Inside Tucson’s Civano Project

Inside the Civano Project: A Case Study of Large-Scale Sustainable Neighborhood Development (Mcgraw-Hill’s Greensource Series) 2009

By C. Alan Nichols and Jason A. Laros

Forward by Sustainable Tucson — Co-Founder Bob Cook

Forward

The following story is about a group of people who recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and took it upon themselves to reinvent the future and work for its realization.  The great vision of this project was understood long before those still preoccupied with the status quo could accept its premise. Yet, the story unfolds despite all the resistance and pitfalls in its path.  While the final outcome was never assured, the dream and ultimate value of this opportunity would never be shaken.

 

And so this is the story of the Tucson Solar Village Project later to be renamed Civano.

 

The 1970s was a decade much like the present period – a protracted energy crisis, a long global recession, major changes in our monetary system, high unemployment, conflict and wars, heightened global competition for resources and markets, price inflation, and growing interest in solar energy and new, more efficient technologies. In short, the world was burdened with uncertainty but also drawn to the possibilities of great and needed change.

 

The key scientific finding during the seventies was that Planet Earth is a finite system and that unconstrained growth would lead to dangerous resource shortages and degradation  of natural systems. When the bad news would arrive in the future – when the limits to growth would be reached  — was debated endlessly among “experts.”  However, in everyday terms, these limits seemed so far off in time that more immediate, pressing issues absorbed most peoples’ attention. Except for a relatively small community of scientists and environmental thinkers, the value of alternatives to growth was very low. Why pursue sustainability when the presumed nature of the economy and the world’s capacities is to always grow.

 

In the United States, the seeds of the sustainable development movement germinated in the seventies in response to these scientific findings and the social and cultural fallout from economic instability. For those of us who came to see this coming paradigmatic change, many would have to carry this knowledge patiently into the eighties and nineties before the time was right to actually work on planning, engineering, and building a different world.

 

The story of Civano is a story of many diverse people and events coming together at different points in time to move forward the proposition that now is the time for a prototype sustainable community development. The designs changed and evolved, but the vision was always a comprehensive treatment of all functions of the human built environment in harmony with the natural cycles of energy, water, materials, and eco-systems.

 

When this opportunity appeared to the first wave of Tucson innovators in the 1980s, it was clear that the next evolutionary phase was beginning. We would lead the first major  experiment in the desert Southwest for learning how to create a community land development based on regenerative cycles and significantly reduced resource consumption.  The promise of wide-scale utilization of solar energy in the future would be furthered by this single venture in a new approach to development.

 

The chronology of  Civano spans three decades with important milestones achieved in each.  At many points, the realization of the dream stood in doubt as challenges overwhelmed the participants and the institutions backing its progress. But key actors always kept the effort moving forward up to its current state as a living, breathing place where people and families live their lives.

 

An experiment should never be labeled either a success or failure because the underlying purpose of an experiment is to test hypotheses and learn about something which often has never been attempted before. Civano provides us with a unique set of valuable lessons for designing ongoing responses to the intensifying sustainability crises unfolding all around us.

 

The story of Civano is ultimately a story of local heroes carrying forward a noble and important mission. In particular, I want to acknowledge Al Nichols, engineer extraordinaire, for his many roles throughout the past two decades in bringing Civano into being and making its beneficial lessons available to all those now and in the future who will take on the next critical sustainability challenges.

 

Robert Cook,

Former Chair, Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission

Co-Founder, Sustainable Tucson

March 2009

Holiday Farmers’ Market

December 15th, 3-6 pm, at 100 S. Avenida del Convento, near the corner of Congress and Grande

This holiday season, Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market shoppers will find a variety of distinctively southwest gifts to choose from at our weekly Thursday market.

Our healthy and locally made gifts include raw mesquite honey, prickly pear jams, mesquite flour mixes, Sonoran plants and more.

If market goers are looking for a more personal gift, on December 15th they will also have the opportunity to make holiday ornaments with their children at our arts and crafts table.  These family friendly craft activities are free of charge and will be located alongside our live music and comfortable grassy courtyard.

Those shoppers preparing for an upcoming holiday meal can also expect to find a great selection of sweet potatoes, green onions, apples, early citrus and a variety of leafy greens and winter squash.

For more information, please call 882-3304

Oppose the Rosemont Mine – public meetings Dec 1st, 7th, 8th, 10th

Thursday, Dec. 1, at Corona Foothills Middle School, 16705 S. Houghton Rd., from 5 to 9 PM (and see comments below for further meetings at other locations)

From: Keith Willmarth <canduthis(at)toast.net>
Subject: Oppose the Rosemont Mine

I am sending this message to mobilize informed opposition to the proposed Rosemont Mine. Several organizations, in particular Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, are doing yeoman work for the same purpose. I was only slightly acquainted with this issue until a few weeks ago. As I‘ve become more fully informed, I feel impelled to do what I can so that this mine will not become a reality.

The National Forest Service held its first public meeting, on November 12, to hear comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Rosemont copper mine. (View the DEIS at www.rosemonteis.us). The Arizona Daily Star reported that comments ran 50 to 6 in favor of the project. However, all major local news media completely ignored the second meeting, held a week later at Empire High School, at which a huge majority in the packed hall, at least 3 to 1, opposed the project.

Whatever their reasons for failing to cover the second meeting, it’s important to ensure that:

· There is an even greater turnout at the next meeting, on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Corona Foothills Middle School, 16705 S. Houghton Rd., from 5 to 9 PM.

· The media show up at subsequent public meetings on this issue

· Local residents express their opposition to Rosemont in other ways, through written statements, phone calls, networking, etc.

There are many good reasons to oppose the Rosemont Mine:

1. The sheer size of the tract of land within Coronado National Forest which would be obliterated: roughly seven square miles, including a vast pit half-a-mile deep and over a mile wide.

2. It would suck an enormous quantity of groundwater from the Earth — many times more than the annual usage of Nogales, for example — for the profit of a single company.

3. It will be across the road from one of the few protected and relatively undisturbed riparian areas left in the desert Southwest. A more incompatible land use than the mine is hard to imagine.

4. It would significantly reduce the night sky darkness, to the detriment of astronomical research in southern Arizona, and to the dismay of campers and nearby residents.

5. Rosemont has latched onto the premise that hybrid cars use three times as much copper as conventional cars, to greenwash the public. Considering the heavy machinery, small army of large trucks, plant-site emissions, electricity, de-vegetation, etc. that would be required, it is most doubtful that the mine would contribute to fighting climate change..

6. The scale of environmental degradation which would occur due to the Rosemont Mine runs contrary to the stated mission of the Forest Service to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands for present and future generations.” Rights granted by the Mining Act of 1872 do not pre-empt the provisions of the Forest Service Act.

7. Mitigation plans are not insurance against environmental damage. The largest EPA Superfund site is the result of copper mining (The Upper Clark Fork River Superfund Site in Montana). In 1990, at the Ray Mine near Kearny, AZ, rainwater washed 324,000 gallons of wastewater loaded with copper sulfates into the Gila River.

8. Rosemont’s boasts of long-term job creation are conjectural. Copper prices are currently at a peak; consequently there is a clamor of activity to develop new mines and expand production at existing ones. In Arizona alone, at least four other new copper mine proposals are seeking regulatory approval. Resolution Copper reports that their planned mine could supply 25% of expected US demand for decades. When prices drop with rising supply, or for any other reason, some mines can be expected to close.

9. The economic viability of the Rosemont Mine over its projected 20-year productive life is questionable, since it depends on the continued growth of the US and global economies. But we know that the perpetual growth paradigm is unrealistic on a finite planet. There are portents of a global ecological and economic crash, possibly in the near future. Projects like the Rosemont Mine are obsolescent.

There are numerous other reasons. Your reason here: info(at)rosemonteis.us

If your schedule allows, please come to the public meeting this Thursday evening, to
let your views be known. I’m supporting Project Alternative 1 – no action!!

Thanks,

Keith Willmarth
(520-661-0034)

P.S. — I welcome passengers in my car as long as there is room.

Pima County Food Systems Alliance – Meeting & Potluck – Nov 30

On November 30th (this Wednesday) from 6-8 pm, there will be a large group meeting of the Pima County Food Systems Alliance (PCFSA) with a potluck at the Sam Lena Library (1607 S. 6th Ave, Tucson; call 520.594.5265 for directions)

The Agenda is as follows:

  1. Welcome & Introduction (Nick) (5 min; 6:00-6:05)
  2. Presentation by PCFSA Consultants (Bryn/Lewis) (25 min; 6:05-6:30)
  3. Break & Get Food; Potluck (5 min; 6:30-6:35)
  4. Workgroup Activity (Bryn/Lewis) (1 hour; 6:35-7:35)
  5. Activity: Getting involved in the Policy Process (Jaime) (5 min; 7:35-7:45)
  6. Next Steps (Lewis) (15 min; 7:45-8:00)

Bring your friends & colleagues, plus a taste of your favorite or signature Thanksgiving dish.  And check out our Facebook page!

