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Crawl out through the fallout, baby

July 7, 2016

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  1. Conversation in Santa Fe, Sunday morning, July 10: "'Crawl Out through the Fallout, Baby': Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Future of Santa Fe"
  2. Posted: "The Crisis at Hand, the Emergency Mode, & the Need for Full-Scale Mobilization".
  3. Silence in the nuclear desert, ground zero for climate change

Dear friends --

1. "Journey Santa Fe" conversation Sunday, July 10, 11 am, Collected Works Bookstore, 202 Galisteo St. (map), hosted by Bill Dupuy and moderated by Denise Fort. Our topic: "'Crawl Out through the Fallout, Baby': Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Future of Santa Fe."

Our blurb about this discussion:

Does Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) benefit Santa Fe?  If not, could it do so under different policy scenarios?  Can Santa Fe emerge from the political and cultural shadow of The Bomb?  Who is Santa Fe's real patron saint now, Francesco Bernardone -- or Robert Oppenheimer?

The time has come when Santa Fe must choose.  We cannot have it both ways.  The state, nation and world face a new set of challenges completely different from those that animated the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.  Can Santa Fe adapt to this brave new world, or even thrive?  If so what might that look like, and what role if any could or should LANL play?

The Obama administration and Congress would like to spend billions of dollars in new construction for industrial-scale plutonium processing, waste handling, and weapons manufacturing -- dirty and risky work, on a scale never before seen in the Santa Fe metro area. Is such a future compatible with a sustainable, attractive, and economically resilient "City Different?"

Can LANL ever be "cleaned up?"  Can the lab be converted or effectively diversified to new missions?  Come and discuss!

"Our interests and explorations of course go deeper than these questions, which approach the singular mountain of our historical crisis from particular trailheads. We could well have asked other questions but I think we would find they all come back to the same question: are we going up the mountain, or not? Are you? In either case it's a brave new world now and we are called upon to do our part. Our own lives, not just our children's, depend on our choice. 

If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Martin Luther King, "Beyond Vietnam")

2. Posted: "The Crisis at Hand, the Emergency Mode, & the Need for Full-Scale Mobilization"

Slides from Greg's talk of June 27 at the monthly speaker's series of 350.org New Mexico are posted at the link above. The video is here.

Highlights:

  • We have entered an all-encompassing, existential crisis for humanity, nature, and civilization which is already disrupting millions of lives and which will rapidly increase in severity within the coming decade and beyond, with unimaginably horrible consequences. We have no remaining "carbon budget." We used that up.
  • Fossil-fuel based civilization is ending and fast, led by:
    • Depletion of petroleum reserves (not resources), leading to a peak and subsequent decline in global crude oil production (2005, slight imputed decline since), global crude + condensate (C+C) (peak 2015), and liquid fuels overall (probably peaked in 2015 also)
    • Lack of democracy, enfranchisement, and corruption; propaganda and ignorance
    • Extreme concentration of wealth, rising inequality, exploding debt
    • Wars, drought, famine, human displacement on a vast scale (65 million today)

