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

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Are you qualified or important enough to know about Peak Oil?

I find it astounding that while the IEA (International Energy Agency) dithers, obfuscates, and turns away from facing the realities of Peak Oil it is the US Military that is being straightforward about it!

"...the US Joint Forces Command concludes:

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD… The implications for future conflict are ominous..."

The implications for our way of life are even more ominous. Check out the rest of the article by Lionel Badal over at Seeking Alpha.

Here's some more of what the IEA is saying;
On the one hand,

"... in a recent interview to the British newspaper, The Independent[2], Dr. Birol was reported to say that the world was heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery.

The article added, “In an interview with The Independent, Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated”.

In fact, in 2008 the IEA conducted for the first time a detailed field-by-field analysis of global oil production and its findings are bleak. Asked by a journalist on what the previous analysis relied on, the Chief-Economist of the IEA admitted, “it was mainly an assumption[4]. In the 2008 World Energy Outlook (the key document on oil used by OECD countries), they have analysed about 800 fields, which account for ¾ of global reserves and more than 2/3 of global oil production. They come to the conclusion that decline rates are far higher than previously thought, between 6.7 and 8.6% a year[6]. As result, they now estimate that to maintain the current levels of oil production (about 85 MBD) by 2030 the world would need to develop and produce 45 MBD; as said by Dr. Fatih Birol, approximately four new Saudi-Arabias.

Simultaneously, they have analysed all the projects that are financially sanctioned in all the countries in the world (about 230) up to 2015. As it takes five to ten years to produce oil from a new field, they have a clear image of the coming situation. When they add all the projects together (if all of them see the light of the day – unlikely with the current credit crunch-) they will bring about 25 millions barrels per day. However, because of the important decline rates, the world will still be short of “at least” 12.5 MBD before 2015. Asked by a journalist if this means Peak Oil, Dr. Birol answered, “We are facing a serious threat

And on the other hand,

"Nevertheless, things are never clear when it comes to the IEA and Peak Oil, especially with Dr. Birol.

“Misquoted by the journalist…”

On the 27th of August, David Strahan, a British journalist, asked the IEA press office confirmation that the IEA recognised Peak Oil would happen “in about 10 years” as reported by The Independent.

Amazingly, an IEA spokesman (initially) answered:

I spoke with Fatih who said he was misquoted by the journalist…The article incorrectly made it sound that the total oil production (including unconventional oil etc.) is going to peak at that time. Taking into consideration gains from unconventional oil, oil peak will be later than 2020, more around 2030...

The first obvious question anyone would ask is: if Dr. Birol really was misquoted, why didn’t he issue an official statement when the article was published?

The answer may well be that he wasn’t really misquoted at all.....

Fatih Birol feels that the article was confusing. Concerning peak oil, his position is clear and has not changed since WEO 2008… Taking into consideration gains from unconventional oil, oil peak will be later than 2020, more around 2030….

To be sure, the Peak Oil sceptics, Daniel Yergin and Michael Lynch (who, by the way recently attacked Dr. Birol) will be delighted to hear that!....

And yet, Dr. Birol who seems to be particularly concerned about his career has become a master in playing something that could be described as a “double game” regarding Peak Oil. Depending on the moment (and most likely, the pressures he receives), he publicly admits or denies or admits or denies the seriousness of Peak Oil and its potential effects.

In June 2004 the BBC[20] supported this claim and gave additional information about who Dr. Birol really is.

In public, Mr Birol denied that supply would not be able to meet rising demand, especially from the buoyant economies in the USA, China and India. But after his speech he seemed to change his tune… When BBC News Online followed up by asking if this giant increase in production was actually possible rather than simply a desire he refused to answer. "You are from the press? This is not for you. This is not for the press."

Apparently, for Dr. Birol the (hard) truth is neither for the press nor for the public."

Meanwhile what are our leaders doing about preparing for Peak Oil....Diddly! And why not, when was the last time you heard it covered in the mainstream media? As with climate change the policy seems to be "what the people (the average Joe) don't know won't hurt us (the captains of industry)"

Friday, 30 October 2009

Video - How to Boil A Frog presents Anita Burke

Here's a quote from this dynamite lady from a recent conference in Vancouver.
“We need to localize and build resilient communities. The national and international process and system cannot move fas enough and nimbly enough to deliver on the agenda and the systems conditions that are rapidly bearing down upon us.This has to be resolved at the local level (emissions)... we need to do it at the municipal and the county and the provincial level. It will not happen fast enough in those other architectures. Not because people don’t have the will but because the bureaucratic process itself is inhibiting. ... We don’t have that kind of time.” - Anita Burke (former Shell Oil executive and physicist)

Video - Copenhagen Kids

"Six kids tell the world leaders how it is from the very room where the Climate Change talks will take place in December 2009."

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Write on Repower America's wall

I just did.

Check it out.

Video - CNN's Gupta: Sugary Drink Tax Needed

"Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells CNN 'American Morning' sugary drink tax needed to offset corn subsidies. "

Junk food taxes? An idea whose time has come.

To me there is nothing that more exemplifies the out of control consumer culture than the popularity of foods that directly negatively impact our health, even in small quantities. And there is nothing that represents that better than soft drinks. I find the word soft to be a misnomer because there is nothing soft about the effect these products have on our personal health, our out of control expenditures on health care, and the environment that is damaged in the production of such non food items. Marketed recently as "smart choices" by the food industry, a program now discredited and exposed as a sham, junk food is still subsidized in the farm bill and is therefore cheaper than real food. This is a disgrace. Let's look at just one example, bottled drinks.

Soda pop and all the other derivatives, such as fruit drinks, high energy drinks, bottled tea, vitamin drinks, athletic performance drinks, and any other concoction that is essentially a vehicle for selling sugar and or high fructose corn syrup are not food and shouldn't be treated as food.

Marketed in ever larger "single" serving sizes, 33.8 fluid ounces of a typical soda contains 28 teaspoons of sugar! A study from UCLA center for health policy research indicates that, regardless of ethnicity or income, adults who drink one or more soda a day are 27% more likely to be obese or overweight. On average, Americans drink 50 gallons of soda/person/year. Granted some of that is diet soda but there are plenty of studies indicating that most of the chemical poisons used to artificially sweeten these brews have health impacts of their own.

