Category: ESSAYS

The rest of my career will be about drawing connections. Analysis, the process of dissection, is only of limited value to my mission. Synthesis is my vocation. More than any other kind of thinking, systems strategy, specifically of course in reference to California ecology, is where I find the answers to the questions I am asking. How do the orienting, elemental forces of the natural world inform the shape and function of my local and global realities? They come by considering the wider implications of externalities and how the sum effect of its fitness outweighs the aggregated product of the constituent properties. The study of ecology is the study of economics. The only difference between the two is the object of currency and the subject of society. (obi)

An Environmental Conservationist’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President

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Portrait of Hillary Clinton by Obi Kaufmann

An environmental conservationist’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, with an analysis of the new-Clinton administration’s conservation and environmental Promises and Policies

by Obi Kaufmann

As a wilderness advocate and an environmental conservationist from California, I support Hillary Clinton for president of the United States. Environmental protection and education is my number one issue in this campaign. Safe and effective energy innovation and sound regulation designed to keep unfettered, irresponsible and unsustainable corporate energy in check is critical to not only ecological health on a global level, but also in order to realize substantial, long-term economic growth. Clinton’s plan to tackle the very complex issues of conservation, environment and climate (some highlights of which are outlined below) is an excellent path to phasing society’s need of burning fossil fuels, while making clear roads of investment to face the challenge of energy, head on. I present this essay as a checklist for us, the concerned citizenry for whom environmental conservation is a core, American value, to keep our politicians and the likely Clinton Administration accountable for their campaign promises. The information below comes directly from www.hillaryclinton.com.

  1. The Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force

On her first day in office, Clinton has promised to establish an Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force and charge it with identifying 50 low-income urban and rural communities across the country facing the most acute environmental risks. The Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force will make recommendations to address cumulative environmental impacts and preventing other communities from facing similar burdens in the future, particularly in light of the additional challenges posed by climate change, including through stronger enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Task Force will be supported by an expanded National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ research and partnership grant program.

  1. Collaborative Stewardship

The Clinton Administration promises a stance of what is called Collaborative Stewardship, regarding land conservation with the following statement: “Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.” Identifying five key components in a comprehensive wild land and wild life conservation program, the administration promises to 1. Keep public lands public; no private leases 2. Combat international wildlife trafficking; an issue of both national security and conservation 3. Support the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act 4. Eliminate the use of antibiotics in farm animals for non-therapeutic reasons and 5. End the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

  1. The Clean Energy Challenge

The Clinton Plan calls for some, big-dollar strategies to combat some of the most difficult challenges our society has ever faced. By acknowledging these problems, based on sound, scientific data, America is poised to become leaders in environmental innovative technologies and sustainable solutions. The administration will launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families. This challenge starts with the generation of enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of Hillary’s first term. It will also expand the amount of installed solar capacity to 140 gigawatts by the end of 2020, a 700% increase from current levels. Through her Clean Energy Challenge, Clinton will provide competitive grants to states, cities, and rural communities that exceed federal standards and take the lead in deploying cost-saving and pollution-reducing clean energy and energy efficiency solutions.

  1. The Environmental Aspects of the Infrastructure Investment Plan

Hillary Clinton is announcing a five-year $275 billion Infrastructure Plan. This investment plan will be paid for through business tax reform over five years. Of these funds, she would allocate $250 billion to direct public investment. She would allocate the other $25 billion to a National Infrastructure Bank, dedicated to advancing our competitive advantage for the 21st century economy. The bank would leverage its $25 billion in funds to support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement—meaning that Clinton’s infrastructure plan would in total result in up to $500 billion in federally supported investment. The bank would also administer part of a renewed and expanded Build American Bonds Program, and would look for opportunities to work with partners in the private sector to get the best possible outcomes for the American people. Every $1 billion in infrastructure investment creates 13,000 jobs. Every dollar of infrastructure investment leads to an estimated $1.60 increase in GDP the following year and twice that over the subsequent 20 years.

