Progressive Populism & Grassroots Activism

CFS News-Views Digest No. 89 (4-22-15) EARTH DAY

EVENT: Citizens for Sustainability Planning and Sharing Meeting, Sat., April 25th, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., St. Anthony Village City Hall Council Chambers. Open to all citizens interested in promoting resilience and long-term sustainability—for individuals, families, and communities.

The announcement above serves as a catalyst for discussing grassroots activism. If you’re not within commuting range of this meeting, there are other opportunities near you, including organizations you can join that are dedicated to developing resilient, sustainable communities. If perchance no appropriate groups are available, perhaps you might consider starting one!

One obvious reason for a lack of citizen activism might be attributed to the overwhelmingly depressing news we’re increasingly encountering. Ongoing brain and human behavior research provides explanations as to why most people intentionally ignore and/or deny dire future prognostications. The conventional, outmoded narrative—that prosperity is the result of constant material and economic growth—contrasts strikingly with the reality narrative that’s based on declining natural resources, overpopulation, rapid extinction of flora and fauna species, and climate change.

As we struggle to fulfill our many life obligations and goals, it seems our most common coping mechanism remains our unique ability to foster and maintain positive, optimistic, and hopeful expectations. So it’s no surprise that we prefer giving most of our attention to here-and-now challenges of daily life, rather than addressing long-term life-and-death concerns.

What prompts this commentary is a profound interest in discovering what each of us can do (needs to do) to promote greater resilience and sustainability, for ourselves and for the common good. In truth, grassroots activism has proven extremely effective in making constructive changes in all areas of life, and worldwide progressive populism is accelerating, with more and more citizens joining organizations that promote worthy causes.

Two of the most prominent populist organizations spawning widespread citizen activism are the progressive Occupy Movement on the left, and the ultra-conservative Tea Party Movement on the right. Thankfully, there’s growing evidence of American progressive populism, exemplified by the collaboration (of more than 2 million active members of organizations in 32 states) into four member groups–the Campaign for America’s FutureNational People’s ActionUS Action, and the Alliance for a Just Society. More information about the progressive populism movement is found in the leading article of the Equity section: Can New Populist Agenda Harness Passions, Create Movement From Below?.

Like many readers, I support a number of worthy organizations financially, but I also sign and send numerous pre-formed email letters to government leaders, corporations, and the like, requesting action on favorite issues related to environmental, health, socio-political, educational, and economic issues, to name a few. Grassroots citizenship or progressive populism begins locally, where we live. And the time to begin participating is on EARTH DAY 2015!

“There is a bottom-up progressive populist sentiment building in this country.” (George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action)

ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)

> Peak Prosperity: The God Of Technological Progress May Well Be Dead (Chris Martenson, podcast). Chris discusses with John Michael Greer the global faith in inexorable technological advancement as a cure-all to every predicament we face, which, in many ways, has become the dominant religion of the 21st century. The converging crises we’re facing grow more dangerous when society clings onto a narrative that’s divorced from reality.

> The Archdruid Report: The Retro Future (John Michael Greer). It’s become increasingly clear that deliberate technological regression as a matter of personal choice is also worth pursuing; and entirely possible that we could be heading toward a future in which people will roll their eyes when they think of Twitter, texting, 24/7 connectivity, and the rest of today’s overblown technofetishism—like, dude, all that stuff is so twenty-teens!

> Truthout: You Can’t Have A Functioning Democracy Without High Quality Infrastructure. (Thom Hartman). The richest country in the world is looking more and more like a developing nation each day. The situation is so bad that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the US a D+ overall rating on its 2013 infrastructure report card. The ASCE gave our bridges a C+, our roads a D, our transit systems a D, our energy infrastructure a D, our dams a D and the list goes on.

> Resilience: Getting From Here To There (Gord Stewart, Review: Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future). Business-as-usual is sure to deliver us a future that is both unsustainable and undesirable, with climate change arguably our most pressing problem. “Creating a shared vision of a sustainable and desirable future is the most critical task facing humanity today.

ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)

> ENSIA: Shellfisheries: Time To Prepare For Ocean Acidification (Sarah Cooley). Oceans are gradually becoming warmer and more acidic as more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere — two shifts that are altering the economic foundations of many coastal regions, including U.S. coastlines.

