What have you done today to lower your impact?

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

Blog Archive

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Just when will enough be enough?

The day after Christmas is a good day to ponder the excesses of the season. As much as we enjoy the feasting, the exchange of gifts, and the close family time there is a sense of fragility to this years festivities, a doubt about the sustainability many of the practices of the holiday season. As the young ones open the countless plastic doodads, packaged in single use plastic and wrapped in specialty papers and the adults quaff imported beverages, as we all enjoy our new electronics made from rare earth metals mined by slave labor in war torn Africa, I think even the most consumerist amongst us wonders if this can or should be maintained. Just when is enough enough? Perhaps we can use the sneaking suspicions engendered by our consumerism of one holiday to shape the next holiday. I don't usually make new years resolutions but maybe this year is good year to come to grips with the shortcomings of the path we are on. It is increasingly clear that we are running up against the limits to growth in the finite world we live in. An economy based endless growth is not only a physical impossibility based on the laws of physics but is also clearly faltering in spite of all our efforts to create the fiction of plausibility. Enough is enough!
We can have a steady state economy. It is a better option now and for the future.
Read the report from the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy.
Enough is Enough.

For today we can take comfort that at least we have the fundamental values to rely upon in the holiday season, generosity, filial love and support, and the spiritual teachings that underlie the
holiday season. None of these need rely on the fantasies of consumerism to be achieved.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas, celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace

Become a soldier for peace,
end to the imperial war machine.
For Jesus said "What you do to the least
of my people, that you do unto me."

If the billions spent on war
were to be repurposed for peace
we'd find the jobs long hoped for
suppressing our inner beast.

Rather than dominion and oil
let's build a new vision
of social justice and toil
for a clean sustainable position

in a world that doesn't fear us
that lives in the peace of the son
not ducking petro bullets,
powered by water and sun.

So Merry Christmas to you all
I wish for you the peace
Promised by Jesus to us all
if we can only work for the least.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Christmas Tree debate and the genesis of a new tradition?

After I posted the christmas tree post I had a most interesting exchange over on FB with my friend Jerry. It is interesting enough that I thought I should post it. Jerry agreed.

It certainly occurs to me to wonder whether growing spruce etc just to be cut down after a few years so that everyone can have their own family Christmas tree isn't actually a bit fucking stupid now there are so very many of us separate li...ving units and now we actually need uncountable numbers of trees - any trees - to be planted and left to grow and photosynthesise so as to get all that carbon out of the air again. I doubt I'll be persuaded to ever buy one again. We ought to be being carbon-rationed by our governments by now! And if it means less luxuries in our homes, we just need to devise and engage in lots more community celebrations and feasts to reward ourselves with conviviality and fun. Economies of scale I- bet a big collective blowout can be designed to use less resources per head for the same enjoyment pay-off per head. If fifty families are out dancing and singing and laughing together in a hall near where they live, LEAVING LIGHTS AND HEATING AND APPLIANCES OFF AT HOME UNTIL THEY GET BACK, there's a a significant carbon saving straight off.
Apart from the destitute and the truly impoverished, most of us in the industrialised countries have a level of material affluence - and profligacy - that would have been inconceivable to kings and emperors in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. It's about time we woke up. And use those fucking clever brains you've all got, people, to figure out what we need to drop and what we need to adopt so that we can find a way to live that works properly. Sorry for the language, but I'm terrified we'll go past the point of no return without a clue of what we're doing wrong, and that IF WE REALLY UNDERSTOOD we wouldn't dream of doing.

 I tend to agree, particularly about the needless and wasteful affluence. I think the real impact of the season is the excess and pointless consumerism. This is one of the reasons I wanted to make a tree this year out of trimmings rather tha...n use a real tree, just one less thing to buy. Also the tree I trimmed to make it needed trimming. I'm thinking of cutting it down as it is in the wrong place on the property, if the trimming does it I can avoid the big chop.

Every year we yanks debate, real tree vs. plastic. Most seem to think that real trees are better now but I've always been leery of the monocrop nature of big tree farms with the attendant chemical usage. There are places that maintain a healthier forest where you can tramp through the snow and cut it down yourself, kind of a family tradition. I favour the live tree in a pot that you then plant out, though not as much as this years effort, that's my best so far. Though, I've recently heard from my ex in Seattle that one we planted almost 20 years ago is thriving and taller than the house. Somehow I find the idea of a real living tree being the center of a ritualized family gathering somewhat comforting in a pagan sort of way.

