About Greg Gerritt

The Founder of the think tank ProsperityForRI.com, and the Coordinator of the Rhode Island compost Initiative, Greg Gerritt has been involved in efforts to create a sustainable economy since the 1970’s when he began building solar buildings and creating organic homesteads. Currently involved in efforts around urban agriculture, compost, river restoration and the administration of the coalition of environmental organizations in RI, Gerritt has been the leading advocate in RI for making sure ecology is actually a component of efforts to create a sustainable economy in Rhode Island and a critic of the idea of sustainable growth on this finite planet.

Response to article in Boston Globe on military recruitment issues

Prosperity For RI7/15/22 – 7:39AM

The US military stopped drafting because it did not want people who opposed the empire in the military. So the US now has a military full of white supremacists. We saw how that turned out on January 6 when white supremacist militias tried to overthrow democracy.  

What we seem to have now is that the rich old men of the Congress think more money and a bigger military will solve all our problems,, but the young people are voting with their feet. (And ever since the Supreme Court made voting harder, voting with their feet seems to be their only option)

What we need in this country is a serious discussion about what kind of military the American people want. Throw the military contractors out of the halls of Congress, stop listening to the generals, and invite about 1000 young people at random to testify in front of congress about the kind of military the US should have. do we want to be the world’s policeman. Is it right to spend more than the next 10 nations in military spending spend together? is it right to have lousy health care but more bullets and guns than any other country? Do we need nearly 800 military bases around the world?

If the young people of America are the future, maybe we need to listen to them. If they do not want to join the military, maybe we need a SMALLER military.

Recessions, inflation, and ecology

comments on a Boston Globe article on inflation and recessions

The planet is in ecological collapse. The economy has been so financialized that the rich can make money without producing anything of value. So we have too much money chasing a diminishing supply of goods. Lumber is expensive,. We are also losing our forests. No forests, no wood, sky high lumber prices. For those who ask for more oil, oil prices are way too low for the damage that burning more oil costs. How many hurricanes and tornados do the folks in the south and midwest need to experience. And How much do the disasters cost and how much do they drive the cost of lumber to repair the housing?

the problem with financial news is that it is completely divorced from context. If ecosystems were being rpaired and our consumption was sustainable, we would not have the economic problems.

One last point. In a financialized economy recessions are not a bug, they are a feature. A feature designed to extract more from the poor and hand it to the rich.

Recessions and short term thinking

Comments on a Boston Globe article on the recession and short term thinking

The short term thinking in all this is rather troubling.  Yes growth is down compared to the economy of covid relief dollars, but that means it is down compared a a free money economy.  Not based on normal trends.   But what always seems missing from the discussion is the state of the planet that underlies all of the economy.  If high grade iron ore deposits are depleted, it costs more to mine iron.  If ships have to go further and further to catch fewer and fewer fish, it is both inflationary and diminished.  If hurricanes and floods cause more and more damage,…..  And we have an oil giant killing their neighbors to fulfill some sort of white christian nationalist fantasy of a greater Russia.

In other words the short term economy may disturb investors, but the long term economy, the one dependent upon healthy forests, clean air, clean water, healthy food, is in shambles and unlikely to ever come back as long as we persist in over exploitation, growing inequality,  and the financialization of everything.  

As much as it is a shock to some, economies run best when organized from the bottom up.  When those with the least are doing well, everyone else will too.  When the water is clean and the forests healthy, everyone is better off, including economically.  As long as the rich make decisions that only benefit thier own bank accounts, recessions are a feature, not a bug.  

Privatization and the price of health care

I sent this letter to the Boston Globe on February 20 2022

To the Editor,  The price of healthcare is well beyond what most Americans can pay, but Paul Michel in his opinion piece in the Globe on February 20 seems to pay no attention to that fact nor how it came about.  The problem is that instead of paying attention to public health measures privatized American medicine has focused on patentable research and then used it to dramatically raise prices.  Dr. Sharita Parthasarathy of the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy has done an extensive takedown of this approach in her paper “Health Innovation Policy for the People” and I highly suggest that everyone interested in the topic of how to make health care affordable for all Americans read it.  The case of asthma, a major health crisis in Rhode Island points out that almost no research is going into prevention, but little patent upgrades result in the jacking of prices so extensively that kids go without medicine because families cannot afford it despite the knowledge that most asthma is triggered by environmental factors.  The situation with COVID is the same. Public health measures are at least as effective at slowing a pandemic if done well and fully funded, and the privatization of vaccines produced with oodles of public money means that we are likely to see new variants in places that cannot afford vaccines.  

