So many of the original participants were unhappy with the organizes cancelling the Loud Love event we have decided to put on a simpler, smaller, cheaper and safer event. It will be the same dates and location as the original.
It is simpler in that it uses entirely open space technology. This means we are not bringing in any expert presenters, tho some are still coming and the group which attends the event will decide what types of workshops they want, based on the offerings made by all the participants.
This event is likely to be much smaller, perhaps 25 to 35 people than what we had originally planned for. We will probably only run a couple of workshops at a time and the atmosphere will probably be even more informal than the original event, as we push more responsibility onto the participants.
Because we are not paying out of town presenters and we are no longer reimbursing anyones travel cost, because we are not providing food, because all the “organizers” have to pay the registration fee, the per person cost for the weekend will be $25, for camping on site and if you want to stay in the bunk beds in the air conditions conference building it will cost you $75. This is basically our cost of housing to Sofia House. Thus the event is much cheaper than originially planned.
The event is safer from an organizers perspective because there is not a minimum number of paid registrants needed to “break even”, Sofia House rents us the space on a per person basis, so even if the event is tiny we will be okay.
You should still register for the event so we know you are coming, and plan to talk and perhaps even present on the sexy consent and healthy relationship topics that Loud Love still wants to explore.
Things look bad. We are at 400 ppm carbon in the atmosphere. The Syrian civil war hurls clusters of lit matches into the tinder box of the Middle East. And fear of terrorism in the US allows cities to be shut down while the police search for a lone crazed teenager.
But despite this, and many more depressing examples, there are compelling cases to be made to be hopeful. Especially, if that hopefulness gets you off your chair and into action. The case for hope is well made by Rebecca Solnit, who is the sister of my dear friend and activist titan Davd Solnit.
In her new book Too Soon to Tell, the Case for Hope she makes the following point.
But here’s what I’m saying: you should wake up amazed every day of your life, because if I had told you in 1988 that, within three years, the Soviet satellite states would liberate themselves nonviolently and the Soviet Union would cease to exist, you would have thought I was crazy. If I had told you in 1990 that South America was on its way to liberating itself and becoming a continent of progressive and democratic experiments, you would have considered me delusional. If, in November 2010, I had told you that, within months, the autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who had dominated Egypt since 1981, would be overthrown by 18 days of popular uprisings, or that the dictators of Tunisia and Libya would be ousted, all in the same year, you would have institutionalized me. If I told you on September 16, 2011, that a bunch of kids sitting in a park in lower Manhattan would rock the country, you’d say I was beyond delusional. You would have, if you believed as the despairing do, that the future is invariably going to look like the present, only more so. It won’t.
Well said. So the task for us is to not be disempowered by the endless stream of bad news and to keep looking for our opportunities and creating them when we see our openings.
I moved to Twin Oaks about 12 years ago, and about four years in, it became apparent to me that I was going to be a parent (the rapidly swelling midsection of my partner helped to tip me off). So I figured, as long as I was going to be raising a kid or two on the farm, they might as well be farm kids.
Not all reactors are created equal. In the global fight against nuclear power, there are some especially dangerous reactor types which clean energy activists take unusual pleasure in shutting down. I remember the day (in June of 1997) i heard that the French SuperFenix breeder reactor was going to be shut down permanently. I whooped so loud the folks in the WISE office all looked at me funny.
It looks like it will be time for another loud noise soon. Japan’s Monju breeder reactor is sitting on top of an active fault line and this plus the countries new more strict nuclear regulator plus the unusually poor management of the plant, might just be enough to shut it down.
Monju has had a troubled life. At a cost of US$12 billion, this advanced technology went critical for the first time in April 1994. However in the following 19 years, the operators have only gotten it to run for a single hour, due to two major accidents. In December of 1995 a leak in the sodium coolant pipes caused a leak of liquid sodium (which ignites in air and explodes in water) caused a fire of such great intensity it deformed hardened steel structures at the reactor. The operator then tried to cover up the accident, which was discovered and created public outrage.