yeah... problem is the real dying ones that are what most people have. I just reckon perhaps the time has come where the idea of a tree in each home is ridiculously profligate, after all it's not as if most people use it as a tool to consci...ousness raising or anything, it's just a young tree that's been felled prematurely to die in a corner of your room so that "it makes you feel more christmassy" and "the kids would hate it if we didn't have one". Looked at that way, is it remotely justifiable as we enter deeper into a time of climate emergency?
 probably not, but what about the idea of live trees carefully planted afterwards? Of course making that widespread is probably as likely as getting a suburbanite to give up their SUV.
There are so many cultural paradigm shifts that have to h...appen in order to accomplish any kind of meaningful reduction of emissions, I personally will continue to try to make it happen but am not holding out much hope, or staking my daily happiness on the chance that it will.
But having somewhere to carefully plant out the live tree can be a real challenge, especially somewhere suitable for a stressed tree (stressed after weeks in a heated home) - I don't think there are for example many suitable locations for f...orest conifer species in urban environments.
The whole Christmas Tree thing just looks like a comfort attachment to me - people are almost AFRAID that they're asking for some sort of nameless trouble to visit them if they don't do Christmas "properly". Think about it, look at the strength of the associative feelings people have about Christmas... I reckon the fear is that if we don't hold fast to these emotional anchors (trees, presents, decorations, cards, lights, food in excess, familiar old favourite movies) at this time of year we'll be swamped with emotional feelings too powerful to handle, all connected with LOSS: loss of certainty, loss of childhood innocence, loss of belief in the power of simple Goodness, loss of our hopes and dreams (our idealism and optimism). So we're as superstitious in the winter dark as our ancestors (superstition uses ritual to hold fears at bay, as does compulsive obsessive behaviour pathology), but we don't any more (if we ever really did?) have particularly wise or appropriate rituals which effectively lead us into a raised (and shared) consciousness - yet we deeply long for it. This is only thought through on the hoof Robb, it's all come up in response to your comments. I don't know how much truth I've hit on, but I feel sure there's mileage in this idea that there's something we're afraid to face THAT WE COVER UP WITH UNEXAMINED CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, at least unexamined for whether they might have something unresolved hidden away inside them as it were.
 I can't disagree with any of that Jerry but perhaps we could see it as an opportunity to teach a yearly tree planting tradition.
‎"see it as an opportunity to teach a yearly tree planting tradition" - that is a brilliant idea! I went to bed after my last post above, had been up late because I couldn't go straight to bed after going to see "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" followed by the rest of the evening belting out Sheffield carols in The Sportsman up at Lodge Moor.
 Maybe someone should hook up with a nursery to offer planting outings after Xmas. I suppose one would also have to have prearranged a site for planting. It would be cool if it could work. 
It's very possibly too late to rustle it up in a useful way this year, but with time to make some good arrangements and prepare some good publicity and written (print or online) resources it could be as big next year as one decided to try a...nd make it. Should work with the right planning and a good team. And could be a really good awareness-raising tool PLUS real-world benefit of trees into the ground and carbon into the trees. Got to think about after-care for planted trees though, watering in hot spells in first year, mulching etc. 
Yeah, I think this year might be rushing it. Better to have it all in hand when you kick it off. Might be a good initiative for Grow Sheffield, are you still working with them? Transition Sheffield might be into it as well.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Sustainable Living Project Christmas tree

Most years I don't much get into the whole Christmas thing but I think I've caught the bug this year.

I had an unexplained need to listen to Christmas music a week or so ago. My theory is that since I don't listen to the radio, we don't have a TV and we don't go to malls I haven't been bombarded with the sonic landscape of Christmas which left me open to choosing when and where to enjoy it.

We've found a local church, Unitarian Universalist, and we thoroughly enjoyed the candle light service and Christmas party.

I've even set up a Christmas tree, of sorts, as you can see in the picture. It's that strange shrub shaped green bit with the odd  ornament or two just visible. But in the spirit of sustainability we managed to construct our tree from materials sourced onsite. I needed to trim the leyland cyprus nearest the house on the southeast corner in order to let more sun into the porch and house as well as to reduce shading on the garden. So I dragged out my ladders and loppers and went at it. From a well rounded full christmas tree shape it has gone to a rather needle shaped style for the winter. I chose some of the larger trimmings and arranged them into a shape that would fit into the corner of the sitting room. I shoved the butt end of the stems into a recycled pickle jar, added water and propped it up with some urbanite, strung a few lights left over from my parents things, an ornament or three and voila! A homemade Christmas.....shrub was born.

By the way, in true permaculture style of stacking functions, all the rest of the trimmings are going to pathways. Leyland cyprus needles are allelopathic and do quite a good job of suppressing grass. So with one job, I got more solar energy into the house and garden, a festive bit of Christmas deco, and some pathway mulch.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A third world country on steroids

Bernie Sanders said we risk becoming a banana republic. So just what is a Banana Republic?
This is a term that developed along with the exploitation of small central american countries by large multinational fruit companies and came to mean the countries that were willing to sellout their own long term health and sustainability for the many in favor of short term minimal profit for the few. It is the kind of country with a regime in place that consistently subjugates and oppresses the poor while systematically strip mining the common resources, the real wealth of the nation, and selling it to the highest bidder while seeing to it that the profits go not to the citizens of the country but to the corporations that do the exploiting, with a few local cronies thrown included to see to it the wheels of plunder stay greased.

So what are  the qualities found in such a society? Do we find them here in the good ole US of A?

1. Massive income inequity, the US has some of the worst in the world and it's getting worse.
2. Limits to free speech, the recent attacks on and prosecution of whistleblowers and free speech websites like WIKILeaks points out our unwillingness to allow free speech to undermine the activities of the ruling elite.
3. An erosion of independent Journalism and an acceptance of propaganda, all the major media outlets are now owned by for profit multinational corporations. What they call news is at it's most benign heavily censored, and at it's worse out and out corporate propaganda. Few citizens seem to realize that they have to search for journalism that is even close to objective. It is underfunded and marginalized by the corporations that own the space.
4. Substandard educational system, we have long since stopped producing the brightest and the best. Our schools are overcrowded, terribly underfunded, under constant attack from religious fundamentalists to censor content, and now under pressure to serve the needs of corporations rather than to produce well rounded citizens capable of critical thought and fully in command of the basics of the scientific method, a understanding of history, and the variety of philosophical tradition. Few of our citizens don't even understand the value of civil, polite, and intelligent debate much less the methods for engaging in such.
5. Lack of access of to health care, we may have the ability to deliver decent world class healthcare but we are certainly not allowing it to be delivered to our citizens in any sort of rational or efficient manner. We are allowing multinational corporations to profit mightily and immorally off the misery of our citizens and much of the very illness they profit from they have caused via the promotion of unhealthy lifestyle choices through corporate owned media.
6. Multinational control of government,  with the enshrinement of corporate personhood and recent untrammelled permission to  buy elections we have surrendered our democracy to the top few percent of income earners becoming a plutocracy and are dangerously close to fascism.
7. Multinational control of resources, for years we have been exploiting the resources of the rest of the world by propping up dictators, toppling democracies, and undermining human rights in the name of corporate profits. Now we are doing the same within our own borders.

