A Response to Failure
Eugene Weekly Viewpoint, 6.21. 07
Lately, we've been hearing a lot about eco-sabotage and the absurdity of calling these acts "terrorism." Yet the question remains: What led once law-abiding citizen activists to take such desperate measures in the name of the Earth?
For at least part of the answer, we need look no further than the failure of the mainstream environmental movement to achieve genuine and lasting protections for the planet. Now, more than ever before, we must breathe new life into true grassroots activism by addressing root problems instead of just symptoms. Only then will we be able to keep people from giving up hope.
Yet today there is an epidemic of environmental groups abandoning strong stances for a "seat at the table" of politicians. Instead of picking a stance and fighting like hell for it, the tactics of many greens have devolved to scrambling for any crumbs brushed off the bargaining table and then crying "Victory!"
Not only have these tactics not influenced government, they have failed to send a clear message to the public. In fact, many greens have essentially cut the public out of their operations, expected nothing beyond yearly dues or a token email.
Further examples of missed opportunities abound in each of the various "rights" movements – environmental, animal, human/civil, labor – which have chosen to pursue their own isolated missions rather than confront the common enemy: corporate power and rule. As corporations have gained more power, the environmental movement, especially, has abandoned its original grassroots momentum.
While the climate crisis makes national news, strangely absent from the debate is how logging the world's forests causes one third of human-made carbon emissions. With all the life-sustaining benefits that forests provide, such as air, water and soil, when will we see the headline: "Clearcuts Cause Climate Change"?
Disengaged from the citizenry, shunning other movements and capitulating at every turn, the environmental movement has failed to connect human civilization, a healthy environment and consumer power in the national psyche. The following are just a few of the resulting assaults on forests, our global cooling factories:
• BLM's Western Oregon Plan Revisions: a backroom sweetheart settlement with timber barons to axe old-growth protections from 2.5 million acres of public forests;
• Fish and Wildlife's latest Spotted Owl Extinction Plan;
• Logging under the guise of "fire prevention";
• Forest biomass extraction;
• Bogus "restoration" on public lands, exploiting Latino immigrants.
What we propose is not the whole solution, only a missing part of the solution: being radical inside the system.
Now is the time to seize the mounting concern over climate change. Now is the time to add more uncompromising voices truly advocating for the people and the forest. Now is the time to stop just playing defense and start scoring some points. With public opinion overwhelmingly on our side, why are a handful of timber barons calling the shots?
One under-utilized tactic to protect our forests is targeting the pocketbooks of the individuals directly responsible for ecosystem destruction: the timber barons. The boycott of Umpqua Bank, or StUmpqua (whose board of directors are the most notorious clearcutters and pesticide sprayers in Oregon), has already cost the bank tens of millions of dollars.
Instead of burning down buildings, why not educate customers of eco-conscious businesses, like Market of Choice, to encourage the company to take its $100 million account away from Umpqua and do its banking elsewhere? You'd have to burn down hundreds of buildings to even come close to those numbers!
Some insist that working inside the system can never work as our problems lie at the very root of civilization. A growing number of these individuals truly are removing themselves from the culture of overconsumption.
However, while permaculture and bicycling must become commonplace, they alone will not stop the timber beast from clearcutting valley and mountain, poisoning and drying up your drinking water, smothering salmon and exacerbating global warming. We don't have the luxury of looking the other way and pretending Earth-death isn't happening. The only choice is to confront these issues head-on.
Few would deny that we need massive structural change in our government, in our society, in our culture. One approach is to pound our fists on the reinforced walls of the "system" from the outside. But how soon we forget that the most effective way to bring down any "system" has always been to knock out the supports from the inside.
Wildfire Hysteria & "Forest Biomass" Greenwash
Eugene Register Guard Guest Viewpoint, 5.06.09
Even if we were to unwisely depend on the current unsustainable rate of short-rotation toxic clear-cutting on private forestlands — there’s not enough wood to feed proposed biomass plants, such as Seneca Sawmill Co.’s.
So why are there more and more proposed biomass plants across the United States?
According to the Oregon Forest Biomass Working Group, “The bulk of potentially available forest biomass is located on federal lands.”
