Sunday, November 30, 2008

Poet: Pramila Venkateswaran

Two poems from: Behind Dark Waters, by Pramila Venkateswaran, which will be released by Plain View Press in one week. Pramila was raised in India and has many family members in Mumbai. There have been so many violent images from there these last days, we offer this beautiful music and poetry as a balance.


Krishna’s Reply to Arjuna

Krishna, do wars make sense?
Why fight against my own kin?
Krishna, restore my balance!

Arjuna, have you slept through my lectures?
For you are still at the beginning,
asking if wars make sense.

Look at war with a spiritual lens.
Do warriors think of me often
to restore their balance?

Among their mind’s inhabitants
am I number one?
Only then ask if wars make sense.

Am I more than a passing glance?
More than the stars that blink
to restore the traveler’s balance?

I am the woman who held the infant,
also the man who held the AK-47,
so, certainly, wars don’t make sense
if I am absent to restore balance.

*Krishna and Arjuna are the protagonists of The Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the epic, The Mahabharatha. The Bhagavad Gita is Krishna’s advice to Arjuna on life. It begins with Krishna persuading a despondent Arjuna to pick up his weapons and fight his hundred cousins to get his kingdom back. As the dialogue progresses through the eighteen chapters, Krishna unfolds the philosophical questions central to Advaita or non-duality, such as the meaning of reality and the way to liberation through non-attachment, right action, and devotion.

our little lives

you wonder how one lives after horror

but we do

as if something old inhabits us
and we have done this before
picking up where we left off

without hope, without dreams
to simply dwell in the gap
between opposites

as a little girl in the hub of bloody hands
or the one in a crossfire
in an antiseptic city

each picks up her little life
and walks toward some uncertain

©Pramila Venkateswaran, 2008. For ordering information email:

Pramila Venkateswaran, author of an earlier poetry collection, Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002), was a finalist for the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. She has published poetry in the United States, Canada, and India, in Paterson Literary Review, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Kavya Bharati, Long Island Quarterly, Calyx: Journal of Art and Literature by Women, Nassau Review, and other print and electronic journals. Recent anthologies, A Chorus for Peace, en(compass), The Light of City and Sea, Long Island Sounds, Letters to the World, and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery include her voice among poets from around the world. She has participated in multimedia presentations of her poems with dance, music and visual art and has performed her poems nationally, most recently in the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Her essays on race and gender have appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly and in Language Crossings. Her next book, Wild Syllables, is due shortly. She has a doctorate from George Washington University and teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dia de Gracias

Even though this little mountain pueblo is well connected to the rest of the world with a fine wireless signal now available in many of the coffee houses and hotels, the round mountains that frame the sky and surround the village seem to cradle us from the worst of the world.

Yesterday, while much of the world was taken in by the events in India, we enjoyed a private talk with the so called legitimate president of Mexico. He spoke in the park in front of my house to a crowd of seventy or so. Lopez Obrador spoke to us in clear words and in concise phrases.

He spoke of the domination of Mexican politics by a ruling elite that controlled the TV networks. He addressed questions of food and education. And now, two years after he lost the presidency to Felipe Calderon, he is visiting every pueblo and town in Mexico to bring about his version of change.

As he jumped into his white Suburban that said "El Legitimo Gobierno de Mexico" on the side, he waved and said "adios, adios" to the warm and excited eclectic group who had gathered to hear him.

On Thanksgiving, about 12 adults, 2 teenagers and 5 kiddos spent much of the day in the mountains above the town, well above 10,000 feet. The sky was clear and as blue as clear water over white sand. We had a picnic under the large Alamogordo trees on the soft green grass and great stone blocks that had fallen from the 250 year old stone ruins of this pueblo fantasma.

We then went to the "Montana Sagrada for Gueros" where we straighted the stone circles and blessed the site with wine and awe.

In the evening, we gave our thanks for this Dia de Gracias in a beautiful formal setting in the old restored Tesoro. The turkey and the dressing was prepared by the Italian who owns the corner restaurant, and the Loma (roast beef) was cooked by a traveling Swiss chef.

