Find Your Tribe

In this crazy, mixed up world where Donald Trump can claim that Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia to harm her own campaign as a means to explain his innocence we need to find solid footing more than ever.  We need to find that tribe of people who connect with our beliefs and our passions in order to feel that we belong to this larger universe.  You need to find your tribe.

What do you are about?  What makes your heart sing?  What makes you smile to get up in the morning and see the possible?  Take stock of these things to find your tribe.

It is important to be part of something larger when engaging with your elected representatives because it gives your message staying power.  If you correspond with them as a member of an organization that has individuals testifying or is providing lobbying materials on behalf of an issue it resonates.  There is a reason why the AARP gets its message heard.  When thousands of people call and tell their representatives that the issue is important to members of AARP that legislative agenda gets traction.

Consider the power we can wield.  When Trump, goaded by the Utah congressional delegation and local state politicians including the governor, announced his intention to review more than a dozen monuments declared under several prior presidential administrations the outdoor community howled.  Better yet progressive outdoor companies led by Patagonia and followed quickly by Arc’teryx, Polartec, and Peak Designs among others made it very clear that they would not participate in the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer convention that took place in Salt Lake City.

By July 2017, less than five months after the actions by the outdoor community, Outdoor Retailer announced it would be moving its convention to Denver.  Numbers are hard to come by and notoriously unreliable, but most accounts attribute upwards of $45 million dollars in spending due to the presence of Outdoor Retailer.  I do not care how right wing your politics run $45 million is a lot of money getting pumped into the local economy.

Why did this happen?  Outdoor advocates and companies banded together in a coherent way to make it known they would not stand for the wonton giveaway of our public lands to moneyed interests.  This is the power of our tribes.

This is something that the right wing has understood for years with organizations like the NRA.  Very few members of the NRA actually espouse the virulent views of its leadership but they are counted among the faithful when it comes time to apply political pressure.  We can apply the same level of political pressure on behalf of our causes.

Be active in your tribe.  Be unforgiving in your defense of your tribe.  Be passionate about your tribe.

If you happen to be one of those people so dispossessed and apathetic that there is nothing for which you would man the barricades may whatever god have mercy on your soul.

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An October Solar Surprise

October 2017 was kind of an ugly month for my solar photovoltaic system.  I calculated an expected production of approximately 400 kWh and saw production come in at just over 265 kWh.  This works out to about 66% of the predicted output.  Here is how ugly it was:

Solar October 2017.png

Do you see the period of time from October 10th through the 14th?  It must have been almost night out there all day.  What happened?

Easy.  Eastern Iowa saw some seriously gray conditions throughout the month.  Apparently we are entering into the so-called “stratus season” when local climate conditions produce low hanging stratus cloud formations that block out the sun.  November and December are apparently the worst months for this condition.  Awesome.

On the bright side I only ended up using approximately 73 kWh of grid electricity this month, which is not very much in the grand scheme of things.  Considering how well September turned out in terms of production I think I am still ahead of the game by about 64 kWh since my system became active at the end of August.  I will take net positive as we head into the gray months of November and December.

Friday Linkage 10/27/2017

A little late with the links today, but I was distracted by eastern Iowa’s first flurries.  While most of my co-workers were cursing the sudden snap to cold weather I was dishing out my silent thanks to Ullr.  Winter is coming and those deranged bastards like myself are very excited.  It also helps that I am less than 60 days away from a break in Summit County.

On to the links…

The Key to Tackling Climate Change: Electrify Everything—It is a simple plan.  Step one: clean up electricity.  Step two: electrify everything.  The best part is that step one can be ongoing while we start step two.

Pollution Linked to 9 Million Deaths Worldwide in 2015—Here is the human cost of pollution.  This is why we are working to close down coal fired power plants and electrify our transportation.

Global Tree Cover Loss Reaches a Record High in 2016—Can we all agree that reforestation is an admirable goal?  Who can disagree with trying to regenerate the forests of this planet?

