Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Light Goes On

It’s pretty early in the morning and a storm is rumbling outside.

I spent the night in a small quaint lodge on a Nature Conservancy owned by members of a somewhat well known family that made and still makes its fortune primarily in the oil and gas business.

They have gathered together some of the best experts from all around the country to discuss how they can best use their substantial endowment to best assist the world and humankind during this rather critical time of our own evolution.

Last night, we played a game of wedges in which we employed various strategies to manage CO2 levels at levels below 550 parts per million, the level that many think is the most we can stand without starting a dangerous feedback of events and processes that will lead to catastrophic climate change. The wedge game was developed at a major university and one of its developers led us in the game. It was quite useful.

I’m going to speak today on “cutting edge technologies”.

Here is how I may begin.

At the beginning of the last century, the world’s great cities were facing a crises. Many were choking from the smoke and pollution from the many coal plants that were fueling the boilers of the many industrial processes that marked the early beginning of the industrial age.

But even those without major industry were facing another, perhaps greater problem.

They were drowning in the excrement of their animals used to power their carriages, carts, and trolley cars.

Somewhere in the countryside during that time, of group of experts and concerned citizens, seeing that a continuation of this buildup of excrement would make the city uninhabitable, were meeting to discuss the solutions.

They developed a list of solutions some were proven, some were not so proven.

One guy suggested that animals must simply be regulated. Those who could not be trained to not potty on the street would have to be used only in rural areas. He proposed a three strikes rule.

Another fellow proposed that all animals have catchers attached to their rears.

Another felt that the solution was simply more street cleaners. As an added bonus, it would also be good for lowering the unemployment rate.

Another resourceful thinker had developed a feed that didn’t smell and it therefore attracted less flies.

The most famous personage at the meeting, a man named Edison, wowed the crowd with his prediction of an electrified city with electric cars and trolleys that would simply replace the need for animals in the city at all.

Although his thoughts were well received, he was considered a dreamer, someone who didn’t understand that the world changes very slowly.

Another man at the meeting, a guy named Ford, had another idea. He had invented a car with an internal combustion engine that would run on liquid fuel. Unfortunately, there were no liquid fuels.

His presentation was cut off short by the buggy whip manufacturing heir.

“I think we need to be realistic and practical.

We are all serious people here,

and we all know that the horse has been the backbone

of our civilization for thousands of years,

And that’s not going to change in our lifetimes.”

Henry was glad that he came though.

The food was good and the sheets had a high thread count.

And, as he spoke to the group,

As he gazed over the room,

He caught a few eyes

that had not yet been blinded

by the effects and force of experience.

And he saw a light go on.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Endebbe Road, cont.

Full Moon Celebration for the Women's Way 2002 Congress,
Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

In 2002 I travelled to Uganda to attend the Women's World
Congress in Kampala, part of a delegation of women sponsored
by Feminists for the Gift Economy and Genevieve Vaughan.

Here are three more poems from the series I wrote there,
called Endebbe Road.


Drums and an African string orchestra, dancers
in wigs, grass skirts, cymbal bells on their legs —
a laughing, flirting, hip shaking, body shaking
joyful celebration beneath a full moon in Kampala,
outdoors, in the courtyard of the Great Hall
on the Campus of Makerere University.

I am curious about Ugandan tribes.
Black people in blond wigs – I hold up a bunch
of hair. Grimace. It makes them laugh, shake their heads,
"No!" They shout above the music something I can’t hear
and is possibly the name of the animal, or plant,
the wigs came from. Maybe it’s hemp.

Later we all dance. My white linen clothing is boring
in this crowd decked out in brilliant, intricate fabric art.
A girl plays the mirimba, young men play kalimbas,
a harp that looks like an egyptian boat, drums.
Teenagers dance with cymbals on top of cymbals
from ankle to knee. It’s a foot stomping riot of joyful
human beings leaping through choreographies that are
eternal because they’re simply too good to fade away,
like love, wild and exuberant.

I am curious about the tribes.

We'd been talking about what happened
in Rwanda, about the Rebels in Uganda who
had attacked a village 20 minutes from Kampala
the night before.

These are not dances of war,
they are celebrations of life.

Gabril tells me he knows six Ungadan languages,
Szwahli, English and a small amount of Arabic.
He came from a tribe in the East.

He says in Africa governments give money to
people in the politician’s home regions.
It doesn't make people hate each other.

