What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Sunday, 21 December 2008

It´s Official, Peak Oil is soon!

The International Energy Agency has produced a report revising it´s projections for the onset of Peak Oil. Read George Monbiot´s assessment of the report compared to the IEA´s previous position over at celsias or at his own site along with his other articles.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Sail assisted cruise ship

I caught a program on TV while hanging out in southern Spain about a couple cruising the Med in a small sailboat. In the background I saw this amazing craft. Check it out at the Professional Travel Guide site which is where I found the image.

Wind assisted shipping


Here´s an interesting post over on Roland Piquepaille´s Technology Trends
which is also where I found the excellent graphic. Thanks Roland.

"German designers, who tested a prototype last year, estimate that such a hybrid sailing ship would see a 50 percent reduction of its fuel consumption. Danish and Japanese companies are also designing wind-assisted ships."

The rest of the post is very interesting and is well worth a visit to the site.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Sailing

Hello all,
I´m back on dry land, caught up on my sleep and fresh produce consumption and am looking forward to getting back to the blog. We are still in Spain and have internet access only at the local internet cafe so I´m limited in what I can do at the moment. I´ve got lots of thoughts about increasing the use of sail for shipping and want to do a series of posts on it at some point. It will have to wait until I get more done on my thesis though as it will require some research.

For now suffice it to say that I don´t think a return to square rigged ships is the way forward as they are quite limited in their ability to go upwind and this affects their ability to sail to a schedule. Also the amounts of manpower required on a traditionally rigged brig is quite high. So much to think about. I believe some ships are using kites to increase fuel economy downwind. I hope to look into this at some point.

Thanks for sticking with us during my break and I hope to provide you with lots of content in the months to come.

Robb

Monday, 24 November 2008

Taking a break

Hello All,
I'm off on a sailing trip for a month and so will be out of touch. Please browse the archives while I'm away and read any posts that crop up from the other contributors.
I'll back around Christmas.
Cheers
Robb

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Ancient Forests petition

The Bush administration is bound and determined to do as much damage as they can before leaving office. They are trying to open up the tiny amount of ancient forests we have left to exploitation. Let them know this is unacceptable.
Sign the petition.

Thanks to the Rogue Valley Independent Media Center for the graphic

Who Owns Nature?


Greed knows no bounds. In the rush to commodify life, fewer and fewer corporations have gained control over more and more of our common heritage as living organisms on this planet. The ETC Group has released a report which you can download cataloging the extent of the situation. Or you can read a summary over at Organic Consumers Association.


"ETC Group's report highlights similarities between the current financial and food crises. "Corporate-controlled food systems, suffering from decades of deregulation, have resulted in a cornucopia of calamities making us sicker, fatter and more vulnerable," says ETC's Research Director Hope Shand. Ongoing food contamination scandals, the global obesity burden and ocean "dead zones" caused by fertilizer pollution are among the food chain disasters cited in Who Owns Nature? "Unhealthy and hazardous food products are constant reminders of a corporate food chain broken to bits," adds Shand.

Governments are working hand-in-hand with corporations to deny the root causes of the crises and sidestep structural reforms. "Despite the implications for democracy and human rights, no international body exists to monitor global corporate activity and no UN body has the capacity to monitor and evaluate emerging technologies," says ETC Group's Kathy Jo Wetter. "The ongoing food emergency and imploding global economy testify to the need for monitoring and oversight of corporations, as well as social control of powerful new technologies."

What to do? Buy local and non corporate, buy organic, or even better don't buy at all, grow your own, avoid F1 hybridized seed, seed swap, grow heritage varieties, lobby your government representatives to limit corporate power and excess.

Thanks to Diary of a Bad Housewife for the graphic.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Froggie in a pesticide mine

Amphibians are a bellweather species. Much like a canary in a coal mine they indicate the overall health of the environment.

When I lived in Bermuda I used to sit and watch the giant toads come out around sunset and snap up the giant cockroaches as they emerged from the septic tank vent pipe. I began to hear about the startling high numbers of these massive amphibians being found with extra legs, even extra heads. There are pesticides for sale in Bermuda which are made in the US but are illegal for use in the US. The pesticides for sale in the US are tested, minimally, for safety as individual chemicals, as if in a vacuum. Nothing in nature occurs in a vacuum. It has been suspected that the naturally resulting cocktail of chemicals derived from our love of poisons is far more dangerous both to the ecosystems upon which we depend and indeed directly upon ourselves than any chemical in isolation. Recent research bears this out. This is over on the Organic Consumers Association website where you will also find a link to the original research.

"PITTSBURGH, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists studying 10 of the world's most popular approved pesticides say, when combined, the chemicals caused 99 percent mortality in tadpoles.

University of Pittsburgh researchers said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticides, when mixed together, can decimate amphibian populations even if the concentration of the individual chemicals is within limits considered safe.

Such "cocktails of contaminants" are frequently detected in nature, the scientists said, noting their findings offer the first illustration of how a large mixture of pesticides can adversely impact the environment.

Associate Professor Rick Relyea, the study's lead author, exposed gray tree frog and leopard frog tadpoles to small amounts of the 10 pesticides -- insecticides carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan, and malathion, as well as five herbicides: acetochlor, atrazine, glyphosate, metolachlor, and 2,4-D.

He used each of the pesticides alone, the insecticides combined, a mix of the five herbicides, or all 10 of the poisons.

Relyea found a mixture of all 10 chemicals killed 99 percent of leopard frog tadpoles, as did the insecticide-only mixture."

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Monsanto and Fertility

Many suspect that GM foods are not only dangerous for the ecosystems they infiltrate but are also bad for human health. Since the companies that produce these poisons are not required to adequately prove the safety of their products it is left to independent groups to do the research. Here is information about a study linking a Monsanto product with infertility. It's over at the Organic Consumers Association.

Avego Shared Transport

Support Organic Agriculture

The US needs a secretary of agriculture who understands the need for the regeneration of our most precious resource, our soils, and who will not speak from the pocket of the agribusiness.
As reported over at the Organic Consumers Association;

"Unfortunately, it is now being widely reported that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is being considered for the Secretary of Agriculture position in the Obama Administration. Vilsack is a notorious cheerleader for genetically engineered crops and chemical and energy-intensive industrial agriculture--certainly no friend of organic food and farming. Tom Vilsack's appointment would represent a major disappointment for the Organic Consumers Association and its members. But there is still time to make your voice heard."

sign the petition

urge Obama to choose a better candidate!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Welcome Aran McKittrick

I'm very happy to welcome to Sustainable Living a new contributor. Aran brings a wealth of experience and a unique island perspective. I'll let him describe himself in his own words.