We are indeed like a third world country on steroids, eagerly consuming our future in favor of today's excessive convenience and comfort. Our democracy is dying on the altar of consumerism right along with biosphere that supports it. It is simply unsustainable.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

What's next for our beleaguered climate?

Now that Cancun has followed on the heels of Copenhagen as possibly the most futile if not downright destructive gathering of governments the world has ever seen, I'm left to ponder the state of the climate and wonder just why we in North America are actually going backwards. Canada is ramping up development of the Tar Sands and actively working to prevent research into and public knowledge about the warming Arctic. Here in the US we've elected many folks who in most other countries would be considered insane, denying that we even have a problem. All around me the populace continues to hold on to the fantasy that we can and should go back to some idealized America of the 1950's with all of it's attendant ism's, optimism and racism included.

Meanwhile the peer reviewed and hard headed science moves on. The IPCC process while rigorous and useful on some level is 4 years out of date at the time publishing it's report, which makes it almost 8 years out of date now, and unfortunately this is what most governments are relying on in considering our future response to the very grave threats we face.

What most folks don't seem to understand is that the much touted 2ºC limit is not some "acceptable" level of warming, it means significant changes on our planet and to human civilization. It is, as David Wasdell says, a border between dangerous and extremely dangerous. And worse, there is no chance that we can hold ourselves to even that limit. The Royal Society of Britain has published peer reviewed papers recently, containing data from much more recent science (though still a year old due to the process of peer review to insure accuracy), that indicates that with the current sets of promises, even if we live up them, we are headed for a 4ºC rise at the very least! This signals catastrophic change in our environment.

How have we let the situation get to such an extreme? To draw once again from David Wasdell, think of it this way. If our population was addicted to heroin and it was running our civilization and the planet into the ground we would not let those most involved in profitting from that addiction set policy. That is the situation we are in, the energy companies, the transportation industry, the industrial agriculture companies, and the media industry that popularizes their products are in control and are doing everything in their power to stop change that is absolutely vital to our future on this earth. We have have handed them this power up to a point with our consumerist ways but they don't need our input anymore, they choose who gets elected, and then dictate policy as they have just done in Cancun.

Welcome to Planet Eaarth

You can hear an insightful and educational interview with Joe Romm of Climate Progress and Mr. Wasdell over on Radio Ecoshock and here in our Sustainable Living Audio player for a while as well. All the links following are taken from the Radio Ecoshock blog site.

You can hear Wasdell's lecture "Beyond the Tipping Point" here.

"Check out the Downloads and video, for talks at the "4 Degrees & Beyond" International Climate Conference 28-30 September 2009, Oxford UK."

"Pay special attention to this talk by Richard Betts, which includes (at 16 minute mark) the very points David Wasdell raises - that serious positive feedback loops are still left out of climate models (which leads to underestimates of the real possibilities). "


Joe Romm's introduction to these papers (and why they matter)."

"The Royal Society web page for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society "4 Degrees and Beyond" theme issue:

Some of the papers are now subscription only, having been offered to the public for a few days. Given the seriousness of crashing the Earth's climate system, and in the spirit of Wikileaks, I've posted all the papers here, as pdf files.

Editorial by David Garner




Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows
Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world

Niel H. A. Bowerman, David J. Frame, Chris Huntingford, Jason A. Lowe, and Myles R. Allen
Cumulative carbon emissions, emissions floors and short-term rates of warming: implications for policy

Richard A. Betts, Matthew Collins, Deborah L. Hemming, Chris D. Jones, Jason A. Lowe, and Michael G. Sanderson
When could global warming reach 4°C?

M. G. Sanderson, D. L. Hemming, and R. A. Betts
Regional temperature and precipitation changes under high-end (≥4°C) global warming

Fai Fung, Ana Lopez, and Mark New
Water availability in +2°C and +4°C worlds

Philip K. Thornton, Peter G. Jones, Polly J. Ericksen, and Andrew J. Challinor
Agriculture and food systems in sub-Saharan Africa in a 4°C+ world

Przemyslaw Zelazowski, Yadvinder Malhi, Chris Huntingford, Stephen Sitch, and Joshua B. Fisher
Changes in the potential distribution of humid tropical forests on a warmer planet

Robert J. Nicholls, Natasha Marinova, Jason A. Lowe, Sally Brown, Pier Vellinga, Diogo de Gusmão, Jochen Hinkel, and Richard S. J. Tol
Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century

Mark Stafford Smith, Lisa Horrocks, Alex Harvey, and Clive Hamilton
Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world

Francoix Gemenne
Climate-induced population displacements in a 4 degree C + world

Rachel Warren
The role of interactions in a world implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change.