It all reminds me of this passage from the Tao:

What is rooted is easy to nourish
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from benearth your feet.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.*

*64 Tao te Ching
by Stephen Mitchell


Friday, November 28, 2008

Respectism and the AK-47

Respectism is the simple belief that the universal practice and promotion of respect for oneself, others and place is a pragmatic necessity for human survival.

Until we truly have that epiphany, we will not be green, we will not be kind or just, and we will not be able to work together to solve the massive problems created by our weapons and our waste.

We are the problem.

We just need to admit ourselves to the solution.

The AK-47 assault rifle is legendary for it's user friendliness and rugged construction. Any child over nine can easily operate it.

Let us not waste the terrible, costly wisdom we have learned from the AK-47 about tools that can be made to work in the hands of children.

If we are to survive and grow into a true civilization, the human population living beneath this miraculous halo must have a simple and durable principle to guide us, one that can be taught to toddlers, but which can also instruct our leaders.

If you have read this far, please consider this question.

Can we possibly have a better world for ourselves and our children without the universal practice and promotion of respect for oneself, others and place?

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Perhaps respectism* is the necessary word, meaning that we don't just need respect, we need theory about its importance and possibility. In short, to get to the moon, we have to believe we can fly.

*"Respectism" is presently at 182 Google hits, many of them relating to Tou Ger Xiong's Project Respectism, "an educational service project that uses comedy, storytelling and rap music to bridge cultures and generations."

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pie for Obama

* Peace Pie

This just came in from Truthout

Obama Hands Out Food, Visits School on South Side
Wednesday 26 November 2008

by: Abdon M. Pallasch, The Chicago Sun-Times

President-elect Barack Obama and his family spent an hour handing out chickens, potatoes, bread and other Thanksgiving food to poor families on Chicago's South Side Wednesday morning after Obama introduced his latest economic advisors. Then he shook hands with Catholic grade school students ecstatic to see him.

Many of the poor and homeless - some of whom come for food every Wednesday - screamed in disbelief as they entered the parking lot of St. Columbanus church at 71st and Calumet and realized the reason they had been wanded by the U.S. Secret Service was because Obama, his wife and daughters, were standing there ready to pass out the food usually handed out by volunteers.

"At Thanksgiving, it's important for us to remember people in need," Obama said. "They told me the number of people coming here is up 33 percent from last year."

About 600 families got food, said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. That's up from 270 families last year, said the Rev. Matt Eyerman.

This is the fourth year in a row Obama has handed out food before Thanksgiving. Last year, he did it in New Hampshire.

"We started seeing increases as early as last year January," Maehr said. "In April, we started seeing double-digit increases.

"Happy Thanksgiving - hey, don't forget your chicken," Obama said after hugging one woman who screamed when she saw him. Declining to give an autograph, he said, "If I sign autographs, I can't pass out my chickens."

Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7 , stood beside their father also handing out food in the 43-degree weather beneath the elaborate 99-year-old stained glass windows of St. Columbanus church. Obama wore a leather jacket while Michelle and the girls were bundled in winter coats and hats.

Obama said it was important to bring his daughters because, "I want them to know how fortunate they are and that they have to give back," Obama said.

As he finished handing out the chickens, Obama turned and looked up at the windows of St. Columbanus School where the pre-K through 8th graders were furiously waving and screaming from their second- and third-floor windows, their screams barely audible through the closed windows.

"Hey Michelle, look," he pointed as she waved back.

"We've got to go in there and say 'hi' to those kids," he told his wife, much to the chagrin of the Secret Service, which frowns on spontaneity.

The Secret Service asked school officials to bring the school's 300 students down to the assembly hall.

"Secret Service for Barack Obama said we'd better gather the children quickly. It was like a fire drill. They said, 'can they make it down in five minutes?'" Eyerman said. "For Barack Obama, they could make it down in five minutes."

The enthusiasm was off the charts as Obama entered the room and attempted to shake hands with the children as young as five and pre-Kindergarten. Some grabbed onto his leather jacket sleeves and would not let go, trying to climb up in his arms.

