I find it rather interesting that one could look at long term trends in the forest based industries and never once mention the health of the forest, the amount of wood currently available, or climate change. Nor the loss of biodiversity and the recent trends to make sure that the indigenous hold on to the land to protect the climate and biodiversity.
My response to an article in an economic development on line journal
About 11:30 AM I was walking along the Moshassuck River. I was on the west side of the river heading north from the walkway between the Citizens Bank building and the tidewater section of the river. I was looking towards Canal St. it was relatively low tide, about 3 feet of water in the river at this stretch, cloudy so relatively low visibility into the water. I walk this way nearly every day so I knew there were thousands of little menhaden in the water and I was looking for schools.
Just north of the bank building I saw two cormorants that seemed to have just popped up from underwater, most likely fishing excursions. They startled each other when they nonchalantly almost crashed into each other. One swam away to the south, but the other dove and veered north along the east wall of the canal. Swimming under water at a fantastic speed. As it went along the wall a 2 inch long menhaden jumped with the cormorant close behind. The fish made a mad dash for safety and the cormorant snapped at it 3 more times before finally catching it and then immediately eating it. It then dashed south underwater along the east wall and another small menhaden jumped, this one to be caught on the second snap and immediately swallowed.
The bird then continued south, while I continued north, thinking that in all my years of watching cormorants this is the first time I have ever seen one actually catch a fish.
Greg Gerritt 8/13/19
Greg Gerritt July 12 2019
Ever since CNBC released its report that labeled Rhode Island 50th of the 50 states for its business climate we have been inundated with woe is Rhode Island opinion pieces. We are told a good business climate directly leads to an increase in the economic growth rate (growth in GDP) of you community or state. If it was actually true that having a good business climate improved your growth rate, and a bad business climate reduced your growth rate the numbers would demonstrate it and we would all have seen them. But no one has ever demonstrated a valid statistical correlation between a business climate ranking and an economic growth rate. And with no correlation it is fantasy to claim causation. And yet the rich and politicians persist and the media joins in the lies. Rhode Island would be better served to ignore the paid shills who perpetuate this lie.
To the Editor,
Each day we see new news of climate disasters and more evidence or runaway carbon emissions. If you people are to have viable futures, we need to move towards zero polluting emissions as soon as possible. The first thing to do is stop building any new fossil fuel facilities, no more power plants like the proposed fracked gas monstrosity in Burrillville. The second thing to do is move rapidly to a transition to clean energy that emphasizes creating jobs in those places most affected by climate change and those most dependent upon the fossil fuel economy. There are many details and ways to describe them, but how it is known best is the Green New Deal. The solar and wind will power us, and the new jobs will replace those that are obsolete and destroying the planet.
Under a financialization system, a debt based system, you basically guarantee ecological destruction, starting in a local way but spreading globally. Something has to back up all the financial speculation, and what does it is ripping more and more out of the ground each year. What follows is rural and forest people are forced off the land at faster and faster rates as the financialization becomes every bigger multiples of the real economy. The financial system is based on loans originated for real estate, almost all of which was stolen violently as civilization spread across the planet in every faster searches for resources.
I have been writing for years about the inextricable link between building cities and the destruction of both forests and the people who live in them. In some ways the story of civilization is clear the land to build a city, then keep searching ever wider for new forests to exploit as the need for wood is forever. As a worn out carpenter and woods worker I loved to work with wood, and cut firewood for some long winters spent making furniture. As an urbanite I watch carefully the economic development/real estate games that drive the politics of the city and seek to green them, but I see the destructive power of the forces of construction every day and I know what it does to forests around the world. If we do not stop deforestation the world burns. Civilization as we know it will cease to exist. I once said we had access to enough oil to cut all the forests. We have to stop both. Today in RI we celebrate the stopping of an unneeded white elephant gas fired power plant. I wish for as big a victory for the forests today as well.
Mohammed Eid, May you do your future work with honor and decency. We are in need of peace and ecological healing. Two things that are inextricably linked to ending poverty. Do the work well, do not get sucked into the war lord vortex. Speak truth to power. Anything else in the age of climate catastrophe is whistling Dixie. You sound like you may know the path to follow. Greg Gerritt Activist, Writer, Forest Gnome Providence RI
The grow our way out of the climate crisis school of thought like the one above by Nils Rekka, (Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economics) always seems to leave out that not only are we in a climate crisis, we are in a long term rather dire materials crisis. We are using resources at an ever faster pace, not just energy resources, pretty much everything. Forests for example. You still can not build cities or make enough paper for the modern world without forests. Anyone think the forests are healthy?:Or meeting what we need them to do for the climate crisis? Even with advanced materials there is nothing so useful as wood, Fish, soils, capacity of sinks. All failing dramatically. You will not grow the economy beyond what the rich steal without using MORE stuff. 70 billion tons a year right now. As for biological resources, we use 1.75x’s the yearly production of the Earth. What growth other than funny money is there? When 90% of the growth in income goes to 1% of the population and 50% of the people get poorer each year. That is not growth. When depletion is calculated as economic growth, the measurement tools are inaccurate. Wars are not profitable, many lose everything, but the arms manufacturers sell to both sides and laugh all the way to the bank.
If we are to have the resources to successfully make the transition to a carbon zero economy fast enough to save our lives, communities and planet, then we must close the militaries of the world and free some of the resources for transformation, and leave some of it unspent so that resource use really can go down . It would greatly symbolic as well as a big chunk of cash and resources freed up. We shrink the militaries to save the planet. We all know military spending produces fewer jobs per dollar than almost anything else we could spend it on. Spend less, get MORE jobs, use less stuff, burn less fuel.
Peace is not popular among the elites, but even today I was reading about the Iraqi peace movement. Peace is popular everywhere, and real disarmament would also unleash democracy, another critical factor in beating the climate crisis.
We get all techno looking at the crisis, but we need to look holistically. Peace, ecological healing, democracy, ending poverty and economies that work for the people, communities and planet are all connected, I just do not think elite driven solutions, especially that do not address the long term resource hunger of the militaries of the world and what they do to create poverty, are going to cut it, and 20 years down the road we are going to wish we had chosen the path of peace and justice and an economy focused on healing the Earth and our communities.
To the Editor, The US has never forgiven the Iranian political leadership for throwing out the criminal American Puppet Reza Pahlavi and taking control of their own oil. Ever since, American officials in Washington DC have regularly ordered and funded violence against the Iranian people rather than seeking peace. With the track record of the American government the Iranian government has had to respond in kind.
The Iranian government was following the agreed upon international treaty to end its nuclear weapons program. All the inspectors and all the other signatories to the treaty said Iran was complying. It appears there is no treaty, no amount of inspections, that will satisfy the Americans.
The way out of the dilemma is for the US to offer to eliminate all of our nuclear weapons in a transparent and verifiable international treaty process as long as every other nuclear weapon holder joins the party. And then actually make it happen.
I went to the RI Senate hearing on the Global Warming Solutions Act to make mandatory the emissions reductions offered in the 2014 Resilient RI Act and a bill to create a carbon fee and dividend program. Neither bill is really up to the task we face, but they are a start.
Nothing all that interesting happened at the hearing. The environmental advocates, joined by a few business people supporting doing something about climate change made our case, and the only lobbyist testifying against both bills, the designated hitter for all of the opposition who wanted to tell scary stories on paper but not in front of an audience, told some very uninteresting scary stories. The lies are interesting if we are dissecting scary stories, but they are exactly the same stories, out of the exact same playbook, lobbyists for industries that harm the public health have been saying for years. In Rhode Island there is one particular lobbyist who takes on that role of designated scary story teller.
Unlike most folks, I hardly prepare in the traditional sense to testify. I tend to rely on winging it, and this allows me to react to the speakers ahead of me. Occasionally it allows me to refute the scary story of the day. I did a bit of it at the hearing, this is a bit more fleshed out.
The lobbyist represents a number of organizations, mostly business associations like the chamber of commerce, or the convenience store (read gasoline sellers) lobby. At a previous hearing this lobbyist carped that if we had to buy electric cars then no one could go on a long distance trip. This time it was the price of gasoline will go up so much, neglecting the fact that the price of gasoline went up by that exact amount just in the last week and no one said anything. It is like this no matter what. It will be much too hard to adapt to changes in regulation.
But what occurred to me this morning is that these folks really undercut capitalism in their stories. We have what is touted as the most innovative system in the world, a capitalist system built on innovation and meeting the needs of customers. And the businesses the lobbyist represents are constantly innovating. Every time the government has created a system of regulations and fees on pollution to protect the public business have adapted and created new sources of value that overwhelm the cost of compliance, often creating whole new export industries that send American technology to fix problems around the world. But every issue that comes before the RI General Assembly or any other legislative body that will require innovation to protect the public health, it is as if innovation stops. The industries represented will find it impossible to go on and civilization as we know it will grind to a halt. What crap. Do you believe for even one second that if we all switched to electric cars that a network of charging stations would NOT sprout as fast as the phase in of the electric cars? And that the electric companies would NOT figure out how to use those batteries to balance the grid? There would be no entrepreneurs looking for investments in these new markets? Of that if we instituted carbon fees that people and businesses would not slightly switch their mobility strategy to use more efficient vehicles?
The record is VERY clear. Every time we the people has demanded better environmental protections the lobbyists for the old guard cry wolf, stating it will end civilization and create an horrific burden on businesses, it has turned out the scary stories are not true. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts did not crash the economy. Benefits are 40 times greater than compliance. Seat belts did not price cars out of the reach of consumers. Creating National Parks benefits local communities with better job stability than mining or timber booms that end in a few years. Protecting fisheries does keep fishers employed. It is as if the lobbyists and the industries they represent do not actually believe in the system they constantly tell us about, the great American Entrepreneurial Innovation machine. Or rather they believe in it except when it is being nudged towards the public good.
Considering their track record, you have to wonder why legislators give such credence to their views. Actually we do know, it is all about the Benjamins, the system where legislators very rarely are swayed by the public but are always swayed by the money. It is about time for legislators to ask harder questions, to stop accepting the scary stories as having any credence. The lobbyists should be laughed out of the room for their big whoppers. Ask them for facts, ask them about the actual effects of the progress they have tried to hold up. Ask them about the ability of business to innovate. And then vote to get us well on the road to stopping climate change.
I went to the Public Occurrence on Climate sponsored by RIC, Leadership RI and the Providence Journal on April 15. The mostly gray haired audience clearly understood that that climate change is being caused by humans burning fossil fuels and that we had better do something very big and right now or this is going to be a huge problem that threatens civilization . In Rhode Island one of the ways that we can carry our share of the load is to stop building any new fossil fuel infrastructure. When NO LNG in PVD’s Monica Huertas said that we should stop building any new fossil fuel infrastructure it received the loudest cheers of the night. And remember how gray haired the audience was. The people of RI have already decided to oppose any new fossil fuel infrastructure and to demand that the economy be tilted towards clean energy and justice. It appears that only the political class and those directly paid by the fossil fuel polluters support continue to march off the climate cliff. We have less than 10 years to turn the tide or the tide will swallow our communities. NO New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure, let’s not make the hole any deeper.
To the Editor, While I would prefer to celebrate the defeat of the poorly thought out plan to monetize the Providence Water Supply, April 4 2019 also brought another editorial in the Providence Journal’s regular series to convince us that building more natural gas infrastructure would be a good thing. Today’s version is titled “A need for natural gas”. Everyone who is paying attention realizes that we need to reduce emissions by to zero in the next 15 to 20 years, and that our infrastructure is more than adequate to handle our gas needs as we dramatically reduce the use of gas and all other fossil fuels in the next 10 to 15 years so as to avert disasters of a scale never before seen by humanity. If our society builds gas infrastructure designed to last 40 or 50 years, we either lock in massive warming and the fires, storms, famines, and wars that will accompany a much warmer planet, or we lock in massive debt for useless infrastructure.
I hope everyone is planning to attend the Global Warming Solutions Act hearing on Thursday afternoon, and the rally that precedes the hearing at 3 PM on the Smith St Side of the Statehouse.
I am never sure exactly what i will say in my 2 minutes, but this is a reasonable facsimile. What will you say? greg
Members of the Committee,
Climate change is the existential crisis of our time, Millions are already dying in fires, floods, droughts, migrations and wars that are clearly exacerbated by climate change. And there is no doubt that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. All around the world people are aghast at the inability of governments to move the needle and actually stop the plundering of the planet and the destruction of communities.
The bill before you has targets that are already out of date. Every report coming out points to the climate train barreling faster and faster right at us with ever more power. Instead of needing to reduce emissions by 45% by 2035, we need to get to zero emissions by 2035 if we are to mitigate the worst of what we face. But a journey of a thousand steps begins with a single one. Before you is a single step bill, it puts us on the road, knowing that it is inadequate to the task before us, but knowing that our work must begin we must pass this now.
Unlike most issues, climate change is not on our clock. It moves at its own pace and that pace continues to increase. Waiting another year makes it that much harder to fix things. I hope you pass this bill this year, and another every year to keep pace with developments. In the future increase the pace of emissions reductions, work extra hard to make sure that the energy being produced is clean and that low income communities are not harmed by the transformation that we must go through. And start to think about one more thing, that we must stop building any new fossil fuel facilities since building new ones guarantees either bankruptcy or excessive carbon dioxide emissions for long beyond what the earth and our communities will be able to bear.
Governor Hedge Fund and the Projo collude against the community AGAIN. Greg Gerritt February 17 2019
My favorite author, the late Ursula K. LeGuin, wrote about a certain kind of wizard, the patterner, in her Earthsea Trilogy. I am no wizard, but I do see patterns, and then write about them. In the same set of books LeGuin also points out the importance of calling things by their real name, and that only by calling things by their real name can you have power to change things.
Part of looking at patterns is the ability to connect the dots on the events of the day. Part of using the real name of things is speaking truth to power.
Recently in the space of 24 hours the Providence Journal wrote an editorial slamming the Green New Deal titled “Going out on a green limb”, the RI Department of Transportation, with the permission of Governor Hedge Fund, decided to “scoop”, read steal, most of the money that has already been dedicated to pedestrian and bike safety and access so that it could be used to fund roads and bridges ( including a new off ramp in the Speaker of the House’s district), and a research paper came out from the Institute for Public Policy Research entitled “ This is a Crisis, Facing up to the age of Environmental Breakdown”. The connection is that opposing the Green New Deal the way the Projo does is exactly the same mind set as the governor and DOT are showing. The received wisdom of the 1% is that it is not possible to take the ecological crisis on planet Earth seriously and it is not possible to take the challenges posed by climate change seriously because the things we would have to do to reverse the damage would take too much power away from the oligarchs. Their solution is to call it socialism and then pretend you do not have to discuss it further. Then continue on like lemmings over the cliff.
Climate change is the existential crisis of our times, with the only thing that might beat it to the punch being nuclear war set off by crazy oligarchs like the orange headed idiot in the White House. Barring nuclear war human induced changes in the climate due to the incredibly excessive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is already causing major disasters from floods to droughts to heatwaves, to hurricanes to wildfires. The cost leaps up every year as the temperature rises and the refugees swell in number as the natural disasters drive warfare for resources as well as drive people to seek food and shelter. Often there is no place to return to, especially for the refugees from sea level rise,.
And for the bean counters, rest assured that the cost of transition is less than the cost of continuing on the fossil fuel path.
The ecological crisis is not just climate change, which may be looming faster and more powerfully than any of the other manifestations of the ecological crisis. Other parts of the ecological collapse include the water crisis, the extinction crisis, the deforestation crisis, the collapse of insect populations, the destruction and emptying of the oceans, and the loss of nutrients and soil. And this is not an exhaustive list. Each year the biological life on the planet is diminished by more than 1% as we use 1.7 times the biological productivity of the planet each year, with the rate of depletion going faster and faster.
The Governor and the Providence Journal believe the same fantasy, that you can have infinite growth on a finite planet, and that economic growth, the expansion of GDP, is the single most important and beneficial thing they do, despite the fact that it is killing the planet and that almost all of the growth (or rather supposed growth) is ending up in the hands of a tiny sliver of the population while more and more people are falling further and further behind, precisely because of the type of economic growth being fostered. Growing inequality is a threat to both democracy and the economy.
The Governor and Providence Journal intentionally misread the economy (mostly to protect ruling class interests, especially political power) , misread the intentions and thinking of those opposed to their power grabs and stealing (often calling the opposition some term related to NIMBY when the opposition is principled opposition to misguided policy that harms communities and the planet), totally misread and ignore the ecology of planet earth that keeps us all fed, and misunderstand how critical green transformation is if our communities are to thrive in the 21st century and beyond. All they seem capable of is protecting the status quo, which means rigging the system for the rich and powerful, and doing everything to prevent real discussion of what the future seems to hold for our communities. It means placing their faith in an economics that is drifting ever further into theoretical models and farther away from what produces prosperity in communities. A discipline that has received wisdom like the business climate is important to the economic prosperity of a community, without any statistical data from the real world to back it up needs to be replaced.
This was written by Greg Gerritt in response to an article by Steve Alhquist in his excellent on line journal UpriseRI janauary 30, 2019
I became familiar with the work of Adler Pollock and Sheehan when I served as a stakeholder in the public discusion as to whether or not it was appropriate to build a giant container port at Quonset. Adler Pollock and Sheehan was the law firm that regularly represented the interests of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, so scandal plagued an institution that several years later, after another fiasco, the state had to change the name to Commerce RI. The political leadership of the state was in thrall to the idea of a giant port and taken in by the two con men who claimed money and connections and that they could build you a thriving port, but had been tossed out of ports around the world for inabiltiy to deliver. This port would have opened intto the teeth of the Great Recession and we would still be paying for it. APS lawyers did not cover themselves in glory representing the intersts of the State of RI, nor did any of the politicians and bureaucrats pushing the idea. .
