, while similarly dense places I have lived in Ithaca received over 80.

Also, ultra-dense places like Manhattan have fairly similar scores to mixed use areas of the outerboroughs and even small town centers.

A low-cost, pro-small business initiative that would vastly improve the walkability of any neighborhood, would be to ban residential-only zoning and specifically encourage mixed use zoning everywhere, even in the heart of the most suburban sub-divisions.

Even if all plots at street intersections became eligible for commercial, retail or other uses, it would go a long way to producing more walkable communities.

Another lesson that I hope people have started to realize is that transportation is not just Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and trying to figure out how to replace all of them with non-petroleum sources of energy.

People in walkable communities make just as many, if not more, trips in a given week and they travel much shorter distances. Transportation policy should be about providing people with access to the goods, services, workplaces that they need, not encouraging land use patterns that place all of these as far from each other as possible and desperately trying to link them all together with roads and highways that are costly to build and maintain."

I have spoken often about remaking our western car cities into a quilt of villages. And the suggestions here, although unsophisticated, are pretty realizable. By creating walkable and bikable environments, we can not only reduce our carbon footprint, we can reduce our waistlines, as well as our doctor bills.

And I still want to see the overall inner city connected with covered elevated walking, biking, and very light vehicle (VLV) path that allows you to blast from end of town to the other in a fraction of an hour, all the while viewing the hills and the creeks below. Since these skyways can be engineered to pedestrian standards, they would cost a fraction of our current automotive flyways, and they would be a unique urban amenity.

But good walk scores are not so good for big business.

And that ain't so bad.


What it is About
Earthfamily Principles

Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
Earthfamilyalpha Content




Monday, August 27, 2007

Truly the Beginning

The News today will be full of Gonzo, having gone gonzo, going.

His replacement will perhaps be the wierd warmed over death figure

who not only was the architect of the Katrina response,

he was also the coauthor of the Patriot Act.

Yes, this story will be tackled from one end of the field

to the other.

Our Justice Department was being used for political purposes,

And there has been gambling in Las Vegas.

I am shocked.

So is Bobby Kennedy, and John Mitchell, and Ed Meese,

I watched the new Sacco and Vanzetti documentary last night.

Our Justice department was just as good then.

When we look with clear eyes, beyond the myth,

We see a country that has always been wild, reckless,

And on the move.

We see a country that is aggressive and ready to fight,

With our cousins from the neighboring state,

Or our ancestors from across the sea.

We see a country that uses freedom and justice,

As a cover for our inhumanity to ourselves and others.

We see a country that expounds democracy,

Yet has never managed to practice it.

We see a country that speaks of free enterprise,

Yet crushes it in the Wall of the Street.

We see a country that educates its young,

To pass tests, not to think past the test.

We see a country that spends more on war,

Than all the other countries combined.

We see a country that cannot see others,

Any better than it sees itself.

Yet, each of us, certainly many of us,

Are good, decent, reasonably thoughtful

Humanoids of likable character.

We roll through our days as if we are a pin ball.

We eat our food like any other domesticated animal.

We love our friends and hate our enemies.

We fly our flags and demand safe, secure borders,

Even as we wear our Chinese clothes and our Chinese shoes.

Yesterday, while resting and recharging at the Springs,

We wondered,

If this isn’t the end of the World?

Just why in the heck isn’t it?

Perhaps because in truth,

It is actually just the beginning.


What it is About
Earthfamily Principles

Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
Earthfamilyalpha Content




Sunday, August 26, 2007

CHF and Renewable Energy

Charles H Freeman and Renewable Energy

Charles Freeman was not just an electrical power engineer.

He was a strong proponent and advocate of clean electrical power. For much of the last 2 decades, he served on the board of directors of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association, where he served as its president for four terms. He was TREIA’s current president until his resignation just six weeks ago.

Charles was instrumental in the forming and fashioning of laws and regulations that would ultimately make Texas the leading state for wind power in the nation.

Professionally, his firm, Electrical Power Engineers, is one of just a few premier companies that work with Wind Developers and Utility companies to site and plan new projects.

Charles was also a big supporter of solar energy, investing in a new solar technology that may someday be the state of the art for clean, affordable solar energy.

He had an all-electric pick up truck which could pull a trailer equipped with a battery charging generator, thus making his Ford one of the first plug in hybrid vehicles in the State.

