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

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

US may never again need to build a new coal or nuclear power plant.

Thanks to OpenAlex for this tidbit.

"The chairman of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has stated that the US may never again need to build a new coal or nuclear power plant. He argues that smarter grids along with better storage for renewables will make new conventional baseload capacity unnecessary. Many people have made the argument before. But its sure was a surprise to see it coming from such a highly placed official in the US government. " -Alex Aylett

read more

Scientist Warning of Health Hazards of Monsanto's Herbicide Receives Threats

Apparently we are not to be allowed to know about the dangers of using Roundup
As reported by Organic Consumers Association
"There are reports coming out of Argentina of attempts to intimidate the lead researcher of the study showing that Roundup - the glyphosate herbicide developed by Monsanto, could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses. ... Dr. Carrasco has warned that the doses of herbicide used in his study "were much lower than the levels used in the fumigations," and so the situation "is much more serious" that the study suggests because "glyphosate does not degrade". ...

According to an article in the Argentine press, after news about the study broke, Dr. Carrasco was the victim of an act of intimidation, when four men arrived at his laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine and acted extremely aggressively.

Two of the men were said to be members of an agrochemical industry body but refused to give their names. The other two claimed to be a lawyer and notary. They apparently interrogated Dr. Carrasco and demanded to see details of the experiments. They left a card Basílico, Andrada & Santurio, attorneys on behalf of Felipe Alejandro Noël.

Dr. Carrasco also reports being subjected to offensive phone calls and there have been disparaging references to his research in newspapers with links to agribusiness. Dr. Carrasco however is resisting the intimidation, saying, "If I know something, I will not shut my mouth."

read more at OCA

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Powered by Coal on 60 minutes

The CEO of Duke Power says it is not possible to stop building coal fired power plants because our economy can't function without all that electricity. I say an economy that needs something that self destructive is not worth having. We've got to put a stop to burning coal!

Friday, 24 April 2009

BioChar and the wonders of the soil.

Look after the soil, keep it chemical free, and it will look after you.

Thanks to Replanting the Rainforest and EcoInteractive for the heads up on this fascinating video and the following excerpts.

BioChar and Terra Pretta"What is Biochar? Biochar is charcoal that is created by heating biomass (plants) under low oxygen conditions, which sequesters the plants’ carbon, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. When Biochar is used to amend soil, the resulting Terra Preta sequesters more carbon, increasing its own volume. The activity of friendly microorganisms, called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, increases as well. The fungi spread beyond the original carbon, fix additional carbon, stabilize the soil and assist in nutrient uptake by plants. Biochar also improves soil fertility, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. It conserves water, prevents erosion and acts as a natural carbon filter for water by removing chemicals from runoff.

Biochar is inert and remains in the soil for thousands of years. It cannot be cut down, burned down, nor is it susceptible to erosion. It is self-renewing.

Biochar could be a solution for:

  • Hunger and Food Insecurity
  • Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss
  • Excess Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
  • Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions from soil
  • Renewable Energy"

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Really good news! High speed rail for the US

This is the best news I've heard in along time. Finally the US is going to attempt to catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to sensible transportation.

For only $13 billion, that's what, about 5% of the amount we handed the gamblers who brought the economy to it's knees, around 10% of what our backward auto industries want to maintain our disastrous reliance on a 50 year old transportation plan that was obsolete 40 years ago, and maybe 1% of what we've wasted in the biggest corporate welfare package in recent years, the war in Iraq.

This is genuine investment in America's future, building something real that will facilitate our countries move towards a competitive, low carbon economy.

Read more at Worldchanging

Here is an excerpt from President Obama's speech on the matter;

"If we want to move from recovery to prosperity, then we have to do a little bit more. We also have to build a new foundation for our future growth. Today, our aging system of highways and byways, air routes and rail lines is hindering that growth. Our highways are clogged with traffic, costing us $80 billion a year in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Our airports are choked with increased loads. Some of you flew down here and you know what that was about. We're at the mercy of fluctuating gas prices all too often; we pump too many greenhouse gases into the air.