David Wasdell Bio

David Wasdell video presentation, Tallberg Sweden 2008

David Wasdell videos

The Apollo-Gaia web site

Another important Wasdell paper, with the graphs and charts helpful for both his video at Talberg, and his Radio Ecoshock interview. "Runaway Climate Change, Boundary Conditions & Implications for Policy"." - Thanks to Alex Smith at Radio Ecoshock

Monday, 15 November 2010

Video -Headwaters Gathering, David Orr on climate change and education

"The Headwaters Gathering brough together writers, activists, and scientists on the campus of Warren Wilson College the weekend of March 28, 2009, to create strategic alliances regarding climate change. Here, David Orr of Oberlin College comments on the importance of education in terms of climate change."

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A pre freeze harvest

This premature harvest was brought on by a forecast for several nights of below freezing temps in our area. Here is good portion of my pre freeze harvest, you can see way too many green tomatoes, a pile of basil, a basket full of radishes w/greens on, a load of green peppers and a few that had time to turn red, and my personal favorite, a bag of nettles, half of which ended up in the evenings chili. I also cut a bunch of parsley, spearmint, lemon balm, lemon grass, and basil for the freezer. I harvested most of the stevia both for the leaves and the hopefully some seed.

That was yesterday, today I snipped all the tomato plants off and chopped them into the compost heap, I then layered a bit of composted horse manure, some topsoil, winter rye grass seed, and some hay mulch over one of the beds. Tomorrow I'll do another nearby bed and add a soaker hose to them both. I've ended up with quite a lot of soaker hose that I found on my scavenging rounds since we arrived in May. I found the hay for the mulch on the side of the road as well. The winter rye is intended to help break down the manure and will create green mulch. We hope to let it grow tall enough to make some hay and possibly give us some grain to experiment with. It is an annual so what we don't harvest will die back when the weather heats up next year.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A sad day

It's a sad day, one can only hope that we will find ourselves in a situation of gridlock, anything to prevent the wholesale give away of this country to corporations. I am constantly amazed by how fickle the American public can be. We seem to expect instant results to problems that took decades to create. Our culture has become one of instant gratification, and when we don't get it we look for someone to blame. Well someday soon we will only have ourselves to blame because change IS coming. Have no doubt, a tidal wave of change is sweeping our way. Nature bats last!

Go to sleep all you TV people, SUV drivers, fast food eaters, race baiters, and tea partiers.  Go to sleep and deny all, the wave approaches.

I'm drowsy, time for a nap, what's that noise I hear?

Monday, 25 October 2010

My Glasshouse on Re-Nest

The glasshouse I built for the global 350.org work party on 10/10/10 has shown up on Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest, one of my favorite sites for inspiration in my Reuse and Recycle endeavours. Check it out:

How To Build a Removable Mini Glass House To Extend Your Growing Season 




Saturday, 23 October 2010

Harvest the leaves!

This is indeed a time of harvest here at the Sustainable Living project. Peas, beans, tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet pepers, spicy lettuce, flat and curly parsley, oregano, mint, lemonbalm, stinging nettle, but most importantly leaves, leaves, leaves. It amazes me to see my neighbors bag up perfectly good, nutrient rich leaves and put them on the curb for "disposal". I'm collecting them as fast as I can. It must amaze my neighbors to see me drag their "waste" into my garden and pour them out around my trees, into my borders, and especially into leafmould piles, of which I now have 7. Each pile is approximately 4 or 5 ft in diameter and currently about 4 ft high. See picture.

I see the typical suburban lawn, surrounded by lovely trees, and see no leaves on the ground! Why do away with all those nutrients? They are natures way of recycling the nutrients that the tree has worked all year to dredge out of the ground. They then rely upon those nutrients that they drop beneath their boughs to break down, foster earth worms and fungi, and return the nutrients to themselves. Accordingly I have left the leaves my own trees, my colleagues, are dropping piled beneath them, adding to the piles in an attempt to reverse the decades of waste that has left the soil thin and hard, mostly clay. The leafmould I will reap from my piles will be added to the soil in the spring both as mulch and soil amendment. Think of it like a timed release vitamin, slowly releasing vital nutrients to the soil. It will also help the soil hold moisture. Additionally the earthworms that move into it over the winter will have enriched it with their castings, the fungi spreading throughout will help form a link between the nitroben fixing bacteria in the soil and the roots of the plants to enable them to take up the nitrogen.

What a wonderful soil amendment is leafmould. Pile em up, keep em damp, and in a matter of months you have leafmould, rich in mycorhizi, a good source of slow burn nutrients, and a particularly good way to add organic matter to your soil.

Here is a link to a document produced by GardenOrganic in the UK about making, using, and the benefits of leaf mould.
Make your own Leafmould

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The economic value of ecosystem services

Check out this podcast over on Greenplanet FM.

Dr Wayne Cartwright ~ A courageous statement for Strong Sustainability

It's a wonderful interview with the current Chair of Sustainable Aotearoa NZ.

To paraphrase one of his most salient points, the value of ecosystem services rendered to all of humankind greatly exceeds all the economic output generated by humankind.

So what is Strong Sustainability? here is the definition from the Phase2 website, a strong sustainability think tank.

"The concept of strong sustainability is based on the scientific fact that all human life and activity occurs within the limitations of planet Earth, or the 'biosphere' where humankind lives, including all societal functions, such as the economy.