Our next exposure is 38 Studies. APS served the people so well in their role representing the RIEDC/Commerce RI, that the firm and its lawyers had to pay millions to the State of RI for their roles in the scandal. Maybe we should be blaming the state again, it tells its lawyers what to do, but we also know how much influence these guys have on the poltiical process because they are so willing to hand out thousands of dollars to politicians and ask their friends for more. They were in it up to their eyeballs.
Now we come to Invenergy,. This time APS is working directly for the prinvate sector (instead of indirectly on our dime). Be thankful for small favors. The idea of building a fracked gas powered electricty plant is beyond absurd. Bulding it guarantees Rhode Island actively participating in drowning our coast line at faster and faster rates and subjecting more Rhode Islanders to deadly storms. So a few of the 1% can profit more.
A recent study pointed out that we have a half decent change to salvage the climate, keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees, if we stop building any new fossil fuel infrastucture right now. If we keep building gas fired power plants we have no chance, This creates the opportunity for a real phase out of fossil fuels instead of a phony one. It means fossil fuel facilities that close will be replaced by non greenhouse gas producing energy sources. We can move the phase out as fast as is practical, knowing the momentum will build the further down the road we go without carbon. Just so long as we build nothing new.
Every client deserves good legal representation, and lawyers take the hand their client gives them, but to consistently have as clients con men, scammers, politicians who consistently get the big things wrong, and those ripping off Rhode Island and its natural evironment; to so consistently work against the public interest in service of the greedy, in supporting Invenergy in ways that will kill Rhode Islanders, again says it is not only the clients who do not have the best interest of Rhode Island at heart, it is the men in charge of the law firm who decide what clients to take on and what their values are. The next time you see APS representing some big project, get ready, the time to resist will be very near. With their track record you know it is going to be bad for you.
I read the article and I skimmed the comments. Mostly i contest the idea that we need a new way of talking about growth. Growth is what the 1% figure out hw to steal from the people and the planet. The numbers say that in the US over 90% of growth is going to 1% of the population. Most of us have never seen growth. Lets turn the talk to prosperous communities in a steady state economy. Growth belongs in the global south where it ends hunger. In the west we need a better distribution of LESS. What I also noticed is no one is talking about ecology or climate. Maybe because all we can think of is more. Ecological collapse and climate change are big game changers for the economy. Our response to them will determine quality of life for billions, and how fast the vast migrations occur. But a turn towards democracy, healing ecosystems and climate, and eliminating poverty gives us a chance to thrive. Business as usual will roast the planet. Healthy forests give us a chance.
Sometimes it feels as if humans are under assault by their food supply. Forever. Food and water borne illnesses have been killing humans since the beginnings of humanity. Sometimes you might think bacteria run the world, and there are as many microbe cells in your body as human and each person interacts with a unique microbiome.
In a world of so many microbes, some of which evolve rapidly, most of the microbes do us no harm, and are often critical to our survival. Some strains are highly dangerous for humans and other forms of life, and some strains only become dangerous in high concentrations.
Ever since people invented cities, these concentrations of people have been home to epidemics caused by concentrations of microbes ultimately eating human food and wastes. It was not until the invention of modern sewer systems and protected water supplies that cities could grow in population from births over deaths. Until then only immigration was able to overcome the high death rates from diarrhea. Immigration from the farms in low density communities that did not have the concentrations of the water borne bacterial illnesses. In other words places with clean drinking water with no one pooping in it.
The birth of cities coincides with the birth of mass scale agriculture. From the fields of Mesopotamia to the miracle of California’s Central Valley is not that big a step. In 1977 I irrigated fields in Idaho with a technology every Mesopotamian farmer would understand. And just as Mesopotamian cities and farming towns mismanaged their fecal wastes, human and animal, resulting in large disease burdens, their only excuse for mismanagement being that they did not have a germ theory of disease and microscopes to see what was happening, the agriculture practiced in 21st Century America (which has no excuse, we know where the crap flows) is still plagued by bacteria, in addition to diseases caused by modern chemicals.
2018 saw outbreaks of two kinds of bacterial diseases. Diseases caused by various strains of Salmonella found in various meat products and diseases caused by Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, a bacterial species that is common in the intestinal tracts of nearly every mammal. Both cause serious and occasionally fatal bouts of diarrhea and other gastro intestinal symptoms. Children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. This past year the strain found in the Romaine Lettuce outbreaks was E. coli O157:H7. This is a particularly nasty strain of E. Coli.
Both of these bacteria, Salmonella and E. Coli, are killed by heat, and therefore thoroughly cooking food kills them and makes the food safe to eat. There are some food borne bacteria that generate toxins that are not destroyed by heat, but that does not apply here.
Salmonella seems to be a problem because in high density industrial animal feedlot farming, poop is everywhere. Meaning Salmonella is everywhere. Cleanliness really counts, but it is expected that there will be some Salmonella in all industrial meats. And therefore cleanliness really counts at home too. Outbreaks this year were from turkey with high Salmonella counts being handled. Not from the post cooking eating. But with the huge demand for food from the growing global middle class we may not be able to raise enough food in the near term without industrial facilities. If you have enough money you can find healthier meats closer to home, but mass demand will be met in ways that make Salmonella outbreaks nearly inevitable maybe even after we truly clean up and green agriculture.
The story about the Romaine lettuce is even more devious. First you have the particular strain of bacteria E. coli O157:H7. In addition to being nasty it appears to be specifically adapted to living on Romaine Lettuce and further attracted to the extra sugars produced as lettuce is cut up for inclusion in prepackaged salads. In both the California Outbreak and the Arizona outbreak the E. coli appears to have reached the lettuce fields via contaminated irrigation water. Irrigation water is simply untreated river water that is channeled into canals and flows for miles and miles until it reaches the field where it will be used to irrigate. Do cattle graze near any of the tributaries? Did dog poop get washed in during the spring melt in the mountains? Did a cat drown? How do you keep everything away from miles and miles of open canals, including some running through farms and some running through cities.
This same irrigation water, this same contaminated irrigation water, is used on a variety of crops, most of which do not cause disease outbreaks. Much of the difference is cooking. Cooking kills E.coli. But we do not cook lettuce. Unfortunately washing seems to have no affect on this pathogen. It does not wash off, and thrives in the wet conditions amongst the leaves. Yikes.
People are going to continue to eat irrigated lettuce. The government is going to continue to provide laxer and laxer standards of cleanliness in the agribusiness world due to the pressure of corporate campaign contributions and lobbying. Bacteria are going to continue to evolve; with new strains taking advantage of all the imbalances we create feeding 8 billion of us. And maybe it is not fair to single out Romaine lettuce, though E. coli O157:H7 has, but if are not going to avoid it entirely, I would cast a wide net checking for disease outbreaks associated with it, as the rate of them seems likely to increase.
The editorial in the December 19 Providence Journal “Money pours in, but the debt grows” was rather misguided. It is entirely possible to provide good healthcare to every American without busting the budget.
Here is what we should do to eliminate the deficit. The American people already pay for nearly all of the basic research in medical advances. The people should start collecting royalties for all the privatized research that we paid for. Manage the price of drugs and institute prevention as our main health care strategy. We could save a trillion dollars a year practicing prevention, especially if we stopped polluting and poisoning the public
Tax millionaires and hedge funds at a higher rate than currently. The deficit always goes up after tax cuts. But the economy responds very weakly to them, and for very short times.
Close 90% of the 800 foreign bases the US military maintains around the world. We never get to peace because those like Senator Inhofe make too much money from killing. $730 billion dollars plus black operations and more nuclear weapons is truly insane. We would be SAFER if we spent far less and we quit igniting wars.
Quit subsidizing the fossil fuel industries. Sea level rise, hurricanes, fires, and floods are creating a huge hole in the economy and the budget. Take half of the money saved from closing military bases around the world and build climate resilient and clean energy infrastructure.
The economy and the taxpayers will be much happier.
To the Editor, The headline on the business page of the Thursday November 16 Providence Journal said it all. “More state help for developer” For the umpteenth time the I-195 commission is giving more money to some very wealthy developer so they can build a building where the highway used to be. We are told this is necessary for economic development.
The reality is that the entire model of real estate development driven economic development is broken. Broken so badly it ought to be abandoned. Economic development experts such as the IMF and the World Bank have repeatedly pointed out that subsidizing the rich to build buildings does not contribute to long term community prosperity and drives much of the inequality that is harming our communities. In Providence we make this worse by focusing on building subsidized buildings for the medical industrial complex, which guarantees that health care will be unaffordable for more and more people.
Some day we shall learn, but as long as Wall St and real estate interests determine our policies, be prepared for more hard times, especially when the next real estate bubble bursts.
Original article https://mystudentvoices.com/steering-the-economy-toward-growth-8f208a8b8a7b
I have a rather different take on slower growth. I agree that rising inequality is a very big problem and undercuts growth, that tax cuts for the rich do not do any good, and that the wealthy do not invest because there really is not all that much that will give them large returns for their investments.
But what Yaneer Bar-Yam seems to be missing is the crash of ecosystems, the depletion of easily recoverable natural resources, especially forests, and climate change.
It is likely that there shall never be a long term return to high growth rates in the USA or the industrial west. More than half of humanity already lives in cities, so there are fewer agricultural and forest communities to send to shanty towns to fuel the next boom. The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Plenty of opportunity in renewable energy, but it will not create booms like fossil fuels, and if you look at growth rates in the USA by state and nationally, it is the moving fracking booms that keep the growth rate up, while well more than half the states have growth rates of less than 2% nearly every quarter for the last 10 years.
We should be looking for a steady state economy, or even a slowly shrinking economy in old industrial places so that the truly poor places in the world will be able to grow without destroying the resource base and climate that they depend upon for their daily bread. The billionaires will hate this, means they have to give up some of their power and priviledge. But it is how we shall survive on planet Earth.
After 20 years of organizing it has been really nice not to be involved in the organizing of the 21st Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange. Pam and Lauren Testoni and doing a fine job which makes it much easier to be gone. But I have in no way given up my public policy practice, so I thought it would still be nice to write my annual Buy Nothing Day essay, a practice I am likely to continue as my active management of the day recedes into the past.
It is hard to know where to begin. Do i begin with the massive loss of insect populations over the last 40 years as recently discovered in Europe? And how that is reflected in bat distribution in Providence’s North Burial Ground? Or how about that the US economy has become one of the most unequal in the world, and is rapidly becoming more unequal? Or how about how all of the economic development schemes in Rhode Island are designed to create economic development for the 10%, while making health care and housing unaffordable for the rest of us? I have devoted more than a few pixels this year to the toxic narcissist and lying blowhard now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I do not want to make you sick so I will keep the orange haired monster out of this.
I went to a convention in Houston in 2016 and spent time hanging out around the bayou, so I have written about the flooding of the bayous with the 3rd 100 year flood in 3 years. One essay about Houston was too depressing to include more here. Or we could discuss the refugee crisis flooding the world as a result of the wars the United States government and military have inflamed throughout Africa and Asia that keep blowing up in our faces. And that are made worse by climate change undermining food security and harvests throughout the world. How about the epidemic of police violence in our communities? Maybe I should write about how the entire game of the business climate is a hoax invented by the Koch Brothers, and how pathetic it is that people who know the Koch’s lie about the climate and fund climate deniers around the world, have a hard time believing that they lie about the business climate and try to prevent us from knowing that a state’s business climate has nothing to do with economic growth rates. I can send you the report if you wish. And I could tell you why the whole Idea of building a fracked gas power plant in Burrillville is going to enrich the few, while harming all of us and the climate. Gina Wall St is a real piece of work as she demonstrated again last week in the convention center. So telling that she did not take questions.
But better to write about the marvelous coming together in Rhode island on November 24 in which people all over Rhode Island will find a way to make sure warm clothing that could serve someone in the community gets into the hands of those who need a way to be warmer this winter while creating space in closets that have enough or more than enough in them.
Thank you Pam, Thank you Lauren for continuing this tradition and event while I restore amphibian habitat, make nature videos, remind the RI legislature of their lousy record on the economy and the ecology, write about President Toxic Dump, start to pull together the RI Nature Video Festival for next February, and raise hell, afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted as we travel through this strange new world and feel the quaking beneath our feet and the temperatures rising.
I wrote this very short book after the 2004 elections. Watching the Green Party recently it seems as if what I learned in 2004 might be relevant again these days, so I offer it on theGreenPartyTempest web
Greg Gerritt October 14, 2017
Recently there has been much discussion about the nature of free speech and what it actually means. Here is my interpretation.
Free speech means that the government and the powerful may not suppress or block political statements by anyone. The powerful and the government can not suppress reporting on the news or comments on the issues of the day. No one should be arrested for peaceful protest, government officials shall not arrest people trying to deliver a message. Public spaces shall be freely available for the public to take a stand on the issues.
Free speech only constrains the government and those supporting it. It does not constrain anyone else. Recently there have been outcries because football players used the playing of a song about war to protest police brutality. You may or may not approve, but their actions are completely within the range of PROTECTED free speech activities. You can not arrest someone for refusing to stand for a poem put to the tune of a drinking song. ( A side note, maybe underscoring my understanding of the situation is that a few years ago I visited Fort McHenry and I have seen fully how US government uses the song as propaganda for war).
If President Toxic Dump wants to really put pressure on football players who are sick and tired of Jim Crow and police brutality maybe the best thing is to stop the Pentagon from advertising on football games and stop the military from providing color guards and fly overs. That would be putting his money where his mouth is. And maybe he could use the excuse that it no longer makes sense for the American government to spend tax dollars supporting an industry that is designed to give its participants long term neurological damage often leading to an early death.
Another side of the free speech debate is phenomena of audiences not letting members of the ruling class speak by making lots of noise. First a question. Have you ever seen a musician booed off the stage? I have. The musician in question was probably a fine musician, a well known professional. But when he paused for a breath for the first time after 45 minutes, everyone booed. He had nothing to offer the audience worth having. So we booed. And he left;.
How is that different from booing a police commissioner here to talk about how he racially profiles and locks up kids? You mean to tell me the audience is not allowed to boo? The audience is not allowed to yell when the speaker tells lies? The audience is not allowed to tell the speaker in no uncertain terms that what he is saying is offensive , degrading, disgusting and that the school gave him a microphone was a travesty of justice? The people have a right to free speech, the government does not. The people can never abridge free speech. It is actually impossible. Only the government can do that. Can i arrest the speaker? Can I stop the publication of his book? Can i prevent him from talking to audiences that want to hear what he has to say? If I can not do that, if I can not stop him from delivering his message to all who want to hear it, I am not guilty of being against free speech. But when I boo I practice free speech. And the confusion between what the public does a and what the government does has been ignored in this discussion and totally skews the discussion away from what free speech really is, including what kinds of speech must be protected by the government, or at least not suppressed by the government, and what to call it when an audience works to make sure the speaker understands how disgusting their message is.
There is another facet of this issue that gets conflated with the first two issues. That is when a college or a community decide that allowing an event to go forward will likely lead to violence. No one wants violence over words, though the powerful have been using violence to repress the poor forever (at least 10,000 years). When the oppressed decide that they will stand up when the oppressors come to town occasionally colleges and communities cancel events or deny permits. I am sort of agnostic on this one. Practical steps to prevent a violent outbreak are a good thing. Telling someone they can not speak is offensive. It is going to be a tough call to decide if the event should go forward. I can live with the fact that this is a judgement call that I may disagree with occassionally.
My testimony at the RI Senate Committee hearing on whether or not the state should subsidize the Paw Sox stadium. (well not exactly, I never say it quite like it is written)
Testimony Greg Gerritt September 14 2017
Members of the committee
I am opposed to the State of RI spending taxpayer dollars to build a baseball stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox for a number of reasons, some of which others will speak of today. My task is to point out things I do not think other speakers will focus on.
One consideration is the recent news that RI has a large and growing budget deficit. How do you spend the taxpayer’s money on baseball with a deficit that threatens people’s health and well being? But what I want you to focus on is why is there such a large and growing deficit. One of the reasons is that RI budget estimates always include an economic growth factor that is systematically too large. RI continually takes actions that are intended to spur economic growth, and yet year in and year out RI’s growth rate is 60 to 80% of the national rate. But the rising growth rate is baked into your calculations, meaning that you will regularly expect more revenue than is generated. I have asked a variety of people associated with the state about this and no one has been able to tell me the assumed growth rate. If you are privy to such information, it should be public knowledge as it is a critical policy issue for RI. This is something to ponder for the stadium as we have been told that so much business will happen around the stadium that it will cost us nothing.
It is not just RI, the growth rate is trending down globally, and more and more it is obvious that only a few places have the particular characteristics that allow them to have a few more years of rapid growth, but the characteristics of RI, specifically our limited natural resource base (so no oil or mining boom) our reduced influx of first time urban dwellers coming from the countryside, and a relatively small population, combined with our industrial history, tell us we will never see rapid growth.
Besides relying on policy proclamations from the Koch Brothers to determine RI economic development policy, policies that every serious study has shown do not increase growth rates, and quite often are correlated with economic slowdowns, RI economic development focuses on two things, real estate development and the medical industrial complex. At the best of times the real estate industry fosters a greater inequality in our communities and often creates the displacement of large numbers of lower income people, often people of color, but when things go bad it can crash the economy. Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund point out that subsidizing the rich, especially for real estate investments, is among the least useful things you can do for an economy. Maybe we should pay attention.
New research out of Harvard confirms what I have been saying ever since The Miriam Hospital tried to run over my neighborhood a decade ago, the more you use the medical industrial complex to grow the economy, the more healthcare becomes unaffordable, and the more it squeezes the life out of every other segment of the economy. No time today to finish this thought, but here is a link https://prosperityforri.com/comments-on-the-september-2014-ri-economic-development-draft-plan/ that covers several of the topics in this commentary.
