It seems utterly beyond debate but acknowledging legal rights to clean air has assumed the makings of a slow march over the years. The 1956 Clean Air Act in Britain arose from the lethal effects of London’s 1952 killer smog, which is said to have taken some 12,000 lives. The Act granted powers to establish smoke-free zones and subsidise householders to shift to the use of cleaner fuels (gas, electricity, smokeless solid fuel).
There is certainly no shortage of advocates for the self-evident point that clean air is vital. Some of this has been reduced – at least historically – to an issue about the non-smoker’s wish not to have the air clouded by the selfish actions of a smoker. But this is small beer when compared to the general levels of global pollution that keeps the Grim Reaper busy on an annual basis. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution kills 7 million or so people each year, with 9 out of 10 people breathing air “that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.”
In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David R. Boyd noted approvingly that a majority of States had, be it through their constitutions, statutes and regional treaties, recognised the right to a healthy environment. But recognition for such a right on a global level remained an unfulfilled object. The UN General Assembly, for instance, may have adopted a range of resolutions on the right to clean water, but never on the right to clean air. This is despite such a right being, according to Boyd, “implicit in a number of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration to Human Rights (right to adequate standard of living), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (right to life) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (right to health).”
This month, a flutter of interest was caused by a ruling in the Central Jakarta District Court on a lawsuit lodged two years before accusing the Indonesian government of unlawfully permitting air pollution in the capital to exceed permissible, healthy limits. Citizens such as Istu Prayogi, who had never so much as touched a cigarette in their lives, joined the suit after his lungs revealed the sort of lung damage that would arise from being a heroic, persistent smoker.
The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel found that the seven officials concerned, including President Joko Widodo, three cabinet ministers and the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java were negligent in not upholding environmental standards. As Duta Baskara, one of the panel members observed, “They have been negligent in fulfilling the rights of citizens to a good and healthy environment.” The judges, however, dismissed the applicants’ submission claiming that the president had violated human rights.
The court directed that the seven officials take serious action to guarantee the rights of Jakarta’s residents by improving air-quality regulations and implementing measures to protect human health, the environment and ecosystems informed by science and technology. Environmental laws would also have to be policed more rigorously, along with the imposition of sanctions for offenders.
The scale of this effort is hard to exaggerate. On June 4, 2019, Jakarta registered the worst air quality in the world, if one takes the readings of the air quality monitoring app AirVisual as accurate. At 210 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), the city keeps ahead of the pack of other polluters such as New Delhi, Beijing and Dubai.
Rapporteur Boyd also offered his services to the 32 applicants, writing in his supporting brief that, “Protecting human rights from the harmful effects of air pollution is a constitutional and legislative obligation for governments in Indonesia, not an option.” The director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Nur Hidayati, affirmed this view to The Jakarta Post in early June that breathing “clean air is our right that the government has to fulfil.”
These are not positions plucked out of some speculative realm of legal reasoning. The right to clean air in Indonesia is guaranteed by such legal documents as the country’s 1945 Constitution and the 1999 Law on Environmental Protection and Management. But the writ of law is not always a guarantee of its policing.
Before the September decision, Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, did not feel that a ruling against the authorities would cause much fuss. As the governor’s climate change envoy Irvan Pulunga explained, “The governor doesn’t see this lawsuit as a disturbance to the government’s work but a vehicle for collaboration.” Pulungan also insisted that improvements had been made to the city’s air quality over the course of two years.
This tune coming from the office of president has been somewhat different, more a case of fleeing rather than addressing a problem. In part, this is understandable, given that Jakarta has become a city of nightmares for policy makers, urban planners and the authorities. Few such concentrations of humanity on the planet are as plagued by environmental concerns. To debilitating air pollution can be added flooding, regular seismic activity and gradual subsidence.
Only a month after the lawsuit was filed, the president proposed relocating the capital to another spot to be built in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now,” he claimed at the time, “is too heavy as the centre of governance, business, finance, trade and services.” Such moves promise to abandon one problem by creating another, given the risks posed to the environment of East Kalimantan.
Showing a spirit not exactly collaborative in nature, an appeal against the ruling is expected by the government. Jakarta’s governor, in particular, finds himself facing a range of orders from the court, including designing environmental “strategies” and policies to mitigate the air pollution” under the direction of the supervision of the Home Affairs Minister.
Modest as it is, the victory for the applicants in the Central Jakarta District Court shows, at the very least, that courts remain an increasingly important forum to force the hand of legislatures in ensuring that something so elementarily vital is not just seen as a right but enforced as one.
The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.
The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.
Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis – Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.
Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.
The environment cannot wait
Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.
It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.
The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.
The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more, some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer-based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.
While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks, green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.
Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?
Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”
So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.
Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And it’s driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.
A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.
Is it possible to build social solidarity beyond the state?
It’s easy to conclude that it’s not. In 1915, as national governments produced the shocking carnage of World War I, Ralph Chaplin, an activist in the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote his stirring song, “Solidarity Forever.” Taken up by unions around the globe, it proclaimed that there was “no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” than international working class solidarity. But, today, despite Chaplin’s dream of bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old,” the world remains sharply divided by national boundaries—boundaries that are usually quite rigid, policed by armed guards, and ultimately enforced through that traditional national standby, war.
Even so, over the course of modern history, social movements have managed, to a remarkable degree, to form global networks of activists who have transcended nationalism in their ideas and actions. Starting in the late nineteenth century, there was a remarkable efflorescence of these movements: the international aid movement; the labor movement; the socialist movement; the peace movement; and the women’s rights movement, among others. In recent decades, other global movements have emerged, preaching and embodying the same kind of human solidarity—from the environmental movement, to the nuclear disarmament movement, to the campaign against corporate globalization, to the racial justice movement.
Although divided from one another, at times, by their disparate concerns, these transnational humanitarian movements have nevertheless been profoundly subversive of many established ideas and of the established order—an order that has often been devoted to maintenance of special privilege and preservation of the nation state system. Consequently, these movements have usually found a home on the political Left and have usually triggered a furious backlash on the political Right.
The rise of globally-based social movements appears to have developed out of the growing interconnection of nations, economies, and peoples spawned by increasing world economic, scientific, and technological development, trade, travel, and communications. This interconnection has meant that war, economic collapse, climate disasters, diseases, corporate exploitation, and other problems are no longer local, but global. And the solutions, of course, are also global in nature. Meanwhile, the possibilities for alliances of like-minded people across national boundaries have also grown.
The rise of the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament exemplifies these trends. Beginning in 1945, in the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, its sense of urgency was driven by breakthroughs in science and technology that revolutionized war and, thereby, threatened the world with unprecedented disaster. Furthermore, the movement had little choice but to develop across the confines of national boundaries. After all, nuclear testing, the nuclear arms race, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation represented global problems that could not be tackled on a national basis. Eventually, a true peoples’ alliance emerged, uniting activists in East and West against the catastrophic nuclear war plans of their governments.
Much the same approach is true of other global social movements. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, play no favorites among nations when they report on human rights abuses around the world. Individual nations, of course, selectively pick through the findings of these organizations to label their political adversaries (though not their allies) ruthless human rights abusers. But the underlying reality is that participants in these movements have broken free of allegiances to national governments to uphold a single standard and, thereby, act as genuine world citizens. The same can be said of activists in climate organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org, anticorporate campaigns, the women’s rights movement, and most other transnational social movements.
Institutions of global governance also foster human solidarity across national borders. The very existence of such institutions normalizes the idea that people in diverse countries are all part of the human community and, therefore, have a responsibility to one another. Furthermore, UN Secretaries-General have often served as voices of conscience to the world, deploring warfare, economic inequality, runaway climate disaster, and a host of other global ills. Conversely, the ability of global institutions to focus public attention upon such matters has deeply disturbed the political Right, which acts whenever it can to undermine the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Health Organization, and other global institutions.
Social movements and institutions of global governance often have a symbiotic relationship. The United Nations has provided a very useful locus for discussion and action on issues of concern to organizations dealing with women’s rights, environmental protection, human rights, poverty, and other issues, with frequent conferences devoted to these concerns. Frustrated with the failure of the nuclear powers to divest themselves of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament organizations deftly used a series of UN conferences to push through the adoption of the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, much to the horror of nuclear-armed states.
Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either. Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”
In late March 2021, 120 traditional owners from 40 different First People’s groups spent five days at the National First People’s Gathering on Climate Change in Cairns (Australia). Speaking on the impact of the climate crisis on First People, Gavin Singleton from the Yirrganydji traditional owners explained that ‘From changing weather patterns to shifts in natural ecosystems, climate change is a clear and present threat to our people and our culture’.
Bianca McNeair of the Malgana traditional owners from Gatharagudu (Australia) said that those who attended the gathering ‘are talking about how the birds’ movements across the country have changed, so that’s changing songlines that they’ve been singing for thousands and thousands of years, and how that’s impacting them as a community and culture. … We are very resilient people’, McNeair said, ‘so it’s a challenge we were ready to take on. But now we’re facing a situation that’s not predictable, it’s not part of our natural environmental pattern’.
The Yirrganydji traditional owners live on Australia’s coastline, which faces the Great Barrier Coral Reef. That majestic reef faces extinction from climate change: a period of consecutive years of coral bleaching from 2014 to 2017 threatened to kill off the precious coral, during which fluctuating temperatures caused coral to expel symbiotic algae that are crucial to the nutritional health of the coral. Scientists assembled by the United Nations found that 70% of the earth’s coral reefs are threatened, with 20% already destroyed ‘with no hope for recovery’. Of the reefs that are threatened, a quarter are under ‘imminent risk of collapse’ and another quarter are at risk ‘due to long-term threats’. In November 2020, a UN report titled Projections on Future Coral Bleaching suggested that unless carbon emissions are controlled, the reefs will die and the species they support will die out too. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority notes that ‘climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide’. That is why the Yirrganydji traditional owners created the Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers to care for the reef against all odds.
‘Most of our traditions, our customs, our language are from the sea’, says Singleton, ‘so losing the reef would impact our identity. We were here prior to the formation of the reef, and we still hold stories that have been passed down through generations – of how the sea rose and flooded the area, the “great flood”’. The Yirrganydji Rangers, Singleton points out, ‘have their hearts and souls’ in the reef. But they are struggling against all odds.