The Pima County Food Systems Alliance is an open membership network comprised of a variety of groups and individuals—including but not limited to farmers, chefs, restaurants, schools, educators, youth, gardeners, researchers, food banks, health professionals, attorneys, nonprofits, activists, and consumers.  The Alliance works in a collaborative manner to serve as a space to invite discussion and foster learning and education for those who are directly affected by food insecurity, as well as legislative decision makers about food policy.

ST December Meeting – The Politics of Sustainability

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library
101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Activism, Advocacy, and Political Action are ramping up all over the world.  Tucson is no exception, and so Sustainable Tucson begins an exploration into the realm of political expression and action, and how we can use it to promote sustainability and resilience.

The December 12th Sustainable Tucson General Meeting promises to offer provocative ideas from three local experts…

  First, Dave Ewoldt, ecopsychologist and founder of Natural Systems Solutions, will speak on the importance of establishing a legally defensible definition of sustainability.

  Our second speaker is Margaret Wilder, an associate professor in Latin American studies and in the School of Geography and Development, and an associate research professor of environmental policy with the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at The University of Arizona.  Margaret will be speaking on the relationship between sustainability and social equity.

  Finally, Randy Serraglio from the Center for Biological Diversity, will talk about biodiversity and ecological rights.

Following the presentations, the speakers will engage in a lively panel discussion.

Sustainable Tucson is committed to the practice of engaging our audience in a participatory process.  Following the panel discussion we will ask participants to engage in lively table discussions focusing on what actions we can take to make Tucson a more vibrant and sustainable community.  Actions might be in the form of policy development, support of on-going projects, or the initiation of new projects.

The ideas generated will be used to develop the content for our January meeting, where presentations and audience discussions will continue.  The goal is to create a list of activities, projects and initiatives that we believe will build our resilience as a Desert People.

The ultimate goal for this process is to invite our public officials to a future meeting and ask them to share with us those projects/initiatives on our list with which they resonate.  Where can we partner with City or County initiatives that align with our philosophy?  Where can we find common ground, and how can we support each other’s common goals?

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

6 Burning Questions About the Violent Crackdowns on Occupations Around the Country

6 Burning Questions About the Violent Crackdowns on Occupations Around the Country

By Lynn Parramore, AlterNet
Posted on November 15, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/153083 /6_burning_questions_about_the_violent_crackdowns_ on_occupations_around_the_country

Occurring without provocation, the Occupy crackdown gives the appearance of an orchestrated effort to thwart an emerging protest movement. Early morning Tuesday, in New York City, hundreds of police officers, many in riot gear, swept down on Zuccotti Park, throwing away private property, restricting press and using aggressive tactics to remove protesters and supporters. Here are some things we’d really like to know.

1. Who convened the mayors call? In an interview with the BBC, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan alluded to her participation in a conference call with leaders of 18 US cities just prior to the raids on encampments across the country. Mayors’ associations do exist, but they do not typically organize police interventions or local decision-making in such detail. Given the abuses of the past, such as the notorious COINTELPRO and other intervention programs that the U.S. government organized during the Vietnam protests, the public has a right to know the details of who organized that call.

2. Was there an attempt to control press coverage? New Yorkers awoke to front-page stories and photographs in both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Coverage by the two papers was supportive of the mayor and the police actions but disparaging toward the protesters. An AlterNet reporter, arriving on the scene at 1:30am, shortly after the raid began, could get nowhere near Zuccotti Park due to police barricades (and was subjected to pepper spray while attempting to report on events). How did the friendly reporters gain their access? Was there advance coordination to allow certain media outlets access and block the rest? Why was press access restricted? Were some reporters’ credentials confiscated? How will reports of unwarranted force on the part of police toward the press be addressed?

3. What, if any, was the role of the White House? Who was in charge of following the nationwide Occupy crackdown at the White House? What does President Obama, the man who celebrated the uprisings in Egypt (and who is currently out of the US, in Asia), think about the raids and the encroachments on the civil liberties of peacefully protesting Americans? As a constitutional scholar, what is his view of the restrictions of the press and the arrests of journalists?

4. Was the Department of Homeland Security involved in the raids? Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted this question, asking if the Department may have given the green-light to the raid. The DHS has been reportedly following Occupy Wall Street Twitter feeds and other social media networks. Did it play any role in the crackdown?

5. What, if any, was the role of the FBI? Suggestions are circulating that the FBI and other federal agencies may have advised local law enforcement agencies on how to conduct the raids and even how to handle press relations. Did this happen? Was there any coordinating of arrests across the country on the part of the FBI?

6. Where are the libertarians? In the face of all the clamor about “states’ rights,” local government and the Constitution, we want to know where all the libertarians have suddenly gone. It’s enough to drive you to drink an emergency cup of tea.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/153083/

http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153083/

Local Gardening & Farming – Resources & Contacts

A Secure Food Supply for Tucson & Southern Arizona
Resources & Contacts: Gardening & Farming – Production, Distribution, Education
A sampling and an on-going growing list (see this page for updates)

Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona – communityfoodbank.com
Native Seeds/SEARCH – www.nativeseeds.org
Pima County Food Systems Alliance – go to Facebook page
Tucson Organic Gardeners – www.tucsonorganicgardeners.org
Community Gardens of Tucson – www.communitygardensoftucson.org
Tucson Village Farm – www.tucsonvillagefarm.org
Santa Cruz Heritage Alliance – www.santacruzheritage.org
Altar Valley Conservation Alliance – altarvalleyconservation.org
Desert Harvesters – www.desertharvesters.org
Somos la Semilla – www.somoslasemilla.org
Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture – www.bajaaz.org
Sonoran Permaculture Guild – www.sonoranpermaculture.org
Tohono O’odham Community Action – www.tocaonline.org
Slow Food Tucson – www.slowfoodtucson.org
Local Food Concepts – go to Facebook page
Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network – www.fruitmappers.org
Arizona Native Plant Society – www.aznps.com
Food Conspiracy Coop – www.foodconspiracy.org
Local Harvest – www.localharvest.org
Tohono Chul Park – www.tohonochulpark.org
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum – www.desertmuseum.org
University of Arizona “Compost Cats” – compostgolive.blogspot.com
Vermillion Wormery – lindaleigh1.wordpress.com
Tucson AquaPonics Project – www.TucsonAP.org
Local Roots Aquaponics – www.localrootsaquaponics.com
Sabores sin Fronteras – saboresfronteras.com

Farmers Markets

There are lists with locations and times each week in the Tucson Weekly and in Caliente.  For locations of more farmers markets (and farmers/ranchers, CSAs, etc), see Local Harvest, above.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Tucson CSA
Sleeping Frog Farms
Walking J Farm
River Road Gardens
Avalon Gardens
Agua Linda Farm
Down on the Farm CSA
Menlo Farms CSA

In addition, there are many, many farmers, ranchers, and gardeners around Southern Arizona, as well as artisan producers using local food, who supply our farmers markets, CSAs, some of the grocery stores and supermarkets, some of our local restaurants, and many homes.   Names and contact information will be added to this list on an on-going basis.

Food Film Festival featuring the Film “Greenhorns”

Food Film Festival featuring the Film “Greenhorns”
and a film short on the locally owned Sleeping Frog Farms
Happy Hour Party at Borderlands Brewery to follow

Date: Sunday, November 20
Time: 3:00 pm
Cost: $15 per person
Place: The Screening Room (127 E. Congress St.)
& Happy Hour at Borderlands Brewery (119 E. Toole Ave.)

It’s time for the second annual Taste Film, Talk Food, brought to you by the Food Conspiracy Co-op and Slow Food Tucson. The evening kicks off at The Screening Room with the Tucson premier of The Greenhorns, a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community – its spirit, practices, and needs.

Directed by farmer/activist Severine von Tscharner Fleming, The Greenhorns looks at young Americans who are learning to farm at a time when the average age of the American farmer is 57.  These greenhorns are working to reverse negative trends in favor of healthy food, local and regional food sheds, and the revitalization of rural economies, one farm at a time.

The Food Conspiracy will also screen a short film about the four young farmers who operate Sleeping Frog Farms in Cascabel, AZ.  Adam, Debbie, CJ and Clay will be on hand to introduce the short film and answer questions from the audience.