It is a self-evident truth that without a functioning biosphere there can be no society or 'sociosphere', and without a sociosphere there can be no societal functions, including an economy or 'econosphere'.

Strong sustainability recognises that in order for human civilisation to continue, the true model for sustaining the planet on which we rely to survive should look like this:

Here is the abstract from-  The Ethics of a Sustainable Economy: Implications for Public Policy Dr Robert Howell and Dr Wayne Cartwright

"The currently dominant neoclassical economic model is not based on modern science or an ethic that adequately considers human­Earth relationships. This thinking and the activity based on it is leading to a dismal future for human life on Earth. It is based on the dominant ethics of utilitarianism and a version of the Lockean social contract. These, and the neoclassical model of economics, need to be replaced if sustainable human living is to be achieved. A steady state economics and an ethic based on the concepts of integrity, intrinsic value, reverence or respect, combined with equity, are required as the fundamental principles of public policy.    Some of the implications for this policy in economic measurement; strategies and plans for transition; laws, regulations and taxes; government departments; money supply and banking; investment; energy; rural land use; and immigration and population, are briefly described.    These changes are so profound and fundamental that many will find it difficult to move to new ways of thinking and behaving. Yet if a core function of government is to attend to the security of its citizens, these public policy directions are essential."

Also check out this post on the topic  of valuing ecosystem services over at Care2Causes,

Valuing Green in Greenbacks: Should We Put a Price on Services Rendered by Nature?



Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What was I thinking?! Grazing for dinner.

Tonight as I sat down to relax with a little snoot of Bermudian Black Seal rum and some organic cheese crackers, I perused my video collection in iTunes. Since my wife is still in the green and pleasant land I chose a BBC production from the Natural World series called "A Farm for the Future".

It chronicles the journey one woman takes from her traditional farming roots to Permaculture in order to future proof her family farm in Devon in the face of Peak Oil. It is an excellent program and I highly recommend it if for nothing else the beautiful scenes of British countryside and wildlife.

At one point our heroine, after talking with Patrick Whitefield about permaculture, is touring Martin Crawford's food forest, gobsmacked by the abundance growing naturally with very little maintenance, and it struck me, here I sit munching highly processed snack foods while sipping an imported rum while there are greens aplenty and tomatoes still to harvest from my own garden! Pausing the film I went outside and gathered two types of parsley, basil, two types of spicy lettuce, some tomatoes and my all time favorite, fresh stinging nettle!

Into a colander it went, a quick rinse, and now I'm finishing my repast of fresh greens and tomatoes, no dressing, no meat, no dairy, all grown right here within 100 feet of where I stuff my face. Bliss!

Video - Tim Jackson - Economic Collapse or Prosperity Without Growth

Tim Jackson recently spoke at TED , here he is speaking in Totnes. Thanks to Rob Hopkins over at Transition Culture for the heads up on this.
"An unparalleled opportunity to come to grips with what the current financial crisis means for you.

Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth and Ed Mayo Secretary General of Cooperatives UK will be joined by Naresh Giangrande of Transition Town Totnes in a 'trialogue'."

Sunday, 10 October 2010

10/10/10 work day, progress report

I managed to complete the Glasshouse, built from reused windows, and installed the first planting. We'll raise some greens throughout the winter, it is south facing, and will thus reduce our consumption of non local food. As you can see in the picture the lid is rigged to raise and lower to regulate heat. Also the windows on each end of the lid can be operated independently. As you can see in the second picture Annie took her duties as foredog very seriously. I also took some time to spend some birthday cash on some books I've been wanting, see the links below.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

350.org global work day for the climate, our project

Tomorrow at 10 am I will begin putting the finishing touches on a mini glass house, made from recycled windows, intended for growing greens this winter. I also hope to drag out the used solar panels I bought about 8 years ago from Solar Living Institute for their first output test. If anyone is in the neighborhood and would like to help or just see what it is all about, I'll probably do a quick tour of the Sustainable living project as well, please stop by between the hours of 10 and 4.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Vote for completion, and against racism and the war on the poor

I believe we face a grave threat, not from terrorism either foreign or homegrown, not from some fear of the flu trumped up to boost pharmaceutical profits, not even from the watered down progress of  Obamacare. I believe we face a grave threat from within as exemplified by the coal lobby, the Koch brothers, and the extremist right wing corporate owned media.
Let's just focus on the Koch brothers for now. It is clear they believe that rich tycoons should be able to do as they please in this world, in this country, and in your neighborhood. While their support of the climate denying, antiregulation, extreme right wing, racist tea party movement is bad enough, it is their record of victimizing the poor with their filth spewing factories I'd like to bring to your attention. They have been found guilty repeatedly of poisoning the environment mostly in poor black neighborhoods. According to the new book "Sacrifice Zones"

"The Kochs' enterprises, not surprisingly, appear in Sacrifice Zones, Steve Lerner's exhaustive chronicle of toxic chemical exposure in our country. (To buy the book from Amazon, click here.) For those unfamiliar with the concept, "sacrifice zones" is a Russian term -- it refers to populated areas polluted forever by nuclear fallout. In the United States, we have fewer reactors and build them better; here the term refers to neighborhoods where industrial pollution poses a health risk.

Bet you won't be shocked to read that African Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in these neighborhoods."