Not long after the National First People’s Gathering disbanded, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report. Based on the consensus of 234 scientists from over 60 countries, the report notes that ‘multiple lines of evidence indicate the recent large-scale climatic changes are unprecedented in a multi-millennial context, and that they represent a millennial-scale commitment for the slow-responding elements of the climate system, resulting in worldwide loss of ice, increase in ocean heat content, sea level rise, and deep ocean acidification’. If warming continues to reach 3 °C (by 2060) and 5.7 °C (by 2100), human extinction is certain. The report comes after a string of extreme weather events: floods in China and Germany, fires across the Mediterranean, and extreme temperatures across the world. A study in the July issue of Nature Climate Changefound that ‘record-shattering extremes’ would be ‘nearly impossible in the absence of warming’.
Importantly, the 6th IPCC report shows that ‘historical cumulative CO2 emissions determine to a large degree warming to date’, which means that the Global North countries have already taken the planet to the threshold of annihilation before countries of the Global South have been able to attain basic needs such as universal electrification. For instance, 54 countries on the African continent account for merely 2-3% of global carbon emissions; half of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity, while many extreme climate events (droughts and cyclones in southern Africa, floods in the Horn of Africa, desertification in the Sahel) are now taking place across the continent. Released on World Environment Day (5 June) and produced with the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle, our Red Alert no. 11 further explains the scientific and political dynamics of the climate crisis, the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, and what can be done to turn the tides.
Governments will gather in October for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Kunming (China) to discuss progress on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ratified in 1993) and in November for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow (UK) to discuss climate change. Attention is on COP26, where the powerful Global North will once more push for ‘net zero’ carbon dioxide emissions and thereby reject deep cuts to their own emissions while insisting that the Global South forgo social development.
Meanwhile, there will be less attention paid to COP15, where the agenda will include cutting pesticide use by two-thirds, halving food waste, and eliminating the discharge of plastic waste. In 2019, an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report showed that pollution and resource extraction had threatened one million animal and plant species with extinction.
The link between the assault on biological diversity and climate change is clear: the opening of wetlands alone has released historic stores of carbon to the atmosphere. Deep emission cuts and better stewardship of resources are necessary.
Strikingly, just as the IPCC released its report, US President Joe Biden’s administration asked the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost output of oil production. This makes a mockery of the Biden pledge to cut 50% of US greenhouse emissions by 2030.
A recent paper in Nature shows that the passage of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), whose gradual elimination from aerosol sprays, refrigerants, and Styrofoam packaging prevented ozone depletion. The Montreal Protocol is significant because – despite industry lobbying – it was universally ratified. That treaty provides hope that sufficient pressure from key countries, pushed by social and political movements, could result in stringent regulations against pollution and carbon abuse as well as meaningful cultural change.
Places associated with global negotiations to save the planet include cities such as Kyoto (1997), Copenhagen (2009), and Paris (2015). First amongst these should be Cochabamba (Bolivia), where the government of Evo Morales Ayma held the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010. Over 30,000 people from more than 100 countries came to this landmark conference, which adopted the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth. Several points were discussed, including the demand for:
The states of the Global North to cut emissions by at least 50%;
Developing countries to be given substantial assistance to adapt to the effects of climate change and to transition away from fossil fuels;
Indigenous rights to be protected;
International borders to be opened to climate refugees;
An international court to be set up to prosecute climate crimes;
People’s rights to water to be recognised, and that people have the right not to be exposed to excessive pollution.
‘We are confronted with two paths’, former President Morales said: the path of ‘pachamama (Mother Earth) or the path of the multinationals. If we don’t take the former, the masters of death will win. If we don’t fight, we will be guilty of destroying the planet’. Gavin Singleton and Bianca McNeair would certainly agree.
So would the Yorta Yorta poet and educator Hyllus Noel Maris (1933-1986), whose ‘Spiritual Song of the Aborigine’ (1978) awakens hope and lays the soundtrack for those who march to save the planet:
I am a child of the Dreamtime People
Part of this land, like the gnarled gumtree
I am the river, softly singing
Chanting our songs on my way to the sea
My spirit is the dust-devils
Mirages, that dance on the plain
I’m the snow, the wind, and the falling rain
I’m part of the rocks and the red desert earth
Red as the blood that flows in my veins
I am eagle, crow and snake that glides
Through the rainforest that clings to the mountainside
I awakened here when the earth was new.
These days there is no shortage of hype surrounding the “Green New Deal” (GND). The “Green New Deal” has become a major buzz-phrase that has ensnared many along the way.
Like so many top-down schemes, the GND is being promoted by many world leaders in unison. This alone should be worrisome. History shows that this is usually a red flag. Few pro-social things come out of movements that are not real grass-roots movements. These world leaders are the main representatives of the international financial oligarchy—a tiny ruling elite obsessed with maximizing private profit no matter the damage to society and the environment. These are the same forces responsible for tragedies such as high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, under-employment, inflation, debt, homelessness, hunger, racism, war, occupation, pollution, de-forestation, anxiety, despair, alienation, depression, and suicide worldwide.
The GND is being presented by the rich and their political and media representatives as something great for society and humanity; everyone is under pressure to “just embrace it.”
The GND uses the “New Deal” language of the 1930s and ostensibly addresses climate change, inequality, energy efficiency, job creation, labor rights, racial injustice, and other social aims. This includes a GND for public schools, healthcare, and housing as well.
The GND is supposed to improve conditions for humanity and help us all “build back better”—a major slogan of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is dominated by millionaires and billionaires. Alongside this disinformation, the WEF is also promoting disinformation about “reinventing capitalism” to fool the gullible. The GND is supposedly rooted in the principles of economic justice, puts the planet ahead of profits, and provides a “blueprint for change.” It is said that Green Projects will cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Europe has its own version of the GND. “Variations of the [“Green New Deal”] proposal have been around for years,” says the New York Times. The so-called Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was introduced more than 20 years ago, for example. In 2007, the imperialist journalist, Thomas Friedman, wrote the following in the New York Times:
If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid – moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables. And that is a huge industrial project – much bigger than anyone has told you. Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.
Pollution, inequality, and 50 other problems have worsened since this observation was made 14 years ago. The quote rejects economic science and fails to help workers, youth, students, women, and others make sense of the economy in a way that favors their interests.
GND Means More PPPs and Tragedies
“Green New Deal” goals are to be attained through “joint” public sector and private sector “investments.” The disinformation from the rich is that the public can’t achieve the lofty goals of the GND on its own and that “investors” from the so-called “efficient,” “entrepreneurial,” “innovative,” and “smart” private sector are needed to achieve these big goals. It is by working “together” that “we” will supposedly achieve what the GND sets out to do. “New Deals” are purportedly too big for either sector to pull off alone and thus some sort of “partnership” or “alliance” is “needed.”
In reality, private competing owners of capital are unwilling and often unable to pay for major infrastructure projects and want the government to guarantee them big investments and returns using the public purse. PPPs essentially guarantee risk-free profits for various monopolies and further diminish control of the economy by workers and the public. PPPs enable major owners of capital to seize more of the added-value produced by workers through “infrastructure projects” guaranteed by the state at public expense. This further enriches a handful of people, intensifies inequality, and leaves workers and the public with less wealth and less control over the economy.
This is not how “partners” work. This is how an unequal relationship works.
Terms such as “alliance” or “partnership” are designed to fool the gullible and hide the enormous financial gain made by a handful of billionaires through PPPs that purport to advance the goals of the GND. In this, way the door is nonchalantly and pragmatically opened to imposing private alien claims on the wealth produced collectively by workers. The rich are given greater access to public funds and resources that belong to the public, all in the name of “partnership.” We are to believe that without a “Public-Private-Partnership” the GND will not become reality, meaning that the GND is possible only if the ultra-rich pocket more public wealth and resources. This is cynically called a “win-win.”
“Public-Private-Partnerships” promote the illusion that the public sector and the private sector can harmonize their philosophies, interests, aims, operations, activities, and results when in fact PPPs are antisocial, antiworker, and undercut a modern nation-building project.
The public and private sectors cannot be partners; they rest on different foundations, goals, world outlooks, operations, and legal frameworks; they are different categories and phenomena with different properties and characteristics. These differences are not trivial and cannot be reconciled or harmonized. Don’t believe neoliberals and privatizers whey they self-servingly claim that the two distinct spheres can “work together.”
Public and private are antonyms; they mean the opposite of each other; they are not synonymous. Public refers to everyone, non-competition, transparency, the common good, and society as whole (e.g., public parks, beaches, and roads). The public is pro-social and human-centered. It approaches life and relations with a big modern vision. Private refers to exclusivity, for a few, not for everyone, and usually involves rivalry and hierarchy. Private is also often associated with secrecy, not transparency, especially in business. The private sector pertains to relations between private citizens, whereas the public sector has to do with relations between individuals and the state. This distinction is critical. These spheres represent two profoundly different domains. The rights belonging to each sector are different.
Blurring the critical distinction between public and private should be avoided at all costs. It is irresponsible and self-serving to treat the public and private as being synonymous and easy to harmonize without big disadvantages for the public. The public does not benefit from blurring this distinction. The public suffers when the dissimilarity between public and private is obscured and not grasped in its depth.
PPPs conceal harsh irreconcilable class differences and interests in society. They reinforce a “no-class” outlook of society and, in doing so, distort reality at the ideological level, leaving many disoriented, unclear, and confused about their interests, which makes them vulnerable to disinformation from the rich and their media. In the world of PPPs, everyone is merely a “stakeholder.” There are no workers or owners of capital. There are no antagonistic irreconcilable social class interests. There are no classes and class struggle. There are no millionaires and billionaires on one side and workers on the other side who produce all the wealth of society.
Not surprisingly, PPPs form a big part of the antisocial “Great Reset” agenda of the world’s billionaires, which has been publicly articulated by the main leaders of the World Economic Forum such as Klaus Schwab. Many prime ministers, presidents, and prominent state leaders around the world continue to parrot the same tired slogans of the “Great Reset” agenda.
In practice, PPPs use the neoliberal state to funnel more public funds than ever to the private sector under the banner of “partnerships” and “making the world better for everyone.”
This funneling of more public funds to narrow private interests will not only solve no problems, it will intensify many problems that are already serious. The existing all-sided crisis will keep deepening under such a set-up.
As a main form of privatization, the “Green New Deal” will significantly intensify inequality, increase costs for everyone, reduce efficiency and quality, lessen accountability and transparency, increase corruption, and diminish the voice and wealth of workers and the public. It will not enhance democracy or improve the environment in any way because it will further concentrate greater economic and political power in even fewer hands, if that is even possible at this point in history. Funneling more public funds, assets, and authority to competing private interests in a highly monopolized economy is a disaster for the social and natural environment. It is the claims of workers, the public, and society that must be expanded and affirmed, not the narrow claims of competing owners of capital obsessed with maximizing their own profits at the expense of everyone and everything else.