Following the movies, we’ll make our way to Borderlands Brewing Co., downtown’s newest brewery. There, attendees will be treated to:

  • Conspiracy Beer (brewed by Borderlands and available for purchase exclusively at the Food Conspiracy
  • Conspiracy Coffee (locally roasted by Exo Roasting Co. and also only sold at the co-op)
  • Warm food prepared by Conspiracy Kitchen with ingredients grown by the Sleeping Frog farmers.

In addition to the movies at The Screening Room, your ticket to Taste Film, Talk Food entitles you to a cold beer, a hot cup of coffee, and delicious Conspiracy Kitchen food.

Tickets available at The Food Conspiracy Co-op (412 N. 4th Ave.)

This food and film event is sponsored by Borderlands Brewing Co., Slow Food Tucson, The Screening Room and Food Conspiracy Co-op.

For more information, visit www.slowfoodtucson.org
E-mail: slowfoodtucson(at)yahoo.com

About Slow Food – Tucson Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic organization that supports a biodiverse, sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage foodways and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table.  Slow Food Tucson is afilliated with Slow Food USA, which supports Slow Food International, a worldwide movement with more than 80,000 members in 100 countries. Visit www.slowfoodusa.org for more information.

Sustainable Tucson comments on proposed Rosemont Mine

Sustainable Tucson comments on proposed Rosemont Mine

Sustainable Tucson is a non-profit, grass-roots organization that builds regional resilience and sustainability through awareness raising, community engagement and public/private partnerships. We recognize the need to focus on sustainability within the Sonoran bioregion.

The proposal by the Augusta Resources Corporation to develop a copper mine in the Santa Rita mountains is troubling to us for many reasons.

One of our visions is that water sustainability be assured for future generations and the environment. The mine will be pumping precious groundwater for mining operations in an area surrounded by farming and ranching operations, already stretched beyond local carrying capacity. They will have an allotment of CAP water for recharge, which may or may not fully replace the pumped water and likely be of higher salinity. Climate research continues to reinforce the likelihood that Arizona faces a future that will become more arid and include multi-decadal droughts. Decreasing snowpack in the Colorado river watershed increases the likelihood that waters delivered as our CAP allotment is far from assured into the future. This leaves ground water and renewable harvested rainwater as our major water sources going forward. Sustainable Tucson believes this mine would be a serious threat to water security in the region and would harm nearby communities, farms, and ranches irreparably. On the issue of groundwater quality, all the activities associated with mining, e.g., tailings, leach pits, waste rock, etc., present an unacceptable risk of harm to the aquifer. Additionally, the secondary effects on riparian habitats and their plant and animal populations would most likely be devastating.

Another of our visions is that food be safe, healthy, and regionally produced. Our attempts to move toward regional food security would be threatened by the negative impact the mine would have on water resources available for growing food. We oppose any operation that would jeopardize the success and even the very existence of the small family farms in the area. We consider water for growing food to be a higher use for a precious and very limited resource.

Another vision is that life-affirming cultural and spiritual practices be honored. We believe the negative impacts on or actual destruction of the cultural resources of the area, such as historic properties, critical archaeological sites, tribal sacred sites and resource gathering sites are unacceptable.

Our vision that meaningful work be available to every person is not fulfilled by this mine. We believe that right livelihood does not undermine the natural world that supports us and that short term jobs are no compensation for a degraded future.

Considering the potentially negative economic impacts to our important recreational and tourist industry, degradation of roadways, harm to public health through reduced air quality, loss of the natural beauty of the area, and degradation of astronomical “night sky” quality, we conclude that any potential economic benefit that can be claimed by the developers of the mine is far outweighed by the harms and damages to people and nature that will likely result. It is very important to keep in mind that long after this mining operation ends, we will be left with the permanent damage to a vital area forever.

Ed Mazria’s Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

 

(Ed Mazria’s  Revised One-Year, 4.5 Million-Jobs Investment Plan available here:)

 

With the job market crashing and a reported one in five mortgages underwater, the need for complex solutions to fix the US economy grows increasingly urgent. Ed Mazria, founder of the non-profit research and education organization Architecture 2030, has put forward a proposal to combat two urgent economic crises with one plan that will not only relieve financially strapped homeowners and generate job opportunities, but also leave us with a more resilient, more efficient built environment when this crisis is over.

Mazria believes the government should invest in the private building sector by giving developers and homeowners financial incentives to build (and retrofit) greener buildings – thus boosting jobs around construction and renovation. To outline his plan, Mazria and Architecture 2030 have developed the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan, a proposal that Mazria calls the “Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan. (Download details of the plan here.)

According to Mazria, the next energy bill to come through Congress is already likely to include a plan for making all buildings carbon neutral by the year 2030. President Obama made this promise during his campaign. The Architecture 2030 Challenge lays out a timeline: all new buildings and major renovations should should meet a 60 percent fossil fuel reduction standard by 2010; all buildings should be carbon neutral by 2030, and all state and federal buildings should follow suit. But Mazria and his team are making a case for implementing these goals in the private building sector now. And the way they see it, no start date is too soon.

I spoke with Mazria about his investment plan, and how he expects industry representatives, government officials and homeowners to react.

Caroline Dobuzinskis: When did the idea for the Two-Year, Nine-Million-Jobs Investment Plan come about?

Ed Mazria: We have a unique perspective because, as a research organization, our focus is the building sector, climate change, and the economy. At Architecture 2030 we were able to address the [economic] situation from that perspective, looking at the economy and the building sector that was dragging the whole economy down because of the mortgage prices. And, since we know the building industry really well having been in it for forty years, we know what it takes to bring it back, and we want to bring it back in an environmentally sound way. That was the reason why we investigated the economic crises in the building sector, and then how to create the jobs in the building sector to bring the US economy back.

CD: Tell me how your plan aims to help the private building sector and homeowners.

EM: We think now the federal government should step in and create an incentive for the private building sector to get back on its feet. Probably the largest segment of unemployment driven by the economic downturn is in the private building sector, both in construction and manufacturing of materials that go into the building sector and services that support the building industry. So in order to turn the economy around, you must address the building sector.

For every federal dollar that you put in, you want the private sector to add at least $2 to that, so that you can create at once as many jobs as possible. And the one way to do that is to tie federal money to energy reduction targets, so that the private sector has to then come in and fund energy upgrades in order to get the federal dollars.

Homeowners get greater incentives for the greater reductions that they can accomplish on their buildings. With a mortgage buydown tied to energy reduction, the homeowner saves on his monthly mortgage, and he also saves on his utility bills. He not only saves on mortgage interest, he also recaptures the money that’s [currently being] lost because most housing is leaking energy. [The money generated by creating] more jobs, and by the taxes from the folks paid to do the renovations, can go back to the federal government and the states to fund both infrastructure projects and to pay the government back for the outlay. It’s kind of a full circle proposal.

CD: How can homeowners receive lower mortgage rates to improve the energy efficiency of their homes?

EM: Homeowners can aim for 30, 40, 50 or 75 percent below the energy use target required by the IECC 2006 and ASHRAE 90.1-2004 code standards, or they can aim for carbon neutral, and each target is tied to different incentives. So one of the examples we give is, if you want to get 75 percent below code — basically saving 75 percent on your energy bills — we estimate that [the renovations] would cost about $51,000. So you add that amount into a new mortgage but as an incentive you receive a much, much lower interest rate so that your monthly outlay, even with $51,000 added to the amount of the mortgage, would be much, much less.

You would be investing that $51,000 in upgrades like replacing equipment that was outdated, not working properly or not really efficient. You might be adding insulation; you might be adding skylights and windows to let the sun in; you might be making windows operable so you have natural ventilation so you can look at passive solar heating/cooling strategies. You could take advantage of tax credits, for example, to install a solar voltaic system. There are almost an infinite number of ways you can make your home more efficient if you have an existing home.

CD: The federal government would be setting the mortgage rates?

EM: Right now the federal government is the only one that is buying mortgages. Banks that are lending mortgages are selling them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We think that number is now 90 to 95 percent of all mortgages so [the federal government] can then set the targets.

CD: Is the average homeowner ready to make these changes?

EM: Absolutely, because everyone wants to save money and have more expendable income on a monthly basis. The reason the first stimulus last year didn’t work was because you gave everybody a check on a one-time basis. In our plan, you are talking about $300 to $500 a month in savings. That’s huge. We think people will be lining up at the doors to take advantage of this.

The one place we think people will invest is in their own house. The other thing we think is, by taking advantage of the lower rates, people would not only make the efficiency upgrades but they would probably spend some more to do some things that they had put off for awhile because the rates are fairly lucrative. Our analysis just took into account the spending on efficiency, but we think there would be a lot more spending as we go along.

CD: Do you see your plan as part of an upcoming bill?