Charles brought skill, professionalism, and resources to a fledgling industry that needed what he had to offer.

He will be missed greatly, but his contributions to a cleaner, better, more secure Texas will live long after our short walks on this earth.

Funeral services were held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 515 Columbus Ave., Waco, at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 25.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Charles Hillyer Freeman

Born: December 7, 1941
Died: Thursday, August 23, 2007

It was not my pleasure to know Charles Freeman as well as others did. But it was not necessary to know him well to appreciate Charles Freeman fully.

My memory of Charles is as an eminently practical man. An engineer by discipline, he mastered the conditions of physicality. And I remember him as a man of vision. He saw for Texas and our nation a future powered by renewable energy, sustainable in every sense.

He was a professional. And he was a leader.

With Charles' absence, we must work all the harder. No less tribute to this great man seems fitting.

Charles was a graduate of Texas A&M and a military officer early in his career. I am proud to say that we had this in common. There is a great tradition at Texas A&M, called the Muster. Each year, on April 21, Aggies gather around to world to remember and honor those of their comrades who died in the previous year. The names of those who have passed are softly called, and a friend answers "here."

I will answer "here" for Charles next April, and I invite others to do so as well.

Here is part of a poem about Muster:

Before we part and go upon our way,

We pause to honor those we knew so well;

The old familiar faces we miss so much today

Left cherished recollections that time cannot dispel.

Softly call the Muster,

Let comrade answer, “Here!”

Their spirits hover ‘round us

As if to bring us cheer!

Mark them ‘present’ in our hearts.

We’ll meet some other day

There is no death, but life etern

For our old friends such as they!

by Dr. John Ashton 1906

Grace Paley

Grace Paley Serious, © Alan Pogue, 1984

Grace Paley died last night. Alan Pogue sent these three photos in last night saying simply -- I want to get these out into the world. I miss her. I met her in Minneapolis in the early 80s. She and Meridel LeSueur were mentoring younger women writers. O Great Spirit!


Grace Paley, 84, short story writer, activist

Published on: 08/24/07- (Atlanta Journal Constution)

Grace Paley, the celebrated writer and social activist whose short stories explored in precise, pungent and tragicomic style the struggles of ordinary women muddling through everyday lives, died on Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt. She was 84 and also had an apartment in Manhattan.

Paley had been ill with breast cancer for some time, her literary agent, Elaine Markson, said Thursday.

Grace Paley is shown in her home in Thetford, Vt., April 9, 2003.

Paley's output was modest, about four dozen stories in three volumes: "The Little Disturbances of Man" (Doubleday, 1959); "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974); and "Later the Same Day" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1985). But she attracted a devoted following and was widely praised by critics for her pitch-perfect dialogue, which managed at once to be surgically spare and almost unimaginably rich.

Her "Collected Stories," published by Farrar, Straus in 1994, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. (The collection was reissued by Farrar, Straus this year.) From 1986 to 1988, Paley was New York's first official state author; she was also a past poet laureate of Vermont.

Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailiness. She often focused on single mothers, whose days were a mix of sexual yearning and pulverizing fatigue. In a sense, her work was about what happened to the women that Roth and Bellow and Malamud's men had loved and left behind.

To read Paley's fiction is to be awash in the shouts and murmurs of secular Yiddishkeit, with its wild joy and twilight melancholy. For her, cadence and character went hand in hand: her stories are marked by their minute attention to language, with its tonal rise and fall, hairpin rhetorical reversals and capacity for delicious hyperbolic understatement. Her stories, many of which are written in the first person and seem to start in mid-conversation, beg be read aloud.

Grace Paley Hilarious, © Alan Pogue, 1984

Some critics found Paley's stories short on plot, and much of what happens is that nothing much happens. Affairs begin, babies are born, affairs end. But that was the point. In Paley's best stories, the language is so immediate, the characters so authentic, that the text is propelled by an innate urgency — the kind that makes readers ask, "And then what happened?"

Open Paley's first collection, "The Little Disturbances of Man," to the first story, "Goodbye and Good Luck":

"I was popular in certain circles,says Aunt Rose. I wasn't no thinner then, only more stationary in the flesh. In time to come, Lillie, don't be surprised — change is a fact of God. From this no one is excused. Only a person like your mama stands on one foot, she don't notice how big her behind is getting and sings in the canary's ear for thirty years. Who's listening? Papa's in the shop. You and Seymour, thinking about yourself. So she waits in a spotless kitchen for a kind word and thinks — poor Rosie.

