Category Archives: Globalization

On the Level Blog on Temporary Hiatus to Fight ‘Smart’ Meters

Protest in Santa Cruz County in August that Shut Down PG&E's Smart Meter Program

As you may have noticed, I have had to take a break from regular posts on this blog, as we mobilize communities against our utility in California, PG&E, who are attempting  to force ‘smart’ gas and electric meters  on everyone’s home- with or without their permission.  Green on the surface, but rotten to the core, the more I’ve learned about this undemocratic program, and the dangers of wireless radiation, the more horrified I’ve become.  Now more than 25 local governments have formally objected to the program, yet the state allows PG&E to continue.  The worst part about it is that many of the approximately 3% of the population who are electro-hyper sensitive are being forced to leave their own homes, in some cases becoming refugees, living in their cars to avoid the emerging ubiquitous wireless radiation.

Climate change is an emergency.  But from where I’m sitting, the even greater emergency are some of the false solutions they are coming up with to ‘respond’ to the crisis.   Real solutions to climate change help re-localize, come from the grassroots, involve reduced consumption and foster stronger communities.   The ‘smart’ grid -as its being implemented- does none of these. There is more information and regular updates on the site I am running, http://stopsmartmeters.org.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to put a halt to the wireless smart meter assault and return to our regularly scheduled programming of anti-car righteousness.  I’m also pleased to announce that my Driven to Excess research is set to be published in the World Transport Policy and Practice Journal soon (social decay caused by motor traffic now in new improved statistically significant format!)

Thanks for bearing with me as we fight the machine.  Look out San Francisco, it’s on your doorstep!

Welcome to the machine

 

Endangered Pregnant Blue Whale Hit By Ship, Washes Up at Bean Hollow

I’m devastated and heartsick to hear that the pregnant blue whale who washed up at Bean Hollow beach this last weekend was the victim of a ship strike off the coast.  This follows another recent whale killing where a cargo ship pulled into Oakland terminal with a whale stuck to its bow.  Over the years, the Cetacean death toll from shipping has been horrific.  I covered this issue here at On the Level when I was crossing the Atlantic on a cruise ship last year to get back to the US.  It’s appalling that we continue to allow this to happen in our backyard.

While the mainstream media might decry this as a tragic ‘accident’ the truth is that we continue to treat marine mammals (and all marine life) with a recklessness and cruelty that boggles the mind.  It’s no accident when we fail to enforce low shipping speeds in areas where whales are feeding and birthing.  It’s no accident that we fail to use the latest sonar technology to allow ship captains to avoid whales in the open ocean.  It’s an intentional, cold calculation to internalize profit, while externalizing damage and death to the natural world.

From oil and gas drilling, to naval sonar exercises that can damage the inner ears leading to the horrific deaths of the most magnificent animals on the planet near extinction, our culture seems hell bent on destruction of the natural world.  It’s a suicidal system that will bring us to a grisly end as well if we don’t manage to turn things around in time.

While our ‘leaders’ call for infinite, exponential economic growth and more trade with Asia as a way to stem unemployment and increase wealth, what does this actually mean in terms of the real world?   Increased carbon emissions, more cargo ships and oil tankers crushing the life out of whales, more mercury raining down on our environment from coal fired power stations, and the list goes on.

Does job creation really depend on slaughtering the living world?  Or is it actually the generation of extraordinary stores of wealth by a very few psychopaths like Donald Trump that depends on these vicious attacks on humans and nature?

Why is there such a fuss put up by religious fundamentalists when one woman out of seven billion makes the choice to end her own pregnancy because she can’t give the baby the life it deserves, but there is barely a peep when one of the last 5000 or so Blue Whales on Earth- a mother and her unborn calf are murdered so that Wal Mart can stock the latest plastic crap that we don’t  really need or Chevron can import blood oil from Iraq to its Richmond refinery?

It’s time we expand the idea of being pro-life to include all of life, of whatever species.

PG&E Hiding From Smart Meter Protests

Mercury Found in SF Water Supply

Crystal Springs Reservoir: Pristine Looking, But Contaminated with the Toxins from our Excess Consumption

I read this article in the Chronicle about a month ago, and its been festering in the back of my mind since then.  I didn’t want to let it pass without mentioning it on my blog.   Essentially- if you haven’t heard- scientists recently sampled fish living in Crystal Springs Reservoir, the source of drinking water for much of the San Francisco Bay Area, and they found some of the highest levels of mercury- a powerful neurotoxin- in any body of water anywhere in the state.