Rapids at the source of the Nile River in Jinja,
alongside a dam which generates power Ungandans
sell to pay off building debt.

Muhammad grew up in Jinja, at the source of the Nile,
attended an English school across the road
from a Hindu temple.

His father was an engineer for a tobacco company.
He does not know how old his mother is.

Muhammad and Gabril are friends who come from
different tribes. They say there are minor rivalries
between tribes, that the Bugandans think they superior
because the King is a Bugandan.

"Do the other people hate them?" They’re puzzled
by the question. "We share a culture."

"What makes people mad enough to kill each other?"
I am still trying to understand the local wars.

They want power and money. There are no roads in the
North, people are starving and they want schools.

I wonder how people can starve in a rain forest.

They can’t get soap. I think of long bars of soap,
half a yard long, the thick, deep blue soap I saw at the market,
Gabril collects it every time he fills his taxi with gas,
trades with stations that give free soap.

The Uganda Director of UNHCR – pronounced (un kra) says,
"If you go to the camps you will see Sudanese, Rwandans,
Ugandans from different tribes living side by side.
If you go there, you will not be able
to tell which person comes from which group."

Women from the camps nod,
"Yes, yes, this is the truth."

Above the rapids in Jinja the incredibly verdant Ugandan
countryside blossoms, but no food.

The Good Earth

It is possible to drive quickly for nearly an hour through
verdant fields — perfectly groomed, no weeds —
tea, sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, "worm" farms for silk.
Rich red earth gives forth these crops year after year
and the rainforest that creeps back home is held
off with sharp machetes, or plows the way water
is held in abeyance by a dam.

Anything grows here, banana trees pop out of the
earth anyplace a seed drops, waving windmill fringed
green arms, producing the best bananas in the world,
small trees, small delicious fruit,
without which people would starve.

What other food there is for Ugandans in
rural areas comes from the World Food Program.

It is possible to drive quickly for nearly an hour through
verdant fields, sculptured to the slope of Uganda’s bronze
hills, and not realize that all these fields belong to one
family, from India, and not learn that rural people
must often flee to the city, or to refugee camps
because there is no food, because wages on the farms
are not life sustaining, because the government does
not protect rural villages from marauders who often
wear government uniforms, or come to retaliate against
atrocity and war in the Congo, Rwanda, the Sudan,
because crops and their price leave the continent.

It is possible to see rolling fields of perfect crops,
verdant in equatorial light and not ask why,
in this rich farmland, people have nothing to eat
except bananas, which are too small to export.

It is hard to understand how anyone, seeing this,
could allow it to continue but I know it is possible
to look at agribusiness, the extension of colonialism,
in Africa and see nothing wrong

because the world has done it for centuries —

Why don’t people grow their own vegetables, grain, corn,
nuts, crops on small plots of land around the villages?
Even in refugee camps each family is given a small plot
of land?

It is possible to ask these questions which seem intelligent
enough except the answer makes them dumb as a red brick
shaped out of clay.

You cannot dig in the earth when soldiers come.

Sarah at the closing celebration.


Sarah stays after my presentation
about small press
publishing to tell me
she has a son whose name is Brite.

He is the child of a sister who contracted AIDS,
and died.
They have not tested Brite
because they don’t want to know.

She says the child is happy and smart.

She tells me he is healthy.

Sarah is taking care of eight children, is a widow,

who has started a small business in her home.

In the evenings, she and the children purify

and bottle water which they sell to pay school fees.

There is a debate in Uganda about whether
should work for change in the context

of governmental structures, or outside
the status quo.

Sarah is a widow trying to raise eight children.

There are 200,000 refugees living in camps in Uganda,

and 600,000 internally displaced persons —

80% of these are women and children,

who fare better when the men are gone and worse,

much worse, when soldiers come.

Sarah is taking care of her family.

Women’s rights are a major tenant of the President’s agenda —
the same president whose wars in the Congo
and Sudan
erupt into violent attacks —
rapes, maiming, and kidnapping
of women
and children in the camps,
whose wars result in the use of women
and children
as currency,
the president whose legislature is composed 50%
of women.

The panel discussion was about women and entrepreneurship.

I read a poem,
by the first poet, Enheduenna,
was thrown into a leper camp for resisting war in 3200 BC,
the fertile crescent, which is now Iraq.

I say I am an artist: My work is healing, social change —
my business is a cultural phenomenon, not a business
at all.

The moderator decides I work outside
the system.

