Seven years ago local officials in Marin County, California organized to form a nonprofit electricity company with the noblest intentions. Buying and selling electricity allowed the group, Marin Clean Energy (MCE), to route around the local utility giant, Pacific Gas & Electric, which for years had resisted its customers’ pleas for cleaner, more reliable power, all the while “greenwashing” its image with marketing campaigns. “People wanted more of a sense of how their dollars were being invested,” Alex DiGiorgio, MCE’s community development manager, tells Capital & Main. “They wanted more access to competitively priced renewable energy.”
They also wanted to “catalyze local project development,” DiGiorgio says, to see their electricity bills go toward something more beneficial for the local community than large hydroelectric dams, polluting gas-fired power plants and a nuclear facility built over an earthquake fault.
But critics of the local-power movement say agencies like MCE — whose very reason for being was to stimulate renewable energy development — mostly support already extant renewable facilities.
As Governor Jerry Brown touted California’s environmental initiatives and prodded world leaders in Paris to embrace tougher environmental policies during the United Nations summit on climate change, it was instructive to look back at how one of Brown’s top environmental priorities suffered a major defeat in the California Legislature this year.
That priority was to establish a 50 percent reduction in petroleum usage in cars and trucks by 2030. Brown’s failure to win its passage in an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature clearly illustrates not only the influence of the fossil fuel lobby, but also the continued rise of a new breed of Democrats who are exceedingly attentive to big business, while tone-deaf toward their party’s traditional progressive base.
Petroleum reduction was a key part of a proposed law, introduced as Senate Bill 350, which also called for steps to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings and require that 50 percent of California’s energy come from renewable sources,
You have to hand it to libertarian writer John Tierney. He doesn’t give up easily. His long-winded 1996 article, “Recycling Is Garbage,” allegedly smashed the New York Times Magazine‘s hate-mail record. It covered the same ground as his recent New York Times op-ed, “The Reign of Recycling,” stating: “Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.”
Is recycling really “the most wasteful activity in modern America?” That’s quite a charge. (What about all that Kardashian coverage?) But it may be true that it would be cheaper to put all our waste in a hole someplace and forget about it. Assuming, as Tierney does, that there are enough conveniently located holes. It would be even cheaper to use the medieval method of tossing it in the street.
The debate may be over in the scientific community about the threat of man-made climate change. But as world leaders continue negotiating in Paris this week at an international climate conference, many questions remain about what it will take to come up with a workable plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst economist Robert Pollin injects a note of optimism into the discussion with his recently published book, Greening the Global Economy (MIT Press). Pollin estimates that we need to invest about 1.5 percent of global GDP annually in clean energy and energy efficiency in order to slow warming enough to maintain a livable planet. The good news, he argues, is that we can decarbonize our economy without sacrificing economic growth and prosperity. Capital & Main interviewed Pollin while he was in New York on a book tour.
The story of Mary and Joseph leaving their small town for Bethlehem has spawned dramatizations, poems, carols and a lot more since it was first told in the late First Century CE. The Latin American enactment, called Las Posadas, runs for nine nights, from December 16 through Christmas Eve. Each night families make a procession through their communities, walking from one house to another, begging for space for the holy couple and a birthing place for the baby Jesus. At every home they are turned away – until one family welcomes these poor wayfarers, usually with warm drinks and sweets.
The festival reenacts the ancient commandment from the Jewish tradition that we should welcome the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant – because at one time we were all newcomers to this land.
Most Americans have forgotten this and have instead become very fearful after the November Paris attacks. Even while 9,000 refugees from Syria,
On Thursday afternoon a fired-up, thousand-strong gathering of nurses and environmental activists packed into Los Angeles’ Pershing Square to voice their concerns about the bleak prospects of climate change, and to demand a global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas pollution. The rally was timed to coincide with the current United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris and other environmental justice protests taking place across the U.S.
Dubbed “The Climate Crisis Is a Public Health Crisis,” the event was organized by the National Nurses United (NNU), a labor union whose members were wrapping up a two-day convention at the downtown JW Marriott.
Rolanda Watson-Clark made the trip from Chicago, and told Capital & Main, “Nurses have always been at the front of social movements, so here we are.” She explained how, in the Windy City, inner city children are deeply affected by petroleum waste products in the air.
Today kicks off the start of VisionLA ’15, a Los Angeles arts festival performed to coincide with the United Nations’ Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) as it unfolds in Paris. Below are program notes from VisionLA ’15 – please refer to the group’s site for a complete schedule and more information.
