M J Berry

Sadly but fondly we are remembering and saying farewell to one of our longest serving founders, volunteers and friends, Mary Berry “Mj” who left this earth last Sunday. We will surely miss her but we will continue to be inspired by her example and her vision of a peaceful and just society.

The following is her obituary written by Steve Larrick, another longstanding Green and close friend to Mary.

Mary Jo “MJ” Berry was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on December 12, 1947 to Lucille (Schmutte) and Travis Berry. She shined her light on this world into the wee hours of November 15, 2020.

When a serious auto accident almost took her life in 1979, doctors said she would not likely walk again. But reaching out to what she experienced as a Higher Power, MJ regained her ability to walk and began a long and active spiritual and political life in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A lover of music and participatory democracy, she always supported Lincoln’s KZUM community radio station and served as a leader in the Nebraska Green Party, Nebraskans Against the Death, and other peace, social justice, and environmental groups. When the internet emerged, MJ started her own “Mostly Good News” online service, collecting links to positive news stories from a wide range of sources and passing them along to a growing list of readers in more than 1,100 installments over 20 years. She earned the Peacemaker of the Year Award from the local Alternatives to the Military group.

MJ advocated for medical marijuana to deal with the pain she lived with since 1979. She came to believe that our collective human consciousness can evolve to a greater harmony with nature, to world peace, and to a collective healing with social and economic justice for all. Always the optimist, she believed, as the poet Pablo Neruda wrote, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

It is MJ’s wish that any memorial gifts be donated in her name to Lincoln’s KZUM radio station at kzum.org and/or to: Nebraska Green Party; P.O. Box 85442; Lincoln, NE 68501. A memorial service will be planned for in 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic threat has passed. MJ will be interred next to her mother in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.

Black Lives Matter

The Green Party from its beginnings has been about social justice as well as environmental issues. We see them as inextricably linked. Pollution and climate change affect not just some of us but all of us. So too, when fairness and equality are denied to our brothers and sisters of color it should aggrieve all of us. As a recent protest poster put it “No one is free when others are oppressed!”

A number of people have drawn analogies between the persistent racism in our country and the current Covid 19 pandemic. Analogies are rarely perfect and we should recognize in this one that the effects of racism are, by definition, targeted at and borne by only some of us. One aspect of the analogy that seems valid though is that treatment of both diseases will require some fundamental and systemic changes, in our government and in our culture. And they will require ongoing vigilance to keep in check. We need a new “normal”.

It’s a tragedy that it has taken so many needless deaths, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray and countless others, to bring this to the level of attention and outrage it deserves. It’s been heartening to see the huge and sustained response in the streets, both here in Nebraska and across the country and around the globe.

Nebraska Greens stand with Black Lives Matters activists everywhere. We advocate non-violence as a fundamental and are glad to see that the protests have been as peaceful as they have. We’re also glad to see that they’ve been disruptive, as that is obviously the point when years go by and nothing changes (or gets worse as in the last 4 years).

Also unlike the Covid-19, the treatment here seems to include reducing social distance, even if not always physically. If you are wondering where to start, the Nebraska ACLU has compiled a pretty good list of supporting organizations led by people of color that you can access here

Voting the May 12 Primary

(without catching a disease)

Starting this week election officials are supposed to start mailing out applications for early voting or vote-by-mail. With many counties facing shortages of poll workers and the voting public understandably cautious about physical proximity it only makes sense to vote by mail this time around.

Vote by mail has been shown to increase voter participation and increased voter participation tends to work against Republicans. Thus you get situations like Wisconsin where the Democratic governor tried to go to a postponed vote by mail system like many other states have done. Hours after he signed the order Republican legislators went to the state supreme court which, on a party line vote, quashed the order. Their primary goes on as usual, actually as unusual, April 7.

Hard to say where the epidemic will be in a month when it’s Nebraska’s turn. Even though the governor has not yet endorsed an all mail in system for this election at least everyone will get the opportunity to do just that. It’s up to us to get the applications returned on time, they’re due May 1. The ballots themselves are due at your county election office by the time the polls close on primary day which is May 12th.

Nebraska is an open primary state so if you are a non partisan you can request a nonpartisan, Democratic, Republican or Libertarian ballot . Greens won’t appear because we are not currently recognized by the state and have too few volunteers to get the petition signatures required for ballot status, if that was even possible with the social distancing protocols so necessary right now.

Be safe and Vote safely !

Water and Energy Events

Two events to relay this week, the first being a seminar on water quality entitled “What’s In Your Water?”. This symposium will be held this Thursday from 6:30 – 8:00 pm in the Hardin Hall Auditorium on the UNL East Campus, 3310 Holdrege Street.

Speakers will include Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, UNL Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Dick Ehrman, Lower South Platte NRD; Amanda Gangwash, Conservation Nebraska; and Nate Belcher, Green Acres Cover Crops. In addition to the discussion of water quality issues in Lincoln and Nebraska generally, people are invited to bring water samples with them for testing or pick up free water testing kits available at the event.

