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Monthly Archives: February 2016

San Onofre nuclear reactors between San Diego and L.A. were shuttered in 2013. Now the question is: What to do with 3,600,000 pounds of accumulated nuclear waste being stored on-site in a tsunami zone? Photo: EON

Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You

By James Heddle
EON – the Ecological Options Network

Sunset for Nuclear Power?
Does the dream of nuclear power still ‘look bright’ as one enthusiastic investment advisor gushed less than a year ago, or is it the “the dream that failed,” as the Economist asserted as far back as March of 2012?

Approaching 5 years this March 11 after the still on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster, the debate goes on, enveloped in a miasma of mis-, dis-, and conflicting information generated by industry ‘merchants of doubt,’ but rarely leavened by rational analysis of What’s Really What.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 by Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al went a long way toward settling the issue with just that – a data-based rational analysis. https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/-2015-.html

Its conclusion: Worldwide, despite a few troubled construction starts over budget and behind schedule, “The nuclear industry remains in decline.”

You’d never know it from the pro-nuclear happytalk and proposed subsidy and bailout bills being floated in Congress, but all around the world the global nuclear power industry is fighting for its life.

Nuclear Showdown in California

Nowhere is that battle closer to being decisively lost by the industry than in California, where the Sunshine State’s ‘last nuke standing’ – PG&E’s Diablo Canyon – faces a very uncertain future. A showdown between those who want to shut it down, and those who want to keep it going.

It is a microcosmic drama with all the elements of a movie thriller:
• A corrupt California Public Utilities Commission racked in scandals.
• A compromised Nuclear Regulatory Commission captured by nuclear interests.
• A resurgent peoples’ movement determined to shut Diablo down and responsibly manage the state’s thousands of tons of lethal radioactive waste.
• The growing vision of a nuclear-energy-free West Coast and a solartopian transition.
• A handful of atomic denialists clamoring clamoring to ‘save Diablo.’
• All this in the context of deepening climate change and the battle for decentralized, clean, renewable power.

A Diablo shutdown in California would be a shot heard in nuclear boardrooms around the world, and would continue this bellwether state’s reputation as being ‘no country for old nukes.’

A quick look at the history of California’s Nuclear Free Movement tells the tale.

Back last century, then-President Nixon predicted 1000 nuclear reactors in the US by the year 2000.

In the 60’s, PG&E announced plans to build 63 reactors every 25 miles up and down the California coast.

Thanks to informed popular resistance interventions in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the streets, that didn’t happen.

Only 10 of those planned power reactors ever got built: 1 at Humboldt Bay, 1 at Pleasanton, 1 at Santa Susana, 2 at Rancho Secco, 3 at San Onofre, and 2 at Diablo Canyon.

Today, only 2 are still in operation, those at Diablo Canyon.

From a planned 63 nuclear power plants in the 1960’s, down to 1 in 2015.

Not a bad track record for the effectiveness of informed non-violent, popular resistance…and a demonstration of the non-viability of nuclear energy – vulnerable as it is to public opposition, industry incompetence, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and what renowned energy expert Amory Lovins long ago called ‘a terminal overdose of market forces.’

The shutdown of San Onofre in 2013 was hailed as ‘a seismic event’ for the nuclear industry.

The man who said that was in a position to know whereof he spoke, because he had once been an executive in that very industry AND had played an important part as a consultant to Friends of the Earth in helping to get San Onofre shut down.

That would be Arnie Gundersen. His partner Maggie Gundersen, founded and is president of Fairewinds Energy Education, for which Arnie serves as Chief Nuclear Engineer. https://www.fairewinds.org/

The Fairewinds organization has emerged as a major player in informing the public about the risks of nuclear power and the real potential of what lifelong No Nukes campaigner Harvey Wasserman calls a solartopian transition to a renewable energy economy. https://solartopia.org/ https://www.nukefree.org/

Since the San Onofre shutdown, and with a renewed sense of risk triggered by being on the frontline of Fukushima fallout, a resurgent Nuclear Free California movement has turned its attention to Diablo Canyon. There, two aging, embrittled reactors sited over 13 (count em) intersecting earthquake faults, in a seismically active state, in a tsunami zone (just like Fukushima), are being operated by a company under state investigation and federal indictment for safety negligence.

Back in 1981, history’s most massive non-violent blockade to that date, with thousands participating, occurred at Diablo in a valiant-but-futile attempt to prevent the plant’s start-up.