"Poor Rosie! If there was more life in my little sister, she would know my heart is a regular college of feelings and there is such information between my corset and me that her whole married life is a kindergarten."


For Paley's immigrant Jews, the push and pull of assimilation is everywhere. Parents live in the East Bronx or Coney Island; their children flee to Greenwich Village. A family agonizes over its daughter's role in her school's Christmas pageant.

Grace Paley Humorous, © Alan Pogue, 1984

Later stories are darker. A girl is raped; children die of drug overdoses. Threading through the books are familiar characters, in particular Faith Darwin, the subject of many stories, grown older and world-wearier.

Though Paley's work also rings with Irish and Italian and black voices, it was for the language of her childhood, a heady blend of Yiddish, Russian and English, that she was best known. Reviewers sometimes called her prose postmodern, but all of it — even her death-defying, almost surreal turns of logic — was already present in Yiddish oral tradition. Consider:

A man meets a friend on the street.

"Nu, how's by you?" the friend asks.

"Ach," the man replies. "My wife left me; the children don't call; business is bad. With life so terrible, it's better never to have been born."

"Yes," his friend says. "But how many are so lucky? Not one in ten thousand."

Grace Goodside was born in the Bronx on Dec. 11, 1922. (The family changed its name from Gutseit on coming to the United States.) Her parents, Isaac and the former Manya Ridnyik, were Ukrainian Jewish Socialists who had been exiled by Czar Nicholas II: Isaac to Siberia, Manya to Germany. In 1906, they were able to leave for New York, where Isaac became a doctor. They had two children, and, approaching middle age, a third, Grace.

Grace's childhood was noisy and warm, and always there was glorious argument. The Communists hollered at the Socialists, the Socialists hollered at the Zionists, and everybody hollered at the anarchists.

Grace spent a year at Hunter College before marrying Jess Paley, a film cameraman, at 19; the marriage later ended in divorce. Hoping to be a poet (she studied briefly with Auden at the New School), she wrote only verse until she was in her 30s. But little by little the narrative speech of the old neighborhood — here, that of young Shirley Abramowitz in Paley's story "The Loudest Voice" — began to assert itself:

"There is a certain place where dumb-waiters boom, doors slam, dishes crash; every window is a mother's mouth bidding the street shut up, go skate somewhere else, come home. My voice is the loudest.

"There, my own mother is still as full of breathing as me and the grocer stands up to speak to her. 'Mrs. Abramowitz,' he says, 'people should not be afraid of their children.'

"'Ah, Mr. Bialik,' my mother replies, 'if you say to her or her father "Ssh," they say, "In the grave it will be quiet.'""

A self-described "somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist," Paley was an advocate of liberal causes. During the Vietnam War she was jailed several times for protests; in later years she lobbied for women's rights, against nuclear proliferation and, most recently, against the war in Iraq. For decades she was a familiar presence on lower Sixth Avenue, near her Greenwich Village home, smiling broadly, leaflets in hand.

Paley, who taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence and the City College of New York, was also a past vice president of the PEN American Center.

Some critics have called Paley's work uneven, but what they really seemed to mean is that it was too even: similar people in similar situations. But the stories that worked — and most did — were so satisfying that the lesser ones scarcely mattered. At her best, Paley collapsed entire worlds into a few perfect paragraphs, as in the opening of "Wants," from "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute":

"I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library.

"Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified.

"He said, What? What life? No life of mine.

"I said, OK I don't argue when there's real disagreement. I got up and went into the library to see how much I owed them.

"The librarian said $32 even and you've owed it for eighteen years. I didn't deny anything. Because I don't understand how time passes. I have had those books. I have often thought of them. The library is only two blocks away.

"My ex-husband followed me to the Books Returned desk. He interrupted the librarian, who had more to tell. In many ways, he said, as I look back, I attribute the dissolution of our marriage to the fact that you never invited the Bertrams to dinner.

"That's possible, I said. But really, if you remember: first, my father was sick that Friday, then the children were born, then I had those Tuesday-night meetings, then the war began."

Paley is survived by her second husband, Robert Nichols, whom she married in 1972. (They collaborated on "Here and Somewhere Else," which collects poems and stories by each of them, published this year by The Feminist Press.) She is also survived by two children from her first marriage, Nora Paley of East Thetford; and Danny, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren.

