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Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


Energy Policy Joke Intensifies

How may the “new” executive branch affect energy, after last year’s oil price spike and this year’s western state utility crisis? Will Bush’s lip service to concern over global warming generate some accountability from the grassroots?

It is electric power price increases in the U.S. which entirely accounted for the all-important consumer demand boost in December, heralding “a recession” according to the BBC. Natural gas has become the savior of “progressive” leaders who see oil and coal as dirty. But this has helped tighten supply of gas, which will not outlast oil reserves by much. Rising prices can conserve supply. But instead of more profit for suppliers and utilities, taxes could supply revenue for sustainable energy solutions—a few million bike carts?

With conservation so far overdue, and the nation way out on an already cracking limb, the Bush II administration reneged on looking at carbon emission controls as an historically significant measure to burn up less of the atmosphere. Such a move would have conserved natural gas and other fossil fuels. The Clinton regime didn’t do any better: it’s ballyhooed carbon tax was just on gasoline, less than what Reagan easily put through in 1981. When Clinton-Gore came into power, the Sierra Club’s DC lobbyist on energy said that the good guys were here and that the pedal would be put to the metal. Didn’t happen, but this magazine had foreseen it.

Similarly, Bush/Cheney are not much different from the previous fossil burners. One thing has changed, a bit more honesty in destructive energy policy: try to drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Amazingly, the public opposes this Alaska exploitation, at a rate of 53%. The Bush administration has placed this energy scheme in its budget to supposedly allow renewable energy development elsewhere in the U.S. economy. This has been decried as cynical, but it can serve as a commitment (unintended or not) to getting the nation on a renewable energy partial diet. More progress most didn’t expect: The environment is acknowledged as sick when the new EPA administrator defended and kept the recent Clinton-era diesel pollution regulations.

A president Gore might have done no better (based on his VP record) so far, and this might be said years from now.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media mouth the industry/government line on energy: make more; forget real conservation! For example, in an Associate Press story on the Alaska drilling issue and west coast power, the nation’s energy policy was disclosed as putting the environment last: “The administration has signaled it would be willing to roll back pollution requirements at the state’s power plants and find other ways to help the state.” (emphasis added) (February 2, 2001).

The near futility of environmentalists’ poorly funded lobbying (usually for just minor reforms and technofix business incentive) makes clear the need for effective grassroots organizing and successfully utilizing alternative media. To break through to the public’s consciousness, we don’t await an audience with Oz. You can do your part by activating yourself in your home, neighborhood and community, if you haven’t done so. For some ideas on changing the world starting very locally, see Sustainable Energy Institute’s Pledge for Climate Protection (page 9). It is in postcard form in quantity (ask us for a stack; include a few bucks), and online at The Earth Island Journal covered it in their Winter 2001 edition, along with our letter on “Green Cars.”

It is nevertheless good to monitor the state/industry goings on in energy, so that “leaders” feet can be held to the fire on occasion—at least in letters to the editor of influential newspapers:

From the New York Times, Feb. 3, 2001:

“The California conservation plan, to reduce demand by as much as 20 percent, includes a requirement that retail businesses curb their outdoor lighting and take other measures to cut power consumption.” Legislation to help bring this about is happening in Sacramento, and requires creative input which the Sustainable Energy Institute is providing. It is a one billion dollar spending opportunity (at press time).

Western governors wanted to put a lid on wholesale natural gas prices to keep down utility costs. This would cut into profits of Bush Junior’s energy industry contributors. Anyway, there was no consensus on this, as “caps would also reduce incentives to conserve electricity.”

Governors agreed on short-term and long- range strategies, including increasing conservation, in part by exploring ways of billing consumers that encourage them to use less electricity during peak demand hours. Rolling blackouts, which have been hitting California, are likely to be imposed this summer thanks to insufficient conservation. Stupidly, the governors simultaneously pledged to work on speeding the construction of new power plants. But Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, pushed conservation efforts, warning against simply trying to ‘dig, drill and burn’ a way out of a crisis.

Leaders of tribes expressed concern that electricity problems could unravel laws and programs protecting salmon and other fish that must navigate the network of federal hydroelectric dams in the Northwest.

‘Salmon did not create the current crisis, and the Columbia River cannot continue to be run on their backs,’ said Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.


Who knows. One thing’s for sure: consumption of polluting resources marches right along, no matter how many people in an overpopulated nation and world feel free. A mass awakening awaits, but soon enough to save endangered species such as humans?


Oppression and You -- And what to do

“Step out of line/The Man come/And take you away” - Buffalo Springfield

You don’t have to be protesting to feel that quaint experience, of too mild interest to average stamped out Americans: getting the shaft from The System.

You could be out and about, exercising your preferences in deciding what to do and where to go. You know how to care for yourself without hurting anybody. But unexpectedly, because private property and government have everything nailed down and have defined all the do’s and don’t’s, you bump up against a most disturbing and unfair violation of your freedom. You wonder whom society is protecting and benefiting, and when it’s not you, you quickly realize it’s a system of “freedom”=wealth. A modicum of peace is achieved by never stepping out of line, such as being a dutiful consumer and taking The Program such as public school, etc.

Two friends of ours just had different but common experiences. One camped out by a lonely forest road, and was fined $215 for “illegal camping.” She just thought she’d sleep, considering the late hour. What was the crime? In the eyes of the State, the answer is like, “somebody got out of line. Everyone should be locked in behind their own front doors or behind prison gates.”