This threat is pervasive, here are a few examples as quoted in an article in the Huffington Post,

"Sacrifice Zones brings stories like that back home -- to a dozen communities that were knowingly polluted by American businesses. It's a repetitive book: suffering, more suffering, government indifference, then the residents fight back. It's hardly an even fight. The companies have squads of lawyers on staff. Because they often provide the only jobs for miles, they have local governments in their pockets. It's oh-so-hard to prove that the filth on the once-white sheets hanging from the clotheslines of the poor came from a polluter's smokestack. And the victories are bittersweet -- activists don't always see the fruits of their work, having used precious days from their surely shortened lives to organize their communities.

Ocala, Florida: "black snow" from a charcoal factory. A city run by five white people. Activists who presented filthy bed sheets to the city council. A plant without afterburners in its smockstacks. The company closed the plant and tore down the smokestacks before they could be tested for pollutants.

Port Arthur, Texas: 15.5 million pounds of pollutants released in a single year by a refinery owned by Shell Oil and Saudi Aramco. (Once the plant released nine tons while children were waiting for school buses.)

On and on the dishonor roll goes -- Addyston, Ohio and Daly City, California and San Antonio and Greenpoint, New York. You get the idea fast."

So how do we counter this threat? Get out and vote. Set aside your anger that the democrats have not been able or some cases willing to follow through on their promise of change, that is mostly due to the GOP, the party of NO. We must keep control of government if we are to prevent the kind of policies that brought about  the recent financial crisis and the BP oil spill, the foolishness of deregulation. It is high time that we realize that corporate power has no ethic other than profit, profit at the cost of us all. While there are areas in which I vehemently disagree with President Obama, for the most part I know he has accomplished more than was accomplished in the previous 12 years. And if we give him a congress and senate that will work with him he can get even more done. If we allow government to be hamstrung yet again, we will see increased deregulation of dirty coal, oil and gas drilling, and the worst of all on the banksters who fund the destruction. Our air and water will continue to degrade, the gulf of Mexico will continue to die, along with every other ocean on earth, catastrophic climate change will become a certainty, and our deficit will soar ever higher as the rich continue to plunder the commons, impoverishing the rest of us along the way.
So please get your brothers and sisters to the polls and vote for completion, vote for candidates that will work to build a responsible government, one that works to solve the problem, rather exacerbates it with obstructionism.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Video - Climate Denial Crock of the Week - Extinction

An accelerating rate of species extinction isn't just all part of mother natures plan.
It's an expected result of climate change.
With changes in the arctic happening faster than any other place on earth,
polar species are among those most at risk.
Case in point: The Pacific Walrus.


Woods Hole Research


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Relish, rain, and clean fresh air

Rain at last! My water barrels are almost full, the projected high temp for today is 68F, We've removed the reflectors from the windows and the house is full of soft rainy day light, and gentle moist breezes. We've taken advantage of the projected cooler temps for the next couple of days by prepping some rummage relish; cucumber, onion, ripe and green tomoatoes, sweet peppers, cabbage, and spices. We'll can it and some hot pepper relish tomorrow.
I've done a walk round the property to see where the drainage is sitting and where it is not. Our main terrace is soaking up a good bit of drainage but the area below it is still very wet. I hope my bamboo makes it through this wet spell.
Not to worry, just enjoy the change in the weather.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Video - This is What Global Warming looks like.

"We have to believe what we are witnessing with our own eyes -- floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat. From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan, to soaring temperatures in the US and a deteriorating landscape in the High Arctic, our planet seems to be having a breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come but real signs of very troubling climate change already under way.

Please join with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and take action to protect our planet -- it's the only one we have.

Take action here: http://bit.ly/bArcGx."

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Video - Breathe

"repoweramerica | September 16, 2010

Thousands of Repower America members around the country took a stand for clean air and submitted their photos and videos in support of the Clean Air Act. This new video is a declaration that we won't stay quiet while we lose our last, best line of defense against big polluters.

Please share this video with your friends and family and spread the message to defend the Clean Air Act for all of us.

FACEBOOK: http://j.mp/ourcleanair-FB
TWITTER: http://j.mp/OurCleanAir-T

Thank you to everyone who took action to protect this vitally important law. We used as many of the amazing submissions as possible in this final video.

Can you spot all the celebrities below? Send an email to info@repowermamerica.org with the time to the second you see them! We'll declare the winner on Twitter!

Thank you to BlueBrain ( http://www.bluebra.in ) for donating their track "Restriction." For their participation and support thank you to:

A Fine Frenzy; Alec Baldwin; Almudena Fernandez; Barely Political; The Belchertown, Massachusetts Fire Department; Blame Society (not featured); Brandi Carlile; DeStorm Power; DJ Mike Relm; Eric Beck; Hot for Words; Jeff Ross; John Popper, Blues Traveler; Kris Kristofferson; Lauren Francesca; Margaret Cho; Mark Douglas; Matt Urmy; Nalts; OK Go; UpDaBlock; Vassy Karagiorgos; Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips; Will of DC; Gloria Reuben; Jonathan Sexton (Not featured)."

Sign the petition

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Today is the International Day Against Monoculture Timber Plantations.

"Today is the International Day Against Monoculture Timber Plantations. Across the globe, timber plantations are wreaking havoc on forests and forest dependent communities. Now, to further exacerbate this damage, genetically engineered trees (or GE trees) pose a new and unprecedented threat."

