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Monthly Archives: September 2013

I’m going to be really busy this week getting ready for SXSWEco so this post will be relatively short (I hope). I have lots of cramming to do before I leave and I want to finish the arranging of the current song in progress.

I also have to type up some lyrics for Chris so she can tweak the melody for that song and I have to tweak the lyrics for the melody she wrote for the previous one.

More than I thought. Gak!

And when I get back I have to get Ovi Vargas and his actors into the studio to record the last few voice overs for the wonderful script he’s written with the Werbacher brothers (Don and Rich). Doing a favor for a good friend whose done so many favors for me.

So. Late last week the IPCCs climate report, or at least portions of it, were released. It’s not pretty. It didn’t paint a rosy picture for the near future if we keep doing what we’ve been doing.

And that’s the point: “if we keep doing what we’ve been doing.” The future is our choice. We can do something about it. We can alter the apparent trajectory of history and leave a livable climate for our children and grandchildren. There is hope.

Many technologies are coming on line that are not only renewable, but some even extract carbon from the air as they manufacture the fuel we need to heat our homes and get us around. Fuel derived from algae is one such option. It has been shown that the manufacture of the fuel actually removes more carbon from the air than would ever be released when the fuel is burned. The net result is a huge drop not only in carbon emissions from the tailpipes and smokestacks but in the overall presence of carbon in the atmosphere. The very thing that’s driving the global temperature up.

There is hope.

Electric vehicles. I follow this area very closely because my son has a tesla sedan and I have both ridden in and driven it. This is the future. In more than 12k miles he has used around $ 350 in electricity to charge the batteries. In gasoline for a car that sized, he would have paid nearly $2000. And, since his local power source is a nuclear generating station, there are no emissions when charging the batteries. Those batteries can take him and his family about 300 miles on a charge with A/C and headlights, etc running. It is a wondrous machine. Truly remarkable.

And for those of you who like to drive fast, this thing is frighteningly fast. It took my breath away and I am accustomed to the acceleration of motorcycles.

Tesla is working on an entry level model now that may be available next year. I also believe there are tax incentives.

There are electric motorcycles popping up everywhere. These are every bit as quick and agile as standard bikes and many go father on a charge than their fossil fueled competition.

New sectors are opening up in our economy. New technologies for solar and wind and high efficiency devices are popping up everywhere.

There is hope.

There are groups working day and night to raise money, advocate for change, and a hundred other things.

Find one and join. Go back through my blog posts and look up the organizations I’ve written about. Become part of the solution. You will then be able to help hand a safe climate and future to you children and grandchildren.

As Carl Sagan famously said: “Don’t sit this one out.”

I’ll be tweeting and making Facebook posts while I’m in Austin. If you don’t already follow, sign up below and like our Facebook page.

https://twitter.com/MadmenDreamers

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Madmen-and-Dreamers/126910890109

God speed.

MAD

My last post I wrote about the terrible flooding in Colorado and asked everyone to do something, for any issue they were interested in, through any means at their disposal. Someone once said; no one can do everything, but everyone can do one thing.

On the other end of the water spectrum–from way, way too much to way, way too little–this hit my twitter a couple of days ago.

Julian Lennon (@JulianLennon)
9/20/13, 7:20 PM
It ain’t over til it’s over… ;) x fb.me/Z9SBXYsc

Wondering what he was referring to (and thinking that he probably wasn’t channeling Yogi Berra) I clicked the link and found another facet of Julian’s charity work that I hadn’t known about.

http://my.charitywater.org/julianlennon

Although I am aware of his work in Kenya and other parts of Africa, I had no idea he was involved in solving (or at least mitigating) Rawanda’s water crisis. Because of this lapse on my part, I’ll let Julian’s own words take it from here:

“I have decided to change the world with charity: water for my birthday this year! The White Feather Foundation embraces environmental and humanitarian issues and in conjunction with partners from around the world helps to raise funds for the betterment of all life. I have long wanted to support a charity: water project and Rwanda’s water crisis speaks deeply to my heart.

I don’t usually ask for presents, but this year I’ve decided to make an exception. I’m asking YOU- all my friends and family, and those you know- to donate, and share my campaign if you are so moved, to give clean water to people who need and deserve it, instead of giving me gifts.

Did you know that nearly 800 million on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water? Every day, 5,000 kids die from water-related illnesses before they reach their fifth birthday. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world.

Help me make this birthday my best ever — and help me change the world!