In 2010 the reactors was finally repaired. Three months later a 3 ton crane was dropped into the reactor vessel, shutting the plant down again. It remains closed today.
The confirmation that there is an active fault line under the reactor combined with the operators skipping over inspection of over 10,000 components, including critical safety ones has spurned the new Japanese nuclear regulator into action. This inspection scandal forced the head of the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (which operates Monju) to resign.
The reason breeders are especially nasty is that they perpetuate the especially toxic myth that there are accessible technologies which will take radioactive waste from existing reactors, burn this waste and create power. This has long been the holy grail for pro-nuclear folks. This makes great sense for the only problem with nuclear power besides the terrible economics, declining public acceptance world wide, terrible safety danger, captured and corrupt nuclear regulators, weapons proliferation risks, that real renewables are cheaper, that it is vulnerable to climate change induced weather problems, destablizes grids because of its large size, requires tremendous idle back up redundancy is the waste problem. So if you can solve the rad waste problem for power reactors, you can pretend that there are no other problems, and some people will believe you.
If Monju closes, then the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan will all have scraped their breeder program. Leaving the only operating production breeders in unmonitored Russia military facilities.
Twice now I've scheduled time to dehorn the newest round of calves (we cauterize them). Both times, Mushroom has wrangled them and held them down while I give lidocaine injections (which is rather stressful, really). And then! Ugh! And then we call it off.
The first time, the vet showed up. I had called her earlier in the day, and she showed up when she could without a callback.
One thing that is especially satisfying for me is to bump into an organizer who has complimentary skill sets with another organizer. So it is with Irena at Acorn. She is good at staying on task, which is definitely one of my weaknesses. We work together on several things: the Communities Conference, the mechanics of the Seed business and most recently on the UVa dumpster dive.
Irena kept pushing me to work with the gal who runs the sustainability program for UVa, and thus got us pre-qualified for Chuck It for Charity, which is UVa’s answer to the growing dumpster diving “problem” that they face at the end of the academic year. But to understand this “problem” you need some back ground.
UVa is a large affluent school in Charlottesville, the nearest “big city” to Twin Oaks and Acorn. The academic calendar is designed so that the last day of exams is the day before all the students need to be out of their dorm rooms. So of course all of the students carefully manage their time so that they get their studying done for their exams early enough so they can pack all their stuff in time for the move-out deadline. And if you believe this, you apparently never went to college.
Instead the students study non-stop right up until their final exam, take the test and then try to pack up everything in their dorm room in less than 24 hours. This results in them simply throwing out a tremendous number of valuable things, from furniture to food to computers to (my big find a couple years back) an entire unopened case of beer. And with all of this wealth going straight into the dumpsters, it attracts a significant number of dumpster divers trying to salvage this stuff before it goes to the landfill.
For a few years (say 5 years back and earlier) things were pretty okay. Students threw stuff out, dumpster divers rescued huge quantities of stuff and it was still wasteful, but on some level it worked. For many years Twin Oaks would send several vans and a dozen or so members into town to scavenge and rescue for the entire day. We would then display them up at Emerald City in the warehouse (our “industrial park”) and dozens of members, many whom would not be comfortable jumping into a dumpster, would come and free shop the rescued treasure.
But then things shifted. My story, which i have no evidence for, is that someone in the legal department at UVa decided that some dumpster diver was going to get hurt and then sue the University, and the campus housing division and campus safety should be stopping dumpster divers from getting stuff in order to protect the university from this liability. As far as i know, no dumpster diver has ever sued a corporation, and certainly no judge has ever ruled in favor of a dumpster diver over the corporation which owned the dumpster. But reality and logic are not driving forces in liability issues.