The “Green New Deal” will not challenge the entrenched class privilege of the rich. It will not increase the power of workers or give them greater control of the wealth they produce. It will not make the economy more pro-social, balanced, diverse, and self-reliant. Pollution and de-forestation will still persist under the GND. Experience has repeatedly borne out that capital-centered environmental plans and activities ensure that things keep going from bad to worse.
A 2016 United Nations report highlights many ways that PPPs undermine the public interest and produce more problems. Global PolicyForumstates that:
PPPs are used to conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies. Private sector corporations must maximize profits if they are to survive. This is fundamentally incompatible with protecting the environment and ensuring universal access to quality public services.
Public and private simply do not go together. The organization In The Public Interest offers many reports, articles, and documents that expose how PPPs harm the public interest and benefit major owners of capital at the public expense. Numerous other organizations around the world have also described and explained how PPPs make things worse for the public while enriching a handful of people.
In the context of a continually failing economy, competing owners of capital have no choice but to cloak their egocentric drive to maximize private profit by seizing public funds from the state as a “win-win” for everyone, as something great for the natural and social environment. The neoliberal state is increasingly being used to divert public funds and assets to major owners of capital as they compete with each other for domination of the economy in an increasingly unstable and dangerous environment. The old ways of profit-taking are no longer as lucrative as before, so the rich have to use PPPs to seize public funds for private financial gain under the banner of “working together” to “build back better.”
As always, the rich will not brook any opposition to their narrow private interests. They will not support anything that places a greater portion of the social wealth in the hands of those who actually produce the wealth of society: workers. They will continue to act like they have a natural right to the wealth produced collectively by workers.
Major owners of capital have no human-centered interest in improving the environment or social conditions. They pragmatically strive for what will best serve their narrow private interests and class privilege without any consideration for the well-being of all sectors of the economy as a whole. Modern nation-building cannot take place in such a context. The human-centered resolution of social, economic, and environmental problems requires confronting powerful private interests and their outdated economic system if humanity is to have a bright future.
To fix the economy and to reverse social and environmental problems requires a public authority worthy of the name. There is no reason why a real public authority cannot use the wealth and resources produced by workers to improve the social and natural environment for the nation. Planned public investment for the public and for modern nation-building is not possible under the direction and influence of competing owners of capital obsessed with maximizing private profit. Such forces are only looking out for their narrow interests, not the needs of a balanced self-reliant crisis-free economy that consistently and responsibly raises the material and cultural well-being of all.
There is no need to involve powerful private interests in social programs, social investments, or green projects. The rich are not only the cause of many problems the GND ostensibly seeks to remedy, they also have no valid and legitimate claim to any public funds, resources, and assets. The rich mainly seize and control the wealth produced by workers; they themselves do not produce the wealth of society.
The rich are a historically superfluous and exhausted force blocking social progress. Without the rich, their entourage, and their outdated political and economic system, the social product could be wielded by people themselves for the benefit of the natural and social environment. The impact of this shift and change on time and space would be monumental.
How the pandemic will be reshaping the world, especially in terms of economic recovery and especially the western world, remains to be seen. So far, western economic, social and health restructuring policies are chaotic, disorganized and totally uncoordinated. Western countries are skipping from lockdowns to “opening up” back to lockdown, from the first covid-wave, to the second and the third and now approaching the fourth. Looks like there is no end in sight.
One could almost think they do it on purpose, to keep people confused and easily manipulated.
What happens in China is a different story. China is the only significant world economy – the second largest for now in absolute terms, and the largest in PPP (purchasing power parity terms) – that has put her economic and financial mechanism fully back on stream. Consequently, the Chinese supply chain on which the rest of the world largely depends; i.e., on pharmaceuticals to 90%, works again in full force. It is rather western ports that are still – or again? – partially closed to receive cargo container ships, especially from China, causing dangerous supply shortages at home.
China is moving forward, always creating and leading initiatives, despite all odds, harassments, outright interferences and lie-based “sanctions” from the west. In this context and already looking into the future, into a post-covid future, China is displaying her Green Agenda towards a carbon neutral – not only China – but world.
Following the idea of President Xi Jinping of promoting a New Era of Eco-civilization, the Eco Forum Global Guiyan, for short EFG, has been held successfully for 10 sessions since its inception in 2009.
As a side line – Guiyang, according to the Nature Index, is one of the top 500 science cities in the world by scientific research outputs.
EFG is the only international high-profile forum in China themed on Eco-civilization at the state-level.
Let me venture saying, the Eco Forum Global Guiyang is, so far, the only international forum of such tenor and action that may — and hopefully will — expand into a global movement aiming at drastically reducing the world’s carbon footprint; in short, accelerating the objective of making our civilization, our life on earth, carbon neutral and, thereby, healthier.
To be clear, “Green Finance” is often confused, especially in the west. For example, investing in electric cars, when most of the electricity is made from not only unrenewable but also highly toxic CO2-producing hydrocarbon, is not a Green Investment. This is still predominantly the case in Europe and North America.
This does not even take into account the environment-unfriendly mining and often unhealthy work-conditions of exploiting and manufacturing lithium into car batteries.
The world’s chief energy source, hydrocarbons, has hardly changed in importance in the last 30 years or so. It still amounts to about 85% of all energy used in the world. This just indicates that so-called “green investments”, especially in the west, are mostly “fake” green investments, a new mode of sheer profit-driven capitalism.
These “green” investments have not even come close to a zero-carbon balance. To the contrary. The production of “green investments” used generally hydrocarbon, which lowers the energy efficiency drastically. This is clearly demonstrated in the low energy efficiency of electric cars, on average 35% to 40%, versus cars using straight petrol or gas-based energy.
This is, of course, not to advocate the continuous use of hydrocarbons. Quite the opposite. But strongly suggests investing in research to come up with real novel carbon neutral, or even carbon negative sources of renewable energy. Such investments most likely do not yield “instant profit”, as is the key incentive and neoliberal investment motive, but such research investments are directed towards long-term societal benefits for all humanity.
Real Green Investments are, for example, exploiting renewable and carbon-free sources of power, such as hydropower – wind, solar and tidal energy — with the latter taking advantage of the natural and eternal movements of the sea.
China will also continue being a world example of building “Green Cities”; investing in parks and “green housing” – housing units with plant façades – that absorb urban CO2 emissions from industry and transport.
These are Green Investments, as long as their dependence on hydrocarbon energy is way below the CO2 output of the Green Investment itself.
The traditional, huge, costly, and maintenance-heavy hydropower dams ought to make way for a new generation of hydropower production; namely, small, localized, low-maintenance and even mobile hydropower plants, the latter for use in desertic and monsoon-type flash-flood prone areas. A prime example is Yemen, one of the world’s most arid countries, where floods come when it rains, but where perennial water flows are rare.
Finally, the real challenge is investing and researching in a new generation of exploiting solar energy…. the most efficient way of using solar energy is by photo synthesis. This is what plants do to convert the energy of the sun. An estimated 95% energy efficiency might potentially be achieved, as compared to the current use of solar panels with a best-case energy efficiency of 30% or less.
Imagine the energy freedom humanity would gain by exploiting solar energy by photo-synthesis! Almost unthinkable, but not impossible by any means. When sincere minds come together, impossible dreams become reality.
In addition, the production of solar panels which have a limited life, requires enormous quantities of energy – energy which is currently mostly produced by hydrocarbons. Plus, solar panels have an average life span of 25 – 30 years, after which they need to be destroyed – or recycled, both are energy-dependent and environmentally challenging.
President Xi Jinping in his address for the 100-year Anniversary said:
We must unite and lead the Chinese people in working ceaselessly for a better life.
We must uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics.
These words signal creating a new model for human advancement that is leading the way into a Green China – a China where socioeconomic development meets the concept of carbon neutrality. This sounds like a challenging but terrific initiative – one of many – for China leading the way into a post-covid era.
President Xi further stated:
We must ensure and enhance public wellbeing in the course of development, promote harmony between humanity and nature, and take well-coordinated steps toward making our people prosperous, our nation strong, and our country beautiful.
China may want to take this a step further. Using the Belt and Road Initiative through joint efforts, and joint ventures in Green Investments, inside, as well as outside Chinese borders, thereby providing the world with new opportunities towards improved and carbon-free standards of living, the focus always being on mutual benefits.
True to President Xi’s words:
We must continue working to promote the building of a human community with a shared future.
The fourth of John Talbott’s criteria is the need for cultural sustainability: Satisfying our need as human beings to be creative and expressive; to learn, grow, teach and be; to have a diverse, interesting, stimulating and exciting social environment and range of experiences available.
― Christine Connelly, Sustainable Communities: Lessons from Aspiring Eco-Villages
And, we can take what Connelly states in her book to the level of — There is relatively little sharing of facilities, faculties, things, social capital, land, farming, cooperative everything, largely due to the dispersement of collective action capitalism has welded to the capitalist consumer, err, citizen. In one sense, many people in this Western society like the idea of big familial situations, and dispersing extra “things” and extra “time” in a cooperative sense, but the systems of oppression, the systems of dog-eat-dog, the systems of malformed educations and coocoo histories, all of that and the retail mentality AND the psychological fears (real, imagined, post-hypnotically suggested through a debt society) of losing home, health, humanity with the wrong throw of the mortgage and employment dice, we have now mostly a society that is not a sharing society, not a sharing economy, not a cadre of millions who believe in a genuine progress index as a marker of a democracy’s overall health.
But to allude to the title, specifically, I am looking at more and more systems of shutting out the ground-view of things versus the global view, or the international view. I am seeing more and more web sites forgetting the lynch-pin of humanity — the family, the community around a family, and the attempt to create tribes and communities of similar purposes and communities of place. Leftist websites spend countless miles of digital ink repeating what the take is on Imperial power, what the take is on the perversities of the American Chaotic diseases, what the world is in those white nations (sic) of more and more poverty, fencing out solutions and global bullshit tied to hobbling literally China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and any country where a social contract with the people and the land is emerging. Important, sure, but some of us are Marxists because we look at the ground as a way toward the larger truths.
