It snowed in Berkeley last night

It snowed in Berkeley last night. Thought I saw some on a car going past. Then there it was, lining the verges of Interstate 80.

OK, it’s still winter for a few more days…

My tired mind didn’t register at first. The evening I’d been going to spend snuggled into the cozy little home in the Marin Headlands where I’m camped this week had disappeared into work. Walking to the kitchen down the hall from our new Madrone Project office in the David Brower Center in Berkeley, I spotted John Knox, Executive Director of Earth Island Institute down in the lobby. John’s an old friend, from the days when Dave was still alive and running Earth Island. So I sauntered down to say howdy and found myself in the midst of an about to happen event honoring Aileen Mioko Smith, and raising money for Green Action, her gallant grassroots group in Japan that has been fighting the nuclear plants there, warning of just the sort of disaster that now threatens her island.

On finding me standing in their lobby, the various activists asked if I would speak at the event, describing how Japan, and the U.S. could craft a future free of nuclear power that still heads off the climate crisis.

Wow. Sure. That is part of the magic of the Brower Center – a LEED Platinum building full of organizations working for a future for all living things. Such events happen here most every day.

I handed Claire Greensfelder, Director of the Plutonium Free Future Women’s Network, and the evening’s MC, my somewhat battered bound galley copy of Climate Capitalism so that she tell folk that while I was only speaking briefly, all the documentation for my assertions are in the book, hitting bookstores 12 April.

If someone would offer enough money, Claire asked, would I sell my copy?

It was my only one…. All the rest have gone to the dear folk who wrote comments for the book’s cover and on the Amazon site at which you can now pre-order the book. I’d been carrying this lone copy to show people that the dern thing is real.

If someone will pay $500 for the book, would I let them have it? She persisted.

How could I say no? Green Action works so hard and on so little money. As many nukes as litter Japan now, it’d be twice that were it not for this lovely woman and her colleagues and volunteers.  I nodded and handed it over.

Aileen spoke poignantly. She describe about what it is like now in Japan, the devastation, and the awful insult of a nuclear catastrophe, from a plant whose safety she has repeatedly challenged. She spoke of the industry lies, the government cover-up’s: it really is the same, the world around. She described how the government has done all it can to inhibit renewable production in Japan.

I spoke, describing how the new wind capacity brought on in the last two years around the world is already more than the entire capacity of the Japanese nuclear program (today it was revealed that the government has asked the Japanese wind farms that did manage to get constructed to run at higher capacity to help out in the electricity shortage. The wind turbines were not damaged at all in the quake or tsunami.) And of course, I ended, I’ve never heard of anyone calling for an evacuation plan from a wind farm.

My pledge of $100 was then gratifyingly swamped as a man met Claire’s price. It was an honor signing my book over to its new owner, grateful that it will help Aileen and Green Action.

It was late as I headed my host’s little Ranger truck towards Marin, and it took my tired brain a quarter mile to remember that what I was now slushing through really was not where it belonged.

Snow…. Whoa, no, this is California, not Colorado. What the heck is snow doing here?! No doubt those radioactive particles glowing in the dark as they precipitate out….

Just kidding. But dangerous, none the less. Nearing the Richmond Bridge, a car spun out, slammed a light standard, sheared it onto the freeway and came to rest against the next light pole. Least that’s what appeared as said lamp pole, laying across the black highway, loomed suddenly into view.

Don’t brake.

Defensive driving rules filled my head as one hopes they will such times, and I was past it all and clear before my heart hit overdrive. The old firefighter/ EMT in me wanted to go back, but it looked as if everyone was out of the car. I’d no gear and other cars were stopping.

It can happen quickly, can’t it?

In Finland, not two weeks ago I argued with a representative from a nuclear  construction company, asking why would a utility executive would ever put his or his shareholders’ money into an investment that an accident anywhere in the world could shut down? Which is why there are no “commercial orders for nuclear plants. Some government always subsidizes the projects. Which is why the U.S. Industry now seeks the loan guarantees – if they decide to walk away from a project, you and I and the rest of the taxpayers will pick up the tab. No doubt a lot of now homeless people wish our government did that on their defaulting mortgage. And we taxpayers will similarly assume liability insurance in event of a serious accident.

Less than a week after my saying that, the dreaded accident struck. Sure, at the hands of a monstrous disaster that hit with no more warning than my downed lamp pole. But that’s the point. It does snow in Berkeley. If rarely. Aileen’s been warning for years that Japan should not build nuclear plants on the Ring of Fire. And the inevitable tragedy occurred.

Heart slowing, I drove carefully home thinking about those wind turbines. Wind in good sites costs less than the costs of just running an existing nuke. Tell me again why anyone would ever build another nuke…?

And watch out for snow in Berkeley.

*****

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