Today, the operating licenses for the plant’s two remaining reactors are set to expire in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Now, with its age, precarious location, serious environmental impacts, massive killing of marine life, public safety risks, PG&E negligence, seismic and tsunami vulnerabilities, lax regulatory oversight, economic viability and energy contribution all being called into question, pressure is building for shutdown of the plant’s two remaining reactors.

2015 began with a regional conference organized by a state-wide coalition and hosted by Mothers for Peace in the plant’s home county, San Luis Obispo, aimed at mobilizing public awareness and local, regional and national pressure for closure.

Gundersens and Wasserman both closed the year with well-attended speaking tours designed to encourage informed opposition to the plant’s continued operation.

PG&E officials themselves are on record as being unsure whether or not the beleaguered utility – ‘with a lot on its plate right now’ – will seek extension of the licenses.

However, John Geesman of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility reports that information obtained through legal discovery by his organization indicates that PG&E spent $9 million in 2015 and intends to spend $15 million in 2016 working toward relicensing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix-peILdAzY&feature=youtu.be

California’s Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom – a former San Francisco mayor who chairs the state’s Land Commission, and is already running for Governor in 2018 – recently opined that “I just don’t see that this plant is going to survive beyond 2024, 2025. I just don’t see that.… And there is a compelling argument as to why it shouldn’t.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKeXy0O_Sjg

Nuclear Denialists Panic

That may be why, in what looks like the plant’s eleventh hour, self-styled ‘environmentalist’ and hyper-technophile Michael Shallenberger has founded the SaveDiabloCoallition https://www.savediablocanyon.org/ and launched a campaign claiming that (not even a Colbert could make this up) a Diablo shutdown would lead to an ‘environmental disaster.’

Charging that public fears of nuclear risks – based on incontrovertible evidence and undeniable past experience – are ‘overblown’ and ‘irrational,’ Shallenberger, with surprising media attention, has become a new mouthpiece for the view that, because of its ‘low’ carbon emissions, nuclear power is a ‘clean’ source of energy and therefore a major solution to climate change.

That was a view promoted at the recent CoP21 Paris climate talks by such luminaries as James Hansen. With no great result it turns out. The Ecologist reports: https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/The-Ecologist-UK-Nuclear-renaissance-Failing-industry-is-running-flat-out-to.html

The nuclear power industry’s malaise was all too evident at the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris in December. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd noted:
“It was entirely predictable that the nuclear industry achieved precisely nothing at the recent Paris COP21 talks and in the subsequent international agreement. …
“Analysis of the submissions of the 196 governments that signed up to the Paris agreement, demonstrating their own individual schemes on how to reduce national carbon emissions, show that nearly all of them exclude nuclear power.
“The future is likely to repeat the experience of 2015 when 10 new reactors came into operation worldwide but 8 shut down. So as things stand, the industry is essentially running to stand still.”

In any case, Hansen & friends are in error. See: “Mark Jacobson to James Hansen: Nukes Are Not Needed to Solve World’s Climate Crisis” https://ecowatch.com/2016/01/04/mark-jacobson-james-hansen/
And “The World Can Transition to
100% Clean, Renewable Energy” https://thesolutionsproject.org/

Comparisons are Odious…and Misleading

The contention that nuclear energy is ‘carbon free’ is a piece of dis-information. Yes, relative to those of coal, oil, and gas, the total carbon emissions from the nuclear fuel chain is lowER. But, by no stretch of the data, are they zero.

When you add together all the fossil fuel-dependent earth-moving machines, transportation, milling and processing operations, security and grappling with transporting and storing tons of radioactive waste lethal for thousands of years, it becomes clear how big the actual carbon footprint of the nuclear energy industry really is.

But, not only does the nuclear fuel chain emit carbon at every stage, it also emits DNA and public health destroying radioactive pollution.

Every day, ‘routine emissions’ from every nuclear reactor in the world contaminate the surrounding environment and population with radiological pollution. It’s all about our genetic heritage, you see.

Pro-Nuclear HennyPennys

Like denialist counterparts in the asbestos, tobacco, oil and GMO industries, Shallenberger and his coalition colleagues poopoo the risks of their product. But they think the sky will fall if Diablo is shutdown.