They suspect that the mercury is being carried from Chinese coal fired power stations by clouds across the Pacific, where it is deposited across California in the form of rain, leaving a toxic residue across the land, where it builds up in bodies of water, including reservoirs, and bodies of fish and other animals (like us).

It’s pretty clear that our attempt to distance ourselves from dirty manufacturing by offshoring factories in places where poor brown people live has been a tragic, shortsighted failure.    We live on a small planet, and we cannot run from the effects of our excess consumption.

What I’m having a hard time understanding is this:  when a multinational corporation wants to set up shop in 100 different countries, getting a permit to operate, citing its factories where labor is cheap and selling its products where the money is, there is no problem.   But when it comes to enforcing international environmental issues like toxic mercury pollution or climate change, we are told we are powerless.

According to Tim Ramirez of the State’s water board, “if it’s airborne pollution from a global source, that’s going to be hard for us to do something about.”

I beg to differ.  We can begin to charge corporations the real price of manufacturing their products in a filthy, irresponsible way.  We can force them to pay for the externalities that they impose on the rest of us with impunity.

And individually, we can stop buying cheap plastic crap that we don’t really need.

Stop PG&E’s Wireless Assault

I’ve settled down with my honey in the Santa Cruz Mountains now, and helped to start the Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Meters (SVNASM).    We are a resident-led local organization fighting PG&E’s plans to force inaccurate, potentially health damaging meters onto the nice people of California. If you haven’t woken up to the health impacts of cell phones, wifi, and now smart meters, now is a good time to start asking questions.  I was truly appalled after reading the health studies over the past couple months.

On July 21st 2010, we successfully lobbied the Scotts Valley City Council to sign on to official petitions to the CPUC demanding a moratorium on the installation of smart meters.  Listening to reason and evidence, the City of Capitola joined us the following evening.

Around the state of CA, there is a growing rebellion against these plans that- for a $2.2 billion project- don’t seem to have been all that thought through.  We’ve been speaking out, highlighting the connection between SF’s recent cell phone radiation right to know law and the new wireless (not so) smart meters.  Some awkward truths coming out for sure.

Read about PG&E’s illegal activities in Scotts Valley and take action.   Come to the protest Aug. 12th 1pm at the CPUC in SF at Van Ness and McAllister.

Plug the Holes or We Won’t Go

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zIxlsDZOmM]

We will return to the Arco station every week to peacefully block the Fell St. entrances until BP plugs the holes in the Gulf and until the City plugs the dangerous driveways on Fell and makes it safe for people to live less oil dependent lives.

Fridays 5:30pm-8:30pm Fell and Divisadero San Francisco

Special thanks to Janel Sterbentz for producing this video- if the BABC won’t put her talents to use then we certainly will!

Full text of speech available here.

Navigating a Recovery from Carbon Addiction

By sheer coincidence (or perhaps divine intervention) the “Navigating the American Carbon World” Conference — a schmooze-fest of oil executives, bankers, offset dealers, and green(wash) groups flown in to- essentially- carve up and sell the sky, perpetuating our addiction to fossil fuels- is- at this moment sharing the San Francisco Marriott Marquis with (are you ready for this?)—– the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

So, at the protest today organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice- West , we thought, why not merge the conferences? Get the psychiatrists to treat the carbon trading carbon addicts. The real victims, the ones in denial, who believe we can just ‘offset’ the damage like a papal indulgence to guilty pleasures- and we know where that leads.

White man sell sky

Denial- a common symptom of addiction- is widespread. We bury our heads in the sand against the looming climate devastation and energy crash- Can our system’s habit be treated by the latest in addiction therapy before it’s too late? Right now we’ve got the top addiction experts in the world sharing the same hotel as the Shell executives, the Bank of Americas that fund them, and the Terrapasses who pardon the sin– there’s really never been a better opportunity to admit we have a problem and enter recovery.

So we’ve created a public open letter to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, calling upon them to treat our friends the fossil fuel addicts at the carbon trading conference.  Sign our letter today!   We’ve never needed a shrink like we do today.

The Panel discussing how corporations can green(wash) themselves.