Greg Gerritt

No new gas fired power plants

If we are serious about changing course, then we must act as though we are serious. Large swathes of the planet will be uninhabitable in the near future if the temperatures keep rising. The refugees from the storms , fires, and wars will pour over the borders and democracy will become extinct if we keep building fossil fuel plants. I may have been the first person to start writing about how we need to stop building any new fossil fuel facilities. In Rhode Island we have started to make this commitment, though the troglodytes among us keep pushing for more as they are unwilling to face reality.

The argument that we need more and more power is false. The economy is going to change, and as we restrict the power of the rich, it will shrink and become more equitable. Deforestation will stop as we allow the indigenous to restore the land and we shall use less wood. The elimination of most single use plastics will help.  

It is going to take a massive shift away from consumerism and towards justice if we want an economy and democracy that works. That means stop building any new fossil fuel facilities and start focusing on public health. I am old enough that i will not see the worst of what is coming. But I gave my car away in 1976, have stopped flying, and have helped RI start a green stormwater management system and community composting. use less, share more if what we need in the 21st Century.

The Moshassuck River: One Man’s Journey

This is a little different than my usual video.  The RI Rivers Council has begun a process to get all of the watershed groups to produce a video about their river.  Friends of the Moshassuck was in the first group of 3 that were funded to do so.  I think you will like it.  Your thoughts appreciated.  Feel Free to share it.  Greg The Moshassuck River:  One Man’s Journey   13 minutes 15 seconds   https://youtu.be/DgysVLKETKA

The Moshassuck River One Man’s Journey

This is a little different than my usual video.  The RI Rivers Council has begun a process to get all of the watershed groups to produce a video about their river.  Friends of the Moshassuck was in the first group of 3 that were funded to do so.  I think you will like it.  Your thoughts appreciated.  Feel Free to share it.  Greg The Moshassuck River:  One Man’s Journey   13 minutes 15 seconds   https://youtu.be/DgysVLKETKA

The NFIB knows almost nothing

Published in the Pro Jo August 2021

To the Editor  I have been dealing with the RI chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses for about 25 years, mostly at the Statehouse.  During this time I have found them to be among the least truthful organizations in their testimony.  On Tuesday August 24 they did it again, complaining in a guest column about our 46 ranking in some crackpot business ranking.  Rhode Island is right smack in the middle in both unemployment and per capita income, exactly what we would expect of a state centered on a smallish city, while we are among the leaders in recovering jobs lost to the pandemic.  

Anyone who studies the situation realizes that the future of prosperity requires us to stop the climate catastrophe by eliminating carbon emissions and eliminate inequality.  But the NFIB moans about raising the minimum wage and about making the fossil fuel industry cover the cost of undoing the damage they are creating. Years ago the NFIB argued that no one would buy a car if seatbelts were required and they are at it again. 

The NFIB continues to live in the past and if we follow their advice we shall condemn many Rhode Islanders to substandard wages and everyone to the fires and floods the climate catastrophe is bringing.


20 years after we tried to kick them out of Afghanistan the Taliban are back in charge.  They remind me of Republicans, Sexist, anti democracy, violent, and religious fanatics, but in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, they were the only one resisting imperial occupation and the puppet regime the Americans set up.  The Taliban will never rule a modern country, any regime that refuses to educate women and girls will never create a modern economy, but they are not the puppets of foreign masters and right now that is all that counts.

The United states has spent 20 years and trillions of dollars trying to create an Afghan army, but like all American attempts to create puppet regimes and an army to support them, it is a failure.  Or rather, the only place American puppets have worked out a bit better is in Central America, where the genocide of the indigenous with American weapons and soldiers schooled at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia has kept American puppets in power for longer.

The Right Wing religious fanatics in America have a special bond with the Taliban.  Religious fanatics of the Christian kind need Religious fanatics of the Islamic kind.  And voice versa. Having foreign enemies allows them to claim the mantle of nationalism, and allows them to be as violent as they wish, claiming that anything less, and any hints of democracy and resistance to fanaticism makes them vulnerable to foreign enemies.  It is typical of the lies and fantasies that religion brings to the modern world.  The Sun goes around the Earth, there are microchips in the Covid vaccines, God hates gays, climate change is a hoax, and America is the most indispensable nation.  