"I am an island boy by nurture having grown up in Bermuda but must admit its only been in recent years that I have become more acutely aware of the detrimental effects we have on our surroundings and each other.

Bermuda itself is a good modern day example as it starts to sink under the weight of its own affluence.
Hence my recent ambition to return to university after six years of working as an IT computer engineer to see how I could help the island shed some of that “weight”! I started out in Dublin where I studied a PG.Dip in International Development Studies at UCD and then moved to London last year to do a MSc. Environment and Sustainable Development at UCL which I have just completed. All good stimulating stuff for the grey matter!

So now I have a head full of “big ideas” and am enthusiastic to create/find future opportunities and people with which to share them, professionally or otherwise and this Blog sounds like a great place to start! When my newly discovered social-ecological conscience is not getting the better of me, my down time involves rediscovering my passion for playing and listening to music and sailing when and wherever I can. "

Coming to your neighborhood!

Here's a rather deep tool that highlights past, current and future effects of climate change,

Science Progress interactive map

Amaze your friends, hours of fun!

Thanks to Jennifer Biederman over on celsias for pointing this out.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Venus Project

I like the ethos behind the Venus project quite alot. But I tend to be wary of projects and intitiatives that rely on advanced technology to solve our problems, it always seems to be just around the corner and in the meantime all we have to do is drive a little less, recycle, and eat less meat.

The one thing I totally agree with is that our culture needs to be totally redesigned. I just happen to believe we need to do it now with available technology that can radically change the way we live our lives. I expect there will be an intersection of the two approaches. In the meantime we need to do quite alot more than the minimum in our personal lives.

Green Chemistry and Engineering and green coal

Check out this excellent article over on celsias about the "other" waste products coal combustion is poisoning us with.
Green Coal? | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

Of particular interest are the 12 principles of "green chemistry" and "green engineering" posted below for you to review before reading the article by Peter Montague. Here is his introduction,

"As we search for solutions to global warming and toxic contamination, we can compare technologies, intending to select the least harmful. In recent years, scientists have developed two sets of criteria that we can use to judge the "greenness" of competing technologies. The first is called "The 12 principles of green engineering " and the second is "The 12 principles of green chemistry ."

Both sets of principles were developed by teams of technical experts and published in peer-reviewed journals. They are now widely understood and endorsed. Most importantly, they offer ordinary people, as well as experts, a way to decide which technologies are worth supporting and which ones should be phased out or never developed at all."

The 12 Principles of Green Engineering

[First published in Paul T. Anastas and J.B. Zimmerman, "Design through the Twelve Principles of Green Engineering", Environmental Science & Technology Vol. 37, No. 5 (March 1, 2003), pgs. 95A-101A .]

Principle 1: Designers need to strive to ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently nonhazardous as possible.

Principle 2: It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

Principle 3: Separation and purification operations should be designed to minimize energy consumption and materials use.

Principle 4: Products, processes, and systems should be designed tomaximize mass, energy, space, and time efficiency.

Principle 5: Products, processes, and systems should be "output pulled" rather than "input pushed" through the use of energy and materials.

Principle 6: Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse, or beneficial disposition.

Principle 7: Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.

Principle 8: Design for unnecessary capacity or capability (e.g., "one size fits all") solutions should be considered a design flaw.

Principle 9: Material diversity in multicomponent products should be minimized to promote disassembly and value retention.

Principle 10: Design of products, processes, and systems must include integration and interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.

Principle 11: Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial "afterlife".

Principle 12: Material and energy inputs should be renewable rather than depleting.

=========================================================

The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

[First published in Martyn Poliakoff, J. Michael Fitzpatrick, Trevor R. Farren, and Paul T. Anastas, "Green Chemistry: Science and Politics of Change," Science Vol. 297 (August 2, 2002), pgs. 807-810 .]

1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

2. Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.

3. Wherever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4. Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.

5. The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, and so forth) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.

6. Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

7. A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting wherever technically and economically practicable.

8. Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be avoided whenever possible.

9. Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10. Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products.

11. Analytical methodologies need to be developed further to allow for real-time in-process monitoring and control before the formation of hazardous substances.

12. Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen so as to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

========================================================


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Organic Agriculture CAN Feed the World

In an excellent article over on celsias, Leslie Berliant draws from a new UN study that asserts that organic agriculture is a far better option in so many ways than industrial agriculture or genetically modified crops.

"The idea that developing countries benefit more from organic agriculture than they do from modern agriculture directly contradicts the assertions from companies like Monsanto that claim that it will take their technology (genetically modified seeds, pesticides and herbicides) to feed the 9 billion people expected to inhabit earth by 2050. But in this study, the U.N. finds that it is not new agricultural technology that will produce more, conserve more and improve farmers' lives, but some very old wisdom that will accomplish that. In fact, the study found that "the vast majority of the case studies in this research showed improvements to the natural capital base - their local natural environment - with 93 percent of the case studies reporting benefits to soil fertility, water supply, flood control and biodiversity. These improvements included increased water retention in soil, improvements in the water table, reduced soil erosion, better carbon sequestration and increased agricultural diversity. These improvements allow for growing more crops for longer periods and with higher yields. Take that genetically engineered crops!"

Read the whole article at:


Organic Agriculture CAN Feed the World | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius


Saturday, 8 November 2008

Yowza!

Imagine a freight train with every boxcar filled with topsoil, that train stretches around the planet. Now imagine it stretches around the planet 18 times over. That is how much soil we loose in the continental US per year!

I heard this figure quoted in an interview with Penny Livingston Stark with the Permaculture Institute. She said it came from the Natural Resource Conservation Service at the Department of Agriculture.

Thanks to Treehugger.com for the graphic.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Transition


Here in the UK we have a movement called Transition Towns. It has spread to become an international movement and offers communities a path towards resiliency in the face of peak oil and climate change. The Organic Consumers Association has a Transition Movement of it's own with similar goals. Localization, community building, sustainability, regenerative agriculture, energy independence, all these efforts come together to increase resiliency and can be found synthesized into these transition movements.

Join In!

Thanks to Daves Biofuel for the Peak oil graph.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Coal = Devastation

Link
It's 10am, do you know where your electricity has been? Does your provider buy electricity from power plants using coal sourced from mountain top removal, MTR, operations. Coal is bad enough on it's own merits as a climate destroying fossil fuel but the "ecocide" of mountaintop removal is completely out of bounds even when measured against other rapacious corporate behaviour that has become so common in the last decade.