These products are patently unhealthy, much like alcoholic drinks (now being marketed like soft drinks) and tobacco. Look around you, how many overweight people do you see? We tax those products to help pay for the damage they cause to society, why not tax junk food? A good place to start would be soda pop.

The costs to society of obesity and diabetes brought on by excessive consumption of sugary foods is staggering! There is even evidence to suggest that obesity worsens global warming; the products that cause it are produced by industrial agriculture almost exclusively with it's huge carbon footprint, heavy people use more energy in transportation and heating and cooling costs, etc.... I'm not trying to vilify fat people here. There are those, industry hacks mostly, who say we should leave this problem up to personal choice. It is obvious that isn't working. And anyway, taxing doesn't remove the products from the market, the true limitation on personal choice, it merely ties the true costs of the product to the product itself.

Industry fights this at every turn, whether it is the "externalities" of environmental devastation, reduced ecosystem services, impacts on infrastructure, or health care costs. The corporate interests have been feeding at the public trough for too long, profiting at the expense of the commons, or as Paul Hawken says " stealing from the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP." But it is worse than that, they are stealing from the present, ruining lives and the economy, all for short term gain. Why do we continue to let those with a vested interest, getting rich off our misery, control policy?

It is high time the beverage industry pays it's fair share of the health costs it causes, a soda tax of a penny an ounce would provide upwards of $150,000,000,000 (that's billion) over the next ten years. This could be earmarked to support the health care costs of the obese and diabetic. Many health policy experts support this idea.

Check out the NPR story on this, it's where I got the figures for this post.

Soda Tax Could Shake Up Industry

Were you raised on soda, can't seem to quit? I like a sweet acidic drink now and again, here is my solution (pun intended);
4 drops of stevia, a splash of local fruit juice, a splash of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, some ice, and top up with filtered rain water. MMmm good!

Friday, 23 October 2009


I found this over at Climate Progress;

Video - Vulnerable Customers and Fuel Poverty

"A short film concentrating on one group of vulnerable customers - the elderly, and how fuel poverty is affecting them. "

Fuel Poverty Worsens in the UK

As the days grow short, the evenings cold and winter heads our way it is distressing to hear that fuel poverty in the UK is worsening. Fuel poverty is defined as when 10% or more of the income is spent on gas and electricity. Recent research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change indicates that due to rising prices of domestic energy, an 80% increase between 2004 and 2008, the numbers of households in the UK falling into fuel poverty rose by just over 14% to 4 million in 2007. The majority of these households are considered “vulnerable”; those that contain the elderly, children or somebody who is disabled or has a long term illness. The numbers in fuel poverty are expected to rise. In 2009 DECC expects the number to rise to 4.6 million households in England alone.

As I write this the price of oil is over $80/bbl, the highest it’s been all year. As oil price rises everything produced with oil, which is virtually everything we use or consume in daily lie, will also increase in price. So at the same time that domestic energy is costing more and driving households into fuel poverty they will also be hit by rising food prices, rising transport prices, rising prices for consumer goods. Of course this is also hitting at a time when unemployment is high and spare cash is short. The UK is in the worst recession for over 50 years.

For some this may mean doing without luxury items like cars, ipods, and new clothes. For others it may entail doing more home cooking and less eating out. But for those in vulnerable households this situation can be life threatening. This is a time for communities to look after each other. If you can help someone in a vulnerable household to seal up some drafts, or arrange to get their house insulated under the various efforts offered by the government, please do so.

Government efforts are increasing. I especially like the new program to provide hard pressed families a whole house energy makeover. You can learn more about the next steps being taken by government go to the Department of Energy and Climate Change website.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Video - Economics & Government : What Is Environmental Economics?

"Environmental economics is the study of how the environment impacts the economy, because traditional economics doesn't account for externalities. Discover how environmental economics tries to incorporate externalities into assessing total economic impacts with help from an online campaign manager in this free video on environmental economics."

The hidden costs of burning fossil fuels

Figures from 2005 (from a report to Congress from US National Research council);

$120 billion from power generation, $62 billion of which is from burning coal and $56 billion of which from oil related to motor vehicle use.

The NRC report left out 3 big items in their research; Climate Change, Ecosystem Destruction, and National Security. Here's what the report over at Care2Causes has to say about those.

"Ecosystem destruction

Fossil fuel extraction is hugely polluting. Whether we are talking about blowing the tops off mountains to expose coal seams or drilling for oil, the process releases all sorts of pollutants into the surrounding environment. In spite of claims by drilling companies that they are a new generation of responsible extractors, there are still regular accidents, spills, and ridiculous practices like dumping mining debris into stream beds.

National security

Proceeds from oil is funding unstable nations, dictators, and terrorists all over the world. It would be extremely hard for the NRC to parse out exactly what percentage of U.S. military involvement or domestic security costs are related to oil, but it is related.

Climate change

Costs associated with climate change have the potential to dwarf all others.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,

Four global warming impacts alone -- hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs -- will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today's dollars) by 2100.

Now what?

We could, and no doubt the fossil fuel industry will, pick apart the NRC analysis all day, but they make a big important point with this figure: Our energy production costs far more than the figure on the utility bill and those costs must be considered.

Last March, President Obama called on Congress to pass a bill that "makes clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy." Renewable energy is at an economic disadvantage because fossil fuel energies have received generous direct government subsidies and been allowed to foist their real costs on the greater society for a hundred years. Senators Kerry and Boxer recently introduced a bill that should start to shift us away from dirty fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. If you have already signed the petition supporting the bill, please tell your friends to do the same."

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Video - NWF Climate Scientist on Latest Sea Level Rise Models

"Dr. Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation climate scientist, discusses the latest data on global warming's impact on sea levels, learn more at nwf.org/globalwarming "

Sea level rise and you

As the coast of North Carolina disappears beneath the waves the population of the area will need to relocate. Whether it be next year due to storm surge on top of sea level rise or 20 years down the line due to sea level rise itself there will be an ever increasing inevitable exodus from low lying coastal areas. My wife and I have purchased rental properties far inland just shy of the foothills of the Appalachians. We are counting on inland property values going up as the population shifts our direction, not to mention that all those folks will need somewhere to live. Do you think we are premature in this calculation? Consider this.

