The article in September 13 Providence Journal “Where did all the wood go?” struck a chord with me as a former carpenter and woodlot manager. 30 years ago in Maine we commented on the poor quality of the lumber being produced, and the tiny size of the trees being cut for it. Yes COVID-19 disrupted supply chains, but the troubles go much deeper. Maine is producing 20% less wood than it did 30 years ago, due to overcutting for so long. The fires sweeping the west are burning huge areas slated for commercial harvest. The 2 biggest uncut forests on the planet, Siberia and the Amazon, both had record fires this year. It will only get worse. Eventually the pandemic induced supply chain disruptions will abate, but until we rethink development and an economy that grows by destroying the forest, the wood supply issues will only get worse.
A plan to end violence by police officers. Greg Gerritt June 2 2020
I think all of us are reeling from the violence committed by the police in Minneapolis, just like we are reeling from the time before, and the time before that, and the 1000 murders by police each year in the United States. We are still reeling from 400 years of authorities brutalizing everyone in the Americas who is not rich white and male starting with the people who already lived here when Europeans arrived and progressing through all of the other communities who live here today. It has never stopped.
I know this plan sounds absurd, and the politicians will run from it. But it is simple, flexible, non-violent, will save the taxpayers money, and provides a unique incentive to break the blue line of silence and coverups that protects those who commit violence.
Like all official purveyors of violence the armaments and paychecks that keep police departments up and running come from the taxpayers. Communities hold the power of the purse, and it is obvious that if we keep funding the violence it will continue.
So a simple proposal. Any time a police officer uses violence inappropriately, in other words when any course other than violence would protect the public safety (if bank robbers start shooting up the street, it is appropriate to shoot back, but these cases are very limited). then the overall budget of the police force of the perpetrator shall be cut by 10% for the foreseeable future, with each infraction reducing the police budget by an additional 10%. We might also reduce police budgets by the amount they have to pay in law suits they lose or settlements they negotiate with the families of their victims.
The incentive to achieve police policing themselves so they no longer commit violence is that with expanded whistleblower protections, the percentage of the budget lost can be reduced if the other police officers present at the time an officer commits a violent act actively try to prevent harm and immediately report and later testify at hearings and trials honestly about the violence.
Consider what a 10% cut to a budget does to a police force. It means the potential for loss of employment for many other officers or reduced armaments, older cars or other serious effects. Therefore every police officer will now have the incentive to prevent violence or stop it in the act in order to protect their own jobs.
Our “Law and Order“ politicians will hate this idea, but as police departments are already paying millions in settlements for wrongful deaths and injuries to civilians, this proposal will save cities, counties, states, and the federal government millions as well as restore community relations. The federal government should like this proposal as it would apply to federal grants to local law enforcement agencies, which would be reduced by the same percentage as community policing budgets are cut for acts of violence. It will also save our governments money at all levels because we have way too much policing in this country, primarily driven by the desire to keep the poor and the people of color in line. In a democracy such an idea as keeping the people in line is absurd, and the adoption of this proposal or something like it is a clear statement that we have to walk away from our crazy history of violence by the police.
Discuss amongst yourselves and your colleagues. I look forward to the discussion but even more I look forward to the ending of violence by the police.
First Earth Day 2 short stories still relevant today. Greg Gerritt
I had never really organized an event when I heard about the first Earth Day in 1970, but I immediately decided to do something. I ended up organizing a school wide assembly at my high school with a bunch of students giving short presentations about environmental topics. For some reason, lost in the mists of time, I decided to give a talk about the restoration of the Meadowlands, the estuary of the Hackensack River that was a few miles from my house, and that I had never really looked at. I just knew it was a very polluted industrial area. I included a one liner about ospreys too, which at the time were being devastated by DDT. At the time the Meadowlands were still being diked and filled, pollution was rampant, and no one was talking about restoration. I moved away right after high school and for many years gave the Meadowlands very little thought. All I heard the Meadowlands in the intervening time was that Jimmy Hoffa was buried in the foundations of the football stadium built there.