"I just wanted to come by and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving," Obama said. "What I'm thankful for is my family, my friends, my community."

He asked the kids who would be having turkey and macaroni and cheese. Prompted by Michelle, he asked, "Who's getting good grades?"

"Listen to your teachers," Obama said. "One of you might end up being president."

"Who likes math?" Obama asked the students. His daughter Malia did not raise her hand until her mom gave her a playful slap and she raised her hand.

Obama took two questions from the kids. One asked what it was like to be president.

"I'm not the president yet ... once I'm president I'll let you know what its like," he said.

A girl asked him what it was like to have so many people following him.

Obama said he appreciated the members of the Secret Service and the press who he said were missing spending time with their families so they could accompany him.

He and Michelle jokingly asked members of the Secret Service to identify themselves by raising their hands. They did not.


Ice water. Two silver knives to work through the flour and shortening, add salt. It is an old art. Do not work late into the night, with sleep nipping at your sleeves, you will fall off, wake up at three a.m. to a room full of smoke, two black disks in the oven, bad smell. Do not think about business, or the wave of darkness spreading through the Arts, do not think about depression looming on the horizon or the rhetoric and nonsense our leaders toss into its mouth, or the prospect of revolution in America. Zen. Concentrate on the art of pie. It is an old art. Ingredients spread through the house like a layer of snow, later people say: O, Pie. Pie. We love pie. It is a good art. No one will say, Make this pie with only one silver knife, or no ice, or make it with chalk instead of flour. Fill pie with ingredients at hand, cans of things, fresh fruit, cheese. Add it to a feast. Eat leftovers for breakfast the next day, the celebration begins again, pie filling the recesses of the body, exhilaration. Pie, it is an old art. If we lose it, infants will wither in their mothers’ stomachs, writhe at sunken nipples, men will lose direction, US Steel will manufacture rubber and the pillars of society will flop around like spangles on a half-mast flag. Pie. The planets are lined up—Saturn, Uranus, Mars, Jupiter pull earthquakes, pull poison from beneath the surface. Pie, cut through the mix gently, roll out on a layer of wood and flour, pie. Flute the edges, pour in apples and cinnamon and spices. Pie. Zen. Concentrate on the art of pie. The rites of passage pull us through the gates of depression and war. We shall make pie. Cannot resist. We shall celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July; holidays shall find us traversing the continent in search of heritage. No one makes pie like Mother does. Pie. No one says one pie should represent all pies. Pie is like a thumb print. Some are sour. Pie is silent, making only a light simmering noise as it bakes in the oven. It spreads scent gently into our hearts. There is ceremony as pie is lifted out of the heat. They gather. O, Pie. The clutter is swept away, space around pie is brought to sharp focus. Light pours down on pie. Concentrate. The art of pie is an old one. Try to imagine life without it. Like the unveiling of a great painting, breaking a champagne bottle over the bow of a ship going off to sea, the ceremony as a cornerstone is laid, pie. Do not roll the crust too thick, roll gently or the center will unfurl, rub extra flour on the rolling pin every fourth stroke, remember these things. Create pie often so the art is not lost. Do not forget temperature. Cold is essential, then heat. You must have an oven, cannot make pie over an open fire or in a barbecue pit. Be firm with those who insist pie can be made in a crockpot or on the back window ledge of a Pontiac left out in August sunlight. Respect the rules of pie.

Sing a song of six pence/ A pocket full of rye/ Four and twenty black birds/ Baked in a pie./ When the pie was opened/ The birds began to sing—

©Susan Bright, 1983

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-fifty 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.

You can listen to an audio performance of Pie here. Pie was first written in the late 70s. It is published in Tirades And Evidence Of Grace and is part of an audio CD of selected poems from that collection. Copies can be ordered from Claudia Schmidt has recorded it on her CD Roads.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nine Earths

Perhaps it takes seeing it from another perch, another place.

But the attempts to save the World's so called economy are clearly looking more and more dubious as each day goes by.

