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

Monday, 28 April 2008

Paradox of Choice video

Here's a link to a video to remind us of Dave's excellent post on this topic.

Are you a Consumer or a Citizen? - By Robb

To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, stop referring to yourself as a consumer, think of yourself as a citizen. To carry it further, don't let anybody else get away with calling you a consumer, it is degrading. A citizen has responsibilities to his/her community, a consumer does not. A citizen has an opinion that matters, a consumer does not. A citizen has power, a consumer does not. We are not meat that grazes and dies for the betterment of the consuming economy, cattle to be fed upon. Become an asset to your community, not just another consumer of it. Get to know your neighbors, work together to craft a sustainable neighborhood. Consumption should be a conscious choice. Socially conscious consumption is a good first step to becoming a citizen. Consume less, consume wisely, consume as if your future depended on it. It does.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Al Gore's new video

In Al Gore's brand-new slideshow (premiering exclusively on TED.com), he presents evidence that the pace of climate change may be even worse than scientists were recently predicting, and challenges us to act with a sense of "generational mission" -- the kind of feeling that brought forth the civil rights movement -- to set it right. Gore's stirring presentation is followed by a brief Q&A in which he is asked for his verdict on the current political candidates' climate policies and on what role he himself might play in future.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Off-Grid Living with Renewable Energy

Life off the electricity grid, using renewable energy, with best selling author William "Bill" Kemp and his wife, living the good life with a low impact on the planet.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

recent climate science again! - by Robb

In March I posted a link to this page. I'm posting the information itself just because it is so important. It is from UK Indymedia

"What the IPCC Report Didn't and Couldn't Say

Scientists involved in writing the report said recently that it is already out of date and that its predictions are too conservative. Here are some very important scientific findings (not modeling) from this past year that were not allowed into the report because of a deadline of a year and a half ago for the input of scientific data. This wasn't a dastardly conspiracy, just a rather stupid rule that proved to be quite tragic in light of the alarming scientific data of this past year. Moreover, the political contingent showed up as each report was written by the scientific community, and the political hacks softened up the language every where they could, so the report is not even close to what it should be.

The sea level rise forecast is the most notably skewed. Dr. James Hansen says a more accurate forecast for 2100 is more than 5 meters without measures to reduce CO2 substantially.(1) He, and many others, have said that the report was written without the very recent knowledge of glacial acceleration feedbacks that have surprised the scientists with the rapidity of the melting and flow, making the report's forecasts much too low.

Consequently, the level of urgency that is understood by policy makers around the world will be out of touch with reality and the chance to slow the warming of the planet disastrously diminished.

[Links to the article that these statements are ripped from are provided below. You will notice that only one of these reports is from a U.S. corporate news service.]"
For references please see the site.

2) Dec. '06 - Globe is Warming Faster Than Scientist's worst predictions. Our worst fears are exceeded by reality.



3) Jan. '07 - Earth is Losing its Ability to Absorb CO2?

4) May '07 - ... (the Southern Oceans) are beginning to release the CO2 they have stored.

5) Oct. '07 - ...the ability of (the Atlantic) ocean to absorb CO2 has dropped by half....

6) Feb. '07 - World's sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate. Sea levels are rising even faster than scientists predicted.

7) May '07 - 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water north from the Gulf Stream.


Other Positive Feedbacks

8) Mar. '07 - Tundra Disappearing At Rapid Rate. "It's like it waited until conditions were just right and then it decided to get up and run, not just walk.".....This sets up a "positive feedback," the same process that is associated with the rapidly decaying Arctic ice cap.

9) Aug. '07 - Arctic lakes are beginning to release methane and CO2. A global tragedy of monumental proportions is unfolding at the top of the world...

10) Nov. '07 - The increase in forest fires in the boreal forests have weakened one of the earth's greatest terrestrial sinks of carbon dioxide.



11) Feb. '07 - Carbon dioxide rate is at highest level for 650,000 years.

12) Oct. '07 - New CO2 evidence means climate change predictions are 'too optimistic' Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing much faster.... than scientists have predicted....



13) Jan. '07 - Glaciers (water supply) Melting 6 X Faster Than '80s

14) Sept. '07 - Glaciers are moving much faster towards the sea because of previously unknown factors. (Greenland ice is) advancing toward the sea at seven miles per year, compared with three and a half miles before.


Polar Ice

15) Jan. '07 - The Pace of Arctic Global Warming is Staggering. "....the change "is happening so extremely fast, much much faster than we have seen in thousands and thousands of years. "Climate change in the Arctic is not coming. It is here,"

16) Mar. '07 - ... the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and glaciers are in massive retreat.

17) April '07 - .... the (sea ice) that we've observed is actually declining much faster than the models have shown.