Sarah tells me she liked the poem.

I try to imagine how busy she must be,
eight children,
some with AIDS.
My knowing jumps in geometric progression
as I multiply the gigantic challenge
of Sarah’s time on earth,
by 25% of six million people here who have aids,
who die,
leaving children to be raised
by their siblings.

How do they manage — the work?
The grief.

A man reported that contrary to what one
might suspect
the start up costs for
small businesses in Kampala,
75 percent of them, ranged from five
to five hundred US dollars.

Sarah and her children purify water at night,
bottle it to sell.

The next evening I meet Sarah again.

Her sister , Jessica, is the cultural events coordinator

for the conference, a tall, strikingly beautiful
educated in the United States,
teaches in the Music and Drama department,
and is MC for the poetry reading.

I meet a third sister as well,
and find myself
standing with a family of women
who are competent and beautiful.

Jessica says women who are able
receive an education
must mentor other women.

Sarah gives me a present the last day of the conference —
a plaque made of sand and shells, oval, that rich Uganda
red earth
color and cream sand.

At twilight, as the dancers and musicians
are packing up,
she brings it to me, saying
"This is made of natural material
by our children for you."

I think women like light glow in all directions
do what we can do, here and now,
like Sarah.

© Susan Bright, 2002.

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.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oh Brother

Oh Brother!

The Russians say we are going in.

Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border
27/ 03/ 2007

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

Even the A P has a version of the story

U.S. launches show of force in Persian Gulf
March 28, 2007
Aircraft carriers, warplanes feature in maneuvers off the coast of Iran

The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes.

The U.S. exercises come just four days after Iran’s capture of 15 British sailors and marines who Iran said had strayed into Iranian waters near the Gulf. Britain and the U.S. Navy have insisted the British sailors were operating in Iraqi waters."

Uh, let me see if I got this right.

The Brits were in legal waters when they were taken captive

without a fight.

It seems to me, that if they were in legal waters,

they would have taken the Iranians captive.

In the meantime oil prices have shot up.

Oh Brother.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

La Paz

I want to walk in the cool of the mountain today,

And I want to find that circle of stones,

That sits high on the green peak above the valley,

That sits well above the high ground,

Of the valley that towers over the desert below.

There I will walk around each of the nine circles,

Making my way inward.

There I will chant some song that comes,

And I will sprinkle water around like the others do,

When they want to bless a part of creation.

I will stay a while and feel the blue sky world

That hovers over these fields.

I will look towards the forest to the south,

Towards the desert floor to the west,

Towards the bald mountain to the north,

That I call the Montana de los Palos Hablandos.

I will gaze out to the double peak to the east called La Paz.

La Paz looks like a midget from my perch.

I sit on the Montana Sagrada para Gueros,

So that the real holy mountain called "Quemado",

Will have one less Guero

Walking up its steep slopes on this quiet day.

I will go there too of course.

And I will come to their magic circle of stones

Knowing that only a few miles away,

There is another stone circle,

On another mountain.

And they are both Holy.

As are all peoples.

There are many mountains.

And there are many ways.

But there is only one earth.

And only one people.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Phoenix On Our Street

Yellow Crowned Night Herons
*Phoenix Drum, Engaku-ji Temple Bell Tower, Kita-Kamakura

nest in neighborhoods

in Austin according to Catfish Kelley,
swimmer, friend, avid birdwatcher.

I called him because,
after consulting my father's 1937
edition of Audobon's Birds of America,
I found the name of two magnificant birds
who are building a nest here.
It said
they nested in swamps,
marshes and coastal regions.

Our street being none of the above,
I wondered if they were going to be alright,
or knew something about climate
change we didn't.

He said we were lucky to have them,
confirming our collective awe as we looked up,
neighbor after neighbor coming out
to see why so many people were
standing in the street, pointing up.

Now we watch them come and go,
bring sticks to their nest, sleep, flirt.

I wonder how they will manage storms
until the canopy of their new home
bursts to a full verdant green,
that miracle of trees which occurs
almost overnight.

Yesterday they were sleeping,
perched, heads tucked under wings.

The day before, in the late afternoon,
their plumes were up, which
signifies full blown mating season.

Mythologists associate
night herons with the Phoenix,
a mythical bird that never dies,
whose stories rise from cultures
across the earth.

The crown feathers on both male and female
make them look alike, became the crown
of Osiris, caused ancients to observe
they "birthed" themselves.