Her other books include a collection of essays, "Just As I Thought" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), and several volumes of poetry, among them "Leaning Forward" (Granite Press, 1985) and "New and Collected Poems" (Tilbury Press, 1991). A film, "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute," based on three stories and adapted by John Sayles and Susan Rice, was released in 1983.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1978, Paley described the grass-roots sensibility that informed her work.

"I'm not writing a history of famous people," she said. "I am interested in a history of everyday life."

Susan Bright, 2007

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Announcement: The Plain View Press e-store is online.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fighting the Fire

I'm traveling today, so here is an oldie but a goldie. I was tempted to make a few edits because the piece is over 2 years old, but I didn't.. It's interesting to see what still rings and what doesn't.

Belief Belief

More than 13 years ago

I came back from a UN meeting on Climate Change

all jazzed about the coming Global Treaty on Climate Change.

It was just before the big Earth Conference in Rio.

I did a few interviews on TV and I visited with a few reporters.

I specifically remember visiting with one reporter off the record

about what happens to you when you really do believe

that Climate Change is happening.

Once you truly believe that your generation is making decisions

that will effect all of the generations that follow

and their ability to live on this planet

you begin to, well, take it kind of seriously, I told her.

The reporter just looked at me with one of those looks

that they give when they realize that they are in the presence of a zealot.

One Sunday, many years back, when I lived in the country,

on the edge of a oak and pine forest,

I was outside, probably just trimming a few trees

when I noticed that the light was turning kind of red.

Everything had a funny copper sheen to it.

I looked to the West and thought maybe the sky was a little overcast.

I started walking back into the forest and down the hill.

As I walked through the thick brush,

I began to smell smoke, and then I began to hear it.

It was a forest fire.

It was all around me now and blowing straight toward my house.

My heart leaped out of my chest as I sprung into action.

I ran up to the house, and told my wife to call the fire department.

I got out the sprinklers and started to moisten my house

and the area around it.

I grabbed a shovel and a hoe and I ran back down the hill

to fight the fire.

In a little while, the firemen came with a plow

that turned the earth into a firebreak effectively and quickly.

Another truck came loaded with water.

Within a hour or so, the danger had passed.

My wife believed there was a fire.

The dispatcher believed there was fire.

The firemen believed there was a fire.

And we put out the fire.

We may believe that Climate Change is real.

We may believe that Peak Oil is real.

We may believe that a collapsing dollar is imminent.

We may know that 3 carrier groups are headed for Iran,

and we may believe that a blockade of Iran is imminent.

But do we leap into action to protect our family?

our house,

our home,

and our future?


And that's the reason that they don't believe it either.

Because we don't believe it.

If we did.

We would start the water.

We would call for help.

We would fight the fire.

We would build

an Earthfamily.

We would think of nothing else.

Until the danger had passed.

It's called belief belief.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The End of the Holocene

A reader from the left coast just sent me a letter that he had mailed out to his friends. Dave is a little concerned about the lack of reporting on the record ice melt in the arctic. I linked to the story in the "much ado" post, but I agree, this story is an important one.

Here is part of his letter.

On Friday August 17, 2007, NSIDC (The National Snow & Ice Data Center) announced that the Arctic Summer Sea Ice had reached an all time low and had passed the prior record observed at the end of the melting season in September of 2005. There are some obvious and not so obvious comments applicable to this astonishing state of affairs. Please note that at the time of release there was still another 25% left of the ‘melting season’!

The initial announcement was picked up by ‘The Indianapolis Star ": of course one might have expected in any sane society that this would have been leading the news in all media outlets but then again it did drift to by Tuesday: quite frankly the events in Iraq pale by comparison.

The lead scientist commenting on this situation was none other than Mark Serreze and the media printed his somewhat comforting comments, ergo that he doesn’t anticipate ‘clear water’ until 2030. The state of the US press can be defined as deplorable, controlled, or utterly inadequate for the publics needs on this basis alone: pick one!

Serreze modeled the Arctic many years ago and concluded that there would not be clear water until 2100+ and irrespective of the overwhelming evidence he has been steadfast on this issue; after all if the facts don’t fit his hopelessly inadequate model the facts must be wrong!