Another pro-biomass group claims, “Obtaining a consistent supply of woody biomass from federal lands is one of the primary impediments to developing a biomass utilization sector.”
Prepare to have your fears and hopes exploited in the logging industry’s craftiest fairy tale to date: forest biomass. First the fear: “If we don’t log, the forests will burn up in wildfires and put our lives and homes at risk.” Then the hope: “The leftover waste will be used for green energy to fight climate change.”
The reality is forest biomass extraction would neither protect homes from wildfire nor give us green energy, but would act as a major obstacle to achieving either of those goals.
With climate change making our summers hotter and drier, forest-edge communities will probably be seeing more wildfires.
Luckily, as Jack Cohen — a scientist at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station — states, simple measures taken around the home and its immediate surroundings can almost eliminate the danger: “Given nonflammable roofs, Stanford Research Institute found a 95 percent (home) survival with (vegetation) clearance of 10 to 18 meters.”
In 2003, seemingly with this concern in mind, the Bush administration and Sen. Ron Wyden gave us the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, the primary stated purpose being “to reduce wildfire risk to communities.” Unfortunately, instead of focusing on projects in the vicinity of homes, a vast portion of HFRA funding has been spent on logging large, fire-resistant trees miles from the nearest town.
Yet thanks to Big Timber public relations campaigns and political distortions, many Americans have bought into the myth that logging stops wildfire and protects their homes from burning. (To counter this myth, attend ecologist George Wuerthner’s talk at 7 p.m. tonight at Harris Hall at 8th Avenue and Oak Street in Eugene.) But not only does HFRA not protect communities from wildfire, it gives the public a false sense of security, resulting in millions of homeowners ignoring fire-wise precautions, putting their homes and lives at risk.
Does that mean industry and agencies want homes to burn? Probably not. But their intent becomes clear when you learn HFRA’s second stated purpose: “to authorize grant programs to improve the commercial value of forest biomass.”
After using fear tactics to dupe Americans into supporting “fire risk reduction” logging, biomass proponents play to our hopes by assuring us that the resulting “waste” can be used to fight climate change, by turning it into a clean, green energy source.
Few deny the need to fund clean alternative energy sources — such as wind and solar — to wean us off our climate-disrupting dependence on waning fossil fuels. But logging for forest biomass is likely to make climate change worse. According to NASA, logging is “the second major way we increase atmospheric CO2,” while the May 2008 issue of Science Daily states, “the use of harvest residues for energy production decreases soil carbon stocks.”
Despite this evidence, forest biomass is getting the big bucks. Already, $50 million of the Forest Service’s stimulus payoff is going to “wood to energy grants to support the increased use of biomass.” Wyden also has a bill (S 536) that would allow federal forestlands to receive “renewable energy” subsidies, while Rep. Peter DeFazio is co-sponsoring a similar bill in the House (HR 1190).
Subsidizing forest biomass effectively takes money away from proven clean, green energy sources. According to EnergyJustice.net, “Biomass competes directly with wind, the cleanest and most promising power source. Eliminating biomass from renewable definitions means wind would get better funding.”
A rational response to climate change and peak oil involves investing in zero-emission energy sources such as wind and solar, while incentivizing greater efficiency measures (i.e., ground-breaking heat pump technologies) and conservation. Not squandering even more tax dollars to further bleed our already over-logged, climate-stabilizing forests.
Even if some Oregonians don’t think forest biomass is a bad idea — other than small-scale heating, it really is — the question they should be asking is this: Is it better than the alternatives it would be replacing: fire-wise homes and wind power?
We hope all Oregonians would agree the answer is no.
Josh Schlossberg and Shannon Wilson of Eugene are co-directors of Eco Advocates (eco-advocates.org).
Our future is with rail, not bigger roads
Eugene Register Guard Guest Viewpoint
Published: June 26, 2008 12:00AM
Contrary to U.S. Rep. DeFazio’s assertion in his Feb. 25 guest viewpoint, “Feds must lead the way on roads,” Congress and DeFazio should scrap obsolete highway and freeway expansion plans throughout the country. Our future as a civilization is now dependent on creating a new transportation system to survive the end of cheap petroleum and climate change. More and wider freeways and highways will only hasten economic and climatic chaos and disruption.