In Egypt they were said to appear
every 500 years, to gather the bones
of the parent bird, carry it away to
burial in an egg of myrrh
in the house of the Sun,
where it burned up and was reborn.

In another story they were thought
to be the first living creature to stand
on the mound that was the first earth —
and their cry was the first sound.

In the Greek story they burn up
and then rise from a nest of ashes.

The Japanese phoenix, the hou - ou,
nests in a paulownia tree and appears
when a virtuous ruler is born, depicting
the birth of an era of peace and prosperity.

The Arabian phoenix was said to
nest near a cool well. It carried its egg
of myrrh to the sun god. The burning
and re-birth were emblamatic of the
rising and setting of the sun.

I am going to focus on the Hou-ou
story — a fine thought indeed.

A solar age —
prosperity and peace.

© 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-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.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

White Crosses

Reality Breaking Apart, Iraq © 2003, by Alan Pogue

Reality Breaking Apart
(written just before the invasion of Iraq)

In a hospital in Basra, just before more
bombs leach depleted uranium into water, air, soil,
through bed sheets, black robes and white scarves,
filling children’s bodies with fast cancer and leukemia —

reality is breaking apart.

Depleted uranium is an idiot phrase.

Uranium does not decontaminate.
In a hospital in Basra
reality is breaking apart.

A child has just died.

Her family has come to the hospital every day
for two years.

An instant ago, the mother, shrieking —
cast herself across the child’s chest —
Now she pulls against the edges of reality.

More bombs will drop tomorrow.

The family may survive, or not.

Either way —

They will live with reality
ripping apart forever.

* And here is a profoundly powerful video by Chun Pan about Jessica Rich, an Iraq vet suffering from PTSD, The Last Time I Saw Jessica Rich.

© Susan Bright, 2003, published in The Layers of Our Seeing, link below.

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.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

First Poet

Girl in a Water Taxi, ©Alan Pogue, Basra, 1998.
A young girl rides along one of the tributaries of the Shatt al Arab.

Enheduanna Wrote on Stone

“Born ca. 2300 B.C., Enheduanna was a moon priestess, daughter of King Sargon of Agade [Iraq], who reigned over the world’s first empire, extending from the Mediterranean to Persia. Enheduanna is the first writer, male or female, in history whose name and work have been preserved. Her personal history survives in highly political poems. We have a stone disk which contains a detailed likeness of the high priestess, revealing her particular features and dress, flanked by three of her retainers. The poetry we have has been preserved on cuneiform tablets.” Quotation above and within text are taken from adaptations by Aliki and Willis Barnstone of “The Exaltation of Inanna,” Yale Univ. Press, 1968 by William W. Hallo and J.J. A Van Dijk.

Enheduanna wrote on stone.
The first poet known to western scholars was a woman
who wrote political poetry, a woman who gathered symbols,
mysterious and strange for us to see, a woman
who cut clay glyphs in order to catch thought,
cut stone words to throw at the goddess,
How dull and heavy the medium, sculpture
to chase fleet passages of mind, heartbeat.

She said:

Like a dragon you have filled the land with venom. Like thunder when you roar over the earth, trees and plants fall before you. You are a flood descending from a mountain, O primary one, Moon Goddess Inanna of heaven and earth! Your fire blows about and drops on our nation, Lady mounted on a beast. An gives you these qualities, holy commands, but you decide. You are in all our great rites. Who can understand you?

Enheduanna wrote on stone,
questions about divinity and human suffering,
questions about the vibrant green of spring,
the black green of thunder, the violent green
of torrent, mountain emptying into ocean,
wars so violent earth trembled —

She said:

Storms lend you winds, destroyer of the lands. For you the rivers rise high with blood and the people have nothing to drink. The army of the mountain goes to you captive of its own accord.

Her stone words fall out of history, pour and tumble,
rough and fierce, into our lives.
It has always been so.
I have been singing this song for so long
my tongue grows thick, numb, cold and sullen,
snake hair, stone face, over and over,
since there were words
we have used them to unmask savage gods.

She said:

You have lifted your foot and left their barn of fertility. The women of the city no longer speak of love with their husbands. At night they do not make love. They are no longer naked before them, revealing intimate treasures.

Words are fast now, fast words:
Words: Deny the violent gods.
Words: Leap through the fire of your soul.
Words: Conquest kills passion.