“Last week,“reports Mother Jones’ Tim McDonnell https://m.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/diablo-canyon-nuclear-plant-climate-change
“in an effort to ensure that Diablo Canyon isn’t shut down in the near future, this new coalition sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown (D); the CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility that owns the plant; and five state regulatory officials. The letter warned that “closing Diablo Canyon would make it far harder to meet the state’s climate goals.” The 61 signatories include Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, climate scientists James Hansen of Columbia University and Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker.

According to Shellenberger’s research, the MJ story goes on, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2703039-Diablo-v11.html

Diablo Canyon currently produces twice as much power as all the state’s solar panels (California is the nation’s No. 1 solar state). Closing it, he said, would not only shave off one-fifth of the state’s zero-carbon energy, but potentially increase the state’s emissions by an amount equivalent to putting 2 million cars on the road per year. That’s because the power gap left by the plant’s closure would likely be filled by new natural gas plants—which is what happened when San Onofre was shuttered.

“What’s powerful about Diablo is the sheer size of it,” he said. “If you flip it [off], carbon emissions go up so much.”

That’s where the Porter Ranch gas leak and a little investigative background history come in.

Methane, Radon and a Missed Opportunity

You may have noticed that utilities are not all that happy about the advent of what futurist and international business consultant Jeremy Rifkin describes as ‘a new energy regime’ which is ‘decentralized, distributive and collaborative’ (and democratically managed in the public interest), because it threatens their investor-owned, centralized business model.

That’s why utilities around the country are fighting so hard to make rooftop solar and net-metering prohibitively expensive.

The California Energy Commission’s own data have shown for years that the state has a 40% surplus energy capacity. The piddling amount supplied by Diablo – Shallenberger says 8%%, others calculate 6% – could easily be made up by conservation, efficiency and the state’s huge untapped solar and geothermal energy potential in Imperial County, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has identified as one of the richest sources in the nation.

But when San Onofre shut down, where did the decision-makers turn for making up the difference? Not conservation, efficiency and renewables, but gas.

That’s where the Porter Ranch gas leak comes in.

Termed by famed whistleblower Erin Brockovith ‘The worst environmental disaster since the Gulf Oil Spill,” the world knows by now that the still-ongoing leak emits hundreds of tons of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere every day – according to the California Air Resources Board, the equivalent of “more than 1,411,851 cars.”

According to an on-going investigation by San Diego-based attorneys Mike Aguirre and Mia Severson, the post-San Onofre decision to switch to gas and therefore reliance on use and expansion of the Porter Ranch gas storage facility rather than available renewable sources was made behind the scenes in secret meetings by government officials.

According to a letter sent Feb. 8, 2016 by the attorneys to Mike Gatto, Chairperson of the State Utilities and Commerce Committee, the trail of responsibility for the decision leading to the Porter Ranch disaster leads all the way to Governor Jerry Brown. https://www.planetarianperspectives.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Letter-to-Chairperson-Gatto-2-8-16-signed.pdf

That’s where the post-San Onofre uptick in carbon emissions came from that Shallenberger and company are so worried about.

But here’s the kicker: according to recent reports, the leak not only contains the greenhouse gas methane and many other toxic compounds that have made hundreds sick and forced the evacuation of thousands. It also contains the radioactive gas radon. https://nuclearhotseat.com/2016/01/13/nuclear-hotseat-238-special-porter-ranchradon-radiation-risk-kevin-kamps-cindy-folkers-richard-mathews-terry-lodge/

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Dependent on off-site power sources for its over-crowded waste storage pools, crammed with more accumulated waste in dry storage canisters (despite 7 decades of trying, there is still no federal radwaste repository on the horizon) every nuclear power plant is a time bomb in place awaiting a desperate, ruthless, tech- savvy terrorist. And, as Chernobyl and Fukushima amply demonstrate, every local nuclear disaster is a global nuclear catastrophe as well.

So, since we are all downwinders now, and the ‘save Diablo’ denialists’ hysteria to the contrary notwithstanding…Why Decommission Diablo? Let us count the whys:

Diablo’s Dirty Baker’s Dozen

• It has two aging reactors in a tsunami zone, just like Fukushima
• It’s located over a network of 13 active earthquake faults
• It’s out of compliance with fire regulations
• It’s out of compliance with seismic regulations
• It’s out of compliance with California’s Once-Through Cooling law
• It destroys sea life
• It releases toxic emissions in daily operation
• It’s a proven health risk to the surrounding population
• It has no emergency evacuation plan for the surrounding population
• A senior NRC inspector recently said ‘shut it down’ until seismic safety is assessed and was overruled
• It’s totally vulnerable to physical and cybernetic terrorist attacks
• Its energy output is not needed
• It is run by a company that punishes whistleblowers and is under indictment and investigation for safety abuses and corrupt practices.