Contact your utility and demand that they stop selling power from power plants using coal sourced from MTR operations. Some universities have already done so, if I'm not mistaken North Carolina has pursued banning the practice but many of it's citizens still purchase MTR electricity. This Sierra Club blog has posted an estimate of 44% of coal burned in North Carolina comes from MTR operations. So while the state protects it's own mountains and communities it is willing to run roughshod over the mountain communities in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. This practice has devastated these communities. Read more about the poverty and sickness that follows MTR operations at Coal Isn't Clean If You Live There over on Celsias

Ultimately it's about an insatiable demand for something that once was and properly should be considered a luxury, something that can be produced clean and free from the sun and wind. Does it make more sense to invest in a new home entertainment system or a solar PV electricity system. Is the convenience of a clothes dryer in the sunny south worth sacrificing our natural heritage, a healthy ecosystem, our neighbors well being, and a stable climate on this planet for.

Contact the EPA and let them know you want this practice stopped, work with any number of groups fighting the Bush Adminstration and it's corporate owners over MTR, here's one to start with, the Petition Site, and as always reduce, reduce, reduce your demand.

Thanks to the Appalachian Regional Commission for the graphic at the top of this post.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Talk to Obama

The good folks over at Avaaz are putting together a campaign to encourage and support our new president and to keep him aware of what is important to us. Here is my letter to President Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

You face unprecedented challenges, several that threaten the very survival of our culture as we know it. Climate Change, Peak Oil, economic meltdown, corporate raiding of the commons, a food crisis. Millions of us are willing to work with you as we know you can't do it alone.

Climate change threatens us all and is the priority. We have the technology now to address climate change without the dangers of nuclear power, the contradiction and misdirection of clean coal, or the damaging effects of food based biofuels. We urgently need serious tax incentives and feed in tariffs for solar, wind, wave, tidal, small scale hydro and geothermal.

We also need to reform agriculture as it is a primary contributor of greenhouse gases. We know how to grow without poisoning our environment, our food , our people. We can organically grow all the food we need in a sustainable manner and sequester millions of tons of carbon in the soil at the same time. Bring back the victory gardens!

We need building codes that enforce efficiency and a plan for upgrading all the substandard housing currently in existence.

We must have much higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles now and a plan for converting to renewably charged electric vehicles within 5 years.

We must protect biodiversity, habitats, and clean fresh water. We must put an end to dead zones along our coastlines.

Our continued well being depends on these efforts. Will you commit to being the man to make this statement untrue?

"Politics is the art of shifting trouble from the living to the unborn." - George Monbiot

Best wishes to you sir,
Robb Worthington
crobbw@gmail.com
http://sustliving.blogspot.com/

Please visit Avaaz and sign up.

What's that light in my eyes?

Yesterday I was reminded of a song from the musical Annie, "The sun will come out tomorrow".

Today the sun has come out. A light is shining from America unlike any we have seen for almost a decade. We have seen how dark it can be when we get complacent and allow the minority to rule, from wholesale plundering of the commons to a deepening addiction to oil, a total lack of commitment to dealing with climate change, the gun as primary means of diplomacy.

Now we see America returning to the polls like never before, a firm democratic hold on the Congress and the White House. This really is an opportunity for change. Can we expect it?

This morning on BBC a man said that we should "remain mature in our expectations". This is essential. Obama faces challenges never before seen by any president, challenges made so much more difficult by the corruption and bungling of the last eight years. We need to keep our expectations high but realize that such a herculean task will take time and effort, from all of us.

The sun was shining through the murk when I awoke this morning. To keep it's warming rays upon our cold shoulders we must all pitch in and get the job done. Get active, be prepared to sacrifice, be vigilant against continued corporate and lobbyist influence.

Think Globally, Act Locally has never been more important advice than it is this morning. The most local action takes place in your own home. Without action at that level any action at the political level will be insufficient.

Let's get to it!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

It's simple, dress sensible


Sustainability usually comes down to personal behaviour at some point, we can lobby for renewable energy, support organic agricultural policies, protest coal fired power plants but most of us are also looking at how we live our lives. Some of us make big changes, some of us make small ones. Here is one that is really easy.

Dress sensibly! When it is cold wear layers, even in the house. This will enable you to use less fossil fuel to heat your house. You can turn your thermostat down. One of my personal axioms when I go camping, climbing, walking, whatever, is that it is always easier to stay warm than to get warm, just as it is always easier to stay dry than to get dry. Stay dry and warm and you will need to expend less energy getting warm and dry. This applies in the household as well.

I'd like to suggest that you extend this to teaching others how to properly layer clothing for maximum warmth. This is particularly important for the elderly. Every year in Britain thousands of pensioners die of causes related to fuel poverty. They can't afford to heat their homes properly. Many use blankets to stay warm but when they move around are not dressed properly. Every winter my wife and I have to remind her mother to wear sensible clothing both when she goes out and in the house. She'll turn on the heat while wearing a thin cotton short sleeve t shirt and thin acrylic cardigan, no long johns, no cap. Meanwhile I'm wearing long johns, fleece pants, a long sleeve heavy cotton t shirt, a fleece overshirt and quite often a cap. Old habits die hard, if we weren't there to remind her, as we won't be next winter, she would wear what comes out of the drawer instead of searching for the right clothing for the conditions.

No matter how many times we suggest it I don't think she will ever wear a cap indoors. Like the lady in the picture she is more concerned about how her hair looks than her heating bill, thankfully she doesn't wear pearls. This not something we expect to change but we can set an example and gently encourage her to bundle up.

Monday, 3 November 2008

If It's Black, Can It Still Be Green?


Greenwash Sucks!

If It's Black, Can It Still Be Green? | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

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Thanks to Rising Tide for the killer graphic.

Watch it and vote!



I once voted for Nader because I believe in the need for a true multiparty system in the US. We ended up having the election stolen from us that year because the race was so close. This time around the stakes are so much higher. Please Put OBAMA in the White House. We can build diversity from the ground up. Vote Green locally, not nationally where it can do no good and can do lots of harm. Eventually if we work locally long enough we can build an effective green party. Now is not the time to send a message that most will ignore and may cost us dearly. Vote OBAMA!

3rd Free From Power Day

Sorry to say this FFPD has been a total failure on my part, moving house, living in two places at once, and excessive busy-ness are the excuses I claim. All of which are characteristics of the modern hurry up consumerist lifestyle I had hoped FFPD would help me overcome. Can't win em all, I will attempt to do one next weekend to make up for it.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Free the Unborn!


This is not a post about right to life or abortion. This is another excellent article by George Monbiot over on Celsias.

Here's a quote from the text by Mr. Monbiot that should serve as a clue to it's overall content.

"Politics is the art of shifting trouble from the living to the unborn."


Free the Unborn! | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

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Make sure your vote counts!


