How our plug-in electric car changed our life

2015 Nissan Leaf - Our electric car changed our life.

We were surprised at how our two-year-old Nissan Leaf all-electric car changed our life.

When Rebecca and I got our 2015 Nissan Leaf in late May, 2017, we thought the biggest change in our life would be that we’d never visit a gas station again.

Surprise! The most important change was something we didn’t expect at all.

Read more

Containment: a Movie Review – Current History, Future History, Stonehenge

David Kraft of NEIS, "Containment" cosponsor

David Kraft of NEIS, “Containment” cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, "Containment" cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, “Containment” cosponsor

Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group and Michigan Safe Energy Future recently hosted showings of the movie “Containment” at Kalamazoo Public Library and at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven campus. Beyond Nuclear and Nuclear Energy Information Service, represented by Kevin Kamps and David Kraft respectively, cosponsored the showings. Kamps introduced the movie. He and Kraft commented and took questions afterwards.

Containment” presents a stark picture of the devastation that nuclear power and its waste products inflict on real people and real places right now. It also imagines how today’s problems will haunt the distant future.

“Containment” brought us new information, expanded on and explained things that many of us thought we already knew, and raised questions few of us had ever considered.

Read more

Palisades shutdown plan gets its first Michigan Public Service Commission hearing.

On December 8, 2016, Entergy Nuclear and Consumers Energy announced a plan to terminate their 15-year power purchase agreement. Both companies agreed that the PPA negotiated in 2007, when Consumers sold Palisades to Entergy, should end in 2018 instead of 2022. Since Consumers is the plant’s only customer, this agreement is essentially a Palisades shutdown plan.

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce BrownBruce

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce Brown

The closure, scheduled for October 2018, would come 13 years before expiration of the 20-year license renewal that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Palisades in 2011.

But first, the Michigan Public Service Commission must decide whether to allow or to veto the Palisades shutdown plan. MPSC scheduled its first hearing in the matter for March 9 and told Consumers to publicize the hearing and invite people to attend and comment.

Shortly after Entergy and Consumers announced their Palisades shutdown plan, the Executive Committee of Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group passed a Resolution supporting the plan. The resolution has been uploaded to MPSC’s online docket as a comment. Attorneys have filed petitions to participate in the case on behalf of six different clients. I’ve looked at the case’s documents online, and it appears that the issue at question is how Consumers will pay for the PPA buyout. (Disclaimer: I’m not fluent in legalese.)

Read more

Clean-energy quick-charging stations: How Michigan should use its share of the VW settlement.

Michigan’s electric grid is becoming progressively cleaner as the state invests in efficiency and in solar and wind potential, resources the state already possesses, as we reduce our dependence on out-of-state fossil fuels such as coal and gas. As Michigan considers how to support clean transportation with its share of the $2 billion set aside for electric car charging from the $18 billion VW settlement, it will be to our advantage to capitalize on our ever greener infrastructure that we already have and add more clean-energy quick-charging stations. Here are my thoughts.

– Ben BrownRead more

Mary Ann’s Solar Installation

Here is a description of how I decided to install solar panels.

Mary Ann went with solar power

“Mary Ann’s Solar Installation” by Mary Ann Renz

Tim Tesar, photographer for Mary Ann's solar installation

Photos by Tim Tesar

Mary Ann’s Solar Installation, by Mary Ann Renz.
Photos by Tim Tesar.

Solar WindsEditor’s note: For all the compelling reasons Mary Ann gives for going solar right now, this is a good time for you to contact Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s solar installation partner Solar Winds Power Systems. And here are more reasons: Solar Winds has been vetted by Chapter. Sierra Club members get a discount on their installation. And Chapter gets a donation.

When I was preparing to sell my house in Mt. Pleasant, the realtor had me fill out a form on which one question was “If you were going to continue to live in the house, what changes would you make to it?” I answered that I might install solar panels. It would have been a difficult venture there, since my house was shaded by large maple trees and the roof was mostly flat, covered with a rubber membrane.

However, my desire to reduce my carbon footprint persisted after my move, and so I was glad to realize that with my house in Kalamazoo, the roof facing south was, for the most part, free of shade, so it could make a pretty ideal space for installing solar panels.

I imagined, however, that it might be too costly for me to take action now. I figured I’d need to wait until I had saved enough money to afford a solar installation.Read more

To do my part in fighting the threat to our planet, I guard against my own rationalizations, and I make sure I repay what I owe to the Earth. So can you. Here’s how.

What I Owe the Earth

What I owe the Earth

“What I owe the Earth” by Ben Brown

Does what I do really matter? I’m just me! How much difference can I make? And, anyway, what debt do I owe to the planet?

