"If there's a new way..."

Yesterday, Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine more or less endorsed Rick Santorum for president (pic at right courtesy of The Atlantic Wire). As of late, he's said he hasn't "endorsed him" but the effect has been kind of endorsement. I've been a Megadeth fan for years. I know Mustaine has converted to Christianity, something I don't find particularly upsetting, but his endorsement of Santorum was very confusing. So I wrote him a letter (also posted to their Facebook page that they have since removed).

So what's the rub? Megadeth's songs include some of the best metal criticisms of political corruption and complicated human-induced environmental problems. Selecting Rock Santorum is more than a little bit confusing. I admit that selecting any major party politician today faces us with with some big problems. But on the environmental front, Santorum has been a major part of what Chris Mooney named "the Republican war on science." It's really too bad.

Their most famous song, "Peace Sells...But Who's Buyin'" says,
If there's a new way
I'll be the first in line
But it better work this time

[...] What do you mean I couldn't be the president of the United States of America? It's still 'We the people' right?
Right or RIGHT? As someone who has worked on sustainability issues now for several years, I can't get how it is going to work this time, especi

Here's my letter...type-o's and all:


I can respect your views and find them confusing. It’s too bad you removed my comment. There’s a bigger point here that several people are talking about. We are frankly confused how one of the most seemingly environmentally aware and politically intelligent people we have looked up to can even entertain the idea of voting for Rick Santorum. Well…we might be able to understand it but we don’t really get it.

Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t mean this to be shouting at you. I’m mostly confused and want an explanation. I guess you don’t have to give me one. I’m just one guy who was once a kid who heard “Holy Wars,” “Hangar 18,” and “Five Magics,” and was totally thrilled. I’ve gone on to write the “Heavy Metal” entry for an encyclopedia coming out in the next year, The Encyclopedia of Music and American Culture. Megadeth certainly earned its place in that entry.

On one hand, I get that you are not the person you were when you wrote most of your albums. You’ve led a very public life. Part of that life has been about politics. Seriously, when you did the MTV Rock the Vote stuff in ’92, I thought that was pretty cool. I was 16 and from a politically-minded family.

Unlike some commentors on this thread, I don’t think Megadeth is “just music.” It’s clear that you, like Sepultura, Testament, Xentrix, Nuclear Assault, Kreator, Revocation, Heathen, Forbidden, and some other awesome bands work to raise social consciousness. It’s not dumb kid’s noise. It has a purpose. You’ve always had a purpose…full-fledged aggression mixed with a moral approach to the world that is neither condescending nor authoritarian. I’m sure I’m about the thousandth person who’s written to you to say that lines like from Rust In Peace and Countdown to Extinction played in my mind over and over again. As someone who’s minded politics and the environment, Megadeth serves a special place.

I can’t help but note that Countdown to Extinction came out in 1992. That’s the year of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The young girl talking in the song “Countdown to Extinction” is forever linked in my mind with the young girl who spoke at the Rio Summit. I get it. Those are my links and they’re not many other people’s. But I bring it up for a reason. Rick Santorum will be an environmental ruin for this country.

I’ll just give three examples: hamstringing the EPA, climate change, and hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania. First, Santorum, like too many Republicans these days would like to defund, hamstring, or eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In a world where corporate influence far outweighs the good work of some religious people or the ability of common people to protect their water, their air, or their children, this is baffling. The EPA is sometimes the only bulwark “we the people” have to protect us from industrial pollution.

Second, Santorum denies climate change. He calls the science behind it “junk science.” That is junk thinking. It is basic chemistry and physics. The trend line from an incredible amount of data – some of it going back tens of millions of years – shows that the earth today is at a particularly warm period. More importantly, the earth is warmer than it has ever been during human history. That warming trend, which is continuing and accelerating, is inextricably linked to the release of carbon dioxide and methane from humans burning fossil fuels. The only “junk” out there on this comes from the fossil fuel industry and the politicians – like Rick Santorum – who have enslaved themselves to those industries. [See point #1 about the EPA above.] I find it interesting that you would vote for Santorum given what you wrote in “Dawn Patrol”:

Pretending not to notice

How history had forbode us

With the greenhouse in effect

Our environment was wrecked

That’s a pretty clear warning to me. Are you backing away from that? Santorum isn’t the only Republican with this view by any means but he is the most vocal of the four left standing.

