Smc Newsletter March 08


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Smc Newsletter March 08

  1. 1. Volume 3, Number 3, – March 2008 If you pay a lot of attention to mainstream media, you might be forgiven for thinking that the rapid rise of the price of crude oil to $111.00 is solely due to speculators (where were they in 1998 when it was $10?), that global climate change is a controversial hypothesis espoused by a few liberal scientists, that corn-based ethanol is a green fuel that’s saving our environment, that adding a few percent to our average fuel economy will be enough to make us energy independent, that rising food prices are unrelated to biofuels... You could be forgiven (I’m not in favor of laying guilt trips on people anyway), but you would be wrong. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again: One way or another, our entire way of life is going to be transformed in a breathtakingly short time. I think the best way to effect that transformation would be to intentionally employ foresight, intelligent planning and intensive research in an all-out national effort to rework our society in ways that make us efficient enough to live on renewable resources into the Crisis? What Crisis? People you should contact about peak oil: •Senator Barbara Boxer act/email/policy.cfm •Senator Dianne Feinstein stein/email.html •Congressman Sam Farr 1221 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-2861 FAX (202) 225-6791 •Governor Arnold Schw… •President George Bush Now you can contribute a cent to SMC every time you do a web search—just go to, enter “Sustainable Monterey County” in answer to the “Who do you GoodSearch for” question, and search . Thanks to all those who have contributed help and funds to SMC indefinite future. I think this is still possible, but just barely. The alternative is to wait the invisible hand of the market to force us, one- by-one into consuming less energy, whether or not we understand why, and whether or not our new situation meets our needs. If we continue with business as usual, we will be confronted with intolerable prices and/or shortages that will force enough of us to go without that demand will diminish to match the insufficient supply. Of course, the actual way we go will not be either of the extremes I’ve described, but something in between. That means that we won’t avoid hardship altogether, but we may avoid a human catastrophe. Of course, for some other forms of life, climate change has already spelled catastrophe—there really isn’t any prospect that we will avoid causing the extinction of a significant fraction of the species now living. But we can limit the number of those extinctions by acting quickly and decisively. In some quarters, we’re accused of spreading doom and gloom. I do think inaction will lead to doom and gloom, but inaction isn’t inevitable, nor are its results. Europe uses half the per Mission: To ensure an orderly transition through the fossil fuel decline by cooperatively developing a sustainable economy for Monterey County. March 20, Thursday: East Village Café film showing and Discussion with the producer, “A Convenient Truth,” 7 pm April 5, Saturday: Oceans of Change symposium, CSUMB, University Center, 6th Street, Seaside, 8am-3pm. April 22 (?), Tuesday: Earth Day: MIIS environmental studies students’ sea level change in Monterey County UPCOMING EVENTS project.
  2. 2. C I T I Z E N S f o r a S U S T A I N A B L E M O N T E R E Y C O U N T Y The price of oil has risen to historic highs—seemingly due to nothing in particular—but people act as if we can go on forever with business as usual. If the price of oil had risen from $22/barrel (as it was in 2002) to $110/barrel in a few months, everyone would regard it as a serious development, calling for equally serious action. Instead, the price has risen unevenly over a few years, and nearly everyone goes about her business as if nothing is happening. When will this become serious? Will gas prices above $5 per gallon shake us up? How about $10 or $15 or $20? Will we need to see widespread shortages before we pause and consider our predicament? And how serious must climate change be before we stop fiddling? Will an ice-free Arctic Ocean do it? When will we see our situation as the emergency it is? THIS STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CULTURE SEEMS LIKE SLOWLY BOILING A FROG Our Global Environmental Condition By Megan Tolbert (excerpted from an article for 831-Mag) Our environmental problems, particularly climate change, stretch beyond the borders of our property, our cities, counties and states, and beyond the imaginary lines that encircle our countries of residence. The primary boundary that unites us in the fight against global climate change is the atmosphere and the carbon we cumulatively spew into it. There is one silver bullet solution, the elimination of coal as a fuel source, but is it feasible? In our 12 month window for action, we must collaborate to act locally. We are depending on each other for survival and to maintain our quality of life, health, leisure and property here in the 831 - this sophisticated meeting of land and sea—this sacred community with ocean spray, mountain vistas, rich agricultural lands, gurgling rivers, and enough industry to provide a strong job base… What should we do? We must change the products we purchase, the fuels we use, the way we build, how and what type of energies we consume, and where and how our food is grown… Old wives tale: carbon dioxide levels and severe weather trends we’re now seeing are simply business as usual for our planet. These impacts are substantially elevated due to human contributions to carbon in the atmosphere. The last nine ice ages have been linked to CO2 levels, according to Doug Smith, a Geohydrology and Watershed Science professor at CSUMB. Knowing this, we continue with life as usual, which keeps