Saturday, May 24, 2008

Barb Davis White for 5CD

I decided to meet the Republican's 5th Congressional District's candidate for U.S. House: Barb Davis White. In 2006, when the 5CD was an open seat, Alan Fine ran. He made attacks on Ellison his primary issue, which was a mistake because one could not remember what Fine stood for. I was also unable to meet him and find his perspective on energy.

Keegan's Irish Pub is located in Northeast Minneapolis. It is located just north of downtown and has a very fun and unique environment. An interesting fact is that it is the first and only Irish Pub Concept pub in Minnesota. The Minnesota Organization of Bloggers ( MOB ) meet there Thursdays around 7 P.M. They can easily be found to the rear of the building, outside and thereby easily accommodating smokers.

My primary mission in getting to this event was to discuss energy with Barb Davis White. She is a very charismatic person and definitely someone you can instinctively trust. But her answers on energy are from a perspective that is quite prevalent in America: one that refuses to change to fit a new reality.

I first stated that I was a blogger who is specifically focused on Peak Oil. She does not believe in the concept of Peak Oil, brushing of years of American oil production falling ( since 1970). What I think that many Americans are concerned about is "when it runs out" and it NEVER will. What is important is whether you can afford the last trillion barrels of oil. And America is only beginning to understand that it can not afford as much oil as it used to.

So, within the scope of not believing in oil as a finite resource, her answers to our energy problem are quite symptomatic of an addict: drill ANWR, process tar sands, build nuclear power and create a French model electrical system. Basically get as much energy as possible as soon as we can.

I have issues with these solutions, but I also do not want to see our society collapse. As much as I oppose any measure that would create more nuclear waste, Barb claims the French found a solution in re-processing them. I will have to read further about this, as I thought America just wanted to stuff all this waste in Yucca Mountain for the next 10,000 years.

When we talk about ANWR and shale oil, we are talking about very expensive oil also. Expensive for biodiversity and expensive for topsoil. While again, if society were to collapse these may be required. But we have to realize that these are temporary solutions to a long-term dilemma. Politicians are very often for status-quo and against radical change in a societal paradigm.

Discussing with Lynne Mayo about Barb's solution to Peak Oil: "ANWR and Shale oil." Her response: "Did you say she would end the war and share the oil?!?" If only this Freudian slip were true!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Solar power at Little Earth

I attended this wonderful event at Little Earth yesterday, where solar panels were installed to offset energy expenses. The plan is for the entire community to have a panel on each home.

The keynote speakers were Van Jones and Winona LaDuke. What I found interesting to note here is that both were adamantly opposed to the Midtown Burner proposed by Kandiyohi Partners ( R.T. Rybak no doubt felt uncomfortable). Both also feel we can change course nationally on energy policy, putting forward initiatives like this one.

Van Jones observations that our younger generation need better alternatives than they currently are receiving. He stated that many are entrepreneurs and leaders already, but are doing the wrong things. Selling the wrong resources in a society that needs what it does not and that our society needs to move from a wasteful pollution-based economy to a zero-waste green one.

Winona discussed how White Earth would be setting up a 250 kilowatt wind-turbine with the help of SMSC. Hugo Chavez is supporting this project more than they are, but she isn't concerned with this. Winona is quick to point out that over half the potential wind-power in America is on Native American reservations. These tribes have more potential power than they can currently use, making them potential exporters of their local energy resource. I also appreciate that she used the word "relocalization" as this is what we need more than a corrupt top-down system that Americans consider as standard.

Jason Edens of RREAL spoke briefly. His organization brings solar-heating systems to families on energy assistance. His analysis is that we are subsidizing the oil and gas companies with these programs and not focused on long-term energy assistance. Local energy production would alleviate low-income families more than fossil fuel dependency does. Jason also believes we are going to face Peak Oil, and should have local solutions that do not leave the poor frozen in their homes.

I can't help but remember seeing SMSC Vice-Chair Glynn Crooks sitting next to Annie Young, Minneapolis Park Board - At Large - Green Party. I do not know where Glynn stands politically, he's more of an investor. I do know that SMSC donates large sums of money to the major two parties. They hedge their bets like any large business would. But if the new eco-jobs are to have any meaningful expansion in this century, they will need more individual investors. Government grants, be it from the US or Venezuela, should not be seen as the basis for a future society.

Glynn did not stay for the food, music, or visit the booth for supporting organizations. He's quite busy and I do not blame him. But for the sake of "green jobs" in the future, we will need investors like him engaged in the communities through projects similar to this. Peak Oil is a serious matter for those unable to hold jobs during the chaos that it will entail. Those with jobs will find they are "priced out" of a middle-class lifestyle. The American way of life will change or die, and conscious investment in our future will determine a more positive outcome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Post-oil Dark Ages?

With oil skyrocketing, is it difficult to surmise that we will plunge into another dark age? Many Americans think this is not possible, but after the Roman Empire collapsed, Europe stopped building homes, writing history, producing art, and embraced Christianity to the literal detriment of its former faith's adherents.

There are people and countries already in a Dark Age. Countries that are allies of America and considered "enlightened" compared to other nations on their continent. Prime example: Kenya. This nation is an ally of America's, and is considered a stable nation. But their elections are based on tribalism. And anything except Christianity and Islam is seen as "evil."

Just as in America, Kenya has two major parties running for president. These are coalitions of different parties, based on tribal lines. There is a difference between rural and urban voters, as many in Nairobi chose to vote for another candidate than their rural tribe did. But when a similar situation to Bush v. Gore occurred, the nation fell to chaos. Few Kenyans participated in the disruption compared to those who were affected. As terrorism reminds us, it takes but a few extreme and organized people to bring a country to its knees.