Scott Pruitt Betrays a Deep Distrust of his own Agency with New Announcement—You have to wonder about people who profess to hate government, seek positions in government, work to destroy the things government can do, and wonder why people are upset with them afterward.  When the accounting is done in a few years the Trump presidency and its administration will be considered one of the worst ever.

The Most Effective Clean Energy Policy gets the Least Love—This should be a conservative wet dream.  A state sets a percentage for renewable energy to contribute to the grid by a certain date and industry figures out the most effective way to make that happen.  In Iowa it is wind power all the way, but in Arizona it might be solar.  In Hawaii it might be an expansion of geothermal.  Local solutions, baby!  However, the Koch-addled brain on modern Republicans heard renewable and thought, “Kochs told me renewable power is bad.  Socialism.  Fake news.  Sad.”

Renewable Energy is Creating US Jobs Twice as Fast as Any Other Industry—Republicans might crow about jobs all day long, but they do not care about jobs except as a way to line the pockets of their fossil fuels interest.  Just like the forthcoming tax plan everyone who is not a millionaire or giant corporation will be content with scraps at the end of the feeding trough.

Trump Administration Scrambles to Save Largest Coal Plant in the West—There are no more conservative principles.  These coal fired power plants were priced out of the market by a number of factors with cheap natural gas being the most prominent.  However, the Trump administration needs to bring home the bacon for the coal barons so the book of political tricks is open for them to play from.

Solar Power Crushes its Own Record for Cheapest Electricity ‘Ever, Anywhere, by any Technology’—Think about this for a moment, the lowest price for solar power is now the highest price in current bids.  That is not bending a cost curve, that is blowing it up.

Hybrid Wind, Solar and Energy Storage Project Coming to Australia—The future is here and it might be in Australia.  A season of unreliable power has really forced the folks down under to consider solutions.

Still No Takers For One Of India’s Cheapest Solar Projects—I am blown away by this development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Winners and Losers of the Electric Car Race (So Far)—It is very early in this race so it is my guess that the winners in a few years will look nothing like the winners we think of today.  Heck, some of the companies at the head of the pack might not even exist in a few years.

You Must Read: Pulpy History

Somewhere along the way history books became all serious.  I consider myself to be a small part of the problem having spent a good chunk of my twenties pursuing a graduate degree in history at a major American research university.  We, the collective of trained history professionals, made it a serious pursuit only considered worthy if it met our lofty and ever shifting standards of excellence.

The problem is that the vast majority of people just do not care about the history that had taken over the professional realm.  Sure, it is great that someone is writing a complete history of the herring industry of the Hanseatic League and how that industry’s fortunes could explain the state of modern day Baltic states.  Guess what?  That work is boring as fuck.  Not boring like the middle forty minutes of a Peter Jackson movie with hobbits, elves, dwarves, and dragons.  Boring like an 8:00 Monday, Wednesday, Friday microeconomics class taught by an adjunct professor on his last semester before giving up the ghost and going into banking.

We need to be reading and promoting accessible, dare I say pulp or pop, history.  The past week I plowed through three books—God’s Wolf by Jeffrey Lee, Cattle Kingdom by Christopher Knowlton, and The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston—and each of these books was an accessible and blessedly short history of a particular topic.

Was each of these books perfect?  No and I am certain that a well-read academic would have problems with certain aspects of the scholarship as I did with parts of Cattle Kingdom.  I may not be a practicing history professional anymore but old habits are hard to kill.  However, I learned a few things I would not have known otherwise and I am unlikely to pick up a seven hundred page history of the minor Crusader potentates.

Why I think that reading history is important is that we have such an incomplete understanding of the world in general that is only exacerbated by the media we consume.  Take the topic of God’s Wolf, which is a history of Reynald de Chatillon.  If people know this name at all it is probably from the very uneven movie Kingdom of Heaven.  The director’s cut did make the movie more understandable, but its history was absolutely horrifying in its inaccuracy.