"... ocean levels are set to rise dramatically. According to UCLA scientists, the last time carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are today was 15 million years ago. At that time, the sea level was between 20 and 36 metres higher (75 to 120 feet), there was no permanent ice cap in the arctic, and very little ice in Antarctica or Greenland. That is where we are headed.", as reported over at Culture Change by Keith Farnish and Dmitry Orlov.

So the question is, how soon are we going to see significant sea level rise? Again from the Culture change article;

"There are two schools of thought, but they basically come down to when the temperature of Greenland increases by either 4°C or 8°C above the mean global average of the last 100 years.

Four degrees... haven’t we seen that first figure before? In fact, a global rise of 4 degrees corresponds to a considerably larger rise of Arctic temperatures: conventionally this is between 5 and 6 degrees, but if you look at the 2009 Hadley Centre forecasts, a global rise of 4 degrees actually corresponds to an 8 degree rise across much of Greenland. Pick any number you like, but Greenland is melting."

There is also the considerable mass of the Antarctic ice sheet to consider. As temperature increases are largest at the poles we can't leave Antarctica out of the equation.

"The WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) is largely below sea level, having over several million years pushed down and scoured out the bedrock beneath it, but because of its huge area, the part of it that is above water still manages to comprise around 10% of the total Antarctic ice volume. If this were to melt then the oceans would rise by another 5 metres, in addition to the thermal expansion of 1.4 metres, plus whatever has been sloughed off the Greenland ice sheet, giving us 13.6 metres, or close to 45 feet."

We've been hearing for years about the breakup of huge sea ice shelves in Antarctica and while these don't raise sea levels they have been serving as a plug on land ice movement to the sea. This means the land ice is accelerating towards it's watery doom, presaging the doom of our coastal cities.

But combining all the science which deals with one or another sea level raising effect is difficult and there is no consensus on an accurate forecast at this time. One researcher says .82 meters another 1.3 meters by 2100. But remember that scientists are conservative folk and their forecast reflect this, even more so when governments get their hands on them, as in the case of the IPCC. The eventual outcome is what's important.

"We know where we are going to end up eventually: at least 20 metres (65 feet) higher. The one thing we still do not know is how long it will take for us to get there.

We could keep waiting for the scientific community to settle on a consensus forecast, but this may take so long that it will have to be delivered through a snorkel. However, we can already observe that the doubling period of scientific climate forecasts is uncomfortably short, and, to provide for a margin of safety, we should at least double the latest estimates. If the latest forecast is for 2 metres this century, let us assume that we will see at least 4, and plan accordingly.

But do the exact forecasts even matter? We already know enough to say that there is a high probability that ocean levels will rise, significantly, within the lifetimes of most of the people alive today, disrupting the patterns of daily life for much of the world's population, which tends to be clustered along the coastlines and the navigable waterways. We also know that ocean levels will continue to rise far into the future, until they are 20 to 36 metres higher than they are today. We know that continuous coastal erosion and salt water inundation, coastal flooding and displacement of coastal populations, which number in the billions, toward higher ground, will be normal and expected. We also know that there is a high chance these changes will occur based on present carbon dioxide levels, regardless of what is being currently proposed by the governments of the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

I personally believe that if I'm given a normal lifespan of 70 years or more I will see at least a meter of sea level rise. I'm hanging on to my investments in property ... far inland. What's your plan?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Video - New Solar Powered Clothes Dryer - The Clothesline

Save the Clotheslines!

Not much gives me more moderate grade pleasure than hanging my laundry out in the fresh breeze and sunshine. I enjoy the doing of it, I enjoy knowing my clothes will smell fresh and clean, I enjoy knowing that I myself haven't used a tumble dryer in well over a year, knowing that a tumble dryer can account for upwards of 10% or more of household electricity usage and it's attendant carbon emissions. Among my friends I've been advocating for the abolition of tumble dryers for some time now but it seems there are still communities that remain in the stone/dirty coal age when it comes to drying clothes. Indeed, it is still ILLEGAL! to use a clothesline in some places.

This has prompted some states to ban the ban, as reported over at Care2 Causes by Beth B.

"You are officially invited to join the fight to legalize it...again. No, we're not talking about the smokable plant that's gotten so many politicians in hot water. We're talking about the good old fashioned clothes line.

As families all over the nation seek out different ways to reduce their carbon footprint and save money by using less energy, many have decided to return to hanging their clothes outside to dry them. However, many have met with great disappointment when homeowner's associations and community management services have told them the lines are not allowed.

Treehugger.com reports that, "hanging clotheslines was against the rules in so many communities nationwide that state governments are being forced to step in and make it against the law to ban them. And states like Vermont and Utah have already succeeded. But the fight for the right to hang clotheslines is just getting started."

Friday, 16 October 2009

Video - The Connection Show - Organic, Local, Farming (Ep103)

"Hear the stories of farmers growing organic and sustainable produce in South Carolina.(Part 1) www.theconnectionshow.org "

World Food Day - Organic Is the Answer to Food Security

"Organic agriculture puts the needs of rural people and the sustainable use of natural resources at the centre of the farming system. Locally adapted technologies create employment opportunities and income. Low external inputs minimize risk of indebtedness and intoxication of the environment. It increases harvests through practices that favor the optimization of biological processes and local resources over expensive, toxic and climate damaging agro-chemicals...in response to a frequently asked question: Yes, the world can be fed by the worldwide adoption of Organic agriculture. The slightly lower yields of Organic agriculture in favorable, temperate zones are compensated with approximately 10-20% higher yields in difficult environments such as arid areas." - International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements World Food Day, October 12, 2009

Read more at Organic Consumers Association.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Video - Transition Westcliff - Life After Oil

"Transition Westcliff is an exploration of how the people of Westcliff on Sea and the surrounding area including Southend, Prittlewell, Leigh, Shoeburyness, Eastwood and Thorpe Bay can prepare for a carbon constrained, energy lean world. TW is a community-led initiative which is working towards the creation of an Energy Descent Action Plan for the town. The thinking behind TW is simply that a town using much less energy and resources than we presently consume could, if properly planned for and designed, be more resilient, more abundant and more pleasurable than the present. "

Transition Bermuda update

Our efforts to get a Transition Initiative started in Bermuda are bearing fruit. Our steering committee has grown by 1/3, from 2 to 3! We have expressions of interest from more and more folks and requests to present our short talk are starting to come in.

