Saturday, December 9, 2017


December starves us of sun and color,
Bright backdrops fade to muted browns and golds. 
For those who wander these dusky surrounds
the earth saves small pockets of beauty to hold.  

©2017 Maria Amodei

Sunday, August 20, 2017

One Red Leaf

So it begins
with one red leaf
The warmth of summer
is all too brief

Sun’s heat sown
in the fertile ground
Sparks back from the trees
For a final round

©Maria Amodei 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Garden Clock

The gardens mark the passing days of summer 
Each plant erupts in bright blooms on the appointed days
then recedes to let later flowers shine in their time
Waiting most of a year to mark the days again

Like the hands of a clock they take us through 
anticipation of each summer day to a glimpse of fall
While the annuals bloom with constant extravagance,
the chrysanthemums prepare the midnight call

©Maria Amodei 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Capitalism and the Demonization of the EPA

First, a few points about capitalism.

1.       The assumption is that each individual and each company is working to further their own interests.  There is no altruism put forward to rationalize a decision in capitalism. 

2.       Flexibility is the key. The power of the free market is flexibility.  As socio-economic realities change there are a multitude of entrepreneurs and small businesses thinking of ways to best service new needs.   

3.       The cost of providing a product or service must be borne by the consumers of that product or service.  Products may be priced according to demand, but should never be priced artificially low.  If a product is extremely expensive to produce, but artificially priced at a low point, then consumers will buy more of that product and less of competing products.  This breaks the ability of the free market economy to respond to the current needs of society in the most efficient way possible.  Artificially low prices disrupt the supply and demand relationship that keeps capitalism flexible and responsive to needs.
In economics the environment is what is called a “public good”.  It does not belong to any one individual or company.  Thus it is not in the best interests of any individual or company to be respectful of the environment.  Their job is to make money.  This does not mean that a public good has no value.  It means that the value is generalized across the population. 
Pollution damages a public good.  It removes wealth from society.  Pollution exacts a cost.  In order for the laws of supply and demand to effectively direct resources, the cost of providing a product or service must be borne by the producers and ultimately the consumers of that product or service.  Otherwise those consumers will purchase more of that product than they would if it were priced appropriately.  When coal mines dump toxic waste into streams, a portion of the cost of the coal is distributed in an economically random way across the population downstream, regardless of whether or not they purchase the coal or any energy produced with that coal.  The people living downstream are effectively subsidizing the coal mine and therefore all the coal consumers and consumers of energy from that coal. 
Production costs go up with environmental regulations.  This is appropriate.  Let’s say I setup a business next to your house, and dump my trash in your yard.  This saves me the cost of trash hauling and I can sell my goods for less than other similar businesses.  But I have not provided a lower cost option.  In the absence of laws to stop my behavior I am simply making you pay the cleanup cost.  If I had come up with some creative process that truly allowed me to produce my product at a lower cost I would be able to price the product lower, and claim a larger share of the market.  Soon other creative people would figure out my method, or even a better method, and the price would drop further.
The point here is that allowing businesses to pollute the environment does not lower the cost of producing those products or services to society.  It simply allows particular businesses to effectively dump their trash on someone else’s lawn.  They have not earned their market share through any particular creativity or hard work.  By allowing them to pollute the environment we give them an unfair advantage over businesses that produce their goods in an environmentally friendly way.  When consumers purchase a product they look at the price.  The price of the goods produced in an environmentally friendly way will likely be higher.  The goods produced without environmental regulations will likely cost less.  Consumers will choose the item with the lower price tag at the store, but it may well be the higher cost item.  By allowing the producer to freely pollute the environment during production we have artificially lowered the price of that product.  The laws of supply and demand are circumvented when pollution costs are not included in the price of goods.
The EPA is the organization that makes and enforces the laws to prevent my business from dumping trash on your property.  As the business owner, I’m likely to find them unreasonable.  My goals are to make money.  Yes, there will be some business owners who would not dump refuse on someone else’s property even if it were legal to do so.  There will be plenty more businesses that will use every tool legally available to them to lower the cost to their consumers.  With no law to prevent the behavior, capitalism rewards the businesses that dump their trash on your lawn.  Environmental protection laws force businesses to assume all the costs of production, so that the price of their goods will reflect the true cost, and consumers will then make appropriate decisions based on the real costs.
The true flexibility of capitalism is from small and medium businesses.  Large businesses are no more flexible than large government institutions.  An example is the energy industry.  There are a myriad of innovative small firms coming up with renewable and clean energy solutions.  These businesses are showcasing the power of capitalism to develop needed products and services.  Yet we are finding ways to subsidize the oil, gas and coal industries, large firms who lack the flexibility to respond like smaller firms.  Yes, the energy giants have diversified, but they are clinging to a dated technology, and asking us to subsidize them by allowing pollution so they can offer an artificially low price to consumers and score a larger market share.  If they are truly dinosaurs, let them go extinct.  The new generation of energy companies is here:  small; creative; flexible; and ready to take us forward.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Life, Death and Weather

Life, death and weather do not care about time. 
Saturday my mother's older sister Marlene died. Though she was not young, this was unexpected. Marlene was a tough and difficult woman who had a hard life. A single mother, she worked three jobs and put her son Bob through school. She made sure he kept to a path of education and hard work. He did her proud, an accomplished professor at University of Chicago. A loving son who grew up to understand and appreciate what she had given.

