January 14th, 2006

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Saturday Morning!!

Today I feel Heart Happy and Tummy Soothed! It is raining, and that gives such a lilt of permission for coziness and snuggly being. We had a fire in the fireplace last night, candles lit, and candles lit this morning. I keep humming the song about the lazy days of summer, thinking the lazy days of winter are not so bad.
I have been reading Eckhart Tolle's new book "A New Earth," and savoring it as I think is best with what he writes. When he writes of presence as timelessness, it doesn't feel quite right to rush right through, and put a check-mark next to it as another book on my list that is complete. Amazingly, I have no list right now. I seem, in this moment, to be feeling a balance between being and doing. Of course, the minutes keep coming like ping pong balls, and they also merge to flow.
I loved the morning ritual in the mountains of Nepal of elimination. Each person would head out for a walk and find a place to squat. I always chose a beautiful view, and considered the whole experience an augmentation of my day. I felt that way this morning, my view more within, perhaps, but it is such a lovely morning, with the light, and soft grays and the sound of the rain, and even my little bathroom with its porcelain bowl and soft, curved seat feels quite special indeed to me.
Ah, the sky has changed now. A deepening darkness approaches. It is perfect for snuggling. Mandu shows the way.

My only wrinkle right now is the approaching confirmation of Alito. I do not see much hope of it being blocked, and from what I understand it is a major defeat for everything this country stands for. His confirmation will influence at least the next twenty years.
I will try and see this confirmation, if it occurs, as the black cloud, that brings the rain, that allows the snuggling, buried bulb to eventually emerge, quite potent in bloom, in spring.
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checking in -

Jeff called, concerned that I have posted so little on my blog the last few days. I think I am just worn out, so I am resting, surrendering, renewing. I am doing fine, and, I am still recuperating from the last chemo regimen, and preparing for the next one, by staying calm and peaceful, and undemanding of my time.
I am allowing an expansiveness that seems little concerned with thought, and mind, and more aware of a vastness beyond anything I can define.
I have however, checked out wedding ideas that Jeff and Jan send my way. They created in their high school pottery class a beautiful Indian marriage vessel. They will drink from that at their wedding. Jeff knew then that Jan was the one, and they would marry. Traditionally, the parents of the groom make the vessel, but it has been waiting here in this house all these years, so we feel that honors the tradition.
They are thinking of a drumming circle, so, perhaps, we will all learn to drum, and we will learn how to make drums, and if we want to go total fantasy, Disneyland offers wedding packages and the bride rides in a glass coach. Wow! So, we are considering all the possibilities. And there is always elopement!!
Jan's parents have called her, and are visiting with her tomorrow at noon. Jeff, Steve, and I will visit Chris at his new apartment in the East Bay. I think I have surrendered my expectations of what things "need" to be, or "must" be, and in that is perhaps a fatigue as my body absorbs the new space. I realize their connection is beautiful. They love each other. All is very well, and I do not have to put myself into anger, hurt, or hysterics. I am here to love, and, as I sit with that love, the sun peers through the clouds, and the world sparkles and shines.
Great beauty and love to each of you, happiness, acceptance, spaciousness, calm, fullness, surrender, and release.
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Discussion of global warming and nuclear power!

Stewart Brand presents this synopsis of a discussion last night at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. I believe this is self-explanatory. You can check out the Longnow web-site listed at the end if you want more information.

Stewart Brand:

Given the power to decide who would go first--- anti-nuke Ralph Cavanagh from Natural Resources Defense Counsel or pro-nuke Peter Schwartz from Global Business Network--- the large audience Friday night voted for Schwartz to make the opening argument.

It is the threat of "abrupt climate change" that converted him to support new emphasis on nuclear power, Schwartz said.  Gradual global warming is clearly now under way, and there is increasing reason to believe that human activity is driving it, mostly through the burning of coal and oil.  If warming is all that happens, it will be an enormous problem, but some regions of the Earth would gain (Russia, Canada) while many others would lose.