Keeping it Local for Global Perspectives
The reality is that, like Thoreau, most do not have to travel far geographically or scholastically to understand systems from one example or a limited set of examples. If a community, or town or county can’t stop job-killing, physiology-killing, ecological-killing things/ideologies/processes coming into said community, such as, say, aerial sprays of mountains and valleys and hills that have been razed by industry, then, what sort of hope do people hold out in the larger view that your country will do the right thing with say, oh, Cuba. You know, stopping the plague of economic and financial and shipping sanctions/blockades. You can see in plain view the results of stealing countries’ bank accounts or stopping the shipping of valuable life saving “stuffs.”
So, how can that Lincoln County, OR, attempt to go to the State Supreme Court to lobby these shyster judges to do the right thing — stop the spraying of neurological and gut killing sprays to inhibit the unnatural grown and profusion of noxious weeds and opportunist shrubs and bushes on a part of mother earth that once was a dynamic forest with dynamic species, with shaded creeks, with ground food for subsoil, terrestrial and avian creatures.
I get why web sites that carry leftist news and reports go for the international gut wrenching or elitist view, but we need balance. We need proof of life and hope and action at the human level. We need writers like me to take one example of humanity doing humanity right, and giving it to the world.
That is the world here, for a moment — less than 72 hours on a plot of forest land I happen to own with my sister. Nothing fancy, just 20 acres of white pine and cedar and Douglas fir. Turkeys and bears, and the amazing skies. It is near Pahto, or Mount Adams. What should be wet soil is something like I’d find in Colorado near Durango. Snow for the season, more than one fifth the average snowfall. And there has been no rain since June 17.
We are talking Oregon, in the viewshed of Pahto and Wy’east (Adams and Hood). Things on those 20 acres and my neighbors’ adjoining 75 acres are not right. Fire, as one of the brothers told me, will be — unless climate models change 180 degrees — a bigger and bigger part of the land. The landscape. The people’s trial and tribulations. Throughout the west. Throughout the globe.
As we are in a 24-7 loop of being entertained (distracted) to death with sports, Trump Beatification Syndrome/Trump Derangement Syndrome, the politics of perversity, Corona Crisis Number 999, and all the junk that occupies the brains of Homo Retailopethicus.
I’ve been coming to this property for going on 30 years. Not regularly since I have lived and worked in such places as El Paso, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Gladstone, Beaverton, Estacada, Vancouver, and down here on the coast. It is a three and three-quarters of an hour trip from our house on the Pacific (Central Coast) to the place eight miles north of a town called White Salmon.
I met the neighbor landowners, let’s call them Rita and Ron, before they had put down the concrete footings to their house. Now, some 30 years later, they have a garden, tapped into water, have a nice modern house, lots of out buildings, a Cat for grading, and other things to make life in the woods pretty nice. Ron’s got a degree from U of Washington in geography. He is from Seattle. His brother (we’ll call him JW) put in 30 years at Boeing, and he spends time up on some acres he owns next to my property. A motor home that is nothing fancy, a SUV and he has juice, water and a septic system. There is a lot to do, and not a lot to do. He has a condo in Scottsdale, and he has kids in Spokane and Florida. He is living the good life, and it isn’t a huge ecological footprint. He’s a dyed in the wool democrat.
There are robust and real discussions with these two guys and Ron’s wife Rita. She has been married three times, has childhood trauma, had major drug addictions and she is a big time worker, gets things done, and is in recovery. Her gigs include not just taking care of rich people’s linens, scrubbing and cooking. She’s done this sort of work so long that she gets requests from really sick spouses, or individuals. She is there as caretaker, first responder, nutritional coach, travel agent, companion on some of those trips, and navigator for finances, health care concerns, family issues, and more.
Heavy things taking care of people who once were robust, skiers, surfers, outdoors folk, who are now bed-ridden and stroke paralyzed. There are plenty of issues tied to family members of the people she cares for wanting their cut of the goods, and those who want to outright steal from their moms and dads, grannies and papas.
This is a job we call “caring for people” angels. While Rita doesn’t buy into any heaven/hell theme, she jokes about being both an angel of mercy and of death. Many have died on her watch due to advanced stages of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the like.
I worked as a union organizer in Seattle, for part-time college faculty, but my union, SEIU, was and is all about health care workers. I spent time with women and men in Seattle and surrounding communities who were the licensed caregivers — the care home owners and the care home workers. Those workers are many times employed by the state to work the low paying, hard hours jobs of assisting people, old or young, who are incapable of thriving on their own without help with any number of things. Many of the people I represented in the union did the bathing and the feeding.
What I learned in those microcosms (again, the big picture stuff was always at the forefront in the union, with them beating the drum to support Obama-2 and Insley for WA governor) was again ramifying how mixed up Capitalism is under Democrats or the Demons of Republicanism. In Seattle, post-Occupy where I got to teach a few times in those famous street teach-ins, all of the Trayvon Martin protests, and those against Amazon, the fabric of that disjointed concept of those who have and those who do not have was in plain sight.
The levels of inequity were in plain sight in that backyard of mine. And, those people from African nations, those Latinx, working as personal care support, or CNAs, and those managing houses where the old, tired, sick would end up, now that was yet another lesson, and all the world is a stage was there as the underlying theme in that Diaspora of people from poverty-stricken post (sic) colonial lands, where war and murder by despots were daily concerns. These humble people were/are the caregivers, the end-of-life shepherds for “our” people — citizens.
In so many cases, the people who come from poor countries, they were the only people in the lives of these American citizens who were languishing in their sadness as their families had abandoned them in many instances. Some woman from Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, there she was, bathing, soothing, singing to and holding the lives of white people who were stuck in a room, slowly or rapidly dying.
Caregivers, and SEIU represented them as a unit. All the training these caregivers have to undergo, at the state and county levels. Black women and men, and those of Muslim faith, in the Seattle area, tending to the lives of the dying, or the developmentally disabled, that is the reality of capitalism as throwaway society. Capitalism of the impersonal, Capitalism of the scam after scam. Each layer of Capitalism is like a tree riddled with termites and beetles and all manner of disease eating it from the inside out.
That’s the real world stage — what a society does to assist the old, young, vulnerable, failing, too weak to move. What a society does to collectively build safety nets, to look at the “all the world as a stage” perspective from a macro lens, in order to widen the scope to the county, regional, national, global level. Rita taking care of super vulnerable people who do not worry about how they are paying for her private services. Aging in place — in these big homes overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Aging at home before all things go south.
In some cases, Rita is their only confidant, their only set of ears and eyes. Twice weekly visits are the only human touch they receive in their lives. Her job is that multiplicity of jobs in a patriarchal disaster capitalism society — nurse, PT provider, social worker, psychologist, taxi service, health navigator, nutritionist, legal consultant, errand person, cook, mover, travel consultant, companion, financial planner, and more. to end up as a symbolic friend and quasi-daughter or sister.
Rita and Ron live a good life out in the woods, with turkeys jumping into the trees, deer coming to the great garden they have, and the seasonal bear pushing over stumps to look for grubs. A riot of hummingbirds. Snakes and lizards. Butterflies we don’t see in suburban areas anymore. And those trees.
Ron works the land, tends to the canopies, looks for crowded trees, or dying ones, and has learned how to shepherd the land so the trees on the property thrive. Canopies where the crowns don’t touch. A better than park-like feel to the land. And now, with the changing precipitation, the nighttime temperatures last week in the nineties, all that desiccating climate heating, we have yet another “world is a stage” with the poor management of the land, the lack of state resources, the lack of collective will to mitigate fire suppression, and how to bring these forests into some manageable fire dampening state.
Yes, Ron is 68, still capable of logging and stacking trees, but his shoulder a few years ago was operated on, and a knee replaced this year. And, just a week ago, a reminder that the other knee will be chopped out with a titanium replacement to come.
Rita and Ron save money, use the Washington state Medicaid system, they are not consumers — Ron saves the old Ford sedan, cannibalize parts from old washers and dryers, and he knows how to tune up chainsaws, and how to build. His degree in geography and his deep regard for American history keep him sane. He likes golf, he plays dozens of types of cards, including Texas Hold’em, and he does Scrabble. He knows the native names of the two mountains in his geographic area.
This is the small fry of America, and a hidden gem. I know for a fact that old aging in place infirm people, or chronically unhoused folk, or people on the more untenable end of the Autism Spectrum, as well as people who do not fit in, who have intellectual disabilities, or those with complex or simple PTSD, would thrive here.
Again, setting up communities that are multi-generational, with residents possessing multiple avocations and occupations, people with varying skills, those who want community big time, and those who need community in their lives to do some checks and balances. Horse therapy, or dogs. Healthcare and PTSD recovery through gardening. Skills of building a tiny home from logs to end product. Designing microhomes that are in kits, packages that a couple could put together. Imagine that, housing people, and getting abandoned farms or degraded farms into the hands of intentional and healing communities.
So, that one 72 hours on the land, my land shared in title with my sister (it’s really never OUR land, now is it), the small things of just regular people spark, again, from this socialist, Marxist, communist, the deep well of experience and deep learning to a much higher ground, something worthy. But imagine, a thousand, or ten thousand farming centered healing communities, with Native American elders/wisdom, with that wounded veteran to farmer ethos, with all the markings of communitarian outposts of real healing and body-mind-spirit functioning. You know, all those yellow buses that are no longer road worthy. Think of them in the millions, taken to some of these places to be stripped, insulated, interior designed, made into HOMES, with amazing artistic touches, in a big circle, like a sunflower, with a community gathering place in the center, commercial kitchen and food processing center, healing center, and arts center. Imagine that, Bezos and Gates and all the other Financial Stormtroopers who have gutted communities from the bottom, up.
Alas, that’s what the small generates — the systems thinking approach to communities, which need food security, water security, direct health care, even living, aging and dying in place. This does work, will work, and should be scaled up to the thousandth degree. But in this scorched earth and scorched body capitalism, nothing can be moved unless there are a thousand lawyers, ten thousand contracts, and one hundred thousand overseers-code enforcers-middlemen/women in the mix, denigrating human agency, deconstructing the value of people and ideas, and destroying hope.
Bear, turkey, deer, on the deck sipping tequila, and the four of us talking about life, aging, the intricacies of lives so different yet here, on this plot of land, with a common humanity beyond just the intercourse of money and exchanges a la capitalism. The land, that is, the mountains and hills, all those animal trails, each tree a testament to these people, Rita and Ron, caring for the place for more than three decades.
Got a Few Million for this Real Solution?