Final point, when the legislature of RI ponders what to do on this, one thing to factor into your equation is your rather undistinguished record on large projects. Others will speak of 38 Studios, but the more relevant one is the idea of building a large container port at Quonset. The legislature as a body was all on board, the Governor was on board, the RI Economic Development Corporation was on board. The people were not on board and in the process demonstrated that the entire leadership of RI had been lead around by the nose by con men. But just ponder how much money the taxpayers of RI would have been on the hook for when the new port facilities were ready to go right as the Great Recession started. We took a bath on 38 Studios. If you had your way that would have seemed like a picnic.
If you really believe that Bread and Circus is so critical, then you are saying the empire is collapsing and we need this to prevent the poor from rioting, you have my sympathies. But if you are doing this for any other reason, it would be a mistake.
These comments were sent to the Atlantic States Fisheries Managment Council as public comments on the Menhaden management plan they will be voting on this fall. I urge eveyone to weigh in and protect menhaden. Greg Gerritt
I went for a walk this morning in one of my favorite places, on the very old path along the Seekonk River at the edge of Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. I have been walking there for 21 years, ever since I moved to Providence. It is called a river, but it is really the ocean the northernmost extension of Narragansett Bay, with a dredged channel for boats heading up to the Pier in Pawtucket, and a wide mudflat on the Providence side of the water. The EP side of the is dominated by the sewage treatment plant and the old landfill. The Providence side is one of the most majestic forests in New England, a mile along the river of steep bluff filled with 170 year old hardwoods. Even cooler is that when the old trees fall down,. They leave them there. I often sit on a log that fell into the water just before I moved here 21 years ago. It is seriously decaying, lost all its branches a decade ago, but the trunk leaning down from the stone wall protecting the path from the high tide except in big storms into the sea will still support me when i sit on it, on dry days. Like today.
The spring after I moved here I saw my first RI osprey from that tree, and I have even seen a small flatfish swim under me once. Later that year I saw my first menhaden and was amazed. For 9 months I had been looking into the water every day as I walked the river and saw little life in it, but come August I saw endless streams of 3 inch fish swimming by, almost rivers of fish. I eventually learned what they were. I also started seeing menhaden in August and September downtown in the Providence, Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers.
I started Friends of the Moshassuck shortly after that, as that little river surely needed friends after its 300+ year industrial history, and i walked by almost every day. Eventually Friends of the Moshassuck developed a video project on urban wildlife in the watershed. The focus is mostly on breeding toads and the restoration of breeding habitat a ways upstream, but come August and September, I walk along Canal Street and the South Water Street waterfront video camera in hand because menhaden continue to fascinate and are the one giant flash of life we see each year in the city. Here is one from early in the 2017 run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMS4WYM-XE8
But I want to return us to the Seekonk waterfront. This morning, 60 degrees, sunny, calm, the tide was in, lapping the stone wall. And walking along the path for the half mile I covered, almost everywhere were very young menhaden. From 1.5 inches to 3 inches, with of course the majority, the great majority, being the smallest size class. A few times I saw menhaden jumping offshore, larger ones from the size of the splashes, which means they are being hunted from below, while below the osprey’s favorite perch there were the quite stinky remnants of adult menhaden all over the place. Between the stinky adults, the jumpers off shore, and the rivers of tiny ones next to the wall, I could only think of what else happens in menhaden season along the Seekonk. The Osprey have a nest on a platform at the Bucklin Point sewage treatment plant. This year for the second straight, they seem to have 3 youngsters as I occasionally catch glimpses of 5 hunting at one time. All summer we have been seeing one or two, but come August, when the flow of menhaden is at its peak, its time to fledge the Osprey babies, and teach them to hunt. And menhaden is what they learn on, in numbers that even a beginning hunter can make a living on.
But is is not just the Osprey,. The Cormorants are seen all year round, but this time of year they are found in flotillas. Blue Heron numbers multiply, and one never sees Egrets except at this time. Kingfishers are darting everywhere. And even the gulls were fishing. Gulls are not really designed to hunt mobile prey like menhaden, they scavenge and pick up stranded crabs. But this time of year you see gulls sitting on the water trying to catch little fish in the water. I have never seen a gull catch a fish, but clearly it must be a worthwhile source of food as the behavior persists, and one can only think that it works because it is directed at a prey so numerous that even a clumsy gull can catch its fill from prey that floats just below the surface eating plankton.
It was the eating plankton that drew me to an analogy. I went to Yellowstone a few years ago, and there is one place in Yellowstone in which it is easy to see bison, the Madison River Valley. You look over the valley and there are bison everywhere. Bison need to drink pretty regularly, so they need to stay close enough to rivers that they can get to water most days. And then you realize that at one time, 200 years ago, there were herds of bison along almost every river in the grasslands of North America. And now there is one river valley that has a free ranging herd (of course they get shot if they go out of the park) and you remember what we have lost when you see what we still have.
Menhaden are the keystone species of the coastal estuaries in eastern North America. Osprey have returned since we stopped using DDT, but their continued recovery depends very much on menhaden. Eagles eat many as well, and the return of Bald Eagles to Rhode Island is an ongoing wonder. 3 kinds of herons, egrets, and kingfishers all rely upon menhaden to build up a little fat before the hard times of winter. Seals have returned to Rhode Island, Stripped bass and Bluefish make fishermen very happy, and all depend upon the huge schools of menhaden. One way you know this is true is because the schools of little ones always vastly outnumber the schools of big ones. So many die to keep the circle of life flowing.
Straying a bit from the bison analogy, we can not afford to have menhaden in just a few places, and even more than bison, menhaden need the whole sea to do their work, to be food for all things great and small. No park could contain a school. So what we have to do is protect the entire species, make sure that when people take some for our needs, that we leave enough for everything else. That we manage menhaden based on ecosystems needs, not human greed. So I strongly urge you to support menhaden management based on leaving enough in the sea for the circle of life to flow abundantly along our coasts, that we base our management on ecosystems not on a species by species basis, and remember how much of the ecosystem menhaden support and what that means to our communities.
Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck
I think we are all saddened and upset about what is happening in Houston. The worst rainstorm in US history. Houston will be years in recovery and we can only hope that the numbers of people who died in the floods remains fairly small. But I am also thinking about how the ruling class in Houston brought this disaster to their city. And what needs to happen if the proper lessons will be learned. Some folks say wait until the disaster relief is over, But I think it important to call out the culprits now. Otherwise we shall forget to do it and they will slide by and kill again.
I went to Houston for a convention last summer. At the University of Houston. It was 98 and humid with a blazing sun every day. Even at night it was hot. But I needed to walk and found the local bayou. It was about 4 blocks south of the university and this particular section was a designated greenway. It was a steep sided concrete waterway with large drain pipes leading from the community to the bayou. Those walls were about 15 feet high above the water level. I do not know how deep they were as i could not see the bottom in the center. In one place there was a ramp leading down to the water, mostly for maintenance and emergency vehicles. Above the concrete V there was a narrow grass strip then a 10 foot high vegetated bank. On top of this was a walking path, then the streets and a neighborhood. On the side of the bayou I was on the neighborhood was flat, like most of Houston. The reason I kept coming back to the bayou was the school of Alligator Gar in it. Alligator Gar are an ancient (like 300 million years old) fish lineage. They are up to 4 feet long and have a strange bill that reminds one of a small alligator snout. They are intensely cool. Since I was hanging out at the bayou I looked pretty clearly at the infrastructure, stormwater systems being part of my practice for a very long time. And I think about habitat, seeing as I am attempting to restructure a rainwater fed system in Providence so that it better supports breeding toads.
Early one morning I talked to an elderly woman walking her dog on the walking path. Native of east Texas, but not that neighborhood, though she had lived in the apartment facing the bayou for a number of years. Houston has been hit by big floods in the last few years and she noted that the last biggest one came almost to the doorsteps of the buildings on her street facing the bayou. I am guessing that the whole neighborhood is under water this time. All the way to the tracks of Houston’s new trolley system.
I saw today that environmental justice neighborhoods/ communities of color near Houston’s refineries (and waterways) are breathing lots of really bad chemicals that were released in the hasty shutdowns of the plants. The Houston Ship Canal has a HUGE collection of refineries and petrochemical plants, probably the greatest concentration of such plants in the world. Who knows what has gone into the water and if any pipelines have broken. If any place in the world other than Saudi Arabia is the home of the Oil and Gas based business, industry, and commerce, it is Houston. Houston would be a way too hot and humid small town if Texas did not have Oil and Gas. And Oil and Gas interests run Texas. And climate deniers inhabit the board rooms and political theaters of Texas. In other words the ruling class in Texas and Houston has brought his disaster onto the city, by the policies they demand as climate deniers and polluters, and the commerce in the petroleum that they profitably send around the country to go up in smoke. I know I should not say it, but the ruling class of Houston should be prosecuted for crimes against the Earth, and crimes against Humanity as well as vandalism. Exxon, its corporate cohort,and all the executives of oil related industries should pay to rebuild the city.
It is going to take billions of dollars to rebuild Houston, but maybe they should not. It is an incredibly flood prone place, after all most of the city sits on drained and channelized floodplains that drain very slowly due to the clay it is all made of. As the climate deteriorates, the sea rises, and the floods get bigger, Houston is more and more vulnerable. And the infrastructure will never be built big enough to handle what they will face. Maybe they need to move to higher ground? And give up the oil industry., as we can no longer afford to have an oil and gas industry anywhere on the planet if civilization is to survive the next 100 years.
Instead of reinvading Afghanistan, we should allocate all the money we would spend there and all the other places the empire is trying to control the oil supply, along with all the money we confiscate from the oil and gas industries and their executives, and rebuild Houston and rehouse all of its people, in buildings that use zero fossil fuels on higher ground. While completely shutting down industries that contribute to carbon pollution and climate change. At the same time every Texan should vote all the climate deniers out of office. If they will not, they now know exactly what the consequences of their actions are and should understand we may be unable to rebuild them again as so many other places will be facing these disasters as well.
To the editor,
I appreciated the MAGAnomics article in the Sunday July 16 Journal business section. It was a reminder to all Americans, especially those involved in the economic development industry, that growth will be slow, and that all of the gyrations that politicians offer in the name of the business climate (which is exactly what President Trump bases his economic ideas on) have essentially a zero effect on economic growth rates. Deregulation and low taxes do not improve economic growth rates. And all of the data backs that up. President Trump has clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding of the global situation we find ourselves in, and has yet to tell the truth about the economy. Interestingly the entire political leadership of Rhode Island buys into the same ideology offered by Trump, which has failed to deliver for 50 years, and still think it true. And when questioned about it,they babble on. It is long past time when the political leadership of the United States and Rhode Island started telling the truth about the long term downward trends in growth across the entire planet, how little business climates actually matter, and how to create prosperous communities under the circumstances we find ourselves in. It sure would help when the legislature puts together the budget.
Healthcare jobs are no way to improve the economy. Greg Gerritt 4/25/17
For many years I have been pointing out that growing the healthcare economy makes it impossible to keep health care affordable, and that this dilemma makes the RI economic development strategy unlikely to work, seeing as it seems to be based on building new buildings for healthcare businesses. I have copied one snippet of an essay from 2012 in which I make that point.
Many healthcare professionals have agreed with my analysis, though the economic development crew seems to be immune to my consultations. In the Sunday April 22 2017 New York Times there is an op-ed by Chad Terhune (link below) that makes exactly the same points. He quotes Katherine Baicker, a Harvard University Health Economist
“The goal of increasing jobs in health care is incompatible with the goal of keeping health care affordable:”
Terhune discusses this issue in the context of the efforts to replace Obamacare and how cutting money out of the system will lead to job losses in the industry, and the fact that many Rust Belt cities (like Providence) have used the growth of the medical industrial complex to replace the manufacturing jobs that slipped away.
Terhune sticks to his main points, while my analysis is much wider, but essentially Terhune concludes we have ourselves a wicked problem. We can not afford healthcare as currently configured and paid for in the USA, but if we cut the money out of the system (as President Toxic Dump is threatening to do) the economic dislocations will be massive. And the health of our nation will suffer, especially lower income people.
I always think that if you want to solve a problem, the first thing to do is stop digging the hole you find yourself in. This means that the first thing to do is stop trying to use the health care system to create more jobs. Stop offering cheap land and tax breaks to the medical industry. I offer the snippet below to point out how long I have been reminding Rhode Islanders of the stupidity of our economic devleopment scammers, and i want to0 say I am glad the mainstream is catching up, though I doubt the folks on Smith Hill will get a clue soon.
August 30 2012
The medical industrial complex
One of the industries Rhode Island is always encouraged to pursue is the medical industrial complex. This is one of the bulwarks of the knowledge economy, but a closer examination gives us many reasons to be cautious about using the medical industrial complex as the engine of economic growth. Over the last 50 years health care has become the largest component of our economy, now responsible for 18% of the total national income. Medical costs have now become the largest cause of bankruptcy other than the housing bubble. Thousands of Americans seek bankruptcy protection each year due to the burden of health care costs, with the number growing every year. This even effects people with insurance, as often their insurance is inadequate once they actually get sick, or by virtue of being unable to work they lose their health care coverage.
Part of how Rhode Island will eventually dig out from the burden of health care costs is with single payer health care. Many refer to this as medicare for all. While i support single payer, very strongly support single payer, that alone will not solve the health care cost crisis. If we continue on our current health care industry path, even with a single payer system, costs will continue to go up two to three times as fast as costs in the rest of the economy, funneling ever more money into the medical industrial complex and causing other sectors of the community to fail due to disinvestment. There are more than a few people who want to do business in RI or start new businesses who have been stymied because of the cost of medical care and insurance.
Beyond single payer and the removal of the insurance companies from the health care field we need to do several things to stop the outrageous run away costs. One aspect of this is prevention. As long as our lifestyles and environment continue to be more toxic, people will demand high tech quick fixes to the problems our industrial civilization causes like asthma, heart disease, and cancer. While magic bullets would be nice, the pursuit of magic bullets is a chimera. Magic bullets are very expensive, which makes them much less magical for the poor, and often just perpetuate the problems rather than addressing the root causes. While we do not directly pay for all of the research that creates drugs and procedures, ultimately every penny paying the high salaries (the reason the economic development community wants these jobs here) of the people doing health care research comes out of the pockets of the public, either through governmental support of basic research, or in the cost of the procedures and drugs we use. It is fabulous that we can cure people and save lives that a generation ago would have been lost, but because of the cost of this care a few get rich providing the research and the care, while more and more people enter debt and bankruptcy. It is more of a drain on our communities than a boon, a hallucination of prosperity.
The American public may or may not be willing to shoulder the cost of the modern medical miracle. We also know it is nearly impossible to deny folks treatments that can save lives no matter what the price. But ultimately a lower tech approach, based on prevention (clean environment, healthy food, less stress economy) will return the resources to the communities of Rhode Island, rather than siphoning into the hands of the 1% the way the current system does, and no longer deny folks timely health care.
An example of how far from prevention we have drifted can be found in this comparison. 60 years ago Americans spent 15% of their income on food and 5% on healthcare. Now we spend about 13% of our income on food (the 2nd lowest percentage in the world) and over 18% on health care (the highest percentage in the world). A good year is one in which health care costs do not rise 8%. The industrialization of our food supply means that we have more obesity, more heart disease, more diabetes,. The phony trade off is that we can cure more of the cancers that the industrialized food system creates, and we have elaborate procedures that can prolong the life of the very ill for a month or two. This trade off in the costs of health care and food has less of an effect on average life spans than basic public health expenditures like sewage treatment plants. It also leads to a bankruptcy and governmental budget crisis, blocks 50 million Americans from basic care, and gives us the industrial world’s worst health care delivery system. I am not sure an expansion of the medical industrial complex is going to help RI attain prosperity.
Greg gerritt 4/14/2017
The headlines the other morning were that President Toxic Dump is starting to do big flip flops now that he is President. From buddies with Putin to strong foes, from cracking down on China to cozying up, from staying out of Syria to bombs and boots on the ground amid aircraft carriers going to North Korea. Wall, No Wall and dismantling health care before or after tax deform. Putting the Nazi sympathizer Steve Bannon on the NSC, then taking him off.
The whole sordid affair points out the incompetence of President Toxic Dump and the cluelessness he brings to the office, But even more it shows that an unprincipled outsider can be captured by the Washington DC swamp even as he claims to be draining it. Just about every position and action Toxic Dump has flipped or flopped to is the exact same position that the last few presidents have ended up at. On some level one might think, ah, he is getting a clue, but the reality is that the policies all of the presidents have subscribed to over the last 30 years have been an unmitigated disaster for everyone in the US and for everyone on the planet, except the 1%. So as totally expected, President Toxic Dump’s true colors are a party for the 1% and pissing on everyone else. He has joined the establishment, and the easiest way to tell is that as soon as things go wrong, he starts dropping bombs on those he declares an enemy of people or whatever else he wants to call them, though the usual name is people fighting to protect their communities from the craziness of the American War Machine.
General Eisenhower, upon retiring from the White House, warned us about demagogues like President Toxic Dump, but we all know that demagoguery wins in troubled times. The 1% have so thoroughly looted America that the hard times and insecurity have left people looking for a demagogues to make them feel good. And demagogues kill people. Especially demagogues with a huge and totally out of control, military machine that is designed primarily to stuff huge wads of cash into a very few well placed hands, while undermining democracy and convincing governments around the world to buy more guns and use them on people who demand justice and healthy communities.