November 30 @ 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
2525 Michigan Ave., Building G1
Join us for a celebration of the Power of Art to Make Change at our Gala Opening party for the VisionLA ’15 Climate Action Arts Festival. This opening event will launch L.A.’s first citywide climate action arts festival and is also the opening gala for our wonderful ART MAKES CHANGE fine art exhibition,
Bad enough that the climate is changing and humans are causing it; worse, most of us don’t even want to talk about it.
“Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?” asked author and climate activist Bill McKibben a decade ago on Grist, comparing the climate crisis to the AIDS epidemic, which, McKibben noted, produced “a staggering outpouring of art that, in turn, has had real political effect.”
To be fair, that has started to change: Authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi (The Water Knife) and filmmaker Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter) have begun to address environmental catastrophe in their works. But it’s likely that other authors, artists and goddamn opera writers have assumed that their climate-focused work would struggle for an audience: A recent Pew Research Center poll found that only 42 percent of U.S. citizens consider rising seas and global temperatures disturbing.
Will the United Nations conference on human-caused climate change move toward saving the earth for habitation? That’s what’s at stake as the heads of the world’s nations gather in Paris on November 30 through December 11. They intend to put teeth into the U.N.’s “framework” that is aimed to reduce carbon emissions, and which has been adopted by some 195 countries. But will they?
Bill Gates doesn’t think so. In an interview in The Atlantic, Gates praised countries for pledging to roll back emissions by 80 per cent, but cast doubts about their ability to reach that goal. It’s not that he thinks government is particularly inept and that the private sector could do it. He really doesn’t think that either can or will.
He believes that people will cut the easy stuff first, leaving the hard-to-do for the latter half of the time frame.
Paul Duncan, a battalion chief with California’s state firefighting agency, was at home in Northern California enjoying a day off on September 12 when he got the message: A wildfire was burning on Cobb Mountain, about a dozen miles away from Hidden Valley Lake, where he lived with his wife and two daughters.
Duncan, 46, decided to leave and help knock down the blaze because he knew the fire unit in the area was already short-staffed from putting out on another conflagration. Besides, his nearly 30 years of experience persuaded him there was no way a fire burning on a mountain to the west could burn down to the valley floor and then race eastward to threaten the Duncans’ home.
His optimism was short lived. Upon arriving on Cobb Mountain Duncan got some troubling news. The fire he was fighting was heading toward his family.
Old people often shake their heads and mutter about “the younger generation.” Or they’ll say to one another, “It’s not the way it used to be,” with a solemn look of dismay as if the world was “going to hell in a hand basket.” That’s the problem when an elder like me writes about human-caused climate change: I come close to being a cliché.
Perhaps such sentiments come from nostalgia for a time earlier in one’s life, an era viewed as simpler, slower and more familiar. Friends occasionally email me photo collections that supposedly represent a decade such as the 1950s without a single photo of anyone of color. It’s as if no one other than white people lived in this country. On the other hand, since most filmgoers are younger than my cohort, and if the top 10 grossing movies of a typical week are any indication, most people attending movies today choose deeply dystopian films about the violent end of civilization as we know it.
The rural Southwest feels vast and empty. Driving from Los Angeles to New Mexico, my wife Susan and I saw sweeping landscapes of alluvial fans and sheer cliffs, and mesas that stretched as far as we could see. Just the idea that people carved out a way of life on these lands left us in awe of our ancestors and, before them — centuries before them, millennia even — the first people who lived here.
People still live on this arid earthscape. They populate the small towns along the railroad tracks. They dwell in pueblos at the tops of mesas. They survive tucked into corners of cliff sides and in the bottomlands of rivers. Driving through such rugged beauty made us aware of the power of nature and the relative powerlessness of human beings in that kind of environment.
Five trillion tons.
That’s how much ice melted in Greenland and Antarctica between 2002 and 2014 – and the reason why the seas already rise above low-lying islands in the South Pacific, displacing tens of thousands of people and threatening coral reefs that nurture uncountable numbers of sea creatures. Because of the climate change crisis we’ve become used to reading this kind of metric, along with the science-class comparisons that make it easy to visualize the colossal numbers involved. (Those five trillion tons, we are told, could make an ice cube 11 miles long on each side.) What we don’t always grasp, however, is the domino effect that one environmental disaster can have on the other side of the world.