In the event of abrupt climate change, though, everyone loses.  The most likely change would be a sudden (in one decade) shift to a much colder, drier, and windier world.  The world's carrying capacity for humans would plummet, driving human population from the current 6.5  billion to as low as 2 billion, with most of the losses from war.  It would be a civilization-threatening catastrophe.  From research Schwartz has led for the Pentagon as well as from his own training in fluid dynamics, he thinks that continuation of the current warming is very likely to trigger the kind of radical climate instability that has been the norm in Earth's past, except for the last 10,000 years of uncharacteristically stable climate.  Therefore everything must be done to head off the shift to climate instability.

Meanwhile, Schwartz said, world demand for energy will continue to grow for decades, as two billion more people climb out of poverty and developing nations become fully developed economies.  China and India alone will double or quadruple their energy use over the next 50 years.  We will run out of oil in that period.  That leaves coal or nuclear for electricity.  Conservation is crucial, but it doesn't generate power.  Renewables must grow fast, but they cannot hope to fill the whole need.  Nuclear technology has improved its efficiency
and safety and can improve a lot more.  Reprocessing fuel will add further efficiency.

The discussion format called for Cavanagh to quiz Schwartz for ten minutes, drawing out his views further.  Cavanagh asked, "What about the storage of nuclear waste?"  "We defined the problem wrong," Schwartz said.  "Storage for thousands of years is not needed.  The present storage on site in concrete casks is working, and the 'waste' is available as a further energy source with later technology."  In  the discussion Schwartz also pointed out that new reactor sites are not needed in the US, since all the existing sites are expandable.

The format called for Cavanagh to now summarize Schwartz's argument. He did so to Schwartz's satisfaction, adding a point Schwartz missed--- recent findings indicating that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now the highest it has been in 25,000 to 400,000 years.

It was Ralph Cavanagh's turn to present for 15 minutes, striding the front of the stage.  He began by agreeing that messing with the atmosphere and thus the climate is a "suicidal" experiment for humanity to be conducting, and it has to be stopped.  He agreed that nuclear should not be considered taboo and should be included as a candidate clean power source, but its history is not encouraging.  No new reactors have built in the US since 1973.  Nevada has stonewalled on waste storage at Yucca Mountain.  The nuclear industry has all manner of government subsidies, loan guarantees, and protections from liability.  It has never competed in the open market with other energy sources.

California, Cavanagh said, has led the way in developing a balanced energy policy.  Places like China are paying close attention.  PG&E has become the world's largest investor in efficiency, led by Carl Weinberg (who was in the audience and got a round of applause).  And now there are signs that California may become the leader in setting limits to carbon emissions.  Within limits like that, then the private sector can compete with full entrepreneurial zest, and may the best technologies win.  Nuclear would have to compete fairly with new forms of biofuels and with ever improving renewables.

Schwartz asked Cavanagh about the large government subsidies for solar research while there have been none for nuclear (except fusion).  Cavanagh said the subsidies were declining, and should be.  There should be more funding for R&D in biofuels and other alternatives, but the main role for government should be in setting emission standards and then let the private sector duke it out for the best solutions.

Schwartz summarized Cavanagh's argument to his satisfaction (many later reported they liked that feature of the evening), and then a host of written questions came from the audience.  Asked for a catalog of desirable new technologies, Schwartz wanted cheaper solar, effective energy storage (batteries are painfully limited), and a better electrical grid, while Cavanagh would like more R&D on vehicles and breakthroughs on coal processing.

My take on the evening is that Cavanagh was particularly persuasive on the need for nuclear to compete on the open market, and chwartz was persuasive on the direness of climate prospects and the relative readiness of nuclear power to help.

                    --Stewart Brand

If you would like to discuss this (or other Seminars About Long-term
Thinking in the series) online, Long Now has opened a discussion
forum at http://www.longnow.org .