This race is still tight and getting tighter. If the last several elections hadn't been so close the republicans couldn't have stolen the White House and we might not be in the mess we are today, at least not as big a mess. While we can't change the influence corporate lobbyists have on our "democracy" at this point, or the flawed electoral college approach, we can at least try to insure that voting, the sacred right of all citizens, is respected and protected. Shenanigans are already showing up.

Be sure your vote counts by looking at this site;
10 ways to make sure your vote counts

Friday, 31 October 2008

James H Kuntsler


James H Kuntsler wrote a book called "The Long Emergency", among others, in which he lays out the rather grim future before us if we don't get our act together. He also pretty well predicted the current financial fiasco we find ourselves in. I really like his no bullshit approach. He doesn't waste time promoting half measures but lays out the depth of change necessary to stave off the worst effects of the calamities coming down the pike. In this article over at Organic Consumers Association he offers a typically hard hitting analysis of the current corporate scam called the bailout.

"...we are witnessing the two stages of a tsunami. The current disappearance of wealth in the form of debts repudiated, bets welshed on, contracts cancelled, and Lehman Brothers-style sob stories played out is like the withdrawal of the sea. The poor curious little monkey-humans stand on the beach transfixed by the strangeness of the event as the water recedes and the sea floor is exposed and all kinds of exotic creatures are seen thrashing in the mud, while the skeletons of historic wrecks are exposed to view, and a great stench of organic decay wafts toward the strand. Then comes the second stage, the tidal wave itself -- which in this case will be horrific monetary inflation -- roaring back over the mud flats toward the land mass, crashing over the beach, and ripping apart all the hotels and houses and infrastructure there while it drowns the poor curious monkey-humans who were too enthralled by the weird spectacle to make for higher ground. The killer tidal wave washes away all the things they have labored to build for decades, all their poignant little effects and chattels, and the survivors are left keening amidst the wreckage as the sea once again returns to normal in its eternal cradle."

Whenever I need some no nonsense take no prisoners analysis of our current survival experiment I turn to either Mr. Kuntsler or Alex Smith over at Radio Ecoshock.

School food and family farms


In another excellent article over at Organic Consumers Association, Diane Raymond points out that the US credit crunch and resultant necessary belt tightening have led some schools, 8700 so far, to source healthy fresh local food from from family farms. In my opinion the National School Lunch Program has become a vehicle for elimination of surplus agribusiness commodity food products and has led to a rising epidemic of obesity in school children.

"Nearly half of the children in the U.S. who attend private and public schools participate in the NSLP, a federally assisted meal program that dates back to 1946. While the NSLP does provide a low-cost (and in some cases, free) means of delivering lunch through subsidies to schools, the program has been widely criticized in recent years for contributing to America's obesity epidemic. According to the Sustainable Table, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the problems with our food supply, our children are not meeting the RDA of vitamins and nutrients under the current NSLP guidelines. Couple that with the skyrocketing price of food, which extends beyond the family table to the school cafeterias as well. Forced to consider lower-priced alternatives to fresh foods, many schools have no alternative but to rely on the cheaper, less healthy fare. A number of districts across the country are taking matters into their own hands and breaking the mold. Instead of doling out sodium and fat-laden chicken nuggets for lunch, they are opting to assist local farmers and provide healthier, locally grown foods to students."

Ms. Raymond also gives a list of steps to follow if you want to start a farm to school program in your community. Check it out. Organic Consumers Association

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Apologies from Robb

Hello all,
We've moved to a boarding school up near Pontefract. My web access is limited and as a result I have had to resort to posting exclusively through "share this" buttons on other sites. Normally I would include some explaination with these but am unable to at the moment. Sorry to post this way but I wanted to keep up a steady flow of relevant content and that is currently my only method. I will try to post when we are back in Sheffield but will be limited by time for the next 6-8 weeks. Please bear with me until the new year when I hope to get back to normal posting. If you are in the US, please don't forget to vote!
Thanks
Robb

Climate-proofing the World\'s Food Supply | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

Climate-proofing the World's Food Supply | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

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John McCain: We know you by now ... | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

John McCain: We know you by now ... | Use Celsias.com - reduce global °Celsius

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

9 Ways To Go Local

Locavore, locally sourced, local, we've heard it all....now here's 10 reasons going local is the way to go, or eat rather:

1. Food tastes better! It's newer and fresher!

2. Science says it's better for you, nutrients are lost over time, so the quicker it gets from farm to table the more nutrients are retained

3. It's safer, hopefully. Local farms are held more accountable because of their size, their names really do mean everything to them

4. Local food supports local farms and their families. The amount of traditional farmers in this country has dropped drastically and we've gotta get them back working the land! We don't want machines doing everything do we?

5. Local food builds your community spirit, you are aware of your actions and their impact

6. The more you support local farms, the more farm land will be preserved from being paved over.

7. Local food supports the environment by keeping fuel usage down for example

8. Supporting local farms is like investing in your future and the future of your community. By ensuring your local farms maintain their business against bigger, more machine driven farms.

9. Local farms sell to many places, but the most obvious is your local farmer's market! It's so meaningful buying directly from the farmer, they make more money by dealing with their consumers directly, they cut down on fuel, and like shouting I CARE ABOUT MY FOOD FUTURE to the world!

Support Local Farmers!

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California, America\'s ‘Leader of the Pack\', to Address Factory Farming | celsias°

California, America's ‘Leader of the Pack', to Address Factory Farming | celsias°

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No Child Left Inside: Why We Need to Get Kids Outside | celsias°

No Child Left Inside: Why We Need to Get Kids Outside | celsias°

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Sunday, 26 October 2008

Debt, usury, and plunder of the commons

$10, 533,580,803,241,82
That's the US debt as of 26 Oct 2008 at 08:35:16 AM GMT.
Thanks to the US National Debt Clock.

While Cheney and Bush laugh all the way to the bank, watching their 11th hour efforts to completely privatize all aspects of life succeed in a big way, the people on your street are losing their homes, their jobs, their schools, their health care.

Naomi Klein, in a lecture, over on Radio Ecoshock, drawn from her book "The Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism" maintains that this recent plundering of the commons by corporate raiders is not only a transfer of wealth to the elites but also an attempt by the right to insure that the next president does not have the resources necessary to transition the US economy away from exploitative, extractive, and war mongering industries towards a greener sustainable foundation. They will maintain that we cannot afford it due to so called "economic and financial realities" as defined by the very thieving industries that create these harsh realities. Sound far fetched?

Klein says we've seen it before. President Clinton abandoned his attempts to reform NAFTA towards social justice and fight for his universal health care plans on the advice of treasury secretary Robert Rubin that he accept "economic realities".

