Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Swans, the Precautionary Principle, and Power

© 2011 Joshua Stark

A quick note:  I'd like to read what you all think about nuclear power in light of the events in Japan.  It is a horrible, sad, tragic series of calamities befalling the country right now, and I won't tolerate any unkind comments.  For us, however, the debate should begin.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of "black swan" thinking, in general.  However, outliers should be examined in the context of the level of catastrophe that may one day occur.  For nuclear and large hydropower, the potential for catastrophe is large at generation.  For petroleum and coal-based generation, the potential for catastrophe is large at extraction (see the Gulf).  Really, the only generation types that would appear to limit the potential for catastrophe is very small hydropower, wind, and solar power.  

What do you all think?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Much going on...

© 2011 Joshua

With a baby and a new job, I've found my blogging time constrained.  Alas, the world still turns, and there are many topics on which I'd love to wax poetic...

First, this report from the U.N. on sustainable agriculture.  In a nutshell, "agroecological farming practices" can double food production in many regions.  These science-based practices empower local communities with their foods, which puts major corporate enterprises out - so, expect them to fight these conclusions.

Next, California Watch reports on a Pacific Institute report on nitrates in California's Central Valley groundwater... we've all known it's been there for years, but this report attempts to quantify the human impacts. 

My view on the Central Valley, my second home, is that its social, political, and economic infrastructure is effectively a 3rd World country, a fiefdom for a handful of extraordinarily (and inordinately) powerful people.  Pile this report on top of the reports on asthma, air quality, cancers, unemployment, working conditions, transportation, income inequality, etc.  And if you are so inclined, please pray for the Valley. 

The L.A. Times reports on Republicans using the budget in California to dismantle our environmental regulations.  Please, conservative conservationists, keep up the calls to legislators, letting them know that this is not your value.  The major law usually attacked is CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), which, in a case of powerful irony, is just about the only transparency-in-government law out there, and is also a law very often used by companies to keep out competition from industrial growth. 

Looking at our economic and fiscal conditions, it's safe to say that these regulations have not had an economic impact on our State to any great extent, especially in relation to our quality of life, nor in comparison to more lax states like, say, Texas, whose budget deficit is larger than ours in absolute terms and in relative terms ($27 billion in Texas vs. $26.6 billion in California).  Far larger an impact on our quality of life has been our decision to stop funding infrastructure like transportation, schools, and energy. 

And, speaking to California's impact on the rest of America, it looks like our Congress has decided to run its budget show like we do here in the Golden State.

That's it for now.  I'll try to get back into the swing of things, but first, I'd like a full night's sleep.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update: Conservative conservationists

© 2011 Joshua Stark

In my previous post, I asked where they were, and I've got my answer:

A couple days back, a number of conservation and environmentalist groups testified before a California Assembly Committee - among them, representatives from the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), our hunting lobby.  What were they talking about? 

They were informing the California Legislature of the horrible, horrible proposals of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the devastation they will wreak on conservation. 

If you want to read what they have to say, click here: "Congress Considers Massive Cuts to Wildlife Programs".

I often despair that large, corporate enterprises have eaten American conservatism.  It allows for large, corporate enterprises, but it holds many other values equally, or more, important than the mere hoarding of capital. I'm heartened to see conservatives making clear that wildness, and its appreciation, are American virtues.

In other, related news about conservative conservation, Western Farm Press reports that, "California farms and ranches now make up more than 20 percent of all operations in the nation with solar, wind and methane digester use", according to the USDA.

Lest ye forget, amidst the shock-media decrying our horrific fiscal situation, California still leads the nation in many things.  Including green energy.  And agriculture.