Thanks, x Jules”

So, here’s something you can do. Whatever you donate, will bring clean and safe drinking water to a person or persons. And, instead of thinking about those persons being “somewhere over there” think about them standing right in front of you. You see, we humans are remarkable creatures. When things are at their worst, we are generally at our best. We have little specially made structures in our brains–mirror neurons–which automatically fire and make us empathic in the face the need of another human, regardless of our superficial differences. If they are in trouble, these structures prompt us to help. We can’t help it. It probably evolved as a way to perpetuate our species.

Sadly, it doesn’t work as well if we aren’t face to face with the person in need.

So, I ask you to imagine that person sitting next to you as you read this. Someday, it could be you or one of your children who needs the help.

Pay it forward. There are only seven days left to do so.

About Rwanda:

Rwanda has serious water issues. The irony is that they have an abundance of water, just not the infrastructure to get it to all of their people. Many to without clean water altogether or have to walk great distances to find safe water. Imagine, if you will, having to take four hours out of your day to carry five gallon jugs miles to stand on line for safe water. Then, you have to carry them back. Water weighs a little over eight pounds per gallon. Say you’re lucky enough to own two five gallon jugs . . .

You’re lugging eighty pounds of water. Every day. Even if you only have one jug, it’s still 40 pounds to carry any number of miles between home and the nearest water supply.

For we westerners, this seems absurd. We walk over to the faucet or the refrigerator and get something to drink. We then go back to what ever entertainment or work we were previously engaged in. Simple.

Most of the rest of the world doesn’t bar it so good. The buffer between us and the kind of grinding poverty you see in the developing world is robust. Something goes wrong for us we have fall back positions both personal and governmental because our nations are comparatively rich.

When you’re living hand to mouth as they are in places such as Rwanda, a simple thing such as a drink of water can be the difference between life and death.

We have so much and it’s so easy to part with a few bucks to help those less fortunate. This act of paying it forward also feels good. It lights up those mirror neurons, though not with the same intensity as when we are face to face with another human being.

A couple of riveting films have been made about Rwanda’s troubles over the past decade or two which might help you to focus your intentions. I recommend that you see them. One is called, “Sometimes in April” and the other, “Hotel Rwanda.”

They might just bring these people into focus for you so you can actually look into their eyes and see and feel the difference between what you have and what they don’t have. I promise you won’t be unmoved.

God speed

MAD

. . . even if there are fracking chemicals.

In Colorado, more than 21 inches of rain fell in a week on top of soil already stripped bare by apocalyptic wildfires. At this writing, more than 500 are missing. More than 19, 000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Miraculously, there may only be 8 dead.

The area devastated by these storms is almost the size of Connecticut.

The hidden pain in all of this though, is that there are some 18,000 active fracking and oil wells in the area. Of those wells, approximately 1900 are under water. Pipelines have been broken and storage tanks destroyed. No one knows what is leaking out of those sites nor where it’s going. There is wide spread concern that those chemicals, mixed with sewage and other nasty stuff will work its way into the area water supply.

The sewage can be mitigated. Officials know what it is, what the dangers are and how to neutralize them.

The problem is what has been leaking from those fracking and oil well sites. You see, the companies that run those sites are exempt from disclosing the names of the chemicals they use, their effects, the accepted ways to neutralize them and the required treatment for anyone who might be poisoned by them. They don’t even have to tell medical personnel and in past cases these companies have refused to disclose the nature of the chemicals and the necessary treatment to emergency room physicians trying to treat trauma cases.  The doctor’s could do nothing but watch their patients wither away.

The cause is simple: money. These people don’t care who they hurt so long as they make a healthy profit. It doesn’t matter which type of environmental disaster they cause. It could be the climate disruption we see in the ever rising number of weather related disasters or in the poisoning of innocent bystanders, including children. They just don’t care.

So we must.

Where there is life, there is hope. There is the chance to rebuild or move to another place and rebuild. There is the chance to start again. There is the chance to heal and learn and act, if not in our own defense, then in the defense of our descendants. There is the chance to right these egregious wrongs and raise humanity to its feet and step out from under the crushing yoke of the plutocratic control of our government.

Over the weekend, we celebrated my wife’s birthday. Lots of family and friends came over. My son and his wonderful wife made the trip with our grandkids and as I watched them play with my mother-in-law and the children of friends and dart between the feet of we adults, I felt again why I am driven to write the things I write, the words and music for the shows we labor on, these blog posts, thousands of emails and on and on.

I want what I saw over the weekend to go on. Not just for me. Not just for my flesh and blood and not for just my friends, but for all of us who call this beautiful, blue marble hanging in the midnight sky: Home.

I want the promise of humanity to be fulfilled. We are capable of so many wondrous things. Beethoven, Mozart, Einsteins and Hawking. Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Buddha, Plato and Shakespeare. I could fill all of the space in the world with the names of those who drew humanity to its greatest apexes, not because I know the names of so many philosophers and artists and scientists, but because of the ones whose names aren’t counted with the names of history.