Guess what, Robert Rubin is one of Obama's top economic advisors. The fox is not only in the hen house he has set up shop and is raising the chickens for his own personal slaughter.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Bye Bye Buzz?

There really is no substitute for honeybees. Whether it's the gazillion tonnes of pesticides we pollute our food, land and water with every year, an Israeli virus, extreme lack of diversity through our insane enslavement to monoculture, or genetically modified plants, the honey bees are dying at an alarming rate. They are a vital part of the ecosystem which provides us with food, and everything else we really need for that matter. What can you do about it? Make your yard Bee Friendly for a start. Honey Gal, a teacher of bee stewardship and a contributor to the forum over at the Organic Consumers Association, has these suggestions;


"Plant a flowering herb garden. Bees use herbs medicinally and your plants can help make a difference. I suggest rosemary, sage, THYME (lots of it), marjoram, chives, basil, all the mints and other herbs with flowers. Bees will find them. To do more, plant native flowering bushes, too. In our area (WA) spirea and goldenrod are bee magnets. Try to have flowers in bloom through into fall.


Put out a big shallow dish of water with sticks or moss in it (so they don't fall in) and keep it moist. If you can get seaweed, bees are particularly fond of the minerals so I keep a little pile of seaweed in the "bee pond." All these small actions add up and make it a little easier on your local bees."



You can also support your local organic family farmer by buying his/her produce directly or in locally owned non chain shops.
Learn more;

Spikenard Farm

Organic Consumers Association forum

Monday, 20 October 2008

Whew! At last an "energy expert" VP! - By Robb

Boy am I relieved. Now that John McCain has an "energy expert" as a VP candidate I can sleep better at night knowing that the US energy future is secure.

What with 45 new Nuclear power plants providing 3 QBtu's by 2030 and all that wonderful offshore oil he wants to drill for providing .5 QBtu's by 2030 I'm sure we will be just fine. After all, projections indicate that with business/growth/lack of foresight as usual the US will need a mere 118 QBtu's by 2030.

So, hmmm, that's 2.5% from 45 nuclear plants at the cost of how many billions per plant, $4.9 billion per reactor or there abouts. Not to mention the unknown costs of decommissioning and waste storage, two things we don't even know how to do safely yet. And let's not forget that the fuel is set to get really scarce in about 40 years which will drive up the costs considerably.


Thankfully if we allow the oil industry, those trustworthy fellows who have taken such good care of us up to now, to despoil our coastlines we'll get a staggering .42% of our needs there. And goodness knows if McCain follows GW's lead, which McCain reminds us he has done 90% of the time up till now, he won't even make his oil buddies pay any royalties not to mention the billions of corporate welfare those cash strapped good ole boy American oil prospectors deserve and demand from the taxpayers of America.

Yessirree I feel loads better knowing he's got an "energy expert" helping him draft his bold new energy plan.

To find out more and to see a plan that could really deliver us from all evil, at least some of the evils that have been foisted upon us up until now by the Republicans, check out;

Architecture 2030

Thanks to Architecture 2030 for the graphics and figures for this post.

Soil, organics, and Co2 - by Robb

I've discussed the threats from modern industrial agriculture to one of our most valuable resources, our soil, in past posts.

Here are a few stats from my Soil Erosion post back in February of this year.

* The United States is losing soil 10 times faster -- and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster -- than the natural replenishment rate.
* The economic impact of soil erosion in the United States costs the nation about $37.6 billion each year in productivity losses. Damage from soil erosion worldwide is estimated to be $400 billion per year.
* As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world's arable land has become unproductive.
(http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March06/soil.erosion.threat.ssl.html Feb 2008)

This is the type of vital ecosystem service George Monbiot discusses in the article I linked to in my recent post,

Externalities?


Now I'd like to discuss some of the benefits of proper maintenance of that precious resource, our soil, through organic agriculture. Rodale Institute has published some research cataloging the potential effects proper soil husbandry can have on global warming. Much of the information and graphics for this post is drawn from the report.

Aside from the obvious benefits of growing food, providing a base for vegetation that prevents erosion, acting as a sponge to mitigate the effects of flooding, reducing pollution from agricultural runoff, the soil offers other less well known services. If treated properly soil sequesters carbon, it actually locks up more carbon than the vegetation growing on it.

"On a global scale, soils hold more than twice as much carbon (an estimated 1.74 trillion US tons) as does terrestrial vegetation (672 trillion US tons)."

This is accomplished through the buildup of humic substances, soil organic matter or SOM, in the soil that allow long term carbon storage. This SOM, which is primarily made up of carbon, is the heart and soul of organic agriculture. SOM is almost completely avoided in industrial agriculture which uses petrochemicals to replace the nutrients otherwise provided.

The naturally developed grassland soils that much of the American corn and soy crop grows in was originally comprised of 6-10% SOM. These soils have been degraded to typically 1-3% by industrial agricultural methods. Indeed, Rodales research over 27 years indicates that organic systems increased soil carbon by 30% while their similar petrochemically managed fields showed no increase in carbon.

This effect is largely down to a beneficial environment for fungi which is fostered by organic methods. No only does fungi assist in the processes necessary for carbon sequestration but,

"Mycorrhizal fungi structures enhance the ability of plant roots to access soil moisture and nutrients, produce stable compounds to sequester carbon dioxide as soil carbon, and slow decay of soil organic compounds."

Fungi is most amazing stuff. For more on that check out the work by Paul Stamets at Fungi.com.


Additionally the practices of organic fertilization and cropping diversity stimulates carbon sequestration whereas petroleum based practices and mono cropping stimulates quick decay of SOM thus releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Organic practices like cover crops and composting have direct benefits to the atmosphere in that they use 33% less fossil fuel in the farming practices themselves compared to petroleum fertilizer based practices. Further Rodale research has shown that,



"the use of composted manure with crop rotation in organic systems can result in carbon sequestration of up to 2000 lbs/ac/yr. By contrast, fields under standard tillage relying on chemical fertilizers lost almost 300 pounds of carbon per acre per year."

If all 43 million acres of cropland in the US were to use these methods 1.6 billion tons/yr would be sequestered, around 25% of the total US fossil fuel emissions.

Here are some more facts about Organic agriculture from the Organic Consumers Association,

  • If organic farming methods were practiced on all the planet's food-growing land, it would be like taking more than 1.5 billion cars off the road.
  • You can increase your antioxidant intake by 30 percent by choosing organic.
  • The average child in America is exposed to five pesticides daily in their food and drinking water.
  • The U.S. water system is regularly contaminated above safe limits immediately following chemical fertilizer applications to farm fields.
  • Farms in developing countries that use organic techniques produce an average of 79% more than farms that don't.
So it seems clear that organic agriculture produces healthier food, more food, is far less damaging to the soil and surrounding ecosystem, and can help mitigate global warming and climate change. It looks like the sustainable choice to me.