I tend to use the term Potomac Fever to describe the feeling in Washington DC that American governments are free to kill everyone around the world with impunity and disregard all normal international standards of conduct, in other words it is the only disease that only kills those who do not have it. I have a friend who tells me my definition is wrong, but we clearly need a shorthand way to describe the feeling that Americans are allowed to kill for world domination while pretending we are a peaceful democracy loving country that really honors the words on the statute of Liberty. One pretty much has to go to Washington DC to find people truly committed to such a stupid idea, an idea no normal human being would call sane or in tune with the values American claims to support.
Toxic Dump’s flip flops show that within 3 months what little attention span the orange haired blowhard has is now going to be directed to killing for the next 4 years to cover up the inability to achieve either peace or prosperity, and the damage his administration will do globally on the issues of climate. The Chamber of Commerce is celebrating , they have a president who will let them steal anything. But no one else in America asked for an administration that would so readily deny facts and prepare the way for poisoning your kids. And use bombing runs to cover up the bad headlines just like every other president.
Yup, President Toxic Dump has flip flopped. As expected he lasted a couple of months as an outsider, though one with no clue, and now has found his way to the levers that will be used just like all the other insiders, to the ever lasting detriment of life on earth.
I wonder where China thinks it will get the wood to build this new city. Or rather what south east Asian country will allow the Chinese to buy forest concessions and throw the original inhabitants off the land to end up in shanty towns or dead? As the forests of Asia (and everywhere else) disappear, this urge to build cities to spur growth will be come a less and less useful model. I know, we do not build wooden buildings in big cities. But today I walked by a typical urban downtown construction site, and while i do not believe a stick of wood has yet been incorporated into the actual building, there are vast quantities of wood being used on the site. You can not build cities without vast quantities of wood. Nor provide all the paper. And the loss of forests is making wood harder to come by, more expensive, and more valuable standing alive in the forest than cut down.
Ironically, according to the World Bank leaving the forest in the care of the original inhabitants instead of selling off concessions creates stronger local economies and generates more tax revenues for the various levels of government than do the concessions. And it is much less dangerous for the planet as intact forests are critical for moderating the climate., providing clean water, and maintaining biodiversity.
China, and every other place on the planet with rural migrants expanding the cities, is going to build cities as long as it thinks it can, but the slowdown in growth in China is already suggesting it is bumping up against ecological limits, and not only that they can not breathe the air. And this time it is not only in the neighborhood, it is global. The loss of forests is telling us we need a new approach to economic development.
We live in an age of alternative facts and destructive doctrines based on outright lies. This is not the first time Western Civilization has come face to face with its ugly side. The Dark Ages of Medieval Europe was filled with millennial cults, and very little knowledge. Powerful institutions decided what was true, the facts be damned. The soil, economy, and public health deteriorated.
But we broke out of it. Sort of anyways. Eventually everyone had to admit the Earth went around the Sun and so did planets like Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. Stars were distant, and we now know them to be in some ways similar to The Sun. And they too have planets.
The Enlightenment in a few ways, for a few people, pushed back the darkness and reminded us of the power and importance of actual observations beyond dogma. Galileo pointing a telescope at the sky and reporting exactly what he saw, Newton doing the math of gravity, the users of microscopes seeing one celled creatures in the water and learning how a few of them cause diseases, created a factual basis for knowledge and then knowledge became something that we could use to create better communities. It meant you could actually stop a cholera outbreak and save thousands of lives today, and build functional sewage treatment plants so outbreaks do not happen in the future.
I March for Science because the current mania for alternative facts creates a real risk to the public health, and to the health of the planet that we depend upon for our daily bread. We must have clean water, clean air, a climate safe economy, healthy food if we are to thrive. It is just that simple. And Science, Truth, the public health are under attack from the forces that have done this before. The denying of evolution and climate change, or that smoking cigarettes causes cancer, the use of alternative facts, is being used by ideologues in high office to promulgate policy positions that threaten modern civilization based on their apocalyptic and market oriented fantasies. It is only by demanding that we go back to a truth based system, a system based on accurately studying and measuring what is happening in human beings, in our communities, on our planet, and in the Universe, that we can design real solutions for real problems like climate change and the scourge of war rather than phony problems like how like how the election was rigged by illegal immigrants and they are stealing all the jobs.
The United States, like every industrialized nation, has supported science and reaped massive benefits in proportion to that support. Research and development is responsible for the wonders of the modern world as well as many of its worst horrors like nuclear weapons. But it is only a closed minded few that think it makes sense to cut off the flow of new information about how the world works or to stop using the knowledge we already have. That those who wish to live in a fact free universe rule our nation today, and have made clear that they want to make the world safe for poisoning again, tells me how important science is to the proper functioning of our communities. So we March for Science.
I have been conducting a several year study of a population of amphibians in an urban cemetery. The pond they use for breeding is filling in. Amphibians are a global canary in the coal mine disappearing faster than any other group animals on the planet, and this pond, silting in from inappropriate land management practices that could easily be remedied if facts ruled, and threatened by climate change, needs a little restoration. To do this I have to demonstrate that I understand how the system currently operates, and how my modifications to the system will improve the health of the amphibian populations. I wish the process were easier to navigate, but I am also very happy that a fact based system based on real wetland biology, governs what I can do to a little rainwater pool. And that same real world understanding ought to govern every land use decision being made. But that real world understanding is exactly what the government is about to kick to the curb so that looting the planet can be faster as the world gets hotter and our communities less secure. So I March for Science.
Toxic economics Greg Gerritt March 31 2017
President Toxic Dump has decided that the best way to stimulate the American economy is to open the spigots and poison your neighborhood and the planet. President Toxic Dump is a true believer that eliminating regulations on banks and all polluting industries is the way to get the GDP growth rate up to 4% a year and make the good times roll. President Toxic Dump is a narcissistic pathological liar, and every economist on the planet will tell you 4% a year GDP growth in the USA is NOT happening.
The President has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to learn and an unwillingness to face facts. That is why it is so easy for him to buy into the Great American Myth of the efficacy of the business climate. Every intellectually honest and professional study of how business climates affect growth rates has shown that the effect is vanishingly small, so small as to be unnoticeable by the public. And yet the well heeled forces that prepared the ground for the Toxic Dump Presidency, the Koch Brothers and their ilk, and the think tanks they fund like the criminally insane Heritage Foundation, have pushed the myth that cutting taxes and regulations will speed up growth. I have written about this many a time, so today i want to just list a few reasons why President Toxic Dump, and all the other lying politicians promising growth if we stop helping the poor, cleaning the environment, protecting endangered species, working to stop climate change, and preventing corporate fraud and crime are just plain wrong. And they have the totally wrong prescription about what to do to create prosperity in our communities. Every assumption in their economic planning is based on some other planet than Earth.
Global GDP growth has been trending down for a number of years. Last year it was 3.4%. This year it is predicted to be 3.1%. That means that many many places will have growth rates below 3.1%. Old industrial places like Rhode Island and much of Western Europe have a hard time getting much above 2/3 of the global average. The USA has had GDP growth of between 2.2 and 2.4% for 8 years running, the slowest bounce back form a recession in our history., and likely permanent.
A number of authors have tackled the issue of the long term trend of slowdown in the GDP growth rate recently. One suggests a slowdown in productivity because all the really amazing stuff that increased productivity and employment together are already in use and that new innovations are not as earth shattering commercially. Another suggests energy issues will permanently slow growth. Another wants us to understand how the disappearance of forests affects economies and others talk about the importance of immigrants from rural areas to cities as a factor driving growth. I tend to think you will never find the one silver bullet, but that these factors are all connected and its all of the above and then some as to why growth is not coming back
Lets just face the reality, growth is essentially dead in the industrialized west and it will play almost no role in the lives of most people in my community, or rather it is likely to make their lives harder. The exception are the owners of capital who continue to amass capital and a pretend we have a growing GDP even as communities crumble.
Even within this slow growth environment there are going to be be places experiencing rapid GDP growth. Places with mineral or energy booms will see short term boom/bust growth followed by a crash. North Dakota had 15% growth in one year during the fracking boom, but it went bust pretty fast and left North Dakota scarred. The other environment for rapid growth is cities being flooded by rural migrants entering urbanity for the first time. No other places will experience rapid growth. In a 3.1% growth world, old industrial places are going to see economic retraction, of necessity, in order for the hungry places of the planet to experience the growth that will provide enough to eat for everyone. If Rhode Island and places like it are growing 4% a year you can be sure famine is gripping large swaths of the world.
Here is a short list with a short statement of the issues and some of the implications.
For the USA, anything cutting off the flow of migration from Africa, Asia, and Latin America is a sure fire way to slow the economy despite the rhetoric. These are the new people keeping the population growth rate and the GDP growth rate up in American cities. American communities tend to complain when population drops, it usually means that the economy has changed and the world has passed it by. But what we need to think of is smaller cites can be much more self reliant and less growth oriented while maintaining prosperity. Turning vacant land into food and greening the city can go along way if we let it.
The formula for growth is especially dependent upon the urbanization of rural populations as they are displaced from the land. The cities then become places of vibrant growth as more people generates more commerce. China is building cities rapidly, but even in China the growth rate has come down from 10% a year to 6%. Already more than half of China lives in cities, so the rate of urban population growth is slowing, along with the economic growth rate. India is behind the curve from China, but is also one of the rapidly growing places with a huge population of rural dwellers being forced into shanty towns.
To supply and provision the growth of cities necessary to keep the GDP growth rates up one must have wood. Cities immediately devastate the forest where they occur, and to keep growing must import wood (try building buildings without wood) (or supplying a city with paper). China’s forest disappeared long ago, so to fuel its boom it has taken the forests of Southeast Asia. China did not actually conquer these countries, the traditional way of stealing forests. But the forest concession business that feeds the Chinese demand for wood, has deforested much of Southeast Asia, with devastating ecological consequences, displacing millions of people, and increased the likelihood of climate, fire, and flooding disasters. And putting a long term damper on growth as finding new forests to turn into cities is getting harder to do. Well over 50% of the global forest is gone and the global forest will not stand up to urbanizing the next 5 billion people.
It is not just wood and forests. Soils, fish in the sea, biodiversity, clean water. Everything is deteriorating with 90% of the large fish gone, 50% of wildlife gone in the last 50 years. We use up all of the biologically available resources on the planet each year by August 8. That means we are depleting ecosystems at at least 1% a year. We deplete capital and call it income.
The rate of Energy Returned On Energy Invested for is dropping. Extreme energy like fracking and deep water drilling requires more energy to extract the oil and gas. It is estimated that when the EROEI ratio drops below 10 to 1 growth stops. It is getting close.
Clean energy is already responsible for more jobs than coal and oil and gas can be produced with fewer and fewer workers. There is no way President Toxic Dump will see more coal mining jobs. And climate change will be a disaster if we do not mitigate it and build resilience into our communities rather than continuing to make the problem worse by drilling, mining, and burning more.
By an honest or full cost accounting growth in most communities in the western world is already near zero or negative. Increasing the amount of harm does stimulate GDP as fixing disasters and treating cancers is expensive. But is this really adding to GDP in any way that improves lives? Is this really growth when just fixing problems that were created by the demand for growth?
In the low growth economy that we find ourselves in the eliminating regulations and taxes is an ineffective tools for speeding up growth.
The Heritage Foundation/Koch Brothers/Gina Raimondo/Nicholas Mattiello/President Toxic Dump./Chamber of Commerce model of the economy, neoliberalism in some circles, is designed for conditions that do not exist and is based on models that are unproven but simply match the ideology of the oil and real estate industries, not the actual conditions of our communities.
Subsidizing the rich has proven an ineffective way to do anything except make rich people richer. Even the World Bank has figured it out, why not American politicians? Tax breaks for millionaires has no demonstrated positive effect on low income communities and usually results in communities getting poorer. How can anyone tout growth in which 90% of the people get poorer?
Currently nearly all “economic development planning” is done around real estate. But the real estate industry is broken. Clearly the models do not work. Or rather the system is rigged so that it can be manipulated by the powerful to line their pockets when nothing else works fast enough. When cities give real estate tax breaks so wealthy people will build new buildings downtown, who really benefits? It is the people owning commercial property who benefit. No one else. And if the industry can not function without tax breaks it needs a totally new model or those “capitalists” should start calling themselves socialists. The jobs created in these new buildings are accessible to only a small segment of the population, rarely the people being impacted by the construction/reconstruction, and it serves to raise rents driving people ever further from housing security if they do not get a job in a gazelle industry. And with robots taking more and more jobs we need to rethink work and livelihoods to keep our communities functioning.
The Heritage Foundation model is based on making the rich (their donors) and only the rich, richer. The result of these policies is growing inequality, and growing inequality harms economies and slows their growth. As Piketty and others point out, it is not just wages, it is assets that determine the fate of economies. Our inequality in wages is overwhelmed by our inequality in assets. The outcome will be bad.
Environmental regulations have had a very large positive effect on the economy of the USA. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have generated at least 10 times and maybe 40 times as much in revenue for businesses as they cost in compliance. Regulations have also stimulated innovation creating not only value but new industries. Then add in tourism and fishing, and despite having a few places that were dependent upon some polluting behemoth that is no longer operational (usually because it was too old or depleted to keep running) having hard times, the overall effects of healthier environments and ecosystems is greater prosperity. Communities with greater biodiversity are just plain healthier and more prosperous. There is no intellectually honest study that has found environmental regulations and protections hurt economies. NONE. And since cities are where new value is created and cities in the western world grow based on attracting talent with their qualities of life, the entire attack on environmental protections is likely to have a boomerang effect, destroying much more than it enhances. Especially with Climate Change a factor. Clean water is good for the economy. Losing your beaches to sea level rise is NOT.
Past technological advances have increased employment in urban areas tremendously. But the new innovations seem to be destroying jobs faster than they are being created in many industries., At least some authors believe that the life and economy changing/growing innovations such as telephone, automobile, airplanes, computers, will not be duplicated. New innovations are likely to reduce employment and unlikely to change the nature of our civilization in fundamental ways. This means less growth in productivity, and therefore GDP over time.
We are constantly bombarded with the need to invest in biotech. Unfortunately the model of innovation in the drug industry and the medical industrial complex is completely broken. It is designed to satisfy the investors, not help people be healthy. It gives us the most expensive and least effective healthcare system on the planet. The one part of this that escapes scrutiny is that using the healthcare industry to grow the economy as they are trying to do in Rhode Island is a sure fire way to make health care in your community unaffordable. And subsidizing the growth of the industry with tax dollars is adding insult to injury for all the people who went bust when they had a medical emergency.
The military industrial complex is the money hole of all money holes. Trillions of dollars down the rat hole. And all along making the world less safe, it is making it less safe for democracy, especially in the USA. The tendency of those in the DC Swamp to want to kill people around the world who do not like American imperialism is a staggeringly stupid approach to the world and a huge drain on finances. We would be safer if we gave up being the bully, and we could save billions of dollars and employ millions of additional workers with that money while shrinking government spending by reducing the size of the military to that appropriate for protecting us at home and international peace keeping. Lets use some of the money to rebuild our infrastructure and communities and move to a carbon free economy. War is the biggest source of the government debt. Debt could also be tackled by allowing the government to build infrastructure by spending money into the economy at a reasonable rate instead of borrowing it from the banks. The current system is guaranteed to create frequent bubbles and crashes, which only work to the advantage of the looting class.
I could go on and on. But I leave you with this. The basic assumptions of what the economy will do and who it will work for no longer work in the 21st Century. The so last century neoliberalism with a twist is based on lies and is failing. On a highly populated, resource depleted, climate crazy planet the situation demands a different approach to economic development. Polluting industries, building in wetlands, allowing more corporate raids on the public trust and pocketbook, and starting imperial wars around the world is not gong to bring prosperity to our communities. You will not see a noticeable improvement in the economic prospects of our communities, at least not if you use the index of the number of people standing on corners with signs asking for help on North Main St index with the Toxic Dump and Heritage Foundation models. . Unless President Toxic Dump reduces that index (and not by locking up the poor) he will have done nothing except cause damage to our home planet, many of his own voters, and the rest of us, so we have to keep him tied up. Of course he will help us keep him tied up by hiring those as incapable of learning as himself. Trump’s economic plans will fail, he will blame others, but his failure will be based on his complete unwillingness to look at the facts and act appropriately.
Saving the planet, the steady state imperative.
We live in an age in which economic growth, the yearly growth of the Gross Domestic Product, seems to be the dominant value of the political elites all over the world. All policy is directed towards speeding the rate of growth. And yet the growth rate languishes and falls.
The obsession with economic growth by the wealthy and misguided, is probably one of the most damaging public policy coups ever foisted on human beings. The policies developed to “grow” the economy as defined by neoliberalism, have been responsible for tremendous damage to planetary ecosystems and our communities. The only way to get away with tearing up ecosystems for profit is to disempower the people who already live there. The only way to build a pipeline across Native lands is with water cannons. And if that does not work, live bullets.
Many years ago I started calling the work I was doing seeking “Prosperity”, contrasting it with growth. Since then the literature has exploded.
Robert Gordon is among the authors suggesting that the rate of growth has slowed because the technology that gave us the boost in growth rates revolutionized the world, and new technologies are unlikely to do the same, especially when robots take over more and more functions and more and more folks are unemployed. Emmanuel Wallerstein in his work on World Systems suggests that growth is concentrated in cities experiencing rapid immigration from the countryside, and growing cities are dependent upon rapidly consuming forests, and therefore we need to pay attention to the state of the forest when we think about growth rates. Thomas Piketty pointed out that growing inequality slows growth rates as well, and you can not get much more unequal that 8 people having as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, which was recently reported. More and more the meme is that using extreme fossil fuel energy sources means that the energy returned for energy invested is falling, and is slowly reaching the point where fossil fuel use can not support the industrial economy we have created. Take your pick, or try to integrate the entire system to understand it better, but do not count on growth to solve your problems. Just as a reference point, the global growth rate is predicted to be close to the 3.4% seen over the last few years, while the US rate, about 2.4% in recent years, is expected to drop to 1.9% over the next few years according to the Federal Reserve. The US does not meet Wallerstein’s criteria for rapid growth, rapid immigration from the countryside and exploiting previously uncut forests, and therefore has to be expected to be growing much more slowly than the global average propped up by China and India. Old industrial places like New England will be growing even more slowly. And all of the benefits are going to 5% of the population while everyone else gets poorer.