Once a powerful citizens’ movement opposed Diablo’s start-up.

Now a resurgent movement of citizens is saying ‘Shut It Down’ and calling for a nuclear energy free West Coast.

A Nation of Downwinders

Fallout from Chernobyl registered throughout the northern hemisphere. Fallout from the still-on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster was detected across the United States and into eastern Europe. Radioactive contamination of the Pacific continues inching toward our shores.

Prevailing winds off the Pacific blow inland – south and southwest. Simulations of fallout from a Diablo disaster show Santa Barbara and L.A. both being in the potential path. Drifting east, fallout from a nuclear disaster in CA would first take out the central valley, a major food source for the world, then continue on cross-country in unpredictable swirls and pockets. We would literally become a country of downwinders.

The Real Implications of a Diablo Shutdown

On the other hand, a Diablo shutdown and the demise of nuclear power in California:

Would represent a double win for democratic choice and enlightened energy policy

Would be a victory and vindication for a non-violent movement that has persisted for over half a century

Would be one more stake in the heart of an international dinosaur industry thrashing about in its death throes and taking desperate measures to survive.

Would free up resources for, and stimulate a policy shift toward helping California again lead the way in a solartopian transition to a renewable energy future.

Because of CA’s image as an early adaptor bellwether state, policy-makers, legislators and investors around the country and the world take notice.

And, with more and more shutdowns of aging reactors around the country being announced each month, it would help speed the day – listen for the approaching hoofbeats – of decommissioning coming soon to a reactor near you.

Worldwide, as Dr. Jim Green observes in the recent Ecologist article, “…with over 200 reactor shut-downs due by 2040, the industry will have to run very hard indeed just to stay put.”

James Heddle is currently at work on a documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection. https://www.shutdowndoc.tv/
He co-directs EON – The Ecological Options Network with his partner Mary Beth Brangan. EON3.net. https://eon3.net/ EON’s YouTube Channel is here : https://www.youtube.com/user/eon3/videos He can be reached at mailto:Jim@eon3.net .

by James Heddle

“There comes a time in human affairs when we must seize the bull by the tail and stare the situation squarely in the face.” –  W.C. Fields

“Consciousness is suffering.” – Gautama Buddha

“Don’t Worry Be Happy.” – Meher Baba & Bobby McFerrin

“Hope is not something you have. Its something you do. Hope is a verb.” – Joanna Macy

Not a Pretty Picture:
The Nuclear Energy/Weapons/Waste/War/Winter Perplex and Climate Change

Right when the situation looked really dire…it just got worse.

With 2015 the hottest year on record, climate chaos is upon us with a vengeance, Paris agreements to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rumors of an impending WW III abound. There’s a New Nuclear Arms Race taking shape, and a New Nuclear Reactor Race is currently in play, too.

The Madness is Mounting

The last week of headlines tells the story.

  • • Obama is funding new ‘high tech’ reactor research
    • The Senate is considering S.2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Bill that would mandate and subsidize development of new nuclear reactor designs
    • China is funding floating reactor development
    • Japan is exploring nuclear waste tunnels in a seismically active seabed
    • Hackable reactors in 20 countries are vulnerable to cyber-attack-caused meltdowns
    • A massive gas leak in LA has been found to include radioactive radon, with other faulty natural gas storage facilities at risk across the country
    • Fukushima contamination of the Pacific continues with no end in sight
    • Japan’s Abe government is pushing to restart idled reactors despite massive opposition
    • Two have been restarted so far in this seismicly challenged, volcano-ridden country
    • One of them is using highly toxic plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel
    • Armed plutonium shipments are criss-crossing the high seas
    • U.S. utilities are fighting to economically penalize rooftop solar
    • Nuclear enthusiasts are clamoring to extend the operation of California’s last, aging nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon – located on 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone
    • Nuclear war threats loom, and the Atomic Clock is still ticking at 3 minutes to midnight.

What could possibly go wronx#%…?

Of course, you’d never know any of this if your mind is mesmerized by the Daily Distractions of America’s main stream electoral telenovela.

