Spring/Summer 2014

April, 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

It was 40 years ago this spring that Stephen Gaskin stood up in the middle of 500 or so of us young hippies gathered in a meadow in southern Tennessee to meditate and watch the sun rise. He talked about the “idea” of Plenty. The idea was that as we built our community, we should also be reaching out to be of help to other people in the world who might not be as lucky as we felt we were. We immediately agreed that it was an idea worth pursuing.

Over its history Plenty has fielded dozens of projects in some 20 countries, including the US. What’s impressive about these numbers is not the numbers themselves but that a tiny-budget, small-staff organization like Plenty could reach that far. That reach is attributable, at least in part, to the fact that Plenty, like so many small nonprofits, is less of an individual NGO than a strand in an ever-widening web of like-minded, committed people who reinforce, replicate, and expand upon each other’s efforts.

Just in time for Earth Day, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its latest report. It basically says we don’t have any more time to delay the drastic changes that nations, industries, communities and individuals need to make in order to effectively reduce atmospheric CO2 to tolerable levels, levels that have been rising “almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decade of the 20th century.” The Chairman of the Panel is quoted as saying, “We cannot afford to lose another decade.” The report included some good news such as the costs of renewable energy options like wind and solar are falling fast and the panel says it detects “a growing political interest in tackling the problem.” (We can detect a bit of eye rolling among US readers about that “growing political interest” but we can stay hopeful.)

We hope you enjoy the new Plenty Bulletin, which contains all the Plenty news we were able to fit with as many photos as we could squeeze in. Because we’re only printing two of these a year now (a total of eight pages) and there’s so much more going on than we can include please go to our website and Facebook pages for updates and expanded versions of the Bulletins. Also, we’ve tried to make it easy for folks to donate on the Plenty International website.

I want to wrap up this letter by saying how grateful I am personally to have been involved with Plenty over these four decades. It’s been a constant privilege. When, as young hippies, we declared that we were “out to save the world,” we didn’t think we could do it alone or in a generation. We can’t even say things are much better than when we started and some things, like climate change, are worse. However, it’s apparent that our children’s and grandchildren’s generations have a better awareness of the big problems and the tools that are needed to fix them than we did at the same age. There’s much to do and lots of us gray-haired flower children are still around to help.

With love and appreciation,
Peter Schweitzer
Executive Director

Two years After the BP Oil Disaster, a letter from Chief Naquin.

Two years later, the BP oil spill seems no longer newsworthy, no longer politically expedient, and one that many believe has long been settled.  The fact of the matter is that this event continues to have an adverse impact on the lives of the most vulnerable:  the working poor and disenfranchised communities.   Negative health effects have begun to surface for those who worked in the cleanup efforts.  Oyster and shrimp populations have dwindled drastically as other forms of marine life are washing up dead on coastal shores.  Two years later our coast is still suffering.  And our community has yet to see any compensation for our losses.

For more visit:


Living on the Edge of the Abyss In Guatemala


In Guatemala City, however, an independent movement exists, where activists have occupied the street in front of Congress since the 22nd of August 2011. Here, warm houses were not sacrificed for tents, rather miserable hovels have been exchanged for tents. Activists from the slums have pledged not to leave until the “Housing Law” is approved – demanding a solution for the housing crisis in Guatemala. A lack of affordable accommodation forces uncountable Guatemalans into shantytowns where precarious living conditions often have lethal consequences.

Books To Kids now in Appalachia

In a partnership with the Williamsburg, KY Action Team and the Clearfork Community Institute and Woodland Land trust of Eagan, TN Books To Kids has expanded its reach into what has to be described as one of America’s National Sacrifice Areas, the Appalachian region of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. Current Books To Kids sites include five elementary schools in and around Eagan, TN and a storefront in Williamsburg, KY.

Open pit mine.

Stories from the Gulf, one year on

Stories from the Gulf, one year on
By CNN staff*
April 20, 2011
URL: http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/04/20/oil.spill.year.later/

(CNN) — A daughter will walk down the aisle this year without her father. A rig survivor still awakens at night and screams. A Native American tribe in Louisiana now eats pork, chicken and beans instead of oysters and crab.