18) Sept. '07 - 'Remarkable' Drop in Arctic Sea Ice Raises Questions


19) Jan. '07 - Reduce CO2 in Ten Years, or Climate Will be Out-of-Control. 'If we fail to act, we will end up with a different planet'

20) July '07 - No Link Between Cosmic Rays and Global Warming


Recent Temperature Records -


21) 2005 was the Warmest year on Record.

22) 2006 was the 5th Warmest on Record.

23) 2006 was the 2nd Warmest Year on Record for the U.S.

24) '06 Dec. the Warmest December on Record

25) January '07......................Warmest on Record

26) April '07...........................Third Warmest on Record.

27) January-May period.............................tied with 1998 as the Warmest on Record


11 of the past 12 years are the warmest on record, and '07 is clearly on track to make it 12 in a row.

Skeptics say that this is normal 'variability' of the climate. But the more you read of the data of late, you see that it is only varying in the wrong direction.......... everywhere they look.

Don Beck "

Remember the earth has a 35 year thermal lag, these are just the cumulative effects up to the and including the 70's! Please refer to number 11 and 12 above. Just since 2000 the rate of increase in emissions has tripled.

Time to drought proof your home and garden, invest in off grid renewable energy systems instead of entertainment, pay off your mortgage, learn a skill that is truly productive, rip up your lawn and plant food instead, keep chickens, and start forming close ties with likeminded neighbors. Learn to live sustainably now, don't put it off. Teach your children.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Mountaintop Removal Video

This is a 2-minute abbreviated version of a mountaintop removal video featured on ilovemountains.org. The video features Woody Harrelson and shows how the mountains and culture of Appalachia are being destroyed by a new form of coal mining called mountaintop removal

Stop Coal! - By Robb

As oil gets more and more expensive to extract, currently we get 17 units of energy out of every 1 we invest, down from 100 at the beginning of the oil boom, resources that have better return will increasingly look more attractive. Coal has an 80/1 ratio. Coal is the absolute worst way to generate electricity in terms of carbon dumping to the atmosphere. There is no leeway left. Latest science indicates the situation is much more dire than the IPCC reports indicate, the science for those date back to 2005. Check out this fellows writing for more info, Thomas Homer-Dixon. You can also listen to one of his speeches here, Radio Ecoshock. We have a few choices left but they are dwindling. In another 20 years there will be one, geo engineering. Are you willing to leave this to tinkering with the planet on that scale?

There should not be another coal fired power plant built on this planet. Please see the Architecture 2030 discussion on this topic. They propose cutting consumption via our choices relating to the built environment which is absolutely necessary but we must also look at our personal consumption within our buildings as well. How many TV's do we need, how many computers, clothes dryers, ipods, dishwashers, hair dryers, cell phones, stereos, and security systems to protect all this junk. By continuing to demand more electricity to power our unsustainable lifestyles we are tacitly approving mountaintop removal and the construction of more coal fired power plants. Cut your demand now or leave a world of hurt to the children.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Food part 4 - Urban Agriculture - by Robb

Most of us rely on supermarkets, our grandparents relied on local produce supplied by locally owned markets and grew their own. Since then the food supply has been largely taken over by corporate interests. This is true in Europe and the U.S. We have Tesco, you have WalMart.

“.......the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation cite Belgium, France and the UK as ‘extreme examples’ where only 10 percent of retail units account for more than 80 per cent of food distribution. (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2002) Supermarkets’ reliance on economies of scale and repeatable quality standards inevitably favours larger suppliers and the use of chemicals in preference to environmentally benign agricultural methods. In contrast urban farms and community gardens, tends to be characterised by the use of organic methods and the local sale of produce.”

Urban Agriculture (UA) allows the use of organic waste for composting reducing landfill usage as well as partially remedying the breakdown of nutrient flows which are destroying our oceans and inland waterways, nutrients in the form of oil are pumped from the ground, shipped to refineries, processed into fertilisers, shipped to the farm, sprayed on the earth, washed into the water sources and thence into the sea or transported as food to the consumer and eventually landfilled or flushed down the sewer as waste. We are eating oil. UA offers an alternative to the high food/nutrient miles paradigm of the supermarket distribution model.

This reliance on supermarkets to the detriment of local food production leaves the urban dweller, particularly the poor, vulnerable to supply issues such as price hikes due to rising costs of energy and water as well as crop failure due to drought and future energy shortages, a virtual certainty with global warming and peak oil. Additionally the poor increasingly find themselves in ‘retail deserts’ as the large supermarkets fail to adequately serve more and more poor neighborhoods after having driven the local food supply network out of business or out of town. This leaves fast food as the primary option for many of the developed worlds most vulnerable with all it’s attendant health implications. Fast food as well as other highly processed foods have impacts beyond health.