If growth is not helping, and is actually harming our communities, we have to replace it with a different overarching principle as well as specific policies.
A contrast with the growth mentality is seeking a “steady state” , though that has to be taken as short hand for a dynamic equilibrium rooted in natural systems and rhythms. On a healthy planet, you just keep doing what you are doing, but on a severely damaged planet, like the Earth, restoration is needed. In a steady state economy each year the health of the system has to improve so that people can actually get what they need.
A steady state economy is therefore one in which human consumption is less than the system has readily available so that the systems can build resilience for long term health. Agriculture must build soil, the creation of forest products is done in the context of repairing and restoring forests (over half the global forest is gone, and along with it a big buffer on the climate) . Growing inequality is not a steady state, it is a death spiral.
You may have heard of Overshoot Day. This is the day when all of the Earth’s biological productivity for the year, has been appropriated by humans for their needs. In a steady state world there would be no overshoot day. Biological resources would be undiminished from year to year. With Overshoot Day in 2016 on August 8, it means that we are using the biological resources of 1.6 Earth’s. With the obvious result of a diminishment of the biological capacity of the earth by about 1% each year. So the first thing to do to achieve a steady state is reduce human intake by about 40%. Since there are many people on the planet in absolute poverty, clearly there are many people who’s consumption of resources needs to go up. Which means that for the industrialized world consumption on average must go down quite a bit if we do not want to destroy the planet’s capacity to support humans.
We ask more of the planet each year. Less than 50% of the global forest remains, 90% of the large fish are gone from the sea, and in 50 years the number of wild animals has been reduced by at least 50%. The flip side is ever more and ever larger deadzones in the oceans often caused by runoff from inappropriate agricultural systems brought into being to feed 7 billion people. it is going to be harder and harder to feed 9 billion if the soil is in the bottom of the sea and the nutrient overloads are reducing marine life. A steady state means keeping your soils on the farm. And enlivening them.
Maybe you get the picture, but in some ways it is an alien concept in modern America. We live under the concept of grow or die. The fact that what we are doing requires us to kill millions of people and destroy huge swaths of the earth is irrelevant. We can grow forever. There is always more. The next mall, which will burn itself out even faster than the last one, is the newest, biggest, most expensive ever. We have 12 Aircraft Carriers and no one else on the planet has more than 2. I sometimes despair of being able to turn the ship and resort to black humor.
A steady state economy is one in which healing ecosystems and economic justice are defining characteristics. Damaged ecosystems impair our ability to make a livelihood and therefore any economy that is not healing the ecosystems we depend upon is not holding steady and will see increasing food insecurity. An economy in which a significant proportion of the population is getting poorer can also not be considered to be in a steady state, and is a lie to consider it a growing economy. It is simply one in which the looters tell us the numbers and facts do not matter. We can not simply slow the rate of destruction and expect it to be sustainable or able to support a steady state.
Wind power and solar power are catching up to and replacing fossil fuels, though only a few are willing to acknowledge that in the long run we have to use a lot less energy and stuff to avoid paving the whole planet. Organic agriculture is growing much faster than conventional agriculture all over the world. I remember when it was hard to find a farmers market, now every town and city in Rhode island has at least one per week in the warmer seasons and food incubators are sprouting up, though in a steady state economy how many gourmet doggie treat stores can we support?
Can the health care industrial complex survive in a steady state economy? Can we have healthier people while spending less, and spending what the society can actually afford while still advancing knowledge? I think the answer is that we can sustainably have healthy communities. But as long as the political class tries to use health care as a growth industry, as a part of the efforts to grow the economy and attract millennials to their communities, we shall never have affordable healthcare for all nor an economy that works for the 99%.
An important consideration in a steady state economy is the difference between biologically renewable resources and non renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels. You can roughly determine how much of the biological productivity of the planet humans can consume each year while simultaneously healing the biological systems upon which we depend. In other words we can measure that there are more hectares of real forest, the soil is healthier and full of life, and there are more fish in the ocean each year. That kind of stuff, maybe matched with reduced flooding, increased resilience in agriculture, less CO2 in the atmosphere and the like. For mineral resources there is no amount of consumption that is sustainable. No matter how little humans use, there will be less each year. But what we can do is reduce the throughput to the point where the deposits available will last a really long time, recycle ferociously, spread the economic benefits of usage widely amongst the people, and be sure the planetary sinks can easily absorb the pollution without overloading. In regards to a steady state economy and mineral resources, we might have to look at shrinking consumption gently each year while seeking a mining/extraction industry that has no fossil fuel emissions, does not disturb communities, never harms waterbodies, and cleans up all of its pollution.
Why we should embrace a Steady State Economy may be the hardest question. Anything less than a total devotion to economic growth is unAmerican. Even if it no longer works for most of our communities the dream dies hard especially among the ruling class. No one ever got elected saying they would shrink the economy. But the world has changed, and what we need to do to survive has changed. The squandering, the excessiveness, the inequality, and the violence are leading us off the cliff, but those who benefit from those conditions still have power. But striving for a steady state is a very powerful tool if we want to restore democracy and heal the climate and ecosystems we need to survive and thrive.
Most of the people in the US already live in a no growth environment, the average worker is making less than they did 20 years ago even as fortunes of the 1% have soared. Moving to a steady state economy is going to be easier than imagined. If over 90% of the growth in income is going to 1% of the population, and a bit going to the next 9% in the income scale, clearly most of the 90% has to be getting poorer for it to all add up, and therefore it ought to be very little hardship for most people when we shift to a steady state economy.
So lets go back to forests
No one, no community, has ever given away their forest. Until the empires of the ancient world,10,000 years in a homo sapiens history of 200,000, the most valuable things on earth were forests, and even now forests have incredible value for the people who live in them, it is just that those running empires did not realize how valuable they were since they could simply steal them, and they did. Until there were empires in each and every neighborhood on planet Earth, people who lived in forests got everything they needed from the forest. Food, shelter, fuel, clothing, culture, religion, things to trade, a place to hide. Empires, and the cities they rule from, are also totally dependent upon forests, but in a different way. You can not build a city with out stealing a forest. The people who lived in the forest have to be displaced in order for the empire to build its cities and grow more grain. It was true 10,000 years ago, it is still true today. China could not have transformed itself over the last 40 years without the wholesale destruction of the forests of southern and southeastern Asia. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and others sacrificed their forests and forest people to provide raw materials for Chinese factories and the wood to build China’s cities
Most people do not connect the slowing of the economic growth rate to ecological overshoot. They do not connect it to the health of the soil, the health of the forest, whether there are more fish to catch in the sea. They insist that no matter what the state of the forest, getting the tax rates right, and eliminating pesky environmental regulations will let the good times roll.
How did we get to this place? A world in which economic growth is the thing the elites want most, and the very thing that is growing more and more elusive, ever harder to achieve, and more damaging when it arrives for a spell? How did we get to a world in which the trend in the growth rate is down and the elites scream about more growth ever louder instead of acknowledging their destructive tendencies? . China no longer grows at 10% a year. The US has seen 2.2 to 2.4% growth for years. Western Europe has seen little growth. The growth tends to be concentrated in a few developing countries, a few mineral boom neighborhoods, and rapidly growing cities. But despite the obvious trend, politics still calls for ever faster growth, resulting in policies that enrich the wealthiest and shrink the economy for everyone else.
I can not tell you what a steady state will look like, but you will know it when you see it. Childhood poverty will be eliminated, infant mortality will not depend upon your zip code, your food supply will be more local, more secure, and less chemical. Everyone will have things to do that bring them a sense of satisfaction as well as provide a living. The forests will be regrowing and there will be more fish in the sea. And government will actually be of, by and for the people.
I have been watching the turtles in the pond at the North Burial Ground for 6 years. Until today I had never seen a turtle before March 12. Today is February 25. A full 2 weeks before the earliest ever appearance. I know one can not prove that this crazy early warm weather is the result of excess CO2 in the atmosphere, but if you do not think climate change has something to do with February turtles, you need to think again. I think for those of us in Rhode Island, it should cause us to redouble efforts to stop the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure. greg
No urbanization is sustainable. You can not build cities without eating forests. The forest may already be gone where the city is sprouting, but it just means someone else’s forest will be stolen and destroyed. Forests are also critical for the management of stormwater and their disappearance even hundreds of miles upstream, exacerbates flooding issues in cities.
The issue of economic growth is also an important one. GDP growth on a planetary basis is down, and due to ecological collapse and growing inequality the rate will stay low. Developing countries will grow faster than old industrial countries, but with climate change and ecological collapse, the growing cities are in for tough sledding., and can not count on economic growth to pay for the infrastructure they need. What cities need to think about in developing sustainably is how to grow enough food, and how to be resilient in the face of climate change and re3source shortages. Most of what I see by cities is skirting around the margins, They are too beholden to real estate speculation to mange the land and development properly. They are faking sustainability. i know mine is and it claims to be a leader.
If you can donate a coat, please do so., If you can organize a coat collection, please do so. If you need a coat, please come take one off the racks. Free, no questions asked.
2016 Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange
Sites and Schedules
Coat Drive Date: Friday November 25th, 2016
Providence: State House Lawn – Across from the Mall
RAIN LOCATION: Gloria Dei Church 15 Hayes Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 9 AM to 1 PM
Greg Gerritt: 331-0529 firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Edmonds email@example.com
Lauren and Pam Testoni – firstname.lastname@example.org
Drop off location
Bell St chapel 5 Bell Street Coats can be dropped off between 9:30 – 1:30 M-F at the house next to Chapel and on Sundays from 8:30-12:00. There will also be a box on the porch for drop off coats.
Rochambeau Library 708 Hope St Coats may be dropped off during Library Hours until November 22
Other Participating Sites:
Cumberland: St. Patrick’s Church Lawn – 301 Broad Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 9 AM to 11 AM
Contact Molly Cabatingan at (401) 334-9639 or at email@example.com
Newport: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – 12 Marlborough Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 10 AM to 2 PM
Contact: Office Administrator: Ralph Petrarca 401- 846-0966 firstname.lastname@example.org
Office hours are 9AM – Noon, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Pawtucket: Salvation Army 102 High St Multipurpose room
Coats collected and given away Friday, November 25 10AM -2PM
Coats accepted at many other locations in Pawtucket all through November during business hours including:
- Paul’s Church, 50 Park Place
- City of Pawtucket, City Hall- Mayor’s Office and Slater Park Office
- Pawtucket Library, 13 Summer Street
- Pawtucket Credit Union-all Pawtucket branches 1200 Central Ave, 727 Central, Broadway, Smithfield Ave.
- Ama’s Variety Store, 957 Main Street
- Woodlawn Community Center, 210 West Avenue
- Ahlers Designs, 999 Main Street- Studio 707
- Providence Yarn, 50 Division St
Drop-off sites in other communities to be distributed in Pawtucket
- Brown University Campus- Collecting November 1-18th ONLY
- Camera Werks – 766 Hope Street Providence, RI
- Gent’s Barbershop/Spa – Cranston, RI
- Home and Hospice Care of RI – 1085 North Main Street Providence, RI
- It’s Your Body’s Symphony – Johnston, RI
- Villa at St. Antoines –North Smithfield, RI
Contact: Arthur Pitt 401-369-1918 email@example.com
Wakefield: St. Francis Assisi Church – 114 High Street
Coats Collected and given away November 25 10AM to Noon
Contact: Dana Hawkins firstname.lastname@example.org
Warwick: Woodbury Union Church – 58 Beach Avenue Conimicut Village
Coats collected and given away November 25th from 10am to 12 noon
Good condition winter coats, jackets, vests, gloves, mittens, and scarves. Winter wear for all ages available to pick-up.
Church phone number: 401-737-8232. E-mail contact: email@example.com.
Greater Providence YMCA Sites
Collection and Distribution
All sites collecting coats throughout November
Most sites distributing coats on November 25 9AM to 1PM
Bayside YMCA – 70 West Street, Barrington
Collection and distribution site
Distribution Friday November 25th
Contact: Tricia Driscoll 401-245-2444
Drop off and pick up site
Cranston YMCA – 1225 Park Avenue, Cranston
Collection and distribution site
Distribution Friday November 25th
Contact: Senior Director Andrea Champagne 401-943-0444 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent County YMCA – 900 Centerville Road, Warwick
Collection and distribution site
Distribution –Friday November 25th
Contact: Gwen Redmond
West Bay Family YMCA Branch – 7540 Post Road, North Kingstown
Collection and distribution site
Distribution Friday November 25th 9 AM – 1 PM
Contact: Gwen Redmond
South County YMCA
Distribution Friday November 25th 9 AM – 1 PM
165 Broad Rock Rd, Peace Dale, RI 02883
East Side/Mount Hope – 438 Hope Street, Providence
Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site – Collection only
Contact: Laurie Pansa
Newman YMCA – 472 Taunton Avenue Seekonk, MA
Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site – Collection only
Contact: Welcome Center Director Paula Roy 508-336-7103 email@example.com
Providence Youth Services – 640 Broad Street, Providence
Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site – Collection only
Contact: Welcome Center Director Christy Clausen 401-521-0155 firstname.lastname@example.org
I am Greg Gerritt coordinator of the Environment Council of Rhode Island’s Compost Initiative. I am going to give you something a bit different today. While I am an experienced home composter, getting my start cleaning sheep barns in rural Maine 35 years ago for a cut of the manure, I am not the person to explain all of the nuance of compost chemistry, hot composting, anaerobic digestion, vermiculture, using compost to create hot water, or any of the other variations and permutations in compost.
Most of what ECRI’s Compost Initiative does these days is put on the annual RI Compost Conference and Trade Show, the next one will be March 9 at RIC, happy to talk to you today about participating, so I do try to be aware of what is going on in RI so I can find good speakers and exhibiters. ECRI has a lobbying arm, so in the early years of the Compost Initiative I took a role in getting new compost legislation and regulations put into place so that the industry could gain a foothold and grow in Rhode island.
Compost is incredibly important to the future prosperity of our communities. As the climate changes, California runs out of water, and the economy slows, Rhode Island is going to need to grow an ever greater percentage of the food consumed here. 5, 10, 20 times what we grow now. And the only way to make this happen is to capture every compostable and get it composted and back onto the soil. Compost is also part of what we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint to zero as methane generated in landfills from food scrap is a major greenhouse gas contributor.
So far the only new medium to large scale compost business success I know of in Rhode island since we started the annual compost conferences is the Compost Plant which hauls compostables from many large institutions and food businesses. I saw them picking up at the hospital in my neighborhood this weekend. At the community scale the last few years we have seen a major increase in home composting, many new community garden compost programs, the development of a Vermiculture cooperative, a compost tea operation, and a few microbusinesses/cooperatives.
Many of you are experts on some part of this equation, compost, solar energy, digesters, and are looking for business opportunities. I am a green activist who has been part of sustainability efforts for more than 35 years. So I am going to talk about what I understand sustainability is. Maybe this will help us put a little more context around our discussions at this conference and beyond.
Most of the definitions of sustainability refer to the triple bottom line, community, business, and environment. Nice idea, but I have yet to see anything coming out of that intersection that meets my criteria for sustainable. My criteria is that if something is to be sustainable, it must heal the fabric of the ecosystem and the community. It is not enough to merely slow down the rate of destruction, the destruction must be reversed. The reason I say that is because the ecosystems of our planet are already so severely damaged that only by reversing the damage, by healing the systems, can we reach a place were we are finding the resources we need to thrive without doing more harm.
I do not know how many of you know about Overshoot day. The idea of Overshoot day is that at some point during the year people have exploited and appropriated all of the biologically renewable production of the planet for the whole year. This is just what people use, it does not even take into account all of the resources needed to feed the wild animals. This year it was earlier than ever, August 8. Last year it was August 13. That means that every tree cut after August 8 this year, every bit of soil washed to the river and to the sea, every fish in the ocean captured was depleting the capital of the Earth. Which means for 4 months each year, for 1/3 of all the biological resources taken by people this year, we are diminishing the biological richness of planet Earth. The result. The global forest shrinks each year, more species go extinct, more rural people experience hunger, and there are fewer fish in the sea and animals in the forest. If there is less each and every year, how can we call that sustainable? Within a couple of years we shall need two planets just to supply us with the resources we use each year. And what about the wild? 50% of the wild animals on earth have disappeared in the last 50 years, and the pace is picking up. Unless Overshoot day is December 31 each year we are in for tough sledding.
Do not get me wrong. I care how many green features or alternative energy systems go into the buildings, I put solar panels on my house in 1985, we need them desperately. But if we are doing them in the context of the continued destruction of planetary ecosystems, then we are pissing into the wind.
This same principle applies to all the discussion of how much more efficient we are, and how that is sustainable. The simple reality is that all of the efficiencies we have garnered have still not actually reduced consumption in any meaningful way. If it is cheap and efficient many more people join the market and the overall effect is still faster depletion, more pollution and a faster increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So while you save money and energy, more CO2 ends up in the atmosphere. And it seems to work like this for almost everything., Show me examples of when we became more efficient the overall use of a substance on planet earth went down. Iron? Steel? Wood? Concrete? Plastic? Rare earths? We just keep using more and that is not sustainable on planet Earth.