For those of you who don't know. Transition is about planning a path to resilience in the face of the challenges presented by the hydrocarbon twins, peak oil and climate change. We try to avoid debating the truth of both, rather to focus on practical actions that can lead to an energy descent action plan. One example is the nut tree project in Totnes, the first transition town.

When Totnes was looking for a project that embodies resilience and local economy they decided to become the Nut Tree Capital of Britain. Some of the trees are now bearing fruit. Here is an excerpt from Rob Hopkins blog, Transition Culture, on the topic;

"Over 100 trees have now been planted, most of them having a ‘guardian’, whose job it is to keep an eye on them. In one park, a line of 3 almond trees, it turned out, have begun to bear fruit!...Of course Totnes is not going to ever provide the bulk of its carbohydrates from nuts, but it could be a significant contribution. My mission for the next couple of weeks is to work out how much of a contribution the trees already planted will make when fully grown. It’ll be interesting to see how many more trees we need to plant! For now though I can relax safe in the knowledge that even if TTT ceases to exist in the morning, future generations will be able to feast on almond, walnuts and chestnuts planted during the early years of the great Transition."

In searching for an initial project for Transition Bermuda we seem to be in agreement that it should be focused on local food. I've suggested a linkup with the National Trust to establish historically authentic kitchen gardens on several of their properties. I'm sure whatever we decide upon will involve growing food as the majority of our personnel are involved in growing food at some level.

At our next meeting we intend to show the video "The Power of Community- How Cuba Survived Peak Oil". We'll probably also do our short talk on PO, CC and Transition if there are new folks present.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Video - Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification

This groundbreaking NRDC documentary explores the startling phenomenon of ocean acidification, which may soon challenge marine life on a scale not seen for tens of millions of years. The film, featuring Sigourney Weaver, originally aired on Discovery Planet Green.

Our Oceans need our help

image from BBC news online

I grew up on a small island off the coast of Georgia, nothing exotic, it was a typical coastal suburb. I had my own boat and or access to boats from an early age. I learned to swim, sail, surf, and pilot a small shrimping rig with my father. One of my favorite moments in shrimping was pulling in the net. It was a small net and we made very short shallow drags, as a result the creatures we brought up were in good shape. It was usually my job to sort out the shrimp for keeping and to return the by catch, though we didn't know that term back then, to the sea. I don't recall ever returning the fish, crabs, oysters, periwinkles and the occasional sea turtle in less than healthy condition. Of course, I was young and not a marine biologist, it could be that those creatures were stressed the point of death but they all seemed pretty healthy to me. I was fascinated with the diversity in life in our estuarine home.

But all was not good. We saw crab kills in the tidal inlet we lived on as a result of over application of pesticides in the neighborhood, wholesale destruction of the the marsh habitat, one of the most fecund on earth, in the name of residential development, and perhaps the worst was the careless development of our island and surrounding islands. Housing replaced pond based egret and spoonbill rookeries as well as ancient groves of live oak, saw palmetto, and pine. Bio diversity plummeted, the blue heron, spoonbills, osprey and pelicans disappeared. Raccoon, possum, and white tail deer pushed out of their forest habitat, moved into the neighborhoods and were generally shot or run down by cars.

But as the fledgling environmental movement gained steam, controls on development and marsh destruction were put in place, DDT was banned and it's effects began to disappear. The area now hosts populations of osprey, blue heron and pelicans. Last time I was there I even saw an otter! Development continues but there are some protections in place for biodiversity, on land at least. But what about the oceans? Sure we may have reduced our assault from individual sites but we have drastically increased the number of sites. Indeed, all indications are that the oceans of our one and only planet are in deep trouble.

In an interview with Worldchanging the eminent oceanographer Sylvia Earle describes;

"the two-pronged assault on the seas: what we are pulling out of the oceans, through unfettered industrial fishing, and what we are putting into the oceans through pollutants, fertilizers, and growing amounts of carbon dioxide that are leading to a dangerous acidification of the sea....how the current system of aquaculture — in which carnivorous predators such as salmon are raised — is folly, and how the massive influx of carbon dioxide into the world’s oceans is altering a precious balance that has existed for millions of years....

The world’s oceans, Earle concludes, can still be redeemed, but only through swift and decisive action.

“We get to choose,” she told e360 senior editor Fen Montaigne. “We either get to choose by conscious action or by default because we are complacent... thinking somebody else will look after this. But nobody else will take care of these issues.”

What amazes me about this situation is that we continue to do exactly that, we assume it is someone elses problem. I myself am guilty, having recently purchased organic farmed salmon for dinner parties. I, like everyone of us needs to become conscious consumers. I've stopped purchasing tuna altogether mostly because of the levels of mercury but also out ignorance about the source. I've heard that bluefin tuna are nearing extinction and I don't want to contribute to their demise. As Dr. Earle says;

"Even now some believe that actually the ocean is limitless in its capacity to yield whatever we want to take. But we should have learned with whales. We should have learned with wildlife on the land that we have the power — through both our numbers and our technologies — to be able to find, kill, extract and market, to decimate, anything that swims in the ocean.

e360: I know that there have been studies showing that many of the top ocean predators may be down by as much as 90 percent.

Earle: And more. [With] bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic... we’re down by 90 percent. Of course, we weren’t trying to exterminate them. All of these learned minds were directed toward trying to find a magic balance of sustainability, which turned out to be a big illusion. Look at tuna... we’re still killing them. Amazingly, we haven’t come to the realization that, like the whales, if you want them to recover from severe depletion, stop killing them. Just stop!

And here’s the thing, it’s not to feed starving millions of people, it’s to feed a luxury appetite [Sushi]. We can be the agents of destruction or we can be the agents of a positive change. It’s up to us

We don’t have a lot of time. Maybe we’ve already signed the death warrant, the extinction warrant, for bluefin tuna. But because there are still some there, there’s cause for hope. But not if we keep killing them." (follow the link above to read the entire interview)

What is preventing us from bringing the bluefin tuna back from the brink? Clearly it is demand, consumerism, and greed. Shy of strong international governmental efforts we can at least personally stop eating bluefin tuna. I think the worlds navies should be tasked with enforcing much stronger fisheries regulation.

But the damage we are causing fisheries goes beyond threatening us with starvation due to species extinction, we are upsetting the very chemical balance of the ocean and compromising it's ability to sequester carbon in a healthy manner.