Third, Pennsylvania where I live and where Santorum is from has been undergoing a natural gas rush. Santorum recently told a crowd in Oklahoma that there is “nothing” to worry about. In case you don’t know, two new technologies have been put together to get at massive gas reserves in shale beds. We can drill thousands of feet into the earth and turn the drill bit and go horizontally for thousands of feet. Then, having bored a hole around a mile down and a mile across (give or take depending on conditions) the well is hydraulically fractured. By blasting a mixture of fresh water, some sand, and a cancerous (literally) cocktail of biocides, lubricants, and other chemicals into the earth at upwards of 14,000 pounds per square inch, the shale bed can by stimulated into releasing gas back up the well bore to the well head. People refer to this process as fracking. It is an environmental and community health ruin.

I have met people from across the state now who can’t drink their well water because of these processes. Some of them can set their taps on fire. That’s cool a couple of times. But it’s not cool to have to have a gas ventilation system set up in your house because your water leaks so much methane your house could explode. I know people who have been ripped off. Cattle, dogs, horses, cats, chickens, song birds, and fish have all been killed by fracking. I know people whose property value has plummeted 85% because of damage to their water. Little kids waking up in the middle of the night with their noses bleeding and doctors reporting that kids have elevated levels of toxins in their bodies. People losing hair. Headaches. Just wait for the cancer clusters. Just two weeks ago, Carl Stiles killed himself because he had become so ill from what his family is certain was fracking pollution.

Santorum called this all “the boogey man.” He said, “Ooh, all this bad stuff's going to happen, we don't know all these chemicals and all this stuff, What's going to happen? Let me tell you what's going to happen, nothing's going to happen." Call me uncouth, but as a Pennsylvanian, that’s garbage. The people of Dimock, Pennsylvania lost their water from gas drilling. When the state government and the company stopped providing that water who stepped in? First it was neighboring communities. But then the EPA came and has supplied the water. Once again, we are back at number one.

So I know you said you admired Santorum for his going back to be with his kid. As a father myself, I too am touched by that. Every day that I get to spend with a healthy and happy boy is a day worth more than my life. And I mean no disrespect to you when I say that it affects you differently than it does me given your family history and your father’s negligence as you’ve written about it. Santorum’s devotion to fatherhood is admirable. And certainly, given your vocal embrace of Christianity, his faith is too.

But why does it stop with his son? What about the son getting ill from fracking operations or the arsenic in his water from mountain top removal in West Virginia or Kentucky? What about the boys and girls exposed to the pollution of coal and gas power plants around this nation that create cancer clusters and literally billions of dollars in medical treatment for human-caused industrial disease. It’s no accident that asthma, leukemia, and other awful illnesses proliferate near, downwind, and downstream of polluting industries. Why isn’t Santorum a father for those people and protect them as much as he would protect his own children?

If you’re still reading this I appreciate it. Yeah. My first reaction was pretty strong. I felt like maybe never buying another Megadeth album. Maybe it would be boycott time. But I guess that I, like a lot of other people, can’t square this circle. We just want to understand.

See, it’s not that I ain’t kind. I’m just not his kind. And, like you, I still believe that it’s all for we the people…not we the corporations. If there's a new way, I'll be the first in line. Rick Santorum is not the new way.

He should never be president. Ever.

Peter Buckland


Getting from Here to There

Do you ever feel like sustainability-minded folks are just singing the Talking Heads song, "Road to Nowhere"? I do. Derrick Jensen maybe says it best in an article at Orion: "The most common words I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re f***ed." We hear it all the time. But as Jensen also says, we can step out of this defeat and actually do something. In doing, there is hope.

Today's show is all about hope in action. Our three guests are journeying to change our collective journey. First, Jon Brockopp will join us to talk about his pending bike ride to Washington, D.C. - 200 miles in 4 days. Along with two other men, he will be stopping at congregations, colleges and CSAs along the way to spread the word about Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light and our moral responsibility to respond to climate change.

Then we will be joined by Eileen Flanagan who is part of the Earth Quaker Action Team, who is part of the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice. They are walking 200 miles across Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to the PNC Bank headquarters in Pittsburgh to call on PNC to end its financing of mountain top removal of coal. George Lakey of EQAT says, "We can green our money." How?

Finally, Jason Bell will come on the show. Jason has initiatiated the Tour de Frack, "an action oriented way to explore rural communities and the effects unconventional gas drilling from the saddle of your bike." It is a two week bike tour from July 14-July 28, 2012 from Butler, Pennsylvania to Washington DC along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O towpath.

Given my own ride last year from Pine Grove Mills to Harrisburg to accomplish a similar goal, I had to have these people on the show. They are people putting the rubber to the road. Step by step and pedal stroke by pedal stroke they are walking or riding on a road to a better future. As Michael Bagdes-Canning of Tour de Frack says, "We have a democracy problem." One way to better our democracy is to help the conversation and call on others to be accountable and do the right thing.

