Saturday, April 13, 2013

Livin' La Vida Verde: LWV April panel notes and commentary

Meeting: Sat. April 13, 2013, League of Women Voters of Nevada County (link); a 4-person panel presentation and Q and A on "living green" in Nevada County. Fairly exhaustive yet incomplete, mostly-substantive notes (and the occasional editorial aside and assessment) follow.

Panelists were Martin Webb (solar KVMR energy host), Richard Thomas (sierra club), Nancy Weber (nid), Amigo Bob Cantisano (organic farmer/consultant, started Peaceful Valley Farm Supply)

Next month's meeting is on immigration.

First a 2-min. presentation by Lorraine Larson of Habitat for Humanity (building homes for the fiscally challenged)
Womens status and poverty/housing - h4h offers the (only?) hope for these women, to own.
Supporting H4H, a # of ways.  One is:
new(?) program - womenbuild - get women involved in the h4h building, not just the guys.
"Living green" - focus of our discussion is local

~15 min presentations from each of the 4 panelists, then answering Qs written by audience on index cards and addressed to the panelists.   30-50 ppl present.

Martin Webb
Not gonna talk about solar (ha - ed.)
"Streams in reverse" imagery - in that there's power loss bleeding off, all through the distribution ( distributed energy production avoids this.)
Why metaphors: ppl need to visualize what's going on so we can make change

"what's the most important thing you can do"...
the whole peak oil issues - hydrofracking (? can't recall in what context this came up)

laptop metaphor - you can work w/o plugging in.  It will warn you when you should plug in.
you can ignore it.... (but eventually that's very bad.)  Extracting Fossil fuels more effectively is like pulling power directly from your laptop battery (??????? not sure I have this metaphor right)

Plane and ship traffic, polluting, bringing stuff from Asia and other continents for us to consume - they're remote control devices powered by your appetite.

Can 1 person make a difference - many think not.
 (Ed note: via personal footprint action they're right, see Begley "buying green" piece)

Suppose there's a house on fire and you had a squirt bottle
You cant put it out - would you conclude that water doesn't put out fire? No - what's needed is more water, to put it out.

(Ed. summary: He's extremely articulate, but didn't clearly state the (AFAIK essential) need for changes in infrastructure/regulation in order to solve problems.  Also the presentation focused on fossil fuels as though there's a shortage, when in fact there's enough to cook the planet many times over.)

Richard Thomas (Sierra Club) -
There's the personal sphere and also the political
Somewhat the personal - anecdote,  kids and teacher happy with only half the illumination in classroom, turn off half lights.
Yup consumption's a problem - we consume so much that we're oblivious.
Replaced 2 TVs yet old one would probably work fine. (Ed: but Energy Star efficiency likely lots worse for the old one)

sierra club est. 1892
locally in 1984

Bumpersticker, true:  "the decisions are made by those who show up."
Local issues oft revolve around land use issues.
Lots of success in preserving landscapes.  Orgs doing this: tpl, nat cons, etc

CEQA is the doc that gives the public their voice, in govt approval of development.
Otherwise ppl could object but there'd be no process they could work thru to make their voices heard.
Certain things are exempt
CEQA asks, does it have adverse env effects? if so they gotta address them.
If public thnks they're not adequately addressing (mitigating) effects, then can/should sue.
Yuba highlands  proposed dev (stopped) - wanted to build 4k houses before a grocery store; preferred option was to improve the road thru spenceville, so they could commute to the valley for work

Nancy Weber (NID)
visualize  a watershed- rushing water, pines, granite; that is our watershed.
NID has water rights to a lot of water that comes from sierra county.
formed in 1921; its a Special District, has elected board members
NW been there 14 years; representing diverse interests - fr rural maine, farming bkgd
NID has hydro
Generates 375m kwh at 7 diff sites
Relicensing of the hydro is afoot; (some? all?) were PGE's facilities, now ours; will gross $20m/y, net 10; to be spent for recreation and ?