So last night at a cocktail party at 111 Minna for conference attendees put on by Brighter Planet, an offset company looking to open up west coast markets, I posed the question to Patty, the Executive Director of Brighter Planet who was on the panel…

“given that the carbon trading and offsetting industry are increasingly in disrepute over a number of scandals and abuses, such as the multi-million euro carbon trade scam uncovered on Tuesday by the Spanish authorities and given that James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected atmospheric scientists is now saying that carbon trading and offsets ‘are designed to perpetuate business-as-usual and squander the precious time needed to prevent the crossing of disastrous ‘tipping points’.’

Given all that, what is Brighter Planet doing to transition away from the sale of offsets?”

They didn’t like that question. I mean they REALLY didn’t like that question. The moderator tried to rip the microphone out of my hands, and got all flustered.

The nonplussed

Much hostility from the audience, including the drunk carbon traders on the floor who were rudely yelling over the panel discussion. This guy Trevor from Barclays capital became agitated and walked away when I offered to sell him “Cheatneutral infidelity offsets.” Maybe he has guilt issues around his fossil fuel cheating. Who knows.

Then today during the MCJ Demo on the first day of the conference, people unfurled a large banner in the middle of 4th St., temporarily blocking traffic, gave speeches and street theatre,  and disrupted the conference a number of times inside including an announcement on a live mic at the luncheon that “history will spit” on those who delay emissions reductions.

Anyway, no doubt more fun tomorrow at the Offset This! protest outside the Marriott Marquis- 4th and Market- at 8am tomorrow (friday).   We’re headed for climate chaos, and we have a message for the bankers, oil executives, greenwash groups, and politicians who profit from delaying the inevitable weaning:

The Sky is NOT FOR SALE.



Slow is Better

The New York Times reports yesterday that shipping companies are cutting the speed of their vessels: “Slow Trip Across Sea Aids Profit and Environment

Technically a cargo ship going at 12 knots doesn’t “aid” the environment- it just destroys it slightly less quickly.  Nevertheless in spite of the hype, slower speeds are important.  Particularly if you are unlucky enough to be in the way.  Whether you are a pilot whale in the North Atlantic or a 12 year old boy walking to school.

The only problem is- if cargo ships are going half the speed, it obviously takes twice as long if you choose to ride on one to get across the ocean.  Slow is the point- I suppose- of taking a boat rather than a plane.   However, at $110/ night as a passenger aboard, that’s one costly crossing.  That leaves (blech) cruise ships.   Let’s have real heavens-to-betsy-gosh-darn travel choice!  Regular transatlantic airship service.  Or at least some nice sailing ships.

Apparently  the US and UK postal services didn’t get the slow memo though.   Last  year, the USPS eliminated the choice to send overseas mail by surface, requiring air freight.    And Royal Mail is trading in their cute little red cargo bikes for diesel vans.  More carbon emissions.  More danger on the roads. (This culture is going) Top Gear in the wrong direction.

Oh well I’m glad that some industry is making more profit by going slow- they can afford to cough up their part of the $2.2 trillion in damage every year  that they are inflicting on our planet’s environment.  She ain’t gonna keep givin it up forever you know.

Howard Zinn, American Hero

In case you missed it, Howard Zinn the American historian died yesterday.  The New York Times has an obituary here.

For some reason, it took me until December 2009 to finally get around to checking out A People’s History of the United States. I borrowed it on CD from the library and listened, fascinated, while I did mundane things like washing dishes.  You know, the good kind of multi-tasking.   Even if you live outside of the U.S. this book is of critical importance in understanding how we got where we are today, given American influence abroad. Particularly fascinating are the chapters on the Civil Rights Movement.

Zinn describes his role as a historian:

“America’s future is linked to how we understand our past.  For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act.  By writing, I hope to awaken a great consciousness of racial injustice, sexual bias, class inequality, and national hubris.  I also want to bring into the light the unreported resistance of people against the power of the Establishment: the refusal of the indigenous to simply disappear; the rebellion of black people in the antislavery movement and in the more recent movement against racial segregation; the strikes carried out by working people all through American history in attempts to improve their lives.”

Zinn was unrelenting in his expose of the abuse of power- particularly corporate power in the U.S.  It is particularly ironic that he died only a week after the Supreme Court expanded corporate power on an unprecedented scale.

From his  A Power Governments Cannot Suppress:

“Our political leaders would prefer us to believe we are one family- me and Exxon, you and Microsoft, the children of the CEO’s and the children of the restaurant workers.  We must believe our interests are the same.  That’s why officials speak of going to war “for the national interest,” as if it were in all our interest.”

