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

Thursday, 31 July 2008

An old idea fits the new problem - by Robb

I found these posters at the Northwestern University website
I think they are completely relevant to the mindset we need to address the challenge facing us. Rather than encouraging more overconsumption of pointless gewgaws with an "economic stimulus" handout. Perhaps the government of the US should look back at the wisdom of times gone by and discuss frugality, thrift, efficiency, and living within our means. What the US accomplished in an extremely short time to win that war needs to be the model for the effort required now.

I remember seeing billboards in the south when I was young extolling drivers to slow down, they said "Speed on brother, Hell ain't half full!". A perfect encapsulation of the current economic model.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The EPA is at it again! - by Robb

It still astounds me the depths to which the Bush administration will sink to to delude the American people! Once again the agency charged with the protection of the environment has resorted to obfuscation and a complete lack of decency when owning up to it's behaviour. It

"has ordered employees not to talk to internal auditors, Congress or the media".

Apparently the truth is too scary for the American people to handle, or is it that they no longer have the right in corporate America to know the truth about what their lobbyist controlled government is up to?

Senator Boxer has stated,

"Stephen Johnson is turning the EPA into a secretive, dangerous ally of polluters instead of a leader in the effort to protect the health and safety of the American people".

Check out more details in the Guardian article on the subject.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Sheffield Star online post #2 - by Robb

As a volunteer for the South Yorkshire Energy Center I have been asked to contribute to one of our local Sheffield newspapers online edition, the Sheffield Star. Post #1 was in the way of introductions, this is post #2. I apologise to those of you who have seen some of this in my blog before but I think it bears repeating. I will include the rest of the posts a week or so after I submit them to the paper and they will begin to deal with personal action, efficiency, and rationale behind reducing energy use, primarily in the built environment.

“A Sustainable Life” - a column by C Robb Worthington of the South Yorkshire Energy Center.


Without an accurate understanding of the situation this generation faces it is very difficult to understand why we should take any action at all to address climate change, plan for peak oil, perhaps even to re-purpose our lives.

Many scientists, including Dr. James Hansen, the NASA scientist that the Bush administration tried so hard to muzzle, have reminded us that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports weren’t capable of giving us the most accurate and up to date picture of the state of our planet. Because of the process necessary to publish these reports the submission date for the science in the latest IPCC report was in 2005. Unfortunately, many if not most governmental efforts are based on the science from this report.

Recent science paints a much gloomier picture. For instance, Dr. Hansen predicts a sea level rise closer to 5 meters by 2100, not the modest 1 meter so often quoted, if trends continue and CO2 levels are not reduced by at least 80%. (UK Indymedia 2007) George Monbiot reckons greenhouse gas emission reductions need to approach 96% in the UK and 98% in the US if we are going to stabilize the situation. (Monbiot 2007)

Much climate science has taken place since the cutoff for the last IPCC report. Here are just a few tidbits.

Ocean science in 2007;
• the oceans are beginning to release stored CO2,
• the Atlantic ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 has dropped by half,
• sea levels are rising faster than predicted,
• there has been a 30% reduction in the flow of the Gulf Stream.

Positive feedback loops science in 2007;
• arctic lakes are releasing CO2 and methane,
• tundra is disappearing and permafrost is melting releasing stored CO2.

Co2 measurements from 2007;
• at it’s highest level in 650,000 years, rising much faster than previously thought.
Ice science from 2007;

• glaciers are melting 6 times faster than in the 80’s,

• many glaciers are advancing toward the sea much faster,

• Antarctica is warming fastest of any area on earth.

In 2007 11 of the past 12 years were the warmest on record. (IndyMedia 2007)

At the beginning of this article I said it was about the situation this generation faces. The generations that follow face an unknown situation, but it is a situation we will decide. We can choose to leave them with a planet with vastly reduced biodiversity, flooded coastal cities, water and food scarcity on a global scale, more resource wars; in short, nothing like the rich comfortable planet we inherited. Or we can choose to focus all our efforts to avoid that legacy. This is the situation we face.


UK Indymedia article by Don Beck 02/12/2007 “Un-Nerving Update to recent Climate Report” accessed online 28/06/08 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/12/386936.html

Monbiot, George 04/12/2007 “What is Progress” at monbiot.com accessed online 28/06/08 http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/12/04/what-is-progress/

Friday, 25 July 2008

The P word - by Robb

According to an article in the Telegraph two UK doctors are urging GP's to talk to patients about climate change and encourage reducing the number of children they are planning to have.