The other friend just paid Humboldt County over a hundred dollars for two “infractions.” First, he went though a stop sign on his bike. At the time it was safe, although some people do pedal through intersections unsafely. Significantly—to sensitive people—he was not driving a deadly machine. The real crime should be possessing one of those, or at least driving one solo so as to waste maximum fuel and fry the planet. He is not a rich man; we can picture rich people having no problem with this traffic law our friend violated. They drive cars because they can waste that much money in the first place. Traffic laws may have a theoretical fairness for all kinds of vehicles, bicyclists included. But who dominates and who is dominated? Bicyclists are oppressed by traffic laws that are harshly applied and geared toward favoring dangerous motor vehicles. Their owners control society.

His other crime was dumpster diving. He needs things he cannot afford, but, the objects and materials retrieved should not be wasted by sending them—via petroleum-powered garbage trucks—to the dump. The police and security guards are “protecting” what? In this case the garbage company owns the stuff in the dumpster supposedly, so a resourceful and non-consumeristic person like our friend was “stealing.”

We could mention political oppression relating to street demonstrations, such as at the IMF meeting in D.C. in April. People had their rights and bodies stomped on by the authorities intent on not letting a successful Seattle-like uprising occur. In such cases police, jailers and courts tend to go out of their way to flaunt their immunity from laws and human rights. Demonstrations’ participants include people who got radicalized by the System’s hostility.

But for those of us not personally bothering to see our nation in action, while we imagine we are “safe” because we stay on the job or in front of the TV, we are by now less full of illusions about the system of private property and law enforcement. Masses of people cut off from the dwindling natural world are affected by their (our) loss. Who hasn’t pictured him/herself homeless? When one does, it is on polluted streets—not in natural surroundings. Prior to civilization’s oppression, the whole human race was happily relatively “homeless.” People are becoming less content, even if they don’t know history of the State and the real basis of today’s economic and political system. Are we rats in a cage?

This discontent contributes toward much of the random violence committed by people who “unexpectedly snap.” A person is in a car for some kind of control or sense of power, and the fancier the car the more an illusion of freedom is felt. But the rich car owner can fly into “road rage,” as this Spring 2001 Auto-Free Times recounts in Susan Vaughan’s article. However, it’s more than overpopulation of cars, people, and roads driving us nuts: The dominant culture’s hallmark since its genesis 10,000 years ago is to lock up the food, causing people to work virtually as slaves. Does money thus obtained make us free? Does it spare any of us from oppression? If we think about it, we realize that no one is free if someone else is not.

This magazine tries to point out the basic insoluble features of an unworkable system. We promote sustainable alternatives such as Pedal Power Produce and Sail Transport Network. But when “It’s all been fenced or paved” (Depavers’ 408), it does little good to just vote or preach patience. “Freedom can’t be given unto you,” points out The Government Song, an unreleased tune by the Depavers. Songs of the neotribal movement reflect an undercurrent of people’s desire to come together and live in peace and freedom. Clinton, Gore, Bush, Gates et al say we must compete, but cooperation is our species’ only successful way.

People may soon rise up and reject the outrageous outside control of their daily movement, in favor of a more cooperative, local-based and self-governing system. Two common but confusing names for such a system are Anarchy and Wise Use/Free Market. The first has a respectable aspect but poor image, and the latter is little more than narrow private-property advocacy. Lack of forceful social control scares people including many liberals who would prefer unconventional people to disappear or stay in line. Another view of insufficient control is about strong government for dealing with non-recycling mega-consumers who pollute with a strident attitude. The corporate state wants us all to fear change and let the established order reign forever, even though it cannot due to its undermining itself along with the ecological life support system.

The Local Alternative
Sustainable local control would utilize love and understanding, and use defensive force if necessary for the common good. Such an alternative to the police state and myriad laws is known as tribalism. It so happens that such a form of society is what humans did for millions of years as we evolved, and what some still do—outside the dominant culture and its “development” of the land. People who benefit from today’s inequitable materialistic system call anything else “primitive.” One of their mantras is “Growth is Good,” but cancer is growth too. Not surprisingly, the cancer industries and “development” both involve lots of money. Tribes sometimes used a form of money, but such use worked sustainably due to tribal structure and tribal laws that dealt with behavior after the fact, rather than governing possible behavior.

To check further into the reasons for our civilization’s growing confusion and why it is destroying itself, as it snuffs out life everywhere on the planet, we recommend books by Daniel Quinn, particularly My Ishmael. You’ll feel better if you read it, even if you have just gotten the runaround by police or the Law. If you are a victim of cars, such as being hit by one, or having swallowed some gasoline in a siphoning job, you may not feel much better until you “rejoin the universal community.”

Meanwhile, you can spread the word that people must get together and take action: taking over their neighborhoods together to grow food organically, cook and eat together, educate the children at home or right in the neighborhood, depave, restore forests and wetlands, unplug TV’s, go off the grid, junk the cars, and buy only local products (when bartering doesn’t suffice).

These steps toward sustainability ought to be arrived at proactively, but they may have to wait for economic crash, before widespread adoption is attempted. It may be too late then, if society can’t hold together enough to watch over its 240,000 years of nuke garbage, or if the greenhouse effect runs out of control. But today we can still resist the absurdity and dysfunctionality of a System that cannot even provide clean water drinkable without a filter you must buy.

It would be nice to assume we will have the food and clean water we need to survive and rebuild society. But we are so energy dependent that cheap petroleum’s disappearance—in our lifetime—will catch our overpopulation unprepared, with its pants down, as it were, to sustain its numbers. Our research and this organization’s Advisers such as Virginia Abernethy tell us the degraded land is not supportive enough for hundreds of millions of people on any one continent even if they were peaceful vegans.

Dr. Abernethy has also educated us on the effects of today’s high Congress-approved U.S. immigration levels: more of the most energy-wasting consumers in the world. Two-thirds of U.S. population growth is now from new arrivals and their offspring.

Thank you for doing all you can do to bring about a new sustainable culture that can outlive everything that the dying one has thrown at us all.


Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.