Toward a New Sustainable Economy |

Toward a New Sustainable Economy

“The current financial meltdown is the result of under-regulated markets built on an ideology of free market capitalism and unlimited economic growth. The fundamental problem is that the underlying assumptions of this ideology are not consistent with what we now know about the real state of the world.”

In this article on Common Dreams, Robert Costanza has it right:

Economic growth is the problem, not the solution!


March 24, 2009

Twenty years ago, I was shoveling six feet of snow off my sail boat, parked beside the Conex at my little 18 foot travel trailer ten miles from the Alyeska Marine Terminal Facility on Port Valdez. We’d had 50 feet of snow that winter – there was still plenty to go around.

On the morning of March 24, 1989, I woke to the clock radio to hear the announcer at KCHU-AM say, “The tanker Exxon Valdez is on the rocks at Bligh Reef and leaking oil.” I hopped on my bike, road into town and got my video equipment. I worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week from March 24 until after September 15, documenting the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was pretty bewildering that morning, as I’d spent the previous evening in a meeting of the Valdez Mayor’s Ad-Hoc Committee on the Effects of Oil Development on Valdez, where I was chair of the Environmental Subcommittee. At 10:30 pm, Rikki Ott, on a teleconference link from Cordova had said, “It’s not a matter of if there will be a major oil spill in Prince William Sound, but when.” At the moment she spoke those words, Capt. Joe Hazelwood was leaving the Pipeline Club after an evening of drinking with his buddies, heading for the Exxon Valdez, moored at the Terminal Facility. As he left the bar, he passed a calendar by the door that had a picture of the Exxon Valdez as the featured ship for March, with the cheery slogan, “Take time for safety.”

It wasn’t Hazelwood’s drinking that caused the Exxon Valdez to pile on the well marked rocks at Bligh Reef. State and federal agencies had been bowing under Exxon pressure for many years to reduce regulations governing tanker traffic in Prince William Sound. The US Coast Guard radar facility at Potato Point had been cut back so severely that it could no longer see the ships as they passed Bligh Reef. The coastal pilot got off before Bligh Reef, instead of staying aboard until the ship cleared Hinchenbrook Entrance, as required by state and federal regulations. The First Mate took control of the ship in waters he was not qualified to navigate. Oil spill response equipment, required by law, was buried under ten feet of snow on the dock, instead of on the barge where it was supposed to be kept, and the only fork lift operator among the oil spill response team was on vacation. Oil spill response equipment did not arrive on the scene of the spill until fourteen hours after the Exxon Valdez hit the rocks.

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. When I arrived on the scene at first light, oil was shooting up six feet out of the water along the hull of the Exxon Valdez. We wallowed on a pool of oil eight feet thick; the head in the lower hull pumped oil into the bowl. Aromatic hydrocarbons: benzene, ethylene, toluene and xylene, produced a heady vapor that had me dizzy in moments and precipitated a chronic bronchitis that stays with me even today. No amount of oil spill equipment could have contained that spill, especially after the wind rose to seventy knots two days later.

Over the next six months I photographed and videotaped hundreds of thousands of dead and dying animals, poisoned by toxic oil, dying of hypothermia as the oil destroyed their natural insulation, lungs clogged with the vapors of North Slope crude. I watched sea otters crawling onto shore at my feet, trying to escape the cloying oil clogging their fur. I saw birds fall face forward into the slick and never rise again above the surface. I watched from helicopters as orcas and humpback whales surfaced and blew in a rainbow sheen. And to make it all worse, I heard Exxon and United States officials repeatedly lie about what was happening in Prince William Sound, and watched, astonished, as national corporate media repeated the lies, verbatim, as stenographers to power.

Nothing sufficient can be done now to condemn the atrocity that was unleashed on Prince William Sound twenty years ago, by Exxon, the State of Alaska and the United States government. I cannot imagine any fate horrible enough to be visited on Frank Iorossi, the corporate toadies of Exxon and the Bush dynasty. Sometimes I wish there really was a Hell so they’d have something warm to rot in.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

An Opportunity for Anarchy

Obama Told Us To Speak Out, But Is He Listening?

“Something fundamental has been altered in American politics. Encouraged by Obama’s message of hope, agitated by darkening economic prospects, many people have thrown off sullen passivity and are trying to reclaim their role as citizens.” William Greider

As faith in the “traditional” government-military-industrial complex wanes in the face of the inevitable collapse of capitalism, citizens are growing restless with continued corruption, bribery, malfeasance and greed. The lapdogs of power attempt to defuse this populist movement, licking the boots of their corporate and government masters, attempting to shore up their crumbling sea walls of advertising.

Populist politics is fraught with opportunity and danger. Awakening the sleeping lion demands the ability to accommodate its teeth and claws. One must be careful to follow through on promises made in the heat of the campaign. Once awakened from a long nap, the lion is hungry.

The people of the United States have seen a vision and they are hungry for its actuality. We’ve always known that unbridled greed (capitalism) is inherently wrong, that we cannot continue to rape the earth without consequences, that economic growth is ultimately unsustainable. This is common sense that we all learned as children.

And now we have a young, dynamic leader and his beautiful young family reminding us that everything we thought we knew was really true, that we do not have to settle for base corruption in government, for a world dominated by greed. We don’t have to give up the natural world of trees, meadows, wild animals and unspoilt nature in order to live a full and meaningful life. Those stupid advertisements everyone loves to hate on TeeVee really are stupid and we really do hate them, because they’re all lies.

Now that we have a president who is willing to speak the truth to the people of the country he proposes to lead, the truth that we all know deep down inside, we are stepping forward and demanding that he hold true to his promises. It is time for our leader to run to catch up, for the people are moving.

This is anarchy: self-rule, rule by the people, democracy taken serious.

Sleep Well, Ed

We upright bipeds dote on anniversaries, especially those with round numbers.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of Edward Paul Abbey. Some of you may have heard of him.

Twenty is not a particularly auspicious number; it doesn’t figure prominently in any esoteric spiritual traditions, doesn’t add up to anything revealing in some obscure codex. It’s a significant part of a human generation, marking the passage of one third of my own life on this earth.

Since March 14, 1989, much has happened on our poor abused and insulted planet, much of which Ed saw coming and warned us about repeatedly. His arguments about the fallibility and ultimate illegitimacy of government have proven true in the extreme, despite a recent apparent turnaround. Anarchy still is the only legitimate form of human social organization, yet to be taken serious.

Ten days from today will be the twentieth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the day we woke up in Valdez, still mourning Ed’s death, still recovering from another unreported oil spill in Port Valdez just four days before. It was a bizarre March and a bizarre year.

On this twentieth year I detect a stirring, particularly among those of us increasingly feeling our own mortality. It’s time for our last howl, our final opportunity to stand up on our hind legs and strike a blow for sanity, for environmental protest, for the Earth.

Climate change is among us; there’s no stopping it, no matter how many Priuses we drive. The future will be far different than the past, closer to Ed’s vision of “a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists” than the computerized technowizardry of the cell phone set.

Twenty years from now, we’ll look up from our work in our gardens and wonder at the nightmare of twenty years past.

Sleep well, Ed.


“Let our people travel light and free on their bicycles.”
– Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

The Real Fish Story

T r u t h o u t | The California Water Wars: Not a Conflict Between Fish and People: “This is not an issue of ‘fish versus people versus fish,’ nor ‘fish versus jobs.’ The battle to save the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, really comes down to a conflict between a future based on sustainable fishing, farming and recreation or a future based on corporate agribusiness irrigating toxic, drainage-impaired land that should never have been farmed at the expense of Delta and Sacramento Valley farms and healthy fisheries.”