August 2011

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #150: National Economic Priorities

Posted by on 07 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: 8/9/2011

Tonight we are going to continue exploring sustainable economics in a world that increasingly seems faced with a major economic collapse.

Frequently mentioned as a way of getting the nation back on the right track is to cut back on military expenditures and to devote the savings to domestic and international humanitarian assistance. There seems to be no reason that we should be cutting back on social services and education while the military continues to consume over 50% of our discretionary spending.

We’ll have two guests tonight who have very specific ideas about how we can reduce military spending and resurrect social programs.  First, we’ll talk with Jo Comerford, who is the Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, which monitors military spending and favors changing our national priorities.

Then we’ll talk with Anita Dancs, an economics professor at Western New England University, who will discuss specific green initiatives and social support services that can potentially create more jobs than the military programs they might replace.

The opinions voiced on Ecotopia do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of KZFR, its staff, Board of Directors, or programmers.

Listen to the Program

Our Discussion with Jo Comerford

Tonight we are talking about national priorities and a sustainable economy, with a particular focus on the cost of the military.  Our guest on the phone is Jo Comerford, Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, based in Northampton, Massachusetts.  The Project monitors  military spending and presents data on the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the cost of the military generally, and the minute-by-minute costs of war to taxpayers in the Sacramento Valley, the foothills, and beyond [our listening area].  She is also a community organizer, including work with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and with the American Friends Service Committee’s justice and peace-related work in the western Massachusetts.

–There is an enormous amount of budget information on the National Priorities Project website <>.  But to get us started, please give us some ballpark figures.  What is the proposed defense budget for 2012?  What will be the additional costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And (as the National Priorities Project points out), there are all sorts of military costs hidden elsewhere in the budget (e.g., Homeland Security)–what are those costs?

–There has been talk in the White House and Congress about cuts in military spending…the figure of $400 billion is often mentioned. [Leon Panetta just issued a warning that cutting more than that would cripple the military.]  What are these proposed cuts? Is this what NPP has been proposing?  Are you satisfied with these proposed cuts?  Is cutting the military dramatically a threat to our security? Are there any cuts in the new debt limit/spending cut package that make sense?

–NPP has also done a good deal of research into possible additional cuts, especially of military programs that are out-of-date or irrelevant in our time.  Please tell us about some of those. What are your preferred programs for getting the ax?

–Where do we stand in terms of Congressional budget negotiations for FY 2012?  What battles are looming?  What are the prospects of getting some significant cuts in the military right now?

–Please tell us how people can get involved in the movement.  In addition to the National Priorities Project <>, are there other organizations or individuals that our listeners should know about?

Our Conversation with Anita Dancs

Tonight we are talking about military expenditures and, more specifically, how cutting the military budget and getting out of the war business could create a more sustainable world and nation.  With us on the phone now is Anita Dancs (It’s spelled D-A-N-C-S and pronounced <DUNCH>.  She is a member of the economics department at Western New England University and former research director for the National Priorities Project. She has written and taught widely here and abroad on budget priorities and social issues.  In the first part of the program we talked with Jo Comerford about cuts in military spending.  In this segment, we’d like to talk about the effects of those kinds of cuts.

–One often hears, sometimes even from “progressives,” that cutting military spending would be an economic disaster–jobs lost, the economy taking a nosedive. Further, we know that most members of Congress have military installations and contractors in their home states, and they all seem to worry that cutting military spending would negatively affect jobs in their electoral district. What would happen if we made big cuts in military spending starting in 2012?

–How does current military spending negatively affect our social and educational programs?  Which areas (e.g., housing, health care, education) seem to you to have been damaged most by military spending?  What will be future costs if we continue to value the military over social justice?  [From NPP: climate investment, energy conservation, air marshalls, food and nutrition, National Endowment for the Arts, Unemployment Compensation.]

–You have argued that spending on non-military priorities can create more, not fewer jobs.  Please explain.  What is the evidence for this?

–We’ve also heard a great deal about job creation through a green economy, and California certainly is something of a greenhouse for that kind of work.  Yet even here, politicians are arguing against green legislation and want to roll back emissions limits based on an argument that green regulations cost jobs.  Comments?

–If you were in charge of next year’s U.S. budget (and we wish you were), how would you re-prioritize military versus non-military spending?  What would be the broad dimensions of a “peace dividend” if we successfully reoriented spending?

–Economics is a field that is intimidating to many of us.  Could you recommend some additional sources of reading, information, or economic activism for our listeners?

Announcements: Taking Action on National Priorities

As we close tonight, we want to tell you about two upcoming events that are linked closely to the budget and military issues we’ve discussed this evening.