Words are fast now—
fly from river to sky, continent to ocean, parent to child,
page to heart. In an instant, the entire world could change
its mind. Everything is possible, planets converge,
populations emerge, change, revolt, but it doesn’t do any good—

We worship violent gods.
Enheduanna wrote on stone.
That is what she said.
She said we worship violent gods.

© Susan Bright, 1987

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.

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For those of you in Austin: Plain View Press is hosting an African Art and Fabric exhibit today, Saturday, March 24th. Open till Dark. Call for directions: 512 441 2452


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The End of Everything

Five years ago, when I first started writing about Peak Oil, and published my findings in a book called Silver in the Mine, the idea that the earth was running out of oil was preposterous. Now, the Peak Oil meme is running on steroids. Everyone seems to know about Hubbert and his curve.

A couple of years later, I did some research on nuclear fuel and found that we only have about 45-50 years or so of nuclear fuel left, and that is with the important caveat that there would be no increase in their numbers.

Many of us in the energy planning business know that the United States and North America in general has peaked in natural gas, so we plan on using the natural gas of Russia or Iran in our power plants. And we plan on liquifying and putting it on huge tankers. Even then, that natural gas is limited in supply and it will likely peak in the next 20 years or so.

But thank goodness we have plenty of coal.

Well, not so fast there wildman.

Here is the story from Richard Heinberg and Global Public Media that tells a different tale.

MuseLetter #179
March 2007
by Richard Heinberg

Burning the Furniture

A soon-to-be-released study by the Energy Watch Group in Germany on the future of global coal supplies has implications so surprising and far-reaching that energy policymakers may take years to digest it. This essay is intended to help speed that process.

The report’s central conclusions are that minable global coal reserves are much smaller than is commonly thought, and that a peak in world coal production is likely within only ten to fifteen years.


According to the widely accepted view, at current production levels proven coal reserves will last 155 years (this according to the World Coal Institute). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects annual global coal consumption to grow 2.5 percent per year through 2030, by which time world consumption will be nearly double that of today.

Meanwhile, coal remains the most environmentally damaging of the conventional fossil fuels. While it produces a quarter of the world’s energy, it is responsible for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, principally carbon dioxide (CO2).


The United States is the world’s second-largest producer, surpassing the two next important producer states (India and Australia) by nearly a factor of three. Its reserves are so large that America has sometimes been called “the Saudi Arabia of coal.”

The U.S. has already passed its peak of production for high-quality coal (from the Appalachian mountains and the Illinois basin) and has seen production of bituminous coal decline since 1990. However, growing extraction of sub-bituminous coal in Wyoming has more than compensated for this.

Taking reserves into account, the authors of the report conclude that growth in total volumes can continue for 10 to 15 years. However, in terms of energy content U.S. coal production peaked in 1998 at 598 million tons of oil equivalents (Mtoe); by 2005 this had fallen to 576 Mtoe.

Clearly, "this forecast for a near-term peak in U.S. coal extraction flies in the face of frequently repeated statements that the nation has 200 years’ worth of coal reserves at current levels of consumption. "

However given the likelyhood that Saudi Arabia has peaked in oil production, the notion that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of Coal somehow rings with that dull thud of irony.

Yesterday, Al Gore called for a freeze on emissions now with a 90% reduction by 2050. It could be that this 90% reduction is going to be a lot easy to meet than most people think.
Not because we moved boldly towards a new world run on light.

But more likely, because the old world that ran on the dark of carbon,

Simply gave out.

And, it was the end of everything

that brought the Beginning of the All.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mr. Gore goes to DC

You can watch Al Gore now on CSPAN.
"Former Vice Pres. Al Gore testifies during a Senate Environment and Public Works Cmte. hearing on climate change. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chairs the hearing. "An Inconvenient Truth," Mr. Gore's film on global warming, won this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary. "

Here are his points.

We need an immediate freeze on carbon emissions and we need to reduce emissions by 90% by 2050.

We need to use the tax code to reduce tax on employment and make up the difference with pollution taxes. (climate stability premium) This should be a revenue neutral tax shift.

We need to dedicate a portion of the revenues to low income groups.

We need to be part of strong Global Treaty for climate change and we should move the date for a new global treaty, as called for in the Kyoto Treaty up 2 years to 2010.

We need a moratorium on any new coal plants that are not compatible with carbon capture and sequestration.

We need to develop an "electronet", a smart electric grid.

At this point, the rerun of the morning testimony was interrupted by, you guessed it, Tony Snow and his capital stenography pool.