> MPR: Climate Denial Fading Among Broadcast Meteorologists (Paul Huttner). More than 90 percent of the 464 broadcast meteorologists questioned in the survey now agree that climate change is happening. That’s up from about 82 percent of TV meteorologists and weathercasters in the 2011 survey.

> Minnpost: Environment Needs More Federal Help, Says 48% In U.S. Gallup Poll (Ron Meador). Aaccording to a recent Gallup Poll, almost half of Americans think the federal government is “doing too little” in the way of environmental protection. This percentage has been fairly stable in surveys going back to 2010, with the size of the plurality fluctuating between 46% and 51%, even as the percentage of Americans who rank the environment as a top concern has been steadily falling.

> Minnpost: How Can Minnesota Achieve Sustainable Water Use? Agriculture Holds The Key (Ron Meador). Water specialist Deb Swackhamer’s subject was so large, and her recent talk at the MN Zoo for its World Speaier Series was so wide-ranging, that only some of the main points are covered in this article. For a video of her full 50-minutes presentation, plus an hour of Q&A with an engaged audience, go here.

ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)

> Peak Oil: The Great Burning (Richard Heinberg; Part 2 of a 4-part series). In this short video, Heinberg explores why The Great Burning — the combustion of oil, coal, and natural gas — must come to an end during the next few decades. If the twentieth century was all about increasing our burn rate year after blazing year, the dominant trend of twenty-first century will be a gradual flameout.

Star Tribune: N.D. Sees Second Consecutive  Monthly Drop In Oil Output (David Shaffer). Oil production in ND will likely fall through May because of the drop in the number of drilling rigs to 91 this month, less than half the number operating a year ago. Output was just under 1.18 million barrels per day in February, a drop of 50,435 daily barrels since December, when the state hit a 1.2-million-barrel-per-day record high.

> Our Finite World: Putting The Real Story Of Energy And The Economy Together (Gail Tverberg). In my view, the real story of energy and the economy is a story of oil limits that will make themselves known as financial limits, quite possibly in the near term—perhaps in as little time as a few months or years. Our underlying problem is diminishing returns—it takes more and more effort (hours of workers’ time and quantities of resources), to produce essentially the same goods and services.

> Oil Price: Has The U.S. Reached “Peak Oil” At Current Price Levels? (Leonard Brecken). The EIA has once again capitulated on the myth that rig counts don’t matter and that the productivity of wells would largely offset, leaving the industry on a continuous path to higher output. The current consensus of 500,000 B/D additional growth in 2015 US production now appears very much at risk.

ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)

> The Trading Report: There Is Something Huge Percolating Just Under The Surface Of The Global Economy (Michael Snyder). If the economy is actually “getting better”, like we are being told by the establishment media, then why are so many big companies declaring bankruptcy?  According to CNBC, the number of publicly traded companies declaring bankruptcy has hit a five-year high. In sum, at the moment we are in far worse shape than we were just prior to the last recession.

> Resilience: How Worker Co-Ops Are Moving Beyond Capitalism (David Morgan).  The explosion of worker cooperatives in recent years has social justice organizers talking. Transitioning to a people-powered economy will require the work of many different social movements and worker co-ops have come to the center of the conversation due to their ability to address multiple issues at once.

CASSE-The Daly News: A Business Built For Resilience (James Magnus-Johnston). A ‘social enterprise’ is a business model designed to maximize human and environmental wellbeing rather than accumulate profits for shareholders. From non-profit and cooperative models to the birth of the B Corp (benefit corporation), we are witnessing a profound shift in business–away from growth and profit as an organizing principle, and towards one that respects the social and ecological limits to growth.

EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns • Political Power)

> Positive Money: Bank Robbery: Inequality And The Banking System (Ivo Mosley). Extreme inequality is the main economic, political and cultural evil of our times. This chapter (2) is about how bank-credit, as money newly-allocated and carrying an interest charge, increases inequality, transferring wealth and power from ordinary people to governments and the very rich. [Chapter 1]

> Alternet: The Numbers Are Staggering: U.S. Is ‘World Leader’ In Child Poverty (Paul Bucheit). The U.S. has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As UNICEF reports, “[Children’s] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States.”