Again from Dr. Earle;

"Fish, every living thing, is a carbon container. By extracting millions of tons of ocean wildlife, it’s like clear-cutting forests. You have removed the carbon-based units.

But this destruction of the great ocean food web, the destruction of the habitats in the sea, the dredging, the trawling, that [alters] these finely tuned systems that have developed over literally hundreds of millions of years... We call it the great green engine that generates oxygen and takes up carbon dioxide at a point that is just right for life. But our actions in just a little slim period of time have so altered the nature of nature.

You have to think pretty hard about what we are doing and change our ways. And part of it relates to what we are doing to the sea, what we are taking out — the carbon based units that we are removing and the structure of the ecosystem in the seas that holds the planet steady."

We are wholly dependent upon healthy oceans for our very survival.

What is our government planning do about it? The following is from the Care2Causes website by LiAnna D;

"Have you ever enjoyed America's coast lines, oceans or Great Lakes? ... Then support the conclusions of an Obama Administration task force that our oceans must be protected today.

... President Obama said, ""We have a stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lakes resources for the benefit of this and future generations." ... he established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, headed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

... Currently, our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes are managed by more than 140 different and often conflicting laws, which leads to poor management and even worse problems.

Pollution, habitat loss, overfishing and climate change provide additional challenges. What we really need is one unifying national policy that will protect, maintain, and restore the health of our ocean ecosystems.

That's what the Task Force has developed. A Christian Science Monitor article explains:

At its core, the plan would set up a new National Ocean Council to guide a holistic "ecosystem-based" approach intended to elevate and unify what has long been a piecemeal approach by US agencies toward ocean policy and development -- from oil and gas exploration to fisheries management to ship transportation to recreation. ...

Among the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force's national objectives were:

1. Ecosystem-based management as a foundational principle for comprehensive management of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.
2. Coastal and marine spatial planning to resolve emerging conflicts to ensure that shipping lanes and wind, wave, and oil and gas energy development do not harm fisheries and water quality.
3. Improved coordination of policy development among federal state, tribal, local, and regional managers of ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes.
4. Focus on resiliency and adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification.
5. Pay special attention to policies needed to deal with changing arctic conditions.

All decisions, the interim report says, will be based on the "best available science." ... it needs your support today!

The comment period will end on October 17 -- so get your comment in today! Support the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force's plan to ensure our oceans and Great Lakes are healthy for inhabitants today and for generations to come. "

So please, follow the link and register your support for this important effort.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Video - Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute

Permaculture, self reliance and growing your own.

It's clear that folks are going back to small farming, growing their own and providing their communities with quality local produce. As reported on Associated Press by Rick Callahan;

"February's census report found that the number of farms under 50 acres soared nearly 15 percent between 2002 and 2007 to about 853,000 nationwide. Farms under 10 acres grew even more, with their numbers rising about 30 percent to 232,000.

Nearly 300,000 new farms began production since the last census in 2002, and they tended to have fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm, said Ginger Harris, a demographer with National Agricultural Statistics Service, a branch of the USDA."

As communities and individuals turn towards the technologies of self reliance and resilience such as local food production, local energy production, support of local small business, and reduced reliance on debt, there is great potential for transformative change towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Many already on this transformative path are turning to Permaculture for signposts along the way.

As defined on the Permaculture Institute site Permaculture is;

" an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more."

Using an ecosystems approach in planting, water management, resource cycling, animal management, and even the very design of the human presence in the landscape creates a highly efficient, low labour lifestyle.
Geoff Lawton, an Australian Permaculturist, from an interview on CNN;

"A good organic farmer works a thousand hours a year. The industrial mankind works two thousand to three thousand hours a year. What do we have to show for it? Gadgets.
We don't have community, we don't have clean water, clean air or sensible housing. As negative as we currently are, we can be equally positive," Lawton said. "It's not just self-reliance or self-sufficiency, it's absolute abundance."

Sound good?
Follow the links in this post to check it out in detail.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


I've tried to stay our of the health care debate for the most part. I assumed that after all was said and done there would be a massive handout to the insurance industry but the package would include a public option that would serve to reign in the worst of their profit mongering at the expense of the sick. Now it seems they have achieved their hearts desire, the public option may not be an option but we will be required to purchase health insurance from the very corporate bandits that have brought us to this impasse!

So I am wading in on the issue. Here we are coming up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit and what are we doing, arguing about whether or not every American should have access to compassionate, affordable health care! Would anyone disagree with that? Of course not, so what are we waiting for.

The facts are that the most popular and dependable health care service in the country is Medicare, a government run program. The least popular are the plans run by insurance companies because they are only in it for the money, their plans have higher administrative expenses than medicare and you can't depend on them for coverage. Prior to the financial meltdown the most common cause for home default and foreclosure in America was medical expenses, and the majority of those people had health insurance!

The solution is obvious, countries with public health care pay less for it and have higher quality care. Remove the profit motive from health care, it is clearly ruining lives, if not outright killing people. It is immoral to profit from the suffering of others. We Need A Public Option!

Video - Alan Grayson: "If the President has a BLT tomorrow, the Republicans will try to ban bacon."

Clearly, allowing insurance companies to continue to call the shots is not workable. Without compassionate affordable healthcare the health of major portions of the population of the US is likely unsustainable. According to the Harvard study Mr. Grayson mentions in the video over 48,000 Americans die each year due to lack of health care. And now they want to require us to have health insurance without a public option. That is just corporate welfare in the extreme. WE NEED A PUBLIC OPTION!

We have more important fish to fry, like Climate change and Peak Oil, and can't afford to waste any more of our time and resources lining the pockets of insurance company executives and shareholders. Get it done and move on!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Video - Break Up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

"Green" companies still supporting US Chamber psuedoscience.

The US Chamber of Commerce represents, to me at least, unbridled consumerism, the erosion of personal rights in favor of corporate power, and the kind of business ethic that has created sprawl, traffic congestion, and an unstable debt based economy. As reported over at Climate Progress, companies are leaving other denier organizations;

PG&E, the major west coast energy supplier has issued this statement,

"We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another...."

I've posted before about green consumerism, greenwashing, and corporate sponsored media deception, and even a recent post on the companies leaving the US Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber's devotion to 19th century business principles. But what about the companies that are sticking with the Chamber and it's psuedoscience?