You cannot bomb your way to peace, you cannot grow the economy infinitely on a finite planet, we will all die if we keep burning fossil fuels, and countries stuck on racism, sexism, and a denial of science fall apart.  It will take 50 years  for Afghanistan to recover from what we have done, we let the Saudi’s off the hook for 9/11, and we have seen what government based on fossil fuels, lies and religious fanaticism does.  

How to find allies in the struggle against right wing anti semitism

I wrote this in the comments section of the Boston Globe

One thing most of this discussion leaves out is how Israel in its practices in the occupied territories has alienated many of its potential allies in the fight against anti Jewish sentiments. Some of the ways this works is by the melding of the politics of Israel and powerful forces in American jewry. By Israel and its government aligning with the Republicans, and then teaching American police forces how to control an occupied territory (think Black neighborhood) , progressives are appalled. Both around the treatment of Palestinians and the treatment of American Blacks. As a Jew it is very hard to support Israel in its apartheid system. I protested South African apartheid 35 years ago, how can I not protest Israeli apartheid now.

The willingness to call Anti apartheid work to free Palestine anti semitism, means the refusal of parts of the Jewish community to separate Israeli government from Judaism. For Jews to again have allies in the fight for justice (and by that i mean people who want to end racism here) and an end to racist actions against Jews means that American Jews, not just 35% of them, have to give up on supporting an apartheid governments and the settlements in the West Bank. When Palestine is no longer under the thumb of the most religious in Israel, when Judaism is no longer associated with a racist government, when Jews in America are truly united in opposing the the racists running America, our allies int he struggle for justice will return. To expect them to return while Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians openly suck up to the racist Trumps of the world in unrealistic.

Time to leave Afghanistan

I am a long time activist in Rhode island on peace, environmental, and justice issues and have known Senator Whitehouse for a long time.  About 15 years ago we had a short conversation at a conference at Brown when he jokingly commented how my beard reminded him of those of Afghan resistance fighters.  I replied, also somewhat joking, but not really, that I was growing it in solidarity with Afghan resistance to American occupation.  That ended the conversation.  

While I too worry about what will happen in Afghanistan when American military forces leave, the problem is there because it appears Senator Whitehouse, who always votes for war and bigger Pentagon budgets, as well as the entire government apparatus in Washington DC did not learn the real lesson of the Vietnam war.  The real lesson is that imperialism is a horrible governmental policy and that it is impossible to remake other countries.  The US should never again invade other countries, should stop funding dictators and guerillas, and should stop selling weapons.  Yes be worried that the Taliban will kill many people, but maybe the politicians in Washington DC should have thought about that before the US invaded and occupied the country.  Other than continue killing many more people, there is nothing the US can do to salvage the situation.  The aftermath will be harsh, but until the US leaves and leaves them alone, the long nightmare for the Afghan people will never end.  If we leave it will take time, but eventually Vietnam and Laos put their own houses in order, and Afghanistan will too.  

Response on health care spending

I am writing in regards to this publication.  You were listed as the ones to ask questions of.  

bls_emblem_sml.jpgBureau of Labor Statistics
The latest Beyond the Numbers article is available here: https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-9/what-is-driving-increases-in-healthcare-spending.htm. Highlights are below. What is driving increases in healthcare spending? Observations from BLS disease-based price indexes12/04/2020

I have been a student of price rises in healthcare ever since a hospital expansion ran over my neighborhood about 15 years ago.

I respect the data driven process you used, but I think in some ways you missed the big picture.

To me the key factor in health care cost rises is that healthcare is integral to the economic growth schemes of governments across the country.  Growing the medical industrial complex is a critical part of the economic plans of almost every city and state.  Almost by definition If the medical industrial complex is going to be a driver of economic growth health care spending must go up faster than the overall growth rate, which means that everyone who works in an industry growing at the national rate or below is going to fall further and further behind, which has been demonstrated to lead to ever more medical bankruptcies.  

If the overall spending on health care is going up based on the fact that people are consuming health care at an ever increasing rate, a rate much faster than the growth in population, while at the same time more and more people are falling behind on their heath care bills, there is clearly a market failure.  Prices are not based on ability to pay.  Which leads back to the original point, government wants the amount of money sloshing around the system to increase, and while constantly bemoaning how expensive health care has become, does everything it can to encourage the amount of money sloshing around to increase.    