Thanks to Rodale Institute for the report from which most of this post is drawn and the Organic Consumers Association for pointing me in that direction and for additional facts.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Externalities?

Traditional economics assumes that the services rendered by ecosystems are "externalities" and places no value on them, or on their destruction. A more enlightened economics that takes account of the triple bottom line of environment, financial, and social equity is growing in acceptance.

As I've mentioned before on this blog I find George Monbiot to be especially perceptive on matters of the environment and as it turns our he is also well versed on matters relating to economics. Check it out:

This Stock Collapse Is Petty When Compared to the Nature Crunch


Thanks to Lamar Mitchell for the link.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Count your blessings

In view of tragic events that continue to occur around the world, let's think about the following and count our blessings.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep---you are richer than 75 per cent of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish---you are among the top 8 per cent of the worlds wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness---you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation---you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful---you are blessed because the majority can but most do not.

Thanks, take care and please don't forget to eat your veggies!
- Karen Jones @ community garden digest

Sunday, 12 October 2008

#5 Sheffield Star Green Scene Submission - by Robb

Here is my latest post to our local rag's green section on their website;

Sheffield Star Green Scene

Actionable Areas


There are many areas within our lives where we can address efficiency, reduce demand, conserve resources, and make our lives more resilient.

1. In our homes
2. What we eat
3. How we get around
4. What we buy

All of these are interrelated but by looking at them separately we can find many opportunities both for saving money and increasing the sustainability of our lives. But before we do lets consider some basic principles.

The first, our lives and lifestyles are completely dependent on cheap energy. If all the energy you use in your life were to be provided by people sitting on bicycle powered generators you would need 50 people pedaling a good clip 24 hours/day nonstop. We have built our extravagant lifestyles on the availability of cheap petroleum which is incredibly energy dense. When refined into liquid fuels it is 10 times more powerful than dynamite1. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your outlook, the age of cheap oil is over and the climate consequences of burning oil and other fossil fuels are becoming increasingly worrisome.

The second is that it is far easier and more effective to make an impact by simply consuming less than by consuming more. This runs contrary to what the gurus of green consumerism want you too believe. Every item we use, eat, or throw away embodies a significant amount of energy whether it is “green” or not. So for many reasons it makes sense to simply use less. But as we shall see this may not always be so simple.

The third basic principle is that using less doesn’t necessarily mean doing without. There are so many ways we can use less energy by becoming more efficient rather than cutting something out of our lives. A good example is keeping the heat we get from our radiators inside our house rather than letting it go outside. We don’t have to give up being warm but we still use less heating energy.

The fourth is that shifting to more efficient sustainable and resilient lifestyles will make us healthier, richer, and happier.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Bad, the Worse and the Downright Lethal | celsias°

The Bad, the Worse and the Downright Lethal | celsias°

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The Other Bail-Out | celsias°


This excellent article by George Monbiot details further corporate welfare slipping under the radar these days.
The Other Bail-Out | celsias°

But that's not all, check this out;

"While we have all been preoccupied with the staggering $700 billion bail-out of wall street, boggled with the size of the dollar amount, having to raise the National debt limit and borrow money from foreign nations to fund it, late Saturday night the Senate passed a bill of a comparably huge dollar amount which made little news, but gives $488 Billion to the Pentagon for the continued funding of the the war, There has been a near media blackout of this vote, and we need to get the word out that this outrageous warfunding is quietly continuing while the news media is being distracted by the gigantic and horrendous Wall Street bailout bill."

read all about it at Organic Consumers Association

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems | celsias°

Imagine if we had invested 700 billion into a sustainable economy, imagine if we had invested the trillions we've spent on oil war on renewable energy instead. As GW gave billions directly to the oil industry he also allowed them to stop paying royalties on their leases on US soil. Now he has given them carte blanche to despoil public lands with oil shale development.The last eight years will go down as the largest plunder of the commons in US history, corporate welfare run amuck.

Here is another option, I just hope the corporate thieves have left us the resources to pursue it.

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems | celsias°

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Musings on science, religion, and us - By Robb

I was listening to a lecture/conversation between Wes Jackson of the Land Institute and Wendell Berry this morning and the topic wandered to science and it's mandate. To paraphrase, science doesn't decide what's good, culture does that, within culture religion has largely had a monopoly on that word, that task, that responsibility. How has good come to mean allowing massive corporations to enrich shareholders at the expense of diversity, both cultural and ecological, to control our media and our governments, the very food we eat? Is this what religion has defined as good? How has it become good to siphon off the riches, the potential of a nation, to bailout, prop up a failed system of debt dependent on unlimited growth, a literal physical impossibility, to the tune of 700 billion dollars? How has it become good to hand that wealth to very people who created the mess in the first place? The fox is in the hen house, the fox owns the hen house.

Meanwhile back at the ranch.

While we are busy crafting corporate welfare the planet gets hotter, while we let the rich scarper off with their ill gotten gains we ignore the looming scientific warnings. I can't help it, the science just keeps getting scarier!

I never liked horror movies as a kid, they gave me nightmares, but I've always liked apocalyptic science fiction. Well science fact is getting more and more apocalyptic and I can't seem to stop keeping up with it. Maybe it is my deepest held conviction that humans are just animals after all, nothing special about us. In fact, with all our supposed intelligence we are the only animals that soil our our own nest, knowingly, willingly destroying the future of our progeny and the progeny of all the other species we share this gift of a globe with. If anything, this proves to me that we are the least of species not the best. I do hope that someday I'm proven wrong about this, if there is one thing that can make us stand out in a positive way it will be a decision to make the necessary changes to create a sustainable and just lifestyle for all species on this earth.

We do have the capability, we do have the technology, we do have the resources. Without a new definition of the good we don't have a chance.

New science as found at Organic Consumers Association;
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_14872.cfm

Monday, 6 October 2008

The stove - by Robb



Here's some shots showing several views of my stove. As a cross between a rocket stove and a vita stove I think it combines the best features of both. It has an elbow style fire chamber like the rocket stove but doesn't utilize high energy inputs of building refractory bricks called for in the rocket stove.It is built from a recycled veggie oil can. The fire chamber, as seen in the middle picture, is an olive oil can with holes poked in the bottom for air flow. It has been set into a bed of mortar mix and bits of tile to insure a gap underneath to let air in. The pot sits on top of the fire chamber. I clipped 6 triangular tabs out of the top edge to let the heat flow out around the pot and create draw. The stones are set around the chamber to insulate and would be better if they were some high air content stone like volcanic tuff or some such.