In honor of all three of our guests today, I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem Badges-Canning quotes in this video.

"The Peace of Wild Things"

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at
the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

There is great hope in such people.

As always, listen in on your local dial at 90.7 fm or stream us online. Call in with questions or comments: (814) 865-9477. You can also join us on Facebook and get involved with a conversation about this show and other sustainabilty topics.


Songs of Hope, Despair, Retribution, or Inspiration

People identify with music. We identify with each other through music. We identify what's important in the world out there with music. It's my favorite art form.

You probably have those songs, bands, composers, or performers that take you into the heights, drown you in the depths, or fill your soul in ways words fail to describe. So why not share them with us?

Over on our Facebook page (Join us!) we have a music thread up. "What songs rile you up or inspire you? Respond & post titles for our mid-show breaks. If it's your music, all the better." So share with us and spread some feeling either in the comments below or on the FB page or tweet it to us at SustainNowRadio.

Me (Peter)? I've been listening to Fishbone's "Change." I'm usually an apocalyptic metal fan but I love this song. 12-string song of hope.


Has the Wind Been Knocked out of Wind Power? The Sun Gone Down on Solar?

The energy discussion in the United States is crazed right now. Just a couple of months ago, Obama nixed the Keystone XL pipeline but yesterday he fast tracked the southern portion of the Keystone XL. He has promoted shale gas drilling. He has said we can "win the future" by working on big building energy conservation measures and pushing renewable energy. It is a full-scale run at everything "all of the above" (with a lot of oil) energy strategy.

Last fall, there was a "phony scandal" about Solyndra, a solar energy company that went bankrupt even though it received government funds. Republicans decried the government funding as a form of cronyism and government interference in the market to further an environmental ideology. Critics were quick to point out that Republicans have been essentially subsidizing fossil fuels for decades to companies whose quarterly profits are at 10s of billions of dollars.

There have also been anti-wind dust-ups. In Massachusetts, some very wealthy people opposed the Cape Wind project because they didn't want their ocean view impaired. Even environmental groups, worried about habitat impacts to snakes and threatened species, migration routes for raptors, or harm to bats, have opposed wind power projects.

These scandals certainly hardened anti-renewable energy people's views. And they have done some PR damage too.

But there is some consensus in the public that climate change is real and that we need to act to curb it and renewable energy is part of that answer. Rasmussen reports that among likely voters, "64% say global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem, including 30% who say it’s Very Serious." In the same report, 51% of respondents think oil companies should have to invest their profits in alternative energy forms. In March of this year, Pew found that 52% of those they surveyed think that alternative energy sources need to be the top energy priority, down from 63% last year.

But all of this is still confusing. It's hard to know what the actual state of renewable energy is in this country. People are outfitting their houses with solar PV panels and there are large solar arrays going in in California and big wind projects all over. Then there are places like Germany that seem to defy the Republican dismissal of solar. What's the rub?

Today, Dr. Bevin Etienne will be on our show. He works for Sustainable Planning and Development and has advised renewable and alternative energy projects in California, Nevada, Mexico, Dominica, and more. He works on the projects understanding the engineering and the financing aspects, enabling him to work with governments and corporations to solve energy dilemmas.

Listen in today on The Lion 90.7 FM from 4-5 pm. As always, feel free to call with questions or comments: (814) 865-9577


Plastic Everywhere!

Look around you right now. What do you see? I’m in my living room where I see children’s furniture, toys, and books, wooden furniture, an acoustic guitar, a stereo, a tiny TV, a few hundred CDs and a handful of DVDs, books on shelves. There’s a fair amount of wood and plastic.

Plastic is everywhere. Grocery store? Plastic everywhere from bottled water to the bags we put things in to the individual wrappers for the fruit snacks or candy bars to peanut butter jars to kitty litter bags. Your car? Plastic. Computer? Plastic. Toys? Plastic.

Most of us take plastic for granted. But people in places like Corpus Christi suffer the ill effects. The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that children born near chemical plants, refineries, and incinerators are much more likely to be born with a wide variety of birth defects than children in comparable communities. Similarly, adults in these areas are more likely to develop cancer and immune-compromising chronic or terminal diseases, leading to the term “cancer cluster.”