The only way to make this transition is through major expansion of light rail infrastructure and major upgrading of existing rail infrastructure as a viable alternative to the crumbing highway and freeway systems.
The planned “NAFTA freeways,” including Interstate 5, being promoted throughout the country by governors, Congress and the paving industry to accommodate millions of bigger and heavier trucks from Mexico and Canada must be stopped and scrapped. The trucking industry will soon collapse when diesel fuel is too expensive to run the trucks. This can’t be too far off with diesel now at nearly $5 a gallon. Surely we must repair and upgrade some of the most vital bridges around the country, but we must simultaneously create a rail-based public transportation system.
The cheap and easily drilled crude oil is diminishing, while worldwide demand for oil is surging. Soon the trucking and airline transportation systems are likely to fail, and if we do not prepare for that inevitability there will be chaos and major economic disruption because of our dangerous dependence on these two petroleum-based systems for our every need.
Light rail and heavy rail is the safest and most sustainable transportation on the planet. In the case of passenger transport, hybrid and other hyper-mileage cars can compete with light rail only when used as carpool vehicles. Passenger rail achieves between 50 to 80 passenger miles per gallon, and about 70 to 100 grams of carbon per passenger per mile. A 40-mpg auto can achieve between 40 or 80 (with 2 occupants) passenger miles per gallon. The death rate for all rail is 0.7 deaths per billion miles traveled, while death rate for motor vehicles is more than 10 deaths per billion miles traveled.
The mindset that more and wider freeways are going to reduce pollution as well as reduce global warming gases flies in the face of science, history and basic logic. This is the kind of logic that has gotten us to this dire point.
Fifty years of building highways and freeways for autos and trucking without any regard to urban planning, the impact on our climate, the effects on our health as well as the impact to our psychological well being as a society has led us to this over dependence on a failed system. Let us not forget that scientists have been talking about global warming since the 1960s.
California is working on building a high-speed rail system from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Many major urban areas in the country are turning towards high-speed light rail. Why is the Northwest not forging ahead with a new high-speed rail system from Eugene to Seattle?
The new Amtrak rail from New York to Washington, D.C., has seen an increase in ridership of 20 percent from 2006-07, for a total of 3.1 million passenger trips. The new Amtrak route from San Jose to Sacramento is up 15 percent from 2006-07 for a total of 1.4 million passenger trips.
As constituents we must convince DeFazio — chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit — as well as all other Oregon lawmakers that we must have a high-speed light rail system in the Northwest as well as upgrades in rail infrastructure throughout the nation. These new rail systems will not only provide thousands of new jobs but it will keep the Northwest and the country economically competitive with other economic superpowers in Asia and Europe.
We must demand rail infrastructure now. We either transition off of our addiction to petroleum by going to rail now or surrender to a complete collapse of our whole economic system and way of life.
Shannon Wilson of Eugene is chairman of the Many Rivers Group of the Sierra Club and co-director of Eco Advocates NW.
Don’t erase Glenwood’s character — enhance it
By Shannon Wilson and Kris Maenz
Published: Eugene Register Guard Guest Viewpoint. February 21, 2013 12:00AM, Today
Glenwood businesses and residents are being told that we must accept that the city of Springfield intends to buy out all properties along Franklin Boulevard and the Willamette River. The city would do this to accommodate hospitality industries — multistory hotels, condominiums, student housing and low-end restaurants.
In its defense, the city of Springfield will say it has the Glenwood Refinement Plan, which incorporates the opinions of citizens of Glenwood and Springfield. However, this plan has no legally binding language that requires Springfield or prospective developers to follow citizen wishes.
Glenwood is an unincorporated area between Eugene and Springfield. At least 1,200 low-income people call it home. Glenwood offers a plethora of services to its residents that may be unmatched by any neighborhood in Eugene or Springfield.
Within eight blocks of any house in Glenwood proper one can find building supplies, auto maintenance supplies, tools, do-it-yourself recycling and garbage services, appliance repair, a locksmith, garden and landscaping supplies, brick and mortar supplies, professional dog sitting, equipment rental, recreational supplies, tires, auto repair, shipping services, family health services, miniature golf and pizza on the river.