As you can see in the first shot the pot is about 2 inches in diameter less than the can but would be better if it were about 1-1/2" larger. The smaller gap would hold more heat to the sides of the pot which is visible in the third photo as completely immersed in the cooker. The last shot shows how small and smokeless the fire can be. Most of the smoke is at startup. This is due to the moisture slowly being driven off by a low heat fire. As the fire gets hotter new fuel introduced smokes less. I also dried the fuel for at least 2 weeks prior to use.

I boiled about 6 liters of water, in two batches, for 5 minutes or more and cooked 1 dozen eggs and two ears of corn at the same time. Overall the fire burned for almost two hours and used a bundle of sticks and small scrap timber about 8 to 10 inches in diameter and 12 to 14 inches long.

All the fuel and materials for the stove were scrounged and free, since it is biomass fueled it is essentially carbon neutral cooking. The mortar mix, a small bag I found, has cement in it and thus has carbon impact. It could be done with limecrete thus lowering the carbon impact but I would have had to purchase the materials for that. My friend Graeme suggested that I could use sand or dirt.

I have several ideas for improvements; a more insulating filler material which should be filled to just under the triangular cutouts, an insulating layer on the outside of the can would be useful particularly for the top half where the pot is, a bigger pot. In preparation for FFPD November I've already collected the fuel for drying.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Industrial Agricultural menace

"Industrial Food product companies spend $17 to 20 billion per year marketing empty calories to kids in America. This is more than it would cost to provide health insurance to every uninsured child in America."

Read more at

http://www.lunchlessons.org/

2nd Free From Power Day Report - By Robb

Planning pays off! In the month between the first FFPD and yesterday I built a rocket/vita stove, gathered and dried fuel for it (see below), planned out my menu and gathered my food. Fortunately we had rain so I had some nice fresh water as well though I had a large reserve if needed.


I boiled about 4 liters of water for my use for the day , most of which went to flasks for tea, it was a cold rainy, windy day after all. I boiled another couple of liters to cook eggs and sweet corn. I used a bundle of sticks and scrap wood about 8" in diameter and 12 to 14" long for all of that. I lit it once and did all my cooking for the day. Relighting would be significantly less efficient. I'll detail the stove itself in another post.

In addition to the eggs (sourced from a local farm a 3 mile walk away) and corn (from our organic box delivery), I ate about 4 ounces of organic muesli with organic rice milk (the two most heavily packaged and shipped foods of the day) and locally picked blackberries, one cucumber and 8 ounces of tomatoes from our organic garden, 4 ounces of tortilla chips (unfortunately non organic and packaged), about 6 small apples from a tree up the street, and finally some apple juice pressed from local apples at the local sustainable wood fair I took my nephew to. More planning is necessary for food requirements.

I did well on most other fronts, no electronic media, instead I read half of Rob Hopkins "The Transition Handbook". This is an excellent read for anybody wishing to assist their community in getting prepared for a post oil economy as it lays out the proven techniques used by many transition initiatives around the world.

I managed to avoid using any lights (except when I went into the cellar, same as last time, I need to plan for this better), I never turned on any heat and stayed either outside or in our solar heated conservatory all day, I used rainwater to wash and flush with, boiled for brushing teeth, I drank boiled rainwater, I borrowed my friend Graemes wind up torch for reading at night (I must get one before the next FFPD).

I did purchase some local produced venison sausages for next days dinner. I would have skipped this except they have a stand at the fair and it is the only way to source them currently without a long journey.

So all in all I made progress but there is more to make.









Friday, 3 October 2008

October Free from Power Day

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in October and therefore it's Free From Power Day. You can read a report on the first Free from Power Day, in september by clicking here;

first report


As using electricity and media are not allowed I will post about my progress on Sunday.

Crimes against humanity?

The GM food industry has bought the FDA. For those in the UK, the FDA is the agency charged with protecting US citizens from dangerous food and drugs but which during the Bush administration has become a de-facto headquarters for the GM food industry which has prevented labelling of GM food in the states even though the majority of people want it. Most Americans eat GM food every day yet 52% believe they have never eaten it. These corporations fire and persecute scientists who publish results demonstrating the toxic effects of their products and they are attempting to convince the British public that they hold the key to the food crisis.

I agree, they are creating it!

For more about the crimes of the GM industry see the Seeds of Deception website.

Here is a grief, oops, make that brief extract from the speech by H. E. M. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly at the High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals 25 Sept 2008, United Nations, New York


"EXTRACTS:

9. It is clear that the world food crisis is increasing social tensions and bringing about a significant rise in extreme poverty...

11. The World Bank has concluded that 75 per cent of the increase in food prices stems from the production of biofuels and factors related to rapidly growing demand for biofuels.

14. The essential purpose of food, which is to nourish people , has been subordinated to the economic aims of a handful of multinational corporations that monopolize all aspects of food production, from seeds to major distribution chains, and they have been the prime beneficiaries of the world crisis. A look at the figures for 2007, when the world food crisis began, shows that corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, which control the cereals market, saw their profits increase by 45 and 60 per cent, respectively..."

Monsanto is at the very heart of the biofuels lobby.

For more on this speech see The article at the Organic Consumers Association website.

Those who choose to ignore history..........


"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
Thomas Jefferson 1802

Thanks to the Organic Consumers Association for the reminder.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Where's POGO?

An interesting term, positive feedback loops, for something so negative and scary. As predicted, the positive feedback loops are accelerating. Huge amounts of methane is bubbling up in undersea plumes in the high arctic. This is now documented by science.
Check it out.

The Methane Time Bomb

Still think that foreign holiday is a good idea? How about that hamburger at the drive through?
Is it really a good idea to bail out an economy that is unsustainable or would it make more sense to spend that 700 billion on putting on the brakes and creating a just and sustainable one? Does it make sense to subsidize the oil barons or to create millions of green jobs building the new renewables industry? Are these questions difficult to answer? Apparently so as GW and the republicans want to drill, drill, drill, while over here the ruling labour party wants more coal fired power plants and a third runway at Heathrow.

I'm amazed and astounded both by the science that increasingly raises the alarm and by the powers that be that increasingly shut it out. As so often quoted in the comic strip "POGO" so long ago,

"We have met the enemy and he is us"

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Wild food #1 - Yew Berries


I've recently gotten into foraging for wild foods. From time to time I will show you and discuss some of the things I've been eating.

