Can a city make its own energy?

The novel Threshold explores possible outcomes in Tucson, Arizona as climate change continues to dry out and heat up the Southwest.

The National Climate Assessment targets heat, drought, and insect outbreaks among other impacts for the Southwest. Surface water supply is expected to decrease as snowpack and stream flow decrease.

Projected regional temperature increases, combined with the way cities amplify heat, will pose increased threats and costs to public health in southwestern cities, which are home to more than 90% of the region’s population. Disruptions to urban electricity and water supplies will exacerbate these health problems.

Threshold tells a story about characters caught in a spiraling heat emergency and black out that stuns the city. South Tucson, a city within the Tucson city limits, rises to become more self-reliant through a solar field and solar gardens.

Yesterday, Reuters published an interesting review about changes in solar industries, showing how big solar (large scale solar fields for example) are becoming cheaper and more efficient than roof-top solar.

Many trace the tipping point for utility-scale solar to a 2014 announcement by Austin Energy that it would buy power from a new 150 megawatt solar plant – enough to light and cool 30,000 homes – for 5 cents a kilowatt hour. At the time, it was a record low price for solar power. Since then, projects have brought the price below 4 cents a kWh.

In Tucson, the  Bright Solar program offers residents an opportunity to buy blocks of solar power from a solar field. When the grid goes down however, how can residents continue to generate power if they do not have their own home or neighborhood solar panels and battery storage?

It is important to think carefully about these new technologies and the opportunities they offer people for more democratic ownership of common resources. See the concept of Solar Commons.

As solar power becomes cheaper to generate, will everyone benefit? How can a city and utility work to make solar power available to everyone? As the solar industry develops, how can communities make sure their residents have access to new training and skills necessary for employment in the solar power industry?

In Threshold, South Tucson answers those questions and solves another challenge: the high rate of unemployed youth in their community.


For Sale: The Future of Gulf Coast Communities

cropped-pensacola-beach.jpgOn March 23, Pensacola citizens, ranging from age 7 to 70, traveled to New Orleans to protest the sale of 45M acres of Gulf Coastal waters and land for oil and gas exploration. 350 Pensacola rallied citizens to represent our area. Forty members of the community made the trip–nearly 20% of the 200 protesters who disrupted the sale of coastal lands at the Superdome on Wednesday.

During the protest, representatives from the oil and gas industry bid on the lands. Two chilling aspects of the experience were: 1) hearing the actual bids, some very low, for our precious resources called out during the chants from protesters; 2) observing the implacable faces of the industry representatives in the face of uninterrupted chanting and singing from protesters.

Later, as we enjoyed a beautiful day in New Orleans, I kept thinking about those faces, unmoved, like masks. I wondered what happens to people to become part of a violent process that is destructive to marine waters and impacts the health and well being of the people who live in the path of oil spills or  areas where petroleum is refined. Hilton Kelley, a Texas citizen and winner of a Goldman Environmental Prize, addressed the protesters and media about the struggle and successes of his community in Port Arthur, Texas to work with industry to protect people from harmful chemicals and spills from petroleum refining. Kelley is also a poet:

Escambia and Santa Rosa County face their own threats to ocean and estuary habitats. Florida – a state which has notoriously exploited its own natural resources – banned offshore drilling to protect its major industry: tourism. Now, however, the state legislature is opening up its fragile aquifers to fracking and oil exploration. Santa Rosa County has already approved applications from oil companies for exploration in the shared aquifer with Pensacola. Escambia County has an application from Breitburn Operating for one as of July 2015. In a parallel process, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners is making decisions about how to spend $10M in BP fines from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill which devastated Pensacola’s economy and impacted the health of marine environments locally.

As I think back about my experience on Wednesday, this chant, and the little children up front chanting with their homemade signs rang in my memory:

“The people united can never be defeated.”






Children File Suit in Court for a Safe Environment

From article on Bill Moyers & Company:
From article on Bill Moyers & Company:

Bill Moyer’s & Company featured this article. Children and youths ages 8-19 filed a complaint in Eugene, Oregon’s U.S. District Court that their rights to a safe environment have been violated.

