Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Thursday, March 16, 2006

CORN FOR FOOD NOT CARS!


In a rare moment of honesty, George W. Bush recently admitted the U.S. was "addicted to oil." I don't think he made the statement out of any genuine concern for our future. Instead I think he made the statement in order to convince the American people that we need to expand the use of nuclear power and turn to biofuels like corn and soybeans to provide fuel for our auto addicted culture.

Lots of people these days are talking about ethanol production as a key cure to our oil woes. With fossil fuels running out, and becoming more expensive, the idea of fuel from organic products seems to make sense. Right?

Well not so fast. According to David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel." For every gallon that an ethanol manufacturing plant produces, it uses the equivalent of almost two-fifths of a gallon of fuel (usually natural gas), and that does not count the fuel needed to make fertilizer for the corn, run the farm machinery or truck the ethanol to market. Although Pimentel advocates the use of burning biomass to produce thermal energy (to heat homes, for example), he deplores the use of biomass for liquid fuel.

In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production the facts are that:

- Corn requires 29% more fossil energy than the fuel it produced...
- Switch grass (a favorite of George W. Bush) requires 45% more fossil energy than the fuel produced....
- wood biomass requires 57% more fossil energy than the fuel produced...
- soybean plants requires 27% more fossil energy than the fuel produced...
- sunflower plants requires 118% more fossil energy than the fuel produced....

With this said then, why is everyone talking about ethanol as our savior? You've seen the new Ford truck commercials on TV where these young environmental activists are standing in a corn field, next to the huge new model Ford pick-up truck. They have an ear of corn in their hands saying, "This is it folks...we've got it...the solution to our problems...nature's corn...keep driving and don't worry about it."

The agri-business corporations that control corn and soybean production these days in the Midwest are also behind this new scam. Archer Daniels Midland Co. Chairman and CEO G. Allen Andreas told analysts in February that rising demand for American-grown corn will push corn prices through the roof. Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates has invested $84 million in ethanol production plant expansion.

And the American people, with their big gas hungry trucks and SUV's, love the idea that a new fuel has been found just in time as oil prices keep rising. And it is environmentally pure!!!!!!!

One more thing to think about. As fossil fuels decline in availability, Peak Oil it's called, the cost of farming goes up thus the price of food dramatically rises. The entire agriculture industry is totally dependent on fossil fuels - tilling the soil, planting and harvesting are all oil dependent....trucking products to market also is oil dependent. We won't be able to afford to fly Kiwi fruit in from New Zealand, tomatoes from Mexico, or even avocados from south Florida. We are going to have to grow our food locally.

But there is a problem. I am told by Maine farmer and engineer John Howe who wrote the book called "The End of Fossil Energy," that it will take virtually all available agriculture land in the U.S. to grow enough corn and soybeans to provide the needed ethanol to replace the oil we now use in our cars. And that assumes you can even do it efficiently, which I think I've shown is not possible.

Howe says that we are going to need this available farming land to produce our food because food production, without the heavy use of fossil fuels will become more labor intensive. That means we will need more land and more humans working in the fields just to feed ourselves. If we have the fields committed to growing fuel for cars then we will starve to death.

So once again our very human desire for the easy answer, the magic bullet, proves to be a pipe dream. We are going to have to turn to public mass transit, bicycles, walking and solar cars if we are going to make it. Instead of putting corn in the tank, we are going to need to eat it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

MINING THE TAXPAYERS POCKETBOOK FOR SPACE


Two important developments concerning space this week. First NASA announced that their Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had safely reached the red planet and is now one of four functioning spacecraft in orbit there. The $720 million mission will survey the planet to identify minerals on the Martian surface. Looking for the origins of life you ask? Well no, not really. In fact NASA, doing the bidding for the aerospace industry that hopes to one day mine Mars, is setting up the infrastructure to make it possible in the future to have the industry go in and reap major profit from mining operations. The Halliburton Corporation is today creating a drilling mechanism to do Mars mining. Once NASA has successfully created the ability the mine the skies the entire operation will be privatized. And you know who is paying for it. Understand?

The other big story is Star Wars and the Pentagon. The military is asking Congress for hundreds of millions of extra tax $$$$$ to test weapons in space. According to a story in the Boston Globe today, "The DoD's budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes money for a variety of tests on offensive and defensive weapons, including a missile launched at a small satellite in orbit, testing a small space vehicle that could disperse weapons while traveling at 20 times the speed of sound, and determining whether high-powered ground-based lasers can effectively destroy enemy satellites."

So here we go. The veil is off the bride. The Bush team has broken down the door. They are now on record that they intend to move forward with offensive weapons in space. Pentagon spokesman Rick Lerner told the Globe, "We just want to do some experiments" on weapons technology in space. Yeah, just experiments...that's all.

If they were just experiments, why did the Bush administration vote last fall to block a United Nations resolution calling for a ban on weapons in space? Every country in the world (except the U.S. and Israel) are ready to sign an international treaty banning weapons in space. But the U.S. knows that if the Pentagon can put weapons in space, thus dominating space, they can militarily control the Earth on behalf of corporate globalization. No one would be able to stand against the U.S. in times of hostility because all warfare today on the Earth is directed by space technology.

The Pentagon budget for this year is $450 billion. They not only want to control the Earth but now they are moving to control Mars and soon Bush intends to put bases on the Moon. And as you set up mining operations on the planetary bodies the aerospace industry will seek funding to create new military technologies to "protect their assets" on those bodies from other space-faring nations. Imagine the costs involved in this inter-planetary warfare system they are now setting in motion?

It is easy to understand why the corporate elite have made the determination that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, welfare programs, public transit, environmental clean-up, and the like all have to be cut. The enormous fiscal appetite of the Pentagon for space control and domination technology development is going to overwhelm everything else in the national budget.

What do you think? Should we go along with this madness? Is this how you want your tax dollars spent?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

EMERGENCY IRAQ WAR MEETING HELD


We had an emergency Iraq war planning meeting in Portland today. On 48-hours notice we got 40 people out for the meeting. The purpose of it was to get serious about expanding our organizing in the mid-coast and southern Maine region. Our entire Maine congressional delegation keeps voting for all the money for the war and don't seem willing to budge anytime soon.

We went around in the meeting and asked everyone to say how they are feeling about things right now and give any ideas they have for next organizing steps. Many good ideas were brought forward and several of them emerged as common themes in the meeting. One is that Bush must be impeached, the second was the need to do more youth outreach and organizing, and the last was that we should hold our own town hall meeting and invite our Congressional delegation.

So in the end we decided to organize a public town hall meeting on Iraq on Friday, April 21 in Portland. (We are now working on a suitable location.) We will invite the politicians to come listen to the public and will give them time to respond at the end of the meeting if they would like to do so.

We will pass out a leaflet to everyone who comes to the meeting listing upcoming events and have contact information for local peace groups, study groups, book clubs, and any other grouping doing any anti-war organizing in the area.

We also decided to set another meeting up to do follow-up work after the town hall meeting. That meeting, also to be held in Portland, will be on Saturday, May 6 from 1-3pm. (Location to be announced). For now we are calling this the Iraq War Regional Network.

The meeting had a serious and positive energy. Several people running/or representing candidates for Governor, Senator and House of Representatives were there. At the end of the meeting I asked everyone to stand and hold hands. I said that we needed to work together and pledge to each other that we will do all we can to build our regional movement. I said we are on the edge of fascism in America and the time for cooperative effort is here.