Campgrounds at rollins and scotts flat - 100k sites rented, 60k day use ppl (per year?)
rec is a byproduct, not econ viable though they're trying.
nid has alotta land that should be used for rec

Concerns about our watershed and our water.
half ppl in nid dist dont have NID water, they just pay the taxes.  cost to extend is v expensive, must be subsidized.
She was quoted $75k for 1/3 mile, originally; ended up getting it for $30k.
Opinion: Must use some of the hydro profit to get water serving the whole area

Climate change is a concern, is real
heavy storms, less frequent (?)
half the snowpack as before; snowpack gets used for july water and peak hydro production
we gotta be more careful in water use

No, don't encase the ditches in pipes, it's habitat for flora and fauna
protect our water from threats from outside
134b acrefoot (lost? used?) in sac valley - subsidence 3-4 (34?) ft in last 50 yrs
SoCal needs water
the legislative power is in Bay Area and SoCal; we've got the water.
so we need to be politically active
threat #1: the WATER BOND.
scheduled for 2014
The last one gave little $ for sierras; just a couple dams (tehama, sierra)
We need 2 advocate for having the sierra infrastructure funded
we have the golden egg (water), the watershed is the goose.
we need to protect it.

Threats -
garden bar dam - kaput due to sierra watch and s. club
only way 2 protect water supply is an informed community that's active
eg saving parks, getting yuba wild and scenic status
we'll need to do same about  the water bond.

what can happen with CEQA, not just lawsuits but cooperative outcomes.  Example:
foothill water networks - 18 mos ago they protested NIDs licensing water rights where nid hadnt done approp env repair for env damage, and they were right.
So a proposal - how about no sue but we work together to restore habitat? and they do.
Amigo Bob
(Who as a taxpayer pays for NID but gets no service, uses groundwater)

we import 99% of our food in nevco - could produce a lot more
have land air sun water(thanks nid)
this is the year we'll have a bumper fruit crop since it didn't rain all spring...
(yes we need water, but in short term a drought is good for our fruit harvest)

we have everything except the ppl to produce the food.
over 90% of farmers in nevco have outside jobs
(not because we need more work, we need more income)
we need more farmers and more gardeners - tremendous potential  to make more food.
an opportunity and an obligation, to grow more food.
median age in ag is 58; doesn't bode well but involvement of youngsters are growing.
they don't start out knowing much but are v. motivated; need alot more support
watched half dozen  in last 5 yrs quit.
you vote with your dollar to support someone or something.  local puts more money back in the community, esp. direct purchase to farmer.
need some version of subsid. since we cant produce central valley yields.
almost all young farmers are on leased or freebie deals
if you want longterm farmers they cant be on leased land. esp w perennials.
this reqs political activism.  need access to land; young folks dont have a cent
need reward them for taking these efforts
eg a csa
 but csa farmers are having trouble finding subscribers; of the 100k pop. here, <5k br="" csas="" use=""> we need community gardens...
 a half acre here, a quarter acre there; elsewhere in state they're packed
( hospice has one, says audience)
 we need more, they're invisible
County gov says 30k $ tax revenue "threatened" by williamson act, so abolish it in our county? foolish.
 the bigger picture is where we need to be responsible

 in US, each cal of food takes 15 cal of energy (to grow transport store)
 importing food makes this worse.
 40% of food grown doesn't get consumed.  waste all along the line
 we need gleaners
 we need community kitchens
 asparagus - out of season - coms from peru in winter.  1 lb asp takes 72lb fossil fuel energy, to get into yr mouth.
Peruvian farmer doesn't make much, who makes money is distributors/middlemen.
 we as consumeers have an opportunity to make a change with every $ we sepnd.
 support local stores, farmers markets, retailers, this will thrive.
 Otherwise it wont, will be a historical blip.


Questions from cards; panelists can choose which Qs they want to answer

Martin Webb
 A wealth of solar Qs
Q- what funding for residential solar installations is avail in nevco -
A: a 30% fed tax credit. (against any deductions you owe)
 can carry extra fwd thru 2016.
 pge residential rebate ends next week, lasted 16 yrs?
But nonprofits and businesses still have a pge rebate

What if too many trees?
 2 choices - don't, or cut your trees
In Calif. you cant buy into a solar farm, other states you can.
You can quantify expected solar exposure at your site wtth a gadget.
(Audience member 1: "'my trees' are on my neighbor's property"; Audience member 2: Solution is to help build solar someplace else and get money back from it with Mosaic, a crowdfunding/investment opportunity for funding solar installations on businesses and nonprofits, you get abt 4.5% return.  See
sf chron article or mosaic website.)