A key factor to think about when pondering a sustainable economy is that infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. I have never heard any mainstream discussion of sustainability without the terms sustainable growth being used. There is no sustainable growth on a finite planet. According to more and more experts, the economic growth rates seen routinely between 1948 and 1973 were likely the highest growth rates that will ever be seen for a generational period on a global basis. Right now the global GDP growth rate is about 3% and no one is predicting it will go up any time soon. Or ever. If places like China are growing 6% a year, and India and Indonesia are growing at 5%, then places like the USA and Europe are going to be filled with many many pockets of growth in the 1 – 2% range like Rhode Island usually has. Simple math.
The important factoid is that Rhode Island does not have the conditions for rapid GDP growth. The two main factors for rapid growth are a population experiencing rapid growth through immigration by displaced rural populations becoming the first generation city dwellers, or a natural resource boom. There are a few cities in the USA that do meet that criteria, often the latter part, but a few places are still seeing immigration of first generation urban dwellers. Rhode Island sees only a trickle. Nor do we have an abundance of previously untapped natural resources, with the exception of wind and sun and food scrap. No one is going to reopen the coal mine in Garden City, bog iron is not worth mining these days, we do not have the forests to burn to smelt it, and we do not have any shale formations with gas to frack. If you look at the USA, (or for that matter any country on planet Earth) nearly every state with high growth rates is having some kind of fossil fuel (coal or fracking) or mineral boom, In Rhode Island we shall get an economic wind power boost, and we need more agriculture, but no matter what we will be a low growth rate state, with what little growth we get siphoned off by the 1% if we continue on our current trajectories. So how do we create prosperity in a zero or very low growth environment? That is a question our politicians are not asking, and I think that an alternative economic strategy built around community sustainability might be much better for the 99% than the current real estate investment driven economic development strategy that only benefits those who already own property and a thin slice of highly educated folks, while driving everyone else out of their homes with gentrification and making their skills obsolete. How do we create prosperity in the nearly jobless future?
Another factor to include in your thinking about the future of the economy is the state of the global forest. It is interesting that at about the same time we have destroyed half the global forest half of the global population has become urbanized. But we are unlikely to be able to build a true Earthcity simply because we shall run out of forests first. It is virtually impossible to build cities without cutting down a huge swath of forest. And as the forests disappear the ones we cut to build cities are in ever more remote places, and ever more important to keep standing as a bulwark against runaway climate change.
I spent a number of years working to save Maine’s forests from clearcutting. Eventually it was documented that wood was being cut 20% faster than it was growing each year. In the counties in the heart of the industrial woods it was being cut 3 to 4 times faster than it was growing. This at a time when the entire industry, from woods to mills, was already shedding jobs. We pointed out that current cutting practices were going to end very soon and that the loss of forest would bring many headaches to Northern and Western Maine. We lost that campaign, but within 5 years the cutting practices had changed and the amount of wood being cut was reduced to less than was growing each year. Unfortunately the jobs never came back.
Recently more and more economists are looking at the role of debt in our society and realizing that debt is being used to move wealth from the community to the 1%. The problem with this is that just like cutting more wood than grows each year, siphoning off money to the 1% grinds economies to a halt and everyone, or nearly everyone, ends up owing more to the banks than they can reasonably pay back in a low growth economy. Creditors take the house, the farm, the whatever. Eventually many societies in the past had to do one of two things to escape the debt trap. Either declare jubilee and wipe out debts to the banks, or undergo revolution and kill the landlords. Only very occasionally have societies opted for more democracy and banned debt peonage and restricted what the banksters could do in order to allow the people to escape crushing debts. Austerity is not sustainable.
The larger lesson is that using debt to fuel an economy guarantees that the basic goal will be enriching the very richest instead of creating a general prosperity, and it will do horrible things to the planet and our communities. Including this year threatening democracy itself. Clearly Wall St came out ahead even when they crashed the economy in 2008 simply because they could buy Congress and threatened them with no consulting gigs after an electoral loss if they did not buy into the idea that the only way to save the economy was by giving the banks money instead of bailing out the debtors. A strategy that gave us the slowest and weakest recovery in history.
Hold that thought.
Now lets go back to Overshoot day. In order to pay the debts that have compound interest attached to them, people have to wrench more and more from the planet each year just to stay even. This always reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland running faster and faster just to stay in place. Hence we get crazy schemes like trying to build a fracked gas power plant in Burrillville that is guaranteed to prevent us from reducing fossil fuel emissions in RI for as long as the plant remains functional. And forces us to pay for it even after we close it down as too polluting. The banksters must be paid even when everyone loses money. Clearly the path is takes us over the cliff.
Right now in Providence some of the downtown landlords are scheming to move the poor out of the center of the city so their real estate, which is highly subsidized by the other taxpayers in the city, will be even more valuable. This catering to the high end attracts other high end folks, setting off the gentrification of further neighborhoods in the city without ever replacing the housing no longer available to lower income families. The price of housing goes ever higher until the only way to put a roof over your family’s head is on an interest only liars loan with the prayer that real estate values will skyrocket, making it even harder for people to find shelter they can afford but allowing you to sell at a profit. The direct result of current economic development strategies is that In Providence every available street corner with traffic has someone standing there asking for money.
Here is a sidebar
How many of you know what the correlation between a good business climate ranking and a state’s economic growth rate is? The answer is that there is no correlation. Rhode Island is the poster child, horrible business climate index rankings. But where do we rank in per capita income and growth rates? Right in the middle. In other words business climate rankings are a political tool designed to tilt the economy towards the already wealthy. And guess what? When you change the rules so that the wealthiest are accommodated it slows your development. Piketty demonstrated that a few years ago and it has not been refuted.
Back to the people asking for money at the corner.
Beyond the social and economic disruption of a population living on the edge, the strategy of moving the poor out of the center of the city is actually guaranteed to fail. Ever since the beginning of cities 9000 years ago cities have been a magnet for the displaced. Depending upon how they have been displaced people head for cities, or the artificial cities called refugee camps. Taking in displaced rural dwellers is actually the only way city populations grew until the invention of modern sewers because of epidemics and very high childhood death rates from diarrhea.
The displacement and subsequent urbanization of the rural poor, and gentrification and displacement in the cities, is accompanied by an increase in the amount of fossil fuels burned, a condition exacerbated by growing inequality in which upgrades in efficiency are not available to the poor in rental or shanty housing. That raises sea level by expanding the size of the ocean as it heats up and the melting of glaciers and ice-sheets such as Greenland and the West Antarctic. Every time you hear a new prediction it says the seas will rise faster than the last estimate. So the strategy of economic development by creating downtown enclaves for the wealthy is exactly the opposite of sustainable as it drives more poor folks to the center of the city and drowns the filled in marshes of downtown even faster.
One can not address community sustainability in a coastal city without considering climate change. If we do not get our carbon footprint down to zero in the next 10 years, (if we have not already passed some tipping points) we are going to see floods, droughts, storms, heat waves, that will rock us, and the inexorable rise in sea level will eventually flood the city. If the sea level comes up 10 feet in the next 100 years, totally possible if we do not shut the fossil fuel industries down completely very soon, what is it going to take too protect the coastal cities of the world? I think we are going to have to begin a serious retreat from the coast, with the goal of moving every person and building to where they are at least 15 feet above sea level. Rebuild the marshes and the coastal forests. Remove the walls and help beaches and marshes get reestablished. Walls will just make the problems worse. Step back a few hundred feet.
It is not sustainable to stay on the coast. It is not sustainable to keep expecting the economy to grow when the resource base is collapsing.and the forests are disappearing and the 1% is stealing everything they can. Those of you at conferences like this need to get serious about the task at hand, get serious about how deep the damage is and what needs to be done to repair both the fabric of the planet and the fabric of our communities. How much democracy it is going to take to do this, how much undoing of rule by the rich? I do not know. But I do know that without more justice, more economic equality, less wealth in the hands of the landlords and banksters, our communities will continue to be crushed and ground up and they shall neither be sustainable nor prosperous. If you want sustainable communities, they will be created around repairing ecosystems, growing food, clean energy, and more democracy.
Communities must/will always have the right to say no to industries that are incompatible with decent community life if they are to be sustainable. In fact that is rapidly becoming the most useful indicator of democracy on planet Earth. Where the people can not say no to powerful interests to protect their community from harm, there is no democracy.
We must close the war machine and stop building new and better ways to kill. The war machine is exactly the opposite of sustainable. I think of it as digging a big hole and throwing all your money in it, and it gets worse if you actually use the stuff you build. It is a huge parasite on the taxpayers, and leaves devastation in its wake. It breaks countries, it does not repair them. And creating enemies makes us less secure, not safer. Or is the war machine sustainable because we keep finding new enemies to kill for the simple crime of wanting the US to stay out of their country and leave them alone? The problem with trying to keep the empire going is it bankrupts us and then bankrupts us again paying for the health care of all the people broken by the wars. As Country Joe said, plenty of money to be made supplying the army with the tools of the trade. We now have a 50 year legacy of destroying villages to save them, which is such incredible double speak that the country that came up with that saying should have to permanently give up war and spend its money cleaning up the fossil fuel mess that provides the context for so many wars.
Sustainability at its core has to be just. Slavery and empires are not sustainable. Growing inequality and rising poverty are not sustainable. The destruction of the global forest, the displacing of the rural poor and the indigenous is not sustainable. Building new fossil fuel facilities is not sustainable. At its core a sustainable economy is one in which there is a commitment to enough for everyone,. We have enough food on earth, it is just too many are too poor to buy it and they no longer have land to grow it.
We could power all of humanity without fossil fuels. We may move around a bit less, may need to grow food locally in much larger quantities, but we shall still eat well, and maybe better than the overprocessed foods we now are offered by the Monsanto’s of the world that put farmers out of business and drives them off the land by creating monopolies for the frankenfoods that are often the only foods sold in low income neighborhoods.
A song writer once noted that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. We are still in the tunnel going off the edge ecologically, economically, culturally. The rich steal more every day and rig the system further. Climate change is hurtling at us like a hungry bear. The war machine and the empire seem to find new places to kill people every day. But the resistance is growing. We are stopping power plants and pipelines that should not be built, Black Lives Matter, The Native People of North America have united to stop pipelines. When clowns like the former mayor of Providence decide to move the poor out of downtown so they can make more money, they get laughed at, there are new community gardens every year, the residents of the Amazon are standing up to Dams and big money interests trying to steal the forest. And people like you are working on alternatives to polluting and climate destroying technologies. The resistance is not yet winning, but it must if we are to have healthy communities.
You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems. As you undo the harm of specific technologies remember the injustice and the poverty that our communities live with, and know that if what you do does not directly impact issues of justice and equality, it is not sustainable no matter what the talking heads tell you.
Friends and colleagues. Each year I write an essay reflecting on the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange and the state of the world that calls us to put on this event. 20 years ago a few of us started this event because we wanted to shine a light on the damage consumerism and the cult of more and more for the rich does to our communities and the planet we live on. We needed to find something that was a bit humorous, and did some actual good in the community, as well as shine the light on greed. We decided to collect and give away winter coats on the official start of the Christmas shopping season.
We have built quite an event. Something like 14 sites will be actively participating on November 25, and thousands of people donate and or receive winter coats on that day in Rhode Island, with a few other sites around the country based on our model.
On the other hand, the war machine continues eating the planet, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere continues to skyrocket, as do the temperatures and strange storms, democracy is failing, the planetary ecosystem is collapsing, and the answer to every question seems to be cut taxes for the rich, bail out the bankers, and give more subsidies to the landlords so they can drown the coastline faster with their economic undevelopment policies.
Poverty has not gotten better in the US. If anything we have more poverty than 20 years ago, since bailing out the bankers has done nothing to revive the economies of our communities. But facts seem to be irrelevant in America, with a prime example being the absolute belief that giving tax breaks to the rich and reducing environmental regulations creates jobs, without one shred of evidence that this is true. In other parts of the world many people are less poor, but the cost in terms of deforestation, climate change, pollution, desertification, cultural destruction, and genocide has been extraordinarily steep. The places that have made the leap forward have built giant cities and forced people out of the countryside while creating air pollution that kills millions each year and poisons the rivers. The economic transformation of China means fewer are hungry, fewer can breathe, and the forests of Asia have disappeared.
Close to home I have to give a shout out to the people of Burrillville for steadfastly resisting the Invenergy Fracked Gas power plant. It is only their resistance, aided and abetted by the resistance of the FANG Collective and all of the other people from all over the state who have lent support, that has kept us in the struggle The FANG Collective opened up the political space that all of us could help fill.
That the governor insists that putting us in debt for a plant that we know should not be built if we want to actually stop climate change is a good thing. It shows just how out of touch the 1% is, and how little the policies they tout will do for out communities.
The opposite of the resisters in Burrillville, one of the villains of this story, is found among the downtown Providence landlords who still think that giving them tax breaks to redevelop downtown buildings is useful for the community. The evidence is overwhelming. Tax breaks for the rich do not do one bit of good for communities. In fact they make it harder for communities to do the right thing. And when these beneficiaries of the public largesse start trying to force the poor out of the center of the city so their real estate would be even more valuable, we are rapidly progressing through oligarchy to despotism. You would think the owners of downtown real estate would know that the first law of cities is that they are magnets for the poor and displaced and efforts to remove them so that real estate will be more valuable are doomed to failure. Maybe the clowns who own downtown need tyo take their monopoluy money and buidl the kind of housing we really need in RI rather than just offices and condos for the 1%.
For a long time I have been thinking of democracy and how it is melting away under the power of money. And the richest candidate of all says he might not abide by the election because it is rigged. Clearly he has no clue about the fact that the only thing that is rigged is that the winners all kowtow to big money.
I have started to understand democracy as existing only when communities can decide that they can not be run over by big business. If communities can not say no to being sacrifice zones for money for the few under the cover of economic development, then we do not live in a democracy. We seem to be losing our rights to protest just when we need it most.
Which is why we have to give away winter coats each fall. The rest of us are being made obsolete. We seem to live in the throw away society that eats its young and the planet faster and faster in a futile effort to keep the economy growing so the banksters will not lose all their money. But face it, econmic growth that beneifts communities is dead, and never coming back. That we keep getting sold that bill of goods is just part of the big lies of the rich so they can keep stealing. As nobel Laureate Bob Dylan noted in one fo his songs “Steal alittle and they put you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king”.
I guess community destruction and the end of democracy is what one must come to expect from a government and a 1% that spends more and more on new and better ways to kill so that it will have enemies and therefore can justify ever greater expenditures on new and better ways to kill. In response sometimes I help give away winter coats, sometimes i speak truth to power, sometimes i build gardens and compost, sometimes I stand on street corners with petitions and signs and help a presidential campaign based on truth and honesty and good policy for the 99% reach the voters of Rhode Island (Jill Stein Green Party for the curious) . Then i go make videos of tadpoles and turtles and great blue herons because they help me learn to see.
We do what we can. And hope that it moves the needle towards justice and healthy communities. Do it with joy and thank you for participating in the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange
Urban Ecosystem Observations 2016. Lessons learned in the Moshassuck valley and the surrounding community. Greg Gerritt Oct 4, 2016
There is much to learn from studying the urban section of a small watershed, and each year I watch the lower reaches of the Moshassuck River and its environs more carefully and with greater understanding. Every year I learn new things and see things I have never seen before. While I am familiar with the watershed all the way to the headwaters in the Limerock section of Lincoln, I pay special attention to the forest at Providence’s Collyer Field, the North Burial Ground, the ancient travel corridor on the even older river terrace that is now North Main St, and the tidewater along Canal St until its current confluence with the Woonasquatucket River just south of Citizens Plaza. I also try to keep the larger context in mind as I deal with the creatures great and small and use the observations of nature in my other projects..
I spent last fall and winter mapping the forest that Friends of the Moshassuck has planted over the last 18 years at Collyer Field http://www.themoshassuck.org/treeplanting.php . We digitized the map and it is now on our website. http://themoshassuck.org/trees_table/ We have planted trees in this tangle of Japanese Knotweed for 18 years, just the few trees a year we could water with a bucket from the river in the summer heat We have almost covered the site, about an acre in all. Over the years we have planted about 95 trees, and 89 of them are still growing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQfWmu3UZMg This gives a pretty good picture of what the site looks like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xNCecyutjQ There are also a few trees that were growing prior to FOTM beginning work in 1998 along the edges of the site, especially right along the river. I used to refer to it as a gallery forest, but the planted forest and the river forest have since merged. The long term goal was to create a semi wild New England forest that would shade out the knotweed. I am starting to doubt that we shall completely obliterate knotweed on the site with shade, knotweed begins growing each spring before the leaves come out on the hardwood trees, so it survives even though it stunts as soon as the tree leaves come out. The tallest trees are now 30 feet tall, and many parts of the site are in shade all day once the leaves come out. We may never obliterate the knotweed, but the forest is walkable in ways it never was when the knotweed ruled unchallenged. It would be interesting to know how the fauna has changed since the forest began, but we have neither baseline data nor current studies. Anecdotally I would say more birds use the site, but what would be really telling is the the health of the salamander population. We have seen salamanders every few years., but other than presence we know nothing. So we can not even ask has the development of the forest improved the habitat? Though we know it has.
Friends of the Moshassuck has no legal right to use the site. We squat based on a handshake deal I had with the station manager when it was owned by Bonanza Bus line. The current ownership will not speak to Friends of the Moshassuck. It is their way of avoiding legal liability for what goes on on the land. But it might be time Peter Pan realized that it is time for a change since it is so close to the river and almost completely in the zone protected by the updated wetland regulations. It is also on a dead end street with a city park between the corner and the site. FOTM has suggested that the City of Providence ask Peter Pan to donate or sell the site to the city to expand the park. I have communicated this thought to the Parks Department leadership, and while it is looked on favorably, the capacity to pull this off seems to be missing. The City also has concerns about maintenance costs, but the site is already maintained by Parks Department crews and FOTM could assume a portion of the burden. If Peter Pan will not donate the land (and take a nice tax break) I am sure we could raise enough money to buy an unbuildable acre of protected wetlands. If anyone has pull that I do not, and can get the right ear to move this forward, I would love to hear from you. This land has value for ecosystem services, and as a hotspot for biodiversity in a very damaged ecosystem. It could easily (well maybe not easily) be turned into a site to explore urban forest restoration and the ecology of damaged urban rivers.
