Why I no longer support the Long Now Foundation

Several years ago, I was very pleased to find the Long Now Foundation. I appreciated their focus on long-term thinking, was delighted by their 10,000-year clock project, and enjoyed their monthly seminars. The seminars were informative and thought-provoking, and best of all, were attended by intelligent, interesting people, some of whom I got to know at the receptions after the talks.

Unfortunately, the quality and focus declined and after a while I ended my membership. A staff member followed up by asking me, "We would really appreciate your thoughts on membership, especially what we could have done or offered that would have encouraged you to keep your membership going?"

That prompted me to articulate what I had grown to dislike about the Long Now Foundation. This was a little over a year ago, but I've been thinking about it lately and thought it might be valuable to add it to this blog.

(August 16, 2016)

I have lapsed my membership because the foundation doesn't seem to me to be following its calling of supporting long-term thinking.

A couple years ago I noticed that I attended fewer and fewer seminars, which I used to enjoy, because they had degenerated to TED-style talks on topics less and less relevant to long-term thinking. In particular, it's amazing to me how little the Long Now Foundation talks about climate change. The next few centuries are going to be the "Long Emergency" as we and our descendants try to cope with the consequences of current and past greenhouse gas emissions. We really need to be ringing the alarm bells about changing our society and the way we live our lives right now, rather than chatting about cheery little geoengineering ideas or marshmallow tests.

In addition, I grew tired of Stewart Brand's focus on big technology and capitalism as solutions to the problems we face and as an assumption for our world in the future. Capitalism is a particular social form that has lasted for a few hundred years at the most. It is not logical to assume that it is the social form society will take for the next several thousand years, not if we are to have a viable planet, anyway.

Not sure that helps, but there it is.



Letter to US Bank Executives re: DAPL

A few weeks ago I closed my U.S. Bank credit card. I recently wrote a letter the U.S. Bank executives explaining that it is because they are a bigger funder of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Here's the letter:

December 27, 2016

To: Richard K. Davis, Chairman and CEO, U.S. Bank
Cc: Dana E. Ripley, Senior VP of Corporate Communications, U.S. Bank
Susan Beatty, Brand, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sponsorships, U.S. Bank

Recently I closed my U.S. Bank credit card. I have not had any negative experiences with U.S. Bank, but I learned that the bank is one of the biggest funders of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and heeded the calls from #NoDAPL organizers to close accounts with U.S. Bank.

It is worth remembering that the fight at Standing Rock over the DAPL is first and foremost about respecting the sovereignty and land of American Indian tribes. Only secondarily is it about fossil fuels and climate change. However, as a climate activist, that secondary motive is very important to me, as it should be to you.

Funding a fossil fuel project is fundamentally at odds with the function of a bank. The role of a bank is to facilitate investment: the use of today’s money to build things that will generate value over time. Building fossil fuel infrastructure now destroys value. Generations will suffer and have to pay dearly for the damage generated by new oil and gas pipelines, coal mines, and the like.

What you are doing is enriching yourselves in the present at the expense of the future, and that is the exact opposite of investment.

I ask you to remove all funding from the DAPL, and also to remove all funding from all fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and to publicly commit not to fund any fossil fuel projects in the future.

Martin MacKerel

If you would like to join me, check out Yes Magazine's article on which banks are funding DAPL and how to contact them.


Keep San Francisco FAIR!

Ed Lee is corrupt and San Francisco is being destroyed by the lack of affordable housing and the evisceration of rental stock by Airbnb.

Keep San Francisco FAIR! Vote yes on Prop F, yes on Prop A, yes on Prop I, and Replace Ed Lee!

Vote 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee! Use ranked choice voting to vote for the following candidates for Mayor, in any order:

Check out the campaign websites for:

Feel free to use the artwork, modify as you wish. Contact martin.mackerel@gmail.com for source documents.

I've also made a PDF on white background suitable for printing.


No, We Don't Stand Together

The slogan "We Stand Together" is as bad as "All Lives Matter", and Bernie supporters would do well to steer clear of it.

Everyone should realize by now how hollow the phrase "All Lives Matter" is. If black people had used the slogan "All Lives Matter" originally, that would actually mean what it says. But the phrase "All Lives Matter" was only uttered after the slogan "Black Lives Matter" burst upon the scene. "Black Lives Matter" is used to emphasize that black lives do matter, in the face of a society that so clearly does not value black lives.