Consider climate forcing impacts on climate change. In 2007, the EPA reported, "CO2 emissions from incineration of waste (20.8 Tg CO2 Eq. in 2007) increased by 9.8 Tg CO2 Eq. (90 percent) from 1990 through 2007, as the volume of plastics and other fossil carbon-containing materials in the waste stream grew." We know that from 1990 to 2007 time single-use plastic water bottle use has at least doubled. World Watch reported that from 1997 to 2005 the market's volume doubled to 164 billion liters. PR Inside estimated that the volume increased to over 174 billion liters in 2011, though public awareness campaigns, bans, and the economic downturn could disrupt this trend. Nonetheless, billions of single-use plastic water bottles in the U.S. have ended up in landfills. [Image courtesy of Huff Post Green.]

And we have the famous expanding garbage patches in the oceans. The most famous is featured in this video of the patch in the North Pacific Gyre.

What an incredible mess.

I myself have been quite active on this issue over the years. As the former president of 3E-COE, I worked with students and the Office of Physical Plant to work on reducing Penn State’s plastic water bottle use. Those bottle-filling stations around University Park campus (now over 20 of them) came about because of that collaboration (read about the clubs work on water and plastic bottles).

Some people are taking steps to change all of this and we will talk to them today at 4 pm.

Ben Bezark works for the Plastic Pollution Coalition on the Plastic Free Campuses program. PPC seeks to “end the global dependence on disposable plastic, the primary source of plastic pollution” and “reduce the overall global plastic footprint for individuals, businesses and organizations.” And students at University of Vermont are doing just that. Gregory Francese will join us mid-show to tell us about their incredible work to ban bottled water there. Last, but not least, we will be joined by Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, professor of Women’s Studies at Penn State who hosted a TEDx event at Penn State last year on plastic pollution.

As always, listen in on your local dial at 90.7 fm or stream us online. Call in with questions or comments: (814) 865-9477.


Consider donating to The Lion

For three years Mike and Peter have been afforded the opportunity to occupy air space each week because of a consistent signal from our radio station, from the good will of the program managers and directors, and good relationships with other DJs and hosts on The Lion 90.7 fm. If you've listened over the years, consider a small donation, even just $5 to our endowment. Make a donation today and sustain some good college radio alive at Penn State.

What if Paris floods from climate change?

Since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out a few years ago, people in the United States have idly entertained the idea that Miami or New Orleans could flood. In worst-case scenarios, New York City could be submerged - a story made morbidly fascinating in Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. But in the world of history and culture, few cities hold water (no pun intended) like Paris.

What if it floods from climate change? This is a scenario eerily represented in this video.

As TreeHugger notes:
More than 100 miles from the Atlantic, Paris is safe from rising sea levels for the foreseeable future, but coastal cities around the world aren't as lucky. The entire population of the nation of Kiribati, in the Maldives, is relocating to Fiji as its 32 islands disappear under the water. They are not the first rising-sea refugees, either.

To put the video's version of Paris in perspective, the best case scenario for this century is a 50cm rise in global sea levels. New reports show things will likely be worse.

Rising seas not only make coastal areas uninhabitable, they compromise drinking water supplies. The use of Paris, the famously beautiful city, as the potential victim could bring attention to a climate issue that is largely ignored.
Where would the art go? Berlin? Basel? Vienna? I have to admit a certain fascination and interest in such a problem. What kind of transition of culture would have to occur? I'm envisaging a modern version of the Irish monks of the medieval period who preserved so much in their cloistered corner of the world while Europe's powers plundered one another. Imagine the contingencies for the Mona Lisa. What about what's in New York's Museum of Modern Art? What future scenarios will there be besides A World Without Us or John Carpenter's campy Escape from New York?

A lot of people will argue New York is safe for a long time. And they may be right. The pumps that free the subways (and all of the island from the daily deluge of water that made the island a meadowland) run, more than likely, on coal. Coal, left unchecked, will power our machines for a long time. Maybe nuclear power fuels them. Maybe it will more. Maybe tidal will one day do it. But if its coal, and coal is left unchecked, that means an escalation of climate change. A real double bind. And one that makes for great apocalyptic story telling. I'm not saying the stories will necessarily or really won't happen. I don't know.

Right now, they're just stories. But each day with more coal dumping millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, the more traction the doom scenarios will get more traction and the more the Mad Max fans will say that thunderdome is on its way. Others will watch this video and think, there must be a different way to do things so that doesn't happen.

What is an educated person?

I've been teaching at Penn State for going on 9 years. This summer will mark the end of my teaching here and the last time I'll have the opportunity to teach Philosophy of Education here. It would be great if you would join me. We'll have class outside every day unless it rains...or it's really way too hot.