Every one of you.

Every one of you, your friends, your children, their friends. Every one who has stopped to help another, who has taken the time to write their congress person in defense of a neighbor or a minority or simple common sense. Every one who has thought of someone other than themselves, if only for a moment. Every one who decided to live a little more simply so that another may simply live. These are the ones who truly fulfill the promise of humanity and they number in the billions. They live all over the world. They have skin of varying color and different languages and beliefs, but they all share this place and time with us.

Sometimes, our culture holds up people of wealth and status as the object of our earthly efforts, as the shining example of what it means to be truly successful, but last weekend I looked around and saw that I was truly successful.

I have awesome friends. I have a wonderful family even if we disagree on a few vanishingly small points. My grandchildren are being raised by two of the best parents I have ever seen.

And my wife, the reason we were all gathered here, forever changed my life for the better the instant she shone her light into it. She has heard me say many times that she saved my life, but isn’t sure how that miracle occurred. My son understands it though because he knew the dark place where Chris found me.

I wish the same for every one of you. I wish for you that life goes on in spite of the horrendous obstacles facing us as a species. In spite of the environmental havoc being left for us by the rich and foolish.

For where there is life, there is hope. You are that hope and I ask you to demonstrate that hope by going back through the pages of this blog to find a cause you can be part of, whether it be aid for Colorado, the White Feather Foundation, 350.org, your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, anything. Your contribution, no matter how small, will not go unnoticed by those who keep track of such sacrifices.

Be they God or man.

God speed.

MAD

Getting ready for SXSWEco next month and doing my due diligence. Going over who is going to be there and what they do, etc. Deciding, among the plenty,  who I want to meet and talk with.

A lot of really interesting people are going. The cream of the crop of sustainability and Eco-sense on the practical level of actually getting things done.

Down the list of categories I go; Activism, Building and Architecture, CleanTeck and CleanWeb when suddenly I get to Corporations. “Hmmm . . .” I think to myself, “this should be interesting.” So I click.

The first on the list is IBM and I find myself wondering what IBM has to do with the environment. They make a lot of software these days, but the still have a sizable presence in hardware in the form of computer chip manufacturing, servers, mobile data centers and other efforts. They used to also make a lot of computers and laptops. We have at least two of their old thinkpads around that get regular use, but what are they doing in relation to the environment and climate?

Their website goes to some length extolling their environmental virtues citing this award and that award for their long term stewardship. Ok, but it somehow it sounds a little like greenwashing to me. I read a lot of this stuff and this sounds a little hollow. I mean they are, after all,  in the business of taking some of the most toxic elements on the planet (all sorts of rare earth materials and metals go into chips and mother boards and hard drives), and packing them into our ubiquitous laptops, phones and desktops. Those items often end up being dismantled in the most polluted place on the planet (literally) by people too close to desperation to care that they are poisoning themselves turning these devices into scrap they hope to sell.

Hmmm. I wonder what I’ll find if I google “IBM water privatization”?

Well look at that. IBM and a company called Waterfund LLC are working together to develop a comprehensive water cost index. Big data to drive smarter water investments.

“Water investments” always makes me stop and take a harder look. Those words make me nervous.

From the Waterfund press page on their website:

“The backlog of investment in water systems around the world by some estimates approaches $1 trillion – quite apart from the hundreds of millions of people who have never had access to a water or sanitation system at all,” said IBM Distinguished Engineer and Big Green Innovations CTO Peter Williams.  “By creating a benchmark cost for water we intend to harness the capital market to this supremely important cause.  If we can make it easier to price investments in the water sector, we can improve the flow of capital into an area where it is desperately needed.  We look forward to working with Waterfund to bring this about.”

On the surface, it kind of makes sense, but that’s a lot of money. What happens when the whole thing is up and going and all that money is changing hands? Will they treat the water differently than any other commodity? I suspect not. And, don’t fail to notice the weight given to the dollar amount in the statement. It comes first and “quite apart from the hundreds of millions of people . . . ”

Privatizing is about making money from something that used to be–and usually still should be–a public trust. It’s all about the profit.

Waterfund’s website goes on to say that they are “developing Software-as-a-service solutions to measure the financial risk of supplying fresh water.”

(Personally, I see a much greater risk in not supplying it. Hundreds of millions of thirsty, pissed off people could complicate the next shareholder’s meeting.)

I’m sure there are more than a dozen things that could be factored in as potential financial risks to supplying freshwater, but the question is–to me–who assumes that risk in the end? Is it the company or its shareholders or will it be the people who have to buy and use the water? Is it them or is it us? And what about the risk of those who can’t afford the water?

