Making politics local

The environmental perspective, based on an understanding of ecology, anthropology and science in general, is the orphan child of the political process.
There is no candidate for national office, with any prospect of election, who acknowledges, let alone supports preservation and protection of the natural world, finite resources, steady state economy, conservation, human population reduction, energy demand reduction, topsoil depletion, species extinction, natural habitat loss, potable water depletion, GMO dispersal, organic agriculture, adaptation to natural climate variation.
In other words, there is no candidate for national office I could vote for. Political gamesmanship (hold the nose, vote for the lesser of many evils) merely continues the status quo. I have no stomach for “strategic voting.” I vote my principles and only support candidates who have demonstrated their understanding of our place as cooperating and contributing members of the natural world. If there be any.
It makes my task pretty easy, albeit frustrating. 
Why is there no national democracy in the United States? The corporate oligarchy that runs the United States government has fashioned the political system to respond to dollars, not votes. The candidates that are elected are prechosen by the system that eliminates all but a few with the proper obeisance to corporate power and control, who have paid their dues along the way, toed the corporate line, mouthed the corporate platitudes and emerged in the election process wearing the corporate seal of approval.
Not to blame it all on corporations, of course. The voting public has just as much responsibility for the outcome as the corporate sponsors of political candidates, corporate lobbyists and think (sic) tanks. If consumers didn’t buy the products that corporations produce, corporations wouldn’t market the products for consumers to buy. That includes political candidates as well as cheap plastic crap from China. If voters would stop voting for those whose loyalties lie elsewhere, they’d stop being elected.
That leaves local elections as the last vestige of democracy in this country. Let’s keep our politics close to home, where we can keep an eye on elected officials, hold their feets to the fire and make sure they do what they said they would do when asking for our vote and support. It’s a full time job, this keeping an eye on local politicos. Its fun, challenging, occasionally gratifying, always interesting, offering opportunities for pleasant walks to community meetings, confabs with friends and neighbors, occasional exercise for the bile and bladder. Long after the election season has passed, the process of community government continues apace.
Some day, after the End of the Age of Oil, local politics will be all that’s left. That Great National Asylum on the Potomac will be a passing memory, a faint rumor, something to tell stories about on blustery winter nights around the wood stove, fairy tales to teach the children about the evils that lurk beyond the horizon. Politics in Place, where we live our ideals and principles every day.
Sounds to me like something to work toward.

Enlightened Local Government

Local government today suffers from a crisis of ineptitude.

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Participation in the process of government requires an educated, enlightened citizenry. In a society where rational discourse, critical thinking and evidence based decision-making is not taught in schools and is discouraged by popular culture, those who populate local commissions, committees, boards and councils are left with no basis for “wholesome discretion.”

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Beyond those who actively participate in the process of government, the general public is uneducated in the day to day role of citizens in a democratic nation. Public meetings have become rowdy expressions of entitlement and unreasonable demands. Mob intimidation has replaced cogent comment and supportive participation. Individualism and personal consumption have displaced concern for the common good.

If we must have government, it should arise of itself from an educated populace, not be imposed from above by a powerful elite minority.

“Government should be weak, amateurish and ridiculous. At present, it fulfills only a third of the role.
― Edward Abbey

Can humans survive themselves?

After decades of environmental activism and organization, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that nothing can be done to prevent, or even mitigate massive environmental disruption, habitat destruction, species loss, air and water pollution and modification of natural climate variation.

This may seem obvious to some, and, I suppose, it is. It doesn’t make it stick in my craw any less.

Looking back, there have been victories: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. These legislative actions helped slow the rate of destruction, at least for a while.

Stacked up against the totalitarian hegemony of the global growth at any cost economy, and the failure of democracy as a form of enlightened government, these gains are insufficient to forestall inevitable environmental degradation and resulting economic collapse.

This startling revelation walks hand-in-hand with another: humans are basically stupid and uncaring. I don’t mean ignorant; ignorance can be cured by the application of information. Stupid means unintelligent, even to the point of willful ignorance.

In the human world, Homo sapiens has removed itself from the natural process of evolution. In the natural world, intelligence, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, is a required attribute for evolutionary success. Since humans no longer respond to selection pressure, intelligence is not required for success as a human being.

While this is bad enough among the general population, unintelligence has become concentrated in one critical area of human society.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a government bureaucrat. But I repeat myself.

Government bureaucracy has become the universal haven for all manner of unenlightened twits, worthless ninnies, mental feebs, recalcitrant do-nothings, corporate toadies, and status-quo apologists. They have perfected the Peter Principle and taken it to new heights of development.

Dealing with these obstructions to progress, in any sense of the word, is like trying to walk through a wall of marshmallows. Every effort to bring the light of day into the gloom of government offices is misdirected, mislaid, misfiled, obscured with coffee stains, glued into incomprehensibility with sticky-bun detritus, crumpled and basketballed into the round file of oblivion, benignly ignored or actively resisted.