So, the state of affairs is rotten, to the max, in every aspect of Capitalism. Sure, JC and Rita and Ron have a more middle of the row belief in this country’s exceptionalism. They are not versed in Howard Zinn, W.E.B. DuBois, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and so many others who have pried open this country’s evil roots, it’s so-called founding, and the wars, the expansionism, all of that. It’s much easier to look at the past with rose tinted glasses, and to believe that something was right, with Eisenhauer or Truman, FDR, any of them. That is the limitation of Americans, even good ones like Ron, Rita and JC. Truly, but they are in their own world, so to speak, a bubble, and yes, they get the world around them is harsh, that some (sic) of USA’s policies have kinked up the world. But to have those limits, to not see how the US has always been Murder Incorporated, or that this is Rogue Nation, a nation of chaos, a nation run by CIA-DoD and the secretive cabal of banks-industrialists-AI fuckers.
And, lo and behold, another friend, we’ll call her Betty, sent to me this other chunk of land, in Oregon, near wine country, 205 acres, up for sale, with amazing infrastructure, up for sale for 6.9 million dollars. The possibility of a developer coming into 205 acres, setting the torch for 5 acre dream (sic) homes for the rich, in a planned and gated community of millionaires, well, that is the rush she had to ask me if I had ideas.
Of course, I have ideas. Look at the list above. This place is called Laurelwood — Look at it here. Link.
Here, the low down via the realtor —
205 +/- acres zoned AF-5
Includes 49 Acre Campus with 6+ Buildings totaling approx. 130,000 SF:
Expansion Hall- Administration Building with Auditorium, Classrooms and Offices
Harmony Hall- Girl’s dorm with 67 rooms, 7 offices, lounge, chapel, commercial kitchen, dining room, bath suites, etc. and attached 3-bedroom Dean’s house
Devotion Hall- Boy’s dorm with 49 rooms (19 rooms need sheetrock finished and painted), apartment with kitchen, bath suites, rec room, lounges, etc. and attached 5-bedroom Dean’s house
Gymnasium/Music Building with Stage
Science Classroom Building with Library
Industrial Arts Building with Auto Shop, Wood Shop and Welding Shop
Extensive Updates during current ownership include:
Administration Building has newer metal roof, updated windows, new insulation, remodeled auditorium and meeting rooms, new HVAC, electrical service and lighting
New windows, high efficiency hot water system, new HVAC, new kitchen appliances and walk-in refrigerator, insulation, paint, lighting and carpeting in Harmony Hall (Girl’s dorm)
New windows, insulation in 49 rooms plus new sheetrock in 30 rooms of Devotion Hall (Boy’s dorm)
New and repaired roofs and new electrical services
Domestic water system and sewage system for campus
Includes separate 4.69 acres (Tax Lot 1301) with Spring and water rights– domestic water source for campus
Adjacent 151 +/- acres well suited for low density residential development with 30 LA water co-op certificates
Vineyard soils & Beautiful Views
South Fork Hill Creek flows through property
Rural location approximately 14 miles south of Hillsboro near Gaston
Ahh, the place is now a retreat, in retreat, as the Yoga enthusiasts are old or aging, and the place was closed due to the corona insanity/lockdown, and the people are giving up, and now it’s on the market: It is Ananda of Laurelwood. I present the basic website verbiage:
What Is Ananda?
Ananda is a global movement to help you realize the joy of your own highest Self.
Living Wisdom School
Temple & Teaching Center
Education for Life
There you have it — water, a spring, land, buildings, the potential of being not just this 205 intentional-healing-farming-tiny home building community, but a model for many others to spread across the land. I know I could get dozens of groups to come to this property for workshops, test kitchen work, growers, even wine producers, horse therapy folk, music healers, and even entomologists to create insect and pollinator fields. Students from the dozens of colleges around the Pacific Northwest, doing projects on aging, on healing, the dog and horse therapy works.
Take a look at this —
So, how do I, well trained, well educated, well versed, find the money? My proposal to Betty is to send a letter to, well, that famous ex-wife, McKenzie Bezos, now McKenzie Scott Tuttle. Billionaire who has pledged to give away half of her wealth, in the billions, tens of billions. Oh, there is Nick Hanauer, and other billionaires, so, imagine, just putting 6.9 million down, owning the property, shelling out for two or three years the monthly upkeep and insurance shit that this property would need while people like me and others build this community, pulling in all those actors, business women and men, the nonprofits, the outside the envelope people who could help design this place as a place of healing.
For me, it is a quick writing prompt, and what follows it that letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle. First draft. You can never get this to Abigail Disney or Melinda Gates, others, including the Phil Nike Knights. That is Capitalism on steroids — lies, flimflam, propaganda, marketing us to death, layer after layer of buffering, check systems, until good ideas and a good piece of land go the way of the dodo — extinct. This project I could spark into action. I have no problem talking with McKenzie or her handlers with her there, of course. Anyone. There are 2,800 billionaires in the world. Hundreds of philanthropies. A few million angel investors. Collective action and stakeholder building. But the property needs to be held in a trust, a placeholder to allow for a group of people to design its future, to get entrepreneurs involved, to get this thing going so it can be self-sufficient. A model for thousands of other places around the USA and Canada, being scarfed up by the evil ones, the developers.
Below my letter to Scott-Tuttle, see Nick Hanauer. McKenzie Scott gets wealthier even giving away billions below that. Abigail Disney below that. Below her, the author of Dream Hoarders. Better yet, Michael Parenti on Capitalism below the hoarder talk. Below that, Michael’s son, Christian, speaking about Tropic of Chaos, his book climate chaos/heating fueling violence and war.
Here, my letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started the Giving Pledge in 2010. It encourages those billionaires to pledge to give away 50% of their earnings to charity. By 2012, over 81 billionaires joined the Giving Pledge. That number is now over 120 billionaires, as of May 2014, according to the Giving Pledge’s official website.)
Reverence is an emotion that we can nurture in our very young children, respect is an attitude that we instill in our children as they become school-agers, and responsibility is an act that we inspire in our children as they grow through the middle years and become adolescents.
— Zoe Weil, p. 42, Above All Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times
Oh, the naysayers tell me and my cohorts to not even try to break into the foundation you run, that this concept of having Mackenzie Scott Tuttle even interested in becoming a placeholder for an idea, and for this land that a group of visionaries see as an incubation collective space for dreams to become reality.
We place our hopes in your ability to read on and see the vision and plans driving this solicitation, this ask. And it is a big ask.
This is figuratively and literally putting the cart before the horse. Here we have 200 acres, and the vision is retrofitting this center that is already there, Ananda, into a truly holistic healing center, youth run, for a seven generations resiliency and look forward ethos of learning to steward the land, learning to grow the land, toward biodynamic farming, all mixed in with intergenerational wisdom growing.
We are seeing this, as stated above, as a medicine wheel. A circle of integrative thinking, education, experimentation and overlapping visions of bringing stakeholders from around the Pacific Northwest (and world) into this safe harbor. There are already facilities on this property as you can see from the real estate prospectus. There are 120 rooms in a great building. There are outbuildings, a gymnasium, barns, and spring water.
It is unfortunately up for sale, and the danger there is a developer with a keen eye to massive profits and turning a spiritual and secular place of great healing and medicine wheel potential into “dream homes” for the rich.
Good land turned into a gated community? We are asking your philanthropy to take a deep dive into helping put this property on hold from those nefarious intentions and allow our group to develop this circle of healing – education across disciplines, elder type academy mixed with youth directed programs; farming; food production; micro-home building and construction facility; trauma informed healing.
Actually, more. Think of this as a community of communities.
Young People Need Hope, a Place (many places) and Leadership and Development
So many young people are done with Industrial and Techno Capitalism. They know deep down there is more to a scoop of soil than a billion bacteria, and they want to be part of healing communities.
We are proposing the Foundation you have set up invest in this property, as a placeholder for our development plan – actually it is an anti-developer plan. This property will be scarfed up for a steal, by, land and housing developers who want McMansions out here in this incredible eco-scape. Just what we do not need in the outlying areas of Portland. Or in so many other locations across this country.
We are a small group ready to do what we can to get food growers and producers at the table to invest in intellectual and sweat and tears capital to make this 200 acres work as a living community of new farmers, people living and learning on the property, incubating ideas for, we hope, to include a micro-home building project, crops, vineyards, learning centers for farming and preserving, marketing and engaging in food healing.
We come at this with decades around food systems, learning from Via Campesina/o or Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Winona LaDuke, Rachel Carson. We believe in biomimicry, that is, learning how nature settles scores, survives and thrives. We come at this as deeply concerned about ecological footprints, life cycle analyses, the disposable culture and the planned and marketed obsolescence.
We are also coming at this as educators – earth teachers, who know classrooms in prison like settings, with rows of desks, do not engender creative and solutionaries– young people ready to go into the world, even a small community, with engaged, creative and positive ways to deal with climate chaos and the impending shattering of safety nets, including biological and earth systems “nets” and “webs.”
This property is unique, as all of our earth is. This is firstly Kalapua land, first, and that is the Grande Ronde and Siletz, as well as the Atfalsti, too. We call it Gatson, near Hillsboro, Oregon, but the land is the essence of the spirit givers of this continent before “discovery.”
Rich, in the wine country of the new people to this region, this land is about applying our ethos and yours, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, toward a real healing, a real stewardship and real intergeneration ethos around carrying the wisdom of tribes and growers and educators to the youth. We believe women are at the center of many of the themes already listed – farming, educating, healing, human stewardship.
Think of this project as the cart before the horse because the old system, the horse, was always the money, the source of power, and with power comes strings attached. The people involved in this project are looking to have a multistoried community of farmers, learners, youth learning trades and people skills, as well as elders, both Native and new arrivals, to understand that a farm is more than that, as well as a vineyard is more than the sum of the grapes. It is about a reclaiming of the sacred – soil, air, photosynthesis in a truly sustainable fashion.
The only “green washing” we can imagine this project will carry forth is the washing of the greens, the other harvests, in tubs of clear spring water.
Some of us on this project have traveled to other parts of this continent, and spent time with coffee growers and understand that shade grown coffee and beyond fair trade are the only elements to a truly fair and equitable system. Train the people of the land, who are the true stewards, to not only grow, but to roast and market the bounty. Grow the community with water projects, irrigation, schools, and globalized sharing of people, visitors.
This project needs a placeholder, to keep the land out of the insane real estate market. We will do the rest, we solutionaires. There are so many growers and investment angels who want to be part of the Seventh Generation solution.
