Burying Nuke energy in the scrap heap of technology

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 16:49
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Hi Everyone,

I, as many of you probably have, am receiving lots of anti-nuclear emails.  And yes, this disaster warrants the opportunity to “pile on” while the opportunity exists.  The nuke industry and utilities have enormous power and even have convinced some environmental groups to promote nukes as an option to “reduce CO2″, as well as help developing and developed countries alike meet their growing energy needs and “lift folks out of poverty.”  Duke Energy was lying to the NC Utilities Commission just yesterday, begging for $287 million for pre-planning another nuke plant. The Obama Admin. has caved under pressure from this powerful lobby (as well as others).

There is no evidence that these nuke plants need to be built in this country any time soon, particularly with tax payer subsidy, when there are many alternative energy sources and “low hanging fruit” available.  Current nuke technology should never be used, as much as our bright engineers claim they have all the variables covered with redundancy and fail safe mechanisms. Those currently generating need to be decommissioned, as they end their useful life, or sooner, based on safety audits.  However, there are newer designs, generation IV reactors that hold some promise of being small, scalable, less dangerous and possibly useful for developing countries that have no alternative resources to meet their growing energy needs.  Research should continue on these systems.

Given dangerous climate disruption, it is likely that resulting severe economic disruption will drop demands for energy globally.  Equally, such dramatic shifts in weather may also cause horrendous storms, where winds and floods could impact reactor designs.  Importantly for us here in the southeast is the potential for severe drought, reducing water available for cooling of reactors.  This is what happened in Japan.  The combined earthquake and tsunami knocked their cooling system off line just long enough to allow overheating, explosions and subsequent meltdown.  This could happen with some systems here in the States, high impact, low probability risk.

The pile on to take nukes off the table is an opportunity, just as the BP oil spill was to reduce our fossil fuel dependence.  Sadly, nothing came of that horrendous event last summer.  Was this a failure of “we the addicted to oil” people, or the power of the fossil fuel industry over our leadership?  This event may be repeated.  Given the “out of sight, out of mind” insidious slow death by radiation exposure, the needed public reaction may be muted and fade easily, (like the interest in the march of liberty in the middle-east?).  Maybe we are over exposed to media hype and quickly tire of the sorrow and futility.

Burying nuclear power in the scrap heap of engineering technology may be a good idea, but it has to be placed in perspective of the hubris of humankind’s disconnection with our planet.  Sinking one more penny in outdated technology is one less penny that can be directed (of the limited pennies we have) in the alternative, green economy. We need to keep focus, which is getting money out of politics, getting a carbon tax, the ramp up of alternative energy and the stopping of one more ounce of burned fossil fuel.  Oh yeah, and getting our hearts right, critical…



Greening of the UNC Greeks

Thursday, February 24, 2011 17:29

Starting in the Spring of 2011, The Forest Foundation, with the help of the Greek Sustainability Council and Dr. Sandy Smith-Nonini’s Environmental Justice Class, have engaged the UNC Greek houses in a wide range of greening initiatives.  Thanks to Reverend Robert Campbell, the Chef at Pi Kappa Alpha and member of the RENA Community who came by our pedicab at the Transitions meeting in Carrboro in the Fall of 2010, we have adopted this project.  TFF sees the benefits and impacts of helping these historical student groups “transition” to a greener economy and healthier lifestyle.  “We hope to have some fun and learn something too,” says TFF President, Marc Dreyfors, “It is a two-way street and we are learning all the time, but ultimately the Houses will save some money and direct their resources to building more resilient communities, plus this will look good on their resume, because everyone is doing it.”

Greeks Gone Green:

Case Study of

UNC’s Fraternity Row!

A project of The Forest Foundation, Inc. and

Carolina Biodiesel, Greenway Transit, Bountiful Backyards and Rogers–Eubanks Neighborhood Assoc. (RENA), Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER) and The UNC Greek Sustainability Council.

Community Supported Energy (CSE):

Recycling Waste Veggie Oil (WVO) to Fuel

Greek Fraternity and Sorority Chapter Houses at UNC are committing to having their waste fryer oil collected and recycled into locally made biodiesel.  Each house produces approximately 5 gallons a week and can return the oil into 5 gal carboys or dump the used oil into centralized recycling containers behind their houses.  The goal is to create an easy and efficient system for collection, and reduce chances for spillage.  Receptacles will be placed in containment to reduce chances for spillage and covered.  They will be monitored and checked as a part of an educational program to lower pollution impacts. (Contact: Marc Dreyfors, Carolina Biodiesel)

Community Supported Agriculture(CSA):

Local, Organic Farm-Fresh Food

In addition, Greek Houses can purchase and have delivered daily, local farm fresh organic produce and meats to be divided among chefs, with orders placed by internet and a coordinator helping see the timely delivery.  The coordination can be done by a student intern and overseen by The Forest Foundation or other community based organization or business.  The goal will be to link student healthful living and eating with community based agriculture, supporting important self-sufficiency and resiliency systems.  Produce can come from the many community garden projects and local farms as well as support minority farming projects, like the Hope Garden, RENA Project in Carrboro supported by Bountiful Backyards. In addition, organic material can also be collected for composting on site or in some of the local gardens.  (Contact: Robert Campbell, Chef Beth)


Educational workshops can be hosted on topics ranging from local, sustainable energy production, energy efficiency and weatherization, getting a green job, how to get your Greek House off the grid, to organic backyard farming, composting and recycling and eating healthfully and cheaply.  These can be made fun and entertaining (keg of beer and pizza always help, of course with all local ingredients)!