What we need, then, is a smart transportation system equal to the needs of the 21st century. A system that reduces travel times and increases mobility. A system that reduces congestion and boosts productivity. A system that reduces destructive emissions and creates jobs.

What we're talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America. Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city. No racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes. (Laughter.) Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination. Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America.

Now, all of you know this is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It is now. It is happening right now. It's been happening for decades. The problem is it's been happening elsewhere, not here.

In France, high-speed rail has pulled regions from isolation, ignited growth, remade quiet towns into thriving tourist destinations. In Spain, a high-speed line between Madrid and Seville is so successful that more people travel between those cities by rail than by car and airplane combined. China, where service began just two years ago, may have more miles of high-speed rail service than any other country just five years from now. And Japan, the nation that unveiled the first high-speed rail system, is already at work building the next: a line that will connect Tokyo with Osaka at speeds of over 300 miles per hour. So it's being done; it's just not being done here.

There's no reason why we can't do this. This is America. There's no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else beyond our borders. Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system –- and everybody stands to benefit."

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Re-use is cool too!

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I favour and advocate Reduce over Re-use and Re-cycle. The reason being that every item you purchase has a carbon footprint and the less you buy the less your own carbon footprint will be. In addition, by refusing to buy needless stuff you are sending a message to the economy to stop producing it.

There are times however when a project must be done. I am currently in the process of building some raised beds, for veggie production of course, for my sister and her family here in Hickory NC. She had an old childrens' playset made of redwood that she wanted taken down and disposed of. I suggested that we re-use the wood to make the raised beds. I'll post some photo's when it is done. We are also re-using the hardware from the playset; lag bolts, thru bolts, and angle brackets. I've used them to fix her fence, rebuild a gate and repair several others, and fixed a broken table inside the house. I have unfortunately had to purchase some deck screws. I've also taken this opportunity to put up a clothesline, for my own use if not for theirs. I figure the carbon savings from not using the tumble dryer will more than offset the 6 dollar investment in the hardware, two hooks, a turnbuckle, and the cotton clothesline just in the two weeks left that I'm here to use it.

The point is, I love to re-use stuff, not as much as I love to reduce but it warms the cockles of my heart to see something get it's usable life extended. Here's a link to an interesting article about re-using on a commercial scale. It's over on,


Thursday, 16 April 2009

We must put a STOP to the spread of Genetically Modified crops!

Here is an excerpt from Peter Montague at the Permaculture Research Institute :

"Felix Ballarin spent 15 years of his life developing a special organically-grown variety of red corn. It would bring a high price on the market because local chicken farmers said the red color lent a rosy hue to the meat and eggs from their corn-fed chickens. But when the corn emerged from the ground last year, yellow kernels were mixed with the red. Government officials later confirmed with DNA tests that Mr. Ballarin’s crop had become contaminated with a genetically modified (GMO) strain of corn.

Because Mr. Ballarin’s crop was genetically contaminated, it no longer qualified as “organically grown,” so it no longer brought a premium price. Mr. Ballarin’s 15-year investment was destroyed overnight by what is now commonly known as “genetic contamination.” This is a new phenomenon, less then 10 years old — but destined to be a permanent part of the brave new world that is being cobbled together as we speak by a handful of corporations whose goal is global domination of food. ...

As a result of genetically contamination of non-GMO crops in Europe, the U.S., Mexico, Australia and South America, the biotech food industry had an upbeat year in 2005 and things are definitely looking good for the future. As genetically modified pollen from their crops blows around, contaminating nearby fields, objections to genetically modified crops diminish because non-GMO alternatives become harder and harder to find. A few more years of this and there may not be many (if any) truly non-GMO crops left anywhere. At that point there won’t be any debate about whether to allow GMO-crops to be grown here or there — no one will have any choice. All the crops in the world will be genetically modified (except perhaps for a few grown in greenhouses on a tiny scale). At that point, GMO will have contaminated essentially the entire planet, and the companies that own the patents on the GMO seeds will be sitting in the catbird seat.