I walk much of the length of North Main Street in Providence nearly every day, walking the ancient path along the terrace of a river that lost most of its flow 13000 years ago, leaving a spectacular view across a valley much too big for its river. . North Main Street and Pawtucket Avenue constitute the easiest way to walk from the waterfront in Providence to the falls in Pawtucket, crossing the divide into the Blackstone Valley at a low spot with a low angle hill up to the ridge. Runners can make the trip in about 30 or 35 minutes and walking time is about 2 hours if you keep moving. I am guessing that there was much foot traffic back and forth between the villages and waterfronts for thousands of years. It is such an appropriate travel corridor that Ben Franklin used it as part of the Post Road he laid out from New York to Boston. The anomalous site in the trip is the side hill from the waterfront along the tidewater of the Moshassuck up to the terrace rising from just beyond the corner of Smith St. and N Main to Olney St. and the end of Benefit St. My guess is that there is something in the terrain there that made it the easiest way out of the river bottom, maybe a stream, but I can not tell what it was due to the walls built throughout the cut. Once up on the terrace you are near University Heights and University Marketplace. The shopping center is full of tenants, but from there north to the city line more than 25% of the store fronts are vacant. That may be a higher commercial vacancy rate than any other main street in the city. People have been wondering what to do about it for decades, and no solution has arisen. It is a land out of time, a long time traditional path that has lost its way. Neither Providence nor Pawtucket revolve around the head of navigation or the downtown waterfront any longer, so there is no real connection or commerce between the two places that requires a people oriented corridor along the terrace, and the quick route by car is I-95 along the river bottom until it cuts through the cliff/watershed divide at the beginning of the curves in Pawtucket. I think the steepness of the hill on both sides of N Main also contributes to its lack of commercial walkability, which is reflected and amplified by it being difficult to cross.
At the North Burial Ground I use the gate across from the Armory to enter as it is the gate closest to home. Ever since some of us in the neighborhood convinced the Parks Department to unlock the gate, the Burial Ground has become much more of a community resource with more walkers every year. It is also an amazing wildlife sanctuary.
The limestone steps lead down from the river terrace to what were once wetlands and flood plains below. Moshassuck means where the moose drink, and moose are denizens of swampy areas as they eat water plants. The draining of the wetlands and conversion to agriculture probably started early on once the Europeans controlled the land, but the original burials in this ancient (1700) cemetery were on the higher ground. Digging the Blackstone Canal from Saylesville to the waterfront in Providence required dredging and deepening the lower half of the Moshassuck River, and likely drained some of the wetlands in this area. The lower elevations of the Burial Ground are an outwash plain, an area of sand deposition, laid down as the glacier melted, with a relatively small esker snaking through the plain in the northern half of the cemetery. The esker’s sand deposit shows signs of being mined at one point, but is currently covered by the largest contiguous stretch of forest in the Burial Ground. Just to the east of the esker is a small pond. The pond is about 300 ft long by 100 ft wide, less than an acre. It is fringed by trees ands shrubs around most of the circumference, with an inflow in the Southwest from the storm sewers of the cemetery and an outflow going west towards the river in the north. There is also a small mowed peninsula sticking into the pond from the center of the west side.
This pond may have more life per acre than any parcel in the city. The pond is the home to a population of Painted turtles, and one or two Snapping turtles and a red eared slider that someone must have let go. In the spring the Painted turtles line up on one log in the southwest corner for morning sun, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNDdCljQtyA and it is from that site I have been able to count as many as 17 turtles at one time, with at least 5 different year/size classes present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfPruv9ZWm0 Once the summer warms up the turtles are more likely to be seen swimming around the pond. Over the course of the summer I also occasionally saw, and filmed, a very young turtle sunning on a small stick in the northwest part of the pond in the hours that that sector received sun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex3uBtOuCh0 Another, somewhat larger, turtle would set up on another small log in the water nearby. When I started closely observing the turtles there were 6 painted turtles in the pond. The next year there were 9, the following year twelve, and the last few years hovering at about 16 or 17. I have not tried individual identification, but there are clearly differences in size between those born in different years, so it might be possible. I have enough raw footage that never made it to youtube for anyone who wishes to do a study using video. Turtles nearly always are difficult to video well. I suppose with the right filter it is possible, but my camera almost always offers up purple light reflecting off the shell and head
The biggest thrill this year was the regular appearance of muskrats, starting just before the first of the year, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv_I339c01g and continuing into summer with some young ones in addition to the adults. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPPfUqvns54 Took me a while to figure out what I had when i saw the babies grazing in the little meadow at the north end of the pond, but I figured it out in a day or so. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2hL-2VmbKk and watched as much as I could. They are manic eaters, but if you stayed far enough away they would let you watch with the camera as they mowed through the vegetation.
I saw bats frequently in the evenings for a few weeks in spring. I only got a bit of bat video this year, so I include its link in a short video wth a variety of other creatures later on in the section highlighting hawks. The only hopeful news I hear for bats is scientists are starting to find treatments for White Nose disease. We shall be much poorer if the bats to do come through this.
If cuteness is not a factor,(the baby muskrats and tadpoles win on cute) the most charismatic megafauna that is seen regularly at the pond are the herons. The pond is frequently visited, usually at times when food is abundant, by Green Herons, Black Crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkTl-UdYoZo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkJuGAeaaHA I have watched for enough years to realize that each of the birds that comes by has their own personality. Not only between species, but individually within a species. This spring a Great Blue Heron showed up that was more skittish than any I had ever seen before. Setting up at the places I would normally set up the camera to catch the action caused this particular heron to fly off, whereas normally Great Blues would stay and continue to hunt while I watched. The Night herons are rather easy to catch in pixels. They tend to stay on the far side of the pond, with no access behind them through the tangles. From that side of the pond they are content to let you watch and film. The Green Herons are much harder to video. They tend to hunt among, and stay close to, the brush along the edge of the pond, so they are hidden as you approach the pond and take off before you see them and are ready to film. I am hoping next year I am more prepared. There were two Green Herons around on at least one day, but I usually saw only one on any particular day. Kingfishers are another predator that frequents the pond. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6175AHjsGTU
The reason the herons come visit so often and often stick around for a few days, is that there is an abundance of food in the pond. The pond is a murky brown all summer, both from runoff and algae. The water seems relatively clear in the early spring, but very soon acquires a murk. Considering how many ponds in New England are named Mud Pond, it is a pretty normal pond despite the fact that it is at least partially a human created stormwater system. Lots of vegetation and an abundance of organic matter like leaves and acorns provide a strong foundation for the food chain. Insects are abundant, including water striders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEsf-O0HktE and dragonflies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLAMAfRDzyw Insects are an important component in the diets of critters higher up the food chain, Sunfish eat many different small creatures, and clearly there is much food as they have a rather large colony of nesters each year. I have noticed the nests for several years, but this year i was able to get some pretty decent footage and was able to see the fish on their nests repeatedly during the several week mating season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtvzUMSZx70 I know Blue Herons feast on the little fish and have a video record of one heron catching two fish in the space of 5 minutes. I am starting to suspect that Herons target the pond twice a year, when the sunfish are breeding in the shallows and when the frogs have emerged in July after overwintering as tadpoles.
Frogs have been described as being a very intermediary player in the food web. Bullfrogs eat almost anything they can catch from dragonflies to other frogs, and get preyed on extensively by everything that is bigger than them, including people. This year I ended up focusing more on bullfrogs than in past years. I was able to video the tadpoles much more extensively https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nybSrrEeYxI especially tadpoles in the water after the previous years cohort turned to frogs. Some especially good footage of tadpoles swimming up from the bottom to breach the surface has finally convinced me that the bullfrog tadpoles are surfacing for oxygen rather than anything else. I am guessing the pond is pretty anaerobic due to the decomposition of repeated algae blooms. Methane bubbles are frequent anytime the bottom is disturbed. Bullfrog tadpoles occasionally fall prey to predators, but once the tadpoles from the previous year turn to frogs in July they are much more vulnerable. I have watched this cycle in past years, but this year really documented the decline of the Bullfrog population between mid August and Mid September. There were hundreds of little frogs lining sections of shoreline, but after the herons visited you might see two or three. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYbWjPxibuI
Before moving on it should be noted that over the last few years the number of Canada Geese regularly visiting the pond and eating in the burial ground has grown significantly, and that mallards live there as well in differing size communities at different times of the year. Neither species appears to rear young there. Wood ducks and Northern Shovelers were also seen at the pond this year along with a plethora of small birds.
Leaving the pond heading southwest you have a good view of I-95 and the traffic whizzing by. Often one sees Red tailed hawks in this area. I think the resident hawks do not like the fact that I take their pictures so they have developed the habit of flying around me and calling as i walk by. I offer up some flying hawk video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IXb1JQMq2Q I learned that snakes are an important part of Red Tailed hawk diets. I have seen hawks feeding on snakes several times in recent years, and include a segment of eating a snake in this video highlighting early spring animal appearances. It also highlights flying bats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaQ-Yk47S3A
My video work in the NBG first focused on the life in a little wetland near the maintenance building. I stumbled upon a congregation of little black tadpoles one spring day, and have been visiting regularly ever since. The last 4 years with a video camera. The tadpoles inspired the whole video project which lead to much more in depth study of the pond, and a study of tadpole development in Fowler’s Toads, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpFEc8u1k_A one of the two amphibians that breed there https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9zXQ-C3ZyU I have video’d not only the Toads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFZ8tmyu7HU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3qd91gBW8g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfrcqqi50L0 but also the insects that frequent the pond https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj4F3Y6GV9E
When i first moved to Rhode Island 20 years ago I ended up part of the stakeholder process looking into what to do about Combined Sewer Overflows in stormy weather. Eventually a large tunnel under the city was built to store combined rainwater and sewage until it could be treated at the Fields Point Sewage Treatment Plant. This system, and the associated infrastructure, some of which is still in process, has dramatically reduced pollution in the bay. One slightly sour note, the Moshassuck River hosts one of the largest Combined Sewer Outfall, number 220, that has not yet had its sewage captured or treated, something that clearly shows up in fish surveys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGe0KK0zQV8 which we conducted in partnership with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, our neighbors across the western divide. My role 20 years ago was to advocate for what is now called Green Infrastructure or Nature Based Solutions, which over the last 20 years has become the way to manage stormwater in more and more situations, but it was a new concept back then. As I studied the little wetland I came to understand it not only as a biological system, but as a rainwater runoff catch basin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNli3vk0FUc . This has lead to further exploration of the use of new stormwater systems as a way to create amphibian habitat as amphibians are among the most endangered taxa on the planet and continue to lose wetland habitat at a high rate. I am not sure where the exploration will go, but more and more people are looking at the requirements of amphibians and how we might use rainwater to provide habitat. RI stormwater regulations currently do not permit the creation of stormwater systems that hold water long enough to allow amphibian breeding cycles, but there is no doubt that there are places in Rhode island in which this is not only possible, but would provide real community benefits. As part of my work in the Green Infrastructure Coaliton I am pushing to include biodiversity and habitat creation as factors to keep in mind when creating ways to clean runoff. It will be a long slog, equivalent to moving the needle on compost laws and regulations, but I think it is an idea who’s time is coming. I now know how much water it takes to fill the pond (1.5 inches of rain) and that if it is full it will have some water in it for at least 10 days, though I am wondering about the changes occurring as the vegetation in the pond covers more and more of the bottom with both cattails and pickerel weed spreading. When i started the project a dry period in the spring or summer would present cracked mud all over the pond. Now vegetation blocks the view and binds the bottom sediments as well as sucking up water.
I am also pondering what might be done to this particular rainwater system to improve its performance. This year the basic lesson was the resilience of the Fowler’s Toad system,. Unlike many amphibians, Fowler’s Toads breed over an extended season, I heard mating calls at least 15 evening this past spring. Maybe this winter I will see if anyone has info on how often females can lay eggs over the course of a month. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWXSJdHbXmw The extended breeding season has been critical to breeding success as the last two years the early cohort of tadpoles have all died when the pond went dry, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e3e9zDFJUo only to be followed by a second wave that made it through to hopping toadlets when the pond stayed full long enough in the summer rains. Considering this record, that Fowler’s toads have successfully fledged a large cohort each of the last 5 years, I am unsure it is wise to modify the pond. But I think the continued high sedimentation rate from the sand piles at the NBG is both helping the cattails expand in the pond, and shortening the hydroperiod. I am looking to bring in some experts to help me ponder these questions, and help me think about what data would capture the conditions best. What factors make it a Fowler’s toad haven? And can we apply what is learned here to other locations.
Heading further downriver the Moshassuck River becomes tidal, the northern most extension of the bay into the city, just as Charles Street crosses a little bridge and becomes Canal St. The stretch south to Smith St is very shallow, though fish are occasionally present, but below Smith St river life flourishes despite the shopping carts, old pilings, and street runoff. The view is from the sidewalk. Eels, carp, and blue crabs are seen occasionally throughout the warmer months. Menhaden have been described as “the Most Important Fish in the Sea” for their role as the base of the vertebrate food chain, and by mid August the river fills with the flashing of silver as the sun reflects off menhaden from 2 inches to 14 inches in length. The young swim around in large schools with their mouths open filtering water and eating the zooplankton they find. https://youtu.be/AnJTFUpgb9o Usually you see over the course of the fall menhaden in small, medium, and large sizes, with 3 or 4 year old fish topping out at about 14 inches. They often stick around until November, and last winter stayed until early January before heading out to sea. There are probably millions of little fish in the urban rivers, but this year there has been a school of at least 10,000 adults slowly swimming the area around Citizens Bank and RISD and they seem to dominate the arena. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rAAlUmB8OI All of the herons are known to stop by the Canal St section of the Moshassuck on occasion, as would be expected based on the amount of food available. This year for the first time small river herring have been seen in the fall coming down from the rivers at the head of the bay and heading to sea to grow.
From Citizens Bank Plaza I have two choices when heading to work, south along the Providence River to the Point St bridge or going through downtown. The trip along the river often provides fish viewing opportunities in the warmer months with the canoe landing along S Water St a favorite spot to check for fish. This part of the Providence River has been resculpted numerous times since Roger Williams arrived. From a salt marsh beginning it became a very busy port, now it is park lined with granite walls. Water quality is way better than it was 50 years ago (there have been Cholera epidemics in the Moshassuck basin) if not yet good, and there seems to be more life than in the recent past. Downtown provides a different perspective, and there is a need to focus on it for a bit. Most of downtown Providence, between the East Side (College Hill), Weybosset Hill, and Smith Hill was formerly wetlands. It is for this reason that I enter the fray of discussing downtown real estate and the Rhode island economy. Several hills were cut down in order to provide the materials used to fill this area. It means that downtown is rather a low spot, and subject to storm surges from hurricanes (1938, 1954) and very vulnerable to rising sea levels.
A big question, one I came up with just the other day when sitting at Senator Whitehouse’s Energy and Environment day, “Is it going to be cheaper to start an orderly retreat from the coast now, starting with everyone below 10 feet above sea level, or should we just wait for the big disaster and then retreat with lives in tatters?” Of course an orderly retreat from the coast goes against everything the US has been built on, the can do eat the planet attitude. I suppose you could fill another 10 feet higher every 100 years and keep burning carbon until it is all gone. But that seems a much worse alternative than an orderly retreat and green energy. My guess is in the places poor folks live near the water, the government will improvise a retreat, but where rich folks own land and in the centers of major cities, they will try to armor the sites, go up, or go with buildings that are designed to flood. More saltmarsh is probably a better solution.
The fortifications to preserve downtown ultimately will be overwhelmed if we keep burning fossil fuels, but in the short term will have the effect of further distorting our economy in the favor of the rich and further increasing poverty and unemployment in the rest of our communities. Providence and RI continue to cling to the old ways, with real estate development continuing to line the pockets of the rich and the campaign contributors, especially those taking advantage of huge tax loop holes available to commercial real estate development. In an age in which many Americans lost considerable sums of money from trying to put roofs over their families heads, the favoring of commercial real estate interests and banks is both politically stupid, and likely to lead to further crashes, bubbles and various and assorted financial shenanigans as well as greater inequality, which makes the bubble/bust cycle run faster. All of which undercut our communities and our ability to respond to climate change in ways that make us more resilient and and slow down the pollution and the changes. I do not have video of this, though occasionally when i speak out I end up on RI Future but until Rhode Island adopts policies reflecting this statement “You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems,. You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty. And if you do not shut down the war machine, hard times are coming”, we are likely to have downtown landlords fattening on public subsidies until the sea floods it all, while more low income people stream into the center of the city as they get pushed out everywhere else.
For all the Rhode Island politicians who talk the talk on climate change, i have seen few walk the walk and actually take concrete measures to reduce Rhode Island’s carbon footprint in a meaningful way. One has to say folks are not serious about climate change if they are supporting the construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure as that will overwhelm any of the cuts we make due to efficiency, the use of Green energy, and improvements in the transportation system. The big thing these days is natural gas. It is touted as a bridge fuel, but it is a bridge to hell, bringing hotter weather and higher water, and anyone offering us a future with more gas is just kicking the can down the road and making it harder to repair the fabric of the climate and of our communities.