Sometime in the 1990’s I was with my wife driving south from New England long the Jersey Turnpike and there were a series of signs as we went through the Meadowlands about restoration. Cleaner water, bird habitat that sort of thing. Made me smile and triggered the memory of what I said more than 20 years before. The restoration efforts continue to this day. It is also interesting that many of the events I organize these days have the same basic format as the event I organized for the first Earth Day. And that yesterday I saw an Osprey sitting on a post right in front of a billboard in a heavy industrial area in Pawtucket right next to I-95 and the still very polluted Moshassuck River, a place I had never seen an Osprey in before.
The other thing I did for the first Earth Day was join a park creation effort somewhere in Manhattan. Big vacant lot in a lower income POC neighborhood. I have no idea how I heard about it, but I did and I went. Worked all day with a rake and shovel. I also gave it very little thought after that until many years later.
What struck me many years later was that so much of the discussion these days is about how white the environmental movement is, how it always ignored justice issues. All of that is true, but it is interesting to note that even at the first Earth Day the park creation was a POC led project in a POC neighborhood with a wide diversity of volunteers. These days we talk about this much more, and we all know that the real energy is in the Climate Justice and Environmental Justice movements, but we should not ignore the fact that the justice strand of the environmental movement was present at the first Earth Day.
I am at the age when I occasionally reflect on all the things I have done, and I kind of like it that the things I did for the first Earth Day 50 years ago, are still themes in my work encompassed in my slogan “You cannot heal ecosystems without ending poverty,. You cannot end poverty without healing ecosystems. And you will do neither if we do not shut down the war machine”.
The situation on the planet is in many ways worse than ever. There are only half as many wild animals as 50 years ago, and the massive deforestation is not only worsening the climate crisis, it is unleashing new diseases like the current pandemic that is making the 50thEarth Day a virtual event, but the linking of the movements for justice, the environment, peace , and democracy still gives me hope and keeps me fighting.
A Statement on the Climate Crisis by Green Party Elders
Linda Cree former Co-Chair of the the GP-US Platform Committee and educator, folk artist of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Greg Gerritt One of the founders of the Green Party of the United States and an Activist and Writer in Providence RI
We remember when the world had twice as many animals and half as many people as it does in 2020. When we were young there was 50% more forest, the Arctic Sea Ice was bigger and made of older ice, and much of the winter rains we see today came as snow in our northern communities. We remember the post WWII prosperity and how widely it was shared, when democracy seemed ascendant, when the Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Wilderness, Clean Air and Clean Water acts all passed in a few short years. We remember the corporate and right-wing blowback that, since 1973, has tried to return us to a robber-baron-like patriarchy and oligarchy. To a racist and violent past where the rich could pollute for profit with impudence and America was all about corporate empires.
We also understand that the climate crisis didn’t happen overnight. It’s been exacerbated by greed and corruption in high places, but the roots go far deeper. When we look for the roots of the crisis we realize that climate change is only one symptom of our culture’s ecocidal disruption of natural systems. That disruption owes its power to our unquestioned faith in “growth-as-progress,” to our anthropocentric belief that Nature is simply “resources” for our use, to our patriarchal attitudes of dominance and control, and to the hyper-industrialism and population overshoot we’re experiencing as a result.
The Climate Crisis is not only at the door, it is ransacking the house with fires, floods, famines, driving millions of people from their homes and fostering wars. We have seen politicians dither, corporations lie, good science bashed, and democracy squelched to protect the power and the money of the polluters and the politicians they pay. Every time the scientists come out with a new report, it is more dire than the previous one, forecasting faster and more disastrous results, while still lagging behind the ever more dangerous reality.
Green Elders have not only seen the climate crisis developing for a long time, we have seen a bit differently. A worldview shaped by an understanding of the connections between ecology, equality, democracy, and peace means that for many years Greens have known that to end the climate crisis and mitigate the results we are too late to stop, we must not only halt carbon emissions and plant trees; we must also embrace social justice and an economic transformation that returns power to communities. Local communities must be empowered to set their own green courses and transform dangerous industries into those that affirm life and community. They must have democratically structured rights to stop inappropriate economic scams in the name of growth that make inequality worse. They must have the ability to move intelligently and together into an economy that is working for everyone, not just the few.
