How are we to live together?

How are we to live together?

"Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood." — Dr. Martin Luther King's acceptance speech, Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1964

On Monday, Jan. 21, my son and I listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s stunning "I Have a Dream" speech in Lithia Park. King contrasted physical force and "soul force," advocating of course for the latter — nonviolent, peaceful resistance to oppression and injustice.

Monday evening, I attended the panel discussion on acceptance and diversity held at Southern Oregon University. Seven civic and religious leaders in our community tapped their own soul force to impart their tradition's best insights on the question that one of the panelists framed succinctly: "How are we to live together?"

Their rich, informed and humanistic voices reminded me of a beautiful Mozart symphony, when all the instruments ("voices") are following a common musical score and drawing on their own unique capacity to contribute. As Swiss theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar observed, the truth is symphonic. Here are a few of the motifs sounded at Monday evening's forum.

The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — remains universal, cross-cultural and normative for peaceful human relationships and person-centered systems.Three rich sources can inform and frame our discourse on diversity and peaceful co-existence: (1) the ideas that shape the nucleus of our democracy, articulated in the founding documents (e.g., "We hold these truths ..." ); (2) Alexis de Tocqueville's incisive reflection on American democracy and its fragile balance between individual rights and the common good; (3) John Rawls' notion of "public reason," setting aside our personal biases and "filters" and relying on broadly accepted dimensions of what's best for all in our society.Diversity and peaceful co-existence exceed the notion of "tolerance." Tolerance is better than intolerance, but it's insufficient.People of Jewish faith, culture and history have a deep experience of and an affinity for the "stranger," having lived in exile in Egypt and departed under Moses' leadership for the promised land. Jewish prophets remind their people again and again that they should respect and honor the "stranger," being so often "strangers" themselves.Serving the "other," especially those in need, is a cornerstone of all major religions and systems of humanistic thought.Viewed through the horrific lens of genocidal wars in the Balkans in the past century, there's a constant, looming peril of ideological nationalism usurping a carefully constructed culture of diverse and peaceful coexistence.

Dr. Martin Luther King's spirit — his life, legacy and words — permeated the day devoted to his memory. King still encourages us with his words, strengthening us to cooperate in the building of a more just, humane and caring world. His soul force continues.

Dan Murphy


Ashland leads the way on energy

To those of you who don't know me, I was employed by the city of Ashland from 1979 through the end of 2009. I spent the first 20 years of my tenure setting up and managing the city electric utility's energy and water efficiency and renewable energy programs. During the past 10 years I managed Ashland's municipal electric utility while continuing to oversee conservation and renewables.

Thanks to our partnership with the Bonneville Power Administration, the city's wholesale power supplier, we were able to offer a wide array of energy efficiency programs to Ashland's citizens and businesses. This, coupled with strong elected official support, knowledgeable and dedicated conservation division staff, and many motivated Ashland citizens, businesses and organizations, resulted in many energy efficiency upgrades to Ashland's building stock.

The city conducted some research on the effectiveness of the nearly three decades of these initiatives. What we discovered was that Ashland had the lowest per-capita residential consumption of electricity not only in the state — but also the entire Northwest region, by a wide margin, incidentally.

Recently, I was sent a white paper completed by the National Renewable Energy Lab, or NREL, on behalf of the Oregon Department of Energy, or ODOE. This study, entitled "Net Metering Overview and Options in Oregon," was completed in late 2012 and was requested by ODOE to suggest ways for Oregon to improve its net metering requirements for Oregon's electric utilities. Net metering is a set of rules that allow customer-owned renewable energy generation systems to be interconnected to the utility grid, and not only reduce electricity purchased from the utility but also sell back any excess energy they don't consume.

Ashland was the first utility in the Northwest to voluntarily adopt a net metering policy in 1996. The NREL study did a comparison of solar electric generating system penetration in all of Oregon's electric utility service areas and once again Ashland's performance exceeded that of any other area in Oregon.

Quoting the study, "The city of Ashland Electric Department has the highest level of net metering market penetration of the utilities studied. Ashland was the first utility in Oregon to adopt a net metering policy (2012) and follows the most heavily weighted Freeing The Grid (FTG) best practices. Ashland markets the program on (its) website and provides incentives to encourage local residents and businesses to install solar electric systems. (Footnote: Marketing and incentives are not a metric in the FTG studies, but are likely an important factor in the support of distributed generation in this jurisdiction)."

The residents and businesses can once again be proud of their leadership in the arena of sustainability, resource efficiency and use of renewable resources. The results of this study demonstrate Ashland's leadership and also show the way for other cities and utilities to follow your lead.

Dick Wanderscheid, vice president, Renewable Energy Group, Bonneville Environmental Foundation