Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Sustainability" Re-defined

I try to attend events such as the Sustainability Conference yesterday at UNLV because I care about sustainability and stuff, but when I learned that it was co-sponsored and organized by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, I had second thoughts. I've had to listen to Pat Mulroy, water czarina, on a number of occasions recently and if I had to hear her ONE MORE TIME tell us that global warming is forcing us to defoliate the Great Basin and that the parasitical plants and animals up there deserve what they get, my head would explode.
So I had a friend who is also a pesky environmentalist attend in my stead and take the rhetorical bullet.

The idea that a sustainability discussion would occur in Las Vegas at UNLV was great news to me and my friends. We looked forward to a lively conversation about energy efficiency and water conservation. We were absolutely giddy about the prospect of smart growth and urban re-development being the topic of the day. The opening remarks were given to a crowd of about 200 or so, many of us arriving early to connect with other "sustainable-minded" attendees.

The various municipal and agency staff were there, as well as a fair number from the academic community (go figure), but there were also others, including Mayor Oscar Goodman. He is not what most would consider a spokesperson for sustainable practices, though he did manage to make the audience laugh by poking fun at his mob background being full of "green in paper bags."

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Arthur Nelson, an "expert" on urban affairs and planning from Virginia. He really blew us away with his numbers: America is growing faster than every country in the world other than India & Pakistan. Las Vegas will have 3.4 million people living in the valley by 2030. That in the next 20 years we will have added 450,000 new homes and rebuild 150,000 additional homes in the valley.

Wait a minute - Is this the keynote address for a Sustainability Conference or a Chamber of Commerce event? What gives with the numbers? Are we to believe that we are growing so fast that there is nothing we can do, so we must just accept it and figure out how do it without our entire community collapsing?

Apparently Dr. Nelson thinks so, and he even had some pretty slides of "green building" to support his point, sort of. And by the way, he believes we will have to keep building coal plants to meet our energy needs.

I should mention at this point that any thoughts of sustainability quickly receded in my mind, leaving me to ask, what am I doing at this conference? Did someone make a mistake when booking Dr. Nelson? Did he bring the wrong presentation by mistake?

Lunch could not have come any sooner. I spoke with my colleagues and friends about the remarks we had heard earlier and wondered aloud if we were suppose to just accept the figures. Perhaps I could go speak with Dr. Nelson myself, ask him a few questions that were not raised during the Q&A. Maybe I would be relieved to hear that his presentation was meant to challenge us, to make us demand the political will that would be needed from our elected officials to tackle these issues. But alas, I did not pursue him. I am not that forward of a person, and besides, I should feel more enriched after his presentation, right?

I would like to say the afternoon was full of experts and scholars speaking on the issues of sustainable growth and energy, the likes of which would bring real focus to our community's problems. I wish I could tell you that the Q&A was lively and robust, that the audience asked tough questions and were given real answers - to be fair, there were some excellent points raised by the academics on the panel, but they were really overshadowed by the presence of a few individuals not exactly viewed as "pillars of sustainability" in our community.

When asked by the moderator to explain what his definition of sustainability was, Michael Yackira, CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources (YES, HE WAS A PANELIST) went directly to the playbook: "...1.2 million customers... keep our costs low... cfl's... blah blah blah.... renewable energy blah blah blah... more conventional forms of power production..."

WHAT DID HE JUST SAY? The man said it, on the ENVIRONMENTAL PANEL at the SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE. Indeed friends, we are going to need coal to be sustainable. This was perfect, the icing on my cake today, the perfect response to such an easy question... Moderator: "What is your definition of sustainability?" Yackira: "Coal."

I wish I could tell you that the audience was able to respond to Yackira and that he fielded tough questions from myself and others. That we cornered him and he gave in, telling us that the Governor was making him do it to satisfy his cronies in Washington that need a victory for coal in Harry Reid's back yard. But the time ran out after each of the EIGHT panelists had their say.

Again, to be fair, some of the remarks were excellent, insightful, and worth the price of admission... but none could really stand up to Mr. Yackira's statement.

So needless to say, I can't wait until next year. Maybe they'll have Dick Cheney talk about renewable energy.

Richardson on Mulroy

Southern Nevada Water Authority czar Pat Mulroy was cavorting with Sen. Hillary Clinton recently at the Desert Springs Museum of Extinct Species, but she doesn’t carry a lot of weight with all the candidates. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had a mild put down on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face this week.

"There's a lot of negativism," Richardson told Ralston about Mulroy's refusal to consider alternatives to defoliating the Great Basin. "Even that person that handles water. It's like they've given up. That's wrong."

Clickity-click here: Richardson on Mulroy

Global Warming Benefits

Not only is global warming good for Pat Mulroy and the nuclear power industry shills, who both calculatingly use the issue to gin up support for their respective agendas to destroy the environment, but contrary to anyone else in the world, the White House says it will make people healthier.

In response to the obvious squelching of the Centers for Disease Prevention's boss's report on the negative health effects of global warming - among them, widespread, muderous drought, killer wildfires and the spread of tropical diseases to places like Portland, Maine - White House flakette Dana Perino suggests it will no longer be necessary to wear jackets in the winter. From the White House transcript:

Pesky Reporter: And one more. You mentioned that there are health benefits to climate change. Could you describe some of those?
MS. PERINO: Sure. In some cases, there are - look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.

Of course, here in Las Vegas it might be fair to point out that people die from heat-related deaths every summer. And at least five people have died in the catastrophic California wildfires that scientists believe are at least partially attributed to global warming.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Enemy is Plants

Southern Nevada Water Authority Czarina Pat Mulroy has launched her new ad campaign on television airwaves, a campaign so purely bull twaddle that it is awesome in its chutzpah.

Mulroy thanks Southern Nevada’s residents for maintaining the highest per-capita water use level of any urban region of the Southwest. Then she brags that the key to overcoming drought is to grab the “unused” water from rural Nevada.

This word, “unused,” has become a big mantra recently. (R&R Partners apparently has done some polling.) Mulroy used it four times at the recent Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests hearing (dog and pony show) in Las Vegas.

If the water is unused, why, then certainly is should be put to some sort of use! Of course, the water is being used by those pesky plants and animals that, you know, actually live up there. The whole sad, destructive Water Authority plan is to take the water from plants and give it to the casinos and homebuilders.

Mulroy seems to view Nevada’s plants and animals, including a couple of dozen animals and plants that already are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and many dozens more that should be, as parasites, threatening the manifest destiny as decreed by developers and neighborhood-casino companies.

Fortunately, those people who actually elect Mulroy’s bosses don’t share those sentiments. People who live in and around Las Vegas are sick to death of the “growth at any cost” scenario. Many are still confused about what, if anything, they can do to stop the urban growth that is destroying their quality of life. They hear Mulroy on the news disparaging conservation while her agencies seem to suggest that it’s a good idea.

It’s up to all of us to let the Water Authority and the elected politicos know that not only do we think that there are alternatives, we’re tired of letting the developers dominate the public policy discussions, on television or anywhere else.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Report Rips Water Grab

Here is the new dynamite from the Defenders of Wildlife and the Great Basin Water Network. I passed these reports out at the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests hearing today in Las Vegas that featured SNWA bossista Pat Mulroy - in fact, I gave one of these reports to Pat herself! (She didn't seem very happy.)

One of the many telling passages: For every $19 the Southern Nevada Water Authority spends on conservation, the agency spends $103 trying to defoliate the Great Basin. Defenders' report.

The report includes extensive analysis of Jim Deacon's research showing widespread environmental impacts from the Water Grab. It is a powerful indictment of the grow-at-any-costs mentality down here in Neon City.