This might be a smart strategy if it improved the delivery of healthcare combined with eliminating the causes of medical debt and bankruptcies.  Considering that the US ranks 37th in healthcare delivery, with life expectancy diminishing, suicides and overdoses shooting through the roof, and rural areas losing their hospitals, it seems a ridiculous  strategy.  But one the lobbyists love.  

An additional factor to consider is that all your statistics help us ignore a key factor.  Why are Americans sicker?  Why are they going to the doctor more? There are many factors involved, but one that needs to be factored in to the equations and never is, is that the pollution , stress, bad diets, poverty, racism, and injustice is killing people, and that a concerted effort to improve public health would cost less, help the economy more, and reduce the amount of health care spending, but that does not make the lobbyists or hospitals with the growth mentality  happy so they rig the system.   The US response to the pandemic of Covid-19 makes the case quite clearly.  Air pollution makes it worse, the poor and people of color get it more, get sicker and die more frequently.  The government traffics in dirty polluting industries and dismantles the public health system.  That increase expenditures for direct health care while worsening the healthcare results for most Americans.  

I would appreciate your thoughts, and I would appreciate the BLS looking at the real problems and searching for real solutions rather than the problems incurred because of the stupidity of the American government and its disregard for the public health.  


Greg Gerritt 

Director of Research  ProsperityForRI.com

Providence RI

the fall of the speaker of the house

Back in 2014 when Nicholas Mattiello became the speaker of the RI House I made a rather cheeky prediction.  I noted that it would not end well for the speaker as corruption would do him in.  It turned out that while he was not indicted, the spectacle of his campaign aide on trial for illegal campaign financing shenanigans, more than likely contributed to his loss.  Admittedly I thought Mattiello’s corruption would be more along the lines of real estate deals, as real estate is inherently a corrupt industry, with tax breaks, sweet heart deals, and permitting all contributing to big money corruption in a variety of ways.  But it is reasonable to infer that the ethics involved in the real estate industry bled over to the campaign ethics in Mattiello’s tight 2016 race.  

I am sure there are other factors that played a role in his loss, including the campaign by Ms. Fung-Fenton.  Conservatives did not like him just because he was not a Republican, and the partisan divide in the USA is getting more and more hardened around race, climate, and democracy.  Many Democrats dramatically disagreed with him about the need for action on climate, his obsession with lowering the car tax and income taxes on the rich, and his anti choice and anti justice positions.  And then you have to consider the Worcester Sox.  Personally the only thing Speaker Mattiello ever did that I liked was scuttle the Pawsox stadium deal.  He took lots of heat for his actions, and he never would admit that the data says quite clearly that subsidizing  the rich to do anything with real estate is an economic loser and baseball stadiums are an even more egregious example.  If he had been really willing to make that fact clear, and applied it to all of his work in RI, he would have a much different legacy.  But it would have taken a very different Speaker to actually understand that.

The odds on favorite to be the next speaker is Mattiello’s Majority Leader Representative Joseph Shekarchi. While Shekarchi is slightly more willing to consider climate action, there is nothing in his public record to show any signs that he understands that real estate development as an economic development strategy is a failure contributing to growing inequality, harsher pandemics, and ecological collapse.  And until such time as we actually apply facts to economic development policy in Rhode Island, and everywhere else, we are likely to continue tosee Neoliberal fantasies dominate the policy debate, and nightmares for those of us who know we need to change if the planet is to stay inhabitable, and our communities strong and resilient.  

The Wood Supply

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. 

Ending police violence

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 reflections

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

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.

COVID – 19 and the inability to properly celebrate the 50th Earth Day

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.      

The origin of Covid – 19 and its relationship to the climate crisis

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. 

RI and Recessions

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

Cumulative Impacts and Economic Development

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. 

RI economic mismanagement

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.  

Greg Gerritt

Forestry without Forests

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

A fish story

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

More mainstream lies

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. 

Green New Deal letter

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. 

Greg Gerritt


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.

Cities and forests

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. 

Note to a new grad

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

Growing out of the climate crisis?

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. 

Greg Gerritt

Climate change and innovation

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.  

No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

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. 

Greg Gerritt 

No new fossil fuel infrastructure

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.  
Greg Gerritt

Testimony for climate hearing February 28 2019

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.

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. 

LTE regarding Adler Pollock and Sheehan hand money to politicians

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.