 Now solar is a mortgage-like thing.  PG and E's rates are so hi, solar prices so low, ppl in nevco are financing their systems.  If you're paying a pge bill, you can go solar.
You get  "instant payback"  when leasing or financing a system; costs less than your pge bill.  Solar's a better return on investment than bank interest.

Q: how can we get big biz to make solar panels here again?
 a:  won't happen.  Cheap heading to china. cost of shipping to sac costed local company $$ from gv.  so they relocated to sac area

 Q: can free market do a better job given $$ subsides to renewable energy? (solyndra)
A: all energy is subsidized.  ffs are subisidized way heavier than ren energy.
Study:  ffs sub 100s of bils glbobally, ren was pittance
 2 types of subs - to producers and to consumers
 ff subs were to consumers (80%); renewable subs were to big corps that sometimes fail.  solyndra a minority.

Also: solar cools yr roof.  so you'll need less a/c, and it helps with roofing longevity.
And generates local sales tax.

Richard Thomas -
Define CEQA  - passed in 1970? California Environmental Quality Act.  National analogue is NEPA, but it doesn't requre that fed agencies mitigate damages, just study them.

There are some sierra club issues that rub ppl the wrong way.
2 local qs
(RT spent 4 yrs on yuba highlands, 4 on general plan in 1990s (growth to comm centers) gp wars of the early 90s)
Q - what about Idaho-Maryland mine?  A: afaik they're still lookign for $$, major projected impacts were effects of dewatering and trucks.
Q- suction dredging - they do remove some mercury; but sc fought them? reasons of clarity, fish habitat.
Q - Broom? (invasive)
yes you can kill scotch broom w herbicides.
can cut, then paint stem w roundup
or use tools to remove  - local experts are fire safe council - 3 hr stints at removal (weed wrench) 
John Olmstead would cut just above the ground, scrape back bark for about 2 in below the 1st node.

Q: what's the most important environmental issue of our time?
A: global warming
We're dumping carbon into the air
it is huge
 it's our lifestyle and consumptions doing it, and it's a fact.
(98% climate scientists)
RT has an electric (assist) bike, rides it to work
7hills bicycle recycle project is doing them.
They donate bikes to loaves and fishes, new orleans after hurricane, sell at ReStore.
 Most ppl are afraid to ride bicycles in NevCo.
The elec. one lets him ride w/o sweat, in half the time, safer, doesn't pollute - much less e.  it's an electric assist.
Safer.  moving faster, better balance.
Intention:  retiring from schoolteaching, do e-bike sales.
Nancy Weber
Q - what's the response by NID in calif to need for more water  -
more dams?

Proposed to raise height of rollins to get 4k+ acrefeet of water
Proposed Parker dam (idea in 1925) on bear between rollins and combie - not anytime soon.
It would keep garden bar dam fr being built,  since it'd let us get/store the water we're entitled to.
We buy surplus water (from ?), and sell to south sutter water district  who resells it for more ( 150-200) at the other end.
We need better mgmt of our forests, canopy to protect the snow so it dont melt as fast.
New nid general mgr is progressive, says dont burn chips as biomass, leave on ground as mulch
look at meadow restoration and bank water there
Calif and water is the political apex of the world(?? accuracy of notes is not guaranteed)
There's a lot of talk and not much action unless it's kneejerk - waterbond looks to be kneejerk

Q-how much of our water is diverted to sac ricefarms?
? (if we sell it and they buy)

Q - any chance local restaurants could stop serving water automatically, just on request
A: maybe, if a gov resolution?

Q nid water fluoridated? no
nevcity? dont think so.

Q- whats in the water bond? no time, read it in the paper
will it just be another dam to store water issue.

Q - the biggest environmental issue: we dont recognize the environment in any form.