As if that were insufficient, government bureaucrats (GBs) are unequaled in their ability to act as if they’re doing something while all the while effectively emulating the Rock of Gibraltar. They’ve all gone to Bureaucrateze language school and each have the Official Bureaucrats Thesaurus (1875) close at hand for ready reference. Missives between and among GBs are replete with inaction phrases, weasel words (apologies to the genus Mustela), obscuratanisms and obfuscations. They excel in Concentric Bird logic (that which goes round and round in ever decreasing circles until it disappears into its own fundament).

The worst part of this appalling situation is that nothing can be done to change it. GBs are in control of the world and its social institutions. City Councils, Borough Assemblies, state legislatures and even that Great National Asylum for the Criminally Helpless in Washington, DC are all held in close thrall to the ministrations of the Government Bureaucrat Conspiracy.

“Is that a conspiracy theory?” whines the wag in the back row.

Yes, it is. GBs do indeed get together in conference rooms and plan how to build and maintain their throttle-hold on the reins of public process. Here is a web site, which, true to form, is slow to load, poorly organized and archaically non-interactive: Top 25 Government Conferences.

Back to my thesis: There’s No Hope.

Any prospect for substantive change in the relationship between human societies and the natural world is dependent on an organized group of humans who don’t care, don’t know, and worse, know what they don’t want to know about the effects of their actions on the broader biosphere, on which, ironically, their own future depends.

Thus, in answer to the title of this screed, the Cosmic Joke arrives at its inevitable punchline:

Homo sapiens will go to its long deserved grave laughing its empty head off.

How to Respect the Rights of Nature

The City of Santa Monica recently passed an ordinance, directing the City to “recognize the rights of people, natural communities, and ecosystems to exist, regenerate and flourish,” joining a rapidly growing international “Nature Rights” movement. “Nature Rights” recognizes that healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are critical to all life on the planet, including humans, and human priorities do not automatically take precedence over natural habitat and ecosystem health.
Undeveloped lands in Santa Cruz City and County are rapidly diminishing, even those lands designated as Greenbelts and Natural Areas, such as Arana Gulch targeted for development by the City, ironically in the name of environmentalism. Although Arana Gulch is designated Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, the City has successfully argued that human desire for a paved bike route is more important than protection and preservation of undeveloped natural habitat.
It’s time for the City and County of Santa Cruz to recognize that it cannot destroy natural habitats in its jurisdiction without severe consequences to the web of life that sustains us all. There is no department in our government bureaucracy that speaks up for non-human consideration in planning development projects. Regional regulatory bodies are increasingly dominated by development interests, resulting in an accelerating loss of natural habitat. The County’s Commission on the Environment is an advisory body for the County Board of Supervisors and has no regulatory powers to protect natural habitats in the County.
In order to maintain a balanced regulatory environment, we must have City and County Environment Departments, just as we have Planning, Public Works and Economic Devlopment Departments. The job of the Environment Departments would be to see that biodiversity, natural habitats and undeveloped lands are not diminished, degraded or lost to human economic development, guided by City and County regulations similar to that of Santa Monica and other enlightehed municipalities.
Recognition of Nature Rights would not stop human development, but would place consideration of the health of non-human species on par with human economic growth.

The Truth that Must NOT be Told

We all know about The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy. We’ve seen the pictures and the viral videos of Darth Vader militarized police pepper spraying unresisting protesters. defenseless Young girls, and 85 year-old women.

Noami Wolf reveals the underlying story of why the 1% are pressuring Homeland Security to stop the popular protests that threaten to reveal the truth:

Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams.”

It’s bad enough that banks too big to fail monopolize Congress and have their way with their depositors. It’s bad enough that corporations now have unlimited influence on national elections.

Now we learn that our “representatives” in Congress are using insider information to amass obscene profits from Wall Street. When they leave the hollow halls, they step through the revolving door right into lucrative lobbying deals where they make their way further up the 1% power pole.

The 99% have given up on elections, aware that a corrupt government cannot be changed by a corrupted political process. Unlimited economic influence has poisoned the well of democracy in the United States.

Two quotes by Thomas Jefferson come to mind:

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.

Rebellion is not anarchy!

Once again, the media misuse the word “anarchy,” describing instead chaotic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

    However, this is not anarchy; this is rebellion. The people are demonstrating in opposition to the current central leadership: Mubarak. They are not demanding rule by the people. They want a leader who is not Mubarak.

    Anarchy is not “no rules,” it is “no rulers.” In anarchy, the people make and enforce the rules without a central state wielding a monopoly of power. Anarchy is self-rule, rule by the people, “democracy taken serious!” If the people wanted anarchy, they would be organizing locally, forming their own local decision-making bodies, solving their own problems at a local level.

    While rebellion may be necessary in order to depose a despotic ruler, it must have an anarchic organization to take the place of the central state. Organization first, then rebellion, if necessary. Ed Abbey, one of America’s foremost anarchists, argued strongly against violence as a tool to achieve an anarchist society. Anarchism is based on willing, cooperative relationships among all citizens in a society. Violence is inherently coercive and leads to a coercive society. One cannot create a free and peaceful society through violence.

    An anarchist society arises of itself, from the people. It cannot be imposed on the people from above.