This morning, as we read the newspaper from San Luis, there was a very sad picture of George Soros. The cutline spoke of deep recession, loss of jobs, and deflation. I opened up my email after breakfast to find that a friend who had just landed a fine position several months back, had just joined the jobless this week.

Here in Mexico, the peso is now at 14 to one, about as high as it has been in the last 10 years. The dollar has also grown stronger against the Euro, trading at 1.29 per Euro as of yesterday.

Bloomberg said yesterday that the Federal government had committed $7.4 trillion to lending facilities and guarantees. The total is now $8.2 trillion thanks to new programs announced today to aid borrowing by consumers, small businesses, and homeowners.

Do you know how much money that is?

It's a new high speed rail system for the US, it's enough money to go 100% renewable, its enough money to provide real health care for all. It's 10 years of weaponry and war.

According to Naked Capitalism:

There are a few problems with this approach:

1. The banks have already been given support right, left and center. They are still not lending,

2. Some of the stinginess is warranted. Um, a credit bubble means a lot of people got loans who shouldn't have. Do we want banks again to make unsound loans? I should hope not, but I could be wrong here. A fair bit of consumer credit ought to contract. And even if a lot of good customers also have their credit lines cut, do you really think the banks are going to turn around and reverse these decisions on a meaningful scale. Ain't happening.

3. Consumers are scared about employment and the loss of their home equity piggybank. They also know they borrowed too much. They want to lower debt levels. So as a reader put it, "Even if you throw the horse in the lake, you can't make him drink."

4. Banks are so desperate to restore profits that they are jacking up prices on existing consumer credit, even as the Fed and Treasury have been provided lots of low-cost support. Citibank and American Express are raising interest rates on existing loan balances for a a significant proportion of customers, and they no doubt have company. If consumers face higher charges on their outstanding debt. it considerably reduces the odds that they can or will take on more debt. (clip)
Persisting in a failed course of action is not a sign of intelligence."

Last night, we sat around and talked about the world economy with our German and Swiss friends. This village will not change much as the world economy crumbles. Sure, there will be a few less tourists and there will be less of them buying paintings and jewelry from my artistic friends.

The outlook last night though was very bright. Most of us agreed in one way or another, that the world is making its way to a sanity and a well being that it has never known before.

There are enough people on the planet now who know that the Capitalist's World as it has grown over the centuries is in for a major rehaul.

There are enough people on the planet now who know that this world will tumble as sure as the previous world of Monarchs and Aristocracy tumbled 300 years ago.

And there are enough people on the planet who know where we are in the development of human and global consciousness.

There are also enough people on the planet now who know that it would take 9 planet earths for everyone to live like an American.

And that, for the moment,

We just have one.

And it's time we all begin

to act

as if we know it.

Like an earthfamily

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Near Dawn Light

Today is the beginning of the 5th year for earthfamilyalpha. Oz is on the way to Mexico and I have the honor of pushing us off yet another cliff in time. Perhaps we've budged a smidgen in the grey zone between then and now, one thing and another, empire and international cooperation, for instance.

About ten days ago Jay was driving between Tulia and Canyon on the caprock in West Texas and found himself wrapped in Near Dawn Light, what he has since learned is called a Superior Mirage -- a sort of bending and bouncing of light that lets one see past the horizon with the help of a wave of trapped, refracted light. He said it looked a bit like the photo above, remarkable if you understand that Tulia, Texas is flat, flat as far as the eye can see. Usually.

But sometimes we see differently.

Let's do that.

