Post 33 in a series. When Green Turns Brown is an examination of a small town’s digester-energy project, in which Whitewater, Wisconsin would import other cities’ waste, claiming that the result would be both profitable and green.
I’ll offer a few updates in this post, one of a few posts in the WHEN FREEN TURNS BROWN series that I’ll publish this week.
This is a series about a digester-energy project. It’s intended as an online, ongoing chronicle of a project of this kind. Posts, questions, documents, presentations: all online, as an ongoing, open work. It’s true that the project has local significance, but a chronicle of the project is useful for others, far beyond Whitewater. If a volcanologist saw that a nearby mountain was showing signs of seismic activity, then he or she might wish to record observations about that activity. That’s what this series is like.
One might prefer that volcanoes didn’t erupt, or tsunamis form, but for a naturalist eruptions and formations nearby would offer meaningful opportunities for observations, observations that might be useful for those nearby and those faraway facing similar circumstances.
Needless to say, I didn’t choose this project: Whitewater’s city manager, wastewater superintendent, and those encouraging them chose it. They’re free to speak and act under the law; they’re not free to act and speak in conditions of others’ silence.
Writing about a project is writing about the history of it; it’s unpersuasive (and will prove unavailing) for officials to claim that public projects should be described only as they would wish, ignoring or distorting their own past (even recent) claims.
A few people have written me about the remarks of Whitewater’s City Manager Cameron Clapper at a state of the city presentation on 9.17.15. I’ve mentioned those remarks in a post from last week, and will consider them in detail after going over public presentations that took place before 9.17.15.
Some quick points are in order. I don’t know whether, as some have suggested, both the question Mr. Clapper received and his answer about the digester-energy project on 9.17 were staged or scripted; it doesn’t matter decisively. I do agree that his latest description of the proposed energy-project is, well, truly odd in both its characterization of the project and attempt to deprecate risks from it. (If the question and answer were canned – and I don’t know – then the answer is even less sensible for being practiced beforehand.) That’s simply another reason to look at the many claims made for the project over the past year.
There’s a local problem in Whitewater, and other places no doubt, that involves contending that past claims were never made, and that events begin only with the latest statements made, as though officials could rewrite or simply erase the past. (See, along these lines, Nietzsche and the Dark Hope Against a Better Local Politics.) Related to this is the problem, as in the 9.17.15 remarks, of answering seemingly immediate concerns at the price of making claims that bring greater questions than the immediate concerns.
I’m working on a standalone site for WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN to be located at www.whengreenturnsbrown.com. (The url now points to a page at FREE WHITEWATER.) The new site needs (1) a blog, (2) a space to showcase a written work, (3) a space to showcase a video work, with (4) supporting social media. Steps 2, 3, and 4 will come later, but the format that I use should be designed to accommodate all four. There are myriad options, and I’m sorting though many good choices one by one.
Even when the new site is published, Mondays will still feature WGTB content at FW.
A series like this should be methodical, looking at what’s been said, what hasn’t been said, seeking additional information, reviewing what one finds, and writing about those discoveries.
Projects have more than one possible outcome: (1) failure on their own terms, (2) success on their own terms with no material harms, or (3) success on their own terms with material harms that outweigh the claimed successes, to name three obvious outcomes. Only the second outcome is favorable to a project; the first and third developments would be failures of varying kinds.
Tomorrow: The Donohue Firm’s First Presentation of 6.17.14.
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM (and other days at 10 AM this week), here on FREE WHITEWATER.