Monthly Archives: July 2010

New Oil Spill in Michigan

Some 800,000 gallons of oil is flowing into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the result of a burst pipe.

Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico is awash in oil.

And we have no climate bill why? No argument seems to penetrate Republican skulls. What good is democracy if it creates continual deadlock? The need to move forward as one nation, one people, commits us to the very interdependence that keeps us subject to the greed of the other side.

It has to be greed, personal gain, a dedication to one’s exquisite comfort, that compels Republicans to shy away from a climate bill that would price carbon at a true and fair rate.



Went last Saturday to a solar water heater raising in Portsmouth, courtesy of Seacoast Renewable Energy Initiative. Ann and Michael Bliss, Kevin Beane and Melinda Salazar and Paul Burke are the driving force behind the group, which has raised four photo-voltaic and four solar hot water installations since it began in May 2009.

A SEA-REI member who wants an installation pays for the equipment and upfront plumbing costs such as chasing pipe in this instance and organizes food for the crew. Then a dozen or more workers, many construction experts but also “guards” who keep people from falling off the roof, and an equal number or more of interested parties, media, politicians, and the curious arrive on the scene and do the installation.

With the 30% federal tax deduction and a New Hampshire 15% rebate and free labor, a solar hot water installation can pay for itself in a few years. This was installed on an apartment building in the historic district of Portsmouth, NH. The workers in the image are up on the roof. They have finished erecting the platform on which the vacuum tubes, each containing a “phase changer” that transmits heat out of the tube and into a half water-half glucose solution which in turns delivers the heat to a hot water boiler. Next they bolt the tubes to the platform and hook up a solar-powered engine to move the hot water out. It’s a closed system with the little engine the only moving part.
It was an extremely hot day. One person carried a custom-insulated drinking cup to keep his drink cool.

Facilitation Skills

This emerged as an issue at work: was it worthwhile to invest in developing facilitation skills?

I define facilitation as enabling groups to be productive. I think the basic skills concern guiding others in: asking questions, probing solutions, developing models, and reaching conclusions. Much obviously rests on “guide” in this interpretation; here I would take guide to be one who takes responsibility to see if what was intended got done, or why not, one who raises uncomfortable questions to uncover meanings-in-use, and who creates a safe psychological space within which others feel okay being vulnerable.

So I have proposed facilitation study group at work.where we would practice facilitating. Meeting would take place “brown bag” during one-hour lunches.  I am thinking an outline for the first meeting might be:

5 minutes welcome

10 minutes each person writes about his or her values and goals

20 minutes group discussion

15 minutes reach agreement on basic norms and goals

10 minutes draft rough agenda for next meeting

We will work with a facilitation primer, and take it from there.

Two Cheers for David Cameron

Two outstanding moves by the British government this past week. First, PM David Cameron cancelled plans to expand runways at London’s Heathrow, and promised to make similar limitations at two other metropolitan aiports, Gatwick and Standsted. The reason? Increased airplane travel is inconsistent with Britain’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cameron made this move to the dismay of “growth is mandatory” business interests in favor of the environment (and the often shattered peace of residents who live near the airports). This is a remarkable decision and, one hopes a portent.

A second Conservative Party decision took place yesterday when the courts decided to grant immunity to two homosexual immigrants at risk of being deporting from Britain. Under Labor, an earlier decision argued that the men (one from Cameroon and the other from Iran) could live reasonably safety in their home countries if they concealed their sexual orientation. “Rubbish!” says the new decision, striking a blow for human rights.

On principle, I lean toward Labor, democratic socialism and all that. These two actions suggest that maybe political parties are not straight-jackets and that sometimes people are simply moved to do the right thing.