  I think that the plan will come up when [legislators] talk about how we get the building sector back on track. Right now what they have been doing is focusing on the foreclosure crisis, not on the building sector as a whole. They haven’t yet focused on the private sector, but I think that is going to be coming up. I am not sure which committee is going to take the lead on that, but it has to be dealt with because it is a sector that is dragging the economy down. I think right now the administration is focused on putting out fires.

CD: At your presentation at the National Building Museum in February, you and John Podesta talked about the US serving as a model for other countries. Do you think that there needs to be international policy to follow?

EM: I certainly do. I think the US must take a leadership role when it comes to the environment, and climate change, and building efficiency. How we turn our economy around is going to influence how other entities and governments turn their economies around. If we just deal with the economic situation without dealing with the energy crisis and the climate change issue, we are not going to get very far, because those are coming right up and will drag us down again. And, we have a great opportunity to deal with all three issues at one time, and that will set the stage in terms of other governments.

Caroline Dobuzinskis is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

Published by WorldChanging Team,   April 15, 2009

http://www.worldchanging.com

2012 Green Retrofit Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

With half of all mortgaged homes “underwater” and owing more than their market value, housing prices continue to decline even after four years of collapsing prices. The ongoing global credit and debt crisis combined with declining house prices spell disaster for the home-building industry for at least the next decade. The escalating climate crisis also requires that the built-environment be transformed to reduce its current and future impacts on rising climate-changing emissions. Politically, the most urgent issue on Americans’ minds is the growing employment crisis.

Is there a way forward that addresses all these challenges? And specifically, can we in Tucson address these issues and create a way to re-employ construction trades and train people for green retrofitting of our existing homes, businesses, and apartments?

Santa Fe, New Mexico architect, Ed Mazria has proposed a national version of this concept for both new and existing residences which could create 4.5 million jobs in one year and significantly reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

To review Ed Mazria’s plan click here:

To read an interview with Ed Mazria  click here:

If you are interested in forming a study group around this proposal contact Sustainable Tucson by clicking here:

Thank you for your interest.

2012 Green Retrofit Economic Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

2012 Green Retrofit Economic Stimulus Proposal for Tucson

With half of all mortgaged homes “underwater” and owing more than their market value, housing prices continue to decline even after four years of collapsing prices. The ongoing global credit and debt crisis combined with declining house prices spell disaster for the home-building industry for at least the next decade. The escalating climate crisis also requires that the built-environment be transformed to reduce its current and future impacts on rising climate-changing emissions. Politically, the most urgent issue on Americans’ minds is the growing employment crisis.

Is there a way forward that addresses all these challenges? And specifically, can we in Tucson address these issues and create a way to re-employ construction trades and train people for green retrofitting our existing homes, businesses, and apartments?  Read more…

 

Greenhouse emissions exceed worst case scenario

The global output of carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the US Department of Energy has calculated, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for last year mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst-case scenario outlined by climate experts four years ago.

”The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” the co-director of the joint program on the science and policy of global change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), John Reilly, said.

The world pumped about 512 million tonnes more of carbon into the air last year than it did in 2009, an increase of 6 per cent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries – China, the US and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

“It’s a big jump,” said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. “From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over.”

Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.

“The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?” Reilly said Thursday. “Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.”

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst-case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC’s worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty limiting greenhouse gases have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

Associated Press    November 4, 2011

IEA: Time running out to limit earth’s warming

The International Energy Agency warned Wednesday that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change and will lose the chance to limit warming if it doesn’t take bold action in the next five years.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the agency spelled out the consequences if those steps aren’t taken and what needs to be done to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which some scientists have said catastrophic changes could be triggered.

But the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, said this week that he’s not optimistic that leaders are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

“We are going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change,” he said in an interview Monday ahead of the report’s official release.

He noted, for instance, that governments around the world have put increasing energy efficiency at the top of their to-do lists, but efficiency has worsened for two years in a row now.

Birol said such backslides have real consequences.

“After 2017, we will lose the chance to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius,” he said.

The report said that the current promises to reduce emissions, when taken together, will likely result in an increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius _ and there isn’t any guarantee those commitments will even be carried out. Without them, the picture is bleaker: an increase of 6 degrees Celsius or more.

Birol said the world doesn’t lack the technology to tackle the problem _ just the political will.

“Even with existing technologies, you can improve substantially, but to do that, you need some price incentives and these price incentives are not there,” he said.

In fact, there are incentives to consume more: The report said subsidies for fossil fuels have risen past $400 billion. Birol said those need to be cut and instead a price needs to be levied on carbon. Only when “dirty” fuels become more expensive, he said, will governments follow through on their commitments to increase energy efficiency.

The report pushes hard the need to increase efficiency, generally considered the easiest way to reduce consumption since it has a price-incentive built in. It has become even more important since Japan’s nuclear accident sparked a rethinking of the use of atomic technology previously seen as key to cutting emissions.

“The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes form the energy that we do not consume,” the report said.

It also predicted that oil prices would rise over the long term, though a weak global economy and the return of Libyan oil to the market would ease short-term pressures.

How high the price goes will depend, in part, on whether investors are willing to cough up what the Middle East and North Africa needs to keep pumping. Birol said last month that unrest in the region has made investors reluctant to pour money in.

Associated Press    November 9, 2011

Obama Delays Tar Sands Pipeline, McKibben Responds

U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

By JOHN M. BRODER and DAN FROSCH

published in New York Times 11/10/11

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election.

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with an Omaha television station last week that he would make the ultimate decision about the pipeline, but sought to portray Thursday’s announcement as solely a State Department matter and not the result of political calculation.

“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

He said he remained committed to a politically balanced diet of increased domestic oil and gas production combined with incentives for the development of carbon-free alternatives.

While environmental groups welcomed their temporary victory on the pipeline project, some expressed skepticism about the president’s motives. Glenn Hurowitz, an environmental activist and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said the delay could leave the final decision in the hands of Mr. Obama’s Republican successor.

“This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year,” Mr. Hurowitz said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.”

Oil industry officials, some unions and the Canadian government said they were disappointed because the action delays what they call the economic benefits of the $7 billion project.

Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of the president’s decision, “This is all about politics and keeping a radical constituency, opposed to any and all oil and gas development, in the president’s camp in 2012. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers.”

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said, “While we are disappointed with the delay, we remain hopeful the project will be decided on its merits and eventually approved.”

TransCanada said that it would work with the State Department to find a new route, but warned that delay could kill the project, and with it tens of thousands of construction and related jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

“If Keystone XL dies,” said Russell K. Girling, the company’s chief executive, “Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long-term energy security.”

The Sand Hills region has a high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill. The State Department, which is responsible for approving transboundary pipelines, said that it expected that the review could be completed early in 2013.

Public officials and citizens in Nebraska have been vocal about the proposed pipeline route, not only because of fears about the Sand Hills region but because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican, has been pushing for the pipeline to be rerouted and recently called a special legislative session to focus on Keystone XL.

“I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard,” Mr. Heineman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Mr. Heineman said, adding he was not expecting the State Department’s decision. “I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline.”

The pipeline’s opponents in Nebraska hailed the decision as a pivotal victory, at least for now.

“This is a game changer for our state,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that has been leading efforts to block the pipeline. “We’ve been fighting this every day and night for almost two years.”

Kerri-Ann Jones in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said the agency’s decision to look for alternative routes was sparked by the significant outcry from Nebraska residents and officials.

“What we’re hearing from the public and from comments across the nation is the concerns about it going through this fragile landscape,” she said of the proposed pipeline. “We’ve heard this loud and clear.”

Ms. Jones said that the previous environmental review of Keystone XL had not considered routes around the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, but rather routes that circumvented the state completely. New alternative routes for Keystone XL would still pass through Nebraska, but would seek to avoid or minimize any effect on the Sand Hills, she said.

The State Department’s inspector general announced on Monday that he was looking into charges of a conflict of interest and improper political influence in the preparation of the project’s environmental impact statement. Some have faulted the department for assigning the study to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Opponents of the project have organized two large protests outside the White House, including one on Sunday in which several thousand protesters encircled the mansion demanding that the president kill the pipeline. Earlier this year more than a thousand protesters were arrested in large demonstrations across from the White House.

John M. Broder reported from Washington and Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

 


Keystone XL pipeline dealy: We won, you won

Bill McKibben, Post Carbon Institute

Dear Friends,

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that we’ve been fighting for months has been effectively killed. The President didn’t outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but a few minutes ago he sent the pipeline back for a thorough re-review that will delay it til 2013. Most analysts agree: the pipeline will never get built.

The President explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. A month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. A done deal has come spectacularly undone. Our movement spoke loudly about climate change and President Obama responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in the United States in recent years, so that makes this an important day.