As a result, a few years back Twin Oaks basically stopped doing the UVa dumpster dive. Their crews got stopped in the act too many times. I was banned for UVa for a year at one point as part of one of the last runs. But not to be scared off, Acorn (in large part because of Irena’s persistence and initiative) went this year as part of the Chuck it for Charity initiative.
It was fun and slightly surreal. We went and signed up, and were told that what they did not want was for people sorting through bags of clothes and cherry picking what they wanted and leaving the rest behind. Of course this is exactly what we wanted to do. So we had part of our group working behind the building sorting the clothes we wanted to keep (which was a surprisingly large fraction) and then re-bundling them. Then we returned the clothes we did not want to one of the approved Chuck it for Charity sites, with markings on the bags so we would not pick them again.
Turns out no one wants rugs, so we got a lot of them for the rave. And micro wave ovens and full length mirrors and cubbies and lots of clothes. It seemed to me like we were more interested in the stuff than any of the other charities, but perhaps they came after we left.
And some from our party were not going to be satisfied without getting into a real dumpster, so we went to one of the large dorm complexes. We were immediately told we could not be in the dumpsters by someone from student housing, but lingered around more discreetly (much of our group looks like college students, especially after they have donned the clothes the students were leaving behind) and got lots of food, including a number of cans of corn, which i was excited about.
In the end, it was a long, exhausting and quite rewarding day.
So, you know the deal, we get labor credits for all of the "commune useful" things we do, one hour of credit for every hour worked, all that good stuff. Some of what I do definitely feels like work. Indexing feels like work, especially on a sunny spring day. Gardening, when it's unpleasantly cold or hot, feels like work. Loading the tofu truck feels like work.
i missed the Dominion Resources shareholder meeting this year after having attended faithfully every year for perhaps half a dozen. Perhaps CEO Tom Farrell missed my annoying questions about how the utility which i own two shares of continues to waste money on plans for another reactor at North Anna, which will likely never be built. [I am told that Farrell finds annoying shareholder questions to be one of the most headachey part of his job, which i have to say gives me quite some satisfaction.]
The decision was viewed as an early sign that the wave of retirements of old generating stations across the Midwest is now stretching from the coal industry into nuclear power, driven by slack demand for energy and the low price of natural gas.
Also in this NYT article Dominion’s Farrell said of the closure of the plant:
“This decision was based purely on economics.”
It will not surprise people who watch nuclear power closely to hear that this is not what Dominion often says about how they make decisions. As with the North Anna 3 project we often hear that we need “a mix of fuels”. This is the marketing plan the PR people have cooked up to rationalize the poor economics of this plant. They are not doing it to make money for the company, they are doing it because it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy types. Using this pathetic logic, Dominion should be opening day care centers where they were harnessing kids on treadmills.
No, the real reasons are always they same. They build reactors for the money, but the reason they can not be direct about it is because if it public where the money was coming from, there would be additional problems. For example, the utilities in Georgia and Florida are able to charge their customers now for reactors they are in the process of building or even some that they are thinking about building.
Then there are other tricks, like the “stranded assets” gambit, where the utility says “We built these reactors thinking we were a monopoly, and now that you are changing the rules and we are not a monopoly, we should get the profits from these poor investments as if the market did not exist.” As crazy as this sounds, this scheme has resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars being transferred from rate payers to utilities.
How Dominion’s plans to make money on North Anna 3 is not completely clear. But rest assured it is not because they think there will be a carbon tax in the US (this was used as a justification for a while) and not because they believe they need to keep all options open (otherwise they would be more serious about renewables). Dominion is not the largest contributor to political campaigns in the state of Virginia because it feels candidates don’t have enough money to run their campaigns. The reason is that they have a clever plan to bilk customers (and sometimes the state) for money and they are confident that they can pull it off.
Within four months of moving here, I became manager of the dairy program at Twin Oaks. I have no prior experience in animal care, no prior experience with farm work in general, and really, no prior experience with physical work of any kind. I was a computer programmer prior to moving here, for god's sake.
I think I just appear competent, and…