In that context, the phrase "All Lives Matter" is a retort – it opposes "Black Lives Matter", covers it up, hides it under the false universal of "all lives". But, of course, if all lives truly mattered, there would be no need to say "Black Lives Matter".

In the same way, "We Stand Together" uses a false universal. Who is we? "We" are the white progressives who don't want to be distracted by all this discussion of racism and white supremacy – that's "someone else's issue". Why can't we instead talk about class, or debt, or the 1% – you know, the issues that matter to "all" of "us".

This is the same "we" of feminism that obscures women of colour and trans women. This is the "we" of gay rights that says that staying in solidarity with the "T" of LGBT is just too divisive.

We don't stand together. Some of us do stand in a very different position vis-à-vis the police, the courts, the banks, the job market, etc., etc. The reaction of the crowd to the Seattle interruption shows exactly why it is necessary to keep bringing up the issue of race.

"We Stand Together" is a blatant attempt to shut down dissent, to crowd it out, to refuse to listen to it. If you're standing in a crowd of Bernie Sanders supporters who start chanting "We Stand Together", do the honourable thing: sit down. Or even, lie down for Mike Brown.


Comments on the scope of the WesPac EIR, part 2

August 7th, 2015 - my second email submitting comments, focusing on climate change. Part one focuses on more local and regional issues.

This is the second part of my comments on the scope of the WesPac RDEIR, focusing on climate change, both the project's effect on climate change and the effects of climate action on the project's purpose and long-term viability.


It is not merely the manner in which the proposed WesPac project would operate that is a problem; it is its very existence itself. The purpose of the project is to increase the flexibility and capacity of the petroleum industry. It is likely to, however marginally, increase production of and reduce the costs of fossil fuels, and thereby increase the global use of those fossil fuels. And that is precisely the problem.

In a public comment of September 13, 2013, I said the following:
Even if the facility operated flawlessly, however, it would contribute to the increased global use of fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gases that through climate change endanger our physical infrastructure, our health, our environment, and potentially the very viability of human civilization.

It is imperative that we change our energy system. To start with, we must insist on NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE.

There is simply no excuse to do otherwise; any statement of environmental impact that claims low impact for additional fossil fuel infrastructure and allows its construction is extremely irresponsible.
Two years later that comment is, unfortunately, still valid. My claim that the very viability of our civilization is endangered is far from being an exaggeration. The climate change that is already "locked in" will strain our ability to adapt. The very material bases of our civilization are under assault: changing weather patterns mean that agriculture will be increasingly difficult, sea-level rise threatens many cities and much infrastructure, and more heat waves, storms, and cold spells mean more property damage and fatalities in the years ahead.

Comments on the scope of the WesPac EIR, part 1

August 7th, 2015 - my first email submitting comments, on issues other than climate change. Part two focuses on climate change.

In this document, I am listing all comments on the scope of the WesPac 2015 RDEIR other than those related to climate change.

Pipeline and tank integrity issues

When I refer to "pipelines", I mean both the pipelines fully internal to the site, as well as the external pipelines that connect to the regional refineries and other distribution networks.

Please include detailed information about the age of all tanks and pipelines. Which of these tanks will be refurbished?

What are the limits of vapor pressure that the tanks and pipelines can handle? How does this compare to the known very high vapor pressure of Bakken shale oil?

What other effects does crude type have on pipeline or tank integrity? For example, both tar sands dilbit and Bakken shale are likely to be more corrosive than fuel oil or other crudes, and the more viscous tar sands dilbit is likely to be pumped at higher pressure than other crudes. Tar sands dilbit is also often heated to get it to flow; how does this affect pipeline integrity? It could increase corrosion and it could also increase wear-and-tear from thermal expansion and contraction.

The Mayflower spill in Arkansas was a result of the rupture of Pegasus, a 65-year-old pipeline that was intended for refined products. Exxon 1) reversed the flow and 2) sent more corrosive tar sands dilbit down the pipe 3) at high pressure. All three actions stressed the already quite old pipeline; together, they weakened it enough to rupture it.