Comments on the New Economy

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. 

Food borne Illnesses

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.

How to End the deficit

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.  
Greg Gerritt  

The Providence Journal doubles down on cluelessness

I am familiar with the old adage, never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  But the Providence Journal has fewer reporters, the paper is smaller, the circulation is shrinking, and they are buying less ink.  In addition the right wing racist millionaires who own it do not frighten me.  To be labeled a BANANA by such a clueless organization seems to be a badge of honor, thought of course the label is untrue because I, and many others that the Providence Journal wants to label as obstructionists, would like to see lots of things get built in the city, it is just different stuff than the millionaires might think we need.
The Providence Journal can not think of any actual fact based reasons that the people opposing the Fane Building, the LNG facility in Washington Park, or the invenergy fracked gas power plant in Burrillville, so they have started calling names.  Maybe it is presumptuous of me to assume that at least some of the Pro Jo’s name calling was directed at me, but since I more straight forwardly than anyone else attack the totally misguided economic development model that the Texans who call the shots at the paper want to foist on us, I am proud to wear the label, and challenge the Providence Journal to debate the facts in public.,  I am pretty sure they are way too chicken to get on stage in front of the public and discuss the basic models of economic development that will be useful in an age of climate change and greater inequality since all of the ideas the Texans and The Editorial Board are touting are based on lies and their pet experts are just that, pets bought and paid for by millionaires.   I challenge Edward Mazze to provide one fact based study that demonstrates the correlation between business climate and growth rates.
Fact 1.  I said the first floor of the proposed Fane Tower will regularly flood 100 years from now.  It is proposed for a lot that is within 5 feet of current sea level.  Does anyone actually think that if we continue on the economic development path we are on that there will not be more than 5 feet of sea level rise in the next 100 years?  The Providence Journal while claiming to understand climate change actually never factors it into anything they write about the economy.
Fact 2  Greater inequality has been determined to be one of the key factors that will harm the economy, slowing growth and making cities much less governable.  Does anyone at the Providence Journal think the development strategy that they and Governor Wall St offer will not give rise to greater inequality?
Fact 3.  Rich people have no trouble finding a place to live in Providence.  There are plenty of luxury building built in recent years that had trouble selling. We do not need any more of those, but rather need thousands of units of housing for working families and low income people  There is nothing in any of the plans that the Providence Journal touts that will help us make a real dent in the affordable housing crisis, and it is more than likely that the proposals the Projo loves will make the problems worse.  What is really galling is that the rich come to us for subsidies to build luxury condos and for other buildings designed to be used by the rich.  If the rich can not build without subsidies, the entire model of economic development is a fraud.
Fact 4  Study just came out of Baltimore that points out that the economic development strategies that cities are taking around jobs for the extremely well educated do nothing for 90% of the people and neighborhoods of the city.  In fact the types of development most touted by the “professionals” end up leaving more and more people behind and make housing more expensive.
Fact 5  Using the medical industrial complex as a key component of economic development primarily makes health care unaffordable.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/22/opinion/sunday/our-costly-addiction-to-health-care-jobs.html?_r=0  .  The unbalanced approach to health care, with way too much money going into high tech health care and way too little going into community health and public health shows up easily in the fact that life expectancy in the USA is going down.  Betting all the marbles on a strategy that results in shorter life expectancies seems a really big waste of the public’s money,  
Maybe I do my research in the wrong places.  I carefully read the UN reports on sustainable development and the millennial and sustainable development goals and plans.  Currently i am reading a brand new UN report of the economy which is pointing out the tendency towards a bubble economy that real estate and financially driven economies are traipsing towards today, and how the world growth rate is likely to go down even without taking into account ecological collapse and climate change.  I subscribe to and read monthly reports from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  I have been reading economic development plans in New England and Rhode Island for well over 20 years, and have watched as they mostly sit on shelves because they do not address the real issues, which involve the economic opportunities in low income communities. The rich do not need our help despite what the “experts say”  And when the plans are implemented, the government throws money at rich people, which the World Bank repeatedly reminds us is the least useful way to do economic development if our goal is to end poverty rather than just line the pockets of the rich.  I also do extensive research on the issues of climate change, forests, resource depletion, waste, compost, agriculture, and unlike most of the people doing economic development planning in Rhode Island, I work hard to make sure that the ecological and the economic work together rather than at cross purposes.  
For years I have used the tag line “You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems.”   Rhode Island continues to plan as if poverty and ecological collapse have nothing to do with the economy, and as if if they gave rich people enough benefits that our growth rate would go up.  And in keeping with the wishes of their ownership, the Providence Journal continues to tout its fantasies about where the Rhode Island economy would go if the public would get out of the way and let the rich have their way.  No wonder that such an out of touch bunch is losing their audience. 