It is now widely acknowledged that GMO crops are a “leaky technology” — that it to say, genetically modified pollen is spread naturally on the wind, by insects, and by humans. No one except perhaps some officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were actually surprised to learn this. GMO proponents have insisted for a decade that genetic contamination could never happen (wink, wink) and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials want along with the gag. And so of course GMO crops are now spreading everywhere by natural means, just as you would expect. ...

For some, this seems to come as a shocking revelation — genetically modified pollen released into the natural environment spreads long distances on the wind. Who would have thought? Actually, almost anyone could have figured this out. Dust from wind storms in China contaminates the air in the U.S. Smoke from fires in Indonesia can be measured in the air half-way around the world. Pollen is measurable in the deep ice of antarctica. No one should ever have harbored any doubt that genetically modified pollen would spread everywhere on the Earth sooner or later. (We are now exactly 10 years into the global experiment with GMO seeds. The first crops were planted in open fields in the U.S. in 1995. From this meager beginning, global genetic contamination is now well along.)" - Peter Montague

The Kitchen Garden w/Geoff Lawton

Want healthy food at your fingertips?
How would you like to gain the psychological benefits of growing your own food and medicines?
Worried about peak oil and it's threats to you quality of life?

Check out this video by Geoff Hamilton about his Kitchen Garden.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Preparing for Peak Oil Video link

Check out this video regarding Peak Oil and preparing for it. It is from Post Peak Living

Thanks to Dr. Clifford Wirth over at Surviving Peak Oil for the heads up on this excellent and informative video. Here's an excerpt of what he has to say on his post about the video;

"Preparing for a Post Peak Life Video: Why You Should Prepare and How You Should Get Started" provides good explanations of Peak Oil, the economy, and basic preparations.

But don't count on jobs in the renewable energy sector, as those jobs will be among the first to disappear.

Also, the authors do not focus on the reality of a final power blackout and a fast collapse at some point. Richard Heinberg appears to forecast this collapse between now and 2030. I guesstimate the collapse will occur before 2020. After this, things will get "challenging."

We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, irrigation, water and waste water treatment, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems. This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html" - Clifford Wirth PhD

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Insulation -Just do it!

Here's the next installment from my articles for the Sheffield Star green pages.

As I said in my last post, insulation is essential. Once you have addressed air leaks your next best investment will be insulation. Primary areas to insulate are the loft, the walls, and the floor. If you are re-roofing be sure to get a layer of insulation installed under the tiles. This may need an air gap between it and the tiles as well. Additionally, you should insulate any hot water pipes that you can get to.

The Loft - If a loft renovation has been done and the actual flat space above the ceiling is minimal then doing more than 10 to 16 inches may not be worth it as the pitched portion of the roof will be the largest area of loss. If you are planning a loft renovation be sure to plan in a method to insulate the entire roof area. One solution is insulated drywall for the pitched sections, to avoid losing too much headroom, and at least 10 to 16 inches of recycled denim or cellulose insulation in the flat section. If you have a large flat area consider going up to 24 inches of depth for best performance. Be sure to fill all gaps while still allowing for eaves ventilation and cover the ceiling joists. Make sure you insulate all the flat spaces at floor level that are sealed off behind new walls. Typical payback periods for loft insulation will be short, particularly if you do it yourself or get a grant for it, in some cases as little as one winter.

The Walls - Most walls in England, particularly in older homes are stone or brick. Most brick walls built since the turn of the century, 19th to 20th, are built as two walls side by side. These are known as cavity walls. Stone walls, while thicker tend to be a single layer or solid.

Grants for cavity wall insulation are available and well worth the effort to get. Cavities should be filled with a waterproof insulation and due to the nature of the job will likely need to be done by a qualified contractor. If you are doing a renovation, have a look at your lintels. A single stone or concrete lintel that spans the cavity will act as a cold bridge, draining away heat from the inside. Plan to replace the single lintels with separated lintels.
If you have solid walls there are two options, insulate externally or insulate internally.

