Christopher Swan responds with Commons Sense

Christopher sent the following e-mail and his essay, Commons Sense to remind us of our creative edge in sustainable transportation, water, and energy. He projects that this level of innovation will continue in spite of the next two years of Red dominance in Congress.


From my standpoint we are watching desperation grasping at straws, panic reaching for the last bite and ignorance babbling about realities misunderstood.

In reality a bunch of republicans barely squeaked by, all in states they already dominated or gerrymandered. They have no mandate, no platform, plan or clue, other than fear and hate.

They may do damage at the federal level, but they’ve already destroyed any remnant of Congressional credibility. Much of what they threaten to destroy is accepted practice in business and local government, so their actions wouldn’t matter. The very fact that they live in a bubble of fear, relying on media that’s nothing but lies, means they have no idea what to do about anything.

Consider the story of Kansas, the Kochheads home state. Six times they tried to stop wind power and failed. Why? One image told the story, it was an interview with a farmer on a PBS show. The farmer stood out on the prairie and spoke of two assets: grass and wind. Behind him, perhaps 50 feet away, was a large bison and there were perhaps a thousand more visible stretched into the distance, beneath a long line of tall wind turbines. And who helped finance the wind turbines you ask? Well, seems John Deere company has gone beyond tractors and combines. Deere is a lot more respected name in farm country than Koch ever will be. Oh, and the Kansas City Star had an editorial a few years ago in support of turning a big chunk of western Kansas into a “Buffalo Commons.”

I think we do not have a national media anymore, and much of the news is driven by little more than hysteria. I have long since decided to focus on the positive. What I discovered was a society doing amazing things, but one largely unknown to most Americans. The progressive forces of transformation are busy, and they’ve not stopped because of the federal government, or any other government, nor have they been bought out by corporations, many of which were founded by people who seek transformative change.

Lest anyone doubt the reality I would urge you to just do some random searches. You might try “photovoltaic rate of sales” or “price”; or “ecological restoration of MIssissippi River” (or “Chesapeake,” or “SF Bay Area”); or “railroad renaissance.” The latter gets millions of hits on revitalization of US freight railroads, there’s also about 50 new urban rail systems since 1980s, and far more railway activity going on outside US.

Why do photovoltaics matter? At current rate of sales “PVs” plus wind and solar thermal power will supplant all other energy sources in less than 20 years, and there is no way to stop the growth. Why does restoration matter? Sequestration of carbon is best accomplished by plants, and grasslands are optimum, so restoration of prairies is a big deal, as is restoration of rivers and watersheds. Why do railroads matter? One coach costing $2 million lasts 40 years and in that time replaces 6 million cars costing $150 million, all while using a fifth the land area, a quarter the energy and costing a third the cost of driving.

And those are just the big trends. There’s also new modes of farming, a revolution in water tech and a whole host of changes related to urban design and encouraging people to walk and ride bikes. Plus new materials and more efficient appliances. Plus new modes of organization and employee ownership. Plus micro-banking and the rise of crowd funding. But wait, there’s more…

The attached essay might be useful in restoring a little sanity to the situation. Feel free to forward this note and the essay. Commons Sense,




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