Green Tours

A range of green, or ecotours, can be offered to using buses running on waste veggie oil biodiesel, using Greenway Transit’s fleet.  Discounts will be given to Greek Members for use of biofuel limos, taxis and buses as well as bike pedicabs for social events and dates around town or out of town.  Tours include brewery tours in the area, restaurant tours and farms tours as well traditional fun tours to the Washington, DC, the beach or mountains or mountain biking, climbing and hiking areas as well as sporting events. (See www.IRideGreen.com)

Service and Philanthropy

Finally, The Forest Foundation and it’s partner organizations can help Greek Houses fulfill their mission of service and philanthropy supporting a range of projects in the community, including low income communities in Durham and Chapel Hill, as well international projects in fair trade and biodiversity conservation.

Press Release: Department of Energy Awards The Forest Foundation and Triangle Clean Cities Coalition over $12 million in Green Jobs Funding

Friday, July 30, 2010 12:20
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1410 Cross St.

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 957-1500

FAX (919) 957-1502


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                               Contact: Marc Dreyfors

Department of Energy Awards The Forest Foundation and Triangle Clean Cities Coalition over $12 million in Green Jobs Funding

The Forest Foundation, Carolina Biofuels and Greenway Transit, in collaboration with Triangle J. Council of Governments, received close to $300,000 in funding for alternative fuel infrastructure, green transportation and green jobs initiatives here in the Triangle.

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA (June 29, 2010)—The Forest Foundation (TFF), Inc. a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit based in east Durham has been awarded funding from the Department of Energy (See USDOE). as a part of the Carolinas Blue Skies and Green Jobs Initiative grant (See Triangle Council of Governments, TJCOG) Through it’s subcontractor, Carolina Biofuels and others, TFF will assist in improving the infrastructure for alternative fuel at seven sites within Triangle, four of which are retail pumps a part of the B100 Community Trail.

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Triangle Green Investment Circle

Thursday, June 3, 2010 13:34
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In an effort to promote greater investment and lending capital, The Forest Foundation and its Community Sustainable Energy project will be hosting monthly investment circle meetings, to pool ideas on how we as a community can do more to help jump start the local, green economy.

Focus will be on creating a pool of money that can be loaned or invested, with a certain rate of return, currently CDs are at 3%.  Matching that is feasible with relatively low risk.  an option should exist for folks to be able to pull out annually.  An investment or loan portfolio should be diverse and relatively risk free.  Simply investing in green energy index funds should yield 10% or better.  Goals would be to get a reasonable number of investors that would allow a consensus  system of governance.  Options could exist for active or passive investments.  Plenty of examples exist in other communities.

See Post:  “Triangle Green Fund:  A Sustainable Community Energy Project”

Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment Commencement Speech (May 15, 2010)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 19:14
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Italics are for skipped sections to reduce length as there were only 5 minutes allotted.

Wow you did it! Congratulations everyone! Don’t worry about the sleep deprivation.  I remember I had been up several nights in a row, and learned the beauty of wolf naps.  You’ll have plenty of time to catch up later looking for work, right?

You are in transition from one community to another and welcome you to those that have graduated, the alumni, the real world, (with which many of you may be already familiar).  I hope you all will be gainfully employed soon, if not so already. Times are tough indeed, but I believe things are finally shifting, if not a bit late. Times will be indeed tough going forward and I am waiting for another “shoe to drop,” or the whole “wardrobe” so to speak.

I have only 5 minutes, so I want to

do a little reminiscing,

tell you a little about what you can do as a new Alumnus or Alumnae,

provide a little wisdom from what we have learned from the world in which we have been working, and

introduce the next speaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Who speaks for Planet Earth?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 18:40
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Well Al Gore definitely does.  His recent presentation at Duke’s Page Auditorium (4/8/10) shows he does.  He pulled out all the stops and showed his depth of knowledge and passion.  He lifted from his new book, Our Choice, one of the most well researched and written books I have read for the lay person on our environmental crises, their connections and their solutions. Yet, there was something missing from his well-paced speech that, as we who have worked in the trenches, felt needed more attention: a realistic assessment and measurable targets for action.  We need specifics and focus, we need to get to the core of the challenges and how to solve them.

I first met the then Senator Gore at a McGraw Hill Business Week Conference in New York in 1990, where I had gone to find potential corporate donors to the Nicholas School (then the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, one of the oldest private forestry schools in the country and leader in EE).  During the all day conference, I had every one of my questions that I had submitted picked for panelists to answer– and that made me feel proud and maybe ahead of my time.  The last panel Senator Gore shared with Maurice Strong (another world visionary on the environment), and the organizers again picked one of my questions for them to answer, which went something like “what role will Universities play in research, education and leadership?”  And Gore misunderstood the question and said something like, “Yes, we need more research…..”  I was worried that this would be used as fodder by the corporate “suits” that packed the dinner to delay action on range of issues.