Holy freeking Jeezus.

Here we have the most important issue of our time, interrupted by arguably the most incompetent US government of all time. CSPAN somehow joined right in.

It was more than a foreshadowing, it was a portent.

I'll pick up the rest of his points when the transcript is available. And here is the House Video

However, there will be more testimony this afternoon, and CSPAN will cover it once Snow and the pool are finished with their little dip in their own pool of primordial ooze.

My sense was this,

Al hit it out of the park.

Oz note:
Here are Al's other points,

We should raise c.a.f.e. standards on cars.

We should ban incandescent light bulbs.

We should create a carbon neutral mortgage association, so that efficiency improvements can be mortgaged just like the house itself.

We should require the Securities Exchange Commission to require the disclosure of their carbon emissions in their annual report.

You can send a note to Congress here


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Each Beat of the Heart


Just as the sun sets for many of us, the sun will reach that point in the sky called the vernal or the spring equinox. The time I heard on the radio this morning will be 7:07. The time on this chart is 0:07 on the 21st. Since we are five hours behind London and Zulu time that makes sense I guess.

I've written about the equinox before, but just in case you missed it, here is Wikipedia on the subject

"An equinox in astronomy is the event when the Sun can be observed to be directly above the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. More technically, the equinox happens when the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect.

In a wider sense, the equinoxes are the two days each year when the center of the Sun spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night)."

Today, when the sun sets it will be due west headed for the north. Tomorrow, when it rises, it will be due east, also headed for the north. This spring equinox occurs in late Pisces, just as the fall equinox appears in Virgo.

It, like the first and third quarters of the moon, is a time of equality. Energy can flow in such a balanced state, yet paradoxically, you may find these times to be difficult days for negotiation. Today is also the first day after the new moon, thus astrologically, it is even more difficult, because life and emotion are more related and intertwined during new moon cycles.

"In an earlier era, the Equinox marked New Year's Day (in Christian times taken on by Lady Day up to 1752 when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in England). It is still the beginning of the year in various calendars, including the Iranian and the Bahai. Astrologically, the March Equinox marks the beginning of the tropical astrological year, being the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Fire Sign of Aries, the Ram. Aries is traditionally ruled by Mars, so the ancient Roman festivals of the equinox centered around Mars (hence the name of the month "March").

The name "Easter" derives from the ancient fertility festival of the goddess Eostre, the teutonic goddess of spring. All cultures have spring festivals of this type and the Vernal Equinox is still widely celebrated as a holiday in many countries across the world."

Ours, of course is still more than a couple of weeks away. (Not counting Spring Break)

All of this brings me to the real purpose of this post which is to say that with this day, earthfamilyalpha is now an org, a net, and a com. You can can even type in and it goes right to the blog. You can also type in and it too forwards to the blog.

You can even write me now at

You can also write SB at

In theory, will become a true cooperative organization. It would be like your handy food coop, except instead of buying groceries together, we would buy insurance together, and health plans, or perhaps green energy together. We might even have giant virtual conventions together. would assist us with passports and border clearings. It would provide us with a new global passport. would become our networking arm. It would provide the best communication service, the most advanced cell phone/computer hardware, computer support, site hosting, and all other things net. We would work with Skype or its equivalent to establish a global earthfamilyalpha phone book. would provide each of us with new global communication and computer capabilities. might become the business hard asset side of things. It might own real estate all over the world. In certain areas, it might own a fleet of vehicles or at least have premium access to existing rental fleets. Members would be able to rent and swap living space. We might use each others cars, maybe even trade carbon allotments.

Of course, I still have to perfect the negative carbon emission solar power plant that my other business partners and I have been working on for the last 10 years. I want to begin to build the first super earthships before we get too old to enjoy them. I would like to once again begin testing the electro magnetic solar energy receiver (EMASER) which will protect and cool our overheated cities as it provides increased solar flux to solar power plants outside of the protection zone. And, I still have several more books in my head that seem to want to escape from the dungeons of the mind. When I consider that all of this needs to be done in the next two decades or so, a small birdie tells me that it is possible that all of this won't get done.

But no truly great work or works is finished in one lifetime.

There are many lifetimes and generations that lay in the wake of humankind's voyage towards a truly advanced civilization. And our lives and our energy will be treated no differently.

But somehow, given the extraordinary nature of our challenges,

and the generational legacies that our choices will create,

It seems that maybe we should all exert ourselves here,

and now.

