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Economic resources, 3/27/11
The anti-nuclear German Green Party won a historic election victory in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg on March 27, 2011, with Green Party candidate Winfried Kretschmann likely to become minister-president of this state, according to a report by the Guardian of London. This historic victory will be the first time the Greens have won leadership of a state in Germany. The Greens more than doubled their vote percentage from their 2006 results in this state, winning 24.2% of the vote and 36 seats in the state parliament. (See SpiegelOnline; Deutsche Welle.) They will govern the state as head of a coalition with Germany's Social-Democratic Party (SPD), which polled slightly behind the Greens (at 23.1% and 35 seats). This stunning election victory marks the German Green Party's evolution from a minor party, born in the 1970s out of the anti-nuclear and environmental movement, to a major political force poised to take power in parts of Germany.
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan was an important factor in the Green's Baden-Wurttemberg defeat of the pro-nuclear Christian Democratic Union (CDU), according to press reports. This defeat for the CDU, in part of the heartland of its traditional base of support, may bode ill for Germany's Christian Democratic chancellor, Angela Merkel. "The debate in connection with the Japanese nuclear plant of Fukushima was clearly what led to our defeat," Merkel concluded, according to the Telegraph (U.K.).
In an eerily prescient keynote address to the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) in Boston on March 9th, well-known sustainability advocate Dr. David Orr warned of the dangers of “Black Swan” events in our interconnected world. Orr’s keynote speech was given just two days before the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster exploded into being, from minute probability to massive consequence.
The “Black Swan” concept was popularized by NassimTaleb in his 2007 book of the same name. Taleb’s Black Swan observation is that in a highly complex, interconnected and fragile world, apparently unpredictable events of extremely low probability (“Black Swans”) can trigger wide-ranging and disastrous consequences, and are increasingly likely to do so.
For a more detailed report on David Orr's keynote address to the NESEA conference, March 9, 2011, read "A Revolution in Capabilities," below.
Well-known sustainability advocate, Dr. David Orr, gave a moving call to action in the opening address for this year’s Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Building Energy conference in Boston, March 9, 2011. In the face of climate instability, financial crises and other threats, Orr called for more energy efficiency and alternative energy, and the redevelopment of local economies, to build the “resilience” needed in our society to safeguard against systemic collapse.
A “revolution in capabilities” has quietly been growing, Orr said, with thousands of practitioners, like those at the NESEA conference, discovering how to build carbon neutral buildings, solar-powered factories generating little pollution, and a sustainable food system. This revolution in capabilities has laid the groundwork for the transformation needed to establish such economic, social and ecological resilience.
Video inside the Madison, WI state capitol. Occupiers tell Gov. Walker: "You're not going to break us!" (53 MB MPEG-4 video - may take a couple minutes to download)
Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, saw one of the largest demonstration yet at the Madison, Wisconsin State Capitol building against the attempt by Republican Governor Scott Walker to strip collective bargaining rights for many of the public sector unions in the state and to launch sharp cutbacks. The late afternoon demonstration surrounded the Capitol with large contingents of union members, Wisconsin families, and progressive activists -- maybe 50,000 to 75,000 demonstrators in all, with more still arriving as dusk and a new dusting of snow began to fall across the city. Inside the state capitol building the week and a half old occupation by union members and their supporters continued. Lively chants of "Kill the Bill,""This is What Democracy Looks Like,""We're Not Leaving" and "The Bill is Bananas!" echoed inside and outside the capitol.
New energy-efficient, mercury-free electron stimulated luminescence (ESL) light bulbs are expected to reach the market by mid-2010, reports Fine Homebuilding in its Winter 2010 issue of Energy-Smart Homes. The ESL bulbs are being introduced by Seattle-based VU1.
Home lighting energy use efficiency has improved markedly with the widespread adoption of compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. But CFL bulbs work by running an electric current through mercury vapor in the bulb to stimulate the light-emitting phosphors inside, meaning the bulbs are a potential source of trace mercury contamination if landfilled instead of recycled. (Energy Star reports that use of CFLs can actually reduce overall mercury emissions, however, by reducing the use of the major source of U.S. mercury emissions: coal-fired electrical generating stations.) Conventional CFL bulbs are also not dimmable, and some consumers don't care for CFL's "colder" light spectrum.
New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) director John Miller took a rapt audience on a photographic tour of the latest efforts to generate power from ocean tides, waves and wind, in a January 14, 2010 Cambridge, MA talk sponsored by the Boston Area Solar Energy Association (BASEA). To hear an audio recording of Director Miller's talk, click here (40.4 MB mp3 audio download).
New England is at the end of the energy supply chain (far from most of its energy sources), said Miller, with an aging and unreliable grid, and high energy prices, a barrier to renewed manufacturing here. Solar energy will be a part of the solution, said Miller, but solar energy is intermittent in New England, and the transmission lines will be long from the Southwest, where large-scale solar arrays may be feasible. The high energy load (demand) of the dense east coast urban centers is, however, very near the energy of the ocean, Miller pointed out.
Compared to the 28 gigawatts (GW) of peak electricity load in New England, Miller estimated there was the potential for over 100 GW of peak offshore wind energy, 10 to 30 GW of wave energy, and about 0.5 GW of tidal energy generation in this region. In other words, if fully developed, total marine renewable ocean energy sources could exceed the peak electric demand in New England, according to his estimates. In addition to these potential marine energy resources, New England has the universities, institutions and intellectual power, and the deep water ports and manufacturing and construction infrastructure, to be an advantageous place for ocean renewable energy development, said Miller. Developing this marine energy potential could spur $2 billion a year in regional economic activity, Miller estimated.
Newly released temperature figures from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the earth's surface show that the past decade was the hottest on record, reports the NY Times ("Past Decade Was Warmest Ever, NASA Finds," 1/22/10). NASA also found "that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998," reports the Times. The Times quoted NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies director, Dr. James E. Hansen, as concluding "we find global warming is continuing unabated."
"Average global temperatures have risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit . . . since 1880. . . . Policy makers at the United Nations climate change summit conference in Copenhagen last month agreed on a goal of trying to keep the rise in average global tempeartures to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit . . . to try to forestall the worst effects of global warming", says the Times. The new NASA data showed planetary temperatures increasing at about 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, according to the Times, meaning the worst effects of climate change could begin to show up within our children's lifetimes, even at the current rate. With long lead times needed to introduce many greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts, action is needed soon to head off the worst of the climate change impacts.
What will it take to sustain our communities, our regions, our country over the long run? That’s the question we tackle here at Sustenance, with news reports and analysis, links to important websites, articles and resources, and audio reports.
Over the long run, for Sustenance, we hope to help build a new politics of sustainability. To that end, we will be sharing with you the new practical experiments and innovative thinking emerging in:
But most of all we hope to discuss what it might take to link these innovations in a new culture and politics of sustainability that can transform our communities, our regions and our country.
Sustenance is based in the Pioneer Valley region of western Massachusetts -- the towns of the Connecticut River valley in our state. We have a particular interest in the practice and politics of sustainability in this region, and in the Connecticut River valley to our north and south. But we won't confine our interest and reporting to this region or even to this country. If all politics is local, all politics is now global as well. Wherever you are, we'd like to hear from you.
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© 2009, 2010, 2011 by Rudy Perkins • Site first published 7/5/09 • Photo credits and copyright unless otherwise noted: Rudy Perkins. Sustenance opening percussion theme composed and performed by Hollie Marron and Deb Reed.
Site last modified 3/28/11