Anarchy is rule by the people

In a recent Santa Cruz Sentinel (an edition of the San Jose Mercury News) letter to the editor, Richard Hencke of Scotts Valley said,

“Webster defines anarchy as “a state of society where there is no law,” and anarchism as “The doctrine of the abolition of formal government.”… If we did not have government, we would be forced to invent it for self-protection. The only question, and the big one, is the proper role of government.”

Fortunately, anarchists are not restricted to dictionary definitions in the pursuit of anarchy, which means, in practice, no rulers, not no rules. Anarchism is not a doctrine, but the body of thought and literature of those working for self-government, freedom from state oppression, voluntary cooperation and freedom of association.

Anarchists work to support local self-government, local economies, local social support systems. Anarchists support farmers’ markets, cooperative child care, neighborhood assemblies, mutual aid, neighborhood watch, public libraries, housing cooperatives, sweat equity, public transportation, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

Anarchists are opposed to government imperialism, militarized police forces, Homeland (In)Security, corporate personhood and the corporate oligarchy, centralized political parties, standing armies, the centralized “global” economy, tax breaks for the rich and powerful, the overweening power and monopoly of force of a ruling elite.

The proper role of government is to carry out the will of the people. An anarchist government would consist of a decentralized network of federated assemblies carrying out the will of self-organized assemblies at the local level. An anarchist government would replace political and economic favor with decision-making by the people, locally, regionally and nationally. No central government would be able to wield economic or military power without the expressed will and consent of the people.

It is not anarchy that foists destruction, death, mayhem and chaos on the world, it is centralized government. The invasion and occupation of Panama, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan were not organized and carried out by anarchists, they were perpetrated by the central government of the United States, without the consent of its citizens, in support of global economic interests.

Cries of “Anarchy!” in response to vandalism and public violence are the unthinking, knee-jerk reactions of a public and media dominated by corporate and government propaganda, whose interests are served by denigrating popular dissent.

Anarchy is rule by the people, democracy in its truest form.


California Coastal Commission Waffles

Unfortunately, we have learned that the California Coastal Commission process is cooked in favor of developers. (See article here) Any developer can resubmit a project every six months until a mix of Commissioners is sitting who can be convinced to approve it. All it takes is buckets of money, political influence and patience.

This is why development projects have been approved in Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas in the past. The Coastal Commission does not prevent development in sensitive coastal habitat, it regulates such development.

That being said, we do not roll over and accept this. We will communicate our objections to this special consideration for the City, which has already received one extension on the project from the Commissioners. How far does the Coastal Commission have to bend over backwards for the City of Santa Cruz?

When the City resubmits its application, we will be there, personally, no matter where the hearing takes place, to register our disapproval and lobby for a true Master Plan that does not violate the California Coastal Act and does not diminish critical habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant, the Tidwater Goby and Steelhead Trout, and all other species that call Arana Gulch Home.

No Compromise!


(Un)Change is coming!

In government and economics, as in the natural world, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe,” says John Muir.

The situation the world suffers under today is the culmination of centuries of intertwined economic and governmental manipulation. The corporate oligarchy now in control of the government of the united States is as much economic as it is political, making the world safe for capitalist exploitation at home and abroad. Change at the local level, where it counts, means change in the way we citizens think about our economies and political relationships, as well as changing those institutions that carry out our visions.

As we see in our present paroxysm of jingoistic patriotism (aka, DNC/RNC), political promises that “change is coming” are merely bait and switch tactics to maintain the status quo. Neither Obama/Biden nor McCain/Palin desire change in the system that has allowed them access to positions of power, nor do their handlers/sponsors/financiers. Though the window dressing may change, the basic power structures have remained in place since the American Revolutionary War (which failed to produce a revolution).

The united States government has always used a combination of economic manipulation and government regulation, backed up by military force, to extend and establish economic hegemony throughout North America and most of the rest of the world. Once we established a standing army (and navy), they were used by the central government to threaten, and when necessary beat others into submission, if necessary through invasion and occupation, to bring a widening circle of client states under uS domination.

Global climate change and Peak Oil promise to bring real change to the economic side. We feel it first here at the local level and see it expressed in the growth of farmer’s markets, barter, and other forms of local economic enterprise, as the global economy becomes more expensive and irrelevant.

Local economy is the kernel around which we can build local self-government. As the central government wastes more and more resources attempting to maintain a dying empire, we will be forced more and more to fend for ourselves locally. This is a good thing! Mother Nature is an uncaring, harsh and firm teacher, and, over time, we will re-take our place in the web of life.

It’s hard and it’s fair.

Go to the head of the class!

“I am deeply insulted that in some areas that not only is evolution is shunned but efforts are made to substitute it with creationism and all other kinds of teachings, which corrupt our youth… There’s no foundation for this. I think it’s unfortunate. We’re regressing in these areas, and so I think we have responsibility to our children to provide them with the greatest scientific information available to all of us, and that begins with respect to evolution….

I … really exhort as public policy that we concentrate on keeping religion out of politics, and keeping a very, very strong separation between church and state. Otherwise you will take the oppressive nature of the state and marry it with the oppressive nature of religion, and that is the ultimate oppression of human beings.”

Mike Gravel
Candidate for President of the united States