Clearly, the lessons for people to be in this 200 acre community, farm-soil-healing satellite, are lessons you, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, the fiction writer, know, which you capture deftly with Luther Albright. The world for young people in the Pacific Northwest is that crumbling home and crumbling dam of Albright. The healing we need is more than the structures and infrastructure. It is inside, at the heart of the soul of imagination. Some of us on this project are soliciting from your charity a placeholder purchase of the property are tied to the arts, believing STEAM is the only way forward, and that S.T.E.M. is lifeless and dangerous without the A – arts. We believe the true voice of people are those who believe in asking “what should we do” rather than what is currently on superchargers – “What Can We Do?”
We realize that for many young people, politics have failed them. Many youth I speak with and work with, believe this country is in the midst of an empire of chaos in steep decay. Alternatives to the decay is building communities that would fit the model here on 200 acres – agro-ecological farming; nutritional centered living; housing; long-term care assistance; youth directed entrepreneur projects; bringing in local and state businesses leaders to be part of a design from the grassroots up.
The catch for most of the youth we have engaged is — to paraphrase and level a composite point,” We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.” This simple statement is packed full of context and frightening reality for millions of students and adults who feel disconnected and neutered by both government agencies and corporate policies.
First, who wants to be “ruled” by anyone? That we have this class system of elite, middle managers, the elite’s high ranking servicers, and then, the rest of the citizens, the so-called 80 percent who have captured less than the overall 10 percent of “wealth” in this country. The very idea of an elite out of touch, or completely out of touch speaks to an ignorance that is dangerous to the world, to the 80 percent, and also speaks to a possible planned ignorance. That we have millions of amazing people, to include nonprofits, community-led organizations, educational institutions, journalists, and others, who can speak to what those “travails” are, and yet, the elites failing to grasp those challenges, or failing to even acknowledge them, this is what many believe is the decay of this society.
This may not sit well with you or your philanthropy, but we as a group have dozens of years experience working with K12, higher ed, farming groups, social services/mutual aid movements, and have systems thinking in our backgrounds, and we underscore youth and community-driven projects and designs. This medicine wheel/circle land trust we are asking you to consider with a follow up meeting, well, this is the only way to a model-driven set of safety nets to move into some challenging times for this Empire in a world that is no longer USA centric.
We are solutionaries, that is, we look for solutions by taking apart problems and then applying holism and deep experimentation in design, but using tried and proven systems that do work.
Healthy food, healthy relationships to culture, people, nature, healthy work, worthy work, with an eye always on the arts. Just as a farming and tiny home community, where biodynamic farming and food preserving and from nail to roof to complete tiny home design are part and parcel the key elements for this community to thrive under, well, there are no better classrooms and transferable skills.
Some of us have seen youth and adults learn the crafts needed to design, plan, buildings, and market tiny homes that would be used to seed communities that are, again, centered around farming, centered around healing, centered around Native American healing, and local community values. A young woman who finishes the hands-on learning of building a tiny home – with windows, skylights, plumbing, furnishings, electricity ready, all of that which a home entails – is a remarkable, valuable person. All those skills, again, like a medicine wheel, teach deeper lessons, and transferable skills.
This is what this property would also “house.”
All Tied Together – School, Outdoors, People, Action, Solving Food Insecurity and Housing
The should is an educational-farming-entrepreneur-solutions incubator on these 200 acres. Proving that this could be one of a thousand across the land. There are literally thousands of similar properties around the US, within their own cultural-community-ecological-historical milieus, but again, this project is one that Luther Albright would have thrived inside as a “New Engineer for Growing Communities,” as opposed to river-killing dam builder.
Our earthquake is here now, with all measure of tremors and aftershocks — that is the climate chaos, wildfires, food insecurity, and alas, the New/New Gilded age of deep inequities that are criminal, as you well know, Ms. Scott Tuttle.
Here, the cart (before the horse): this amazing collective piece of land and buildings with a multiversity of spiritual under girders . The horses are ready, but they need the cart, the home, the fabric of incubation. Those stallions and mares are engaged, ready, who are willing to take a leap of faith here and risk being outside the common paradigm of predatory and consumer-driven capitalism that has put many millions in a highly precarious position.
It’s amazing, the current system of philanthropy which forces more and more people to beg for less and less diverse money for fewer and fewer truly innovative ideas. Funding a project like this is a legacy ad-venture, the exact formula we need (scaled up to a 1,000 different locales) to break the chains of Disaster and Predatory Capitalism. We need that “capital,” the cart, to help those stallions and mares to break for the field of ideas and fresh streams of praxis.
There are any number of ideas for sustainability communities. Co-ops, growers groups, or mixed communities for young and old to exchange knowledge, capacity, growth, sweat equity — called intergenerational living. This is about a pretty inventive suite of concepts and practices:
learning spaces, inside and outside
buildings to develop micro home (unique, easily packaged and ready to put together) manufacturing and R & D
food systems – farming of sustainable food, herbs and those vines
learning food systems, from farm to plate
ceramics, painting, music, dance, theater and writing center
farmers, restaurateurs and harvesters with a stake in the community
Youth directed outdoor education and experiences
sustainability practicum’s for students
low income micro home housing
day care center, early learning center
How does this make any sense to a billionaire, who has devoted her life to “giving away” half of her wealth in her lifetime? Well, we see this project – this land-property – as a legacy for many of the avocations and interests (passions) you have articulated over the years. Your vision and commitment to education and women-centered projects are admirable. This is one of those projects.
There is that emotional and sappy Movie, Field of Dreams, and the statement – “if you build it, they will come.” We have found that over the years teaching in many places – Seattle, Spokane, Portland, El Paso, Auburn, Mexico – that young people and nontraditional students want mentoring, leadership and the tools to be mentors and leaders. They need the cart before the horse can herald in the new ideas, and the new way to a better future. If the classroom and master facilitator allows for open growth, unique student-led ideas and work, well, that person has BUILT the field of dreams from which to grow.
There are so many potentials with this project, and it starts with the land, holding it as a Scott-Tuttle placeholder. From an investment point of view, as long as you have people wrangling other people and professionals to get this satellite of sanity, the medicine wheel with many spokes radiating out and inward, the property increases in monetary value. Land is sacred, but just as sacred are the ideas and the potential that land might germinate and grow. It is the reality of our country – too few control too much. We see it in the infamous “Complex” – not just military, but, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, Big Business, Big Education, Big Medicine, as well as private prisons, for profit social services, AI , and Big Tech, so called Surveillance Capitalism. Who in the 80 percent has the funds to purchase a $7 million project?
Big ideas like this cooperative land medicine wheel (a first of many satellites) might be common, but the web of supportive and cohesive things tied to this property is unusual, to say the least. With the failing of small businesses throughout the area, with the food insecurity for women, children and families, with the housing insecurity, added to debt insecurity — with all those insecurities young and old face, this project could be the light at the end of many tunnels. We have connections to Oregon Tilth and Latinx Farmers, and large biodynamic vineyards. We have connections to women’s veteran groups, to aging in place experts. We have connections to trauma healers and growers and interested folk who know construction and design. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Gold Beach, OR, is full of innovators, and those include the dozens of colleges and universities just in these two states – Oregon and Washington. We intend to trawl for investors – farms, food purveyors, wineries, restaurants, schools and various college programmers – to put into this project. A soil plot to test perennial wheat, a al the Land Institute, to Amory Lovins, Novella Carpenter, and so many more, finding a place of integrated living, ag, permaculture and ever-evolving cultural understanding of the finite planet we are on.
We are hopeful, even under the current Sixth Extinction.
It is telling, this entomologist and educator’s perspective after three decades of teaching:
Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana, took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:
Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched.
How contradictory and illustrative that this student experience took place in a “protected national park.”
Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:
Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.
We are hopeful that our youth can document life on this Medicine Wheel Land Satellite, and instead of describing “loss, decline, death,” this one satellite can help individuals to describe resurgence, restoration, holism, and growth. A model, like the one we propose, could be the incubator and inspiration for other similar projects throughout the land. So many empty buildings, so many abandoned farms, so much good land about to be grabbed up by McMansion developers, or those who have no vision toward a resilient and communitarian existence.
We are thinking of a medicine wheel since so many people can utilize the Farm, from horse therapists, to gardening as trauma healers; from alternative medicine experts, to restaurants with a connection to growers. This is Tierra Firma Robusta, for sure, with so much potential to integrate a suite of smart, worldly, localized and educational programs, permanent, long-term, and short in duration. This would be the linchpin of inspiration, an incubator for similar projects, and we’d make sure that the Philanthropy you head up would be in some form of limelight – imagine, a billionaire placing a property with a deep spiritual history into a land trust of perpetuity. I know another billionaire has purchased farmland and is now the largest farm land holder in the US, but this one here we propose would fit an entirely different model, having nothing to do with industrial farming, genetic engineering and monocultures. Like all good societies, the cornucopia of life and backgrounds and people and land is what makes them dynamic, healthy and resilient, as well as fair.
We propose a grand idea, but we need that field of dreams, that field, that farm, before we can engage a hundred people to be part of this medicine wheel of land healing and hope.
Please let our team discuss this further. Truly, we have both the passion and persistence to get this Medicine Wheel of Healing Farm Community to an unimaginably vibrant level. Will you be part of our field of dreams?
Perhaps you have been already convinced by reading articles on this site about the devastating effects of the ongoing rollout of massive numbers of 4G/5G so-called small cells (short for cell towers) throughout cities in the U.S. If you’re not up to speed about why you should be extremely, extremely alarmed, you can read my previous article on the subject (“The 5G Juggernaut, Coming Soon to a Utility Pole Outside Your Home“)
Assuming you are now aware that this rollout will have devastating impacts on our quality of life, and the-well being of the planet, how can you take action to fight it? Two bills have been introduced in the CA legislature to essentially remove any local government oversight of the telecoms, and will be catastrophic if passed. These are AB 537 and SB 556. This article explains how you can be effective in convincing legislators to oppose these bills, but this same advice applies to lobbying legislators in any state.
My advice is based on my past experience as a lobbyist representing a statewide human rights organization when, on more than one occasion, a tiny group of us were able to win extraordinary victories against bills being strongly pushed by powerful corporate interests. I also worked as a legislative assistant to a city council person, giving me an inside look at the dynamics of local government, and was very involved in the successful 2017 campaign in California to defeat a similar 5G greenlighting bill.