Several companies that have worked hard to gain "green" reputation seem unwilling to take the chamber to task. As reported over at Mother Jones;

"According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, at least 18 remaining members of the Chamber’s board publicly support federal climate policy. Bruce Freed, the president of the Center for Public Accountability, a shareholder activism group, is urging them to distance themselves from the Chamber. "Where there is a fundamental disagreement with company values, with company business strategies," he says, "companies really do need to act on that. Its a matter of companies holding their trade associations accountable."

The article goes on to discuss 6 major "green" companies that are sticking with the Chamber of Denial;
  • "PNC Financial Services

The nation’s fifth largest bank, PNC controls a whopping $291 billion in assets, including a 35 percent stake in the high-profile investment group BlackRock. ... “Over the past decade, we’ve become one of the most active companies in the nation when it comes to doing good for the environment,” says the PNC website. ... BlackRock recently signed a statement calling for a global climate treaty that would slash emissions by 50 to 80 percent by 2050. “As one of the most progressive green companies in the nation,” PNC says, “we’re constantly looking for new ways to help the environment.”

Except, apparently, when it comes to using its considerable leverage inside the US Chamber of Commerce. ...

  • Alpha Technologies Inc.

Alpha Technologies Inc, a member of the Chamber’s board of directors, manufactures solar panels that it says address the “growing concern” over climate change. Is Alpha concerned enough to raise a stink on the Chamber's board? An Alpha spokesman didn’t return repeated calls. ...

  • Duke Energy

Duke Energy, the large southern electric utility, is one of at least seven Chamber members—six of them members of the board--that are also members of the US Climate Action Partnership, a group that wrote the framework for the Waxman-Markey climate bill. According to an anonymous source, several of these USCAP members sat down recently with Chamber president Tom Donohue to ask him to change the Chamber’s climate stance but were rebuffed. USCAP members PG&E, Excelon, and PNM Resources later quit the Chamber. But Duke Energy, General Electric, ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, Siemens Corporation, Dow, and Alcoa have stayed on.

... Last month, the utility earned kudos from environmentalists when it quit the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry front group. “We believe ACCCE is constrained by influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010,” the company said in a statement. Duke also cited differences over climate policy in leaving the National Association of Manufacturers earlier this year. But though the Chamber is likewise unlikely to back a climate bill, Duke is sitting tight.

“We think it’s important to stay a member because we do agree on some things,” said Duke Energy spokesman Tom Williams. ...

  • Siemens Corporation

The front page of Siemens’ website features a panoramic photograph of windmills on a grassy plain. Clicking on the image reveals a US map studded with examples of the company’s work to save the planet: building the Smart Grid, helping a Manhattan skyscraper use 30 percent less energy than its neighbors, and, of course, manufacturing wind turbines. “We’re convinced that policymakers and industry alike must address climate change by actively pursuing integrated strategies,” says Siemens’ 2008 sustainability report. .... Siemens, unlike some other members of USCAP, hasn’t publicly confronted or disavowed the Chamber’s approach. Of course, Siemens is also in the business of constructing oil drilling rigs and pipelines. A company spokesman did not return a call.

  • General Electric

General Electric's Ecoimagination campaign is much more than a marketing gimmick. Last year, its 80 climate-friendly Ecoimagination products--everything from wind turbines to halogen light bulbs--generated $17 billion in revenues. Next year GE plans to boost those earnings to $25 billion while investing $1.5 billion in cleaner R&D. It has also pledged to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions 1 percent below 2004 levels by 2012. "Climate change requires a long-term path for significantly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions," GE says on its website. "Developing more energy- and fuel-efficient products and technologies is an important step, as is rethinking our own operations to use resources wisely."

But does rethinking its own operations include its use of the Chamber of Commerce? "We don't see the sense of urgency that we believe is necessary in their views on climate legislation," spokesman Peter O'Toole said, but added that GE didn't want to leave the group because its agrees with its stance on health care and financial regulation. He also pointed out that many of GE's industrial customers burn coal and other fossil fuels.

Asked if GE sits on the Chamber's 60-member Energy and Environment committee, which is supposed to oversee its climate policies, O'Toole didn't know. "If the answer is yes, I would 100 percent guarantee. . .that we advocate loudly and vigorously in any meeting of the Chamber for urgent action on the climate," he said. After pledging to investigate GE's membership on the committee and the actions it took there, he never called back.

  • Johnson & Johnson

In May Johnson & Johnson and Nike sent a letter to the Chamber asking it to refrain from speaking about climate change unless its comments reflect "the full range of views" of its members. Yet the Chamber went right on speaking out against climate legislation while insisting that it represented "more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region." Exasperated, Nike quit the Chamber's board late last month in a strongly-worded letter. Johnson & Johnson's response has been more tepid.

Johnson & Johnson exhibited courage in challenging the powerful Chamber, but that might not be enough for its more eco-minded customers. Presumably, it's still funding the Chamber's activities through its dues. A non-irritating baby shampoo is nice. Seeing that baby inherit a non-irritating climate is even better."

Whether or not these companies deserve the "green" label was quite debatable prior to this revelation and the decision to stand firm with the backward looking Chamber further erodes confidence in their commitment to addressing climate change. I give them credit for their efforts thus far but they need to take the next step and join the exodus from the US Chamber of Commerce. If they are unwilling to do so it would seem that their efforts are really about profit, not the health of the climate.

You can take a stand on this issue and sign a petition that thanks APPLE computer for standing up to the US Chamber of Commerce and repudiating its shameful stance.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Video - Peak Oil Visually Explained

Is Peak Oil going mainstream?

This morning as the alarm switched the radio on I was surprised to hear on the BBC that a new report from the UK Energy Research Centre found a signifcant risk from Global Peak Oil and questioning why governments never talk about it. Tuning my television to BBC World I found mention of the report again, if only on the scrolling banner at the bottom of the screen. "This is encouraging" I thought.

After finally drinking my morning cuppa and checking on the days weather forecast, while wading through reams of twaddle on US news channels with no mention of the report or Peak Oil, I sat down to my computer and what do I see? A report over at Climate Progress about the statements from Deutsche Bank that they expect oil to hit $175/bbl by 2016 and the effects resulting from such a price. In his analysis Joe Romm also mentions a statement from Merrill Lynch,

"Steep falls in oil production means the world now needed to replace an amount of oil output equivalent to Saudi Arabia’s production every two years, Merrill Lynch said in a research report."