Thank you Howard Zinn- you are a true hero.  May your writings be read even more widely following your death.  May they shed light on our history so that we may be empowered to confront the injustices of our own time.

Trust Us. The Problem is Under Control. Go Back to Sleep

Shell thinks the impossible is possible, which I believe is called doublethink.

Leading up to the Copenhagen conference in December, Shell ads like the one above dominated not just any newspaper, but the online version of the UK Guardian, the bastion of progressive and liberal thought in Britain.  The only paper with the chutzpah to publish George Monbiot and the only paper to print a halfway decent analysis of my research in September 2008.

So I started to wonder why.   What was Shell’s strategy here?  Why did they not also flood other papers with the same, misleading ads claiming to be on top of the climate change problem, claiming that CO2 can presumably be caught with a butterfly net?  The cogs started whirring, the juices started flowing, and I think I may have finally come up with some sort of answer.   An answer that perhaps provides us with a glimpse into the inner workings of one of the largest corporations on the planet.  Or maybe I’m way off base.  Or maybe it’s obvious and I’m just venting sequestered CO2.

——————————————————————————

Memo (Top Secret)

From: Derrick Leavussum, Marketing Director, Shell

To: Jeroen Van der Sneer, Chief Executive, Shell

Re:  Our Copenhagen Strategy

As I’ve been telling you, it’s like everything else in advertising, Jeroen.  It’s about market segmentation.  Take readers of the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Times.  We’ll allow them to relax in the knowledge  (or at least creeping doubt) that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to take away our second homes and 4×4′s.  Boy, those hackers we hired to break into the computers at the University of East Anglia sure paid dividends, didn’t they?  Not such a bad plan after all, eh Jeroen?

It’s those pesky Guardian readers that have the potential to really rock the boat.   If enough of them mobilize to go to Copenhagen, they may not disrupt the conference, but there’s a strong likelihood that the brutal suppression of protest we are planning with the Danish Police will radicalise them even further. And you know what will happen then.  The same thing that happened to the Kingsnorth power station.   The same thing that is about to happen to Heathrow’s Third Runway we’ve been so excited about, Jeroen.   The same thing that is happening to the public perception of our beloved market-based climate solutions.   It seems that wherever this “Climate Camp” go, they destroy our financial interests.  I’ve told you before that there’s not much we can do to re-sedate individuals once they’ve been exposed to this lot.   And our research shows that the biggest pool of malcontents they’re drawing from are Guardian readers.

Jeroen, we’ve already tried telling the truth, and that just got our sponsorship deal yanked.  If we could somehow convince these people that we are concerned about climate change and working on solutions, then maybe they will just stay home and watch telly.  We could have ads with butterflies and a cool seventies lava lamp theme.   What do you think of my idea, Jeroen?   Can I go for a ride with you in your sports car?

Love,

Derrick

——————————————————————————-

OK maybe I went a bit overboard, but it’s just disturbing to me when an oil company puts out ads not so that people will buy their products, but because they are engaging in psychological warfare against those who would be most likely to get involved in massive grassroots action to save the biosphere from continued devastation.  They should call it sedative advertising.   And the Guardian, despite its platform for revolutionary thought, goes right along with it.

After that SF Bay Guardian article about the Green Festival, I got Derrick Jensen’s books out of the library and have been tearing through them.  I think the following quote describes exactly what I’m getting at.  He’s talking about a book that was put out by US govt. agencies to ostensibly examine the benefits of removing dams.  I think he’s absolutely right.  We have to stop them ourselves.

“The primary purpose of Dam Removal was to convince people that something is being done about the murder of the planet.  If the interests and their experts were doing nothing, then we would know we have to stop the murder ourselves.  But if they are doing something-anything- then both they and we can relax, because the experts are taking care of the problem.  ‘See,’ they can say and we can hear, ‘we put out a book on dam removal.  We’re working on it.  Have patience.  Trust us.’

I no longer have patience.  I no longer have trust.  I no longer have time.  Nor do salmon, sturgeon, or the others.  It’s a rigged game.  It is now, and within this culture it always has been.  So long as this culture stands it always will be.   The primary basis for dam removal decision-making by the powers that be is cost-benefit analysis, and the analyses are always- always- stacked in favor of the powers that be.  If you are one of them you count.  If you’re not, you don’t”

-Derrick Jensen, Endgame vol. II: Resistance

(any resemblance to persons living or dead in this post is purely coincidental)