An extract from his telephone interview is, “The puzzling thing”, he said, “is that the melting is actually occurring faster than computer climate models have predicted”.
Several years ago he would have predicted a complete melt of Arctic sea ice in summer would occur by the year 2070 to 2100, Serreze said. “But at the rates now occurring, a complete melt could happen by 2030”, he said Friday. Maybe he hopes to retire before his long line of hopeless reasoning is finally exposed.

The stark reality is the models, all of them, and there are 18 concerned with the Arctic Summer Sea Ice alone, have on average been in error by over 3 standard deviations from the mean for well over a decade. In mathematical terms, and after all these are mathematical models, this means that they are totally invalid and in truth merely serve to further confuse the issue.

Where do we see thoughtful analysis from some scientific correspondent?


Virtually no one has interviewed an Oceanographer yet relative to this situation, but in fairness, the CBS Evening News last week had an Oceanographer interviewed in the Arctic, on the remaining ice, and he stated the position of all the peer reviewed scientists who have commented on this, ergo, ‘when the summer sea ice disappears, civilization as we know it ends.’

James Hansen explains this with even more clarity by stating that this will result in the end of the Holocene Period. "

Dave goes on with his letter closing with this:

"There is a very small window of opportunity to attack this problem and those who are actively blocking this are actually committing crimes against humanity on an unthinkable scale.

Ignorance is simply no excuse, because in an absence of open debate, this attitude is intentional, and it is high time to both admit it and demand action.

I agree with Dave.

But as Cheek and Chong said.

"Dave's not here. "

But the End of the Holocene is.


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Monday, August 20, 2007

Virtual Flying

It's just the beginning.

Protesters at Heathrow are getting banged up protesting the fact that government and business continue to act as if climate change doesn't exist.

Here's the story from Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - British police with batons skirmished with groups of climate change protesters on Sunday near the headquarters of the operator of Heathrow airport.

The scuffles in a field close to airport operator BAA's building came after largely peaceful marches from a camp where campaigners, who want to draw attention to the impact of aviation on global warming, have been massing all week.

BAA said the airport was operating normally and there was no disruption to passengers. About 200 marchers made it to the BAA car park where there was a strong police presence. Some protesters pitched tents and were planning to stay overnight. Police chased another group into fields, hitting some with truncheons, before ringing them. (clip)

Scientists say air transport contributes to global warming, and the carbon dioxide gas and water vapor emitted by aircraft are four times more potent at high altitude than at sea level.

The British government says it is committed to tackling climate change and plans to set legally binding targets for cutting CO2 emissions -- but it also backs an expansion of air travel, which is set to double in the next 25 years.

Earlier, marchers with carnival-style floats and speakers adorned with flowers blaring music left the camp with a banner saying: "We are armed ... only with peer-reviewed science."

The climate change activists have been camped out for a week near Heathrow, west of London. Organisers estimated there were 1,000-1,200 protesters taking part in the protests. more

And here is a piece from the Christian Science Monitor

Must we quit flying to save the Planet?
By Mark Rice-Oxley

LONDON — For the hundreds of climate-change activists who have camped out near Heathrow Airport for the past week, there is only one way to reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft: Stop flying so much.

"Aviation is a luxury we can live without," said a protester named Merrick. Booming air travel, he said, is multiplying greenhouse gases just as the climate-change imperative starts to bite. "It has to be scaled right back," he said. (clip)

The problem, climate experts say, is that current projections indicate air travel will grow 400 percent in the same period.

There are alternative fuels. Concepts such as hydrogen-powered aircraft are considered to be decades away. But serious work is being done on biofuels as an alternative to kerosene in aircraft.

Entrepreneur Richard Branson promised last year to funnel all profits from his air and rail companies into a new business, Virgin Fuels, that would pay for development of biofuels.

In April, when Virgin Atlantic ordered 787s, the airline also announced an environmental partnership with Boeing that includes a joint biofuel project aimed at developing sustainable fuel sources." more

Towards the end of the story there is this line:

"Some experts think similar personal carbon budgets — rationing — may be the solution."

Let me repeat something I have said before. "The only thing worse than a deregulated carbon economy is a regulated carbon economy. That is why we must develop an advanced post carbon economy now.

I remember the first time I flew. It was on an electra turbo prop. The first time I went to Europe it was on a gigantic prop plane. Back then, the airline industry was just taking off.