It is so interesting that the development strategy so touted in RI, using real estate development in pursuit of meds and eds to drive economic growth, will have such adverse effects on Rhode Island that it will ultimately undermine all of the gains the landlords hope garner by speeding up the sea level rise that will cover the lower parts of the city over the next few decades and drawing more displaced people into the center of the city. I am hoping common sense, and self preservation for our communities prevails, but the science denial that has swept the country, and the mountains of money in the political system make it likely that a self defeating strategy of ever more stuff, driven by ever higher subsidies to the rich and the permanent loss of place for the poor will lead towards climate collapse, economic collapse, and community collapse as the storms and droughts upset the planet. I said publicly when the speculators were building the Providence Place Mall that we would be better off with saltmarsh. And what I have learned traversing my watershed with eyes open these past 20 years, tells me that saltmarsh sounds like an even better idea now.
Joe Paolino’s boomerang Greg Gerritt 9/26/2016
The some of the landlords who own downtown Providence, and some of their allies, have decided that Kennedy Plaza and its surrounding area would become much more valuable real estate if they could cause the bus depot and all of the low income people who are drawn to the bus depot and/or the city center in general, to disappear. Seems former mayor Joe Paolino decided that he no longer cared about the community, he wanted more valuable properties, so he started a campaign against the poor.
Every rational person in Rhode Island then told Mr Paolino that his plan was very strange as it went against all constitutional law and common sense. But in the very weird world in which nearly all public policy decisions are made by and for the people with a lot of money, i guess he became so out of touch with reality that the thought it made some kind of sense.
There are several major flaws in Joe Paolino’s proposal. Some of which have come out in the public discussion, some that need lots more exploration.
We need a real plan to end poverty, because no matter what you do, low income people are drawn to center cities. This is a hard and fast rule that is as old as cities, 8000 to 10000 years. When people have almost nothing, when they are displaced from their land, conquest or mechanization have the same effect, or the factories have closed, the only place they can go is to the city. Elites can try to move them around the city, but all that does is move them, it does not end the poverty or the magnetic attraction cities have for the displaced. Mayor Elorza and all of the advocates are right, its a phony plan without jobs or even a whiff of a brighter future for the people being moved around so landlords can claim bigger depreciations.
In the future a bus hub right downtown is going to be more critical to our survival than it is now. Instead of marginalizing transit, to reduce our climate footprint and keep Providence above sea level, Providence needs to eliminate almost all automobile entrance to the city and get everyone riding transit, biking, boarding, or walking. Mr Paolino has not considered the climate implications of his monstrosity, or maybe he does not care. But in any case, the bus hub belongs downtown, and you sound like a scoundrel wanting to push low income people away from your real estate properties and into someone else’s neighborhood and make it harder for people catching buses.
But you have already heard those points from others. What you are not hearing is that your economic development strategy is self defeating, An economy based on the needs of the real estate, finance, and insurance industries (you know the FIRE that burned down the economy in 2007) is guaranteed to swing wildly between bubble and bust while pumping up the assets of the landlords and the banks, and displacing many other people. Piketty has made it quite well known that the greater the inequality in your community, the less well the economy will perform. Economies that have reached the point where real estate redevelopment is the underpinning of other economic activity are in big trouble. They become the early adopters of being a place with no work for most workers,. So they try to displace them away from their properties. But as the inequality and the end of jobs as we know them further displaces people, as you get more climate refugees, you get more people (and water) flooding downtown right onto the very properties you want more money from.
It is time for economic development from the bottom up. We can not rely on churning buildings downtown to create jobs for the people who do not have one. We can not rely on the wetlabs, communications businesses, dirty industry infrastructure, and app developers to create jobs for the people who need them, as they never will. The meds and eds strategy creates only a small number of jobs, most of those higher paying jobs, mostly to be filled from away, while creating few for the people already here. In other words displace the poor and have many more join those already on the streets is exactly what is intended, as it is the only way for the rich to steal more as the global economy and ecology strangle and overheat. There are now people asking for money at every street corner, people who feel permanently displaced from the economy.
The answer to our woes is not more concentrations of wealth, though that is the preferred economic development strategy these days. So maybe I am pissing into the wind. But he wall is cracking in the face of the resistance. We are not letting you build any more fossil fuel infrastructure what so ever, and we are going to stop the running of economies to benefit the landlords of downtown and the bankers. We want clean power and we need democracy. When real estate and finance rule, the people suffer. The debts choke an economy, causing it to squander resources.
A most excellent way to understand the difference between the preferred solutions of the 1% and reality is to compare business climate rankings with various measures of the strength of an economy. No actual study has ever found a correlation between business climate rankings and economic performance. None. No study has ever found a correlation between strong environmental regulations and weak economic performance. None. Piketty demonstrated that inequality harms economic performance too. You want an example? How about Rhode Island. We get the worst rankings in the business climate indexes, but if you look at economic performance we are pretty close to the middle in growth rates, median income, and other performance based evaluations, and hardly a week goes by without the quality of life and new business start up culture being highlighted in the national media.
In other words on balance what the state and other institutions are doing to promote the profits of the 1% is harming us. Cutting taxes for the rich is useless for everything except lining their pockets and causing cities to neglect basic infrastructure. It does not help us systematically end poverty or stop climate change. Trickle down economics is like getting peed on. Which is why there are more and more efforts to restrict democracy and corral the people. Which is why the resistance grows. Daily and on many fronts simultaneously.
The former Mayor, Governor Wall St, the funders of the political machines that pull the strings on Smith Hill, they are all in need of some education on where the economy is going to go and why as the climate crisis rolls on and economic growth slows with the destruction of the resource base and greater “natural” disasters. The future is going to be more locally self reliant. We are going to locally generate renewable clean power. We are going to grow more of our own food. Our transport systems will be less automobile oriented. And the FIRE industries will not be allowed to burn down the economy again. If your plans to revitalize downtown do not take these things, including a slowing of economic growth, the odds of success are pretty slim.
Good afternoon, I am Greg Gerritt, and today i am wearing my Green Party hat, As you know, we all fulfill a variety of roles in the community, Today is Green Party, tomorrow I lead the fence building party at the community garden we are building in my neighborhood. I note the garden because some of the other hats I wear to RIC in my work in the community, hats related to sustainability, food security, and compost, led me to people who were willing to invite Jill Stein to speak on campus, and made the process of organizing the event much easier. Thank you to the RIC Environmental Club for inviting Jill Stein, and thank you club adviser and compost conference partner Jim Murphy for smoothing the way. Truly appreciated. And thank you to the administration of RIC for allowing Dr Stein to speak here.
I want to tell you how much of a treat you are in for this afternoon. Dr Jill Stein is a breath of fresh air in the campaign season. Yes, I am biased. I helped found the Green Party 32 years ago, but even if you are not a supporter, Jill Stein is running the type of Presidential campaign that all Americans long for. A candidate that is out on the stump meeting people, talking with people about what is really going on in their lives and communities, and offering common sense proposals that work for communities and the planet rather than the war machine and Wall St.
Do we not all long for a candidate with transparency, compassion , intelligence, common sense, good judgement, and the ability to connect with crowds and people’s higher sense of purpose and values. A candidate who personifies American virtues in a way we wish all of our presidential candidates would. I could say much more, but I an not introducing Dr Stein, I am just a warm up act, and have a different task today, The task of suggesting why you might want to work with the Green Party here in Rhode Island post November 2016. Besides, you are actually going to see Dr. Stein speak this afternoon. Tell me after if it is not a breath of fresh air in the rancid landscape of American politics. Even if you are not voting for her.
Here are a few things that may inspire you to work with the Green Party in your neighborhood going forward
I hope everyone who is in the room votes Yes on question 6 this November. It is the bond to create a $35 million fund to build Green Infrastructure projects, Manage stormwater, build new parks, reduce sedimentation and pollution. The Green Party came in to the world of Green Infrastructure twenty years ago, with the Green Party forcing the Narragansett Bay Commission to put in a public document, the documents that allowed the Combined Sewage Overflow project to go forward, a long term commitment to Green Infrastructure, though no one knew what to call it back then. As usual, we were just slightly ahead of our time, but the world has followed. 18 years later the NBC called me up and asked me to come back and help them finally start to implement GI in the last phases of the $500+ million project. But they are still a bit reluctant.
When the conmen came to town in 2004 they convinced Governor Almond, the Economic Development Corporation, and all of legislative leadership that if the state of Rhode Island spent a billion dollars to build a port they could get shipping companies to turn it into one of the biggest ports in the world. It was touted as the economic miracle rhode Island had been waiting for since 1920. You think 38 studios was a disaster, this one would have been epic. People all over Rhode Island rallied against the monstrosity on the bay, and finally we pushed hard enough for the con men to be exposed as shysters who had been running this scam, to no avail, all over the world. What the Green Party brought to the discussion, was the exploration of unfair trade, deforestation around the world, climate change, the murder of the indigenous to steal the forest to build the products in the containerships, and how a container port would undermine Rhode island workers. Again the first ones to put out the call on issues that have become the main currency of the resistance to globalization. And to put it to practical use when working on policy issues in our community
And that is why we need you now. More than ever the empire is heading us for the rocks. The frackers are destroying both the water and the air. Wall St. continues to steal. The economic development strategy offered by Governor Wall St is riches for the 1% and greater poverty for most of us. We have the worst health care system in the industrial world.
But the most hopeful thing is the resistance. The resistance to pipelines and fracking, the resistance to militarism, the resistance to Wall St and real estate speculators continuing to loot us and create another bubble and crash rather than a sustainable economy. The two party system , as George Washington noted, is the worst of all possible worlds. The people always lose. There is already a political party completely lined up with the resistance, one open to all the members of the resistance. Maybe it is time to help it evolve into a more potent force.
As the Jefferson Airplane sang “We are all outlaws in the eyes of Amerika”. There is a warrant on Jill for resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Any other presidential candidates on the front lines? When Black Lives Matter was evolving in Providence, the Green Party did not play a leading role, we played a supportive role, bringing a few people together to smooth planning the early rallies, and offering up our bullhorn for them. We also encouraged members of the resistance to think broadly about the nature of the resistance and all of the different ways we could synergize.
Finally, in an age in which the 1% are grabbing more and more and the rest of us get poorer, we need to directly confront the economic development strategies that elected officials offer us on behalf of their Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industry donors. You know the FIRE sector, it is the one that burnt down the economy in 2008. The Green Party of Rhode Island is the only organization in Rhode Island participating in the development discussions that makes sure that the end of growth, dealing with climate change and food insecurity, and the transformation to clean energy are recognized as the only practical the economic development strategy for the future. An economy based on real estate deals by downtown developers and builders of suburban office parks, or catering to the medical industrial complex is a dead end.
Right now only the Green Party is pointing out that there is no correlation between a state’s “ Business climate” and the health of its economy, and therefore easing the regulations that keep the planet and our communities a bit healthier than they might otherwise be is actually the WORST development strategy if we want a widespread and shared prosperity. The current strategy is focused on enriching the the 1% by giving them ever greater shares of the natural and built wealth often using debt to bind communities to destructive projects and practices. Maybe 10% of the population does well economically with this strategy. Everyone else is being replaced and displaced. Robots may be signaling the end of work.
So the Green Party offers both a critique of what is wrong and the Green New Deal. A program to put everyone to work fixing the infrastructure, the food system, and the energy production system and transforming it into a totally clean Green system. Informed by the idea that “you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and if you do not close the war machine all else will fail”, nothing less will help us transform our relationship with climate change into one of true prevention and healing while creating communities that work for everyone.
Join the party of the resistance. We have flyers, sign up sheets, facebook pages, twitter. Find us. And vote Green in 2016.
I wrote this in response to an article by Steve Alhquist on RI Future on powerplant resistors at the ISO hearing. . It was originally posted there as a comment, reacting to the article and one of the commentators who was chastising demonstrators for not opposing the powerplant the way he wanted them to. greg
First to recognize Steve’s very useful analysis of the players and their connections. Always helps to understand the powerful forces arrayed against us. And yet we resist.
That ISO has recognized, as have the states, that the current system is biased against dealing with climate change and justice is a good thing. years behind the curve, but a good thing.
I also want to echo salgal in reminding Bill that there are many different ways to change the world, and we never know which ways will be effective until we try them. We also find that different ways are effective for different people. And right now we need every different way to contest the corporate monster eating the planet. We need people going to hearings to remind the ruling class that they do not have a monopoly on wisdom or information. And sometimes by talking when you are not supposed to. We all need people writing letters to the governor and calling in political favors. We need football players taking a knee instead of standing for the anthem. We need business people funding giant windfarms in the ocean and we need community gardens, solar panels, Watershed Watch, the Burrillville Land Trust, and the Audubon Society.
I try to do those things I do well so that i can most efficiently and effectively contribute to the health of my community and my planet. I often end up with tasks no one else seems to be ready to do. Writing about things no one else is talking about. Being on the cutting edge where I can to bring new things to the discussion. Should I stop doing that because you think I should be writing about something else. One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen Biko who was murdered in a South African prison by the government. He said “I write what I like”. Which gave him and others who follow that creed, the ability to write about what is important.
I have friends across the entire spectrum of the resistance. From those chaining to gates and spray painting bulldozers, to those who talk back to the ruling creeps in hearings and will not sit down, to those who file law suits and endure the state house. None of us know what it will take to defeat the powerplants, pipelines, and liquefaction facilities. So join your colleagues in honoring all of their work in its diversity, and also recognize that those who do it one way today, may be doing something you like tomorrow, and vice versa.
Urbanized communities have always destroyed forests and either absorbed or killed all of the forest people. The forests close to the coast, close to harbors, with abundant water and good soils, the people who lived in them were urbanized or killed centuries or millennia ago. What we see is the urban people of the planet seeking the last remaining forests because civilization as we know it must have forest products, wood, paper, and other items, in order to thrive. As a person of wild spaces as well as cities, I know that the remaining indigenous communities are our last chance to save the plane. Understanding how civilizations eat forests makes me not only fearful for the forest and mountain people, it helps me understand the demise of urbanized places as well. We need to move to an economy no longer based on growth to preserve forests and forest people and the rest of us.
Another short essay written in response to an on line article
Time for the people to start leaving the places with no water before they turn into refugees and the rest of us starve. It seems as if most of the states in the west are run by climate deniers. Therefore they are very unlikely to do any real planning for what to do as the water evaporates. I sure hope by the time they walk to Rhode Island they have figured out they better start thinking very differently about climate change.
To the Editor,
John Kostrzewa, in his September 4 article “Pipeline would be a conduit for jobs” trots out the same tired, and long since disproven arguments for building more climate destroying fossil fuel facilities. In this case a pipeline to bring us more gas. Study after study has demonstrated that the gas crunch is a fiction and nothing has shown that the gas pipelines will do anything to reduce the cost of energy in New England. Read the studies by the Acadia Center and the Conservation Law Foundation. The reality is that our future is solar and to put baskets of money into fossil fuel infrastructure threatens to burden us with a debt that will prevent a smooth transition to green energy and bring down the economy.
Big business and their shills in the chattering classes have tried to sell Rhode Islanders these same old tired myths for years. Sometimes they slide one by and we get a 38 Studios. Other times the people send them packing, saving us a fortune. This time the climate is too important for anyone to buy the lies and the economic analysis describes a world no one has seen for decades. The people of Burrillville and the Southside of Providence have spoken very clearly. We do not want projects that harm the environment and our communities that would be better off replaced with clean alternatives, especially when the long term economic benefits of going green are so apparent. No new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The demise of a boondoggle. Greg Gerritt August 23 2016
Governor Raimondo has a dilemma. She has to accept and spin the demise of the Clear River Energy fracked gas power plant. She has to find a way to preserve her fiction of the efforts to create a better “business climate” while allowing the demise of a plant that the community fought tooth and nail, that made no sense economically or environmentally, violated and overwhelmed all the good we are doing to stop climate change.
Her problem is compounded by the keystone kops way in which Invenergy went about the project with applications filled with information about projects that were not being proposed, and almost none on what was actually on the table. If she blames the people for stopping a bad project she gets real political heat and encourages challenges to her reign from the left. If she blames the regulatory apparatus for rejecting an amateurish proposal that did not meet the letter or the spirit of Rhode Island and Federal clean air and climate actions and legislation, she throws her own efforts at being business friendly under the bus.
Nope, she has to say the system worked, that the project is not appropriate for Rhode Island and its high standard and concern for the quality of life of its community, She has a great comparison to use. DeepWater Wind. Who went above and beyond in meeting environmental standards and in producing quality work from day one to completion. Rest assured that if Invenergy was something other than a keystone kops outfit, and produced a good application that really demonstrated their concern for doing it right, we still would have rejected a fracked gas plant that would prevent us from meeting any of our climate goals. But in this case Governor Raimondo would score points with the public and reduce the fallout from the stopping of some big deal project, by emphasizing both climate issues and the incompetence of Invenergy.
The governor also has to gain much more acceptance of democracy. Trying to shove projects like this down the throats of communities does not work any longer. The governor ought to embrace the wisdom of the people who have prevented boondoggles foisted upon us by the ruling elites in the past. She might want to get her speechwriters working now so that she can strike the right tone when the inevitable crumbling of the Clear River project occurs. And she might want to clearly articulate that gas is not the answer and that only by going completely clean energy can RI prosper in the future so this kind of living in the past proposal will not get her approval again.
Vote Green in 2016
We need smarter cities, but in order to make rural communities work better we need to raise the price of food and the price farmers get. Without that you will never keep people in rural areas. The other thing we need to do is stop shoving people off the land. As long as the palm oil plantations and the oil companies and the miners keep killing rural people who want to keep their land slowing the growth of cities is a fantasy. Maybe start with rural peasants and the original inhabitants of the land get land rights. Without that the article is a fantasy.