"The Optimum Population Trust calculates that 'each new UK birth will be responsible for 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions . . . than a new birth in Ethiopia'."

If that is the difference in the UK imagine the contrast in the US where the typical impact relative to energy is 50% higher for the same level of lifestyle.

This approach seems rational to me. It involves a voluntary educational effort as opposed to draconian policy efforts and should raise awareness to some small degree. However, the main issue is still the level of lifestyle. If the UK can have a similar level of lifestyle for 50% less personal energy use then it follows that the US could do much to curb it's consumption and still maintain a level of comfort and health that far surpasses that of the typical Ethiopian.

Yes we should address the population issue but at whatever degree of population we find ourselves we urgently need to scale back general consumption, become more self sufficient within local economy, and most importantly do all we can both at a personal level and as nations to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. We must leave them in the ground.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A transition discussion link

Check out this discussion over on Renewable Energy World online. Be sure to follow the discussion after the article. These are the discussions every nation, every state, every community, and every household should be considering.


Look to Cuba for answers? - video

A clip from the BBC's "Around the World in 80 Gardens" (2008) showing some of the urban food gardening in Havana, Cuba.

The question is; are we smart enough to get this underway before we reach crisis point?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

First; Do No Good ? - by Robb

There is a precept common to many religions but pre-imminent in Buddhism,

First; Do No Harm

The Bush administration seems to be following the opposite path. Aside from destroying the American economy with wars and corruption, establishing the US as a country that condones torture, and standing in the way of genuine science and truth for years, they are still refusing to do anything about climate change.

The very agency charged with protecting citizens from abuse of the environment continues to stall on action to mitigate climate change. The EPA refuses to regulate greenhouse gases and sues states that attempt to make real progress in that direction. But wait... what is this... they have now released a report, apparently undoctored by the political hacks in the White House, stating that climate change threatens the health of millions of Americans! Well hallelujah, could this signal a change of direction?

I don't think so. Bush is still trying to open up drilling for more oil off US coasts and in the sensitive and delicate Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Apparently the health of millions of Americans is not as important at the profits of a precious few. Many analysts have confirmed that the amount of oil available in these fields will not lower fuel prices. How can such small amounts pumped 5 to 10 years from now contribute to stability of the tumbling economy this year or the next? Anyway, the point is that band aid fixes like more oil will only prolong the agony. We need the courage to get off fossil fuels, once and for all. Leave them in the ground. The sooner we switch to truly renewable non exploitative sources of energy and make the lifestyle changes necessary to accomodate that change the less pain and suffering we will be forcing upon future generations.

The economy that is failing now is one we are well rid of. It is based on waste, inefficiency, greed, and selfishness. It is high time we realize our potential to transform our economy and our lives to those that reflect core values of sustainability and compassion.

First; Do No Harm

Friday, 18 July 2008

Event Horizon by James H Kuntsler

I found this over on the Vectors blog. I really like Mr. Kuntsler's viewpoint but it does freak me out a bit. I'm not sure I'm prepared to accept it %100. I cling to some level of hope that we have enough time to become roadrunners......

Event Horizon

There's a particular moment known to all Baby Boomers when, in a rapture of over-reaching, Wile E. Coyote has run past the edge of the mesa and, still licking his chops and rubbing his front paws in anticipation of fricasseed roadrunner, discovers that he is suspended in thin air by nothing more than momentum. Grin becomes chagrin. He turns a nauseating shade of green, and drops, whistling, back to earth thousands of feet below, with a distant, dismal, barely audible thud at the end of his journey. We are Wile E. Coyote Nation.

Is there anyone in the known universe who thinks that the US financial system is not fifty feet beyond the edge of the mesa of credibility?

Nothing will avail now. Not even if Sirhan Sirhan were paroled at noon today and transported directly to the West Wing with a .44 magnum in each hand (and a taxi driven by the Devil waiting outside to take him to the US Treasury and the offices of the Federal Reserve).

It's hard to imagine what kind of melodramas were unspooling on the Hamptons lawns this weekend, while everybody else in America was watching Nascar, or plying the aisles of BJs Discount Warehouse for next week's supply of mesquite-and-guacamole flavored Doritos, or having flames and chains tattooed on their necks, or lost in a haze of valium and methadrine.

