Envisioning and Creating a Safe Energy Future

Twenty-five years ago, I co-wrote a booklet about the risks of nuclear power and the prospects of clean energy. Published by Plutonium Free Future, The Safe Energy Handbook (1997) was translated into nine languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, and Turkish) and distributed to global citizen activists resisting nuclear power. Now, in these times of growing climate chaos—with alarming signals that we will face ecological tipping points in our near-term future—this excerpt still resonates.

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FROM THE SAFE ENERGY HANDBOOK, by Jan Thomas, Claire Greensfelder & Wendy Oser (1997)

PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS

Burning fossil fuels releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is now widely recognized that our atmosphere simply will not be able to continue absorbing six billion tons of carbon every year (70% of it from burning fossil fuels) without disastrous consequences that will last for generations.

Scientists have been warning for decades about global warming, the process in which CO2 and other pollutants trap the sun’s heat and cause the temperature at the earth’s surface to rise. Over time, climate and seasonal cycles may be significantly disrupted. According to climate studies, average world temperatures have steadily risen since records began to be kept in 1880. As of 1997, five of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1987.

Global climate change could be a decisive factor affecting survival prospects for those who will follow us. 

POWER FOR THE FUTURE

Coal gave us the Industrial Revolution with its soot-covered cities, lung diseases, factories and coal mines. Oil brought us the Age of Combustion with automobiles, big highways, jet planes and the glorification of consumerism. Nuclear power has given us the Atomic Age and an enduring legacy of radioactive contamination and health problems. But renewable energies — the sun, wind and water — will bring us into the Solar Age and change our society in more favorable ways than we can yet imagine. 

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The Eco-Wisdom of Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson‘s eco-wisdom has long inspired me. She was a founding force of the global environmental movement. Her vision and impact stretch far beyond her time. Here are quotes from her writings.

“Here and there awareness is growing that man, far from being the overlord of all creation, is himself part of nature, subject to the same cosmic forces that control all other life. Man’s future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces.”

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”

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Into the Beyond: Ram Dass

Ram Dass has just moved on from this life. A spiritual pioneer who made Hindu teachings accessible for Westerners, he blasted open new portals for me to understand the universe and my place in it.

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How vividly I recall the day I first caught sight of his book Be Here Now on a friend’s coffee table in 1972. The book’s unusual cover drew me in like a moth to flame, and I was transfixed by what I found inside. Profound, accessible and timeless, it gave me a first peek into what was at that time a mysterious unknown realm of spirit.

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We Are in a Climate Emergency

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Recently I attended a Climate Compassion Salon in Berkeley. Over 40 people crammed into the living room of a private home to hear Ezra Silk, The Climate Mobilization‘s Director of Strategy & Policy, speak at length about the climate emergency that we face. Below is my synthesis of inputs—Ezra’s as well as other Salon participants—from this memorable evening.


Friends, we are in an environmental, economic, social and spiritual crisis. For ten years people have been talking about climate change as an 11th hour problem. Now the climate clock has struck midnight, and we have a very small window of time to prevent ecological and social collapse.

“It Is the Journey That Matters”: Quotes by Ursula K. Le Guin

Today comes news of Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing. With gratitude I recall how her words would cross my path over the years. Like a mushroom hunter, I head to the woods of the Internet in search of juicy quotes, returning with a full basket. Many of these are from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/874602.Ursula_K_Le_Guin.


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Ursula_K_LeGuin“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

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“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.”

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“It’s a rare gift, to know where you need to be, before you’ve been to all the places you don’t need to be.”

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“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

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Earth, City & Race: Carl Anthony’s New Book Connects the Dots

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Carl Anthony

The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race by Carl Anthony is officially launched in the world today, and I am holding a copy in my hand at last. Over a period of 10+ years I collaborated with Carl to help midwife his legacy book into being, one of the most meaningful editorial projects I have worked on.

Carl is an African-American architect, regional planner, and environmental justice pioneer. A lifelong activist and an insatiable learner, he has worked full-on for change while connecting the dots of history, urban policy, cosmology, race, identity, and his unique and fascinating lived experiences. Carl has much insight to share.

Some months back as the manuscript was nearly finalized, we looked back on the book-writing journey. An edited version follows of his reflections.


Carl Anthony: Throughout my life, and in writing my book The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race, I have been exploring how to live and be in this ever-changing world. As an African American, I have both the benefit and the liability of being rooted in a richly layered yet challenging history, much of which has been buried from view. I have been trying to uncover that history, bring visibility to things that had been hidden, and make sense of parts of myself that had been not been within my awareness.

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The “76 Animals” Poem That I Learned in 6th Grade

Pelican_in_Flight_Photo_by_Alfred_Leung_on_Unsplash.jpgIn the spirit of oral tradition, here are the words to the “76 Animals” poem, plus a recording of me reciting it in the cadence I learned 50 years ago from my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Wood. This poem remains firmly anchored in my memory after all these years.

My recollection is that Mrs. Wood, who was nearing retirement, had learned it from her own teacher “back in the day.” This puts its likely origin around the early part of the 20th century. (See notes below about two other derivative versions, used as lyrics for a song called “Beastiary”.)

The poem’s author is unknown. Since I haven’t found this version online anywhere, I’m sharing it here to preserve it and pass it along.

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Forward! Finding Our Way in the Dark

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Winding up our fascinating and hope-inducing dinner conversation

Recently at dinner with two old friends/colleagues, we plumbed the depths (and heights) of our reactions and feelings about recent events in the political landscape. The following reflections build on this rich conversation with my longtime social change companions, Mark and Teresa.


A World in Trouble

Our current political turmoil is turning up the heat and sparking the kinds of conversations we have not been having. People are scared. We are feeling pressure to keep our country, even our world together.

Weeping_Lady_LibertyIn these un-United States, our guiding vision of ‘one nation’ that is ‘indivisible with liberty and justice for all’ has gone off the rails. We are experiencing an onslaught of ‘othering’, with the harshest impacts falling on those who are already the most vulnerable. Continue reading

Speaking Our Truths About the Climate Crisis

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Recently I joined in a “Wisdom Circle for a World on Fire” convened by Shams Kairys and Cindy Spring—a space to join others in exploring our deepest thoughts and feelings about climate change. Here is a summary of our purpose, from Shams’ email that brought the group together:

“Those who are willing to peel back the forces of denial and look at our actual condition, who are often left feeling isolated and distraught, need to be talking with each other. In a dedicated space with a small group, we will peer into our hearts and minds and engage in honest conversation. This milieu is conducive not only for informing each other, but also for hearing our own trials and emerging recognitions in a fresh light. The focus is not so much on the facts of the matter or actions to address it as on expanding our capacity to face and integrate what we are learning, and its impact upon us.”

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The Legacy of Grace Lee Boggs: “Re-imagine Everything”

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Onstage banners at the West Coast memorial for Grace Lee Boggs

On March 20, 2016 a celebration of Grace Lee Boggs’ 100-year life was held at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The memorial speakers offered stories and lessons learned from Grace, who was active in social change work for three quarters of a century. Here is a sampling of what was shared, followed by my full journal notes.


1.    We remake ourselves to remake the world.

2.    What do I need to change in myself to be more effective in changing the world?

3.    What does it mean to “grow our souls”?

4.    Praxis is about changing our minds and our perspectives in response to changing conditions.

5.    Questions are more important than answers.

6.    Go beyond simply complaining and waiting for others to change it or fix it.

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