The President deserves thanks for making this call — it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash. The deepest thanks, however, go to the incredible, diverse movement that helped ramp up the pressure to give the President the room to make this call. And it means so much that this day is shared by our allies around the world — the people who have stood in solidarity, signed petitions, and organized actions to let us know that you’re fighting in this movement right along with us.

Our fight, of course, is barely begun. Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets — and off his front lawn — until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The President should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built.

If there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line and take to the streets to make our voices heard.

We’ll be stepping up our efforts in the months ahead, expanding our work to take on all the forms of ‘extreme energy’ now coming to the fore around the world: mountaintop removal coal mining, deep sea oil drilling, “fracking” for gas and oil. We’ll keep sending you updates; you keep letting us know what we need to do next.

Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward — and not just in the US, but in every corner of the earth.

I’m going to bed tired tonight. But I’ll get up in the morning ready for the next battle, more confident because I know you’re part of this fight too.
(11 November 2011)

“The world is looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

New recession threatens the globe as debt crisis grows

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – Telegraph  (UK)  published 11/10/11

Europe’s escalating debt crisis has cast a black shadow over the world’s fragile recovery, threatening to tip large parts of the global economy into a deep downturn and even outright recession.

The OECD’s index of leading indicators for China, India, Brazil, Canada, Britain and the eurozone have all tipped below the warning line of 100, with the pace of the decline in Europe exceeding the onset of the Great Contraction in early 2008. Professor Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, rattled nerves earlier this week by warning the world is “looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

The grim data is coming thick and fast. Japan’s machinery orders fell 8.2pc in September as the post-Fukushima rebound lost steam and the delayed effects of the super-strong yen began to bite. Export orders have been declining for eight months. “Outright contraction is possible in the quarters ahead,” said Mark Cliffe from ING.

Exports in the Philippines dropped 27pc in September, the sharpest fall in two years. Korea’s exports have showed sharply, caused by a 20pc slide in shipments to Europe. Manufacturing has been contracting for the past three months.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s chief, warned in Asia that “there are dark clouds gathering in the global economy. Countries need to prepare for any storm that might reach their shores”. She said “adverse feedback loops” are at work as financial stress and economic woes feed on each other.

China’s carefully managed soft landing has turned uncomfortably hard, with ripple effects through the commodity markets. Spot iron-ore prices have dropped 30pc since July to $126 a tonne. Copper prices have fallen 20pc since August. Barclays Capital said the risk of contagion to China has become serious. The bank is monitoring the country’s “key high frequency data” for early warning signs of the sort of sudden crash in metals demand seen during the Lehman crisis.

China had the firepower to respond to the 2008 crisis with blitz of credit that helped lift the whole world out of slump, a feat that cannot easily be repeated if there is a second shock. The IMF said loans have doubled to almost 200pc of GDP, including off-books lending. This is an unprecedented level of credit growth, twice the intensity of the Japanese bubble in the late 1980s.

The authorities are trying to deflate the excesses slowly with higher interest rates and reserve ratios. This is proving painful. Yao Wei from Societe Generale said prices of new residential property fell 14% in October. Railway investment collapsed by 40% as the insolvent railway ministry struggled to cope with $300 billion of debt. Highway construction dropped 2pc.

Europe is in a deeper, more intractable crisis. Industrial output buckled in September with falls of 4.8pc in Italy, 2.7pc in Germany, and 1.7pc in France from a month earlier as the effects of the debt crisis – as well as fiscal contraction and prior monetary tightening – finally hit with a vengeance.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn slashed growth forecasts from 1.6pc to 0.5pc next year, warning “that recovery has now come to a standstill and there’s the risk of a new recession unless determined action is taken”. This did not stop Brussels sending a letter to Italy calling for yet more fiscal cuts to meet it is balanced budget target by 2013.

“It is imposing pain for pain’s sake, and it is going to cause creditors to collect even less on their Club Med debts than if austerity were abandoned. Even in the early 1930s they weren’t as bad as this,” said Charles Dumas from Lombard Street Research.

Humayun Shahryar from the hedge fund Auvest said the eurozone faces a “major economic collapse”, perhaps with double-dgit falls in GDP. “European banks are massively over-leveraged and almost every one is worthless if you mark to market. This is going to be worse than 2008 because they have run out of bullets. The sovereign states are not strong enough to stand behind the banks,” he said.

Professor Johnson said the EU authorities had made a serious mistake by raising capital ratios for banks to 9pc rather than forcing them to raise fresh capital. “That will lead to a further contraction of credit.”

Banks have already taken drastic steps to cut their loan books rather than raise money in a hostile market, earmarking over €700bn for the next year. There will be knock-on effects for the rest of the world. European banks account €2.5 trillion cross-border loans to emerging markets.

In the US, the economy has held up better than feared so far but faces a fiscal shock early next year. Tax write-offs have pulled capital expenditure forward into late 2011, flattering the picture. Payroll taxes will rise automatically from 4.2pc to 6.2pc in January. Dumas said the combined fiscal squeeze could be as much as 2pc of GDP, heavily “front-loaded” in the early months. “Sharp recession is likely,” he said.

“The credit spigot has been turned off in the US,” said Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics. “Almost every bank is still running down its loan book, so we are facing a slow motion credit-crunch.”

Fiscal and monetary stimulus has disguised the underlying sickness in the debt-laden economies of the West over the past two years. This heavy make-up has at last faded away, exposing the awful visage beneath.

It is a delicate moment. The risk of a synchronised slump in Europe, the US and East Asia is bad enough. What is chilling is to face such a possibility with the monetary pedal already pushed to the floor in the US, UK and Japan.

Worse yet is to do so with Europe spiralling into institutional self-destruction, allowing its debt crisis to metastasize because EMU has no lender of last resort. That is an unforced error we could do without.

 

Move Your Money: Campaign grows to divest from “Too Big to Fail” banks to local banks, credit unions

 

ST’s Tom Greco Gives Economics Talk at International Conference

Sustainable Tucson founding coalition member, Tom Greco gives a presentation on his transformational model of economic change to the International Conference on Sustainability, Transition and Culture Change: Vision, Action, Leadership. This TED-like talk is video-streamed from the conference and is viewable here:

 

http://www.livestream.com/localfuture/video?clipId=pla_ade24121-d46d-4448-863c-babe129a604f

UA Professor Walks Away From Empire

UA Natural Resources Professor Emeritus Guy McPherson and Sustainable Tucson founding coalition member addresses the International Conference on Sustainability, Transition and Culture Change: Vision, Action, Leadership recounting his journey to personal accountability in the current crisis of civilization. Taking material from his latest book, “Walking Away From Empire” , Guy demonstrates Gandhi’s  recommendation: “Become the change you want to see in the world.” This TED-like talk is video-streamed from the conference and is viewable here:

 

http://www.livestream.com/localfuture/video?clipId=pla_91f8a1ea-47fd-42b7-a983-e9bd2cd9d76d

 

 

 

Saying No to WalMart, A Town Builds its Own Store

Buying Underwear, Along With the Whole Store

By AMY CORTESE

 

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y.

 

THE residents of Saranac Lake, a picturesque town in the Adirondacks, are a hardy lot — they have to be to withstand winter temperatures that can drop to 30 below zero. But since the local Ames department store went out of business in 2002 — a victim of its corporate parent’s bankruptcy — residents have had to drive to Plattsburgh, 50 miles away, to buy basics like underwear or bed linens. And that was simply too much.

 

So when Wal-Mart Stores came knocking, some here welcomed it. Others felt that the company’s plan to build a 120,000-square-foot supercenter would overwhelm their village, with its year-round population of 5,000, and put local merchants out of business.

 

It’s a situation familiar to many communities these days. But rather than accept their fate, residents of Saranac Lake did something unusual: they decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”

 

It took nearly five years — the recession added to the challenge — but the organizers reached their $500,000 goal last spring. By then, some 600 people had chipped in an average of $800 each. And so, on Oct. 29, as an early winter storm threatened the region, the Saranac Lake Community Store opened its doors to the public for the first time. By 9:30 in the morning, the store, in a former restaurant space on Main Street opposite the Hotel Saranac, was packed with shoppers, well-wishers and the curious.

 

The 4,000-square-foot space was not completely renovated — a home goods section will be ready for the grand opening on Nov. 19 — but shoppers seemed pleased with the mix of apparel, bedding and craft supplies for sale.

 

“Ooh, that’s nice,” said Pat Brown, as she held up a slim black skirt (price: $29.99). She and her husband, Bob, a former professor of sociology at a local community college, live in town in an early 1900s home furnished with deer heads and other mementos from Bob’s hunting trips. The couple — who were voted king and queen of the village’s annual Winter Carnival in 1999 — bought $2,000 worth of shares in the store early on, and later bought a few more during a fund-raising drive.