> Yes! Magazine: A Trade Rule That Makes It Illegal To Favor Local Business? (David Korten). The newest WikiLeaks report shows the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) proposal would allow anti-local-business practices. The document is full of dense legal jargon, but a careful reading makes its corporate agenda crystal clear. Korten explains four significant aspects of the TPP.

ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)

> Common Dreams: Can New Populist Agenda Harness Passions, Create Movement From Below? (Jon Queally). Hoping they can drive a revamped public conversation and fuel a populist counter-movement from the left against an otherwise rightward lurch in the country, a coalition of progressive organizations this week is championing a new agenda designed to galvanize those demanding an economic, political, and ecological transformation in the United States.

> ENSIA:   Can Saltwater Quench Our Growing Thirst? (Brian Bienkowski). “When it comes to increasing water supplies, you have four options: Increase your amount of reuse, increase storage, conserve it or turn to a new source,” says Tom Pankratz, a desalination consultant and current editor of the weekly trade publication Water Desalination Report. “And for many places around the world, the only new source is desalination.

> Grain: Why We Need Local Food Systems And How To Get Them. Reconnecting people with the food they eat and the people that produce it is a powerful way to establish a sense of community and to link us to our shared natural world. In practice, this means going beyond buying ‘local’ food from big chains that otherwise reinforce our broken, industrialized agricultural system. This means working with other citizens and farmers to shorten supply chains for the benefit of local communities and economies.

> On Earth: Climate Change Denial 101: A Free Online Course (Brian Palmer). John Cook, a climate communication fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia and the creator of the excellent website Skeptical Science, is coordinating the course. It will feature climatologists, modelers, chemists, computer scientists, meteorologists, and glaciologists—real scientists talking about science, rather than economists, politicians, and media personalities all shouting at the same time.

> Yes! Magazine: Big City Living May Help You Slow Down, Stress Less, And Be Happy‏. Really! ( Zanna McKay). From New York City to Barcelona, cities across the world are tuning to “slow living” to make their communities happier and healthier in the face of increasing urbanization.  Cittaslow is an organization credited with starting the slow cities movement.


> MN350: Earth Day Climate Rally at the Capitol, Wed., April 22, 1-3 p.m., MN State Capitol building, 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St Paul (Speakers– Ellen Anderson, Mark Seely, Julia Nerbonne, Kate Jacobson, Representative Melissa Hortman, House Minority Leader Erin Murphy, Will Steger’s Jothsna Harris, and more!) Facebook page: Click here

> Citizens for Sustainability: Planning and Sharing Meeting, Sat., April 25, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., SAV City Hall Council Chambers, Silver Lake Rd., St. Anthony Village, MN.

> MN350: Two Presentations by Artic Explorer-Activist, David Thoreson. 1) Midwest Mountaineering Expo: “The Northwest Passage in the Era of Climate Change”, Sun., April 26, 1-2 p.m., Cowles Auditorium, U of MN, Mpls. Contact:; 2) “Climate Champions: Navigating the Northwest Passage and Globalizing Political Will” (with Joseph Robertson), Mon., April 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m., reception, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Student Center, U of MN, St. Paul; more info.

> Sierra Club: Twin Cities Enbridge Tar Sands Resistance Tour Stop, April 29, 6:00 p.m., Mpls.- St. Paul, Location TBA

> Sierra Club: An Evening with the Cousteau Family (Topics: sustainability, conservation, stewardship & innovation), Thurs., May 7, 7:00 p.m.Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry Street West, Saint Louis Park, MN. Info: 952.873.7300.

> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015

> CERTS: News Alert: Made In Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Now Available To Entire State. The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that it will offer rebates for solar thermal systems statewide as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. Info: MiM update & project ideas >>

By Clifton Ware

Sustainability Education Forum Editor-Publisher Dr. Clifton Ware is an international figure in the world of voice pedagogy. During the the past fifty years of teaching students how to sing -- both nationally and internationally -- Clif developed his signature "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique". What distinguishes his method is its holistic approach, simplicity, and effectiveness. Siingers find that they are able to ensure their vocal health while cultivating their own unique, expressive sound. This approach stands in sharp contrast to faddish techniques that encourage mimicking the vocalism, style, and qualities of other singers, possibly limiting their own vocal imprint and even harming their vocal instrument. The "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique" produces singers that enjoy vocal power, range, ease, individuality, and a liberating learning process.

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