Of course planes can fly on other fuel besides number 2 fuel oil.

There is a professor at Baylor who has been proving it for a long time. And perhaps he and the Bransons of the world will be able to transform this young industry.

Except for the police state rules, the invasion of privacy, and the horrible food, I rather like flying. But, sooner than we think, a lot of business trips are going to be replaced with virtual meetings where identical room spaces are projected creating a pretty good illusion of actually being there. This kind of virtual conferencing will become more and more commonplace as we all begin to reduce our carbon footprints.

If you serve the same food and the waiters are dressed the same, you can even sit down and have lunch together.

Don't laugh.

It will be better food than you get on the plane.

And you won't have to take your belt and shoes off. (or be wanded)

And your carbon allotments will be saved for going someplace,

where you really want to be.


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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Change That Comes

Last Thursday, thanks to a friend and reader, I was the guest on a program called the The New Capital Show. The host was Leo Gold. Leo has hosted The New Capital Show on Houston 90.1 KPFT since 2002. (You can listen here)

Since its start, according to Leo’s bio on the site, the show has become very popular and has developed a following among people of a broad political spectrum who share a desire for positive change in the world.

Indeed the mission of the show could be earthfamilyalpha's.

Cover the world's critical issues.
Reform ideological foundations of flawed institutions.
Engage, provoke, and entertain listeners.
Excel in all three talk disciplines: monologue, interview, and call-in.
Set standards for integrity, honesty, intelligence, and civility.
Lead listeners to think, act and change for a better world.
Build a growing, dedicated, diverse, and interacting audience.

Towards the end of the interview, Leo asked me what advice, what one thing could I leave his audience with. I said something about efficiency and made a comment about the transportation sector and the need to reexamine the way we transport ourselves. I spoke about the need to build high speed rail and light rail. Then we ran out of time.

Earlier I had talked about how our world was soon to be going through a significant change, not unlike the change that occurred in World War I, when buggy whips were replaced by car keys.

I explained how humankind is on the brink of a great new horizon where fuel becomes as anachronistic as hay is today.

But, after listening to my reponse, I wish I would have said something like this.
"Leo, If I have one thing to tell your listeners it’s this:

Just do your best to understand the full implications of the great challenge that humankind is facing. If you do, you will see that everything must change.


Our economic system can no longer allow the externalization of costs onto other generations and other social groups. That means pollution must become part of the bottom line of any enterprise.
We must create a photonic energy web.

We must all become global citizens.

Social capital and natural capital must be valued over wealth.
We must rebuild our neighborhoods and communities,
That can ultimately tame the forces of anticommunity
We change our way of thinking.

Our way of judging,

To the change that has


Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 11th hour

Leonardo DiCaprio's movie about climate change and the need for change is now out. Although I have not seen it yet, (it opened yesterday) I personally like the metamessage of the movie, and that is to make this darkest hour, humanities greatest triumph.

Here is part of a review from

"Important, immediate, well-paced, and more than just a Leonardo DiCaprio star vehicle, The 11th Hour introduces us to environment experts from around the world.


Look out your window and take a deep breath. Cherish it, because perhaps you may not be able to someday. At least, that’s what The 11th Hour tells us.

This is not a peripheral storyline, a puffy Hamptons profile or feel-good tale of raising $500,000 for the local church. 11th Hour’s message – reduce global warming and man’s carbon footprint – is center-stage important. It’s the most important issue for the coming generation or two, 11th Hour says.

In the year 1800, only one billion people lived on earth, and civilization didn’t create excess waste heat. In 2007, the world population is more than 6 billion. We’re creating too much heat. Thus, the monumental problems. Besides aiming to teach younger audiences about our environment, 11th Hour handles political debate around corporate waste with savvy, taking the teeth out of a partisan struggle that amounts to distraction from facts. "

And here is the Variety review:

True to its doom-laden title, global-warming doc "The 11th Hour" presents the viewer with reams of depressing data, loads of hand-wringing about the woeful state of humanity and, finally, some altogether fascinating ideas about how to go about solving the climate crisis.

Co-produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this latest exercise in celebrity eco-activism lacks the personal touch that helped "An Inconvenient Truth" go green at the box office, but auds might warm to its layered insights and polished presentation, given careful nurturing by Warner Independent and effective showcasing as an educational tool. clip

Docu's thesis, that mankind's insensitivity to the environment, consumption of limited resources and over-reliance on fossil fuels will soon make the planet uninhabitable for future generations, should by now (hopefully) come as nothing new to viewers.