A few years back, my wife Susan and I camped at Malakoff Diggins State Park, just north of Nevada City in Northern California. The place is famous for its earth formations that are similar to those of Brice Canyon National Park,
Sometimes religious people tend to be slower to adapt to changes coursing through the culture, especially with concerns about human-caused climate change. Even though polling shows Catholics, for example, to be slightly ahead of the national curve of global warming awareness, further inspection reveals that only 53 percent of white Catholics think climate change is a critical or major problem, although 73 percent of Hispanic Catholics do. These figures were measured a year ago, but there are signs that most church members aren’t even aware of the Pope’s environmental Encyclical, released this past June.
Those figures still fall short of the nation as a whole. Some 91 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and even 51 percent of Republicans think the government should be doing more about climate change. One would think that’s too awesome a majority for a deadlocked Congress to ignore.
In the 1947 science fiction novel Greener Than You Think, a scientist invents a powerful fertilizer intended to boost crop production and combat hunger. The salesman she hires, however, sees more business potential in lawn care, and convinces a Los Angeles homeowner to try the formula on a yellowing, “sad and sickly” front yard. When the salesman stops back the next day, the lawn is transformed. “There wasn’t a single bare spot visible in the whole lush, healthy, expanse. And it was green. Green . . . over every inch of its soft, undulating surface: a pale apple green where the blades waved to expose its underparts and a rich, dazzling emerald on top.”[i]
The lawn grows uncontrollably in the novel, and the grass ultimately takes revenge and crushes cities like a green giant. Whether or not author Ward Moore chose the L.A.
I hope the oil lobbyists in Sacramento broke out some high-priced Champagne this weekend. They deserve it. They just scuttled the biggest and most likely-to-succeed effort in the history of California to save the planet.
Oil industry ad decrying what it called the “California Gas Restriction Act of 2015”
Senate Bills 350 and 32 had already passed in the upper house. As my Capital & Main colleague Bill Raden summarized, SB 32, authored by state Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), would “extend the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions” achieved a few years back through Assembly Bill 32. Senate bill 350, introduced by Senate president Pro tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) – named after the threshold of carbon particles per million that our planetary life cannot surpass – aimed to set standards for California that would “double the energy efficiency of its older buildings,
State lawmakers returned from the Labor Day weekend to face a potential Greek tragedy as the current legislative session enters its final days. Taking center stage is a contentious battle pitting the oil industry, the California Chamber of Commerce and a group of business-friendly Democrats against two history-making global warming measures.
Senate Bill 32, authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), seeks to extend the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions already achieved by Assembly Bill 32, a bill Pavley helped write as an assemblymember, and which became the state’s highly effective 2006 carbon cap-and-trade law.
Senate Bill 350 is the attempt by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) to spell out the “Golden State Standards 50-50-50” that Governor Jerry Brown unveiled in January’s State of the State address. It would require California to double the energy efficiency of its older buildings,
A nationwide group of self-described small and independent business owners has joined the legal battle to appeal California’s landmark lead paint court ruling. But questions have arisen about the actions of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which, through its Small Business Legal Center, is part of an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief filed on behalf of the defendants in California’s 6th Appellate District Court of Appeal in San Jose.
Why is NFIB, which reports that most of its member businesses employ only three to five workers, going to bat for the case’s three multinational corporate defendants?
In December 2013, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ordered ConAgra, Sherwin-Williams and National Lead (NL Industries) to pay $1.15 billion to three California cities and seven counties,
I’ve always thought that if the various Protestant denominations can be said to represent a socio-economic sector of American culture, then the people who made up the United Methodist Church (UMC) were the middle of the middle. I mean that across the country and particularly in this region, which includes Southern California, Methodists never wanted to be bothered about too much social or economic justice, and when they were it was a sign that even the center of the country was getting on board.
I can vividly remember when, in the early 1970s, the UMC in my region finally climbed on board the national grape boycott to support farm workers, just as I can recall when the Conference (as the regional body is called) decided to push for divestment in South Africa.
A number of residents of the picturesque, alpine community of Mount Shasta, California are fed up with their big, new, imminent water hog of a neighbor, the Crystal Geyser Water Company. As Capital & Main reported earlier this year, a group of them have been calling for months for an environmental impact report (EIR) to measure the potential harm that the opening of a new local bottling plant may have on the region’s watershed. With the state in the fourth year of a historic drought, they argued that allowing a multinational corporation to extract precious California groundwater to manufacture and sell tea, soda and bottled water around the world is the height of recklessness.
On Monday, under the name of their nonprofit group, We Advocate Through Environmental Review (WATER), residents filed a complaint in Napa County Superior Court, the district in which Crystal Geyser’s corporate headquarters is located,