Energy Sovereignty

Archives from the Stop the PSU Pipeline Campaign and the early days of CITY-GREEN

Getting to Zero – Email Correspondence

Reminding me of an open question: What does it mean when someone says ‘Aren’t we all on the same side?’

Jon Brockopp – April 2, 8:28 a.m.

Hi Katherine and all:

The [Getting to Zero] conference website is now open and we welcome comments. Community support is absolutely vital if this process is to move forward.


Katherine – April 2, 10:00 a.m.


I would appreciate if you’d put links to Steady State College and Energy Sovereignty at your resources page, specifically:

I would also appreciate it if you’d contextualize your work within the overall community process launched last March around the pipeline and the elusive Energy System Master Plan – and earlier energy-related campaigns on and off campus over the last decade or so, including – at a minimum – the student-led Beyond Coal campaign in 2010-2011; the State College Community Environmental Bill of Rights campaign in 2011 (led by Braden Crooks); and Will Mitchell’s SSAC-based fossil-fuel divestment appeal in December 2012.(12.4.12 Mitchell to Sims et al; Jan. 2013 Watt – Stand Up Award Mitchell Nomination Letter; Jan. 2013 Mitchell Stand Up Award Essays)

If you want me to connect you to the student organizers of those campaigns to write blurbs about their work and what they learned while doing it, I’ll be happy to give you their contact info, and I’ll also be happy to write a blurb summarizing the pipeline campaign. Just let me know.

The point is: you’re not acting in an ahistorical vacuum, and you’re misrepresenting your work to the extent that your public communications make it appear as if you are.

I’d also appreciate it if you could somehow align your flier text – “this conference will bring together Penn State community members already committed to responding to the threat of climate change” with your insistence at our meeting on March 22 that the target group was people inside Penn State who aren’t already involved (an effort to expand the circle in a safe space, beyond the smaller group of people already concerned), and then align that with the actual participant list, which includes several members of the State College community who are already involved in carbon neutrality work and are not inside Penn State.

Until you align those items, it’s extremely perplexing to me why you clearly did not want participation from people like me – already familiar with Penn State’s carbon emissions and political situation, yet outside the University system – to participate in organizing the event and setting the agenda.

Among other things – based on my experiences and document knowledge – I would have proposed a workshop on Penn State’s political power structure, how it intersects with energy policy, and strategies for challenging, destabilizing and reshaping the political system to create openings for new energy policies. I would have offered to convene that workshop and present relevant information to participants to consider and discuss. As the workshop line-up stands, you’re missing what I consider to be the most important piece of the puzzle.

My main concern is that you’re misrepresenting Penn State institutional goals and policies, and Penn State Zero’s goals and political positioning, in ways that will not move the conversation forward but will dissipate energy and delay/interfere with the ongoing process of engaging people in a fundamental challenge to the energy decision-making system itself.

Since I’m in that latter category – actively engaging people in a fundamental challenge to the energy decision-making system – I increasingly regard your organization and your event as undermining the overall goal of Penn State climate neutrality. As a result, you don’t have my personal allocation of “community support” at this time, but you could earn it depending on how you proceed from here.

Jon Brockopp – 10:20 a.m.

Thanks for this, Katherine.

Rob [Peeler], will you please add the links Katherine suggests to the resources page?

As for re-contextualizing the conference, I’m afraid I cannot do that. On the one hand, you are certainly right that there are many ongoing conversations, and that this initiative does not occur in a vacuum. But on the other hand, neither I nor the other members of the organizational team have been involved in the efforts you mention. The context statement on the website accurately portrays our interests and motivations.

Katherine, I understand your anger and frustration. In no way do I want to denigrate or deflate the important efforts that you and others have undertaken. In my long experience in activism, I have learned that more is more – there is not a limited supply of activist energy, but that more activism breeds more involvement.

I hope you will find ways to use what we are doing to your own purposes, to build and deepen your networks. But I also hope that you will not misconstrue our efforts as attempts to undermine what has already been done – that is simply not the case.

Katherine – 10:32 a.m.

Thanks for adding the links.

You needn’t have participated in prior efforts to contextualize your own work within the flow of those prior efforts. As I mentioned originally, Braden, Will and I – and other people – could write the blurbs about those earlier campaigns, what we learned by engaging in them, and how our experiences might inform, deepen and advance your work.

You’ve rejected the opportunity to learn from us, repeatedly and explicitly; clearly you don’t value the work we’ve done at all.