As Elders,we know that it is unlikely that we will see the worst of the heat waves and storms that are being baked into the climate today. That is the unfortunate legacy for the youth. We may see the end of coral reefs, the tipping point pushing the Amazon from forest to scrubland, continents on fire, a world in which only billionaires have a say in the halls of government. But it is these things that have not yet come to pass, rather than the past, that must drive us today.
We must make sure that clean energy, properly sited by the people who live in the community, replaces all fossil fuels, that forests, soils, waters, and wildlife as well as humans and human communities are healed and restored. That living wages and maximum wages shape an economy that provides life affirming work for all. That healthy environments for children are the norm. And that democracy is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
As calamities have proven time and again, when a society decides to go all in on doing the right thing, to do the critical things to assure survival, then great things can happen. That we can rebuild our infrastructure, figure out how to protect the public and provide healthcare for all, stand down the war machine, and expand democracy is well known, but the oligarchs continue to scheme about how to protect their wealth and power through gerrymandering and propaganda.
Green Party candidates were the first to call for a Green New Deal, several years before anyone else picked up the cry. We welcome all the Green New Dealers. Greens realize, however, that the solution to our energy crisis involves much more than substituting alternative technologies such as wind and solar for fossil fuels and nuclear. Our GP-US Platform advocates for“decentralized bio-regional electricity generation and distribution” to restore community control and to “prevent the massive ecological and social destruction that accompanies production of electricity in mega-scale projects”. (GP-US Platform). It also calls for reducing our energy consumption, and cites the moral responsibility we have to all of our relations, and the need to halt “the destruction of habitats which are being sacrificed to unqualified economic expansion”.(GP-US Platform)
As Elders, we remember the early days of the alternative energy movement and the importance attached to keeping such energies appropriately-scaled and community controlled. Today we see neo-environmentalists lauding as “green” any mega-scale corporate project involving solar panels or wind turbines, no matter how ecologically destructive the project may be. We oppose the colonial attitudes toward rural and wilderness areas such developments often represent. We see these mega projects as a transition to renewables according to the rules of the current centralized, corporate-controlled system that’s fixated on growth and profits. It plays into corporate agendas that enable our wasteful energy appetites, when what’s needed is to rein them in.
The hard reality is that the scale at which modern industrial civilizations operate is a big part of the problem. Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute warns us that we can only have a post-carbon future if we in the heavily industrialized nations reduce our energy use “significantly.” And James Kunstler, author of “The Long Emergency,” questions the viability of large-scale solar and wind projects when we run out of fossil fuels. In the long run, he concludes, there is no energy resource that will allow us to continue using energy at our current rates. Thus, our Green value of Future Focus compels us to look at our situation honestly, and begin planning for a transition to simpler, localized lifestyles and technologies.
A just transition, not only of the energy system, but of our society and the entire economy is a prerequisite for surviving the climate crisis. And time is running out. We’re experiencing what many are calling the Sixth Great Extinction. As Chickasaw author, Linda Hogan, reminds us in her essay The First People, “We are losing everything of true worth in this world. In all the four directions, the animals are leaving. Through our failed humanity they are vanishing, and along with them we are losing something of utmost importance: the human traits of love, empathy, and compassion.” Greens believe it’s critical that we recognize how destructive our Western culture’s human-centeredness is as we try to move to more Earth-gentle, sustainable lifestyles.
It will take great resources to make it happen, but the resources are available. It has been proven time and again, that governments can fund public infrastructure without enriching the bankers. This can be done without causing inflation by using publicly created money. We could transfer 50% of the military budget to a just transition for communities without taking away from our national security one whit. All it would do is require us to give up the idea of empire and the demand that countries follow our prescriptions to oligarchical power. We know that we can rebuild soils and forests and clean up the waters while providing more jobs than currently exist in those fields. That supporting farmers and helping them stay on the land reduces the pressures on the community and provides healthier food. We know it will require real local democracy and governance that pays close attention to real data and open discussions.