We have a new year,

a new moon,

and the chance of renewed life.

And we have it each day, each moment,

each beat of the heart.


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Monday, March 19, 2007


*Water, algae, light by Laurie Wajima

The Unforeseen

Director: Laura Dunn
Cast: Robert Redford, Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, William Greider, Gary Bradley, Wendell Berry

Synopsis: (from SXSW catalog)
A west Texas farm boy heads to Austin in pursuit of the American dream. Skillfully capitalizing on the rapid growth of this late 1970s boomtown, he rises to the top, transforming a 4000-acre ranch into the state's largest and fastest-selling subdivision. As development threatens the local treasure, a fragile limestone aquifer and a naturally spring-fed swimming hole, the community fights back and forms one of America's strongest environmental movements. This is no simple story, but a tale of personal hopes, victories and failures; a series of debates over land, economics, property rights and the public good; a meditation on the destruction of the natural world and the American dream.

Of course, the title is ironic.

It was also ironic for me to see the film almost a year after two propositions to fight globalization failed in a city-wide vote because of "unforeseen consequences," code invented by developer lobbyists to kill environmental measures.

Irony. In a brilliant thread of film woven in and out of the narrative, the politico named Brown, who lobbied to get grandfathering laws passed at the State level to negate local water ordinances, brags while gluing together a model bomber, full of thumbsize rockets, which he glues, tapes up with blue masking tape, paints and blows dry.

Historical clips and the clear, powerful graphics, the documentation of events and forces that have resulted in the near destruction of one of America’s most beautiful springs, the dramatic red-lining of planet earth are to be applauded.

For the most part,
The Unforeseen, brilliant as it is, however, is not the film I would like to have seen, or thought to see. The synopsis above is a far cry from the "film about Barton Springs" I understood Laura was making after we met during a long lunch at the beginning of her work on the project. I knew the film had powerful backing and thought it might do important work. It think it will. I thanked her afterwards, in the hallway, when the credits were running. And I meant it.

It was a brave artistic decision to tell the story from the developer point of view, in Austin, anywhere, to cast Gary Bradley — the likes of Ken Lay — as a tragic hero, caught up by forces greater than himself, washed through with tragic irony. Laura said during a Q&A after the showing, she didn't want to demonize him.

During the growth war Laura recaps in the early 90s, I ran into Freeport MacMoran’s front man, David Armbruster, in the grocery store. He was looking for a birthday card. Knowing that didn't make me a more effective environmental activist.

It is a service to trace the lines of globalization from Freeport MacMoran’s obscene strip mining in Indonesia to their fertilizer plants that dump raw poison into the Mississippi River in Louisiana, killing the estuaries that might have saved New Orleans, and then let us see how that devastation has spread to our/anyone’s home town. This cannot be said too often. Throughout, overviews were beautifully done, shot from the windows of airplanes, scenes of devastation spread out in the light, making it obvious that a huge movement for moritorium on all building on the aquifer be demanded by all sane citizens of the region, now.

Too often Americans don’t get it that our brand of global capitalism is the lion that eats itself, and tiring of foreign fodder, will consume our own homeland.

What the film doesn’t do is explain how it is that we allow this.

While she was busy making Gary Bradley, [old crony of Ann Richards, who Molly Ivins once told me --"has always been a liar" -- the developer who eventually sold off to Freeport, aka Stratus, now itself for sale] look like a human being — Austin was turning itself into a perfect case study of how we feed the giant.

We, and by "we" I mean the environmental movement and the people of Austin, let them get away with it. We helped them. They couldn’t have done it without us.

We chose to work for "consensus" with developer nice guys for the good of the whole community, and stopped paying attention while these same nice guys worked behind our backs to pass grandfathering laws. We let old feuds discount brilliantly conceived tools for regulating corporate greed. We fought each other, tossings millions into the frey. We let developers get away with race bating and have been left with a movement divided along lines of culture and race, when water is a human issue, not a white one. We approved "bmps" and "green building standards", "mitigation deals," state of the art watering with "treated" sewage on golf courses, and all kinds of stragegies that made it "feasible" to build-out the aquifer. We embraced Wise Use strategies like the ones Gail Norton brought to the Bush Cabinet. We turned blind eyes when our pals sidled up to special interests. We let them into the movement, and they played us against each other. We let our elected officials at state and local levels off the hook when they said it was too much touble to protect the environment.