The nonprofit, Our Children’s Trust, filed on behalf of the children. The Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the case; a federal court judge is considering the request.

By favoring the current generations over their generation, and not acting to reduce the impacts of climate change, the children contend the U.S. government – the President and the federal, state, and local agencies charged to protect the environment – has denied their generation the rights that emanate from a safe environment.

This is a violation of the public trust.

On the NOAA Vital Signs of the Planet website today, the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 402.26 parts per million (ppt). 350 ppt or lower is considered a safe concentration for earth’s ecosystems and life within the biosphere. Concomitant rise in temperature from rising CO2 atmospheric concentration (a greenhouse gas) is unevenly applied on Earth. However, to date the average rise in temperature is  1 degree Centigrade or 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit across the whole planet. Small changes in average temperatures on Earth are associated with massive changes in climate such as the beginning or end of an ice age.

Question for Readers:

Are the children within in their rights to sue our generation, our government, for violating their rights?

Please comment to spark a discussion. See 2 video interviews on the link above.

Nature’s Trust

Living Dangerously

Fish and Wildlife Photo:
Fish and Wildlife Photo:

“We are living dangerously by not being able to change in a time of climate change.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

To the Best of Our Knowledge broadcast an interview with Terry Tempest Williams. Here she talks about researching and writing her soon to be released book (The Hour of Land) on the history of our public parks, in this the centennial year of the founding of the National Parks.

Here is the interview.

For a look at how Terry relates to our public lands and actualizes her beliefs, here is a short interview with her on Democracy Now where she describes buying more than 1700 acres of public lands in a rather private sale of public land for oil leasing where an acre costs about a $1.50 for the right to drill and keep the profits. She is redefining “energy” in how she intends to explore these public lands. This is a very enlightening and motivating example of what one person can do to stop the destruction of critical, sacred habitat.

Living in a less tolerant time…

My grandparents' farm house in Watauga, TN.
My grandparents’ farm house in Watauga, TN.

My grandparents were long time Republicans, small farming families from east Tennessee. Their values of self-reliance and Christian values remain in what is today a mostly Democratic family. Perhaps for that reason, I’ve always had an “ear” for the Republican side of politics and governing.

Moreover, I consider it an American citizen’s duty to consider both or all sides of politics before making decisions. Yet today, like no other time in my life as an American, can I remember when a candidate who openly supports xenophobia, hatred, and incivility, is rising to the forefront of the Republican party.

Historians liken our time to that of Germany and the rise of Hitler, another state where whites began to fear the “other.”  In the 1930’s,  Germans began to point a finger at one group as the reason for economic ills: Jews.

Donald Trump is rising on a wave of hate and frustration among white Americans feeling a threat to their economic security. This is part of a general loss of faith in institutions overall, a point made by Juan Cole on his blog, Informed Comment.

The fact is that our demographic is changing in color. If the idea of our Republic was to establish a white, Christian state with men in power forever, then it was never a Republic. What our forefathers did (when in fact the starting point was white, Christian, male) was to set into motion the idea that everyone can obtain the right to pursue their own happiness as long as they are willing to meet a basic set of criteria. And that criteria requires we participate actively in a democratic way of life. Discourse (the exchange of points of view for consideration by all), not debate (where one view wins over another) is a hallmark of democracy. Granted, Americans struggle to live up to these high ideals. But, that’s what makes us great.

History shows us that tolerance is a key component of American life, too, that we must all be able to listen to each other with respect, and to engage in reciprocity as we exchange ideas. That is really hard. But its required in a Republic.

What we have today are two forces rotting the core of our Republic: 1) good people who remain silent (of all political persuasions); 2) giving media time and voice to a demagogue who represents nothing about the American way of life. The latter is a function of the erosion of the free press into vacuous and dangerous entertainment.

Losing our Republic is possible in our lifetime. And, oh, what a tragedy when I think of what it took of our forebears to win it, and all the generations – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – who have fought so hard to keep it, improve it, and rise to its ideal of civil discourse and cooperative living.