Studies done in the 70’s, sparked by the oil shortages of that era, indicate that, for example the embodied energy in a typical loaf of white bread is primarily attributable to fertilisers and transport.(Chapman 1975) Here’s how it looked at that time with a total of 5.6kWh/loaf;

8.6% shop heat and light
12.2% transport
9.4% non wheat ingredients
23.6% baking fuel
8.3% packaging
5.0% transport
2.2% packaging
2.0% other
7.4% milling fuel
1.4% transport
11.6% fertiliser
7.3% tractor fuel
0.4% other

Fertilisers and transport made up 37.6% of the energy embodied in a loaf of bread. While industrial processes have become more efficient since then, packaging and transport have increased. A study done in Britain in 2000 found that the embodied energy in the food consumed by a typical family of four household was 265kWh/m2 (Vale 2000) while the energy used by a typical house at that time was 257kWh/m2. If the energy used by the family car is included the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of the food used by the household is roughly equivalent to the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions used in the house and for personal transport. (Kramer K.J. et al., 1999) Agriculture has a large equivalent carbon dioxide emission impact because petro chemical fertilisers release nitrous oxides which are 300 times more potent as greenhouse gases than CO2.

It has been suggested that if the UK switched entirely to food produced organically, locally and consumed in season, greenhouse gas reductions in excess of 40 million tonnes/year would result, a 22% reduction in total UK CO2 emissions. (Stanley 2002)

Until about 1920 the food produced in the US released an equal amount of energy upon consumption as the energy used to supply and produce it. By 1970 the energy used to produce food in the US had multiplied on average by a factor of 8. (Steinhart & Steinhart 1971) The energy ratio in the UK by 1968 was .2, the amount of energy derived from edibles divided by the energy used to produce it, thus for every joule of energy released by the food 5 joules were used to produce it. (Leach 1976) Neither figure takes into account packaging, transport, refrigeration, processing, and marketing.

It is also important to eat food in season. Not only have we adapted as primates to eat food in season and thus it is a more natural and healthy practice but eating only produce in season has a large impact on energy usage and thus greenhouse gas emissions. A vegetable requiring a heated greenhouse requires 57 times more energy at 37.15 MJ/kg to produce than a vegetable locally grown in an open field at 1.55MJ/kg. Even shipping produce 2000 km from a country where it is in season is preferable as it uses only 5.8MJ/kg. (Kol, Bieiot and Wilting, 1993) The easiest way to do this is to eat locally grown seasonal produce.

Locally grown can mean many things. In the context of urban agriculture or peri urban agriculture, on the periphery of town, it can mean within walking distance or short delivery haulage. At a local farmers market stall the produce may have been grown in a field on the outskirts of town and been driven in but the customers to the stall are more likely to have walked or cycled to the stall than to have driven a car. Supermarkets on the other hand, being typically situated on busy roads, are much more likely to rely on customers arriving by car in addition to international delivery of the produce itself. Additionally, the produce at the farmers stall will have less packaging and gone through less processing.

As communities practice more and more UA the amount of food miles, packaging and processing reduces even further as the food is traded house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood. Have you planted your veggies yet?

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Angry Kid

A hard hitting video that reminds us of the consequences of continuing to live in an unsustainable manner. Time IS running out.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Toilet Paper and Carbon Sequestration? - by Robb

We’ve just returned from 2 weeks on the Coast Path in Cornwall. When we backpack we tend to get a bit obsessive about the weight we carry. We both carry a book to read and my practice is to tear out the pages of mine as I finish them and either use them as fire starter or toilet paper. Saves weight, saves resources, and is a sure fire carbon sequestration technology. How so?
First lets look under the seat at toilet paper. The following quote is from the Sustainable Concepts Newsletter http://www.designforward.net

“Toilet paper, that ubiquitous and apparently indispensable component of modern life, is often manufactured by cutting down the world's forests. In Canada, clear-cut logging claims half a million acres of Ontario and Alberta's boreal forests each year with much of the destruction earmarked for virgin paper tissue products. Similar activity is taking place in the Southeastern U.S. Recently, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council have started campaigns to educate the public on the environmental impacts of using these kinds of products.

The good news is that all of this industrial pressure for tissue products can be avoided simply by using recycled paper toilet tissue. In fact, if every household in the U.S. replaced just 1 roll of virgin toilet paper with just 1 recycled roll 424,000 trees would be saved!”

Article & Picture © GreenLine Paper
More Info at Kleercut... http://www.kleercut.net/en/

So what is the link to carbon sequestration? While all the business as usual folks go on about clean coal and developing carbon sequestration technology we are literally flushing away the most effective carbon sequestration technology there is, trees.
So please use toilet paper made from recycled content or even better don’t buy it at all, use recycled newspaper or old books and either put it in the bin, burn it in your woodstove, or throw it in your composting toilet. I can’t think of anything better to do with all those old Michael Crichton novels.