Watching ‘Debates’ While Rome Burns

None of the media-recognized, two-party presidential contenders will touch this triad of over-riding existential threats to our society – nuclear risks, war as a business model, and climate chaos – with a ten-foot pole.

Not to mention: America’s rigged voting system, its entrenched corporate Deep State, permanent war economy, and total surveillance system.

Or the transnational corporate mergers consolidating control of the global food and medicine supply.

Or the roll-out of secret, super-national ‘trade agreements’ that trump democracy, national sovereignty, international laws, human rights and environmental protection.

Or privately-funded, planet-wide,unauthorized toxic telecommunication, weather warfare, and geoengineering schemes perpetrated by militaries, corporations, hubristic billionaires, and unelected elites.

Being aware of all this makes it very difficult to take seriously encouraging, happy talk, upbeat calls for ‘getting engaged in positive change.’

So, what is to be done? That is the question.

Anybody have any ideas? Or is optimism in the face of converging catastrophes just denial in hope’s clothing?

Stochacity Happens

People often ask us, ‘Knowing what you know, what keeps you going?” Our answer is ‘stocacity.’ That’s a fundamental property of the universe – revealed by leading edge physics, evolutionary biology and systems theory – also known as ‘stocasticity,’ ‘unpredictability,’ or simply ‘surprise.’

As world systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein reminds us, when a system is in ‘fibrillation,’ ‘very far from equilibrium’ – as our world system is today – small impacts and interventions can have much more powerful effect than when the ‘status quo’ is firm and stable.

Yes, we face more serious planet-wide existential threats than ever before in recorded history. At the same time, (as Paul Hawken reminded us as far back as 2007)there have never been so many people active, at so many levels, on so many issues worldwide as at this moment in time.

At the emergent, quantum-foamy bottom of evolutionary emergence, apparent trends are not determinative of ultimate outcomes, and all predictions and expectations – whether ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ from a self-centered human point of view – are radically subject to uncertainty. Cynical certainty is enervating and debilitating. Activity is energizing, enlivening and enjoyable, even if, ultimately, it may prove futile. No way to know.

And anyway, as any good martial arts instructor will tell you, the fetal position with thumb-in-mouth is not an effective defense posture.

Hope as a Verb

So, I want to draw your attention to three people who have taken W.C. Field’s sage advice quoted above…and lived to tell the tale (no pun intended).

Jill Who? Yes, Griselda, there IS a Green Party candidate for President.

Not only is she running, but she has a rationally thought-out platform that – according to at least one commentator (and this writer) – makes even more sense than Bernie’s.

That would be Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a medical doctor with a diagnosis and treatment plan for a very sick republic.

Having covered her campaign in the 2012 election in Ohio, we can attest that this lady is smart, strong, articulate and serious.

Unlike any of the anointed, media-certified Republican or Democratic candidates, she has ‘stared the situation squarely in the face’ and addressed our three prime existential threats: nuclearism, the permanent war economy and climate chaos with viable responses. As David Swanson reports from his recent interview with her:

“Cutting the military budget is something that we can do right now,” Stein told me, “but we want to be clear that we are putting an end to wars for oil – period. And that is part of our core policy of a Green New Deal which creates an emergency program, establishing twenty million living wage jobs, full-time jobs, to green the economy, our energy, food, and transportation systems, building critical infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, etc. This is an emergency program that will get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. So this is a war-time-level mobilization in order to completely detoxify our energy system, and that means both nuclear and fossil fuel. In doing that, we deprive the empire of this major justification for wars and bases all around the world. So we want to be clear that that emphasis is gone, and goading the American public into war so as to feed our fossil fuel energy system – that ends and makes all the more essential and possible the major cutting of the military budget.”
Which 50 percent of the military would Stein cut? Two places she named that she would start with (there would have to be much more) are foreign bases (she’d close them) and the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Would she unilaterally scrap U.S. nukes? I asked.

“We don’t even need to do it unilaterally,” Stein said, “because the Russians have been begging to revive the process of nuclear disarmament, which the U.S., in its wisdom, undercut. … The Russians have been persistently trying to restore those nuclear talks for the purpose of disarmament. And that would be step one – is to make major reductions between the U.S. and Russia and then to convene a world forum to put an end to nuclear weapons altogether.”

Stein also advocates canceling the student debt, single-payer health care for all and ending the arms trade and the permanent war economy.