 

“It’s been a long process for all of us. We’re very proud to have it finally become a reality,” Ms. Brown said. Her husband, a vigorous-looking man who had a neatly trimmed white beard and was wearing a cowboy hat, added, “This is a small town trying to help itself.”

 

Think of it as the retail equivalent of the Green Bay Packers — a department store owned by its customers that will not pick up and leave when a better opportunity comes along or a corporate parent takes on too much debt.

 

Community-owned stores are fairly common in Britain, and not unfamiliar in the American West, where remote towns with dwindling populations find it hard to attract or keep businesses. But such stores are almost unknown on the densely populated East Coast. The Saranac Lake Community Store is the first in New York State, its organizers say, and communities in states from Maine to Vermont are watching it closely.

 

Indeed, community ownership seems to resonate in these days of protest and unrest, when frustration with Wall Street, corporate America and a system seemingly rigged against the little guy is running high. But rather than simply grouse, some people are creating alternatives.

 

“It drives me crazy when people criticize how our system works, but they don’t actually go out and try anything,” says Ed Pitts, a lawyer from Syracuse who along with his wife, Meredith Leonard, is a frequent visitor to the area and has invested in the store. “This is more authentic capitalism.”

 

SARANAC LAKE is known more for its natural beauty and clean air than for experimenting with new forms of commerce. Nine miles from the Olympic town of Lake Placid, it is surrounded by lakes and mountains. In the past, it drew summer residents including Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as tuberculosis patients who came to the village to take “the cure” of fresh air. Today, many of the village’s onetime “cure cottages” are filled with tourists who come in the summer months to hike, canoe and unwind, swelling the population threefold.

 

Come winter, though, the town’s Main Street quiets down and local residents reclaim places like the Blue Moon Café, which dishes up food and gossip. So when the local Ames store closed, few major retailers were interested in taking its place, despite the town’s efforts to woo them.

 

Wal-Mart was the exception. But its interest in building a supercenter larger than two football fields sharply divided villagers. Signs for and against Wal-Mart sprouted on front yards. At heated town meetings, people would shout: “You can’t buy underwear in Saranac Lake!”

 

In the end, Wal-Mart decided not to pursue the store; a spokesman said that “no single factor” contributed to the decision. But the tensions the debate stirred up only made the lack of shopping options more glaring.

 

That’s when a group of residents exploring retail alternatives heard about the Powell Mercantile, a community-owned store in Powell, Wyo., that was born of a similar dilemma. The Merc, as it is known, was established in 2002 after the town’s only department store, part of a chain called Stage, shut down.

 

“There was a great concern that Main Street would fail if we didn’t have a store to replace the Stage,” said Sharon Earhart, who was director of the Powell chamber of commerce at the time. Ms. Earhart and a few other residents raised more than $400,000 from local residents in three months by selling $500 shares, and opened the Merc.

 

The Merc prospered from the start, with fashion brands sharing space with rancher-appropriate Wranglers. When space in an adjacent storefront opened up, it expanded to 14,000 square feet. Now coming up on its 10th anniversary, the Merc does about $600,000 in annual sales and has turned a profit most years, even paying investors a $75 per share dividend in one particularly good year.

 

Powell’s Main Street is now thriving, with a wide range of retail outlets. The store “created a very positive domino effect,” Ms. Earhart said, to the extent that it can be hard to find parking space.

 

When she came to speak at a town hall meeting in Saranac Lake in 2006, nearly 200 people showed up. Following the Powell model, the Saranac Lake organizers put together a business plan and assembled a volunteer board of directors made up of local professionals.

 

The board then approached a local lawyer, Charles Noth, who created a prospectus and filed it with New York State authorities. By limiting the offering to residents of New York, in what is called an intrastate offering, the organizers were able to avoid more complex and costly federal securities regulations. (The Powell Merc also raised money through an intrastate offering.)

 

“I had done a lot of investment proposals but nothing quite like this,” said Mr. Noth, whose family has roots in the area and had recently moved here full time. “The idea of a community store is pretty unique.” He became an investor, as did his brother, the actor Chris Noth (best known for his role as Mr. Big in “Sex and the City”).

 

“We didn’t want it to be a cooperative or nonprofit,” explained Alan Brown, a former banker and the board’s treasurer (and no relation to Pat and Bob Brown). “We wanted it to be just another business on Main Street.”

 

It was also important that it be widely owned, so the shares were priced at $100 and the amount any one person could buy was capped at $10,000. Shares can be bought and sold or willed to future generations. The store’s projected near-term annual revenues of $350,000 to $400,000 will most likely be eaten up by operating expenses, said Melinda Little, the store’s interim board president, but in the future, investors could receive dividends.

 

Getting the first $80,000 was easy, but the board found it hard to keep people’s interest and raise new funds, especially as the recession hit. Board members organized fund-raisers to keep the project in front of people. One year, the board had a float in the Winter Carnival, featuring a clothesline with underwear hanging on it. The share offering will close in December.

 

Many residents, and even board members, were skeptical that the store would ever open. “We had our dark hours,” said Mr. Brown, the treasurer.

 

THOSE have been dispelled, for now. The first day, the store rang up $7,000 in receipts. Not surprisingly, underwear was a big seller.

 

“This is cool,” said Diane Kelting, who was waiting in line to buy a gray poly-rayon cardigan ($36.99) and a “hard to find” bra. “I have two young daughters and I can bring them in here now rather than shopping online,” added Ms. Kelting, who is not an investor in the store.

 

Heidi Kretser, who also attended the opening and is an investor, said online shopping had drawbacks. “Nowadays you don’t even know if the reviews are genuine. If I can actually see it and feel it and talk to someone about it, it just makes for a nicer shopping experience.”

 

For Ms. Kretser, a coordinator with the Wildlife Conservation Society who grew up in the area, the store is about more than convenience: “I’ve always loved the idea of thriving hamlets throughout the Adirondacks, and part of that is healthy downtowns.” Like other residents, she would sometimes drive the 50 miles to shop at the big box stores in Plattsburgh, “which could be Anywhere, America.”

 

Big boxes may offer a wide variety, she said, as her daughter Leena selected some pink yarn and buttons and her son Owen ran over clutching a knit animal hat. But “the size is not compatible with communities like ours,” she said. “And money does not stay local.”

 

And profit? “If we end up with a profit that’s another perk, but we’re in it for the community,” Ms. Kretser said. The Saranac Lake Community Store and others like it reflect a growing shift among some communities to lessen their dependence on global businesses and invest their resources in homegrown enterprises that contribute to the welfare of the community. These efforts flow from studies showing that, dollar for dollar, locally owned companies contribute more to local economies than corporate chains. That is because more money stays local rather than leaking out to a distant headquarters.

 

In a recent analysis of nearly 3,000 rural and urban areas across the United States, a pair of Pennsylvania State University economists found that the areas with more small, locally owned businesses (with fewer than 100 employees) had greater per capita income growth over the period from 2000 to 2007, while the presence of larger, nonlocal firms depressed economic growth.

 

“There is definitely a trend towards community-rooted alternatives,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a nonprofit research and educational organization. Citing the Occupy Wall Street protests and Move Your Money campaigns, she said, “More people are interested in taking the economy back.”

 

Cooperatives — nonprofit businesses like food stores and credit unions owned by and run on behalf of their members — are one common manifestation of the trend. In a co-op, each member gets one vote, and excess revenue not reinvested in the business is distributed among members either as rebates or, in the case of credit unions, lower fees and better interest rates. In the United States, a University of Wisconsin study estimated, there are more than 29,000 co-ops generating $654 billion in revenue, and the number is growing.

 

Community-owned stores are not as well known and are structured as profit-making corporations, but the aim is the same: to keep ownership and control in the community, and to share the prosperity.

 

The Saranac Lake Community Store is a C corporation, the typical big business form, but the resemblance ends there. If and when there are profits that are not plowed back into the store, they will be distributed to investors — many of whom are also the store’s customers. The store’s three employees are paid a modest salary, but one that is above average for the area, and receive health benefits and paid sick days. “That was very important to us,” said Ms. Little, the board president.

 

THE store’s planners sought advice from residents and merchants to determine what was most needed — an effort that continues. Under the title “product offering suggestions,” on a notebook placed near the store’s checkout counter, shoppers had scrawled “larger hats and gloves,” “watchbands” and “women’s flannel-lined jeans.”