In my experience as an activist, wasted efforts breed burnout, and there is always a shortage of activist time and energy. Most people are busy and preoccupied with the rest of their lives. They join a movement only when they see a plausible path to success, and abandon it when they encounter extended resistance. I think your group is destined to repeat the history learned by others, rather than engage with it and build on it. Remains to be seen.

Jon – 10:45 a.m.

You, Braden, Will and others are welcome to contextualize our efforts within your own, and I encourage you to do so. You can even add them as comments on the website if you like.As for refusing to learn, I don’t think that’s accurate either. Students come into my classroom, and they don’t always learn what I want to teach them, but they do learn. Likewise, I have learned from you – don’t be upset if it’s not the lesson you intended to teach.

Jordan Crolly to Katherine – 11:09 a.m.

I don’t exactly get what you’re arguing about (mostly because I just read through it quickly), but I’d ask you to “fight nice.” This guy is on our side, right?

Katherine to Jordan – 11:15 a.m.

Remains to be seen.

Jordan – 11:28 a.m.

Ok. You make me nervous sometimes because you come off as really aggressive. Maybe that’s the way to go with issues as important as this, and I’m just being too much of a wuss. I would just like you to avoid making enemies out of people that are trying to be friends. Good luck and keep up the good work.

Johan Zwart – 11:37 a.m.

Trying to show (teach if you wish) a problem mostly involves what has been done in the past or what is being at the moment and learn from the problems people tried to accomplish. Mostly unless one perceives one self as an expert already, people try to get as much information as they can.

The unfortunate thing that has happened here is that an existing group has to learn by accident about another group with seemingly similar goals by accident. So now the question is indeed are the goals similar or do they only seem similar and is there a (hidden) reason why they did not communicate upfront.

When I heard about this ridiculous pipeline and the realized the size of this project I was completely overwhelmed. I asked anyone who I met for advise. By chance I met Katherine. struck not only gold but hit the Mother lode. And here we are, the pipeline is moved, Penn State energy inefficiencies exposed, people in this town are more aware (not enough) about energy and pollution.

The upsetting part is that what seemed to be simple, logical and straightforward was not and that all of this had to be fought for pretty hard, with Right-to-Know requests, scanning through hundreds of e-mails, many trips to DEP in Williamsport, BOT meetings and so on. So with all this information there is a pretty clear picture what Penn State stands for, in this field, and it is not pretty.

Fortunately for all of us, more global warming and energy complication show up in the news on a daily basis and more people are getting concerned, but I have to disagree with your idea that activist energy is freely available.

I hope to read in the news that you were at the start of a $10 million solar plant at Penn State.

Mike Rybacki – 11:30 a.m. (Related Topic, Different Thread)

Would you like to be part of a unique opportunity to help craft policy in the area of energy efficiency – setting the tone for ours and the next generation?

The convergence of two items has just occurred:

  • Approval for this community – Letter of Intent – to participate in Georgetown University’s $5 million Energy Prize Competition concurrent with the Council of Government’s appeal for staff resources to assist in this three year commitment
  • A growing desire to craft a community-wide sustainability plan

I believe that these two objectives can be met with what an independent community energy committee can offer: volunteer assistance to the Council of Governments (COG) in completing the Application, identifying projects, designing and implementing programs, and monitoring the results.

In the interim, before the formal Application packet is received, COG has formed a tentative ad-hoc (sub) committee, but they are reaching out to the community. During the COG Public Services & Environment (PS&E) committee meeting today, they are asking who these people are.

With Mr. Rob Cooper’s presence (OPP), Penn State is already on the board [+Dan Sieminski? Assoc VP Finance.&Bus.], but I think getting into the $5 million Competition’s winning circle would require more than a singular Penn State/COG game plan, since part of the judging is how well the municipality partners with the entire community.

There is a COG Executive committee meeting coming up in 2-weeks and it would be great to put the buzz in by then so that we can have some momentum going into the General Forum at the end of April and even more momentum by the early May COG-PS&E committee meeting, where the Application and community leadership identification process will begin.

If you would like to join me in lending our voice to the Competition, depending on the response, I can go a step further and lobby to have an independent committee of community members formed, instead of a COG subcommittee.

Please advise if you would like to be removed from this list-serve. Or, please feel free to spread the word. Thank you, Mike Rybacki. Cell: 610-457-8298.




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  1. Pingback: Climates for Courage | Steady State College

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