Reynald de Chatillon was not the blood thirsty berserker of the film.  Nor was Saladin, the legendary leader of the combined Muslim forces arrayed against the Crusader states, the saintly promoter of multi-cultural virtue we are generally spoon fed.  Yes, Reynald de Chatillon waged war against Saladin and the Muslims.  Why?  Perhaps spending fifteen years in the prison below the Citadel of Aleppo while members of your family are murdered is a good way to make a man somewhat vengeful.  Is that part of the story frequently told?  Not so much.

The world is full of nuance and history can help us to understand that nuance.  The catch is that we need to be willing to consume history and most academic texts are too long, dense, and not relevant to a wide audience.  That is not to say that there are not academic histories which can be held up as accessible to the general public.  I submit Elliot West’s The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado as such a text.  It is one the few books I universally recommend when people ask me about the American West.  One of the others is Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, but that book hardly needs anyone promoting its scholarship.

If we spent a little more time reading about how we got here rather than watching talking heads argue about what today’s news means as if they has any more authority to opine on the topics than my nine year old daughter everyone would be better off.  So, get yourself to the library and pick up some pulp history.

By the why, is there a better title than The Lost City of the Monkey God?  My twelve year old self just fell in love with that like I did with Indiana Jones.

Friday Linkage 10/20/2017

Days without being an international embarrassment: 0.

Do I even need to tell you who I am talking about?  The thing that amazes me most about the incompetent orangutan in the Oval Office is that no matter what the issue or topic of the day may be he finds a way to make it about himself and how he is better than any other man to ever hold the office.  His need for a constant stream of affirmation of his supposed excellence on any topic is a field day for arm chair psychologists and political observers.  When the final days of this putrid presidency wind down in a few years—has it really only been nine months—the historians will take decades to unravel the shit storm.

On to the links…

Interior Secretary Zinke Has A Flag Raised When He’s At HQ—Scott Pruitt has a special phone booth and a private security army while Ryan Zinke thinks that the Department of the Interior is his personal military command.  What is it with Trump and his minions having to declare dominion over everything that they survey?  The inferiority complexes are stunning.

Secretary Zinke, it’s Time to Call it Quits—I think this is really a race between Zinke and Tillerson.

Scott Pruitt’s Quest to Kill Obama’s Climate Regulations is Deeply Shady — and Legally Vulnerable—Is Scott Pruitt the shadiest person in government in a long time?  He is essentially a self-admitted shill for the fossil fuel industry who is going about his day with a plan drafted by those same interests.

Perry Questions Value of ‘Free Market’ in Energy—The free market, like religious freedom for Republicans, is great as long as it supports your pet cause but when it causes damage to the pocketbooks of your masters it is unacceptable.  In the drive to placate the coal barons the Trump administration has pissed off just about everyone else involved in energy.  Too bad for them that the total of everyone else is a hell of a lot bigger and more important than what remains of the coal industry.

Coal Country is Finding Little Relief in Trump’s Climate Actions—It was not the government that was killing coal, it was the free market.  People and companies were voting with their dollars to support non-coal sources of energy.

4 Signs that Trump’s Furious Efforts to Save Coal are Futile—When an industry pins all of its hoped on a huckster more famous for a b-grade reality show and bankruptcies you know times are desperate.

The War on Coal is Over. Coal Lost.—All that remains is the rear guard action on the long retreat.  The question is how much additional damage will be done during the long retreat.

This is What America’s Eco City of the Future Looks Like—The future is green and powered by renewables.  Even in Texas.

Americans are willing to pay $177 a year to avoid climate change—We need to keep pounding home the message that climate change is real and that the tools are available to prevent the worst of its impacts.  All that is required is political will and a measure of sacrifice, whether that is economic or social.

The Future of Renewable Energy—What will renewable energy systems look like in a few years?  Now that we have moved beyond niche applications we need to ask ourselves these larger questions.

Electrifying Heating—I have thought about this topic somewhat lately now that I produce my own electricity on my roof.  If I added a similar size solar photovoltaic system on my southeast facing roof I would be able to heat my home with the sun via electricity.  I cannot make natural gas at home, but I can make electricity.

