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August, 2006


Stinson Beach Publishes Its First Energy Newspaper
By Don Deane

A wise person once said that the formula for any successful venture is to "find a need and fill it."
That's just what StinsonSolarTimes Editor, Sandy LeonVest and her Production Manager, Kyra Ingemansson, believe they have done. Last winter the two women published a small local newsletter with the support of the Stinson Beach Solar Committee (SBSC), a recently formed local solar advocacy group. Today the two have taken that community newsletter and transformed it into what they hope will be a newspaper for the 21st century. This August, 2006, their newsletter, the StinsonSolarTimes (SST), will make its Marin County debut as a newspaper.
LeonVest said she offered to write a newsletter at one of the committee's first meetings. "It was obvious that the SBSC needed a conduit for its vision of creating a sustainable, energy-independent community," says LeonVest. "We needed a way to get our message out and SST was it."

As a newsletter, SST publicized local and county solar projects, renewable energy legislation and - when they could get it - information about anyone 'going solar' around the neighborhood. "It was and is a beautiful little newsletter," says LeonVest, "but the need for a serious source of energy news - a publication 'all about energy' - was almost immediately obvious." It wasn't long, says LeonVest before the project began to take on "the proverbial life of its own." She says SST's Production Manager, Kyra Ingemansson and she both felt so strongly about it "that we just determined to make it happen."

The paper's commitment, says Leon Vest, "is to thoroughly cover today's energy issues - from the legal, political and technical challenges of making the critical transition to renewable sources of power to the dire consequences of failing to do so." She says the Summer/Fall 2006 issue does what she hopes every issue will do - inspire, alarm and inform. The front page alone, says LeonVest, "should make quite an impact."

SST doesn't "shy away from the dark side" either. "We take on the environmental, health and social consequences of exploring for and transporting fossil and nuclear fuels. We also take on the political aspects of Big Energy. But we also emphasize ordinary people and their contributions. People are standing up and taking on the powers that be. All over the world, citizens are taking positive and heroic steps in the right direction. We feature those stories too." LeonVest says that today India, Africa, China and many European countries have made major commitments to renewable energy. Reflecting on today's global conflicts, LeonVest says she sees the paper's job as one of "challenging the assumptions" of living in an energy-dependent world.

"I think we live in a strikingly parallel universe... you have these noble projects going on all over the planet alongside terrible destruction and inhumanity. Even as SST goes to press, our dwindling global resources are being squandered. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to blow an entire community to bits...that is what is happening and it needs to get out there," says LeonVest. And when it comes to energy, SST makes no claims at being "fair and balanced." The paper, says LeonVest, "has a definite editorial bias in favor of sustainable energy sources." SST also provides readers with a valuable service not provided by most publications. "Our readers will find names, phone numbers, email and website addresses that make it simple for them to take political and/or legislative action."

SST was recently awarded a grant from the Stinson Bolinas Community Fund. "We're hoping the grant will just about cover printing and distribution costs for the Summer/Fall issue," says LeonVest. "But for now, SST is a labor of love. It's all donated and we'll need to become self-sustaining in the near future. Naturally, we'll be selling subscriptions and we hope to also sell adds to progressive businesses like solar companies and other sustainable enterprises. The long range vision, she says, is to publish monthly or "even weekly."

Sandy LeonVest, a Bay Area native and longtime political journalist and activist, got her start in the early 1980s writing for and eventually working as one of the editors of "It's About Times," a nationally syndicated progressive newspaper published in Berkeley, California. LeonVest went on to have her work published in dozens of progressive magazines and newspapers including among others Znet, Toward Freedom, US Politics Today and, of course, the Coastal Post. She spent over 15 years as a reporter and producer in the news department at KPFA Radio and her documentary segments for the National Radio Project have been distributed both in and outside the US. She hosted and produced a program called Global NewsBeat at KWMR before going on to independent journalism.

On becoming editor of such an idealistic and ambitious venture as SST, LeonVest says, "I just feel like we're properly aligned with the universe right now. Once people read the StinsonSolarTimes, I think they will know what we already know - that SST is a critical paper for a critical time."

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