Energy conservation and innovation is core to Clinton Infrastructure Plan. The plan calls for significant public investments in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, The plan has clear goals linked to conservation and climate goals, including cutting energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. To phase down the use of expensive and highly polluting fuel oil and propane to heat homes and businesses over the long term, improving air quality and protecting households from price spikes while reducing US oil consumption by more than 300 million barrels per year. Furthermore, the plan calls to reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

The Infrastructure plan will work with national code organizations like the ICC (The International Code Council), ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), and IAPMO (The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials) to develop model building codes that address the energy performance of new buildings and projects as a whole, to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced building technology and practices, and prevent value engineering from impeding cost-effective energy efficiency solutions like mechanical insulation. The Institute for Market Transformation estimates this measure alone would generate 83,000 jobs and save American households $1.3 billion a year on their energy bills by ensuring efficiency investments are accurately valued in the residential property market. The plan will also defend and extend national energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment that drive innovation and save American consumers $63 billion a year on their utility bills.

  1. Cleaning up the Existing Mess

A core value of the Clinton plan is remediation. Cleaning up our existing mess is a key aspect to environmental justice for future generations. Environmental justice and climate justice are identified as central priorities by setting bold national goals to eliminate lead poisoning within five years, clean up the more than 450,000 toxic brownfield (any former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination) sites across the country, expand solar and energy efficiency solutions in low-income communities with the creation of the Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force. This cleanup effort will create new economic opportunities through brownfield clean-up and redevelopment. There are over 450,000 brownfield sites across the United States where the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants pose threats to public health and deprive local communities of economic development opportunities. EPA’s Superfund program has insufficient resources to clean up the remaining sites on the National Priority List, and most brownfields are overseen by capacity-constrained state and local governments.

More than 40 percent of Americans live in places where pollution levels are often too dangerous to breathe. Urban air pollution contributes to asthma episodes, missed school and work days and reduced life expectancy for community residents. Clinton’s plan calls on the defense and implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and ensures that states prioritize environmental and climate justice when designing their compliance plans.

  1. The Problem of Fracking

A tremendously contentious issue among Clinton supporters is her support of fracking. Her position has evolved over the past two decades and seems to now include a phase out of fracking technologies with the on-boarding of new energy technologies.

“I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present, number two. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there are places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated.”

– Hillary Clinton, March 6th, Democratic Debate, Flint Michigan

Her policy is very specific in its criteria to address the main concerns associated with Fracking. Hillaryclinton.com states that by meeting our long-term climate goals, we will ultimately require replacing conventional natural gas with lower carbon alternatives and to deploy and array of vitally important carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system. Clinton will increase public R&D in renewable natural gas and other solutions to deliver low-carbon gas to buildings, industry, trucks and ships through our existing pipeline network and drive new technologies to capture and sequester CO2 emissions from natural gas-fired power plants.

  1. Controlling fugitive methane emissions: To capture the climate benefits of shifting from coal and oil to natural gas, fugitive methane emissions must be addressed. Clinton will achieve President Obama’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 40-45% through standards for both new and existing sources. She vows to ensure new natural gas pipelines are built to the highest standards and repair or replace thousands of miles of leaky pipes by the end of her first term.
  2. Protecting local water supplies:Clinton will work with Congress to eliminate the Halliburton loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act. She will follow the lead of states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming in requiring that all companies disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, will ensure robust well casing requirements are in place and will improve wastewater recycling and disposal practices.
  3. Preventing induced seismic activity: Clinton will ensure that systems and permitting procedures are in place to avoid potential induced seismic activity. Clinton will direct the USGS to improve states’ knowledge of local geology in order to more effectively reduce the risk of seismic activity.