With the death of the IndyMac Bank last week, and the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac laying side-by-side in the EMT van on IV drips, headed for the Federal Reserve's ever more crowded intensive care unit, there was a sense of the American Dream having passed through the event horizon that denotes the opening of a black hole.

What would happen if the US Government acted to bail out these feckless enterprises (and what if they don't)? Either way, it's not a pretty picture. If Mr. Bernanke does start shoveling loans into the GSE black hole, he'll further undermine the soundness of his own outfit and do nothing, really, to repair Fannie and Freddie's structural problem of having securitized too many loans that will never be paid back. If instead Fannie and Freddie are flat-out taken over entirely by the US government (and remember the Federal Reserve is not the government), then the national debt will roughly double overnight -- which will pound the US dollar down a rat-hole.

Meanwhile, the foreign holders of those decrepitating dollars might not rush to the redemption window, but they certainly would use them to buy up every oil futures contract on God's not-so-green Earth as fast as possible -- they'd be dumb not to -- which would leave American Happy Motorists with gasoline prices north of $5 a gallon, and possibly north of $10. (In that case, say goodbye to the airlines. In fact, say goodbye to what passes for the rest of the US economy, including especially the vaunted retail sector that supposedly counts for 70 percent of the action.)

If Fannie and Freddie are left to die out on the desert floor, say goodbye to the housing market, the major investment banks, countless regional banks, the retirement accounts of virtually everyone in America, the viability of all fifty states' governments, and the day-to-day operating ability of all their municipalities -- and very likely the current incarnation of the world banking system.

This process is really out of control now. The bottom line is the comprehensive bankruptcy of the United States. The Republican Party under George Bush will be known as the party that wrecked America (release 2.0). Painful as it is, Americans had better get a new "Dream" and fast. It better be a dream based on the way the universe actually works, which is to say an operating procedure run on earnest effort and truthfulness rather than merely trying to get something for nothing and wishing on stars. We might begin symbolically by evacuating Las Vegas and calling in an air strike on the loathsome place -- to register our new reality-based attitude adjustment.

After that, we've got to get to work re-tooling all the everyday activities of life, including the way we grow our food, the way we raise and deploy capital, the way we do trade and manufacturing, the way we go from point A to point B, the way we educate children, the way we stay healthy, and the way we occupy the landscape. I know, it sounds like a lot, maybe too much. But grok this: we don't have any choice if we want a plausible future on this portion of the North American continent.

Of course, none of that is likely to happen. Instead, and under the worst imaginable economic conditions, we'll probably embark on a campaign to prop up the un-prop-up-able and sustain the unsustainable -- that is, defend every status quo habit and behavior that we're used to, whether it can be salvaged or not. Of course, this would be a fatal squandering of our dwindling resources, but it tends, historically, to be the last act of the melodrama in any faltering empire.

The result, pretty soon into that process, will be social breakdown and political upheaval. Every tattoo freak out there who has been prepping for his own starring role in some kind of comic book armageddon will finally get his chance to shine. Lots of people will get hurt and starve. Property will change hands in a disorderly way. And at the end of this process an American corn-pone Hitler may be waiting to set everything and everyone straight.

The markets open in about an hour. Good luck everybody.

Source - James Howard Kunstler

Do you know your neighbors? - by Robb

As I dig into the data coming in from my thesis research into homebased food growing here in Sheffield, I'm struck by how many folks don't garden because they feel they don't have enough land, while a few doors down one of their neighbors is willing to let someone else garden in their yard.

My experience is that gardening at whatever scale you can is worth doing, whether it is herbs on the windowsill, tomatoes in containers on the back deck or giving over your entire yard to it. If the folks who don't feel they have enough land knew their neighbors and worked cooperatively to produce a small scale operation everyone would profit. Local food would get grown and neighborhoods would cease to be so isolationist in nature. An increased sense of community would result and the resiliency derived would be priceless. As threats to food security worldwide continue to mount; from biofuels, peak oil, increased monopolization of supply, climate change, we will need all the resiliency we can muster.

There is much discussion about the suburbs of America being, as James Kunstler has said " the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of mankind" but I see a great opportunity there. All those homes with large lawns represent resiliency potential for those communities. If the people living there can begin to see themselves as members of a community and begin to work together to build sustainability into their lives these sterile deserts of driveways and closed doors can awaken and become nice places to be. What better way than to plant some veggies where there once was lawn, share them with your neighbors, welcome them into your patch, help them do it in their yard. Work together to make resiliency happen.