Amigo Bob - living as farm advvisor. teaching org farming

honored to sit next to these 3 - who are the true heart of activism

Q - state and fed subsidies to small farms?
A: taxpayer subsidizes food/ag.  10b thru dept of ag; also thru water subsidies.
how do small farms fit in? basically they don't, unless you're an nid user.
1/100 % of usda budget goes to org/smallfarm research and support
better than 5 yrs ago though, now 10x bigger
fed govt's reexamining ag subsidies - need to get em all out of ag, let survival of fittest take place - esp since most go to large farms.
1 (org?) farm, there were $15m subsidies to neighboring farms, some paid NOT to grow it.
we subsidize ag in order to be internationally competitive.
compete for wheat corn rice soy dairy
basically we (organic farms) dont get subsidiies

Q - affected by marketing orders?
MO are established by the indiustry.  says quality standards and yr right to sell; if surplus you're forced to not harvest it.
(and pricing structure, thru supply; keeps the price up.) 
(Ed: and how is this not pricefixing?)
Org farmers are part of it(???), though they don't help organic farmers; but it helps to be small scale; nobody from nevco is big enough to be under m.o.s afaik

Clean water act - start testing water exiting farms - a lotta junk esp in tail water.
Farmers have Watershed groups - so not every indiv farm gets tested - joining is mandated.
To find: sources of pollution.
The only real testing in our WG is right below wheatland.
They found very little that would have been from ag in NevCo.
the testing cost is exorbitant (cash cow for testing labs)
May avoid by filing a statement w state resources board saying you don't use/do that stuff and that they can visit to verify.

Q - how to create community gardens here.
nc elem in early 80s, started a school garden; probably a similar process for community ones.
0. a resource (piece of land)
1. find willing partner. (school)
2. get parents to help - incl w greenhouse
3. worked for yrs with kids; they created lifelab curriculum
4. had 6 of em going
build it and they will come
lots of info avail on community gardens and how to form.

Q - Chem free farming in cuba - insights from, could we follow?
Cuba was stuck w/o $ for fertilizers and pesticides
forced them into a new role

US? Of course we could except our backs aren't against the wall
Americans are by and large reactionary not proactive (i.e. not good at planning ahead - ed.)
we need a few mats (materials?) fr outside the county but not a lot.

Q - williamson act?
A: in favor of.
in some areas  it's the only reason there's ag there - everything else is developed.
It subsidizes prop tax in exchange for permanent (longterm?) prohibtion of development.
There are no ag interests on Nevada County's Board of Supervisors.
(we're all busy, and so small a # of agfolk)

Most important environmental issue?
Climate change and our lack of respect for the environment.
(we dont fully appreciate/respect it)
Climate Change/global warming;  we are part of the problem, all of us.  we cant hand off to next generation.
Yet we're still in denial about it, it was only mentioned like once in whole election
Not discussing what might be the most important issue of our time.
To have all of this energy comes at a price.
grandkids, what will they inherit.

Organic agriculture deals w this issue, it sequesters carbon.  uses much less energy than in conventional ag
1 good study showed 2/3 less energy was used by org farming.
add in the local aspect and it gets more dramatic; plus org farmers buy local supplies
We need to get real about this and step forward and say what to do about this crisis.
Some say we're going down tubes why worry about it... but it's for YOUR kids.

We live in a great place; we've got the most nonprofit orgs per capita in the state.   This is a happening place, we're doing a lot of good things...


I forgot; meant to ask people what went well, what didn't, what improvements would have been good, what was the take-home message, what did they learn that they didn't already know.
(IMO the Qs-on-cards went very well, avoiding extended individual:panelist domination of discussion.  I would have preferred to have heard 1 Q answered at a time from a panelist, rotating among them, but that's minor.) And to have time spent on an issue correspond more closely with importance of issue would have been good too.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters and panelists for this forum.  As LWV is an organization espousing political action, though, it did seem a little jarring that the forum focused on individual (nonpolitical) action for addressing problems whose solution a) is essential and b) requires systemic changes and the hand of government, to solve. ( Buying green and changing personal behavior won't save the planet; that's not what's worked before, when we solved environmental problems. )

On what an individual can/should do to tackle climate change, Bill McKibben expressed it succinctly:
Screwing in a lightbulb is important; screwing in a new federal policy to deal with climate change is crucial.
Or screwing in the political will to facilitate this, or mixing metaphors while going further upstream and unscrewing the money-in-politics systemic corruption that makes Congressmen responsive to their funders & not to their constituents and their children; think Lesterland (and think #rootstrikers.)

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