Tonight at 8:30–just an hour and a half from now–Peace Activists will gather at the Bidwell Amphitheater on the CSU campus for a candlelight vigil commemorating the 66th anniversary of the nucear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Mayor Schwab will be on hand to read a proclamation and information will be available on the anti-nuclear movement, both the use of nucelar weaponry and the dangers of nuclear electrical generation.  Again, that’s at the Bidwell Amphitheater on Big Chico Creek on the CSU campus at 8:30

And then on Saturday, August 13, a movement called “Rebuilding the American Dream,” will hold a rally at City Plaza, 10 am, to challenge the recent debt ceiling “deal” that, as Representative Pelosi has said, “doesn’t make anybody happy.”   The Rebuild the Dream Movement is comprised of North State residents who are calling for the government to meet the needs of ALL Amerians by prioritizing creating good jobs, saving Social Security and Medicare,  building strong communities, and fair taxation. They call upon our Representative Wally Herger and Congress to stop cuts to vital human services, to close corporate tax loopholes and have America’s wealthy, and to have corporations pay their fair share of the burden.

Ecotpia #149 The End of Growth

Posted by on 01 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

2 August 2011

Tonight we will be talking with Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute who has an important new book called The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. He discusses why the idea of economic “growth” is obsolete. Heinberg is also author of a book called Peak Everything, where he argues that it’s not a question of whether the good old days of carbon dependency are over, but how we are going to cope with the inevitability of the post-carbon economy.

We also want to link tonight’s discussion of the post-growth economy to the goings on in Washington these past 24 hours. The House and Senate have managed to pass a compromise bill that will raise the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in exchange for $2.4 billion in proposed cuts as well as the possibility of a constitutional balanced budget amendment. Large cuts to the military are supposed to be a part of the cuts package, and that’s a topic we’ll be exploring in two weeks on this program as we talk with people from the Beyond War movement and the New Priorities Project, which keeps track of how much the military is costing us minute by minute here in the Northstate.

Why are cuts and deficits a topic for Ecotopia? Quite simply (as our guest, Richard Heinberg, will explain), the economic crash is fundamentally linked to resource exploitation and failure of capitalism to include pollution and environmental damage in the cost of doing business. The world has treated Mother Nature as a Santa Claus, and those days are over. Santa’s bag is depleted, and if we continue to steal from Mother Nature’s handbag, we are merely going to exacerbate a decaying human condition.

Listen to the Program

Richard Heinberg is author of a book just published: The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. He is a Senior Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute in Santa Rosa, and author of a number of books about peak oil and resource depletion.

Part I: The End of Growth

–You don’t hide the thesis of the book. On page one you say, “Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.” Yet every day, even on “independent” media like National Public Radio, we hear discussion of positive economic growth and a “recovery.” Why do you so powerfully refute the notion of economic growth in the near and distant future?

–You write about three causes of the end of growth–exhausted resources, the price of pollution, and financial systems. We were especially interested in the ways you link the current banking, currency, and economic systems to environmental issues. Could you outline a few of those connections?

–You went to press with this book before the current “crisis” over raising the debt ceiling. What’s your view of the debt ceiling and the cuts passed by Congress yesterday. Should we be raising the debt ceiling? Do either the Republicans or the Democrats have a grip on the reality of economic growth? (Can our economy grow without piling up debt? p. 53) (What do you think of calls for a balanced budget constitutional amendment?)

–You also argue that many of the governmental solutions attempted or proposed so far–austerity, cutting taxes for the rich, bailouts, stimulus packages, “Lemon socialism”–are just buying time in the face of the end of growth. Please explain.

–We were also very interested in your point that as energy sources grow more scarce and of lower quality, more capital becomes tied up in the energy system itself, exacerbating the financial crisis. Could you give us an example or two? (We’ve discussed both Fracking and the Gulf Oil Spill in recent programs.)

–You also argue (and have been lead author on a detailed report explaining) that alternative energy sources do not have the potential to close the deficit created by peak oil. Why can’t we just go green? solar on every rooftop? a windmill in every backyard?

Part II: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

–Let’s talk about adapting to the no growth economy. For openers, you are very skeptical of claims that we can succeed through “efficiency, substitution, and innovation.” (156) Why are you so down on all-American ingenuity to solve our problems? (Perhaps discuss Moore’s Law vs. Murphy’s Law.) Won’t capitalistic impulses and imagination lead to a lean, green post-growth post-carbon economy?

