Monday, May 24, 2010

They give you hope for the future

WASHINGTON, DC–The DC office of Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek, CA), a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, welcomed and congratulated the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) winners for the southwest region. Since 1971, PEYA is award annually to young Americans for demonstrating excellence in protecting our country’s air, water, land, and ecology. Adarsha Shivakumar, Apoorva Rangan, and Callie Roberts, high school students from Pleasant Hill and Martinez, earned the PEYA by founding Project Jatropha, a biofuel venture that seeks to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate global climate change.
As described by the students, “Project Jatropha Team promotes the cultivation of Jatropha curcas, a perennial shrub with oil-rich seeds, as an ecologically friendly and economically sustainable source of alternative fuel production. To date, the work of Project Jatropha has supported the planting of 13,000 seedlings by more than 50 farm families in Southern India.”
On Wednesday May 19th, Adarsha, Apoorva, Callie, their family members, and their EPA liaison were given a tour of the Capitol complex and Congressman John Garamendi’s office. Chief-of-Staff Gary Cohen spoke with the students about their project, the COMPETES bill to fund scientific research, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute. The Joint BioEnergy Institute is a partnership project that includes Lawrence-Livermore and Sandia National Labs and aims to develop the next generation of biofuels.
“I want to commend Adarsha, Apoorva, and Callie for their ongoing work on Project Jatropha. Unhindered by their young age and the scale of the problem, these students are courageously working to combat global warming. They approach this serious challenge with humility and youthful excitement,” Gary Cohen said.
“This generation’s students enter a globally competitive labor market. Their success depends on the ability to work hard, think creatively, and adapt to quickly evolving market conditions,” Mr. Cohen added “These three Bay Area students display these qualities in spades and serve as an inspiration to the many talented young students of the 10th District.”
On Friday May 21st, the students joined other PEYA winners in meeting President Barack Obama.

More information about Project Jatropha is available at
Contact: Adarsha Shivakumar at
More information about the President’s Environmental Youth Award and the 2009 winners is available at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Look Who Stopped By (3)

No, I'm not in the picture, and this doesn't truly qualify as a "Look who stopped by" because Don Cheadle and Jame Goodall didn't come to our office, but they did speak at a briefing on the Global Conservation Act of 2010. It was fun to see Don Cheadle and to hear him apeak on the need for the US to have a global conservation strategy with meaningful benchmarks to measure its success. But to hear and then meet Jane Goodall was inspirational. When she was introduced we were told that it was 50 years ago that she first went to the Gombi in Tansania to study chimpanzees, so young that the British Government wouldn't permit her to travel there alone, insisting that her mother go with her. I remember vividly those National Geographic stories with the pictures of that slight young woman living with those apes, our closest relatives. (I confess that I didn't learn as much as I might have, because unlike Playboy, which I read only for the articles, I looked at National Geographic for the pictures).
Dr Goodall has gone on to do amazing things, not only for conservation of animal habitat, but much more which you can read about at
After she spoke, we talked about one of her programs and what could be done to expand its presence in Israel and Palestine. More on that if and as it develops. Amazing woman, such a privilege to have heard her and met her.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

They just don't care about what's good for the country

The Republicans defeated a bill in the House today called COMPETES, which is a jobs bill, an innovation bill and a science and technology education bill. The US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Associatiom of Manufacturere and many, many other Business and.academic organizations urged passage of this bill. The Republicans defeated it by means of a nasty parliamentary trick, which is described here

The Republicans are willing to throw the economic recovery, American competitiveness, and the wishes of the business community under the bus in order to stop something that the Democratic majority wants to do. Their lust to return to power knows no limits, even at the expense of their biggest supporters. I mean, why be a Republican if you're not going to support what the Chamber of Commerce wants?

I'm convinced that the only way to stop this is for the business community to make it known that it's not going to work; opposing everything, no matter how meritorious, is not the path back to the majority. It needs to make clear that they will not support Members who vote against measures needed to keep the country moving out of recession and to enable it to compete in the global economy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Old Town Alexandria

I took a trip to Old Town Alexandria yesterday. Very charming, lots of old buildings, lots of newer buildings made to look like old buildings. Looking at them, it is difficult to imagine the lives that were led by the people who lived there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But then I saw this statue, a soldier gazing toward the south, as the plaque reads, toward the places where his comrades fell during the War Between the States. It is erected on the spot from which in 1861 the Confederates fled the occupying Union Army to join the rebel forces.

Alexandria is also the boyhood home of Robert E Lee, the son of Harry "Light Horse" Lee, who was a hero of the American Revolution and a Governor of Virginia.

What does it mean that Robert E Lee, who served in the US Army for 32 years before he took up arms against it, was not tried for treason and shot after the war, and that he is venerated today? What does it mean that this statue honoring those who fell seeking to preserve a society based on the right to own other human beings retains its place a short subway ride from the Capitol?

I know that I can't help but think that like those who put up this statue, the members of the Tea Party and their ilk are longing for a lost world, one that if it ever existed, can never exist again, and that a key part of that world is that its benefits belong to "people like us" not "people like them."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No More Spill, Baby, Spill

The Congressman introduced his first bill today, The West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2010, which would ban all new oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. We expect that it will get substantial support in light of the disaster in the Gulf.

The other news today was that he has been put on the House Armed Services Committee, which is a big deal for a new member. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, since he is a strong opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lots going on, yesterday we met with Transportation Secretary LaHood, who had good things to say about the prospects for High Speed Rail in California.

Don't let anyone tell you that change isn't happening, because it is. It's slow, sometimes, and sometimes not as much as we'd like, but it is happening.