EDTHP 440: Philosophy of Education
Summer 2012, First Session

What is a happy life? What is the purpose of society? What is nature and what is our place in it?

Register for this course and explore these questions to develop your philosophy of education and your philosophy of living. When you register for this course you will have the opportunity to be both teacher and student, be free to question and answer, and explore the work of our local culture and local natural environment. By course’s end, you will have written and presented your personal philosophy of education.

Following in the thousands of years of tradition of people who learned by listening and speaking, the majority of student evaluation is based on the cultivated ability to carefully and clearly speak your ideas and feelings so that you mean what you say and say what you mean.

Reading list:

  • Ursula LeGuin, The Wizard of Earthsea
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Wendell Berry, What Are People For?
  • John Dewey, Moral Principles in Education and Experience and Education
  • Thomas Princen, Treading Softly
  • David Orr, Hope is an Imperative

Additional readings come from Peter Singer, Derrick Jensen, Madhu Prakash, Vandana Shiva, Parker Palmer, Yes! Magazine, Alan Watts, Christopher Uhl and Dana Stuchul, and others.

Students from across the university, including graduate students, are invited to this class.
Registration #871396

For more information contact Peter Buckland via email: pdb118@psu.edu


Faces in Gasland

Come to Mark Schmerling's event depicting the the effects of shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania on March 22nd. He will briefly trace his immersion into the environmental documentary field, and then discuss his Marcellus images and the stories of the people in the photos.

To learn more, visit Sierra Club Moshannon's website.


We are all Earthlings

Sometimes it's nice to just remember that kid's songs have great wisdom.


Searching beneath our feet, working with our hands, and moving from the heart.

Do you ever wonder why lawns sit empty? Have you looked at your neighbors' yards or pieces of the park and thought, "What else could be there?"

I know I often think about what it would be like to see stands of maples, oaks, walnuts, and cherry trees where sprawling lawns sit. And other times I envision lawns surrounded by wildflower meadows where bees and butterflies dance. Or I see beds of rich loam with intermingled vegetables in rows arranged in beautiful arrangements with compost chambers, piles of leaves, and jumbled pile of hand tools.

Do you wonder what it would be like to be invited into that place if it isn't your property? Or what if the people who owned the garden asked you to eat some produce by just putting out there for you? Or what if you wanted to do it with your own lawn but weren't sure where to begin? Maybe all you want is a beautiful place that nurtures your spirit and gives you peace of mind and, you hope, a smile to others. A food commons. A beauty commons. A peaceful commons.

Today's guests are taking some of those ideas and feelings and bringing them to life. Dana Stuchul started something she calls Veggie Commons, "is to join together (as kids, teens, beginning farmers and gardeners, dwellers, and elders) in the cultivation, harvest, and enjoyment of wholesome, locally nurtured food. Utilyzing food, labor, land, and love, we endeavor to fortify our community, transforming lawnscapes into foodscapes." [Garden pictured at right.] Dana, like our previous guests Asher Miller of the Post Carbon Institute, Katherine Watt of Spring Creek Homesteading and formerly of the Transition Town Initiative, is something of radical re-localizer. There is great promise in meaningful work with the land, something our mechanized and digitized society has lost but can regain through work in the commons.

And maybe you want to take a crack at creating your beautiful space but aren't sure where to begin. Woody Wilson has started Home Grown Farms (Facebook page here), a company that designs, installs, and manages residential and company gardens in State College. Wilson says, "Home Grown Farms bridges the gap between where food is grown and where people consume it."

Both are grounded (pardon the pun) in a love of our place, love of the land, and the possibility of local resilience. Rather than fret and kvetch about sprawl, climate change, peak oil, and the destructive nature of our stuffing and starving food system, they have gotten their hands dirty. Quite literally, this is labor of love and labor for love.

Dana posted the words of Ivan Illich on the Veggie Commons blog a few days ago. He said,
As philosophers, we search below our feet because our generation has lost its grounding in both soil and virtue. By virtue, we mean that shape, order and direction of action informed by tradition, bounded by place, and qualified by choices made within the habitual reach of the actor; we mean practice mutually recognized as being good within a shared local culture that enhances the memories of a place.
What is happening here with Dana and Woody? What if more of us recognized and nurtured our relationship with the soil to which all terrestrial life owes its existence?

So join us today on the Lion 90.7 fm. As always, feel free to call in (814) 895-9577 with comments and questions. You can also find us on Facebook where you can post articles and interact with other SN listeners and readers or join us on Twitter at SustainNowRadio.