Public investment in new technologies, energy storage and conservation-minded industry is our best path forward into the mid-21st century. It is my estimation that the other candidates in the race, either at the behest of special, monetary interest or with weak-global vision have not delivered viable, comprehensive, detailed plans for American policy-leadership that describes thoughtful, compassionate participation in the emerging model of global environmentalism. Our grandchildren will judge us and our society by our ability to negotiate and preserve our environment and our economy. With the right decisions now, both may prosper. I believe Hillary Clinton has presented a good, working-plan for the next four, maybe eight years and she proudly has my vote.

The Aesthetics of the Phenotype

The Aesthetics of the Phenotype
An evolutionary psychology of architecture
Part 1: the identity of a skyscraper
by Obi Kaufmann

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In many colonial insects, there is interface between individual and superorganism. There is sublimation and there is transcendence that certainly occurs to a similar end in the city-structures of humans. What would a map of this system, this social-mechanism, look like as aesthetic information? I see a telescoping effect of micro/macrocosmic projection, ramping up from cell-structure through to human-scale, to building/city-scale, out to planetary/cosmic visualization. How does the Geometric blueprint of urban consciousness inform and deconstruct our identity as specific beings or groups, or groupings of organelles? Are we ourselves collectives a mitochondrial quasi-beings? Are our own bodies merely strata for others that have acquiesced their sovereignty as entities to the greater good of us?  What is the visual language of “me inside of me” as it manifests and projects outward in the organization of my corporate community?

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What if we were to take one, large building and visually-analyze its potential to be an archetype of this bridge between the one and the many, the circle of interaction? What inspiration can be found in infrastructure? What truths can be revealed be presenting this building-system as a phenotype of the superorganism of humanity, or at least one, twenty first century human community. The Hive and the Bee represent a closed loop where material, that is form, manifests out of evolution, a living architecture, a personality of organization.

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To begin the investigation of aesthetics, we need to agree on a philosophy of aesthetics. James Joyce put forth the best, modern, working-model of aesthetic theory when he described the process of aesthetic arrest as spurred by proper and improper dynamics in art. Through this process, the act of perceiving beauty outside the field of time, the eye-of-the-universe perceives the thing-of-the-universe and a uniquely human (or as far as we yet know, uniquely human) apprehension occurs. It is my contention that by this modality, this leap in consciousness, the cognitive revolution happened nearly seventy thousand years ago, shaping the structure of the human mind up to the present day and thereby making possible, what are certainly the phenotypes of our daily experience: skyscrapers, air conditioners, the internet, et al.

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To what degree were we influenced by forms in our natural community to invent and then to reflect those forms in the nature of modern design?  By modern I mean to say any artificial structure produced in the last seventy thousand years, and by design I mean phenotype, being the product of behavior as an expression of a genetic imperative. In my work with the California Field Atlas, I do the inverse of what I am proposing here with the single-building model/proposal. In that project, I examine spatial-reality on an ecological scale as it relates to identified system called California, and presenting it as a single narrative. Mapping California has become for me, a laboratory of aesthetic synthesis. The Field Atlas offers a deep-time perspective of how wilderness and culture have influenced an endemic identity across whole spectrums of biodiversity. I wonder how modern design was influenced by phenotypes we found in nature, for both their utility and their beauty, and what is the chicken/egg dynamic between what it useful and what is beautiful.

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Now at the dawn of the Anthropocene, an age of the earth that is defined by humanity’s impact on it, and as we witness exponential population growth within our own species across the biosphere, the manifestation of natural systems into the fabric of our daily society and its structures may be a saving grace. By examining aesthetic inspiration, the history of how our environment influenced what I call modern design, and then by examining the outward creation of utilized expression by the nature of some deeper sense of self, we can begin to build an efficient vocabulary of how the two meet and from that balance, conceive what comes next. This model represents a progressive vision for Anthropocene urbanity. By using appropriated concepts in biology, specifically in evolutionary and genetic theory, and by exploring their aesthetic implications for both modern design and the aesthetic experience, we are near the core of human experience. The human experience forms human identity, both collective and individual and if we’ve got that, we may have a key to sustainability.