In Kenya, witchcraft is illegal. Is anyone then surprised when women are burned after being accused as witches? This is 2008, and Monty Python could still make a modern sequel to the Holy Grail. Do we really need politics so intertwined with religion? Or can we choose a better world.

While I do see a Dark Age as distinct possibility, it is not inevitable. Humanity can embrace a more peaceful approach to this situation without succumbing to aggression. Various different ways of looking at the world are possible, if we give them a chance.

Oprah just finished her show on A New Earth with Eckhart Tolle. Rather than seeing the world in the competitive paradigm of the ego, seek the intuitive understanding of your own being. The biggest obstacle to this is living in the present moment. If you can not get a glimpse of this, it would be difficult to further go down this avenue. But Eckhart is quick to note that if humanity does not live more consciously, we will destroy ourselves. The fate of humanity is being held in the balance, and we cannot keep going down the same egoic path.

I also recommend nonviolent forms of communication. Simply by stating in a sane manner what you are feeling, you prevent and even dissipate conflict. You may not get instant results as you might think you would in a direct verbal attack, but you prevent long-term harm and foster healthier relationships with those you come into contact with.

And even if one dismisses or ignores these, it is hard not to imagine Americans coming together to face such a burden. We will unite in ways currently unthinkable. Getting to know our neighbors better, starting gardens, and starting businesses that allow for the economy to continue.

Before hydrocarbons made life much simpler and individualistic, we lived in more tribal settings. Many of these were around 150-300 in size and did not get much larger or smaller. Each member of a tribe had a niche that benefited their tribe, be it hunter, farmer, or water collector. I think this will also be a possibility, though not as much in urban settings as rural. These newer tribes will most likely occur organically through like-minded individuals coming together in creating intentional communities, that will morph into what needs to work rather than what was initially imagined.

What these world views have in common is one thing: trust in humanity. If you think humanity is incapable of anything but war and corruption, then peaceful means of living are alien to you. I certainly do not believe that any one person, organization, or political party will be able to move America through the perils of Peak Oil alone. It will take all of our collective ingenuity to face such an obstacle that man has never faced before.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jesse Ventura ( Or None-of-the-above ) for U.S. Senate!

Did I get to meet Jesse Ventura at the Mall of America tonight? You betcha! And of course, got a nifty autograph of his in his new book. I even got to the mall using light-rail that would not exist yet but for Jesse.

He was able to state much of his beliefs on the current state of our political system: it isn't working. The politicians and media are owned by the interests of making money. They are focused on short-term gain rather than long-term sustainment. And if there is one person who can create a truly multipartisan campaign of supporters, it's Jesse Ventura.

He discussed how NOTA (None of the Above) should be on the ballot, and would give voters the right to show their disapproval of those running for office. He discussed how the two-party system supported by an entertainment-based news media feed a corrupt system. Few wish to question how sad a state our nation is in, but a leader is one who asks the hard questions and demands better results from our government.

If he were to run for U.S. Senate, he has one issue that neither major party can dispute: the National Debt. How can they claim they didn't support this? It is holding America back, and the interest alone is just under 20% of our annual taxes! Democrats want to continue spending unchecked without new taxes, and Republicans want to cut the governments income without cutting budgets! Pathetic! Both Norm Coleman and Al Franken are highly supportive of maintaining the status-quo.

What we need in Washington is a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget - and no exceptions. If there is a war or economic depression - tough, raise taxes or cut spending. Our national budget has been living in fantasy land and reality will hit us hard when this illusion can no longer be maintained.

One of Jesse's ideas that I disagree with is that we should stop giving aid to poorer nations. I think that it is imperative that the wealthy nations improve the lives of those that are not. It would reduce human populations growth, eradicate malaria, and reduce the future likelihood of terrorism. I also believe it is the right thing to do, and will continue to support a Global Marshall Plan. We can easily do this by ending our imperialism and bringing ALL of our troops home - even Germany and South Korea. The United Nations should be the global peace-keepers - not the USA or China.

One of Jesse's media opponents decided to try to ask a question. But Jesse made clear that he would speak to no Minnesotan media. He was especially angry at one Star Trib columnist known as CJ. It is odd, I read the Star Tribune a few times a week and never really read her columns. I notice those by the awful Katherine Kersten and the decent Doug Grow among others. Who is this CJ? Anyways, she is someone who decided to make up a story about Jesse's son having parties in the Governor's Mansion. It was bogus, but she ran on this sensational story anyways. The rest of the media used her column as a source, and Jesse has hated the Minnesotan media for this very personal attack on his family ever since. Can't say I blame him, but the media don't always get their facts correct. It's amazing how they choose to only show so much of a story, or cut out illuminating context. But sensation sells right?

One issue Jesse doesn't really go into detail in his book or in any public appearance is Peak Oil. This is something that is important, especially if we are at the point. Okay, call it an undulating plateau - but it is still Peak Oil. But fortunately Jesse is paying attention to Global Warming and believes we must act - and he actually means that he would. Does he unplug his "vampire energy" sources? You betcha, and he noticed his energy usage drop immediately. I think it imperative that we elect a leaders who actually would enact a carbon tax and end our hydrocarbon addiction.

I highly recommend anyone interested in populist politics or simply the state of America read Jesse's book - Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! But read it one chapter at a time and stop to reflect a while before beginning a new chapter. I do not think it is meant to be read all at once. As a Minnesotan, I am still proud that he was our Governor. Would Norm Coleman or Skip Humphrey really have helped the future of Minnesota as Jesse did? No, they would not. And reading this new book gives one an even better appreciation of his time in office .