Event Horizon

I move through cold water as rain pelts down around me in a creek teal gray today— a balmy wind brushes water against the flow. I love to swim in the rain, kick through three quarter-mile laps, watch the sky create soft rain from a thunderhead small enough to see. I step out determined to be positive in opposition to an empire eating itself and everything it touches, determined to refuse the despair which spreads like a fire blanket across history. So what, we have not yet changed the world, cured cancer, mental illness, drug addiction, stopped climate change? I will do one thing differently today, be more effective, attend a protest, write a letter, boycott Middle Eastern oil and gas. I will create action to join the work millions of people generate for peace, the environment, gender equality, social and economic justice. If, at this instant, I see no alternative for the planet that does not involve the end of capitalism and can’t yet make that happen, then a break in the day, a long swim in emerald water, a good night’s sleep, a mellow glass of red wine, a beautiful poem — these small things must be enough blessing to hold off despair. I have long been interested in the difference between one thing and another — boundaries, the point at which black is not black anymore, but white, the turn of a stripe. Was there an instant when the Age of Reason began? I choose to resist Empire not because it has, in my lifetime, appeared the least bit vulnerable to containment, but because it trivializes life. I move in the mainstream of a deep paradigm shift and can’t see the edge. If scale is the measure of declination, there is no difference between one thing and another at close range, but one can see the point of a star and the circle of space through a telescope. Maybe someone will look back in 500 years and identify one moment as the event horizon of the American Empire. On the other hand, perhaps the concept "500 years" will have no significance at all. Possibly history will stop some Tuesday. The line of demarcation will exist but will be the event horizon for a different universe. However, on the human plane, where I live, it is gray now. Meaning comes from engagement, so I go to the post office, bank, sign a petition, try to get some work done, light a candle for my children, resist oblivion.

© Susan Bright, 10/05/05

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.

*Turning a circle inside out.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

But Let Us Begin

This is the last post of the fourth year of Earthfamilyalpha. And I suspect that the fifth year will be different. As I look at the counter today, I see that in the last few days, thanks to sites like Buzzflash and Crooks & Liars, EFA has experienced 800 or so page views a day.

That's not a lot in the world of the big sites like Daily Kos or Eschaton or Talking Points Memo, in fact, its downright tiny. However, when I look at the visitation logs of EFA, I'm always amazed at the quality and the variety of visitors we have. Often readers drill down into the 1300 or so stories and literally read for an hour.

Our international readership is higher than most sites, with over 15% a day coming from Europe, the Mideast, a few from China, a handfull from Mexico, and a smattering from everywhere else. I have always found it truly remarkable and encouraging to find that someone from Hong Kong is reading something I wrote at 3:00 AM in the morning perhaps a few minutes after publishing.
It's the magic of blogging and the internet.

The thesis of this site has been, and still remains this:

With the advent of advanced global communication, new forms of social contract can be created which transcend the geographic state. These new cybercoops or cyberstates will bring humankind to higher levels of cooperation and understanding.

And it gives me great pleasure to know that these words have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in the last four years.

As humankind continues its awkward dance into the new morning light that is ahead, I am relieved that one of humankind's greatest achievements has come home to the great truths on which is was founded.

The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States is a powerful event. There will be millions of people in Washington come this January 20 who will give testimony to that fact. All over the world, people of all walks of life, of all ethnicities, from every political bent will welcome the return of grace and intelligence to the halls and houses of the most powerful collective group on Earth.

And as we face the challenges of Climate Change, Resource Depletion, economic disorder and social and environmental injustice, many will harken to a time when another young president spoke wisely and eloquently to a people eager to move positively and courageously, away from War and towards the Hope of Peace.

"The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. "( clip)

"Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" -- a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?

Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. (clip)

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, not in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.

But let us begin. "

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Forty Four Minutes

It's been almost two weeks now. And, it's beginning to sink in. The People of the geographic state of the United States have done an amazing miraculous thing.

Except in a private party in San Franscisco where he talked truthfully about folks clinging to their religion, their guns, and their fears, the candidate ran an almost flawless campaign.

And it helped that he raised more money than any other candidate in history, firmly hoisting the big money crowd on their own petard. It will be interesting to hear conservative "R"s declaring the need for publicly financed elections now that they have been outgunned on their own stage.

And it didn't hurt that this former community organizer had a powerful Chicago ground game that overwhelmed the ground game of the "R"s. More folks voted than ever before in percentages that equal the highs of the early sixties.

Last night, Sixty Minutes broke their own records as millions tuned in to hear the Obamas give their first interview since election eve.