World’s First Floating Wind Farm now Operating in Scotland—Technology like floating wind turbines allows for less expensive construction in deeper water with less environmental impact.  Sort of like a win-win that opens up more sites for offshore wind development.  As if coal needed some more bad news.

Regreening The Earth Could Lower Carbon Levels As Much As Ending Use Of Fossil Fuels—Why don’t we do both?  What would a national program of regenerative forestry practices, improved grassland management, and general regreening do for our planet and our economy? I think it would be huge.  Not yuge, just huge.

This Is How to Substitute Lentils for Ground Beef—If everyone made a few substitutions like this on a weekly basis we would be a long way to reducing the greenhouse gas impact of our food choices.  Remember, meat is a huge source of our personal emissions.

To Uber or Not? Why Car Ownership may no Longer be a Good Deal—I am already beginning to see this with some colleagues who have children in college.  Instead of trolling the dorms for that one person with a car they just split an Uber X to go to the store or choose to have items delivered instead of doing it themselves.  I believe it is more than a simple story about replacing rides with Uber or other car sharing services, but rather replacing the utility provided by a personal automobile with a portfolio of services.

Where are the Tools of Meaningful Change?

Last week I wrote about society possessing the tools for meaningful change as it relates to carbon emissions and climate change for the first time in my memory, which stretches back into the 1980s.

The fact is that the tools for meaningful change exist at many different levels throughout society.  Consider the following hierarchy:

  • International
  • National
  • Community
  • Household
  • Personal

Too often we become fixated on the tools at an International or National level at the expense of seeing the good we can do at a Community, Household or Personal level.  Furthermore, we fail to see the connections that cross multiple levels.  Take a Fortune 500 company in the United States.  It obviously has an impact on the local community.  However, depending upon its size—which as a Fortune 500 company is usually quite large—and its geographic footprint it will definitely impact multiple communities in multiple states thus making it a national concern.  Frequently, these companies have just as much of an economic or physical footprint in multiple countries so their behaviors are international by definition.

At a lower level, a lot of our Personal choices impact both our Household and our Community.  There are no set walls that determine the scope and impact of our actions.  Nonetheless, I find it useful to categorize or bucket our actions into these broad levels so that we can think about things in a more defined sense.

The old adage from the gauzy past was to “think globally, act locally.”  Somewhere along the line we abdicated personal responsibility in favor of pushing large collective solutions.  Those large collective solutions, while spreading the pain of change and adaptation across the entire population, have fallen out of favor with the leadership—if you can it that—in Washington D.C.  Therefore, action must come from levels below International and National categories—unless there are entities that can cut across those categories by virtue of their economic and/or geographic footprints.

Once we understand where the tools of meaningful change exist we can begin to build our own personal menu to create a better world.

Friday Linkage 10/13/2017

Every day I think that we have reached a new low with the Trump administration.  If it is not family corruption, it is cabinet members using the taxpayer as a personal travel expense account.  If it is not crude behavior, it is stoking the fires of racial unrest.

Now it looks like Trump has set his dim sights on war with North Korea and threatening the 1st Amendment.  I know that the right wing only really loves the 2nd Amendment, but a threat to the Constitution cannot go unchallenged.  However, nothing else matters save for tax cuts for billionaires so the Republican members of Congress may grumble but they will kiss the ring of their dear leader.

On to the links…

Trump’s Plans To Demolish Clean Power Plan Revealed—Scott Pruitt has one goal in this world: make the world a better place for fossil fuel interests at the expense of everything else.  Once you understand this motivation every action makes sense.  Furthermore, Trump and his cabal are wedded to coal because they need to keep the narrative alive that Trump is saving rural jobs.

The GOP wants to repeal Obama’s Climate Plan. Like Health Care, it’s Going to be a Fiasco.—Can we all just agree that any day Trump and his cronies are in the White House has the potential to be a fiasco.  Actually trying to govern is a freaking dumpster fire.