–Let’s explore (your choice of) some of the alternatives you find encouraging:

…”Development” as freedom for individuals (Amartya Sen 218)

…Gross National Happiness (Jigme Singye Wangchuck 255)

…Post-Growth Money (local currencies, non-government)

…Mutual Credit Clearing

…Voluntary Simplicity

and the three you stress in Chapter 7:

…Transition Towns (Chico has a modest effort going)

…Common Security Clubs

…Community Economic Labs

–You’ve created a web site where people can learn about and contribute to solutions to end of growth issues. Please tell listeners what they can find at

–Finally, as we close, we’d like to ask a question we often ask guests on this program, “What will it take?” government regulation? free-market mechanisms? voluntary good behavior? being pushed to (or over) the brink? And, what is your level of optimism at this point?

Richard Heinberg is author of The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, published by New Society. And you can also get in touch with him by and We’ll post those links along with a recording of this program at

Ecotopia #148 Fighting Big Ag and GMOs

Posted by on 01 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: 7/26/2011

Tonight we’ll be talking with Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of American farmers and citizens dedicated to reforming our food and agriculture. I’m Stephen Tchudi
We’ve talked with Dave Murphy in the past, once about the Food Safety Act and another time about the bee collapse. Food Democracy Now! is in the forefront of nonprofits keeping a close eye on the safety and healthfulness of our food.
When we talk with Dave Murphy tonight we want to hear about the efforts to try to break the strangle-hold big ag has on our food system—with Monstanto being the most oppressive and aggressive in the business.

In the past we’ve talked about Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered sugar beets being planted in Willamette Valley in Oregon. We talked both with one of the affected organic farmers—Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed—and with Earthjustice lawyer—Paul Achitoff–who made the organic farmers’ case in court. While the judge agreed that the organic farmers’ crops were being threatened by GE seed, Monsanto planters were able to get around the ruling and continue the planting.

Listen to the Program

Our Discussion with Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy  is the founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 250,000 American farmers and citizens dedicated to reforming our food and agriculture. We had Dave on the show last September to talk about the Food Safety Bill and in January to talk about Bee Collapse. Tonight we’ll talk a bit about the campaign of Food Democracy Now! to investigate the abuses of Monsanto and other campaigns the group is focusing on.

1. First of all can you tell us just a little about the history and goals of Food Democracy Now!? (How old is it? How did it began? What sere some of the early successful campaigns, etc.?)

2. Describe the recent campaign to rein in Monsanto. What motivated it? What are your goals?

3. What do you see as the most egregious policies of Monsanto? Are there other players that you see as equally threatening?

4. How did American agriculture come to be dominated by agri-business?

5. Your campaign against Monsanto seems to proceed along several lines–through the justice system, the legislature, and the president and his administration. Can you talk a little bit about your strategies for taking on issues? What have you found successful as a line of attack? (What do you think of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack? What’s up with President Obama?)

6. What do you anticipate as an outcome of efforts to diminish the power of big ag?

7. Food Democracy Now! has grown significantly. Do you know who your supporters are and why they have joined your cause?

8. Another issue that involves Monsanto is the use of GMOs. Can you tell us what action Food Democracy Now! has taken on this issue? What are the big concerns about GMOS? Where do things stand in our protection against GMOs?

9. Food Democracy Now! has a number of campaigns underway. One that I wanted to ask you about is the proposed USDA fair market contract rules that govern packer and slaughter house operations. Can you explain what this is and why it’s significant? (set of proposed fair market contract rules under Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) that would make it illegal for packers and slaughter houses to unfairly discriminate against poultry, hog and cattle farmers to protect family farmers)

10. What are some other campaigns Food Democracy Now! has in the works? (One that’s important here in California is Methyl Iodide.)

11.We’re curious about your level of optimism/hope. We talk to a lot of people on this program who are involved in daily work of environmental protection, food protection, climate change issues, protection of water and air and land. Often this work seems frustrating. What do you see in the future? What change for the better do you see? How do you stay positive?

12. Finally, can you tell our listeners how they can get involved? What should they be doing? How can they contact Food Democracy Now!? How can they help?


1. Farm 2:57 Imagination Movers Juice Box Heroes Children’s Music 4 9/27/10 3:41 PM

2. Health and Strength 4:28 Pressure Riddim Ruller: Drop It Riddim International 2 4/25/10 9:59 PM

3. Monsanto (Go Away!) 6:17 Human Naked Pop

4. Real Food 2:58 Jerry Engler Very Jerry Country

5. El Condor Pasa (If I Could) 3:08 Simon & Garfunkel Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits Pop 26 2/15/11 1:16 PM

6. The Health And Welfare 8:58 Urlaub In Polen Health And Welfare Alternative Rock

Ecotopia # 148: Food Democracy Now!