Not being much of TV person, I haven't watched it yet, but I'm going to..

One of the commenters on the CBS Web site said this:

I have never been so impressed with a first family as I have been with the Obamas. They are "grounded", moral, spiritual and fine people. Your interview helped show more of their natural leadership qualities. I am thrilled to have such an intelligent President and First Lady who relate so well to everyone. For the first time in my lifetime I feel a closeness to this first family. Their warmth, love and charisma have brought back a sense of pride in this nation that I thought was lost forever. God bless the Obamas and may they continue to be role models for our country and for the world.

Let's see what you think.

Watch CBS Videos Online

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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Good First Step

It's amazing what a difference a difference makes. After 8 years of environmental degradation and neglect, our institutions are once again behaving in the best interests of their citizens, not the special interests they must regulate. The headline says it was a victory for Environmentalists. I think it was a victory for us. Basing our future on the technologies of the 18th century, in a world of photons, lasers, semiconductors, and flash drives is just plain old dumb.
Here's the story from Time Online:

Environmentalists Win Big EPA Ruling
By Bryan Walsh
Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008

Environmentalists have long known that when it comes to climate change, coal will be a dealbreaker. The carbon-intensive fossil fuel provides nearly half of the United States' electricity, and is responsible for some 30% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

That's just due to the coal plants already operating — as the U.S. looks to expand its energy supply to meet rising demand in the future, over 100 coal plants are in various stages of development around the country. If those plants are built without the means to capture and sequester underground the carbon they emit — and it's far from clear that such technology will be commercially viable in the near-term — our ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate change will be meaningless.

That's why a decision issued on Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Appeals Board is so important. Responding to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over a new coal plant being build on American Indian reservation land in Utah, the board ruled that the EPA has no valid reason to refuse to regulate the CO2 emissions that come from new coal-powered plants.

The decision pointed to a May 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court that recognized CO2, the main cause of climate change, is indeed a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act and therefore needs to be regulated by the EPA. In the months since that landmark decision, the EPA — with the support of the Bush Administration — has doggedly refuse to regulate CO2, much to the dismay of environmentalists.

The board's decision will force the EPA to consider CO2 when issuing permits for new power plants, potentially making it — at least in the short-termall but impossible to certify new coal power plants. That's because the EPA will need to reconfigure its rules on dealing with CO2, which is found in greater concentrations in coal than any other fossil fuel, that force plants in the permitting process to be reevaluated, delaying them for months or longer.

"In a nutshell it sends [new plants] back to the drawing board to address their CO2 emissions," says Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's National Clean Coal campaign. "In the short term it freezes the coal industry in its tracks." (clip)

That effectively punts the future of coal in America to President-elect Barack Obama's incoming Administration. It's not yet clear how he'll act, but his renewable energy advisor Jason Grumet has said that Obama would be willing to use the EPA to directly regulate CO2 — something President George W. Bush has refused to do.

"This lays the groundwork for Obama to move quickly to put in place a regulatory system and begin to achieve CO2 reduction and build that clean, 21st century economy he talks about," says Nilles." (more)

Earlier today I was in a meeting with some of our leading environmentalists and consumer activists. I asked one of them if he knew about yesterday's decision.

He did.

However, he said there was a loophole.

Corporate lawyers at Jones Day have said that this was more of a punt.

Still, my enviro friend was clearly pleased.
If the continued human occupation of earth

sounds like a reasonable goal to set,

A global freeze on new coal plants

is a good first step.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The IEA Awakes

It's been a busy week already with the Renewable Energy Conference in town. On the first night, I hosted the "2020 Vision Dinner" and I gave my annual vision speech. And tonight, I'm speaking to a Peak Oil group. It should be an interesting evening. It's easy to get everyone excited about Peak Oil when a barrel of oil is approaching $150.00 and a gallon of gas is pushing five dollars.

But with gas stations sporting signs that say $2.00 dollars, and a barrel of oil trading in the fifties all day, you've got to wonder if anyone will be at the meeting. I mean think about it, Brent crude closed at $51.00 today. That's $94.00 dollars under this summers high.