Mandates to reduce emissions are absolutely needed, as is funding for alternatives. But just as much, maybe even more, we need to develop the collective political will to do the right thing, to practice justice, to demand and create equality, to put the needs of healthy ecosystems at the heart of the needs of human communities.
This is much harder to do than the technical stuff. People know how to erect a wind turbine and build a solar electric grid. But, while we know how to build things, unless we get the human relations and our relations with other living things right, it will be for naught. Unless justice is at its heart it will only lead to the next disaster. Unless all humans participate in creating the new world, it will recreate the disaster of the current era. Unless the healing of nature and deep respect for all life is a core value we shall continue to see unprecedented destruction from the next new thing.
Unless we get right with all of our relations, human and non human, that inhabit this little planet in the vastness of space, it will be very hard sledding for those who follow in the time of no snows.
I have been working with a group of people to plan a 50thEarth Day celebration for Rhode Island but given the global pandemic associated with COVID-19, the odds of having a public celebration on April 22 are approaching zero and getting slimmer every day (we are starting to discuss an on line event) considering that the whole state is in lock down and it is extremely unlikely that the pandemic will be over by Late April.
I was thinking about how in the early years of Earth Day we did lots of politics, and constructed spider webs of yarn in homage to the web of life and the connectedness of everything. But eventually the corporate pushback, starting with the Chamber of Commerce in 1973, and the funding needs of the various environmental organizations, left us with an Earth Day mostly devoted to cleanups and tree plantings instead of raising more hell in the halls of government and thinking like an ecosystem. By thinking like an ecosystem, I mean consciously examining the evolutionary pathways of life in ecosystems and trying to understand the interactions that lead to the current result. Have you noticed that the branches of different trees in the forest do not touch? Have you ever wondered why? Or why coyotes in some places hunt in the daytime, whereas in other places they hunt at night? Or how coves look generally the same at every scale from a portion of a puddle to the Gulf of Maine? It is this effort to think like an ecosystem that keeps me pondering how COVID -19 was unleashed on human communities and how unprepared they were for it in most places. And maybe most of all WHY we are unprepared.
On a recent walk I was pondering how COVID-19 relates to so many of the projects I am currently working on. I write frequently and occasionally speak out on distortions in the medical industrial complex that lead to the massive neglect of the public health and prevention and how the inequality driven by the growth of the medical industrial complex does not help the RI economy. I write frequently about the anti regulatory, anti tax, and anti government fervor of the right wing and the neoliberals and how that leaves us unprepared for the future and totally unable to cope with issues like the climate catastrophe in any meaningful way. The semi systematic dismantling of public health systems in the US, built in response to global outbreaks, could only be done by those who hate science, democracy, and transparency because it gives lie to their propaganda. Science and democracy provides communities with tools to fight ecosystem destruction and poisoning as well as the climate stupidity of those who govern from the patriarchal gut. When the know nothing in the White House says climate science is a hoax created by China, so let us cut taxes on the oil companies, promises that coal will never die, deregulates methane emissions while encouraging deforestation, and then cuts the budget for public health, is it any wonder that we are in big trouble?
I write and speak frequently about forests, and most of the novel diseases we are seeing, COVID -19 included, are reaching humans as part of the global deforestation, with humans pushing into the last remaining wild forests and in destroying them in the name of profit running into wild populations harboring disease vectors humans have never experienced before, but are very susceptible to. Deforestation also relates to the extinction crisis, and it is often human interactions in the forest with the animals that harbor the novel diseases such as carrying carcasses and eating them, that is one of the big threats to the animals that are disappearing around the world. I started thinking about the environment when I read about endangered species in 1967, and after 50 years, the situation is much worse and the consequences for human communities are ever more deadly. (The viruses often are just part of the forests biodiversity with no adverse effects on forest populations, just on populations of creatures and people that have not been part of the local ecosystem and therefore have no resistance). Deforestation is a leading indicator of the mining, drilling, and industrialization that leads to the burning of fossil fuels, with deforestation among the larger drivers of the climate catastrophe, trees and soils releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide each year as they are destroyed, though deforestation and soil destruction is still much less of a driver of climate catastrophe than fossil fuel burning.