Vintage Photos Taken by the EPA Reveal what America Looked like before Pollution was Regulated—Even Scott Pruitt’s EPA has documentation to show just how much better our country is now that pollution is regulated.  I realize that people like Trump do not like to read because it is hard, so pictures can supply the necessary knowledge.

The Two Clean Energy Bills that Could take California’s Climate Action to the Next Level—California may be burning right now, but the state is pushing ahead with aggressive climate change related legislation.  Leadership at the national level may be lacking.  States can create a critical mass to generate meaningful change.

Will Iowa Continue Adopting Wind, Solar without Federal Mandate?—This is a little closer to home.  Here is the thing, Iowa was deploying large amounts of wind before the Clean Power Plan.  The economics for that development have not changed in any measurable way that would favor a change.  Furthermore, the state already gets almost 40% of its electricity from the wind and has projects in the pipeline that will take that number north of 50% in the coming few years.  This all comes at the expense of coal because no one is retiring cheap to run wind turbines or cleaner natural gas facilities to keep an old coal boiler running.  Solar  is the icing on the cake.

Friendly Policies Keep US Oil and Coal Afloat Far More than We Thought—What is Scott Pruitt’s answer to the question of oil and gas subsidies?  He has come out vociferously against the small amount of subsidies for wind and solar, but he is silent on the taxpayer money going to prop up his friends in oil, gas, and coal.  We already knew who lined his pockets, but these questions need to be asked loudly, often, and on the record.

This Coal Baron has Trump’s Ear. What he says is Utter Nonsense.—This is Robert Murray.  He likes coal because coal made him rich.  He likes Trump because Trump likes his money, so Trump likes coal.  Too bad everything that comes out of his mouth is just garbage.

Rooftop Solar & Storage – Cheaper Than Subsidizing Old Coal—Facts will not get in the way of people like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry pushing a dirty fuels agenda.  This is the administration built on falsity and outright lies that answers facts with “We will agree to disagree.”  The future is now and we need to keep pushing.

Solar Competitors Band Together to Help Bring Electricity to Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico—The federal government will not help Puerto Rico in a sensible way because the sitting president does not like people who happen to be brown, don’t play golf, and don’t want to join his shitty club in Florida.  Socially conscious private industry is rising to the occasion to provide solutions in the wake of a dearth of actual leadership in Washington D.C.

Rooftop Solar Provides 48% Of South Australia Power, Pushing Grid Demand To Record Low—This graph is full of amazing insights:

RenewEconomy-8.jpg

We are just beginning to realize the potential of distributed renewables.

Australia Adds 97 MW Rooftop Solar In September, Set For Record 1 GW In 2017—Those will not be the last charts of that type you see from Australia either.

Let’s Take A Moment To Remember How Shitty Electric Cars Once Were—The most amazing thing, in my opinion, about the current electric vehicles on the market is that they are true vehicles.  These are not souped up golf carts or hacked conversions.  These are vehicles that can easily replace all but the longest road trips.

GM’s SURUS Fuel-Cell Truck Platform Could be a Disaster-Relief Hero—In general, I find fuel cell concepts to be half-baked.  However, this idea has real merit for a number of reasons.  The most pressing of which is made clear in places like Puerto Rico or New York after Superstorm Sandy.  People need electricity and liquid fuel runs out quickly.  Imagine a fleet of these disembarking from a Joint High Speed Vessel to a damaged seaside location.

The Empty Countryside—This story may be about rural England, but it could easily have been used to describe northwest Iowa or southeastern Colorado.  It is a long term demographic and development trend that I see no chance of abating in the near future.

Why Forest Kindergartens are the Best Schools for Our Young Kids—Maybe it is not just the forest, but the opportunity to freely apply lessons to an environment of your own choosing.

McDonald’s is Now Selling a “McVegan”—It is meatless and dairy free.  It is only available in Finland for some reason.

The Chicken Experiment That Shook the World—If there is going to be a global health crisis we are completely unprepared to deal with it will be antibiotic resistance.  It is amazing to think that so many of our problems can be traced back to a single experiment in the 1940s.  That is history for you.