Invest in sustainability instead of gadgetry, study self sufficiency instead of watching TV, work to get out of debt and quit commuting rather than to get deeper into debt and more dependent on resources from afar. Do it sooner than later, you will be glad you did.

One of the next food sourcing models? - video

Donna and Robyn created Your Backyard Farmer in the Portland, Oregon area. They have an innovative approach to Community Supported Agriculture through urban backyard farming.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The End of Suburbia - 52 minute documentary on oil

GE food propaganda

An article over at the Organic Consumers Association website points out the deception practiced by the agribusiness giants.


In a revealing interview with the Guardian UK last week, Martin Taylor, the chairman of one of the world's leading sellers and promoters of seeds for GM crops, Syngenta, admitted that biotech foods cannot feed the world. Taylor told the Guardian, "GM won't solve the food crisis, at least not in the short term." This is in stark contrast to the biotech industry's ongoing propaganda that the world must embrace genetically engineered crops in order to feed the world's growing population. Although Syngenta and other biotech giants like Monsanto regularly also claim that GM crops are environmentally sustainable, Syngenta's chairman confessed the biotech industry's real focus is on lucrative crops and high-priced seeds and pesticides with "hardly any environmental benefits"."

Additionally you can find a study stating that GM foods are not a viable solution to the worlds food problems at the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development website.

"Assessment of the GM technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable."

Source: A report released earlier this year from the United Nations World Food Program. The study was funded by the biotech industry and 60 nations, including the U.S., and clearly admits that genetically modified crops are not the solution to the food crisis. Upon finding out the results, the US, UK, Australia and Canada refused to endorse the international study. The study also warns that biofuels and climate change are leading causes of the global food crisis.

A quote from Vandana Shiva

Excerpted from an article at the Organic Consumers Association website:

"The $1.2 billion the World Bank says will solve the food crisis in Africa is a $1.2 billion subsidy to the chemical industry," said Vandana Shiva, an Indian physics professor and environmental activist speaking at the forum in Modena.

"Countries are made dependent on chemical fertilizers when their prices have tripled in the last year due to rising oil prices," she said. "I say to governments: spend a quarter of that on organic farming and you've solved your problems."

She said industrial farming was based on planting a single crop on vast surfaces and heavy use of chemical fertilizers, a process that used 10 times more energy than it produced.

"The rest turns into waste as greenhouse gases, chemical runoffs and pesticide residues in our food," she said.

In contrast, organic farms could increase output by 10 times by growing many different species of plants at the same time, which helped retain soil and water, she said. "In a one-acre farm in India they can grow 250 species of plants," she said.

GE sugar cereal from Kelloggs -By Robb

Kelloggs claims that US consumers don't care if their food is genetically engineered. Is that true? Sugar beets, from which much of the sugar produced in the US is sourced, are genetically engineered to withstand massive doses of Monsanto's roundup herbicide, doses that contaminate the soil and water. Coupled with the huge amounts of GE corn and soy in the US this means that much of your Kelloggs breakfast cereal is franken food. Do American consumers really not care about this? See more about this and sign the petition to disprove this ridiculous assertion from Kelloggs at the Organic Consumers Association website.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

G8 Roadblocks -by Robb

Looks like George Bush is at it again, doing his best to stand in the way of US action on climate change. At the G8 Summit he is refusing to discuss US targets unless India and China do, refusing to accept responsibility on the behalf of the US for the centuries worth of emissions that are the lions share of the global total. On the other hand India's PM is refusing to discuss setting long term goals on the grounds that it's present emissions account for 4% of the current global total. Don't they get it yet?

Everyone has to set targets!

This is the common ground upon which the process of achieving meaningful change can take seed. Our leaders are there to lead, not obfuscate and hinder the process of leadership. Everyone must come to the table prepared to make difficult decisions for the long term benefit of all their people rather than the short term profit of the wealthy few. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, the G8 is after all a gathering of the wealthiest to benefit the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest. Here's a few stats from the Trapese Collective's book "Do it Yourself: A Handbook for Changing Our World", that point out;

• the G8 is 12% of the world population,
• 48% of the gross economic output derives from the G8, and the wealth that accrues,
• the G8 produces 62% of the total global carbon emissions,
• of the top 100 multinational corporations, 98% have their headquarters in G8 nations.

Do you think the interests of the non G8 countries are going to be represented at the summit? Is this what you want your leaders to be up to?