Mindset is important. If your mindset is “The government is totally against us, we live in a corporatocracy and I just need to register my outrage, but I know we’re not going to win,” your lobbying efforts are unlikely to succeed. If your mindset is “Legislators definitely don’t share my values, but maybe I can trick them into supporting us, by greatly watering down what I believe into a more palatable ‘mainstream’ message,” No, this is not going to convince them to take the action you’re hoping for. Or “What if I come up with an assertion that is so powerful that the person I’m talking to will be absolutely overwhelmed, and whether or not I provide them with supporting arguments and documentation is not really important?”– Uh, no.
There is no question that anti-5G lobbyists are up against huge forces that have almost unlimited funds to bribe legislators with donations, and pay full time lobbyists to perpetuate their propaganda.
In my opinion, there is only one way to win when the odds are so stacked against us, and that is to connect with the person that you’re communicating with as a fellow human being, who is trying to make sense of a world where all our usual assumptions about normality have been turned upside down. A fellow/sister human who cares as deeply as you do about the health and well-being of their children, family, and friends, and who has a strong interest in the future of California, and does not want the state destroyed by catastrophic wildfires which could result from this massive, unregulated cell tower rollout.
Ask yourself what argument is going to overcome all the years of telecom and mainstream propaganda they’ve been programmed with? Maybe explaining that their child could get a brain tumor — or they might not even be able to have children
— as a result of the ever-increasing close proximity radiation that this legislation would create? Or perhaps giving them documented information about the extreme fire risks posed by locating these very powerful small cell towers everywhere. (You can see a lot of the documented evidence of 5G fire dangers in this article I wrote, which describes the woeful lack of fire protection provided by Berkeley lawmakers when they crafted their city’s small cell ordinance.)
Although the industry likes to describe them as “small” cells, the equipment can be quite large, adding greatly to the aesthetic deterioration of California cities and towns. And the radiation can often be just as powerful as the traditional 3G/4G macro towers, now with the added very strong EMF (electromagnetic field) pollution that is caused by the 5G antennas. 5G is not replacing 4G, it is adding on to it.
It’s important to do your homework, so you are familiar with what the bill you are lobbying about says, and can provide backup documentation for your assertions.
It should go without saying that you need to adhere to the truth 100% of the time. The truth about the planned rollout of thousands of 5G cell towers directly outside our homes is so horrendous that we don’t have to exaggerate anything, or slant the truth to get a desired effect.
An example of activists of being less than accurate was the flyer, posted on many webpages, which noted that for many years, telecoms had not been able to get insurance for small cells. They could only get insurance if there was an exclusion for “EMF pollution” (i.e., all the people that can be expected to get deathly ill as a result of having powerful 4G/5G antennas outside their bedroom windows). Then there’s other information indicating that small cells present very serious fire risks. Somehow these two arguments got combined into one shorter message, that telecoms can’t get insurance for small cells due to extreme fire dangers. Since many legislators might not even know what EMF pollution is, that makes for a much more impressive message, since everyone who lives in California is worried about wildfires. The only small problem is that that argument is not true.
If you’re going to contact legislators, it’s essential to make sure that your arguments relate to the particular bill that you’re contacting them about. Do not use a generic “5G is terrible” message. Telecoms have full-time lobbyists that will be sure to point out any factual errors in your arguments. Legislative aides and committee staff will also note errors. No point in your trying to give them information that can’t be backed up — aside from the fact that some readers of this kind of messaging will just have an intuitive sense that there’s something off about your argument.
Activists may have read somewhere that they should be certain to avoid mentioning health impacts, or even ANY harmful impacts caused by close-proximity cell towers, when talking to legislators. There is a huge amount of scientific evidence showing extremely harmful health impacts of living near a cell tower and/or being exposed to wireless radiation — cancer clusters, strokes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. That is one of the most effective arguments you can use, since small cells will increase the level of radiation exponentially.
Because this dictum has gone out so widely to anti 5G activists, that any mention of health should be strenuously avoided, I reached out to several of the top anti-5G attorneys regarding this issue. They all said there is no reason for activists to censor themselves about detrimental heath impacts of cell towers when contacting state legislators.
As one of these attorneys explained it, according to federal law, the only time you cannot talk publicly about health and environmental impacts is before a local governing body that is deciding whether or not a particular cell tower is going to be placed. (You can feel free to say whatever you want when speaking to city council members privately.) If the telecom applicant can show in court that the denial of their permit was based on health concerns, the telecom wins the right to put in their tower.
Please don’t confuse that nuanced issue of local zoning procedure with what kind of issues you can and should bring up when lobbying state legislators.
Aside from the federal law which restricts local siting decisions based on health, there are other federal laws and court decisions that require governments to ensure the safety of communities from harmful effects of cell tower radiation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act, which do not allow laws or regulations that deny access by EMF-disabled people to their own homes or services in their community. There is a DC Court of Appeals decision (Keetoowah Tribes vs FCC) that said national environmental laws also must be considered in the siting of all small cells.
Even the California Supreme Court issued an opinion (T Mobile West vs. City and County of SF) that cities cannot evade their responsibility to protect public safety regarding cell tower placement. Here’s a relevant quote from that opinion:
Under the California Constitution, cities and counties “may make and enforce within [their] limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws…. local police power includes broad authority to determine, for purposes of public health, safety, and welfare, the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction’s borders.”
As a people’s lobbyist, you are not required to be able to debate the finer points of all these laws, regulations, and court decisions. Even though all the attorneys consulted agreed that none of these laws or court opinions represent a gag order for lobbyists, for strategic reasons, it’s always a good idea to bring up other issues, in addition to health and environmental impacts, when opposing 5G legislation. There are many other crucially important reasons to oppose this uncontrolled rollout, some of which I’ve described in my article which I linked to previously. More can be found here and here.
You will be on very strong ground legally and ethically if you base your discussion of health impacts on how these bills violate the ADA, that is, the rights of people who have electro-sensitivity (sometimes abbreviated to ES). However I believe it’s a mistake to make the whole issue of health impacts solely related to people who are already disabled by this condition. Many legislators probably don’t believe that such a thing exists, and even if they believe it does, that is a very small segment of the population, compared to the huge number who are being deprived of adequate high-speed internet access — the problem these bills claim to fix.
It’s excellent to bring up the ADA, but cell tower health impacts affect everyone, not just this small group who are already experiencing ES. As the former President of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg, explains it:
Everyone can develop ES. People are not born with ES but develop it as a result of exposure to radiation from wireless sources…. As with other conditions, a person may have a disposition towards a certain condition and therefore may develop it sooner than another person with the same exposure. The increasingly high prevalence of ES makes it clear that the attempts to suggest that those who suffer from the condition are a small fraction of the population that is ‘sensitive’ or that their response to radiation deviates from that of the general population, are false.
(Frank Clegg is now devoting much of his time to countering telecoms’ lies about the safety of 5G as you can see here.)
Even the former Prime Minister of Denmark, who is also the former Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, developed very strong sensitivity to EMFs.
The health impacts are not just the numerous discomforts experienced by those who are EMF sensitive — such as severe head pain and pressure, heart pain and palpitations, sleep disturbances, dizziness, ear pressure or ringing, brain fog, burning skin, constant nose bleeds, etc. The health impacts the legislators need to know about, in addition to the symptoms of EMF sensitivity, are the ones documented in peer-reviewed journals, showing serious diseases like cancer resulting from wireless radiation.
You may be thinking, I don’t have time to track down all these scientific articles about the health impacts of wireless radiation. Luckily, Environmental Health Trust has done an exhaustive job of collecting all the documentation about health impacts, and many other issues related to stopping 5G, which you can find here.
The health effects of cell tower radiation was probably the winning argument (among many) that was used in 2017, when opponents of SB 649 kept bringing up the fact that firefighters were exempted in the bill from having a cell tower near their station, resulting from their fierce objections due to their past experiences of major neurological deterioration as a result of such towers. There is a similar exemption for fire stations in this current 5G streamlining bill, AB 537. If firefighters are protected, what about children, the elderly, and all the rest of us? In what upside down universe does that make sense?
So, no, it’s not true that you have to avoid any mention of health impacts when lobbying state representatives.
You may have been told legislators have short attention spans, so you need to make your message very short and catchy. They are not going to read a long letter with a lot of research attached.
Not true. They might not read every long letter, especially if it’s filled with rambling thoughts and unsupported assertions, but if your letter is well organized and accurately addresses what the bill says, their aides/staff will look it over, since it’s their job to know all the facts related to the bill. Some even appreciate that you are helping them do their job, and activists’ research will influence how they write up the bill.
Your task as a lobbyist is to explain all the reasons why the bill will be extremely bad for California. Yes, it’s good to choose your words carefully, but if it takes you more than one page to explain all the reasons, that’s OK. It’s also totally fine to focus on one or two key points, as long as you can back up your arguments with some form of documentation, and can explain how they relate to the bill.
As far as choosing which issues to focus on, don’t limit yourself to a neutral and non-controversial argument; e.g., local control by the cities is an important principle that should be upheld, or 5G next to people’s houses will reduce property values. Legislators are already aware that these bills greatly restrict or eliminate local control, and many cities will be writing to strongly remind them of that fact.
You are trying to transform the legislator’s entire worldview about the supposed miraculous benefits of saturating our lives with wireless radiation. A neutral message like “someone’s property values could go down” is not likely to convince them. (Is it even true that someone’s property values will go down from having a small cell tower in front of their house, if every third house in that community has a small cell in front of it, as the authors of these bills intend?)
This brings me to the very prevalent use of “talking points,” which are very condensed messages that can be used by members of groups to attempt to sway legislators. There is a school of thought which says the main goal in lobbying the legislator is to get the largest number of people possible to call into their office and/or wait in line at a hearing to give a “me too” statement. The “me too” statement only allows them to present name, organization, if any, and a yes or no position on the bill. And since the main goal is to get large numbers of people to call in, you don’t want to burden potential citizen-lobbyists with a lot of details about the bill. It’s better, this theory goes, to just give them some sound bites that then can be repeated endlessly by everyone who calls in.
There is some truth in this approach, which is if you can get a large enough number of people from the legislator’s own district to call in, they might be responsive to the sentiments of their constituents — but probably not responsive enough to overcome the power of the telecoms to establish the discussion parameters about why this bill is so necessary.
If there is a group of activists who all live in the same legislator’s district, they should set up a meeting with the legislator, or if that’s not possible, the top aide working on the bill. That would have a much greater impact, as opposed to all the activists in that district calling in with the same few, identical talking points.
