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Invitation to meetings; solar power production coop; priorities, given Trump

January 31, 2017

Dear friends --

We certainly live in "interesting" times, to say the least. We hope you are thriving, despite the spectacle on the national stage.

First of all, we've revised and clarified our most recent (January 7) local letter (about which a little more below). Please consider looking at that letter.

While you are there you might want to check out the news articles on the right side of our home page. Many of you may be interested in the excellent New Mexican story there about possible exploration for a possible high-level defense nuclear waste (HLW) disposal site northeast of Tucumcari, in Nara Visa, NM. DOE has another possible site near Alamogordo (we think that Otero County site is still a "go" -- we have a couple of inquiries out), and two others.

Meanwhile two sites near Carlsbad, one in New Mexico and one just across the state line in Andrews, TX, seek licenses for storing very large quantities of spent US commercial nuclear reactor fuel (SNF). All of it, in fact. That's a long story, for another day.

We've been working with ranchers near Nara Visa and it's just possible that Quay County will reconsider its official enthusiasm for this economy-killing project before it gets much farther. Actual HLW disposal is years away at worst, but the negative effect on local livelihoods and the state's economic attractiveness and reputation from all these nuclear waste and plutonium processing and manufacturing projects could begin rather soon. Please help us if you can -- see next section!

    You're invited!

We are now inviting everyone who is interested, not just volunteers, to our offices at 2901 Summit Place NE, Albuquerque for early evening gatherings to discuss current events affecting nuclear disarmament, climate mitigation, and related energy and economic issues -- and our community responses.

Why? Some of the reasons are given in the above letter. More reasons follow in the last section of this letter.

If you are potentially interested we need to know that, and also when you cannot come, so we can schedule. If you want to express particular, specific interests please do so, and we will do our best to accommodate.

We are very happy to host meetings ourselves here in Albuquerque, but if you want to meet in Santa Fe, Taos, or elsewhere, someone must take the initiative and ask!

House meetings are quite valuable. Their more intimate setting sometimes leads conversation in deeper, fruitful directions. So go ahead and invite your friends, and/or community and nonprofit leaders and staff, and/or elected officials or their staff whom you may know, and/or potential supporters of our work, and let's talk -- seriously talk.

We will await your responses to these invitations before organizing other local meetings.

I (Greg), your agent, will be traveling to Washington next week to work on a short list of nuclear weapons policy priorities, which we will discuss with current and new allies and decisionmakers.

We do not see greater barriers to nuclear disarmament under Trump than under Obama. Unfortunately, Obama has left in place massive nuclear weapons commitments, including the quite needless construction and operation of a new pit factory in Los Alamos (summary; details here and here) to produce new-design, "interoperable" nuclear warheads at great expense which the military does not actually want.

In March, Trish and I will travel to New York to join colleagues and diplomats for the first of two negotiating sessions aimed at producing, this year, a treaty banning nuclear weapons. (For background see "In Historic Vote, UN General Assembly Mandates 2017 Negotiations to Ban Research, Development, Testing, Stockpiling, Use of Nuclear Weapons," Dec 23, 2016.) We have a lot to do before that trip. There will be no draft treaty text immediately resulting from March negotiations, but after telephone discussions this month with some of those most closely involved, we are fairly optimistic that a treaty text will be ready by September.

    Your expression of interest can help get a solar power production co-op off the ground!

As mentioned before, the Study Group partners with two wonderful local solar companies:

  • McCune Solar Works/One World Co-op (highest-reliability photovoltaic modules; systems tailored for renters; high-reliability, long-life, non-toxic LiFePO4 batteries; low-cost high-quality starter systems; $500 to the Study Group with full system purchase); and
  • Positive Energy/Sunpower (high-efficiency, long-life, hassle-free solar installations, including all permitting and paperwork for tax credits; $100 to LASG for consultation and an additional $400 with system installation -- please mention us).

We want you to be aware of a very interesting new initiative by the McCune team, the One World Power Co-op. This co-op will allow members to become solar energy producers, users, owners, investors, or installers in a number of flexible ways to match household budgets (for owners or renters), interest level, the amount of sun exposure you have, whether or not you are connected to the electric grid, and so on. The core idea is to remove capital barriers to participation in solar energy through community ownership -- as well as individual ownership to whatever extent is desired. Local job creation and governance, diffusion of skills, and the growth of an energy-producing (not just consuming) mindset will be fostered, as will energy efficiency.

What the McCune team needs right now are expressions of potential interest from people, to show investors that there is interest. The necessary legal and administrative startup work is underway. The McCune team doesn't need any sort of commitment at this time, just an expression of interest.

They are working hard to make this co-op a reality and if you think you might be interested please do fill in the preliminary interest form on-line and share it widely with your friends and contacts.

Here's their summary in image form from the above web site:
Building and promoting solar energy are powerful acts of resistance. Here, we've started talking not just in terms of "the constructive program," as Gandhi called his sustainable, non-colonial, village-based economic program, but in terms of "nonviolent constructive action," to emphasize the radical nature of steps we could and should take, and the close affinity between building not merely "sustainable" but also productive communities on the one hand, and effective resistance to the destruction of nature and livelihoods on the other.

In our neighborhood, as in any New Mexico neighborhood, there are tremendous opportunities for cost-effective, resilient, climate-protecting electricity production and efficiency investments. Most people don't know how inexpensive photovoltaic systems have become, or how well they work.