A couple of ways to explore more on this topic:

Neal Gabler Article on Bill

Fox News Article on what a Trump world might be like.


Presidential Candidates’ Education: Mike Huckabee and John Kasich

capital-bldg-daytimeWe are just about finished with the examination of the education and early influences that shaped each of the Presidential candidates. This exercise was inspired by W.E.B. DuBois:

If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools—intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it—this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life. ~ The Talented Tenth


Education and Early Life on Wikipedia:

Huckabee was born on August 24, 1955, in Hope, Arkansas,[11] son of Dorsey Wiles Huckabee and his wife Mae (Elder) Huckabee, conservative Southern Democrats. Huckabee is of English ancestry, with roots in America dating to the colonial era.[12][13] He has cited his working-class upbringing as the reason for his political views;[14] his father worked as a fireman and mechanic, and his mother worked as a clerk at a gas company.[15]

His first job, when he was 14, was at a radio station where he read the news and weather.[16] He was elected Governor of Arkansas by his chapter of the American Legion-sponsored Boys State program in 1972.[11] He was student council vice president at Hope High School during the 1971–72 school year. He was student council president at Hope High School during the 1972–1973 school year.[17] He has one sister, Mrs. Pat Harris, a middle school teacher.[18]

Huckabee married his wife, Janet (McCain), on May 25, 1974.[18] He graduated magna cum laude from Ouachita Baptist University, completing his bachelor’s degree in Religion in two-and-a-half years before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary inFort Worth, Texas. He dropped out of the seminary after one year in order to take a job in Christian broadcasting.[19][20][21]

Books: God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, Do the Right Thing

Other Links: Mike HuckabeeOn the Issues



Kasich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, an industrial town near Pittsburgh.[9] He is the son of Anne (Vukovich) and John Kasich, who worked as a mail carrier.[10][11]Kasich’s father was of Czech descent, while his mother was of Croatian ancestry.[12] Both his father and mother were children of immigrants.[10] He has described himself as “a Croatian and a Czech”.[13]

After attending public schools in McKees Rocks, Kasich enrolled at Ohio State University, where he joined the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.[14] As a freshman he wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon describing concerns he had about the nation and requesting a meeting with the President. The letter was delivered to Nixon by the University’s presidentNovice Fawcett and Kasich was granted a 20-minute meeting with Nixon in December 1970.[15][16]

Earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Ohio State University in 1974,[17] he went on to work as a researcher for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.[18]From 1975 to 1978, he served as an administrative assistant to then-state SenatorBuz Lukens.[19]

BOOKS: Stand for Something, Every Other Monday

Other Links: Governor John Kasich, On the Issues, NY Times Article

Presidential Candidates’ Education: Martin O’Malley and Ted Cruz

capital-bldg-daytimeContinuing this blog’s recent discussion based on W.E.B. Du Bois’ belief that a person’s education should develop his or her character and be driven by ideals rather than simply a trajectory to an occupation.

If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools—intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it—this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life. ~ from The Talented Tenth in The Negro Problem

So we are looking at a Democrat and a Republican Presidential candidate with each subsequent blog. So far we have looked at: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. Hint: Click on the book links; most allow the reader to read partial chapters in the book. Education and early influences are presented in all of them.


O’Malley attended the Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda and Gonzaga College High School.[15] He went on to The Catholic University of America, graduating in 1985. Later that year he enrolled at the School of Law of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, earning his Juris Doctor in 1988 and passing the bar that same year. ~

Born in Washington, DC, Martin O’Malley was raised in Rockville, Maryland by parents who taught him the importance of public service. His father, Thomas, served as an Air Force bombardier in World War II, flying 33 missions over the Pacific. After the war, he attended law school on the G.I. Bill, working his way up to become an Assistant United States Attorney. O’Malley’s mother, Barbara, has worked in Congress for nearly 30 years, where she continues to serve on the staff of the state’s first female United States Senator, Barbara Mikulski. ~


Martin O’Malley: History, Politics, and Future by Sean C. Corwin

Who is Martin O’Malley by Tag Powell

Other Links:

On the Issues



From Wikipedia:

Cruz attended two private high schools: Faith West Academy in Katy, Texas[26] and Second Baptist High School in Houston, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1988.[19][27][28] During high school, Cruz participated in a Houston-based group called the Free Market Education Foundation where he learned about free-market economic philosophers such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Frédéric Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises.[29] The program was run by Rolland Storey, and Cruz entered the program at the age of 13.[13]  …. 

Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy[33] from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1992.[3][34]While at Princeton, he competed for the American Whig-Cliosophic Society‘s Debate Panel and won the top speaker award at both the 1992 U.S. National Debating Championship and the 1992 North American Debating Championship.[35] In 1992, he was named U.S. National Speaker of the Year, and with his debate partner David Panton won Team of the Year.[35] Cruz and Panton would later represent Harvard Law School at the 1995 World Debating Championship, losing in the semi-finals to a team from Australia.[36][37][38] Princeton’s debate team named their annual novice championship after Cruz.[38]

Cruz’s senior thesis at Princeton investigated the separation of powers; its title, Clipping the Wings of Angels, draws its inspiration from a passage attributed to US PresidentJames Madison: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Cruz argued that the drafters of the Constitution intended to protect the rights of their constituents, and that the last two items in the Bill of Rights offer an explicit stop against an all-powerful state.[22][39]

After graduating from Princeton, Cruz attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1995 with a Juris Doctor degree.[3][40] While at Harvard Law, he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review, and executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review.[34]Referring to Cruz’s time as a student at Harvard Law, Professor Alan Dershowitz said, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant”.[41][42][43][44] At Harvard Law, Cruz was a John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics.[45]


A Time for Truth by Ted Cruz

Who Is Ted Cruz by Tag Powell

Other Links:

Ted Cruz Bio


Presidential Candidates’ Education: Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio

Capitol NightimeThis post continues the examination of the education and early influences that formed the character of Presidential Candidates. Below are a few ways to get started with your own independent research. Please reply back with additional links or information to enrich this online discussion.


See the link to Hillary Clinton, The Pros and the Cons by Donald Michaels which gives an objective background on Mrs. Clinton’s upbringing and education.

The eldest daughter of Hugh and Dorothy Rodham’s three children, Hillary Diane Rodham was born in Chicago on October 26, 1947. Her father, owner of a small drapery fabric business, was a staunch Republican from Pennsylvania. Her mother, a closet Democrat who left her own dysfunctional home at 14 to work as a nanny, was affectionate and levelheaded. From her parents, Hillary learned thrift, hard work, self-reliance, service to others, and a love of God and country. Her mother inculcated a deep respect for learning and coached her young daughter to fight back against bullies: “You have to stand up for yourself,” she told Hillary. “There’s no room in this house for cowards” (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, Simon & Schuster, 2003,12).

Hillary graduated from Wellesley College and then went to Yale Law School, where she was one of just 27 women in her graduating class… After law school, Hillary chose not to go to a big New York or Washington law firm. Instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door in New Bedford, Massachusetts, gathering stories about the lack of schooling for children with disabilities, which contributed to the passage of historic legislation to require their education.

According to a biography by McGill University professor of history Gil Troy, Rodham’s early political development was shaped most by her high school history teacher (like her father, a fervent anticommunist), who introduced her to Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative,[17] and by herMethodist youth minister (like her mother, concerned with issues of social justice), with whom she saw and met civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in Chicago in 1962.[18] –

Books: It Takes a VillageHillary Rodham Clinton: A Polarizing First Lady

Other Links: Hard Choices (some audio to listen to), Wikipedia – Early Life and Education, NY Times Article, On the Issues


I have not located an objective source for Marco Rubio but as soon as I do I will add the link. Check back for updates.