Well, while trying to come up with something to say to this group, I noticed that the International Energy Agency has come out with their Energy Outlook report today. And it's not the "everything is hunkey dorey" outlook that we're used to seeing from this group. There seems to be a bit of panic in their words. (not that it's not about time)

Here's the opening of the Executive summary:

The world’s energy system is at a crossroads. Current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable — environmentally, economically, socially. But that can — and must — be altered; there’s still time to change the road we’re on.

It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of human prosperity depends on how successfully we tackle the two central energy challenges facing us today: securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy; and effecting a rapid transformation to a low-carbon, efficient and environmentally benign system of energy supply. (clip)

Preventing catastrophic and irreversible damage to the global climate ultimately requires a major decarbonisation of the world energy sources. On current trends,energy-related emissions of carbon-dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases will rise inexorably, pushing up average global temperature by as much as 6°C in the long term.

Strong, urgent action is needed to curb these trends. The 15th Conference of the Parties, to be held in Copenhagen in November 2009, provides a vital opportunity to negotiate a new global climate-change policy regime for beyond 2012 (the final year of coverage of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol).

The conference will need to put in place a framework for long-term co-operative action to bring the world onto a well-defined policy path towards a clear, quantified global goal for the stabilisation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It will also need to ensure broad participation and put in place robust policy mechanisms to achieve the agreed objective.

What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution.

This World Energy Outlook demonstrates how that might be achieved through decisive policy action and at what cost. It also describes the consequences of failure."

As the Oil Drum states, "This report is a step in the right direction for conveying our rapidly deteriorating energy situation to world policymakers - the IEA should be commended for making the turn and finally acknowledging: costs, investment limitations, new capacity requirements, steep decline rates of existing wells, and externalities (in this case GHGs).

In effect, this report shatters the global illusion that oil resources magically turn into cheap flow rates. "

Yes, the IEA has awakened.

And has now called for an Energy Revolution.

With a new American President,

And the new policies that he will bring,

Who knows?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Last night Oz invited me to read poetry at his annual dinner which gathers the practitioners and scientists, manufacturers and visionaries who are at the forefront of alternative energy in Texas. Since these are the people in our part of the world whose work in the next decade will change how we conceive of and use energy, it is fascinating to spend time with them, and an honor to be the poet in the house.

Actually, there were several poets in the house. Talking to one of them (Cliff Etheredge) after the program I remembered this poem I wrote in the early 80s about West Texas and the first Wind Farm Oz and Jay built in Pampa. I'm pretty sure the video above is Cliff's wind farm in Roscoe, TX.


Where I grew up there were four elements, seed stayed where you planted it, earth was deep, black, moist and stayed down — where it belongs. In West Texas, on the Caprock, earth, air, fire and water blow around together in vast confounding walls of wind. It howls through window glass and comes up through cracks in the floor. Wind, the old people say it has a nasty breath, they say you know you been in a wind if there’s no paint left on your car, if you got sand between your teeth, under your tongue and on the backs of your eyeballs, if you want to inhale water, or stay in bed all day with a paper sack over your head. Wind, it blows through your ears and makes you crazy. You’d swear you’re on another planet. At night the stars come down so close the Milky Way sloughs layers of solar dust on children sleeping, makes them wild. You wonder how the farmers know whose land will bear their seed. Women, men, children and even pets move slant to the ground. Sparkling eyes and jokes blare out from dust like miracles, nothing is like it seems. There is one town called — Earth. The rest is alien. Space ships land there often. Almost everyone has seen one. They say the Caprock is a magnet. In the middle of Earth is a sign that says: Shop Earth. One man from Pampa rents the wind from his cousin and sells power to the electric company. People say he’s so crazy that he might be brilliant. They say his cousin is no fool either.

©Susan Bright, 1980
from Atomic Basket, InBetween Books (1985)

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.

Song by Butch Hancock performed by Joe Ely.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Mundo

These front pages came to us from Tony Zurlo.