External, though more expensive, can be breathable and will allow the internal masonry to act as a heat store, known as thermal mass, and will not reduce the interior space. It will however change the appearance of the building. There are other issues with external insulation that you don’t face with internal. Roof overhangs will need to be addressed to insure that the top edge of the insulation is covered. A good time to do an external insulation job might be when you are replacing the roof. Also, external plumbing, guttering and wiring will have to be removed and rerouted afterwards to accommodate the extra thickness.

Internal insulation, typically achieved through the addition of a layer of insulated drywall, will require removal of floor and ceiling molding, skirting boards, and the remounting of electrical fixtures and outlets. Ideally, it should happen as you are installing double glazing as you will want to insulate reveals and lintels as well. It also means that you will lose interior space, in a small victorian terrace this may be a high price to pay. But this method will cost less than exterior insulation and can be accomplished on a room by room basis. Unfortunately, it will reduce thermal mass and won’t address cold bridging from external to internal walls. As you will be reducing the breathability of the walls you may encounter damp problems which can be addressed with a vapour barrier on the warm side of the insulation.

The Floor- While not the first priority for insulation as it is only responsible for up 20% of heat loss, once the loft is insulated and the cavity walls have been filled it is well worth doing. Plan on at least 8 to 10 inches of insulation between the floor joists. This is usually easily achieved in a a Victorian era house with a cellar. If you are doing a major renovation and replacing the floor be sure the insulation overlaps the wall insulation if internal.

Harris, C. and Borer, P. 1998 - The Whole House Book; Ecological Building Design and Materials 2nd edition

Monday, 13 April 2009

Benefits of air sealing and insulation

As I am in the middle of my series on green refurbishment of domestic residences for the Sheffield Star online green pages I have been keeping an eye out for relevant posts on my favorite blogs.

I've emphasized the importance of air sealing your house in these posts,

Post #7 Keep the cold out and the warmth in

Post #8 It's Cold Outside

I've started discussing insulation in this post,

Post #9 Insulation basics

Barry Katz over at "The Future is Green" blog has put up an excellent post on these topics and specifically covers payback periods on these simple, inexpensive, DIY technologies.
Here's an excerpt,

"Air-sealing and insulation can pay for themselves in as little as two years, and continue to pay dividends in the form of lower fuel bills.

Another advantage of upgrading our aging housing stock is that unlike the vast tracts of suburban sprawl that characterize new residential construction, older homes are often located in compact, walkable communities.

Revitalizing such neighborhoods strengthens a pattern of development that is far less dependent on the automobile and is therefore more sustainable." - Barry Katz

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Maintain Freedom to choose not to consume GM Bovine Growth Hormone tainted milk

"Contact Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and urge her to veto HB 2121 before April 16th. HB 2121 could potentiall restrict any national US dairy from properly labeling their milk products as free from genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST)." - Organic Consumers Association


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Bermuda Garden progress report

Today I leave for the US for a month. We've had fairly nice weather here in Bermuda but as usual for this time of year it has been very windy. We brought on our seedlings in some wine boxes that we could easily position around the yard to get sun but sheltered from the wind. Yesterday we transferred the last of the salad mixes, parsley, red royal lettuce, curly kale, lemon basil, jalapeno, bell peppers and some of the radishes into a raised bed I prepared earlier in the week.

Judy, the owner of the guest house, has been building a new raised bed out of the local limestone rocks. There is a dump nearby that only takes in horticultural waste and soil and composts it down. The resulting compost, mulch, and soil is free for the taking. We've now added about 4 car loads to the new bed and today will add the final load to top it off. I've also staked up the peppers to protect them from the wind. I used chopsticks we've saved from our sushi take out meals. While I'm gone Judy will plant and bring on more lettuce, onions, eggplant, spinach, swiss chard and regular basil. She'll also thin and plant the rest of the radishes, as well as build another raised bed and fill it.

In addition the leaf mould pile is growing while the compost pile is shrinking. It seems to break down faster than we can add to it.

This little experiment in urban agriculture is coming along nicely.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Conclusive proof of Global Warming

One of the most authoritative blogs on Climate Change is Joe Romm's "Climate Progress"
Check out his post on the latest evidence for Global Warming. It contains some excellent video footage.

Conclusive proof of Global Warming.