And the voice of a Cajun musician puts everything into perspective about last year’s oil spill. For years, Tab Benoit had strummed a dire tune of the pillaging of Louisiana’s coast.

“Before all this, you’d try to warn people about problems that were coming, and they’d think you’re a conspiracy theorist,” he says. “The blowout wasn’t a mystery. … It’s not like it was a surprise, ya’ know.”

A year into the nation’s worst oil disaster, BP has launched a public-elations campaign about “making it right.” In a 20-minute video released on the company’s website, group Chef Eecutive Bob Dudley sits at a polished wood table and says the disaster is a “tragedy we deeply regret at BP.”

“In everything we’ve done since that day, we’ve tried to act as a responsible company should,” he says. “I know it will take time to win back people’s respect and it will take actions rather than words. But I hope this helps to demonstrate that we are sorry, that we learned the lessons and we are committed to earning back your trust.”

The video then chronicles BP’s efforts to contain the spill in the days, weeks,and months following the April 20, 2010, explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform.

The plume of crude billowing into the Gulf of Mexico has stopped, and images of oil-soaked birds have subsided. But take a closer look at the Gulf region and you’ll find shattered lives and angry — yet determined — residents.

“One day at a time”
About 50 friends and family members of chief driller Dewey Revette gathered this past Sunday for a fish fry in Mississippi.  It was the first time everyone had been together since he and 10 others were killed in the explosion.

“Just wishing that Dewey was there,” says Sherri Revette, his wife of 26 years. Little things like cleaning the gutters or buying a lawnmower became monumental tasks over the last year.  “I don’t know what to do,” Sherri says.

And signs of life continue all around. Their first grandchild is due June 30. The boy will be named Dewey.

“I have to try to figure out a way to be excited and not sad,” Sherri says. “That was one of our main dreams, and he wanted a grandson so bad.”

Their youngest daughter, Alicia, always hoped her dad would walk her down the aisle. This October, she’ll be getting married.

“It’s going to be hard,” Sherri says, “on the happiest day of her life, knowing her father’s not going to be there.”

After Sunday’s fish fry, Sherri took friends and relatives to a nearby cemetery where a headstone for Dewey rests.  On the back, there’s an image of Deepwater Horizon “so 100 years from now, the next generations will remember that Dewey was one of the 11 on the rig.”

“He’s missed, and I’m just taking it one day at a time,” she says.  “We lost 11 good men that shouldn’t have been lost.” She repeats: “It should never have happened.”

The nightmare won’t leave
Matthew Jacobs wakes up screaming in the middle of the night.  He was among the 115 survivors of Deepwater Horizon.  “It’s something that I just can’t get out of my head,” he says.  Every day, he thinks about his 11 colleagues killed on the rig.

“My mind goes right back to the drill floor,” he says, “and the 11 men.” According to his medical records, Jacobs has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he takes medication for depression, sleep problems, and other issues.  He visits psychologists regularly. He says he’s undergone 10 weeks of physical therapy for bulging discs in his back.

“It’s basically changed my life completely since this happened,” he says. “Certain things I don’t do because I just don’t feel comfortable. I love fishing and I just don’t feel comfortable doing it because it’s on the water. I’m really claustrophobic now and I feel it every time I get in the elevator.”

Jacobs is still an employee of Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon [drilling rig], but hasn’t worked on a rig since the disaster. He says he’ll never work offshore again.  He’s suing Transocean for pain and suffering and loss of wages.

At the end of last year, when Transocean gave bonuses to employees and touted a stellar safety year, Jacobs says, “It made me sick to my stomach.”  Transocean later apologized for its handling of the bonuses, and five top executives said they would donate their safety bonuses to the families of the 11 workers killed.

What happened on April 20, 2010, Jacobs says, will forever be with him.
“You have to live your life now taking medicine every day to try to keep the nightmares from coming back,” he says.  “It’s always in the back of your mind, and I think about it every day.”

Avoiding oysters for a year
In the Louisiana marshes, members of the Pointe Aux Chenes Indian Tribe say the spill has affected everything.

“It changed our way of life for sure,” says tribe member Theresa Dardar. “We’re not eating like we usually eat.”

The nearby marshes are still slickened with oil, she says.