Saturday, 18 September 2010

My love/hate relationship with the arts. Video - Ben Cameron: The true power of the performing arts

After too many years making my living in dark theatres, feeling guilty about the massive waste of resources that went into mounting a show, making an ass of myself (if even if only to myself) by over analysing some poor performer just doing his or her best, stressing myself out over live performance I seemed to be the only one who felt underrehearsed for, shifting uncomfortably in my seat at a variety of performances that fell short of the mark or even worse hit the bullsey dead on, I have practically given up on  attending live performance of any kind. And lately I find myself missing it. I'm even missing participating in live performance, the thing that usually stresses me out more than anything I can remember. I've struggled to justify to myself the energy I am willing to put into preparing for performance, to assign value to youth theatre, to get comfortable with the blatant expression of ego sometimes necessary to produce a good performance, all the while realizing that the immediacy of live performance is true performance, real story telling, that it has the potential to be life changing for performer and audience. Ben Cameron has helped to cement this feeling with this talk. Enjoy!

Here's a link to one of my favorite recording projects I worked on, a good reminder for why I did that sort of thing.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Video - Good design, daylighting, and learning

"Douglas County School District along with top Colorado architecture firms that specialize in both designs specific to Daylight and Learning, bring a unique prototype of school design that saves energy as well as provides an optimal learning environment for our grade-schoolers. "

By The Light of Day from Douglas County Government on Vimeo.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Yowza! A marathon canning session.

I started chopping pumpkin this morning at 9 am. It is just gone 5 pm and I have taken the second round of pressure canning off the stove. The next batch is coming to the boil in preparation for jarring up and it's turn in the pressure canner. By bedtime we will have canned another 21 quarts of pumpkin. One pumpkin, our largest, yielded about 10 quarts alone, see pictures. The seeds are from all the pumpkins we processed today. I never much cared for squash or pumpkin till I started canning it. There is something very satisfying about the texture of a perfectly ripe pumpkin, and the quantity of food one gleans from it's flesh. It's like meat or cheese more than a vegetable. Lovely stuff.

We also figured out a way with our limited cookware to only use 2 burners this time, a 50% efficiency improvement for at least part of the process over last time. It sure feels good having it all put up for the winter.

In between, chopping, canning, cooking lunch, adding the waste to the compost heap, and dealing with the dog, I managed to cut a hole in the parlour wall to expose the chimney breast in preparation for removing the wall and installing a woodstove. We have been busy bee's today. I am enjoying a much deserved Goslings Black Seal on the rocks.

Video - Genetic engineering: The world's greatest scam?

"Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate. The introduction of genetically manipulated organisms by choice or by accident grossly undermines sustainable agriculture and in so doing, severely limits the choice of food we can eat.

Once GE plants are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong - they are impossible to recall.

GE contamination threatens biodiversity respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival."

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Taking my time

So I'm eating my breakfast, it's a cool morning, rain is forecast. I hear a large truck pull up outside. It's from Lowes, on the flatbed is a project, a deck perhaps, maybe even a shade structure by the looks of the materials, the only thing missing is the labor. I'm struck with the realization that I still haven't built our shade structure, not even the grape arbor. I could have just specced it out and had all the arsenic laden pressure treated lumber delivered, put it up in a weekend. I didn't. I've been pondering ways to accomplish it in a sustainable manner. I'm getting better at the primary permaculture principle of "Long thoughtful observation". I've been drying bamboo and studying techniques for building with the plentiful, hard grass. I've been collecting urbanite, busted up concrete on it's way to the dump, to build the retaining walls and foundations with. Well, today I will get a start.

That's my urbanite pile behind the wood pile. I'd been picking it up piece by piece when I found it on the side of the road but this past Thursday I found a crew tearing out a driveway and arranged to divert one load from the landfill to my driveway. In fact, in this picture you can see, more instances of scavenging, the compost pile in the foreground (built mainly from grocery store waste, the frame is from timber found on the side of the road), the manure pile just past it on the left (scavenged from some folks with horses), the pine log terrace border (gleaned from a friends yard when they removed some beetlekill, I'll use much of the urbanite to shore this up as a drystone wall), the wood pile (found along the side of the road on trash day).

I might not be as quick but I'm sure my project will have a much lower impact than the one that just arrived on the back of the Lowes truck.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A catchy tune, World Peak Oil Song

"World Peak Oil Song - Original parody by faffytunes
Here is my attempt at funny but sad at the same time.
In the style of West End theatre, Broadway, Cabaret , musical parody on the subject that is going to affect us all in the not too distant future - world peak oil.
When there is not enough oil left for world demand even though they keep finding new resources - eventually that will run out. Once we have taken from the highest mountains, the deepest oceans and polluted the north and south poles, then what? We all need fuel and things covered in plastic, goods and food imported from far off places. We need to wake up to the biggest forthcoming problem of the 21st century.
Please pass on this song as a small part of further awareness on this subject. Many thanks faffytunes World Peak Oil Song Original parody by faffytunes© www.faffytunes.co.uk"

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

It's great to stay at home

Lately, It was starting to feel like I needed to be in a 12 step program for fossil fuel addiction. But at last, we spent two whole days at home, never cranked up the car. We worked on the gardens and workshop areas all day on Sunday and canned pumpkin on Monday. It felt good to be low energy, low fossil fuel anyway, for a couple of days.

However, the canning process certainly is energy intensive. Once we got through the prep work we had the stove going, sometimes all 4 burners for close to eight hours.We preheated some of the necessary hot water  in the solar oven but since we started early we didn't get that much out of it. I do hope to set up a small biogas digester at some point to cut down on gas usage for all cooking.