Born in Miami, Florida in 1971, Marco Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 1993, he went to the University of Miami for his law degree. Rubio’s political career began with his election to the West Miami City Commission in 1998. He was elected in the Florida House of Representatives the following year. In 2009, Rubio won his campaign for the U.S. Senate… Born in Miami, Rubio spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. The family, however, returned to Florida in the 1980s. A stellar athlete, Rubio was a top football player at South Miami High School. He graduated in 1989 and earned a football scholarship to Tarkio College in Missouri. Rubio left the school after a year and eventually enrolled at the University of Florida. After completing his bachelor’s degree there in 1993, he earned a law degree from the University of Miami in 1996.


The Rubio family, which was Catholic, moved from Florida to Nevada in the late 1970s and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…The Florida senator was baptized into the Mormon faith when he was approximately 8 years old, and family members recalled that he was deeply invested in the religion having met with missionaries and attended LDS youth events… But once the Rubios left Nevada and returned to Miami, they rejoined the Catholic Church….

Books: An American Son – A Memoir Listen to Audio by Mr. Rubio

Other Links: The Rise of Marco Rubio, Wikipedia – Early Life and Education

Will This Year’s Advent Season Be an Advent of Change?

cropped-veterans-day-2013-067.jpgToday the final draft of the Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21) was released. While the breakthrough for undeveloped (i.e. more at risk) nations was a 1.5 degree Centigrade limit on global temperature, the current plan would result in a 2.7 degree Centigrade increase by 2050. That would devastate many low lying areas of the world due to sea level rise.

This means that the participating countries will all have to increase their commitments to reduce green house gases over the intervening years until the next summit in 202o. And the differential goals require countries who are or have been the biggest polluters (China and U.S. respectively) to make the biggest commitments.

Right now major negotiations are taking place. These negotiations will spell out the future of humanity on earth, the fates of our children, and all life on earth in its present state. Just writing that sentence is profound.

While no one can guess the future, I at least hold some hope that such a convention as the Paris talks has moved the world closer to accepting climate change as a real threat. Yet, in my own country I despair that is not true. At least one political party is in denial while the other wrangles to get anything substantive accomplished to mitigate changes.

In my own state of Florida it is much more bleak: Governor Scott banned his environmental protection agencies from using the words climate change or global warming. Like a child, he foolishly believes if you can’t say it, it will not be true.

History will show the absolute insanity of many of our current political leaders. And, sadly, there are many more in the wings

Here is the evidence.  Locally, Pensacola has moved from 8b to 9a in Plant Hardiness Zones over the last decade (an average low temperature increase of 10 degrees F). On today, December 12, 2015 it will be 75 degrees Fahrenheit with lows still in the 60s. Of course, we all love it … until you reflect on what it portends.


Pensacola Says Yes to a Climate Change Task Force

cropped-244.jpgLast night the City Council passed a resolution to establish a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force.

This has been over a year in the making. Introduced by Councilwoman Sherri Myers, and spearheaded by 350 Pensacola, the resolution was unanimously adopted as council members observe the impacts of a changing climate on our land and waters.

This is a huge victory for Pensacola. Experts agree that cities are the centers of climate change mitigation, having the most control over how their city handles its emissions, energy efficiency, and citizen participation in reducing its emissions footprint while innovating to improve quality of life. These strategies include green building, slowing traffic, improving public transportation, walking and biking lanes, and supporting local business. Making sure we protect water quality, build environments that reduce heat, embellish the natural environment, and enable all citizens to participate will be the concerns of this task force.

All these initiatives create jobs, save money, and set up the city to receive funding from foundations, state and federal agencies that are pouring more money into climate mitigation programs.

Challenges are: 1) the Mayor has not shown interest in the Task Force; 2) the State of Florida lacks leadership from the Governor and legislature to enact the policies and support to truly help cities make the energy and infrastructure changes that are necessary to become truly climate adapted. Citizen participation is crucial to bring leaders and experts to the task.  Check the City Council site to get to meetings and to contact council members to express your ideas. Write Mayor Aston Hayward to express your desire that he become an active participant with the Task Force.