But the dizzying assemblage of talking heads (among them Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, science reporter Andy Revkin and heads of environmental orgs such as Lester Brown, Tim Carmichael and Wes Jackson), all well-spoken and at times prone to philosophizing, turn "The 11th Hour" into a ruminative essay on what it means to be human in a scarce world."

Reviewing a movie that is telling the hard truth of our cultural predicament is a little like writing a review about Paul Revere's clothes , or writing a critique of his riding skills on the night of his famous ride. The important fact is, did he get the job done.

And if DiCaprio's film gets the job done with just a few more people, then we are that much closer to dealing with these great issues in a thoughtful and holistic way. And the metamessage of the film seems clear,
"Let us turn Mankind's darkest hour into our finest.

These are not technical issues,

They are leadership issues.

The Crisis is Real


Friday, August 17, 2007


Asra’a, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, © 2001.

"We had gone to celebrate the opening of the water treatment plant nearby when we stopped in the village of Abu Floos. Several children ran up to the bus. I noticed this little girl had no right arm and asked what had happened to her. The same plane that fired the missile that injured Mustafa had first fired a missile into Abu Floos. Asra’a had been on her way home from school when she was stuck by missile fragments. Twenty people were killed, one hundred injured and 65 houses were destroyed, but Asra’a survived. When I hear “No Fly Zone” it is her face that I see." (Alan Pogue)

Stronger Than An American Bomb

Mother held my sleeve
when the photographer came.

I can feel my fingers stretch
wide sometimes, wait for the other
fist to close.

I hurt less now, mainly
if people look.

I wake up afraid.

Mother holds me
says I am her beautiful child,
says I am stronger than
an American bomb.

(*Invented poem written to the photograph before I met Asra’a. SB)

Asra’a's New Arm, (Alan Pogue) Houston, © 2004.
"After two months of fittings and adjustments, Ted Muilenberg gives Asra’a a finished artificial arm." (Alan Pogue)

Poster Child

Asra’a stands next to a world famous photograph of herself. I was nervous about meeting her. I don’t speak Arabic and my country is bombing hers. How is it possible that she does not hate us? A friend translates. I tell her Alan said she liked bracelets and I’ve brought some. Asra’a accepts a pink Strauss Crystal bracelet and two necklaces, one shell and one made of black stone. She is fourteen-years-old. Alan photographed her in Iraq, and then spent three years arranging for her to come to America to be fitted for a prosthetic arm. Asra’a has been plucked from a village where bombs explode between home and school, where hundreds of people have depleted uranium sickness, where the water is bad, where her mother and five siblings wait for her return. She and her father work with doctors in Houston to make the arm work. She’s to wear it for short periods each day. Asra’a and her father have not traveled out of Iraq before. How must we look to them? Asra’a sits beside me. She shows me her watch. I point to the 12 and say “twelve.” Then point to the 1 and say “one.” She begins to count. She says the numbers in English from one to 24. I ask her for the numbers in Arabic. I am a dolt in foreign languages, but repeat each number as she carefully pronounces it for me. Her father checks on us, corrects my pronunciation. We count in Arabic to twelve, then to 24. Asra’a counts in English to thirty, then forty. She gets confused in the teens and goes back to them. We count again, laughing when she gets the numbers right more often than I do. I remember learning to count in Norwegian, an astounding process that involves addition, fractions and thinking back and forth in time. Asra’a counts to fifty, and sixty and seventy, then eighty. In the exhibit hall I point to a photograph of her family. She tells me one woman is “aunt” and shows me “brother” and “sister.” She says one is “Mama.” She shows me a photograph of “house.” And one of “school.” She points to an open sewer in the street and to a photo of people who have gathered to repair the water treatment plant. If we can open our hearts, children will teach us what they need and how to communicate with them.

Asra’a’s Home, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, © 2003.

"The View from Asra’a’s Front Door, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, ©2003.
An open sewer runs down the street and around the corner. Off to the right is an open trash dump." (Alan Pogue)

Asra’a’s School, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, ©2003.
"There is little between Asra'a's school and home at which to aim missiles, except children and their families." (Alan Pogue)

Poems, ©Susan Bright, 2007

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Announcement: The Plain View Press e-store is online.


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