So I guess it is only fitting, ironic, or some such crazy juxtaposition that almost all the big events people were planning to celebrate the 50thEarth Day are being cancelled due to the triumph of neoliberalism that creates the massive deforestation and exploitation that brings people into contact with novel diseases and dismantles public health systems that could have made it much easier to stop the epidemic from spreading, while spreading propaganda that a deadly global epidemic and climate catastrophe are not a big deal. The most powerful monied forces on the planet are not only continuing to rip out the soul of Mother Earth and leave devastation in their wake, they are proud of their destruction in the name of profit. Unfortunately, even for them, the forces they have let loose in the world will bite them too even as they seek shelter in their luxury bunkers, and they have let loose a huge wave of activism by the young who are desperate for a future but see it burning and drowning before them.
We have lost a chance to see a truly celebratory 50thEarth Day, but maybe it will give us a world in which the activism turns into the force that turns the world towards what we looked for 50 years ago. I sure hope so, and will do what I can to keep the activism moving forward.
These days it is hard to avoid thinking about the Covid-19 outbreak, and I am mostly working on climate issues, and I am sure there are conspiracy theories about how they are linked. Conspiracies aside, there is one way that the virus and our climate are definitely linked, and that is through deforestation. Let me explain.
There have been a number of relatively recent disease outbreaks with novel diseases, diseases that western science had not seen before, and often diseases that the communities where the outbreaks originate had not experienced before. Most of these diseases are also originally transmitted to people from tropical wild animal populations, with bats and primates implicated in some of them. What is happening is that the deforestation process works in a variety of ways, driven by factors like new road construction and the development of plantations. As roads reach new areas, it increases both the cutting of trees and the shooting of wildlife for food. Some of the wildlife is eaten locally and replaces food sources lost as deforestation progresses, some of the hunting takes advantage of the new roads and transports the food to urban markets where there is often a high demand for bush meat. With the hunting taking place in places where very few people have hunted previously that are now available for exploitation due to new roads, or places where hunters are no longer living isolated communities, hunters are running into novel diseases in the same way that a survey of biodiversity in places that have not been explored/exploited before find new species of geckos, salamanders, and monkeys. It makes perfect sense that if you are finding new species of animals and plants, you are running into new microorganisms, some of which will eventually be used to cure diseases, others that will cause new diseases, and most that have little direct effect on humans.
The climate link is that the protection and maintenance of good health in the global forest, and especially tropical forests, is a critical part of our strategy to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to move towards zero carbon emissions rather quickly, but we also have to suck carbon dioxide out of the sky and trees and soils are the most natural and least energy intensive ways to do that. The best way to keep the trees and soils healthy is to protect tropical forests. We are already seeing reports how the carbon budget of the tropical forests is turning negative. Deforestation is the big driver, but a decent amount of the loss of carbon in tropical forests is a cascade effect. As forest turn silent, as the animals are all hunted out even if it is prior to deforestation, the forest unravels. No animals are eating seeds that need to go through digestive systems to germinate. No animals are depositing seeds in their poop as they move from place to place. Very small pests run amok with predators gone. The ability of the forest to sequester and store carbon falls apart, requiring ever greater efforts to de carbonize to preserve the climate, and new ways of sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.
The conclusion is that the process that brings the new diseases to humans, deforestation and the bush meat trade is part and parcel of the climate crisis, and to better prevent future novel diseases, we need to do a lot better job of protecting the forests that help keep the climate intact.
One of the complaints of the business and political class in RI is that RI enters recessions before most of the country and comes out more slowly. This is then used as an excuse for more giveaways to business, mostly as subsidies, tax credits, and access to land and buildings. The result of this is an economy very dependent upon new construction of very large buildings and infrastructure for growth. And of course in a recession the first thing that drops out is money for new construction, and the government, following neo – liberal principles, has already cut taxes and services and refuses to fund more infrastructure that actually helps communities.