One problem with talking points is that they make it less likely you will be able to make an authentic connection with the aide. They’ve heard it all before, maybe ten or twenty times before, and their goal will be to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.
Another problem with talking points is that they’re not always true. What?? I saw it on a flyer or I saw it on a website, so it must be true! I’ve already talked about the issue of wrong information being widely circulated. I think it’s like the game of telephone we played as kids. The first person in the circle whispers something to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, and by the time it reaches the last person, the original message has been changed into something totally different.
You need to ask yourself, does this argument make sense? Can I find any information to back it up?
Regarding what I described as the telecoms setting the “parameters of discussion,” they claim that due to the Covid-19 crisis, when people in low income and rural communities are unable to receive high-speed internet access, their ability to access government programs, education for their kids, and to earn money for their survival, is severely threatened. Providing high-speed access to these groups should be the main concern of legislators who are trying to help their constituents.
All other arguments seem to pale against that urgent need — unless you can get into a real conversation with the aide, and explain the fallacy of that position. Of course, we agree that all under-served communities need to have high-speed internet. However, corded internet connections (such as Ethernet, DSL and cable) are just as fast or faster, and they don’t have the downsides of EMF pollution and extreme fire risks. Point out that there’s nothing in the bill that requires telecoms to actually serve under-served communities.
The much-touted promise of 5G to provide faster connections and download speeds has not held up in practice, according to investigators from PC Mag, who did tests of 5G vs. 4G speeds. 5G also does not work in very hot weather. You can explain that by removing local control, the bill also removes the ability of the local government to negotiate with telecoms to provide access for everyone.
Instead of trying to manipulate, or bombard with robo-calls, the person you’re trying to convince, what if you just tried to educate them? As I previously noted, humanity right now is facing unprecedented threats. Rather than this piece of proposed legislation providing a solution, you can tell them how this bill will increase environmental and public health disasters a hundredfold.
What is the point of giving everyone in California internet access (not that we’re saying these bills WILL do that) — if at the same time you are putting in thousands of extremely fire-prone installations throughout neighborhoods? To put it another way, what good is it for a family to have fast home internet, if they don’t have a home?
These fires can be caused by overloading utility poles, frequent use of smart meters (which are a documented fire hazard) on the small cells, lack of built-in fire safety features, lack of state-required fire safety inspections and reports, and the temporary or permanent use of backup generators containing fire-prone substances, such as diesel fuel or lithium batteries.
Thousands and thousands of these terribly risky installations will be put in right next to people’s homes, or kids’ schools, or facilities for the elderly, so there will be no time for people to escape in a disaster.
On April 19. 2021, fire safety consultant Susan Dana Foster was the first opposition witness regarding SB 556, a 5G bill to greatly reduce the involvement of local governments in the 5G rollout, in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. She was providing refutation to the testimony of the Verizon representative. She explained that firefighters cannot put out electrical fires, such as would occur at a 4G/5G small cell, because putting water on those fires would cause electrocution.
All they can do is wet the ground next to the fire in short bursts. They have to wait for the power to be shut off, which for various reasons that she explained, could take from ten minutes to up to two hours. She also describes how the telecoms have been successful in evading the usual government electrical codes at the federal, state, and county level.
During that hands-off period for firefighters, that could last up to two hours, strong winds could spread the original electrical fire much, much further. In a state like California, where massive wildfires are already causing immense destruction to life and property, these provisions seem like a recipe for unimaginable disaster.
One thing I would strongly urge when trying to find out accurate info about a bill, is to read the official analysis and summary of the bill you are going to be speaking or writing to legislators about. These official analyses are a gold mine of information, and sometimes sound like they could have been written by a fellow activist. (Of course, sometimes they also sound like they could have been written by telecom spokesperson.)
You need to familiarize yourself with the lingo. The term “deemed approved” is one you will see over and over again in these bills. It means if the city is unable to respond to a telecom application within a very short time period (called a shotclock), then their application is automatically accepted without the need for city approval.
Another important term is collocations. This refers to the telecoms’ ability to keep adding more and more antennas, which they would prefer to do without local government oversight. You can find all the information you need about each bill, including what committee it’s headed to, here.
Another good site to know about is the California Legislature Position Letter Portal, which allows you to send a letter to the entire committee where the bill is headed, by just going through their easy registration steps. It’s also helpful to send a copy to your representatives in the Assembly and Senate.
In a few committees, the letters sent through the official portal do not reach the individual committee members, which is why it is good to also send it to them individually. You might even consider using snail mail if you are unable to reach individual legislators through their email.
Sometimes when calling their office you may be told that the legislator only wants to hear from district constituents. You can tell them that as a resident of California, you are a constituent, since their decisions on this committee will affect everyone in the state.
To sum up, while I’m not saying that large numbers of people calling legislators’ offices with talking points is never of benefit, in my experience, the only truly effective way to win the legislator’s or aides support is to get them to understand the deeper reasons this bill will be devastating to so many people. It actually only takes one citizen-lobbyist to have that kind of conversation.
Your underlying message should be: Don’t vote against this bill because we’re asking you to. Vote against it because you care about the well-being and safety of your family and community, and about the people of California, and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from the catastrophic impacts of this technology that is running amok.
On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Susan Crane of Redwood City, California, and Christiane Danowski of Dortmund, Germany. We were there at the end of an “International Week” of protests against the approximately 20 US nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base in a “nuclear sharing” agreement with the United States.
In previous days we had visited the entrance gates to the base with our signs and banners and two days before we participated in a “Digging for Life” action outside the fences, near the other end of the runway, where the German pilots liftoff and land their Italian made PA200 Tornado jet fighters, daily training to drop US nuclear bombs on Russia when the order is given. This day we hiked to the other, less accessible, end of the runway, through a forest of dead and dying trees decimated by recent years of drought, unprecedented heat and a massive bark beetle infestation affected by climate change.
In the clearing near where the runway begins, we noticed a couple of “spotters,” hobbyists who got there before us looking to get dramatic photos of the jets taking off. In their company, while we were scouting and imagining potential future protests at the site, we also knew that some action was imminent.
Beyond the fence that marked the boundary of the base from the forest, there was a high berm of earth that shielded the nearby Tornados warming up their engines for takeoff from our view. We could not see, but we heard the purr of their engines turn to a roar and we felt the earth shake and we saw and then smelled a wall- acrid and black, a stinking miasma of burnt and unburned jet fuel- rising above the berm and over our heads before the jets screamed off away from us to take to the air to rehearse for the end of everything.
Not far from where these Tornado jets were spewing out more than 13 tons of CO2 per flight hour into the atmosphere, cities and towns in the river valleys were cleaning up from recent rains and floods that left more than 177 dead and hundreds more still missing at the time- in some places the rivers rose to the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years.
Participation in the annual “International Week” in the COVID pandemic was already hampered by the fact that it was held just days after Germany opened its borders to vaccinated visitors from places like the US, and by July 15, the day after my own arrival by air, many railroads and highways were closed by rising water. We heard harrowing travel stories from those few who were able to join us from various points in Germany. Our numbers were much less than expected and the catastrophe of the floods called us to reassess our plans for the week.
We had planned to have enough people to nonviolently blockade the various gates of the base on Friday July 16th, marking the 76th anniversary of the first atomic bomb detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1945, and the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 uranium mine waste spill at Church Rock, New Mexico — the largest accidental release of radioactive materials in US history. We recognized that even with our reduced numbers, such an act of civil resistance would distract police from search and rescue work that many of them were doing in flooded places in the region. Members of our group met with local police and the commander of the base to inform them that instead of a blockade there would be a simple quiet vigil with signs and prayers outside the main gate on July 16, the planned “Digging for Life” action scheduled for three days later would go on.
The original concept of the event was to be a symbolic piece of theater around the base’s new highly armed security fence with surveillance cameras, motion sensors and a deep concrete foundation. The plan that some of us would dig with pink shovels with the impossible aim of making a tunnel under the fortification and get onto and close the runway while others would cheer them on from a picnic in the adjoining meadow, had to be adapted to our reduced numbers and in recognition of the devastation that had been unfolding around us in the preceding days.
The vibrant pink shovels were muted with black paint or tied with black ribbons. Banners with more light hearted messages written in pastels were left behind and new ones made more in keeping with the moment, in German, white on black, “STOP THE NEXT CATASTROPHE BEFORE IT BEGINS- ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!”
As the event unfolded, 14 activists from Germany, the US and the Netherlands were met at the fence by several times that number of civilian and military police, who after an hour arrested four of the most persistent diggers who were soon released without any charges. While especially in light of the $14 million plus spent on the new fence meant to keep people like us out, the civilian police had better things to do and could easily have ignored our clearly symbolic effort, some in the local press and more in social media blamed us for distracting the police and military from dealing with the aftermath of the floods.
In the midst of their national disaster, only about 1,000 of the 150,000 soldiers in the German military were employed in flood relief and on the day we were digging for life at Büchel, Tornado jets were crisscrossing over our heads, causing police, protesters, soldiers and members of the press alike to cover our ears from their deafening roar, illustrating what is often ignored and never mentioned in climate negotiations, the huge part that the militaries of the world play in the climate crisis, the US and its allies more than the rest.
Before the digging began at the fence and under the screaming jets, a police detective called my name and with some ceremony served me with papers from the court informing me that I had been accused, convicted and sentenced to a 900 euro fine or 30 days in prison in response to my actions on my last visit to Germany and to Büchel, two years ago, along with two others, Susan from California and Susan from Amsterdam. It was decided by the court that “through the same act and acting collectively” and “within the scope of the annual meeting and demonstration against nuclear weapons at the airbase of fighter-bomber squadron 33,” I had “gained unlawful access to the military area and its security sector” by cutting holes in the fence. I remember that the military police sergeant who apprehended us was unreasonably upset about the hole we had made, not so much concerned about the weapons of mass destruction that he was guarding nor the violations of the German Constitution and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that they pose. Before leaving Germany, I filed an appeal of my conviction and sentence in the court at Cochem and I hope for the opportunity to argue against the assumed legality of nuclear weapons in a German court.
The United States is preparing to upgrade its current B61 nuclear bombs with the new B61-12, reportedly costing over $20 million each and the German government is looking to soon replace its fleet of Tornados with more sophisticated fighter bombers, both governments spending billions on systems that will significantly lower the threshold of nuclear war and contribute to global warming. There is no solution to the climate crisis and no hope for human life on this planet that does not include disarmament and an end to war.