Just outside Glenwood, large grocery stores are within one mile in each direction. Three public libraries are within one, two and four miles. Lane Community College and University of Oregon are within three miles. Island Park, Dorris Ranch, Hendricks Park and Amazon Park are all within a mile or two.
Where else in Eugene or Springfield could one live in close proximity to such a complete array of goods, services and recreation, as well as institutions of higher learning and culture — all accessible by bus, bicycle or foot? Many Glenwood residents are in economic transition: They’re college students, or citizens avoiding becoming homeless by renting in one of the five mobile home and trailer parks. Others who plan to stay in Glenwood long-term because it is affordable and offers a real community.
If Springfield and developers have their way, most of those 1,200 people may become “Glenwood refugees.” Once most Glenwood residents are shoved out, they will find their quality of life greatly diminished. Necessities will be more difficult to acquire. Some will become homeless.
Our vision accepts the fact that new and improved housing should be the primary goal for Glenwood. However, we contend that it should not destroy current businesses and services, create “Glenwood refugees” or diminish the beauty of the Willamette River.
We do not believe that Glenwood should be turned into a hospitality hub for University of Oregon sports fans or well-off university students. We believe that all future buildings in Glenwood should be built for lower- to middle-income Lane County residents.
The first priority would be not only to keep the same level of real services for Glenwood’s current and future residents, but to add services. Springfield should accommodate new, locally owned services and goods suppliers that meet the needs of a larger Glenwood population, as well as to create a more economically resilient and prosperous community.
The second major priority would be to create access to Lane Community College, Buford park, Mount Pisgah and the UO that is segregated from automobiles and connected to the EmX bus service. That infrastructure would benefit not only Glenwood residents but all Eugene and Springfield residents who had the ability to reach a Glenwood alternative transportation hub.
The land is open to such transportation infrastructure now. In contrast, the Glenwood Refinement Plan states that this type of non-automobile infrastructure is a “long-term vision.”
This vision, if enacted, could create a truly sustainable and economically resilient community for current and future residents who would not be dependent on either the boom-and-bust hospitality industry or on automobiles. It could become a world-class showcase of how to design and renew an urban area sustainably and with respect — an example for other communities to follow.
Springfield’s city manager tried to placate our apprehensions regarding Glenwood residents and services being shoved out by this development. He told us that Springfield would try to help citizens who might be displaced by the development get back on their feet.
Why would the city of Springfield want to diminish the quality of life in Glenwood, as well as knock the feet out from under struggling Glenwood businesses and residents, just to enhance the wealth of the wealthiest?
Glenwood residents Shannon Wilson and Kris Maenz have been involved in alternative transportation and land use issues relating to Glenwood and neighboring communities for several years.
The U.S. is riddled with corruption
Published in Eugene Register Guard February 4, 2013.
Anyone who viewed “The Untouchables” on PBS’s “Frontline” program was likely outraged by the fact that after four years of alleged investigations by President Obama’s Department of Justice, not one Wall Street banking executive has been jailed, let alone indicted for fraud.
That highlights the fact that the entire framework of the United States is structured on institutionalized corruption. From the smallest town to the most powerful office, America is awash in the corrupting influence of money. The media that should be exposing all forms of corruption by government and big business have themselves been corrupted by the elite’s blood money.
Most nonprofits and non-governmental organizations are also corrupted by corporate foundation money they are showered with to maintain middle-class lifestyles. All that’s required is that an organization “goes along” with corrupt policies to “get along.”
For most environmental groups in Oregon, that equates to promoting logging, biomass energy, natural gas as clean energy, and electric cars as an antidote to our addiction to automobiles. Collaborating and looking the other way if a Democrat promotes corrupt policies is another prerequisite for accepting corporate foundation money.
Locally, citizens are being told we must pay higher taxes for 1,900 Lane County government and 1,400 city of Eugene employees so they can continue to promote policies (i.e., new and wider highways, new mega-developments and taxpayer-funded subsidies) that benefit the county’s wealthiest class.
In essence, Lane County citizens are being told that they must pay to grease the wheels of continued corruption.