The second event is in Omaha this Saturday afternoon. “The Future of Clean Energy in Omaha” will feature Eric Williams and Janece Mollhoff from the OPPD Board of Directors, David Corbin with Nebraskans for Solar, Lu Nelson from the Center For Rural Affairs and Amanda Gangwash for Conservation Nebraska. With recent elections producing a progressive and forward-thinking majority on the public power board how fast can we expect a transition to renewables? How far can we take it? What obstacles remain? What can we as citizens do? Join the discussion this Saturday, Feb. 29 from 2-5 pm at the UNO College of Public Affairs Bldg. 6320 Maverick Plaza Room 101.

Update on Unicam Budget & Tax Issues

What’s new with property taxes? What’s the progress on Medicaid expansion in Nebraska? Will the Legislature pass another business tax giveaway incentive? Here is an excellent opportunity to get up to speed on these and other policy issues.

OpenSky Policy Institute will provide an update about the state tax and budget debate at a fiscal policy forum on Friday, Feb. 14 at The Living Room in the Mastercraft Building at 1111 N. 13th St., in Omaha. The forum — which is sponsored by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands — will run from 9 a.m. to 10:30 am and is open to the public. The forum also will be streamed live on NAM’s Facebook page.

At the forum, OpenSky will discuss what is happening in our state fiscal debate, including the most up-to-date discussions around the state tax and budget debate, implementation of Medicaid Expansion and more. OpenSky will help attendees understand what the tax and budget debate means for our state and for Nebraska’s nonprofits.

Register for the forum here.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT RSVPS: If you are not a NAM member, please register as a guest

State Council Meeting

The Nebraska Green Party’s state council will meet in Lincoln on Sunday June 23 beginning at 11 am. The meeting will be held at the Mill Coffee at Telegram, 330 S. 21st St. Agenda items will include outreach and ballot access. Meetings are open to the public so feel free to drop in and join the conversation.

Earth Days, OPPD

Earth Day weekend coincides with Easter weekend this year and it appears that Lincoln and Omaha have scheduled their Earth Day events for the weekends before and after. Omaha is up first on April 13 in Elmwood Park with details at http://earthdayomaha.org/ Lincoln follows on April 27th from 10 am to 3 pm at Union Plaza on UNL campus. More info is at http://Lincoln Earth Day website .

“The Path Forward” is the title of a talk to be given by Craig Moody, one of the clean energy majority on the OPPD Board of Directors. He will be discussing the Board’s plans for implementation of renewables at OPPD. The event is free and open to the public and will take place at the Barbara Weitz Engagement Center, Room 205, on the UNO campus on Tuesday April 30th at 7:00 pm.

Energy Office Transition

It’s worth noting that recently the Legislature unanimously voted (LB 302, 45-0-4) to merge the Nebraska Energy Office (NEO) into the Department of Environmental Quality.

The bill, introduced at the request of Governor Ricketts, would rename the agency the Department of Environment and Energy.

It’s not the first transition for the energy office which was begun in 1977 in response to the Middle East oil embargoes of the time. In 1987 Gov. Kay Orr annexed it into her Policy Research Office until 1991 when Gov. Ben Nelson moved it back to an independent agency. This lasted until the next Governor, Mike Johanns. arrived and again made it a part of his cabinet in the Policy Research Office. Finally in 2008 under Gov. Heineman it was changed back to an independent code agency. While the NEO still has its own website ( and maybe after the merger but who knows?) there’s an interesting graphic that charts this and the various directors of the agency which you can get to here .

The NEO has typically had little budget of its own and primarily works to administer federal funds and programs like low income weatherization efforts and low interest loans for energy efficiency projects, some 30,000 of them over its history. With its limited funding it also manages to collect state energy statistics, put on an annual solar and wind conference and recently began helping small communities improve the energy efficiency of their wastewater treatment plants -this latter with help from a federal grant the office secured.

It’s not automatically clear whether this merger will help or hinder the cause of clean energy in Nebraska. It seems to have been presented as a typical case of business efficiencies when you read the testimony at the bill’s public hearing.

Maybe because its budget is about 98% federal funds the merger won’t make that much difference. It is staying as part of an independent agency, as opposed to the Orr and Johanns years. Perhaps its’s a development that’s worth noting and monitoring as the transition to a clean energy economy slowly moves forward . It’s certainly worth checking out their website before the merger and seeing what’s presented afterwards.

Maybe the real question isn’t just will it maintain its current size and funding and programs within the DEQ. As helpful as the NEOs work is, the status quo is really not enough. The real question is how much and how quickly can state energy policy & practice evolve to speed us toward a clean energy future before climate change wreaks even more havoc like the recent flooding? And of course that would have been true merger or not.

Nebraska Climate Summit

The Nebraska State Climate Office and Nebraska Extension are holding a climate summit to discuss results from the 4th National Climate Assessment (released last fall) and its impact on our state. The event will take place on Thursday March 21st from 8:30 am to 5 pm at the UNL Innovation Campus 2021 Transformation Drive in Lincoln.

According to the climate office press release topics will include:

  • Highlights of climate projections and impacts from the NCA4 (includes a panel discussion);
  • The future of climate and expected affects for Nebraskans;
  • Weather and climate monitoring;
  • Climate scenario planning by Nebraska Extension;
  • Climate and agriculture;
  • Climate and health; and
  • Climate and municipalities.

Because they are expecting a large attendance they are asking people to register for the event but there is no charge to attend. For more information and to register go to the Climate Office’s website https://nsco.unl.edu/summit-tackle-climate-nebraska-nebraskans