So when they asked if anyone had any further questions I stood up and tried to clarify my question, for which I was heckled by some jerk.  Alas, my fears of public speaking and standing up were reaffirmed. The Conference ended with me making the last point, steeling the limelight from Al and looking like some activist had snuck in.  I remember the cold stare I got from him riding down the elevator alone with his aid.  I had limited tolerance for politicians then and today, and I still hold a grudge and blame against the Clinton Administration for giving George Bush the White House.  But most importantly, Clinton and Gore wasted one of the strongest periods in our economic history tacking to and placating the center right and corporate America, and not taking the bully pulpit to move us toward progressive policies and environmental sustainability.

That being said, Gore started out with some absolutely hilarious self-deprecating humor, his “phantom limo disease” was a kill’ah.  He even used an old Minnie Pearl joke!  At this point, humor is greatly appreciated because if we didn’t laugh at the current situation, we would cry, or blow oneself up, like so many virgin seeking martyrs (are the women suicide bombers promised the same thing!?). It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since the first calls to environmental alarm, so little has been done and it seems things are a lot worse than we had thought and headed that way right fast.

Right off the bat, Gore nailed it, giving immediate attention to the power of money and special interests to manipulate our political system and keep us from achieving easily attainable solutions.  His book chapter is scathing.  He was appalled by Supreme Court’s decision to strengthen corporation’s role in society by affirming their right to be viewed by the law as individual citizens.  And as a “recovering politician,” he spoke very precisely about how politicians and corporate leaders are driven to maximize shareholder value and power.  In fact, he spoke too precisely, seeming to rationalize behaviors by which he is now continuously haunted.

He went on to identify three things that have caused the relationship between humans and the Earth to “change” (better word may have been “disconnect”?):

1)      the industrial revolution,

2)      population growth, and

3)      technology.

Flexing his bicep (Al has lost some weight, which is good) while pacing the stage, he spoke to the power we now have to severely alter the planet.  Our favorite line was when he spoke to the drive to develop geo-engineering technology to sequester carbon, he said, “….we already have one, the tree, and when taken to scale this technology is called a forest!”  The geo-engineering people are scary and truly reflect how self/human absorped and disconnected we have become.

He spoke about the need for a Marshall Plan and Apollo Mission mentality and recited the African proverb,

“if you want to go fast, go alone,

if you want to go far, go together.”

He ended stating that we need to go far fast, a daunting task imparting to the young that they have the power to solve these problems.  We need political will, proper market signals through a carbon law and agricultural reform, he said.  He ended with the Margaret Mead line about the few committed, and that the young needed to be active and the old lead.

This stuck in our craw as disingenuous and simply false, as both MK and I know so many who have worked 30 and 40 years in the movement to see everything slipping away.  We are further away than ever from achieving sustainable policies.  Enormous resources, talent and time have been given to attempting to stop our self-destructive behavior, all to no avail.  Neither MK nor I believe we should do what James Lovelock (Gaia hypothesis) said to do, kick back and enjoy life as we have no idea what Mother Nature is going to do.  We are headed for catastrophic events and Gore well identified that the poor and those in most need of development will be affected the most.  We are careening into an evolutionary choke point.  Sadly, the system is so broken and captured by the wealthy elite and uneducated status quo, I can’t see how we can make progress without the system collapsing, and have to wait to achieve some incremental change after each higher frequency catastrophic event.  This is the reality.

MK and I went away with a feeling that his closing passionate plea about the morality of this issue was not well supported.  Yes, the inter-generational issue is important, but there is so much more.  He also failed to address what is dividing this country, and the role the Christian right has taken seemingly the moral high ground in affecting policy: blabbing on about the not so free free markets, fomenting anti government and anti taxation hysteria, and destroying population planning and foreign aid, and then not wanting action as the “end of times” will sort things out. Huge social, economic and fundamentally deep psychological issues divide us and keep us from understanding or making a cosmological spiritual shift. Each and every one of us needs a sole searching and to “redefine ourselves as species on this Earth,” as Thomas Berry was fond of saying.

It was a great honor to have had the opportunity to sit with so many gifted people and to hear a well-deserved Nobel prize winner, one of the great leaders of our time.  But leaders need to not only tell us the facts and be truthful, but to not to smooth icing over the real hard stuff in an effort to inspire or avoid alienation.

Radical Electric Hybrid Design Line Buses

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 16:33
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Triangle Clean Cities, The Forest Foundation and Greenway Transit sponsored an impressive tour of Design Line’s new manufacturing facility in Charlotte.  We started with a relatively frank and open conversation with Marketing VP, Don Markarious.  The HEV is highly efficient and similar to a train, is seven years ahead of the competition and their R&D is keeping them ahead, while they slowly scale up their production.  They expect 5-600 units per year out of their NC based facility and have been offered an opportunity to site a second US based facility in NY to supply NY City with its annual replacement needs. Read the rest of this entry »