 

The planners also tried to avoid competing directly against local merchants, who mainly line half a dozen blocks along Main Street and Broadway. For example, the store offers a limited shoe line, since there are shoe stores in town, and sticks to brands like Minnetonka moccasins, once made in nearby Malone and not carried elsewhere in town. The strategy appears to have won over local merchants. The Coakley Ace hardware down the street offered the store discounted paint and supplies, while the nearby Rice Furniture provided carpet at cost.

 

“I’m of the belief that if you have more offerings in the community, more people will view it as a place to shop,” said Pete Wilson, owner of Major Plowshares, an Army-Navy store in town. “It’s giving people more reason to stay downtown, and that should benefit other retailers.” He bought a share, along with one for each of his two daughters.

 

But community stores are not for everyone. Even with the backing of a local bank and economic development corporation, organizers of a proposed community store in Greenfield, Mass., returned $60,000 to investors this year after concluding that it would be difficult to raise the remaining money needed.

 

And there is no denying the challenges of competing with mega-retailers whose scale and clout give them enormous cost advantages. Craig Waters, Saranac Lake Community Store’s general manager, has had to be creative, stocking American-made products as much as possible and paying reduced prices for merchandise that has not sold at brand-name stores. Mr. Waters, who lives in Lake Placid, also relies on longstanding connections with suppliers. He worked for decades as a buyer and manager for May Department Stores, which merged with Federated Department Stores, now Macy’s Inc., in 2005.

 

The prices appeared reasonable. Brightly colored rubber rain boots for children were $16.99; women’s all-cotton sleep pants and tank top (in a moose print) were $19.99 and $12.99. A waffle-knit, fleece-lined men’s hoodie was $59.99.

 

The Saranac Lake store is off to a strong start, although the trick will be to keep people coming back after the holiday season — and the novelty — have worn off. “We had a lot of people saying it wouldn’t work — and it might not,” said Mr. Wilson, the owner of Major Plowshares. But its existence could set an example for other disenfranchised communities and perhaps prompt shoppers and residents to think about where their dollars go.

 

“Most people are coming in to pick up some thread or clothing. They’re not coming in to get a political lesson,” said Mr. Pitts, the Syracuse lawyer. “But it’s nice to have a place that you can point to as an alternative.”

 

Published by New York Times, 11/13/11

Tucson Time Traders – 2011 Nov

We’re starting a local Timebank for the Tucson region.  If you’re interested in joining, please sign up at tucson.timebanks.org/user/register, and/or contact us by email – timetraders(at)sustainabletucson.org

We’ll be at the Sustainable Tucson General Meeting on Food Security on November 14 to give information about time banking and our local timebank, and help you sign up online.

We’re also hosting a Timebank community potluck & orientation meeting on Tuesday November 22 at the Tucson Ward 3 Office (Grant & Vine).  Please join us!

 

[ This article is out of date.
For current information on Tucson Time Traders, please go to
www.sustainabletucson.org/tucson-time-traders ]

 

TUCSON TIME TRADERS

Building Tucson’s Empowerment Network 1 Hour at a Time

 

What Is A Time Bank?

A TimeBank is a group of people who trade an hour of work for an hour of work. The time is banked so you can trade accumulated hours with anyone within the network.

TimeBanking is a rapidly growing movement that allows people to trade assistance, and builds healthy communities.

 

Missions and Values

  • We are all assets.
  • Redefining work – to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, make the planet sustainable.
  • Reciprocity – “How can I help you?” becomes “How can we help each other build the world we both will live in?”
  • We need each other – Networks are stronger than individuals. People help each other reweave communities of support, strength and trust.
  • Respect – Every human being matters.

 

Intrigued?

Go to http://tucson.timebanks.org/ for more information,
Open an account – tucson.timebanks.org/user/register,
Contact us by email – timetraders(at)sustainabletucson.org

GMO Free Project Pure Food Happy Hour 11.11.11

GMO Free Project of Tucson presents Pure Food Happy Hour 11.11.11

Tasty Gluten-Free/Non-GMO/Organic Food

that’s good for you – at happy hour prices.

Gluten-free/non-GMO info, prizes,

mixing & meeting like-minded people.

Learn about your gluten free and non-GMO choices in Tucson.

Friday, November 11, 2011

3:00 to 6:00 pm
Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen

7850 N. Oracle Road (south of Magee, near Trader Joe’s)

Cost:  Whatever you purchase

Please RSVP to 481-1128 or info@gmofreeprojectoftucson.org


GMO Free Project of Tucson
www.gmofreeprojectoftucson.org
Live GMO Free!
Pick up a copy of the non-GMO shopping guide at New Life Health Center
– Speedway or New Life Health Center – Ajo.
Download one at www.gmofreeprojectoftucson.org or responsibletechnology.org

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City
By Andrew Ross

PHOENIX

The struggle to slow global warming will be won or lost in cities, which emit 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So “greening” the city is all the rage now. But if policy makers end up focusing only on those who can afford the low-carbon technologies associated with the new environmental conscientiousness, the movement for sustainability may end up exacerbating climate change rather than ameliorating it.

While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing. In 2009, Mayor Phil Gordon announced plans to make Phoenix the “greenest city” in the United States. Eyebrows were raised, and rightly so. According to the state’s leading climatologist, central Arizona is in the “bull’s eye” of climate change, warming up and drying out faster than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southwest has been on a drought watch 12 years and counting, despite outsized runoff last winter to the upper Colorado River, a major water supply for the subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun.

Across that valley lies 1,000 square miles of low-density tract housing, where few signs of greening are evident. That’s no surprise, given the economic free fall of a region that had been wholly dependent on the homebuilding industry. Property values in parts of metro Phoenix have dropped by 80 percent, and some neighborhoods are close to being declared “beyond recovery.”

In the Arizona Legislature, talk of global warming is verboten and Republican lawmakers can be heard arguing for the positive qualities of greenhouse gases. Most politicians are still praying for another housing boom on the urban fringe; they have no Plan B, least of all a low-carbon one. Mr. Gordon, a Democrat who took office in 2004, has risen to the challenge. But the vast inequalities of the metro area could blunt the impact of his sustainability plans.

Those looking for ecotopia can find pockets of it in the prosperous upland enclaves of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and North Phoenix. Hybrid vehicles, LEED-certified custom homes with solar roofs and xeriscaped yards, which do not require irrigation, are popular here, and voter support for the preservation of open space runs high. By contrast, South Phoenix is home to 40 percent of the city’s hazardous industrial emissions and America’s dirtiest ZIP code, while the inner-ring Phoenix suburbs, as a legacy of cold-war era industries, suffer from some of the worst groundwater contamination in the nation.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent. Phoenix’s fledgling light-rail system should be expanded to serve more diverse neighborhoods, and green jobs should be created in the central city, not the sprawling suburbs. Arizona has some of the best solar exposure in the world, but it allows monopolistic utilities to impose a regressive surcharge on all customers to subsidize roof-panel installation by the well-heeled ones. Instead of green modifications to master-planned communities at the urban fringe, there should be concerted “infill” investment in central city areas now dotted with vacant lots.

In a desert metropolis, the choice between hoarding and sharing has consequences for all residents. Their predecessors — the Hohokam people, irrigation farmers who subsisted for over a thousand years around a vast canal network in the Phoenix Basin — faced a similar test, and ultimately failed. The remnants of Hohokam canals and pit houses are a potent reminder of ecological collapse; no other American city sits atop such an eloquent allegory.

Published 11-6-2011, The New York Times

Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and author of Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

Welcome to the Post-Growth Economy

“As humanity has chewed through the low-hanging fruit of our natural resources and has turned to lower-grade and more expensive ores and fuels, managers of the economy have attempted to keep growth going by piling up debt in the mistaken belief that it is money that makes the economy run rather than energy and raw materials. Now we’ve reached limits to government and consumer debt, and the realization of that fact is sending financial markets into fibrillation. If energy supplies and debt are both stretched tight, that means more economic growth isn’t possible. Worse, if policy makers fail to realize this and continue assuming that the current crisis is merely another turning of the business cycle, then we lose whatever opportunity still remains to avert a crash that could bring civilization to its knees.”  Read more….

Don’t let Arizona regulators pull the plug on solar

(from The Vote Solar Initiative www.votesolar.org)

Friends,

Your elected utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) are considering cutting funding for the state’s solar programs. Can you help us urge the ACC to keep Arizona’s solar growth and job creation on track?

The ACC is currently reviewing the 2012 Renewable Energy Implementation Plans for three major Arizona electric utilities – Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power, and UNS Electric. The ACC’s decision on what these 2012 plans look like will have a big impact on how many more solar rooftops we see in Arizona for years to come.