BND essay 2018

The regulars asking for money on the corners and medians of North Main Street have been there so long that I greet each one as a regular acquaintance as I walk by and they greet me the same way, even recognizing each other when we meet in other parts of the city.  I became more friendly with the person who worked the corner closest to my house. He now has supportive housing, though he was living rough when i met him first.  And he has not been on the corner the last few weeks as he has picked up work as a painter, though not on any regular payroll, and likely to end as soon as it gets too cold to work outside.  No one has really claimed that corner, though it gets used regularly by various folks, so he is likely to reclaim it this winter.
The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is as low as it has been in a generation, but there are still thousands of people being left out of the economy or subsisting right at the edge.  While unemployment is low, it is because so many people have just plain dropped out of the labor markets, knowing that they will never get hired for anything, with skills, health (physical and mental), regularity, and so many other factors leaving them out.    A Meds and Eds economic plan, mixed with tax stabilizations for luxury housing, will never reach them and welcome them back into the work force or provide opportunities for a bountiful life.
Hurricane Michael crossed a record warm Gulf of Mexico and slammed into Florida as a category 4 storm with a record increase in wind speed over the last day at sea.  A month after Florence tore up and flooded the Carolinas.   There is no doubt that warmer temperatures are creating ever warmer oceans, are spawning bigger and more powerful storms that carry ever more rain.  But the same way our political system ignores the people on the corners of North Main St, the powerful and the willfully blind ignore all the signs of climate change and continue to insist it is a Chinese hoax as people die,. The real estate industry complains when we refuse to let folks build in flood zones after the neighborhood was washed away. And climate deniers demand their god given right to rebuild exactly in the same place with tax payer dollars.  The climate deniers the hurricane victims keep sending to Congress are making things worse rapidly, while also providing anti environment cover for ignoring the flood zone maps, and in the case of North Carolina, saying it is illegal to use the new maps since they take into account sea level rise.  I suspect that if the climate deniers are not sent packing soon, a lot of their voters are going to turn into permanent refugees.
We have public officials trying to cram fossil fuel infrastructure  (think Burrillville) down our throats even as they set up task forces to study climate adaptation.  The way this works is the study commissions study to death while nothing gets done, the storms get worse, the costs to repair communities skyrocket, and our opportunities to remedy the problem recede into the haze.   There are many already mourning the loss of the habitable planet, but thankfully many more are continuing to organize.  Recently the word came down that the judge had acquitted 3 activists in Minnesota of tuning off a pipeline as the state supreme court had ruled they were allowed to make a necessity defense,  i think the judge and state did not want a real trial after that as some very powerful testimony about the harms of fossil fuels would have come out.
And I look at what the people of Burrillville have done right here in little Rhody, fighting invenergy to a stalemate until the facts caught up with the situation and the plan began to fall apart of its own weight.  And remember what so many of you are doing between now and the Day after Thanksgiving, November 29, a day we in RI gather together as many winter coats as we can and distribute them to those in the community who have need of one.
We started the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange because it was what we could do to address poverty and  address environmental destruction together in a unified and synergized way while providing tangible benefits to those most in need in our community and tweaking the noses of the powerful who insist consumerism is actually a good thing for our community and inequality and ecological collapse is grand.
Lauren and Pam have thankfully relieved me of the actual work of organizing the event, finding the sites, seeing who is running them, making sure the publicity gets out, and lining up the inclement weather site.  The site is way more organized and orderly than when I ran it, but the spirit lives on and the good works get done.  So I once again encourage all of you who can donate a coat, organize a coat drive, help with publicity, and volunteer on the day of, to do so.  And i welcome all who need winter coats for themselves, their families, and their communities, to visit the site on the Statehouse lawn, and all the other places around the state holding events that day, and take the coats that will keep you warm in the wintry days ahead.