As the chart above shows this ain't gonna happen!

What interests me the most about this Peak Oil focused start to my day is that it is suddenly so visible, on some reputable mainstream media. Will it make a difference? Is Peak Oil going mainstream? Probably Not. Here's the closing statement for the BBC website about the UK report,

This report does not contain new research, but is a review of data already available.

But the authors say the risk presented by global oil depletion deserves much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.

"Much existing research focuses upon the economic and political threats to oil supply security and fails to either assess or to effectively integrate the risks presented by physical depletion," they argue.

"This has meant that the probability and consequences of different outcomes has not been adequately assessed."

Despite the evidence, the report notes with some surprise that the UK government rarely mentions the issue in official publications."

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Video - Just a little fun - If Star Wars was written by enviromentalists

I couldn't help myself.

The potential of the US wind resource

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0 (free download) told NPR's Ira Flatow on Science Friday (listen to the whole interview on my audio player above)

"We've known for nearly 20 years now that 3 states, N Dakota, Kansas, and Texas have enough harnessable wind energy, to satisfy not only the national electricity needs but national energy needs."

Is it any wonder BIG oil and dirty coal is spending millions lobbying for protection against climate legislation? Once Manhattan starts going under, after Miami FL, Savannah GA (my home town), the outer banks of the NC are lost to a storm surge on top of sea level rise, when climate refugees are a fact of life not just in Bangladesh but in the US, dirty coal is doomed. Because at that point people will finally realize that using their tumble dryer instead of a clothes line really isn't a sacrifice whereas losing coastal cities certainly is, that growing veggies in an organic garden makes so much more sense than having a petrochemical dumping ground called a lawn. The problem is that by that point it will be too late.

Video - Greenpeace - How cattle ranching is destroying the Amazon rainforest

Land use, climate change and our future.

As a species, aside from the few remaining hunter gatherer tribes lucky enough to have been allowed to continue their ancestral ways, humans are completely dependent on agriculture.We rely on our inheritance of rich productive soil to produce not only food but also clothing, animal feed, turf, timber, and transport fuel. In the process we have mined and depleted our soils, depleted and polluted our precious aquifers and surface waters, created dead zones in our oceans. Additionally, we have seriously compromised biodiversity, upon which we depend for our very survival, through monocrop agriculture and deforestation to bring more land into agricultural production. In so doing we have created a industry that feeds poisons into the land destroying the delicate balance of healthy soil while simultaneously removing the animals from the land, thus depriving it of natural fertilisers and creating a massive waste problem from feedlot meat production.

It is clear that the system of industrial agriculture upon which we depend is itself dependent upon cheap, climate destroying, fossil fuels. As reported over at Worldchanging by Jonathan Foley, agriculture when taken as a whole, including deforestation, is responsible for at least 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Mr. Foley reports that;

"The list of environmental impacts from agricultural land use goes on and on — and clearly threatens human well-being and the health of the biosphere as much as global warming. In fact, in a recent paper in Nature, a number of us documented “planetary boundaries" where large-scale environmental changes could result in catastrophic tipping points. Of those changes, an equal number were tied to climate change and CO2 emissions as were connected to land-use and agriculture.

From these newly revealed facts, it’s clear that we must consider multiple inconvenient truths. The future of our civilization and our planet requires that we simultaneously address the grand challenges of climate change and land use, ultimately finding new ways to meet the needs of our economy, our security and the environment. Anything less will be a complete catastrophe."

Vandana Shiva offers a solution. 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."

As we face the challenges of climate change with it's expected impacts on agriculture we are doing so with a weakened toobox. Couple this with the expected increases in human population and it is clear that the demands on agriculture will increase as we try to feed more people with a dwindling resource base. Here is Mr. Foley's take on that;

"Bridge the artificial divide between production agriculture and environmental conservation. We cannot solve these problems by boosting agricultural production at the expense of the environment, nor can we ignore the growing need for food in the name of preserving natural ecosystems. Instead, we must find ways to simultaneously increase production of our agricultural systems while greatly reducing their environmental impacts. This is not going to be easy. Yet, drawing on the lessons from recent research, including the successes and failures of local organic practice, combined with the efficiency and scalability of commercial agriculture, will be crucial. In recent years, for example, U.S. farmers — working with agricultural experts — have dramatically improved practices in the corn and soybean belt, cutting down on erosion, nutrient loss, and groundwater pollution, even as yields have continued to increase. As a first step, advocates of environmental conservation, organic farming and commercial agriculture all need to put down their guns and work toward solving the problems of food security and the environment — with everyone at the table.

Providing for the basic needs of 9 billion-plus people, without ruining the biosphere in the process, will be one of the greatest challenges our species has ever faced. It will require the imagination, determination and hard work of countless people from all over the world, embarked on one of the noblest causes in history."

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Video - The Story of Stuff

GHG Emissions from products and packaging

I try to purchase local food as much as possible. Unfortunately, the local farms aren't producing much produce and thus the farmers market is not running. So I am left to shop in the supermarkets for largely imported food. I find it frustrating that there are very few items I can purchase that are not delivered to the shops in some sort of packaging. The one exception is local banana's. They come in their own packaging. I try to avoid plastic packaging as it cannot be recycled here in Bermuda, but still leave the shop with some unwanted plastic.
I rarely purchase anything other than food.

Before we left Britain this time I went through all my stuff and got rid of as much as I could in preparation for moving to America in the spring. I gave away my Mac desktop computer, I gave away my printer, I sold some climbing gear, I recycled a few old cell phones (they had all been given to me when the previous owners upgraded), sent some clothes to thrift shops. But I am shocked at how much stuff I brought away from Bermuda when we left 3 years ago and collected over that time in the UK. I kept most of it because I think it will be useful; tools, electrical supplies for setting up a renewable energy system, various materials for home maintenance. I still ended up with a bag of electrical recycling which has to be specially recycled due to the WEEE initiative.

WEEE directs businesses to take back electrical and electronic consumer goods that they have sold in exchange for a purchase of a newer item. While I like the idea of businesses taking responsibility for goods they sell I don't like linking it to encouraging consumerism. A new report from the Product Policy Institute lays out the climate change costs of consumerism. It turns out that products and packaging account for 44% of US GHG emissions.