The tribe is made up of about 700 members whose ancestors were forced from their lands and resettled to Louisiana more than 100 years ago. Coastal erosion had already hit the tribe hard. Then the spill hit.

Her family used to eat seafood every day.  Now, they eat shrimp only on Fridays.  The rest of the week, it’s chicken, pork and beans.

She says she hasn’t had an oyster since “before the spill.”  That especially hurts because she longs for the oysters of the past.

“We love fresh oysters,” she says.  “My husband even more so.  He was tempted to get some recently, but he said no, he wouldn’t take a chance.”

Dardar says the tribe had independent tests conducted on local shrimp, oysters and crab — and the results showed some were tainted. “We don’t trust the tests that the state and federal governments did.”

The Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have consistently said thousands of tests “prove Gulf seafood is safe from oil and dispersant contamination.”

Her anger, Dardar says, is directed straight at BP.

“I’ve become angry”(more…)

Hermann Scheer: 1944-2010

Hermann Scheer: 1944-2010

Yesterday‚s sudden death of Right Livelihood Award Laureate Hermann Scheer bereft the world of one its most dedicated and successful advocates for renewable energy and energy independence.

Hermann Scheer, Member of the German Parliament and President of Eurosolar, had been named by TIME magazine as a ‘Hero for the Green Century’ in 2002. He died unexpectedly in Berlin on October 14th.

Interview: Governments are puppets

Amy Goodman (RLA 2008) from Democracy Now!, USA, conducted one of the last interviews with Hermann Scheer (RLA 1999) at the 30th Anniversary Conference of the Right Livelihood Award in Bonn, Germany, last month.

In this interview, Hermann Scheer once more made his case for a decentralised energy system relying on renewable energies. He calls it a “fight between centralization and decentralization, between energy dictatorship and energy participation in the energy democracy. And because nothing works without energy, it‚s a fight between democratic values and technocratical values.”

Watch the interview by clicking here

Scheer leaves a big void

Hermann Scheer received the Right Livelihood Award in 1999 “for his indefatigable work for the promotion of solar energy worldwide.” The Right Livelihood Award Foundation was deeply saddened to learn about the death of Hermann Scheer.

“Hermann leaves a big void on a personal, as well as on a political, level. He pinpointed fossil and nuclear energy production as the major danger of our time and showed the world how this threat can be averted. There are only a few people who have done more for the future of our planet. Our thoughts are with his family, who supported this work.

Hermann Scheer was a practical visionary and political person at his very core. He fought tirelessly for the cause of a 100% renewable energy future, often cross party lines, never putting his career first. The German Renewable Energy Law, which essentially goes back to Herman Scheer, now serves as a role model worldwide.

To see how much Herman Scheer was able to achieve as a parliamentarian and civil society activist gives hope for our political system. He has influenced and inspired thousands of colleagues and fellow activists around the world. They will continue his work, but will have very big shoes to fill.”

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation


Alex Miller, an EMT from New Mexico, spent time in Haiti after the earthquake working for a clinic in the town of Petit Goave near Port-au-Prince. He realized the clinic could use an ambulance for transporting patients so when he returned to the U.S. he began to fundraise for one. Longtime Plenty donor and former Plenty volunteer with the Plenty Ambulance Service in the South Bronx 30 years ago, Robert Reifel heard about Alex’s effort and decided to contribute through Plenty. In the photo above Robert presents Alex with a check for $2,000, money that helped buy the ambulance. The two are holding up a display of pictures of the ambulance and of the clinic in Haiti.

US Senate Report Says Haiti Rebuilding Has Stalled

US Senate Report Says Haiti Rebuilding Has Stalled

By Jonathan M. Katz, Associated Press Writer – Mon Jun 21, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti has made little progress in rebuilding in the five months since its earthquake, because of an absence of leadership, disagreements among donors and general disorganization, a U.S. Senate report says.

Obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the eight-page report is meant to give Congress a picture of Haiti today as U.S. legislators consider authorizing $2 billion to support the country’s reconstruction.

That picture is grim: Millions displaced from their homes, rubble and collapsed buildings still dominating the landscape. Three weeks into hurricane season, with tropical rains lashing the capital daily, construction is being held up by land disputes and customs delays while plans for moving people out of tent-and-tarp settlements remain in “early draft form,” it says.