Making a place for small restorations in the wetland regulations

Making a place for small restorations in the wetland regulations
Over the years I have occasionally run into permitting/regulatory systems that seem to work against the restoration of ecosystems. The attempt to shoehorn efforts to restore ecosystems into a system designed to regulate/allow damage to ecosystems by development creates a rather jarring misfit. It is my premise, based on my experiences and the discussions I have had with others on these topics, that it is possible to separate out restoration efforts from the adversarial permitting process, with the proviso that scale counts and what I recommend only suits small scale projects.
My original experience was when Friends of the Moshassuck started planting trees on an an abandoned unbuildable lot covered with Japanese Knotweed along the Moshassuck River in Providence. The original owner said, you can plant there, but do not publicize or attract too much attention. Current ownership said we do not talk to you, which is interpreted as do your thing but we know nothing for insurance purposes. We planted trees for 18 years and stopped when we ran out of room on the 1 acre site. The biggest /oldest trees are now 35 feet tall, creating a closed canopy forest and shading out the Knotweed. We ended up planting about 6 trees a year and planted about 90 of them. Living trees are mapped on the Friends of the Moshassuck website at http://themoshassuck.org/trees_table/
At the time I had little idea of the way the rules worked, we just decided to plant trees to suppress knotweed down by the river. Supposedly I would have needed a permit to plant the trees, and I know now that I would not even have been allowed to apply for a permit because we were squatters. But with the squat never coming up I convinced the Director of DEM that we should get a waiver because all we were doing was an ecological restoration. The important follow up was a change in regulations so that tree planting in areas like that riverine forest we created is now allowed by rule. No permit required.
A second example might be the development of compost regulations in the last 7 years. When i started the Compost Initiative for ECRI and SCLT a person could compost their own food scrap at home, but had to apply for a permit equivalent to that the RIRRC facility in Johnston required to compost their next door neighbor’s food scrap.
What we came up with was a three tiered system: Community garden sized and smaller, (20 Cubic yards of compostables on site) just register and if you do not offend your neighbors or pollute the water, you are good to go. Up to 600 cubic yards a year, a limited application you can fill out yourself, that demonstrates a level of understanding of the site and your expertise. Bigger, professionally engineered and documented.
This provides a useful framework.
My current project, the preservation of habitat for breeding toads in a feral wetland goes right to the heart of the wetland regulations and how they have been bent to the expectations and business practices of the developers. There is a constant tension between regulators and developers and the amount of money involved means that politicians are also involved. What we have ended up with is a regulatory apparatus that functions by rote. Things are prepared this way and must say x, y, and z. And we approve another tiny cut to the environment in the pursuit of profit.
The folks this really does not work for are small local non profits seeking to assist a natural world in retreat. Creating a footpath in a wet area, or restoring a small semi natural wetland that is silting in and losing its ability to hold water long enough for a breeding cycle should not be expensive or require an complicated application process.
So how do you decide that a wetland needs deepening so it will hold water longer. This is part of the natural cycle of wetlands, and in a forest no one would think twice about needing to restore a naturally evolving wetland, as there is another wetland in a different stage of evolution just over the hill. But in a long filled in feral wetland that was once a pond with a bridge and a fountain, and is now silting in from the dirt road up the hill in obvious fashion, complete with deltas of sediment, measurable elevation changes across the pond, and rapid shifts in the distribution of vegetation that are documented on videos over the last several years, you can figure out it is time to take action to preserve the only breeding population of Fowler’s toads in the City of Providence.
Since the land is part of a public cemetery I partnered with the Parks Department of the City of Providence. They have been an excellent partner. It was suggested to me that the project I had in mind really ought to be considered routine maintenance, and I totally agree. But it was also my goal to open up some space for others seeking to do similar or equivalent restorations in their watersheds by making the process of restoration work for small non profits easier. So I sought help from the RIDEM Wetland Restoration Team at the suggestion of DEM members of the Green Infrastructure Coalition.
I prepared an extensive portfolio for the team members seeking to demonstrate a knowledge of the site, the ecological context, the behavior of the toads, so that they could help me refine my project. But instead of working to refine the project, they jumped into regulatory mode and said go apply for a permit. I talked to several engineering firms and none of them could figure out what to do, and definitely could not help us based on the budget FOTM had for the project.
Therefore, I filled out the paperwork, collected the signatures of City officials, prepared vegetation lists and maps, created very large scale drawings of the restorations suggested on blown up versions of the city plat maps so that work on such a small scale (15’ x25’) could be easily seen, provided pictures galore and handed it in.