"It includes emissions from extracting raw materials, processing materials, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of non-food goods, and accounts for 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The goods in this system include all non-food products, all packaging (including for food), vehicles, and materials for buildings and construction (except for heavy infrastructure). Emissions associated with vehicle manufacturing and building construction (including manufacturing of furnaces, hot water heaters, and air conditioners) cannot be separated from other products in the EPA data, so the Provision of Goods slice represents products in a very broad sense."

So what's to be done about it? Here's what the report has to say about it.

"Many approaches for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example a cap- and-trade system or renewable electricity standard, act on direct emissions. Implementing these approaches requires knowing where the emissions are physically released. In these cases, only domestic emissions can be addressed. The sectors view is useful in these cases because it tells you the share of emissions coming from a particular type of facility, like electric power plants. Other approaches reduce emissions by changing the ways we produce, consume, and dispose of products and packaging. Manufacturers may improve their design or production process to reduce greenhouse gas impacts. Recycling systems can be improved. Or consumers may choose to buy more sustainable products."

Interesting language there at the end, "buy more". I notice it doesn't say consumers may choose not to purchase products at all. An obvious choice would be to never purchase a tumble dryer. This not only saves mony and the embodied energy and emissions in it's production and transport but also the very high impact in the use of the product. Certainly reducing planned obsolescence, increasing the use of recycled materials, improved carbon accounting methods and attaching the costs of carbon emissions to the products themselves is worth doing. But ultimately we will benefit more from a transition away from an economy based endless growth and pointless consumerism at the soonest possible opportunity.

In any case the planet can no longer support the level of consumerism that the west enjoys and the developing world aspires to. Cell phones are good example. Here in consumerist Bermuda we had students who got a new cell phone every month, either to keep up with the current fad, to match an new outfit, or simply because they lost or broke the last one. Astounding! A sense of value is never cultivated if a child isn't taught it. Instead they possess a sense of entitlement to all the resources of the planet.

Saturday, 3 October 2009


A key principle of the Transition town movement is resilience. While imagining what that word means in terms of materials is easy it is somewhat less familiar when applying it to social/ecological systems. The Stockholm Resilience Centre gives a simple definition;

"Resilience is the capacity to deal with change and to continue to develop."

They go on to further discuss the concept thusly;

"Resilience refers to the capacity of a social-ecological system both to withstand perturbations from for instance climate or economic shocks and to rebuild and renew itself afterwards.

Loss of resilience can cause loss of valuable ecosystem services, and may even lead to rapid transitions or shifts into qualitatively different situations and configurations, evident in, for instance people, ecosystems, knowledge systems, or whole cultures.

The resilience lens provides a new framework for analyzing social—ecological systems in a changing world facing many uncertainties and challenges. It represents an area of explorative research under rapid development with major policy implications for sustainable development....

The resilience approach focuses on the dynamic interplay between periods of gradual and sudden change and how to adapt to and shape change.

Research at the Stockholm Resilience Centre will address these challenges in order to generate a deeper understanding of interdependent social-ecological systems for improved governance and policy."

See video of Buzz Holling, the father of resilience theory, telling the story of how resilience thinking emerged.

Slideshow - PCI - The future is all about resilience.

This is a presentation, complete with speakers notes, from Asher Miller at the Post Carbon Institute which sets out Transition Towns as a response to the converging crises in the economy, energy and the environment.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Happy Birthday to the Mahatma

"Now, with the world facing a climate crisis and already on the crossroads of equity and/in development, it is time to resurrect and revive the Gandhian principles of simple living-high thinking, participatory governance, etc. at the global level." - Govind Singh at

Resurrect Gandhian Principles for Equity & Sustainable Development

on Eco Worldly.

Video - Organic Farming Lessens Global Warming

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Carbon sequestration in natural systems

Following on the heels of yesterdays posts on rainforests, one the most potent carbon sequestering ecosystems on the planet, today I'd like to discuss the carbon sequestering potential of organic agriculture.

As reported over at Organic Consumers Association, recent reports by Rodale Institute and Worldwatch Institute indicate that if the world were to switch to organic agriculture on it's 3.5 billion tillable acres that land would sequester 40% of our current carbon emissions. Of course it would also drastically reduce the emissions from the production and application of natural gas based nitrogen fertilizers and petrochemical pesticides and herbicides. Added benefits would include reduction of dead zones in coastal ocean zones due to nitrogen runoff, increased biodiversity due to elimination of the application of poisons to the biosphere, not to mention the benefits to human health of removing those poisons from the food chain and drinking water.

The reports recommend;

" multiple strategies for carbon sequestration, including organic farming, reduced tillage, use of biochar to aid in revegetation of degraded soils, retaining forests and grasslands as carbon sinks, agroforestry and perennial cropping to retain more biomass, rotational grazing, and biogas digestion to convert manure into energy and organic fertilizer. They include several good suggestions in ramping up the quest for better perennials, such as looking at more tree crops for food production and finding suitable perennial biodiesel crops."

Rodale instutute has been running a 29-year-long Farming Systems Trial that;

" has shown that, after the initial transition phase, organic annual systems produce a competitive yield and often do better than conventional systems in drought years. This may be due to a relatively high rate of moisture-absorbent carbon content in organic rotations, as Institute trials also show accumulation of 500 lb/C/a/yr (legume) to 2,000 lb/C/a/yr (compost) in various long-term observations."

The OCA recommends;
  • "Rethink the value of soil carbon, elevating it to the position it deserves. This means reprioritizing our land use patterns, moving preservation of prime farmland to a high priority for national ecological security.
  • Focus on building biologically active soil organic matter that leads, by default, to more sustainable and environmentally sound agriculture.
  • Credit the added benefits of fertilizer reduction and water management. Since organic systems can use compost, manure and cover crops for fertility, they gradually eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers due to increases in naturally cycling fertility. At the same time, the soil water-holding capacity improves to better maintain crop growth and production in drier and wetter years. Keeping diverse and nearly year-round vegetative cover growing on the soil surface has the benefit of holding soil in the field (rather than losing it to erosion) and improving rainwater infiltration through the soil profile to recharge groundwater.
  • Recognize that even annual crop systems can transition away from greenhouse gas emission to carbon sequestration in the form of carbon compounds."
Meanwhile the climate bill in the US exempts the carbon impacts of industrial agriculture at the same time we are pouring billions into the fantasy of carbon sequestration at dirty coal power plants.