Now the bad news: The Commission just published a report revealing that they are considering decreasing the amount of funding available for residential and commercial solar programs as part of these 2012 plans, compared with levels of support in recent years. Going that route will derail Arizona solar adoption, slow business growth, and represent a giant step backward for the state’s solar leadership.

Arizona energy consumers have demonstrated over and over that they strongly support the development of solar and other renewables – even if it costs a few extra dollars in the near term. So why would the ACC choose to go the other way?

Please help us encourage the ACC to represent their constituents’ interest, make the right choice, and maintain or increase support for Arizona’s growing residential and commercial solar markets.

Click here to send a note to your five Commissioners asking for their continued solar support.

Onwards,
Susannah + team

The Vote Solar Initiative
300 Brannan Street, Suite 609
San Francisco, CA 94107
www.votesolar.org

http://twitter.com/votesolar

Introduction to Growing Food at Home – Sonoran Permaculture Guild

The future of sustainable agriculture will be in small to medium scale organic food gardens grown right in our cities.  In this workshop that includes hands-on work, you will learn how to set up a complete garden system.

We will show you how to increase your garden’s health, production, and nutrient value, using an integrated system of compost mulch, and organic soil amendments to improve fertility, structure, and life in your soil.  As a bonus you will see how chickens and earthworms can be integrated into your home food garden system also.

Time: November 12th, Saturday 9 AM to 1 PM

Cost: $39 – includes all course materials.  Taught by Rudy Poe and Leona Davis.  Contact Leona Davis at (520) 205-0067 or leonafdavis(at)gmail.com for registration. Class limit is 15 participants.

Website: www.sonoranpermaculture.org

Mesquite Milling at Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market

Many in Tucson are familiar with the shady mesquite trees that fill our neighborhoods, but few may know that these native trees also provide us with an excellent source of food. Mesquite pods are a versatile food that may be ground up into a nutritious flour or processed to make sweeteners. Unfortunately, mesquite seeds are difficult to open using home methods.  On Nov. 17th, the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market will partner with Desert Harvesters to provide an easier way to process these abundant seeds.  For 5$, those wishing to grind their clean and dry mesquite pods, can bring them to the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market to be milled into flour they can take home and bake with.

The mesquite milling is open to the public and runs from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Shoppers will also be able to enjoy children’s activities, free bike tune ups and live music.   All of the Community Food Bank farmers’ markets accept SNAP (food stamps), WIC checks, Arizona Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers, cash, credit and debit cards.  Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market runs every Thursday from 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM at El Mercado San Agustin, located at 100. S. Avenida del Convento, west of 1-10, near the corner of Congress and Grande. For more information call: 520-882-3304.

Occupy Tucson Event: Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

Event: Occupy Tucson: Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline: Decision by Obama on behalf of the American People
Sunday, November 6, 11:30–12:30, followed by General Assembly meeting.
Amory Park, 221 S. 6th Ave. ??? moved to Veinte de Agosto Park at Church & Congress ???

This Sunday, exactly one year before the next presidential election, protesters plan to encircle the White House in the hope of convincing President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

In solidarity and support, Tucsonans concerned about climate change, other environmental threats and overdependence on fossil fuels will gather at Armory Park. Together with Occupy Tucson, they will echo the White House action with a circling of the park, invited speakers, and an open mike for public comments.

11:30 a.m.: Open mike for XL Pipeline comments
12:00–12:20: Formal speakers addressing the impact of the XL Pipeline on the Environment, Economy, Equity.
12:20–12:30: Ceremonial circling of the White House (cake) in solidarity with same-day Washington DC action.
12:30:  “Have your cake and eat it too”: cake cutting and eating. Beginning of Occupy Tucson General Assembly meeting.

President Obama has the executive decision-making power to stop or allow a pipeline from Canada to transport tar sands oil to refineries in Texas. He must determine whether the pipeline is in our national interest.

Aside from the risks of tragic damage to farmland, soil, and the groundwater sources that supply the midsection of our country, the release of carbon emissions from this very dirty fuel source could mean “game over” in the fight against global warming, overwhelming other efforts to keep climate change within a range to which humans can adapt.

Clean and renewable energy sources are the logical and economical alternative if fossil fuel subsidies, environmental destruction, and health costs are taken into account. Americans must direct their energies towards restoring the environment upon which we depend and to transition our cultural goals away from quantity consumption and towards quality of life.

Garden Mentor Program – Community Food Bank

Do you grow your own vegetables? Become a Garden Mentor with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and help others learn!

Garden Mentors work with a new home or school gardener for two growing seasons, supporting them as they gain the tools to produce their own food.

For more information or to sign up as a Garden Mentor, contact Brook Bernini at 882-3273 or bbernini(at)communityfoodbank.org

Move Your Money: Campaign grows to divest from “Too Big to Fail” banks to local banks, credit unions

Published by Democracy Now! on Wed, 11/02/2011
by Amy Goodman

As participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement continue protesting the record profits made by banks bailed out by taxpayer money, a group of grassroots activists are hitting America’s largest banks—including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo—where it hurts most: the wallet. Dubbing this Saturday, Nov. 5 as “Bank Transfer Day,” activists are urging people to move their money out of the banks deemed “too big to fail” into local community banks and credit unions. Bank Transfer Day draws on an idea popularized by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, economist Rob Johnson and columnist Arianna Huffington, among others. In 2010, they created the short film called “Move Your Money,” which became a viral sensation. We speak with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn here to New York and the Occupy movement. As participants in Occupy Wall Street continue protesting the record profits made by banks bailed out by taxpayer money, a group of grassroots activists are hitting JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo where it hurts most: the wallet. Dubbing this Saturday as “Bank Transfer Day,” activists are urging people to move their money out of the largest banks in the country into local community banks and credit unions.

Bank Transfer Day draws on an idea popularized by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, economist Rob Johnson, and columnist Arianna Huffington, among others. In 2010, they created the short film Move Your Money, which became a viral sensation.

For more on the Move Your Money proposal, I’m joined here in New York by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. His works include Why We Fight, which won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and The Trials of Henry Kissinger, among others.

Eugene, welcome to Democracy Now!

EUGENE JARECKI: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how this movement began.

EUGENE JARECKI: Well, it’s a wonderful story. Really, it was an idea among some friends. I mean, I had a lucky chance to have a Christmas dinner with Arianna Huffington. Everybody should be so lucky. It was very interesting. And a few people sat around, and we talked about, where is the outrage? All this is going on with these “too big to fail” banks. Banks fail, and they get bailed out. We people, when we fail, nobody bails us out. Where’s the outrage? And this “where is the outrage” question drove us, at the table, to come up with this idea of, well, what if we told people to just move their money? Why don’t people just move their money? And that became a bit of a slogan, literally during dinner.

And I went off, and I made a short film, which is a three-minute film that did go viral and was this film called Move Your Money. And what it did was it took the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, and it said to people, if you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life, and you know all the points you usually get choked up and you cry for George Bailey, because you love George Bailey—you love George Bailey because he’s a small community banker, and you don’t like Mr. Potter, because he’s a rapacious, predatory large banker. And if you don’t like Mr. Potter, you should get your money away from Mr. Potter and get it with George Bailey. Seems sort of obvious that people should just do what they most idealize. So that’s where it started. Now it has a life of its own.

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, about two dozen people were arrested at a Citibank branch here in Manhattan when they attempted to move their money out of the bank. The protesters were reportedly locked into the bank, then detained. Bank officials accused the protesters of being disruptive. Video shot outside the bank shows an undercover police officer dragging one woman into the bank and then arresting her.

EUGENE JARECKI: Well, we’re in a wonderful new world. I mean, there is a lot of stuff happening around this country. For example, this Saturday, November 5, is the Bank Transfer Day. That’s a—I woke up one morning, read the paper that people were doing something called Bank Transfer Day. What is it? It’s a day where you move your money. You take your money out of the “too big to fail” banks that have so damaged the American people and so benefited at our expense, and you move it into small community banks, credit unions.

And there’s a way to do that. You can go to moveyourmoney.info, and you can type in your zip code, and you can learn about banks in your area that are good, that are sound, that are small, that are, you know, in the interest of your community.

But what’s amazing is, things like Bank Transfer Day, these activities that are happening, they’re happening with a life of their own. You asked me when I came on the program, am I sort of involved or responsible? No. This is happening all over the country. It’s happening in a viral kind of way, in a way that’s very hard to stop. And I think it’s because people find the idea exciting. They find it morally right. And they know it’s in the interest of the future. And they’re doing it. And I think everybody should come out on Saturday and move their money, absolutely. It’s a big deal.

AMY GOODMAN: Eugene Jarecki created the short film Move Your Money in 2010 that went viral. And now that’s what a lot of people are going to be doing this Saturday, November 5th.