Yew berries have a mildly slimy consistency but are quite tasty. Do NOT eat the seeds or any other part of the tree. I've seen posts on the web that 3 berries will make you vomit and give you other ill effects. I've eaten handfulls of the berries with no ill effects but as always try one or two and wait 24 hours before eating more.

Here is the quote on yew berries from Wild Food School website

"YEW [Taxus baccata] Regarded as one of THE most poisonous and deadly plant materials around the scarlet berries of yew contain a slightly sugary gloop surrounding the seed and which can be extracted by VERY GENTLY squeezing the berry. The inner brown-black seed is deadly poisonous and must not be eaten.

If you wish to try the yew berry sap it is ESSENTIAL to check your personal tolerance before trying. In any event only try the sap of one or two berries as a larger quantity might well contain a sufficient build up of toxins which could cause harm. One best left to foraging professionals."

My technique is to pop the whole berry in my mouth and spit out the seed. If you wait to long it starts to get very astringent, a good sign of poison, so don't hesitate.

Broccoli Set to Rewrite Patent History in Europe | celsias°


Ever hungry to steal our right to grow our own the corporations are continuing in their attempts to advance their policy of "no food grown that we don't own"
Check it out:
Broccoli Set to Rewrite Patent History in Europe | celsias°

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Monday, 29 September 2008

Drilling for Oil is Not the Answer | celsias°

Something to keep in mind, oil companies are sitting on licenses already issued in the US as they wait for the price of oil to rise high enough to justify drilling, adding more area available to them to purchase licenses for will only increase their profits, not decrease the price at the pump, not increase our energy security. It will increase the amount of money they spend to purchase politicians. Every drop of oil we produce continues the paradigm of addiction and the war, global warming, and corrupt politics that go with it.

Check this out;
Drilling for Oil is Not the Answer | celsias°

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The Tables Turned- By Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your Teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless -
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous form of things: -
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Hubris - by Robb

I've been thinking recently about hubris. I don't mean the the petty everyday hubris we experience in our relationships and human contacts. I'm thinking about the hubris we have developed along with our big brains through the millenia of evolution. As we have refined our ability to change our environment, through fire, then agriculture and latterly industry, we seem to have become convinced that whatever we can imagine we have the right to do. So convinced are we that our ostensibly massive human intellect will solve all problems, even the ones we ourselves create, that we have completely lost touch with the intelligence that precedes and informs our own. We have forgotten the innate intelligence of nature.

This form of hubris is particularly dangerous in it's manifestation in reductionist western culture and value systems. It has led to what university of Texas professor Robert Jensen has called "the Delusion Revolution".

"It takes the hubris of folks such as biologist Richard Dawkins, who once wrote that “our brains … are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.” Such a statement is a reminder that human egos are typically larger than brains, which emphasizes the dramatic need for a drastic humility. I read that essay by Dawkins after hearing the sentence quoted by Wes Jackson, an important contemporary scientist and philosopher working at The Land Institute. Jackson’s work has most helped me recognize an obvious and important truth that is too often ignored: For all our cleverness, we human beings are far more ignorant than knowledgeable. Human accomplishments -- skyscrapers, the internet, the mapping of the human genome -- seduce us into believing the illusion that we can control a world that is complex beyond our ability to understand. Jackson suggests that we would be wise to recognize this and commit to “an ignorance-based worldview” that would anchor us in the intellectual humility we will need if we are to survive the often toxic effects of our own cleverness."

I'm not quite as hard on professor Dawkins as Jensen who believes Dawkins should be denounced for such views. I do however agree completely with Wes Jackson's assertion that we are tinkering with the systems of life we do not have the capacity to understand. Dawkins writes and speaks eloquently of the ability of evolution to bring into being the unimaginable complexities of this world while at the same time denouncing creator myths that deny evolution as scientific fact. I believe in the fact of evolution but am not willing to deny people faith in a creator, I don't see them as mutually exclusive. Indeed, the hubris I decry is even worse when compared to the hand of god. How can someone who believes in god the creator believes that it is OK to trash his/her creation.

The complexities of the natural world are the brain of the planet. As we seem intent on doing to our own brains, with toxic chemicals in our food, alcohol, drugs, pharmaceuticals, and polluted water and air, so we are doing to the planetary brain.

Rather than trust to the intelligence of evolution, or god, in our hubris we are killing it.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Link between Debt and the Destruction of Nature | celsias°

A very interesting article with an accompanying video over on Celsias. The video is well worth the time it takes to watch it.
Banking on an Unsustainable Future? The Link between Debt and the Destruction of Nature | celsias°

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What's more important? - By Robb

Is preserving the habitat of a rare mudfish more important than installing a tidal barrage that will provide carbon free energy? Need we sacrifice the natural world in order to save it for our use?

We need to careful not to let such issues divide us. If a researcher in mudfish habitat wants to stop a tidal barrage because it will destroy the habitat then that should have equal weight to the carbon free energy produced by the barrage. After all, when not if, sea levels rise the mudfish habitat will be destroyed anyway. The tidal barrage however is a big system solution designed to continue business as usual, to encourage people that real change on their part is not necessary. People need to realize that without the intact habitats, like the mudfishes, to support biodiversity we are in just as much trouble after we have the barrage.

My grandfather used to tell me "it is a poor man who won't stoop to pick up a coin". Global warming and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin. A coin we must trouble ourselves to pick up. The natural environment should be looked to as our saviour in it's ability to provide the necessities of life from oxygen to breathe, food to eat, and the only reliable method of carbon sequestration.

Without that coin we will not be able to buy our daily bread.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Are you ready for this?

Most scientists now agree that 400 ppm is the tipping point for CO2 content in the atmosphere, the point beyond which we will trigger irreversible catastrophic climate change. The 100 month group has calculated that we have just that, 100 months to get it right. This is the summary from their report;


"We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change. 'Likely' in this context refers to the definition of risk used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to mean that, at that particular level of greenhouse gas concentration, there is only a 66 - 90 per cent chance of global average surface temperatures stabilising at 2o Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 1 Once this concentration is exceeded, it becomes more and more likely that we will overshoot a 2o C level of warming. This is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming. We also believe this calculation to be conservative. The reasons why and the assumptions behind our conclusion are detailed below."

You can download the report here;

100 months website

Some scientists think we are already past the tipping point and our challenge is to get it back to 350ppm as soon as is humanly possible.

Is this too much scary stuff? At what point do we just have to face up to the science and accept that yes it is scary and yes we really have to make big changes? Is anything less than that going to get it done?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Go Carfree on the 22nd

On the 22nd of September don't drive or ride in a car. It's that simple. The reasons are so obvious and the implications so momentous that I won't go into them here. If you need more information please see the website:

World Carfree Day 2008