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.
I like it when our kids go to protests. Willow has been at a number of protests and has helped bail me out of jail. Yesterday an intrepid group of Oakers, including Edmund, Sapphyre, Christian, Tomato and Kaya went to the US Capitol in Washington DC to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership affectionately referred to as TPP.
What is it like to sit next to your mom and have her tell you that there is some chance she might get arrested? Fortunately, things did not go that way at the most recent protest of the TPP.
The TPP is barely a trade agreement. It is being called a trade agreement, because the business media likes these, corporations can justify lobbying for “free trade” and because what it really is is so ugly that it would be politically impractical to ask for it. It is a transfer of power away from governments and citizens to corporations.
It’s about corporations being able to sue countries for passing laws or making court rulings that might impact their future profits. It’s about Monsanto wanting a back door way to block labeling of GMO food in all the TPP countries. It’s about a hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry that wants to make sure that people in Vietnam can’t access affordable generic medicine. And no, this is not going to create good jobs in the US. TPP makes it even easier for corporations to move production to countries with unbelievably low wages and bad working conditions.
Here are a couple of the better propaganda pieces on it.
These trade agreement laws are such favorites of big business, that they can not avoid filling them with all manner of poor, unconstitutional, and corrupt structures. Just as the progressive movement helped push back the WTO negotiations in Seattle in 1999, now activists must rally to block this far less attractive “free trade” agreement. And TPP is in trouble. Many of the countries involved are not agreeing to the extreme US proposals in the negotiations. And there is a lot of opposition in the US Congress to passing TPP and to passing Fast Track Trade Authority (which hands over control of trade treaties to the executive branch). Without fast track, TPP itself is unlikely to pass in Congress.
Our folks did one of the few things you can do about this situation – they went and spoke truth to power. Now power was only willing to put up with a tiny amount of the truth. But the protesters danced nimbly between rules of the congressional committees and their rights to free speech.
The shirts were about North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. TPP is an expanded version of NAFTA that includes more countries. Michael Froman (the US Trade Rep who was testifying at the House hearing we went to) was talking a few days ago about how great NAFTA has been, and he said that NAFTA created big trade surplus for the US. This is just plain false. The annual trade deficit with Mexico and Canada has increased by $155 Billion.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
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]
I am quite sensitive about comparing Twin Oaks to Acorn. It is perhaps like trying to compare great books. There is so much done right, does it really make sense to focus on the downsides? And i firmly believe that propagandists (like myself) should be vocal critics, trying to make the ideas and experiments they are advancing be better.
So it is with some trepidation that i compare the different systems my two communities use for dealing with problems between members or between a member and the rest of the community. In theory, both approaches look quite reasonable.
At Twin Oaks, one part of the system we use is a technique called the Feedback system. Someone does something outside our agreements (they don’t make their labor quota for a long time, they spend more money than the community provides – creating a debt to the community, or they have other problematic behaviors) and they get a feedback called on them. If someone is in a conflict with another member, there are a number of things which are supposed to be done before a feedback is called, including mediated face-to-face conversations between the people who are in conflict. If this mediation goes poorly, a member can call a feedback on another member and if 10 members agree it is appropriate (by signing the proposal to call a feedback) then the feedback is launched. If things are really bad, the feedback can be the entry way to an expulsion process. But this is quite rare actually, perhaps happening less than every couple of years.
When a feedback is called, a date for the community to meet with the individual is set. A facilitator is selected, if the focus person wants they can also have an advocate. The facilitator of the feedback is clear that we are trying to create a safe space for people to express their views and concerns. Usually, there is some mix of appreciation and critique of the person who has had the feedback called on them. Their friends and supporters will often come to make sure they know that their are positive voices in the course of the community. Usually the conversation is dominated by different members perceptions about what the problems with the focus person are and in some cases constructive feedback on how to address them.
When we coach people on how to handle feedbacks, it is generally about how to manage their defensiveness. When someone gives you a critical observation, almost all of us jump to what is wrong about the critique. This is exactly the wrong way to respond at a feedback. Instead, you start by validating the part of the expressed concern which feels genuinely true to you. You reflect back, ideally summarizing and using different language, so that the person with concerns feels heard. And it is important to say how you disagree (if you do) but not in a charged and defensive way.
After listening to the concerns, there is a “Next Steps” portion of the feedback, in which the community investigates if there is something which needs to happen next. Are we done with this issue? Do we need a behavior contract with consequences if the problematic behavior repeats? Do we think the problem is so big that we need to start the process of expelling this person?
At first glance this seems complete reasonable, especially in a one-on-one conflict there is lots of mediated conversation before the problem comes to the entire group. And this is another one of those cases where completely reasonable is not quite as it appears.
Alternatively, Acorn uses our clearness process to deal with these types of problems. One important difference is that the clearness process is not an extraordinary process, it is the same process which is used by every member at least twice every year. The other central difference between a clearness and a feedback is that the clearness requires one on one conversations with every member of the community. After these conversations are finished there is a group clearness, which appears at first glance would be of the same form as the Twin Oaks feedback, but it is not really. Typically, in the Acorn approach the inner personal heavy lifting is done during these one on one conversations and the group event is summarizing the set of (generally successful) conversations so everyone can get an overview of concerns and solutions. It is important to note that this format is much more accessible at Acorn (which has a population of 30) than at Twin Oaks with it’s 93 adult members.
This process can also be used in an emergency, as with me recently where i was inviting guests in a way that made people feel run over. Plus i had the misfortune of co-hosting Nero who set Acorn at fire. It was not time for me to do one of my regular clearnesses, so we put together one that was principally focused on this particular problem. I talked with everyone and other issues came up and even before we had the group clearness at the end, i was already feeling quite good about the groups response to my mistakes and feeling like the resolutions we were coming to would work for everyone.
From my perspective there are three critical differences here, all of which make the Acorn system generally preferable. The first is that these clearnesses are part of regular life and membership at Acorn. You don’t need to be messed up to have a clearness, though if you do mess up, it is a familiar tool for helping to decode that. The second is that everyone is involved in a one-on-one conversation before the big group meeting. These can be facilitated, work i have done and enjoyed at Acorn. Finally, the consensus underpinning of the Acorn system means members are seeking solutions which work for everyone.
I’m looking for a bromance.
I can’t seem to find one?
Does anyone want to be my bro and go to hockey games with me?
I realize what I am lacking in my life is radical heteronormativity. I’m sure there are some poly dudes I can relate to who are into chugging beer, anarcho-communism, beer pong, protesting nukes, hockey, and twerking on consenting (of course!) blonde babes . I feel there is a dark hole inside of me that is missing someone to converse about this with.
Could I use Okcupid?
Does anyone know anyone who would be my bro?
[This guest post was written by Belladonna Took - in the spirit of my son, she said "if you are going to leave your wordpress account open on computers all over Acorn i am going to write posts in it"]