I was then told the27 8×10 color glossies with the circles and arrows and a description on the backmeant nothing and that only drawings with very specific features created by specialists with specialized software were acceptable and that it did not matter how well you demonstrated the need and efficacy of the project, or an understanding of ecosystem function well beyond what is normally presented, the paperwork has to look like this and be done this way.
At a super discount, and because I had essentially done all the work that merely had to be copied onto the right format, a member of the Green Infrastructure Coalition did the work for $1000.
Eventually permit in hand, volunteers and hand labor did the entire project in which the only cost was $236 for a pond liner.
Video available here
This is one of the Rainwater pool series videos that cover each of the months of the last two years and fully explain the project.
I will also say that the project will continue to be monitored and evaluated over the next couple of years to see how well it works and modified if necessary. I expect the next time the pool goes dry I will be out there with a shovel fixing something.
The larger context
When i talk to folks in the land protection business, there is an occasional voicing of concerns around the over regulation of building footpaths with volunteers in wetter areas. The point of the footpaths on wet spots on conservation land is to prevent damage to wet areas while allowing access to natural treasures. And again it is the need for full blown engineering studies and diagrams rather than a common sense on the ground approach that frustrates and delays small restoration organizations in ways that seem unnecessary.
I was told a story recently about DOT.  There are times when a very small action could seriously reduce water damage but the budget does not allow both the detailed planning and the work that would take little time and expense that an experienced crew could just do.
After I wrote the nearly finished draft of this I had a conversation with a leader of a non profit who said that several years ago DEM did almost exactly what I try to describe3 below, DEM assigned folks to help make it all happen including design and the cost was zero.  But he thinks that grant ran out.
Clearly we need something to help the restorers
Action steps
It is my opinion that a process just for restorations needs to be established. It can be divided up sort of like the compost process. Below a certain level of size or cost and complexity hand drawn and pictures and photos and videos along with a narrative and one official map (a city plat map or USGS topo providing exact location should be sufficient) (This is more than required for a community garden to compost neighborhood food scrap, but we do need a greater level of knowledge and expertise to make a wetland decision) Once the location is established on one map, there seems no reason that large scale pictures of the site could not stand in for many of the drawings required. Descriptions on the pictures or a video with discussion for dynamic features should be sufficient to tell whether a project makes sense and works as well a set of engineered drawings. Maybe a guideline could be that if the cost of restoration is less than $1000 and the size is less than 1/8 of an acre hand drawn maps and large scale pictures or videos could substitute for some of the drawings.
I also think the stormwater regulations might need some adjustment as well as the regulations call for infiltrating stormwater as fast as is practical in every case, while there are certain situations, The North Burial Ground being the most obvious example, when stormwater is already pooling on the surface in ways that allow it to be used for breeding cycles of amphibians, or has the potential to be used by amphibians with very minor modifications. Considering the state of amphibians in the world, and in RI, the stormwater and wetland regulations should take into account the opportunities to restore and create amphibian habitat, and encourage this in appropriate places. I am not enough of an expert to tell you what the criteria for this might be, but I believe a set of criteria could be developed if this idea was included in the exploration of the rules as we go forward.
Create a separate process for small scale hand powered restorations separate from the regulatory apparatus at least in some way
Possibly scale it based on purpose and size. With non profit or conservation land status, clear restoration goals, a very small budget , and hand tools the criteria for the new system. I would suggest, only partly tongue in cheek, that if it costs more to design the project than carry it out, the regulatory constraints on how design is done are probably inappropriate for the scale.
Use the wetland restoration team to advise and if necessary refer to permitting. But first have them think about restoring and what would be the right way to restore function to the wetland or create better amphibian habitat. Require a presentation to the WRT including pictures, maps, narration, story telling. The job of the WRT should be to evaluate whether the project will do what it says it will and if close tell you what to do to make it work better. Use their expertise to help not just to regulate. I know it would have helped me if they had been willing to suggest improvements rather than just say go get a permit. But I also assume there will be ways to direct projects back to regulatory processes when the scale or understanding of the ecosystem are wrong.
Greg Gerritt Watersheds Steward  Friends of the Moshassuck    4/19/18


Subsidizing the criminal class

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.

Greg Gerritt

Response to article on economic growth

Original article https://mystudentvoices.com/steering-the-economy-toward-growth-8f208a8b8a7b

My response

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.

2017 Buy Nothing Day essay

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.



Free Speech

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.


Pawsox Stadium?

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.