David Armbruster, the old Freeport point guy, is now the Director of the Board of the Hill Country Conservancy. Maybe when his term runs out, Gary Bradley can do it. On their watch the Hill Country and Edwards Aquifer will be built-out, and they will get awards for open space strips that make Freeport spin-off properties flip for more money.

While the the film threads mostly from the developer island of reality, it features a narrative by SOS director, Bill Bunch, architect of those recent anti-globalization measures. However, anything he might have said about this most recent growth war doesn’t show up in the film — ironic, in my view, because it was this last set of conflagrations that clarified the problem in my eyes.

I’d never believed complaints about "greenwashing" about "sell out" until I saw the developer master plan fold out in the board rooms of an Austin environmental non-profit group — Bill the attack point of developers and environmentalists both. The point being to me how profoundly corporate hogwash streams throughout our culture. And we don't get it. And attack our own for pointing it out.

I have long thought that one of our most important errors was that we have seen environmentalism as a single point issue, ignoring globalization and the war machine, which is the real foe. This film addresses that. But the choice to play the narrative out of the developer perspective led Laura Dunn to leave out significant details, choose others oddly.

She left out that Bradley drove the city into a "takings" case forcing us to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy out his losses "caused" (odd use of the word) by our water ordinance. She picked Sally Shipman to be the councilmember to announce the defeat of the Barton Creek Pub (which has been completely built-out anyway) when, actually, Shipman tried to de-rail the whole thing right before the vote, then left town to join her developer husband in Houston. She left out scores of important activists, whose wisdom and experience bring light to the struggle to protect the earth — this in favor of the Gary Bradley thread.

I know politicos who are breathing huge sighs of relief because Laura Dunn left them out. While the farmer in Hutto is another iconic (male) character, the farm in Hutto she features isn't on the aquifer. There have been iconic women in the movement — Shudde Fath, Mary Arnold, Margueritte Jones, for instance. Bill Oliver, not Willie Nelson, love his bones, is the Austin musician who heralds Barton Springs and works non-stop for the environment. Robert Redford has been a revered advocate for Barton Springs for decades; we need his voice.

National Geographic came here, interviewing some of us, and produced a spread on Austin, I wondered whose hometown they were talking about. I felt a little like that watching Laura's film, and was startled to hear my own voice in it, and honored to be included.

The condition of the water in the springs was somewhat sanitized in the film. The bottom of the pool is a wasteland, stringing globs of algae climbing up to the light, choaking underwater plants, filling up the water column with fur that makes swimmers choke and gives us sinus and lung infections.

Ann Richards got way too much credit for protecting the environment, which was not one of her priorities. When I see Gary Bradley weep because his mother died while he was in bankruptcy, and his hometown judged him harshly, I think of what Pam Thompson said in the lobby after the film, "His mother died. And he killed ours."

So I wonder if
Irony – the sort that burgeons in classical tragedy – works. Or working, if it says enough about what has happened and why.

An iconic American hero crashes and weeps.

I don’t care about that nearly as much as I mourn the loss of our beautiful pool, or the mothers, fathers, children, human figures who will die when our coastal cities fill up with water unless we motivate people to insist that our government reign in corporations. And that's not going to happen without relentless, informed, public pressure.

The Unforeseen will help people in other places understand this, or will they think it can't happen to them?

Mostly the soundtrack is a dirge. It is a dark vision indeed because, perhaps, it stopped short of the answer to these societal and environmental catastrophes. And it didn’t have to because the answer was being played out while she was at work on the film. We have to come together as Americans, change the political culture, reject wise-use, regulate the corporations on the scale of the anti-trust movement in the middle of the last century. We must admit our mistakes, grave as they have been, and move on. That is what the last growth war in Austin taught me.

I know why she chose to ignore this, I think. It was a messy fight, complicated, lots of raw feelings, lots of people who used to work for the environment, working against it. Artistically impossible.

The Unforeseen shows us how the big boys work. It avoids what makes their victories possible. We help them. We allow it.

So world-scale,
The Unforeseen, is a brilliant film about an environmental disaster caused by globalization. For us, the ones who have worked for decades in Austin to combat this horror — the question is where do we go from here? How do we stop feeding the giant?

I'd like to see the film she didn't make.

Ironic, because artistically, the one she made is nearly perfect.

© 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-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.

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What it is About
Earthfamily Principles
Earthfamilyalpha Content III
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Earthfamilyalpha Content