After reading this I find myself musing on why are they going to this Eco conference? Are they going to tout this initiative as a win/win for both business and the poor people who have to shell out an ever larger chunk of their incomes to buy clean water? Or are they coming to sell the idea that the only way to address the worlds rapidly worsening water problem is through corporate governance by making it a commodity? A commodity, which like oil, is subject or price shocks and manipulation by speculators? This event is attended largely by young people. Are they trying to get them used to the idea?

They say on their site that 2.3 billion people will be water stressed by 2025. Twelve years from now. Remember, you can only live three to five days without it. I hope their motivation is to ensure the safe, timely and universally affordable delivery of clean and safe fresh water and sanitation.

The next company I found to be a bit of a contradiction was CBRE, the real estate giant. It only took me a few minutes to find a link to their Global Listed Infrastructure document posted by their securities division: CBRE Clarion Securities.

CBRE Clarion’s focus is on global listed infrastructure. What they’re talking about are things broken down into two groups: economic infrastructure and social infrastructure. From their website:

“Economic infrastructure includes operating facilities and systems that support economic vitality of a community.”

Under Economic infrastructure they list Transport, Energy and Utilities and Communications. It’s under Energy and Utilities where I find water mentioned first. Sewer systems are right beside it and that makes sense. No sewers is almost as bad as no water.

(BTW, Education, Healthcare, Correctional Facilities, Government Buildings, Police and Military Facilities and Parks are all under Social Infrastructure. Still think corporations don’t own everything?)

So why is CBRE pushing investment in infrastructure? “. . . the ability to invest in irreplaceable regulated assets currently owned by the public sector is an opportunity for investors to potentially lock in stable, long-term returns in an asset class shielded by the high barriers in place to prevent unwarranted competition.”

That’s blunt.

A little later in the document they have another chart laying out the characteristics of infrastructure assets. The first column is Attribute; the second, Common Characteristic; the third is Industry Example.  Everything I am about to quote from this table lists water as an Industry Example. There are many others, but I’m dealing with water right now.

Attribute: Monopolistic
Common Characteristic: Large scale-capital intensive, high barriers to entry-Initial capital outlay and regulation serve as a barrier to entry.
Industry Example: water

Attribute: Regulated/Government Oversight
Common Characteristic: Benefits to society as a whole
Industry Example: water

Attribute: Inelastic Demand
Common Characteristic: provide essential community services, less sensitive to business cycle
Industry Example: water

Attribute: predictable long-term returns
Common Characteristic: assets are long lived, steady user demand, reliable cash flows
Industry Example: water

Attribute: Inflation-linked
Common Characteristic: real assets-long term asset appreciation in-line with inflation. Concessions permitting rent escalations linked to inflation.
Industry Example: water

That last one is a glimpse of the future.

Finally; Banyan Water.

Their website trumpets: “water will become the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and previous metals.” (I think they meant precious metals, but a quote is a quote)

Their website also says:

“We buy wells.”

“Sell us your water system.”

Does anyone but me find statements like that the least bit alarming? Why on earth would we be willing to sell our wells? Why would any government–local, state or federal–be willing to do such a thing? Government was created as a way to take care of the public trust. In the part of the world where governments were first born, in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, it was founded and organized to administer water because the free flow of water is what kept the city states alive. The government created and protected the infrastructure for that very reason. Water was the lifeline of those communities and therefore the first target attacked by a rival power. Trade goods traveled by water as well, so their economic lives were also heavily dependent on it.

So I ask again: why would anyone be willing to sell their wells? If you give up complete control of your water, the buyer can dictate any price when they sell it back to you.

One final note on Banyan. I spent some time poking around their site and discovered that their current partners and customers are hidden behind a “private access area”. If you are an existing customer or partner you can request reports and updates.

Must be an exclusive club. Maybe that’s why this information is so sensitive. I mean, what else could it be?

If these things are the business goals of these companies, why are they coming to SXSWEco? Is it to sell the virtues of corporate management over water supplies? Are there any real virtues in that anyway? All it takes is a little googling to see that the vast majority of these privatization schemes end badly. The price goes through the roof and the water quality goes down the toilet.

I hope my suspicions are mistaken, I really do. Somehow though, I fear that I may be hitting the nail right on the head. I’ll let you know.

God Speed.

MAD

Not too long after the last post, someone sent me this video produced by Julian and his White Feather Foundation. It explains perfectly what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how you can literally save lives.

I’ve embedded it below. Please take a few minutes to watch it.

Our projects can be purchased: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/MadmenandDreamers  and http://www.theorchard.com/artist/35628/releases/madmen-and-dreamers  . And also on all major download sites.

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