I like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft. It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.
For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence. Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10. Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be). Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc. In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for. And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.
One downside is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces with them difficult. I am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.
One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs. The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit. So we just did not talk about it.
The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me. I watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded. The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when its owner moved on from community. And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.
Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling. At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus. But we knew it was quite likely to become its own community, since that is what most of the Spalingers wanted. We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out. One of these rules was “no pets”. Sapling is now its own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it). But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me. When i asked what the dog’s name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
I breezed into commie clothes and got a funny t-shirt which i barely read. After walking around in it for half an hour and a couple of people saying, “are you wearing that to the wedding?” i decided i should go back to commie and upgrade my attire. On my return trip i found a nice embroidered lightweight shirt, which was praised by several people after i emerged with it on.
The next day i walked into the Acorn smoke shack and guest Johnny said, “Oh i like that shirt,” to which i replied, “Would you wear it?” to which he unhesitatingly shot back, “yes!”. I immediately pulled the shirt over my head and handed it to him. He stripped his shirt off before a slightly shocked new visitor and put the embroidered one right on. The total length of our exchange was less than 2 minutes. I walked off wearing his simple green t-shirt.
The pitch i made to the PBS reporter who was just here is we basically have two choices: we can learn to share things, be generous and cooperate, OR we can continue to be selfish, possessive, and untrusting. In the latter case, the world dies. Let’s practice giving stuff away in a big way.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous. i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here). Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience. My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.
Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success. Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older. Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13. Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.
For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community. Over the last few months he has been doing more of both. Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do. Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.
And good things come to those who wait. And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something. And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.
My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”
[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]
About 20 year ago i got a call from Teddy Goldsmith. The British publisher, author and philosopher who was actually calling for his billionaire brother Jimmy Goldsmith. Jimmy wanted to assemble the worlds top anti-nuclear experts and campaigners and fund their best projects. I was happy to help organize the event, and despite not being experienced or important enough, Teddy asked me to come to the event which was hosted in Jimmy’s castle in France.
Sir Jimmy was hardly a progressive. We disagreed on immigration and a host of other issues. This was a classic case of political rap around, where the anti-government conservatives agree with the anarchists.
It was an eclectic, high powered gathering. There was a Russian nuclear scientist who had jumped to the anti-nuclear resistance after the wall came down. The head of Greenpeace International’s nuclear campaign was there. A US energy efficiency expert who would later be selected by Clinton as an under secretary of DOE. An expert in nuclear weapons non-proliferation attended. We tried to get Amory Lovins to the event, who was friendly with both Teddy and Jimmy, but his schedule did not permit it.
Jimmy asked the grilled the group with smart questions. In the end he said he wanted proposals from each of us for what we thought would be the most effective anti-nuclear projects. i was doing a fair amount of grant writing at the time and asked how long the proposals should be. He replied, “Just one page. If you can’t convince me in a page, you won’t convince me in more.” Various Goldsmith grants would fund anti-nuclear activities i was involved with for the following 7 years i was in Europe, mostly projects in eastern Europe.
One of the biggest projects Jimmy would support (not just in the field of anti-nuclear efforts) was his brothers environmental magazine, The Ecologist. Which recently put out a brilliant analysis as to why the so called Nuclear Renaissance was dead. The rest of this post is inspired and stolen from this article.
Globally, nuclear power is in decline. In 1993 it produced 17% of the global electricity supply, in 2013 it was 10%. Nuclear power suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 – nuclear generation fell 7% from the 2011 figure. And while most of this was from closed reactors in Japan, nuclear generation fell in no less than 17 countries, including all of the top five nuclear-generating countries. Almost half of the worlds operating reactors have been doing so for 30 years, yet the average life of reactors which started operations is 23 years.
In the US in 2009 there were 31 applications for the construction of new reactors. Only four of these applications turned into actual construction. All for of these reactors are in states which permit utilities to bill customers for construction costs far before the reactor is finished, and even if the reactor is never finished. At the same time, for the first time in 15 years, this year US utilities announced the closing of 5 rectors which will put the US below 100 reactors for the first time in decades.
In western Europe there are only two reactors currently under construction. The estimated construction cost in Finland has ballooned from $4.5 billion to $12 billion. The estimated cost for the new reactor in France has ballooned from $5 billion to $12.8 billion. Neither of these reactors are finished, there are expensive lawsuits which will add to the costs and further delays and cost overruns are nearly certain. The proposed new reactors in the UK at Hinkley Point are estimated at a staggering $29 billion, making them the most expensive reactor construction project ever proposed and at a cost over twice what the UK is paying for power, even if it comes in on time and budget.
Nuclear power has always been a con game. With efforts from billionaires and anarchists and the wake up call of a terrible accident, we might actually get to the other side of this terrible game.
It is one of my oft told life stories.
In the late fall of 1989, i was in Hawaii and i got a call from Rabbit, who said
They have just had revolutions throughout Eastern Europe. We need to go, as soon as possible, we need to talk with the revolutionaries and find out what really happened. Because soon they will write the history books, and once they are written, the truth will be lost forever.
So, in the summer of 1990, Rabbit and i went to Eastern Europe and talked to revolutionaries and discovered some precious pieces which would never make it to the history books.
I tell this story often when introducing myself. It is one of my life stories which helps move the characters along. Gets me from being an affluent ocean engineer living in a condo on Oahu to an oft homeless anti-nuclear activist in then Czechoslovakia. Just one problem, the story’s not true.
Oh, parts of it are true; Rabbit and i did go to Europe. We talked a bunch about the political changes in the world and the fall of communism, especially. But we went to Southern Europe, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, which we had planned for months before the revolutions of 1989. We had a wonderful thought-provoking adventure, it just was not to the east. The urgent invitation conversation never happened, but it should have. And thus the story.
Rabbit would spin off and head home to San Francisco, and i would do Eastern Europe by myself, because i was just figuring out what to do with my life. And i would soon fall in love with Czechoslovakia.
I arrived in Prague on a hot August night. I slept in Hlavni Nadrazi (the main railroad station) which is normally not possible, but because it was the day before the big Rolling Stones concert, the station was packed all night and the police had bigger fish to fry.
The next day i walked around the city where i knew no one. Had you told me at the time i would spend most of the next eight years in orbit of this place i would have been curiously surprised and delighted. When i walked through the central city, i found a curious thing. It was a pink tank.
It was on its side, having been flipped by the locals when the Russians had tried to maintain control eight months earlier. Once the protesters had uprighted the tank, the artists came in and had at it.
I timed my visit to see the inexpensive Rolling Stones concert. It was being held in Strahov Stadium, which was (and technically still is) the highest capacity stadium in the world, seating between 220K and 250K people. When it was an active sports arena it could house seven simultaneous soccer games. Trouble is there are not many times you want the capacity to hold seven parallel soccer games or 220K people.
The first Rolling Stones concert in a recently liberated country, however, is exactly one of the times you need a stadium that size.
The posters for the concert read “The Tanks are Rolling Out, the Stones are Rolling In.”
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]