Archive for November 3rd, 2008

Getting Greener All The Time

Travis County went green on October 28th, when the Commissioners Court voted to adopt a new Travis County Green Initiative. According to commissioner Sarah Eckhardt the initiative would:

“…Promote the principles of energy conservation, zero waste, efficient use of water and other natural resources, and move toward a carbon neutral County government…a Green Initiative would likely strengthen the market for green building, recycling, waste minimization technology, and low impact development.”

Turbines on a wind farm near Fluvanna Texas. (credit fieldsbh

Turbines on a wind farm near Fluvanna Texas. (credit fieldsbh an environmental news and commentary website lists Austin as #15 of the 15 greenest city in the world out of

The Green Guide’s  “The Top 10 Green Cities in the U.S. for 2006” listed Austin as #2 out of 10.’s City Guides: The 10 Greenest Cities in America listed Austin as #1.

We live in one of the greenest cities in nation and world. Austinites, are more in touch and aware of their impact on the planet than others, and do something about it in all areas of there life. It’s not just the people who live here who contribute in there homes that make the city green, it’s also the companies who make an effort to reduce emissions and recycle, as well as laws the city passes making sure that standards and continuous efforts are made to keep Austin green.

Austin Energy’s Green Choice Program is #1 in the industry. The program uses renewable alternatives (wind power) to provide efficient, low-cost electricity.

There is the Austin Climate Protection Plan, which intends to make all facilities, fleets and operations carbon-neutral by 2020, and 100% of city facilities powered by renewable energy by 2012. There will also be CO2 caps and reduction plans for all utility emissions making both residential and commercial building codes the most energy-efficient in the nation. They plan to achieve this by making all new single-family homes “zero net-energy capable” (meaning they could produce as much energy as they use) by 2015.

The Clean Energy Incubator, created by the National Renewable Energy Lab and managed by the University of Texas at Austin, works closely with power utility and serves as a test bed for startup companies to develop green technologies.

If you want to contribute to keeping Austin Green, volunteer at a local non-profit supporting the cause like Keep Austin Beautiful (KAB).



#37: CapMetro

So our friendly local Capital Metro drivers are going on strike Wednesday over ‘oppressively’ low wages. Fine. I’m a liberal, pro-union man. I believe in solidarity with the working classes; to this end, in fact, I will be biking to my bourgeois internship for the duration of the  strike (Also, I just fixed my bike).

But Capital Metro’s idea of a strike isn’t ‘complete shutdown,’ but rather ‘gradual scaling back of service.’  They’ll still run from 6 am to 7:30 PM, with somewhat reduced service.

Now, I understand. CapMetro drivers understand that many people rely on the bus, and they don’t want to hurt innocents who have nothing to do with their pay dispute with StarTran. That said, all I have to say is:

Seriously, CapMetro, grow a pair.

I mean, come on. When our great-grandparents were striking for the 8 hour workday, the five day work week, and the right to not get beaten at their sewing machines, they didn’t say, ‘Oh, Mr. Coercive Industrialist, we’ll still come in four hours a day. Just, you know, so as not to inconvenience anyone who needs to buy clothes/cars/lead-based Chinese toys.’

No. They walked out, and they picketed, and they brawled with the scabs brought in to do their jobs for cheaper. People were beaten up. Cars were overturned. Woody Guthrie songs were sung.

Or more recently, the writer’s strike. The writers didn’t agree to put out a few episodes and a pilot. They didn’t say, ‘Okay, we’ll write your jokes/sappy love scenes/monologues, but just make ’em real crappy.’ No. They said, we have a legitimate grief, and if innocent people suffer from the giant howling wasteland that is cable TV, that’s life.

So CapMetro, in case you’ve somehow missed the point, let me clarify:

Strikes are inconvenient. They make people unhappy. That’s the point.

You have the most power of any organized group in the city. At a stroke, you can shut this place down, and put enormous public pressure on your bosses to raise your wages. Yes, people will suffer. But if you give TranStar a way to put you off, because the city’s still functioning and the public outcry is reduced to grumbles, you’re just going to make everyone a little less unhappy, but for a lot longer.

For a better model to follow, my striking comrades, I would like to refer you to the words of the great, somehow-still-alive Pete Seeger, in his 1949 “Talking Union Blues.

Suppose they’re working you so hard it’s just outrageous,
They’re paying you all starvation wages;
You go to the boss, and the boss would yell,
“Before I’d raise your pay I’d see you all in Hell.”
Well, he’s puffing a big see-gar and feeling mighty slick,
He thinks he’s got your union licked.
He looks out the window, and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree
He’s a bastard.

That’s a strike. This, this is not. Seriously, CapMetro, go big or go home.

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