We hope to remove the gas appliances and have it shut off. We already have plans to get most of our hot water from the sun but will switch to electric for backup. We'll change to an electric cooker as well which will be offset by the woodstove in the winter and the solar oven, once I solve a few problems, all year. We'll heat with the woodstove as well. The gas company charges us $10/month just to be hooked up. That $120/year could be better spent elsewhere. Of course we'll need to do the changeover on the cheap to make it worthwhile.

I'll build an improved version of my solar batch heater for the solar hot water bit and electric water heaters are cheap. We may be able to get an electric cooker from one of our rentals when it needs updating. We'll have the woodstove by this winter. We don't use a clothes dryer so the gas hookup for that won't be missed.

Today we were back in the car, we went over to one of our properties to mow the lawn.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

August 2010 at the Sustainable Living Project

  During the month we've managed to build another raised bed and start building some soil with a compost heap inside it, done some canning, made pesto,and purchased and set up another rental property. Much appreciation to Mike Kelly over at Hickory Real Estate Group for finding us that property.

Today it's September and Dang! It's getting into the 90's again here at the Sustainable living project. I've got to get over to Duplex #1 and cut the lawn, once the grass dries, which should be around midday. The Neuton CE6 electric mower is working a treat. I can mow a lawn in half the time and have some energy left over.

We've got Duplex #2 ready to rent, one side will be occupied today. So now we get back to work at home. This morning I've watered all the beds and potted plants, cut and stacked some firewood, levelled out a site for starting the grape arbor/terrace foundation, setup the rain barrels with siphon hoses and screen in an attempt to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Jacq has been weeding and pulling the decimated pumpkin plants. We had an infestation of squash bugs but still got upwards of 100 lbs of pumpkins and 30 of winter squash. The beans keep coming in, today is Jacq's turn to pick. We've still got a list as long as my arm but it's nice to have the opportunity to get back to it.

We've just about decided to keep Annie the dog. She has no bad habits, is mildly protective, and very sweet. We are happy to have her around to keep us company and she seems happy to have built a pack with us.

I'm almost finished the book I've linked to below. It helps remind me that I've got it easy compared to those folks. It's good read if you are interested in self reliance.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Buying less food does not equal driving less, for us.

In the Deconstructing Dinner podcast "CLIMATE FRIENDLY EATING (CONSCIENTIOUS COOKS VIII)" according to Bonnie Powell of the Ethicurean 31% of the carbon footprint of food, overall responsible for 1/5th of our energy usage, comes from refridgerating it and preparing it. 15% comes from transport. I've been trying to find what percntage of that transport if any is attributable to consumer transport from the market to home. Unfortunately most food mile calculations stop at the market loading dock. However, Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (Davis, CA) says that by driving 5 miles to the market to purchase your locally sourced food, which saves approximately 150 gms of CO2 per unspecifiied unit, uses approximately 2300gms of CO2. Over at Wikipedia I found this
"A commonly ignored element is the local loop. The act of driving further to a more "right-on" food source increases the total carbon footprint. A shopper may buy say 5 kg of meat and use about a gallon to get it. That piece of meat could have gone over 60,000 miles (97,000 km) by road (40tonner at 8mpg) to require the same carbon in transportation. However, this is an extreme scenario, in which a consumer burns a gallon of gasoline (30 or 40 miles (64 km) of travel) to buy a single food item, 5 kg of meat. While extreme consumer behaviours can certainly cancel any environmental benefit arising from any food-buying choice, it is a different question whether consumer behaviours do so in practice."

Here at the Sustainable living project our food bill has gone way down, we haven't bought tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, peppers or hot sauce, squash, corn, green beans, or melons since the harvest started coming in. We do still shop at grocery stores, mostly for dairy products, organic corn chips, soy and rice milk, and cleaning supplies. We also combine our grocery shopping with picking up produce trimmings for the store to add to our compost pile. I'm interested in how this new food economy in our household has impacted our automobile use. Since we got the car running we have used it almost everyday. We visit my parents and my sister, on Thursdays I cruise the neighborhood for firewood, garden supplies, and household items that folks have put on curb to go to landfill. We have also recently purchased another rental property and have been going there almost everyday to get it ready for occupancy. This will start to drop off after the first of the month. I also go to each property to mow the lawn once a week.So the question is, has our decreased need for grocery shopping decreased our driving. Not really. We almost never take the car out for dedicated trips to the store, it is always inconjunction with other errands, mentioned above. We consciously try to do this, delaying trips to a particular location until we have other errands nearby.

The bottom line is, reducing car use remains a challenge for us.  I do believe that our food habits are not contributing significantly to increasing car use.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Climate Denial Crock of the Week - The “Earth is carbon starved” crock

Help Support Crock of the Week:

The history of the earth is immense, and diverse - and its easy to get confused and mangle history, -- to mix things that never belonged together in the real world.

What was natural in the distant past might not be a good fit alongside man's creations.
Human beings and the climate of the ancient world, could find themselves on a collision course.

Richard Alley, Bjerknes Lecture, American Geophysical Union,
December 2009

Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum sediments

Hydrogen sulfide blooms off Namibia

snowball earth - dropstones and carbon cap

"The Day Earth Died" BBC
part 1
part 2

A major drop in seawater 87Sr/86Sr during the Middle Ordovician (Darriwilian): Links to volcanism and climate?

Tripati et al, Miocene sea levels and CO2

University of York, Greenhouse/Extinction connection

US Geological Survey, Volcanic gases

Earth: A Biography