Saturday, July 12, 2008

Next Week, S.F. Labor Book Fair

Next July 19, 2008, I'll be reading poetry at the San Francisco Labor Book Fair. The poets will
read 3:30-5:00. The Book Fair is part of San Francisco Labor Festival: 50 events held from July 5 to 31 in San Francisco and the East Bay on labor including films, videos, talks, theater, concerts, panels, walks of historical labor sites.

1st Annual LaborFest BookFair & Poetry Reading
July 19 (Saturday) 2008
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts - 2868 Mission St.,SF


Main Gallery (Book Presentations)
9:30 AM-10:45 AM
Fernando Gapasin on: Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice.

11:00 AM-12:15 PM
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on: Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico.

1:15 PM – 2:30 PM
Lauren Coodley on: Putting Labor into California History,3110,0131884107,00.html

Theater 12:00 PM-1:30PM
Lincoln Cushing Presentation and Slide Show on: Art/Works - American Labor Graphic.

1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Bryan D. Palmer on: James P. Cannon and the Origins Of the American Revolutionary Left.

3:30 PM-5:00 PM
LaborFest Poetry Reading
With Jenifer Rae Vernon, Julia Stein, Alice Rogoff, Matthew Diaz, Benjamin Balthaser, James Tracy, and others.

Small Gallery
9:30 AM-12:00 Noon
The LaborFest Writers Workshop will conduct writing exercises inspired by the American Life Histories of the WPA Federal Writers’ Project’s Folklore Project. Main themes will be on the industrial and occupational lore of working class people and families. We will explore the customs, cultures, and regional traditions of our diverse backgrounds.

12:30 PM 1:45 PM
Dan Berman on: Death On The Job and the State Of Health And Safety.

2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Suzanne Gordon on: Safety In Numbers, Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care
Suzanne Gordon; John Buchanan; Tanya Bretherton

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Paul D. Blanc, MD on: How Everyday Products Make People Sick
Toxins at Home and in the Workplace

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saving Energry: One Danish Island Does it!

There's a great article in the July 7 and 14 New York titled "The Island in the Wind" by Elizabeth Kolbert about the Dutch island of Samso, where over a decade the 4300 people living changed how they used energy so by 2005 Samso was "producing from renewable sources more energy than it was using."

The people at Samso are conservative farmers mostly--not wealthy, not idealistic, not adventurous. First, the Danish government had a contest to choose one community to sponsor for a renewable energy project. After an engineer along with Samso's mayor drew up a plan to wean the island off fossil fuel, the island won the contest. The Danish federal government funded one person, Soren Hermansen, to be the project's first employee. For years Hermansen worked alone to convince these conservative farmers to rethink how they used energy in discussions and "he brought free beer along to the discussions." More and more people got involved.

People in Samso erected eleven big turbines on land and a dozen micro-wind turbines. The land-based wind turbines produce enough electricity for all 4,300 people on the island. They also erected 10 offshore wind-turbines, and one offshore wind turbine provides electricity for 2,000 homes. So the 10 offshore turbines "were erected to compensate for Samso's continuing use of fossil fields in its cars, trucks, and ferries." The offshore turbines feed electricity back into the energy grid as well as provide the "energy equivalent of all gasoline and diesel oil consumed on the island." So Samso produces more energy than it consumes.

The turbines were financed three ways. The European grants gave money. Cooperatives of Danes buying shares at $360/share also paid for the turbines. And private investors put up money for turbines making 8% on their investments. Farmer Tranberg on Samso took out a $1 million while the Danish government promised him above market price for his power. Now his windmill has paid off, and he's making enough money to retire, but he still farms because he likes it. People in Samso are now making money off their turbines.

Also Samso has three plants which burn biomass to make heat for buildings: in one plant they burn bales of straw; a 2nd also burns straw; a third burns wood chips. The straw used in the two plants comes from wheat stalks the farmers used to burn in their fields. A few farmers also use canola oil to run cars and tractors, but their program using electric cars failed. The people also removed their furnaces, replacing them with heat pumps. They're now working on finding ways to run their cars without gasoline.

What Samso shows is that one very modest federal program spending a tiny amount of money started moblizing of an entire community. One can't sit back and let "the experts" decide our energy future. At Samso they financed the program partially through cooperatives in which people of modest means could invest. The investors are getting excellent returns of 8% on investments. The people of Samso lacked fancy educations but did have common sense. They didn't sacrifice their way of life when they changed their methods of using energy. Instead they became a world famous showcase of how simple technology we have now can reduce our energy bill to 0. People from around the world now come to Samso to study how they did it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A poem for July 4th

Here's a poem from my new manuscript "The War Years,"

Ben Franklin Nods in San Francisco

Our poets’ cries for peace had been smothered

in the huge hurricane for war that swept across our country.

Still after the U.S. tanks glided into Baghdad in April and

the President declared victory standing on an aircraft carrier,

we six poets gathered on the grass in Washington Park next

to the statue of Ben Franklin in North Beach, attempted

to light our peace candles, saw the wind blew them all out;

still we relit the candles as we spoke, Quaker-style,

how still we stood against the war; I swear I saw

Ben Franklin that old protestor from Quaker Philadelphia nod

approval as all six of us busily began to relight

all our candles; I swear that Lincoln sitting in his

Memorial stood up for a moment to salute us in San Francisco,

swear that Washington in Mt. Rushmore turned his face

westward toward us in praise, they all wanted

their old republic back just as we did in Washington Park

despite all the harsh winds of war we relit and

relit our candles again until all six blazed forth.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Raft Across the Pacific

Earlier this blog reviewed Marcus Eriksen's book My River Home, a book how Erikensen made a raft out of soda pop bottles and then took it down the whole way of the Mississippi from its source in Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. I heard Marcus speak April 15 at the Santa Monica College Reading Series and then had lunch with him, members of the English Department, Erikesen's fiancee Anna Cummins; her father Paul Cummins, founder of Crossroads and New Roads Schools; members of the English Department; and students. Marcus was fascinating,
and at lunch he told us about his plans to cross the Pacific in a raft he made.

Now he has made another bigger raft out of 15,000 "junked" plastic bottles called the Junk. He and fellow crew member Joel Paschal left Hermosa Beach on "Junk" (the raft's name) on June 1, 2008 heading across 3,000 miles of open ocean for Hawaii. The purpose of the trip is to call attention to the huge amount of plastics in the north Pacific which is killing large parts of ocean fish and birds. Plastics occupy thousands of miles of the Pacific in an area called the Pacific Gyre and when fish or birds eat bits of plastics, they die.

The raft is now three days past Guadalupe Island (at 1-2 knots per hour) off Baja California and headed into the open Pacific Ocean. They should reach Hawaii in the next one to two months. They are posting ship's journal entries, photographs, and their current position via satellite link on the blog.

Anna Cummin's is keeping a blog documenting Marcus's and Paschal's journey across the Pacific:

In the next month we can all tune in to see how the Junk is faring with the Pacific and all the
plastic waste in the Pacific. So check out Anna's blog and rethink how you use plastics.