Dear parents, and young people: there are jobs in this field right now. Our young people will need these skills. McCune Solar Works has internship possibilities open, just like we do.

    In the time of Trump (as before), priorities are necessary.

For many people this is a frightening time. It is certainly confusing, for all of us. The pace of events is not allowing adequate reflection. A lot of us are "flying blind." In such a time, when shocking new details appear almost hourly, clear reference points are important. We have to know what we want before we can figure out how to get it.

Our mainstream media are extremely partisan now, and widely unreliable. In degree, this is a new phenomenon. A lot of reporters and editors don't have the background to assess events, or they are simply too busy. But most importantly, there are so many axes being ground that the public is being badly burned by the sparks. There is madness in the air. That is the first point I wanted to make, without being specific in this brief letter. The problem with madness is that it does not produce the desired outcomes.

Yes, President Trump is a big problem in many ways, but so was Obama -- very much so -- and so also would have been Ms. Clinton. There are also, in my expert opinion, one or two good steps Trump has taken in the national security sphere (e.g. reaching out to Russia, and reorganizing the cancerous National Security Council by lowering the status of the CIA and taking the military out of non-military decisions). We shall see how all that goes.

Frankly this is how it is when empires fall, as John Michael Greer reminds us. You don't get the leaders you want. The losses, dear friends, have been mounting for some years already. And this is just the beginning. What we see now is part of what we have been warning about extensively for many years. Again, that is all I want to say about that here.

It is quite possible that Trump may not last. If he does, he likely will do so in a more "conventional" way, in greater continuity with what has come before. Who knows what will happen, but if what is unique about Donald J. Trump is stripped away, what will be left will closely resemble the incumbency that has been there before, for some time. Call it the "Generic Republican Scenario" if you like, perhaps with a special dash of Mike Pence. In most respects the "Republican" part would be a distinction without a difference however, so maybe we should call it the "Bush/Obama/Clintons/Romney-like Scenario." None of those people sought, or would seek, major changes in the Empire's foreign policies, in predatory, neoliberalism capitalism; none ever articulated or sought major improvements in our social contract or in our relations to the Earth. Sure, Trump wants to drill his way to glory, but he won't get that far. He must be stopped, but regardless, he won't find "energy independence" in fossil fuels. That bag of goodies is down to the dregs.

The point is, that what will remain of this administration after what is most horrible about Donald Trump is scrubbed away, or after the man himself departs will be fairly supportive of Deep State interests,, and quite continuous with what has come before. How might he depart? From media pressure, donor pressure (e.g. from the Koch network, now bigger than ever), pressure from federal court decisions, from mainline Republican congressional opposition, from corporate opposition, from any number of possible "dirty tricks" ala Nixon, or any of the other techniques in the fat regime change playbook long perfected by the CIA and State Department.

What would remain would still be a government supportive of policies that are immensely destructive to most people, and to life on earth.

So again, what do we want? Priorities are necessary. We have to know what we want most, before we can figure out who our allies and adversaries are, and what political means are appropriate. 

In the new era of converging existential crises -- and that word is key here -- new lenses are needed with which to view events and organize responses, as we said on January 7. Not all stories are equally important. There are big narratives that determine the context and overall outcome of smaller ones. These largest struggles, which are also stories -- our stories whether we accept them or not -- will determine the fate of the earth and of everyone's children and grandchildren on it.

This letter, again, cannot carry this line of thought in detail. Nevertheless, for your contemplation, here are three of what I think are the most important struggles. This list is too compact, though I have tried to choose the words carefully.

  • The nexus of climate, energy, environment, and economy: the master issue of our time, now difficult to disentangle
    • Climate destruction, which we must replace with climate restoration, greenhouse gas removal, and simplicity of life
    • Fossil fuel and nuclear energy use, which we must replace with renewable energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and simplicity
    • Habitat and species losses, which we must replace with effective protection of both
    • Economic growth, which we must replace with sufficiency, sharing or rationing, simple living, and non-material happiness.
  • The nexus of militarism and empire, which we must replace with something akin to "the moral equivalent of war" (William James), cooperation, and non-aggression
  • The nexus of inequality and disposability, which we must replace with material justice, material respect, and defense of the vulnerable.

How can we focus on these existentially-important struggles, without success in which no other struggles can succeed?

For starters, by refocusing away from some of our more petty grievances, divisive special identities, our prestige-seeking careerism, and above all our expectations of material plenty and ease. By listening to people across the political aisle. By realizing that the political assumptions and identities "we" on the liberal left have been carrying around have been so politically dysfunctional "we" have not had significant victories in decades.

Now, some of these same dysfunctions -- the ones that offered essentially nothing to a great many voters, while thoroughly disrespecting them -- have produced a President Trump.  Trump is the natural outcome of the actions and inactions of Democrats like Bingaman, Richardson, Udall, Heinrich, and above all the Clintons and Obama. We are sorry to have to be the ones to carry that message.

Regarding the above central issues, Democrats, progressives, most of the environmental and climate community, the peace and security establishments, the academy -- few in any these circles really "get it" at this point, at least in their public discourse. There is very little leadership. Some people are trying.

We are really in an emergency situation. We tried to get at this in a talk for the New Mexico chapter of (The Crisis at Hand, the Emergency Mode, & the Need for Full-Scale Mobilization, June 27, 2016; video).

That is why we are plugging the solar power coop above, and what we have meant by "mobilization." It's not about a few hours here and there.

Our door is open, and we welcome your solidarity.

Greg Mello, for the Study Group

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