Marlene wasn't easy, but she could laugh. She and mom shared much time exchanging stories and laughing on the phone. 
We went to Erie, the spread family together for weddings and funerals. It has been a long time. Bob's son and daughters have grown from the children I last met to kind and fascinating people. At the service I passed the family ring, that had come from my grandmother to me, on to Bob's eldest daughter Elizabeth. The ring meant a great deal to Marlene. It was right that it go to her oldest granddaughter. I had told Marlene of this decision years ago.

The drive home sampled most every type of winter weather you don't want to drive in. Torrential rain, ice, gusty wind, fog. Bless the highway teams treating the roadways and the other drivers who prioritized life over schedule and drove accordingly. Because life and death and weather don't care about time.

Home, to my animals who were cared for by so many good friends on short notice. 
Take your time, love your family and your friends. Schedules have their place, but well after taking care of ourselves and one another.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Resistance

Employees of NASA and the National Park Service have gone rogue, tweeting established science despite the gag order.  They’ve setup private accounts so they can continue. 

The entire top management level of the State Department has resigned.  This is not the usual shuffling of staff that comes with a change of administration.  These are career foreign service professionals who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Some Republicans are daring to break ranks and disagree with new policies.  Nevada governor Sandoval has publicly disagreed with the border wall and highlighted Nevada policies supportive of immigrants.
The press is stepping up, with headings like “Our president is a pathological liar”.  Yes, it is their job, but intrepid with such a vindictive administration backed by right wing zealots who think nothing of attacking anyone who dares disagree, facts be damned.  Six journalists were arrested while covering protests, and charged with felony rioting.
Millions of people marched, all over the country and all over the world, while 10 states have proposed legislation criminalizing peaceful protest.
These are the resistance.  These are people who are risking their livelihoods and their safety to speak up for what they believe in.  Do not squander their courage. 
Now is not the time to give up.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reactionary changes in our government.  Science and the press have been labeled our enemies.  The propaganda machine justifies “alternate facts”.  Press that dares to report honestly is attacked, said to be left wing liars.  If you ever are tempted to consider the Trump administration credible, just remember the faux debate over the inauguration crowd.  They repeatedly told us that the crowds were huge, while we all stared dumbfounded at the photo evidence to the contrary. 
There will be trolls who get on posts and attack.  I’ve had someone threaten to use their right to punch me in the face.  Block them.  This is not discourse.  Don’t waste your energy on these people.
Remember that not even 60% of the eligible voters went to the polls, and Trump lost the popular election.  Fewer than 30% of eligible voters supported him.  And I’m pretty sure some of them are starting to question their choice.  Give them quiet reasons to question.  Check your facts first, then ask a pointed question.  Be polite.  Try to draw from them their reasoning.  That alone may be enough to get them to question themselves.
March, call your senators and representatives, speak up when you hear racism or discrimination of any kind, be ready to support targets of bigotry, run for local government, get involved in organizations like the ACLU, buy subscriptions to mainstream news like the NYT, Washington Post and the Guardian so they can afford to keep good journalists working, support NPR.  Don’t whitewash your language.  Lies in support of a political agenda are propaganda.  Euro-centric groups and the alt-right are white supremacists.  Social conservatives are bigots. 
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.  Find a way to keep yourself grounded as this is not a short term battle.  Pace yourself.  Make a realistic schedule to call a lawmaker every week, review and comment on political posts during certain times of day, or only on Fridays.  Join a protest march each season.  Whatever it takes to fit your personal methods of resistance into your life without consuming or exhausting yourself.
Remember the scientists, foreign service officers, prominent Republicans, reporters, and others who are taking significant risks to fight the Trump administration.  Do not squander their courage.  They are leaders.  Help form the army that fights for our constitution, our values, our country, and our planet.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Choosing Reality

It seems the right wing likes to cherry pick the science they believe the same way they cherry pick the Bible passages they believe.
They use cell phones, cars, and doctors but don't believe in any science that might hurt their pocketbooks. Much the same as they yell about homosexuality and abortion, but it is infidelity that made God's top 10 list.