Today we face a life-destroying threat, a danger more serious than the asteroid impact blamed for killing off so much life 65 million years ago. Most of us who recognize today’s threat blame a collection of forces beyond our control. I contend that the responsibility falls on all of us – you and me – individually. The longer we believe the current story being fed us, that our individual actions matter little, the more likely our destruction becomes.

Don’t fall for the idea that it’s them. It’s us. We all matter, and what each of us does today creates the future.

Read more

CLIMATE ACTION is the ultimate pro-life movement.

Reclaiming the Narrative

Mary A. Colborn, Climate Action is the Ultimate Pro-life Movement

A few years ago my sister and I cleared away an old forgotten pile of wood on our family farm. As we were moving branch after branch and stacking chunks of wood, we startled a well-camouflaged toad. It responded to our intrusion by creeping deeper into the pile. Each time we shifted the pile and uncovered the toad, we’d call out to each other, “Watch out for the toad. Be careful you don’t hurt him.” Slowly, the pile dwindled and finally there was no wood left and no place to hide. Still the toad made an attempt by covering itself with a cluster of dry leaves. I was ready to wrap up the task, leave the toad where it was and find a new project, when my sister called out to my brother to come over and rake the site. Unfortunately, the first thing he did upon arriving was to make a swing with the rake toward the toad’s leafy hiding place. Together, my sister and I screamed out, “Watch out for the toad.”

I have no idea how the toad fared, because our little outburst set off a three hour rant. Shamed by us, my brother ranted and railed for hours about the “the crazy liberals who care more about the lives of toads than babies.” In confusion, I tried to explain that there were no babies present and certainly none at risk of being harmed. He just went deeper into his rant about abortion, adding insults on my character, focusing on the insane notion that I wanted to kill babies to save animals, like toads. As he continued his rant against “crazy environmentalists,” he grew more and more profane. I finally abandoned the work site for my own safety and left.

I tell you this story, not to share my personal struggles with right-wing family members, but to suggest instead that it is time for those of us who love the Earth to take back the narrative. We must get people to understand that our care for nature includes a deep and defining love for all life in it and upon it. We must make others know that we stand up for clean water, as so many of us did at Standing Rock and in Flint, because we love people. We recognize that people need clean air and clean water, as much as they need a connection to nature.

I say this, because we environmentalists have failed to adequately convey that we believe people matter and all life matters.Read more

Permanent Palisades Shut Down Announcement: For anti-nuke activists, a celebration. Then what?

Is it really a permanent Palisades shut down?

permanent Palisades shut down

In a December 8, 2016, press release, Palisades nuclear plant owner Entergy announced a permanent Palisades shut down effective October, 2018.

Long story short: Executives at Consumers decided their company was paying Palisades too much for electricity. They negotiated with Entergy, owner-operator of Palisades, to knock the last four years off the fifteen-year purchase plan they agreed to when Consumers sold its Palisades plant to Entergy in 2007. Consumers, Palisades’ only customer, will stop buying electricity from Palisades in 2018, not 2022. For thirteen of the twenty extra years Entergy got in 2011 when the plant’s original 40-year license expired, Palisades has no buyer for its uncompetitively priced electricity. So Entergy officials decided on a permanent palisades shut down.

On December 8, Entergy issued a press release saying, “Entergy intends to shut down the Palisades nuclear power plant permanently on Oct. 1, 2018.”Read more

High-Level Nuclear Waste Disposal: Our Eternal Problem

our high-level nuclear waste disposal problem

Our high-level nuclear waste disposal problem: The industry calls it “clean, safe nuclear energy,” but each plant has been manufacturing tons of waste that’s dangerously radioactive for millions of years – forever, as we humans count time.

300px-little_boyThe experts and geniuses put the finishing touches on The Bomb and looked around and said, “What do we do with all this leftover stuff?” The answer was, “Ella-fine-oh. We’ll figure it out later.” Later was a long time ago. We’re in decade number eight of the “Atomic Age” and no one has figured out what to do about high-level nuclear waste disposal.

Read more

Ben’s Tiny House Part 2 – Progress Report

The tiny house house movement will help heal the Earth. “Ben’s Tiny House Part 2” updates the first installment in the story of Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity’s tiny house pilot project. Part One gave dozens of reasons why a tiny house can be the right choice for many and is the right choice for me.

Ben’s tiny house progress report, September 26

Ben's tiny house - tiny footprint, huge space

Ben’s tiny house – tiny footprint, huge space

The past week has been a whirlwind of activities on the tiny house.

Last Monday September 19th, there was only the insulated foundation and form work that had been supporting it. Tuesday fantastic volunteers from Stryker unloaded the lumber delivery early in the morning. By noon we had organized the deliveries, plus performed dozens of tasks to prep the foundation for the sill plate and wall. The team built the north wall framing and, like a barn raising, we had it up and braced. By that evening the southern entry wall framing was built and raised into place.

Read more