  • Real growth is over; real economic capital will decline henceforth until it can be redefined (e.g. in non-FF-dependent terms). Ecological capital is also declining and disasters are increasing. Required investments in RE, EE, and RT collide with these limits and can only occur by redirecting massive expenditures (of skills, time, money) away from the consumer economy and from parasitical sectors (e.g. the military).
  • We have three basic choices:
    • Neurotically deny reality with associated complacency, distraction, bad faith, despair;
    • Create alternative realities in which to believe (psychosis); or
    • Accept reality and undertake emergency response, which if pursued wisely will produce a mature and healthy life and genuine character, and which will also achieve objective success to a minor or a major degree, depending.
  • The severity of the crisis requires (and will eventually compel, albeit too late if we wait) our emergency response. The essential unity and breadth of the crisis requires a comprehensive response but therefore also provides many points of access, across all of which personal and group mobilization is the common denominator and first essential step.
  • Perhaps the greatest barrier to an effective response is the propaganda, group-think, and thoughtlessly-transmitted assumptions coming from liberal and progressive organizations and traditions and the Democratic Party, all of which are subject to many paralyzing social and economic influences and assumptions. (Right-wing propaganda does not seriously affect most of us.) As a result of these influences, liberal (and yes, "progressive") organizations typically offer blinkered analyses and promote ineffectual policies that also fail to ignite significant political interest. So they typically fail in every way, while preventing genuine reform. That is their function.
  • The purpose of about 90% of the US military and 96% of nuclear weapons (leaving for the moment the question of a "so-called minimum deterrent") is to uphold US hegemony, corporate profits, and global inequality while capturing an increasing “lion’s share” of the world’s diminishing resources, while also perpetuating current domestic power and pecuniary relationships. In climate terms, the purpose of the US military and nuclear weapons is to prevent effective climate action. The problem with the US military is mostly not what it consumes (which is bad enough), but what it is and what it does
  • None of the main presidential candidates have shown that they understand the nature and severity of the climate crisis, including Bernie Sanders. There is no road of reform within the present two political parties and the present electoral system at the national or state levels. Revolutionary action and changes are needed.
  • Desirable investments in RE, EE, and RT require FFs to produce and install and so produce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Large, rapid transitions increase net GHG production. We must decrease the needed scale, radically and justly. (This will happen sooner or later anyway, but very brutally if not done consciously now.)
  • Example: PV generation: Doubling PV installation each year is a good thing to do but it increases GHG emissions during the doubling period because of the energy cost of manufacture and installation, including huge soft costs. Money is a lien on energy across society. In our case, that energy is mostly FF and nuclear (waste-producing) energy.

It was a lively evening and according to the organizers the biggest crowd in the 350.org speaker's series to date! Thank you, Tom (Solomon) and Jim (Mackenzie) for this opportunity. We will do a great deal more on these issues -- how much depends in part on YOUR interest. So talk to us.

3. Silence in the nuclear desert, ground zero for climate change

Yesterday at a UNM symposium Senator Udall remarked that New Mexico and the American Southwest were a "bullseye" of deleterious climate change. He is right.

(Udall then proceeded to offer neither any policies nor any vision of policies remotely capable of addressing the climate problem, even in theory. "Climate" was just a buzzword to sell DOE-funded scientific "innovation" in New Mexico. I do not mean to single out Udall. Senator Heinrich, UNM President Frank, and the man with the money, DOE Secretary Moniz, were singing the same innovation song. As we attendees heard, "innovation" is more or less this administration's main answer to the Gordian knot of problems associated with climate change, energy, jobs, and economic competition. In a word: punt. "Innovation" is also a saleable meme for a set of political priorities and public investments which favor private investment and ownership by the super-rich, a proposition made mind-mindbogglingly clear by Dr. Moniz.)

Anyway we are at the bullseye -- or ground zero if you prefer -- of climate change. We also have more nuclear weapons than anywhere else in the world stored in Albuquerque, and likewise more money to design and build them in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque metro areas than anywhere else in the world, in both absolute and per capita terms.

We dispose of more federal funds per capita on a net basis than any other state, yet we rank among the poorest. New Mexico currently ranks 49th in child well-being. Our educated young adults are tending to leave the state for greener pastures, literally and figuratively. Our economy, society, and environment are ill, with no recovery in sight.

Despite all this and more, and with much worse to come, our state is silent. The monsoon of protest has not come. There is no thunderclap from the populace, no Grito. Nothing much from the churches. Nothing much from the newspapers. Nothing much from the universities. So -- what will hasten the day of that cry? Will we wait until the last tree, the last bear, dies?

All this makes me think of Richard Wilbur's poem, "Advice to a Prophet."

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,  
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,  
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,  
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.  
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,  
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive  
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,  
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip  
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without  
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?  
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean  
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose  
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding  
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing  
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

Thanks again to all,

Greg, Trish, and the rest of the gang


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