The resolution is not necessarily more money for infrastructure as green infrastructure sometimes takes less to build and can provide better long term sustainability. The resolution requires us to think differently about the economy and our expectations of growth. An economy that was focused on eliminating carbon emissions, clean air and water, public health, healthy local food for everyone, and building resilience will not grow rapidly, which is no big deal in a place with a barely growing population, but it will distribute the benefits of civilization much more widely, and be much less likely to slide into a recession based on the banks betting on real estate speculation.
Greg Gerritt 2/5/20
I have been paying attention and showing up to the discussions around putting another dump on the port of Providence. The neighbors are quite incensed, and having lived through a similar fight 25 years ago, I sort of get it. I offer a short essay leading to a short statement that we might consider enacting into law on the state and municipal levels. Thank you for your attention and comments. Greg Gerritt
I teach young doctors at Lifespan about environmental hazards in the city, and my partner in this endeavor reminds them that neighborhoods, with their unique mixture of hazards and income, sometimes shorthanded as zipcodes, are the best indicator of life expectancy. We have come to understand that it is immoral, unethical, and ought to be illegal to dump more crap on low income communities. But the laws have not yet caught up to our better understanding due to powerful forces arrayed to prevent justice.
When Corporate America, as mediated through powerful organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, decides that it should be easy for them to dump whatever they want into the environment and the easiest place to get away with it is rural and low income neighborhoods, they write laws to enshrine it. As most people, if given the chance, will choose to live in a clean community, we find wealthy communities are able to deflect the dirtiest activities, and can write the zoning codes to concentrate the dirt in the places already suffering, and inhabited by people with less power.
There are a variety of ways one could stop the current practices, most of them related to democracy. One I would like to discuss is cumulative impact. In the current regulatory regime you might have a neighborhood with relatively clean air. Someone comes along and with sufficient tax breaks, offers to build a factory to build washing machines, something we all can use, to pay good wages, and not exceed any environmental limits, Next comes someone to put a recycling center that again does not exceed any limits. But at some point, and usually not very far down the road, the cumulative effect is a polluted neighborhood.
The port of Providence contains some of the dirtiest industries around. Dust is an inevitable product of salt, of asphalt, of scrap metals. Not all of the industries are in compliance, but even if they were, the amount and variety of pollutants has resulted in the highest asthma rates in the state in the surrounding neighborhood. Current law continues to encourage the dirty to congregate, but there is no justice if we continue to dump all the dirt on the same people every time, perpetuating all of the inequities of race and wealth we currently endure.
Clearly current law is not properly protecting low income people and communities of color. We need a new standard, that of cumulative impact. Maybe something as simple as
No facility may be sited, even if it meets individual standards for emissions, if it adds to the burden of communities, with an eye towards direct hazards and hazards created by the interaction of various pollutants, that already suffer from elevated levels of any industrial diseases.
I suppose one could include a list of ailments but if so, it should just say including but not exclusively, x, y, or z.
What this also does is imply that we shall not permit industries in polluted neighborhoods except those that contribute to a cleaner environment, and that is what we shall direct our economic development agencies to do, find things that clean environments while producing things we need. Nothing less will do in the age of asthma and the climate crisis.
I suppose this is not sufficient for bill writing at city or state level, but I doubt it would be hard to find a place it fits in the statutes. If any of you receiving this have further thoughts, or have an ability to turn it into legislation, please do.
To the editor,
Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello in his interview published on December 19 has again demonstrated his lack of understanding and knowledge of how the economy works in the 21st Century. He believes that reducing regulations and taxes helps speed up economic growth while the data on how taxes and regulations affect the economy clearly demonstrates that raising taxes on the rich does not slow down the economy, and often helps the economy due to reduced inequality, while strong regulatory climates are correlated with better economic performance.
If the speaker really wanted a stronger RI economy he would raise taxes on the rich, legislate a carbon tax, improve mass transit, fund housing for low income Rhode Islanders, and put RI on a very clear and rapid path to zero carbon emissions. He would also acknowledge that subsidies for millionaires for real estate harms the economy.
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 email@example.com
Phil Edmonds firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren and Pam Testoni – email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wakefield: St. Francis Assisi Church – 114 High Street
Coats Collected and given away November 25 10AM to Noon
Contact: Dana Hawkins email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.
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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.