Beyond the ‘Deep State’

Mike Lofgren was a former Congressional staffer for current Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Now a NY Times bestselling author, Lofgren draws on his years of experience and observations as a Beltway insider for his latest opus, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.
Lofgren pulls no punches in describing in documented detail the entrenched rule of “…a hybrid association of key elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States with only limited reference to the consent of the governed as normally expressed through elections.”
According to Lofgren,

“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism and the militarization of foreign policy, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure that has given us the most unequal society in almost a century, and the political dysfunction that has paralyzed day-to-day governance.”

He validates on the basis of his experience the conclusions of a recent study of three decades of data by liberal mainstream political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton, and Benjamin Page of Northwestern, which found that the U.S. political system has become “an oligarchy,” where wealthy elites and their corporations “rule,” regardless of which party is in Congress and the White House.

“The central point that emerges from our research,” Gilens and Page wrote, “is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Having spent nearly 300 pages analyzing the various aspects and manifestations of Deep State functioning, Lofgren ends by reminding us that change happened even back in the day of the post-civil war Robber Barons, when the foundations of ‘corporate personhood’ were laid. A handful of millionaires like John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and their banking cronies ruled and “striking workers were routinely massacred by corporate security guards,” much like police murder urban African Americans today.

“Yet somehow, by dint of sustained agitation by prairie populists and urban progressives alike, conditions began to change. Congress passed the Sherman and Clayton antitrust measures and pure food and drug laws: states began to regulate the conditions of labor; child labor laws were gradually abolished; some states granted their citizens the power of initiative, referendum and recall. Women finally received the vote. A couple of decades later, the New Deal Completed the agenda with wage and hour laws, collective bargaining rights, banking reform, old age and disability insurance, and several other innovations – and this occurred during the biggest global economic catastrophe of the modern age.

“Our forebears have shown that reforming the American political system, while likely to be difficult and protracted (it may take decades to accomplish) is not impossible.”
He points out that history is always a product of “circumstance, chance and human action.”

Although we may not have decades to work with – given the immanent threats of nuclear catastrophes, annihilation and climate chaos, Lofgren offers a list of recommendations to be pursued:

1. Eliminate private money from public election.
2. Sensibly redeploy and downsize the military and intelligence complex.
3. Stay out of the Middle East.
4. Redirect the peace dividend to domestic infrastructure improvement.
5. Start enforcing our antitrust laws again.
6. Reform tax policy.
7. Reform immigration policy.
8. Adopt a single-payer health care system.
9. Abolish corporation’s personhood status, or else treat them exactly like persons.
But, given the virtual black-out of relevant news and the public’s general aversion to ‘depressing’ information and ‘downer’ stories, how are any of Jill Stein’s or Mike Lofgren’s visions likely to be achieved?

Active Hope – Aspiration in Action

Active Hope,’ is the title of a new book by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. In it, they eschew feel good denial, cynical disengagement and baseless optimism.

“In our culture,” says Macy in a recent video, “I believe there is much too much value put on optimism. It can actually encourage a kind of mental sloppiness: ‘Oh, I’m really optimistic!’ But we say this as if it is a form of personal failing to actually look and say ‘I’m pessimistic. It really doesn’t look good, does it?’

“This is a problem largely unique to America. And our brothers and sisters in Europe roll their eyes when we say we’re feeling that way. We inherited that from ‘This country’s based on hope and manifest destiny, and a successful person is ready with all the answers, brimming with grins and optimism…’ even when it’s asinine.

“Hope is not something you have. It’s something you do. Hope is a verb. That means there is something you can do, even when you’re depressed. It’s something that arises out of your caring for the world.”

But, as Macy and Johnstone wisely acknowledge, there are no comforting certainties involved in opting to work for change with ‘active hope:’

“…there are no guarantees that we’ll be able to turn things far or fast enough to safeguard our civilization, or indeed, to ensure the continued existence of conscious life on Earth. We will probably not know in our lifetimes whether we are serving as deathbed attendants to a dying world or as midwives to the next stage of human evolution.”

Take home message:

Forget meditating in a cave, following the latest Great Leader or uber-guru, or wearing a hair shirt. Activism for nuclear abolition, peace, social, economic and environmental justice is the current era’s main spiritual path.

So seize the bull by the tail, choose your issue and intervention point, and remember, “Stochacity Happens.”

===============

James Heddle is currently at work on a documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection. He co-directs EON – The Ecological Options Network with his partner Mary Beth Brangan. EON3.net. EON’s Youtube Channel is here.

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