using our resources, spoiling our air and waters, and poisoning our bodies. It’s time to ask: “What is most important for our survival and happiness?” This global human environmental catastrophe has a solution, and we have an ethical global choice to make. The Dalai Lama’s national bestselling book Ethics for the New Millennium, conveys that to live an ethical life, you must live a compassionate life; and to live a compassionate life, you must work to alleviate pain in all that is around you. Are the rising sea levels, toxic drinking water, famine, and devastation to property an expression of pain? How much pain are we willing to inflict on our living planet, Mother Earth; our blue canvas ceiling, Father Sky; our watery lungs, the oceans of Neptune; our constantly flowing veins, the dynamic rivers; and our kin born of the earth, fellow man and animal? Human compassion is profound. Combined with knowledge and action, we have the necessary foundation and answers to alleviate the pain of our global environmental condition. A milestone in the dust by John Michael Greer ( Earlier this month, according to several peak oil bloggers, the world passed a milestone worth noting: the point at which oil, in constant dollars, became more expensive than ever before in history. Plenty of us in the peak oil community have been expecting that milestone any time now, and the surge that pushed one widely watched price marker past $112 a barrel last week turned the expectation into reality. Profit-taking and a flurry of margin calls driven by the wider economic crisis brought oil prices back down at the beginning of this week, at least for the moment. Meanwhile, though, the higher cost of oil is already starting to trickle down to the consumer level. Diesel fuel is up over $4 a gallon in many US markets, while gasoline, heating oil, and other petroleum products are following the same curve. Speculation, in several senses of the word, has begun to focus on the upcoming summer driving season and the likelihood of soaring prices at the pump. Just now, however, it may be worth taking the long view. When Goldman Sachs suggested, not so long ago, that oil prices might rise above $110 a barrel, their analysts thought that it would take a crisis threatening some significant fraction of world oil production to drive such a “superspike.” The crisis has so far failed to materialize, but the superspike showed up anyway…
  3. 3. C I T I Z E N S f o r a S U S T A I N A B L E M O N T E R E Y C O U N T Y How much more efficient is a train than a car? CSX claims they can carry a ton of freight 423 miles on a gallon of fuel ( Maybe we should use trains for more of our transportation. Further Reading The Oil Drum Association for the Study of Peak Oil--USA Energy Bulletin Oil Addiction: The World in Peril, Pierre Chomat Eating Fossil Fuels, Dale Allen Pfeiffer Plan B 2.0, Lester R. Brown Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, Meadows, Randers & Meadows Old thick ice is leaving the Arctic leaving only newer thin ice behind.
  4. 4. Steering Committee Members Ruth Smith, Chair Virginia Chomat, Secretary and Co-treasurer Pierre Chomat, Resident Expert Mark Folsom, Newsletter Editor, George Wilson, 831-372-0659 Denyse Frischmuth, 831-643-0707 Urban Environmental Accords Coordinator Robert Frischmuth, Co-Treasurer Megan Tolbert Program Heads: Linda Parker, phone # 831-656-0664 Big Sur Powerdown C O N T A C T I N F O R M A T I O N MARK FOLSOM: Phone: 831 648 1543 E-Mail: We’re on the Web! See us at: groups/monter ey Editor’s Note First I need to apologize for the lapse in newsletters these last few months. The reasons include a bit of burnout, a shift of personal priorities in the direction of making a living, a computer crash with too infrequent backups, a feeling that the newsletters were getting repetitive, etc. But now I have a new computer and a lot of my old data and documents and addresses—did you know the $300.00 price some of the data recovery houses advertise is just a teaser? When I started talking seriously with them, the real cost looked like it was going to be $1500 and up—I just can’t go there. Anyway, there’s really a lot happening in sustainability, both locally and in the wider world. Our friends in Carmel Valley have now gotten a local sustainability action group going, and another group has started meeting in Salinas, both with a little nudge from CSMC. Our name has officially changed to Citizens for a Sustainable Monterey County because we incorporated and the Secretary of State wouldn’t allow our original name. We’ve applied for tax-exempt status, and the state has granted us that status, but we still await approval from the Fed’s. Hartnell College is going to have a luncheon and two video showings on sustainability in April, and we hope that these will serve as our first broad contact with the Latino community in the county. Personally, I think community and political action on climate and energy is more urgent than ever. The acceleration in arctic melting and the price of oil rocketing past $111/barrel are really just the beginning. If we don’t act now with intelligence, foresight and determination, these will forever be the good old days. Are you up for it? Do you care enough about the future to set aside some immediate concerns and push our local, state and national leaders to act in the common interest? Do you have the personal courage and honesty to acknowledge that we are entering very challenging times and act to secure your future and that of your children? If so, we need your input and participation. Seven or eight of us can’t do it by ourselves. Are there some real leaders willing to step up in Seaside and Marina and Prunedale? Please think about it. Mark Folsom An 1870 postcard view of the Rhone glacier in Gletsch, Switzerland, contrasted with the shrinking 21st-century version of it. (Dominic Buettner for The New York Times)