The unearthing of Chochenyo Ohlone ancestors in Berkeley

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Ohlone Dancer by Obi Kaufmann

They are unearthing Chochenyo Ohlone ancestors under that new retail monstrosity they are throwing up over on 4th Street in Berkeley. We have an opportunity here to exhibit respect and do some rethinking about our ceaseless bullshit.

From Lindsie Bear of Hey Day Books: Bay area friends, Ohlone folks’ ancestors are being dug up at a construction site on 4th Street. If you’d like to support your Ohlone neighbors who oppose this, the contact info for the Berkeley city offices involved are below. Berkeley did adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People, which gives clear instructions about situations like this, so they have a good map to navigate these waters, if they choose to use it. If you need more info, here are some recent news links:

  1. KQED “Native American Remains Found at Berkeley Construction Site.
  2. BERKELEY SIDE “Ohlone Human Remains Found in Trench in West Berkeley.
  3. SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL “Berkeley: Second Set of Human Remains Found Near Spenger’s Fish Grotto.

Call out To protect Ohlone Sacred Sites!

One of the oldest Ohlone Sacred Sites at 4th and Hearst is being desecrated. As a person of faith and a person who loves the earth, I can’t stand idly by and let this happen. Please, join me in calling the city of Berkeley and asking them to work with the Chochenyo Ohlone people before any development or alteration of this sacred site. See contact info below. You can send a quick group email and the calls don’t take that long.

From Corrina Gould:
“Please call and email the representatives of the City of Berkeley and demand that they work with all the Chochenyo Ohlone people. We demand that the City of Berkeley work with multiple and diverse Chochenyo Ohlone voices to create a transparent process of UNDRIP with free and prior consent on all zoning and future development projects.”

Please Call and Email:

Mayor Tom Bates mayor@cityofberkeley.info
TEL: (510) 981-7100

Linda Maio lmaio@cityofberkeley.info
TEL: (510) 981-7110

Darryl Moore dmoore@cityofberkeley.info
TEL: (510) 981-7120

Maxwell Anderson manderson@cityofberkeley.info
Phone: (510) 981-7130

Jessie Arreguin jarreguin@cityofberkeley.info
Phone: 510-981-7140

Laurie Capitelli lcapitelli@cityofberkeley.info
Phone: (510) 981-7150

Susan Wengraf swengraf@cityofberkeley.info
Phone: (510) 981-7160

Kriss Worthington kworthington@cityofberkeley.info
(510) 9817170

Lori Droste ldroste@cityofberkeley.info
Phone: 510-981-7180

*Please share with your listserves or on social media*

Corrina Gould, Chochenyo Ohlone,
Co-Founder Indian People Organizing for Change, <shellmoundwalk@yahoo.com>

the bay

Chaw’se of the Miwok

Up at Chaw’se, dusk on the first day of April. The mother lode quartz of the Sierra foothills, pulsing underfoot. The turkeys flock, dance and court. The deer parade, stroll and linger. The puffed robin families happily flit under the Valley Oak groves, here having attained their majestic, ancient potential. The Miwok men have gathered tonight to sing and to drum and further down the trail, I find myself a honking goose and a lurking coyote.

A new vision of Storytelling

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What is Storytelling? The working definition I’ve written is “…the demonstration of struggle, creative or otherwise, before a community, with the intention of imparting and sharing both information and wisdom.” Storytelling is a tool. As a artist, an activist, and wilderness-guy, I am preoccupied with what a tool is?  Definition 1 in any dictionary is something you make utility with. A tool is something full of potential. I’ve recently drafted a long list (see it at in the sidebar of this website), or more to the point: I’ve drawn a big-circle… Progressive types. Friends. Family. All of whom have been bitten by this tiny, passionate contagion that compels them forward, keeps pushing the envelope. Maniacs all; full of hope in the morning that what they are doing is good, although completely outside the box. Independents. Freedom-seekers. Wanderers. Storytellers. All heroes of mine. Creatives who have influenced me deeply, all of whom I have worked with on some, beautiful thing, and very much looking forward to working with again soon.