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Re: E-M:/ Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project

John and EM List,

You are right we need some group action -- especially in lieu of the silence and inaction on the part of government at both the national and state level.
What is needed is for government to adopt the kind of program advocated by the Apollo Alliance (www.apolloalliance.org}. The Apollo Alliance's Ten Point Program to move our economy away from dependence on fossil fuel is well thought out. There was an effort to bring it into the 2004 electoral discussions that met with minor success. I fear the "energy independence" is more a slogan of both parties, rather than a high national priority.

So what do we do?
I think we need to move groups like Democracy for America and MoveOn.org away from their almost exclusively defensive posture towards the current pro Big Oil and Big Coal government in Washington (which includes both parties) to a "vision of what we want for the future." Yes, we need to defend Social Security. And yes, we to have a Supreme Court of moderates/not radical ideologues. But we need to develop a realistic plan of action based on our current situation. We must acknowledge that our nation is virtually bankrupt now and that fiscal reality will drive a lot of public policy.

Why are we bankrupt?

Our current trade accounts are increasingly in the red making us dependent on trading partners like China and Korea willingness to buy our bonds to fund that debt.

The pension crisis -- corporations defaulting on pension fund liabilities -- means the US government's "pension guarantor of last resort" role may end up costing the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. One expert has said this impending financial crisis will make the S&L Scandals of the 1980s look like chump change.

The environment and health crisis -- the long term costs of environmentally unsustainable production on our water, our soil, and our health -- are so huge to be almost unmeasurable. The Great Lakes Initiative put a price tag of $20 billion for clean up. Yet given the bankruptcy of the current Federal Budget, where are we going to get the $16 billion from the feds? Where are states and communities going to get their $4 billion? And $20 billion is most likely a very low cost estimate of the total cost.
And there are many, many other environmental "clean ups" in Michigan that are not budgeted for.

The public budget crisis. Tax cuts at the federal and state levels have pushed funding obligations further and further down the government food chain to individual counties and communities. In Michigan, the gutting of our industrial economy is destroying the economic base on which our tax revenues now depend. The war in Iraq reveals that the World's Superpower is unwilling to include its military hubris costs in the real federal budget of the nation. This Alice-in-Wonderland approach to budgeting is tolerated, even advocated, by the leaders of both parties. Yet, if we, as individuals engaged in such financial delusions, we would be hauled off to bankruptcy court or even jail.

So what can we do?

First, I think we must draft a realistic plan for a transition to a Sustainable Economy in Michigan.
This plan should include energy, food, and water in its basic components. This plan has to acknowledge that a truly sustainable economy is one that works with Nature, not against Nature. This means eschewing brute force ("if brute force isn't working, you are not using enough of it") solutions like genetic engineering of food and subsidized biomass energy production.

Second, I think we need to form a true advocacy coalition for this transition.
I don't mean a monthly meeting of the staffers of non-profits who are already stretched too thin. We have too many paper coalitions of this sort already.
I think this coalition should include alternative, sustainable business people as well as groups affected by the current public funding crisis as well as non-profits concerned about the environment.

One of the first goals might be to make these questions of energy, food, and water sustainability a PRIMARY FOCUS of the 2006 elections in Michigan.
We need to know what all candidates are going to do to address these problems/challenges.

Third, we must take action in our own communities -- working in commerce to build a new, cooperative, sustainable local economy. This means identifying people and businesses who are innovators and supporting them with our consumer dollars and our spiritual muscle.

I believe we are almost out of time.
The furniture industry in West Michigan is poised to move all of its manufacturing off shore.
GM and Ford are in deep crisis because of very short sighted management decisions about sustainability.
And the defense business will be effected by the realities of the world, over which we have virtually no control.

I am interested in helping in this kind of initiative.
But we must be bold and we must be impatient.
If anyone is interested, I produced a film in 2001 entitled, "The Next Industrial Revolution" about the work of Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart. They are working on one approach to building a sustainable industrial economy. You can find information about it at www.thenextindustrialrevolution.org.

My thoughts after two cups of coffee on a Sunday morning.

Chris Bedford
Sweetwater Local Foods Market
#6543 Hancock Road
Montague, MI 49437
231-893-3937 (o)
231-670-4813 (c)

"The Sweetwater Local Foods Market is the first farmers market in Michigan to exclusively sell humanely raised animal products and chemical-free/Certified Organic fruits and vegetables. OPEN every Saturday 8am-1pmthrough October 29th in the parking lot of Russ' Restaurant at M120 and Route 31 in Muskegon."

On Jul 9, 2005, at 8:04 PM, John Gear wrote:

Enviro-Mich message from John Gear <jmgear@acd.net>

(This is my first post to enviro-mich, so I apologize if this post is redundant to previous discussions.)

This is a letter I sent to the Sustainable listerv that Urban Options runs, as well as to others.
I would be glad to hear from anyone on this list interested in helping with the challenges outlined below.

John Gear

I have been studying the topic of "peak oil" for a while now, guided by a very smart old friend who alerted me to this developing crisis some time ago. After finishing JH Kuntsler's new book "The Long Emergency" and reading widely on the net, I am impelled to turn from individual study to some form of group action.

I have been thinking that it's time to form a leadership-visioning group to begin the arduous process of trying to figure out how Lansing and surroundings can adapt to a radically altered world in which petroleum and natural gas are scarce/absent (with all that this means for both direct and indirect uses, including, most importantly, complete transformation of food systems, which for all practical purposes currently rest entirely on fossil fuel inputs). There is almost nothing we do that doesn't exist because of or depend on cheap energy from fossil fuels. Besides farming, there is education, medicine, manufacturing, aviation, finance, etc. All of it will be changing radically before too long.
My best illustration of what we are in for: Imagine if the Industrial Revolution (steam power; telegraph/telephone; bessemer steel) and then the Chemical Revolution (petroleum products; synthetics; chemicals; fertilizers; transport) and then the Silicon Revolution (digital computers; networks) all occurred on top of each other in the space of two decades, rather than two centuries. Now picture the world-wide industrial empire that rests on that great pyramid of "progress" created by those three revolutions going DOWN that pyramid in roughly the same amount of time.
Luckily, mid-Michigan -- although currently fantastically over-dependent on oil and natural gas that will soon be orders of magnitude more costly, when available at all --- is favorably situated in many other ways to live in the post-petroleum future -- we are still relatively close to arable land, fresh water is abundant. In fact, we are blessed to be part of a bioregion that may well come out the best of all in a post-petroleum future.

I would like to see who in this area is interested in helping out with this project. If you are, please write me at jmgear@acd.net. "This project" I would define as

** Anticipating the profound challenges of the soon-to-arrive post-petroleum future in the Lansing area;
** Identifying and serving as catalysts for responses that promote the well-being of present and future generations as we head towards and through a period of rapid and stressful social reorganization..
("Well being" meaning maintenance of an open, democratic, and lawful society, despite the inevitable social disorder and disruption likely to result from the shocks inherent in an abrupt transition to a post-petroleum world.)

(That definition is, of course, subject to change as new ideas are incorporated.)

For a wealth of information on our rocky energy future, probably the best single site I can suggest is http://www.energybulletin.net/, which contains or points to a vast library of resources on all forms of energy.

John Gear

P.S.: Please do not contact me to debate whether this problem is real or to suggest reasons that nothing need be done. You may be right. We will not know for some time. Meanwhile, if I am correct, there is zero time to lose.

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