Sunday, December 5, 2010

Days 336 to 339: Napa Valley Rain and Books

This year the rains seem to have begun early. I'm here in the Napa Valley working and sitting at this computer in wet clothes and soggy shoes. I'm not smart enough to bring rain gear and an umbrella with me to work. So I suffer. And I sit here wet, at the library at Pacific Union College.

College libraries, at least this one, are quite different than my time spent in them in the early eighties. First off the students look like mere babes. As in children. As in really, really young people. The other night when I checked out around five books on various subjects (from Ecoterrorism to a biography of Emerson) the young college age checkout person asked: "Are you really gonna read these?"

"Yup", I replied.

Kids don't seem to check out many books. Mostly they sit around with their lap tops and talk much too loudly for what I consider to be hallowed ground. And I mean loud. And their content doesn't seem to be too scholastically minded. Looking around right now, I see the boys (and I do mean boys) wearing hoodies and baseball caps.

It is winter and unseasonably wet. I get out here and there; for the most part I read. For the last couple weeks I've been devouring books. I don't have them with me, so I can't quote their titles. I read two books on energy policy. One of them has the premise that renewables are decades away and the best way to prevent global warming is to make more efficient use of burning fossil fuels. The author makes the assertion that we only get 20% efficiency out of the current use of fossil fuels; he'd like to see that get up to 60%. Combining factories with multiple uses (as in using spare steam to make electricity) would be a greener way to reduce carbon emissions.

I don't buy the premise (that there isn't political will to bring about a rapid change to the use of renewables). I think the public support is there; what is in the way are the biggest and largest and richest corporations in the world with their army of servants and scads of cash.

I also read a book on Ecoterrorism which is a history of the radical and more direct action oriented environmental movement. From the Unabomber, GreenPeace, Seas Shepherd, Earth First! to the Earth Liberation Front. What surprised me was the shere number of actions that ELF and ALF (Animal LIberation Front) have pulled off in early 2000's (when the book was published). There must be a cell of such Activists in Chico, California---as there have been quite a few actions taken against fast food restaurants there.

Am I sympathetic to such juvenile actions? On a mass scale (like Redwood summer and the current mountain top removal operations in Appalachia) the answer is yes. When it comes to spray painting local McDonald's restaurants I'm more inclined to say no. With exceptions. Always exceptions. Removing a ribbon on a mature Ponderosa pine that is slated to being axed is an act of divine mercy, in my opinion.

According to the author, the FBI designates the brave Paul Watson as the first ecoterrorist in the US. How ironic, as he is the guy with the very sympathetic and important television show: Whale Wars. The author also designates between the Romantics and the Social Ecologists. Earth First and Ed Abbey fit into the former category; Murray Bookchin and other social minded Anarchists and Lefties fit into the latter category. Abbey versus Bookchin. Too simple of a summary, but one worth considering.

I also read a book from 1976 on Gary Snyder. A snoozer of a book---I'm not much into poetry. And books about poetry are even more boring.

Right now I'm reading a fantastic account on Bioregionalism. It is written by a professor from UC Davis and is written about the northern Sacramento Valley. A fantastic read that I will write more about later.


greentangle said...

When you get a chance let us know what the ecoterror book is. I wonder if it's one I've read. Somewhat related in some people's minds, I have 4 or 5 books on EF! history that I'm trying to decide whether to keep or not.

Allan Stellar said...


I already returned the thing, but will look up the specifics when I get the chance. The book was sort of an introduction to ecoterrorism. Because of the title, I thought it would be a bit unsympathetic---but as it turned out, the thing was pretty neutral--with the exception being all the attention the thing gave the Unabomber.

I found the discussion of the romantics versus the social ecologists helpful.

Thanks for asking...