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, 31 January 2010

President Obama Calls for Clean Energy and Climate Legislation

http://www.repoweramerica.org In his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his commitment to passing "a comprehensive energy and climate bill... because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy."

Genetically modified health threat

Not only has genetically modified corn led to increased pesticide use when it was supposed to reduce it, it has led to the destruction of small family farms and the small businesses such as seed cleaners, increasing unemployment and driving people off the land. Now, as many have suspected for years it is becoming apparent that it is really bad for your health, it has been found to cause organ damage in lab animals. Please sign the petition to take it off the market until such time as it has been properly studied by independent scientists rather than the paid corporate hacks who produce corporate psuedo science to dupe our leaders.

Take GM corn off the shelves!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Video - The Impossible Hamster?

"What the impossible hamster has to teach us about economic growth. A new animation from nef (the new economics foundation), scripted by Andrew Simms, numbers crunched by Viki Johnson and pictures realised by Leo Murray.


We wanted to confront people with the meaning and logical conclusion of the promise of endless economic growth. We used a hamster to illustrate what would happen if there were no limits to growth because they double in size each week before reaching maturity at around 6 weeks. But if a hamster grew at the same rate until its first birthday, wed be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a years worth of world maize production every day. There are reasons in nature, why things dont grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, sooner or later, so they must be in the economy. As economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond some very real environmental limits. With every doubling in the global economy we use the equivalent in resources of all of the previous doublings combined.

Concept, script and narration: Andrew Simms
Animation: Leo Murray & Thomas Bristow
Sound: Louis Slipperz
Scientific Adviser: Victoria Johnson"

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Sustainable Living Project podcast episode at AKG

I have been a regular listener to the Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast for some time now and when Emma at AKG asked for correspondents to add content to her podcast I jumped at the chance. We are honored to be a part of her effort to help folks build resilience through food growing.

Jacqui and I have recorded the first episode which begins the documentation of our planning process for The Sustainable Living Project in America.

You can find the podcast containing our content here. Please see the transcript below.

“Introduction - Hello this is Robb and Jacqui from the Sustainable Living project. We are in the planning and design stage of establishing an off grid permaculture based lifestyle and educational project in the suburbs of Hickory North Carolina USA. Our goal is to demonstrate that a low impact, resilient but comfortable, healthy, and convenient lifestyle is possible in existing suburban developments. You can keep track of our progress on this podcast and at our blog, Sustainable Living at sustliving.blogspot.com

Initially taken from the joining of the the two words permanent and agriculture, permaculture has evolved to encompass many aspects of sustainable living. Indeed the prime directive of permaculture is that, quote, “the only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children”, unquote. That’s from Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future published in 1990 by Bill Mollison, a text we are studying for guidance along our path.

We believe that taking responsibility entails addressing the impacts of all aspects of our lives; food, water, shelter, waste, energy, consumption, and travel. We have chosen not to have children which does simplify things somewhat. On the other hand this has freed us up to live higher impact personal lifestyles. Up until now we have enjoyed living in and visiting far flung locations. This has left us with a carbon debt, or as we like to call it carbon karma, that we feel must be paid down. We believe that a permaculture based off grid lifestyle offers us the most effective path to achieve carbon equity.

Along the way we hope to rekindle our connection to natural cycles, build better health by growing and eating our own high quality organic food, establish household scale resilience as a response to the challenges of peak oil and climate change, and also to help build community scale resilience by starting a transition initiative.

Each episode will feature a different permaculture principle and how we are applying it to the design and eventual implementation of our project. We’ll get started with that in the next episode, for now we’ll leave you with The Principle of Cooperation from the aforementioned text by Bill Mollison - “cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival”

Outro - And that’s about it for this episode. Thanks for listening and until next time visit us at sustliving.blogspot.com”

The Sustainable Living Project

Since I started this blog I have posted about many developments of interest to me that pertain to sustainable living, from my own personal exploration of technologies to increase the sustainability of my lifestyle to trends which threaten the very basis of all our lives such as climate change and peak oil. Since those first posts in January of 2008 I have completed the work for my masters, I have attended transition training and helped start a transition initiative in Bermuda, I’ve built gardens in 3 countries, gone car free, and have generally tried to lower my carbon footprint. In some respects I have failed miserably, I have not managed to quit flying, I have not managed to get back to living off grid, but overall I feel I have been making progress.

And now I come to the culmination of much of my life experience over the past 30 years and most of my study and interest over the the past 10 years with the planning and implementation of a project in the US. This project and it’s peripheral issues will become the primary subject for this blog the closer we get to implementation.

Currently Jacqui and I are settling our affairs in the UK, shopping for a property in the southwest of England, obtaining my British passport, and applying for Jacq’s long term Visa for the US. As we have family on both sides of the Atlantic, we see maintaining viability in both the UK and the US as an investment in resilience in the sense that keeping options open provides security for the future, particularly for Jacqui. She comes from a long line of long lived women, all of whom seem to maintain their wits to the end. My genetics don’t look so good. The likelihood is that I will need more serious medical attention much sooner than Jacqui. Given the chaotic state of affairs with health care in America it is highly likely that we will return to the UK at some point in the next 15 to 20 years and almost certain that Jacq will return eventually. Thus we hope to find a house to buy that offers us a good southern exposure, some garden space, and proximity to the sea (albeit high above). In the meantime it needs to be viable as an investment. So we are looking for something we can rent out without spending too much time and money in renovation. We hope to put in an offer in the next 2 weeks. We must return to Sheffield no later than the end of February to attend to the details of Jacq’s visa application. Once that is in we will be waiting for a purchase to be accomplished. At that point we will move back to the southwest to live in our house until the visa arrives.

At that point we will search for a cruise line to take us to America. We are sailing because we can carry more tools, clothes, books and such with us at no extra charge and to avoid the carbon impact of flying. Also, I really dislike flying, I don’t like sitting still for hours and even the nicest airports are unpleasant places to spend any time at all. Our current hope to travel sometime in the spring.

We intend to set up a permaculture based off grid lifestyle and educational project in the small town of Hickory NC, where already own property.

Hickory is a lovely little town in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. It lies about an hour from the banking center of Charlotte, about an hour from the progressive town of Asheville, and about and hour from the crest of the Appalachians. It is struggling economically, it was even before the current recession, as it was built upon the furniture trade which has largely moved to China. We’ve chosen Hickory to be near my family and because we have purchased rental property there over the last 10 years.

We only own 3 properties but they have about 2 thirds of acre in total to work with. We will move into the largest place, a 3 bedroom brick home situated within easy walking distance of the downtown area and a supermarket. Situated on a third of an acre and excellent southern exposure we hope to grow significant amounts of food and biomass. Additionally we will take over the landscaping of the other 2 properties, a duplex across town, or as Brits would know it, both sides of a semidetached property. With the additional third of an acre, some of which is in woodland, we will supplement production.

We will be gradually taking the main property off grid, we already own 2 solar panels and a small wind generator which will be the beginnings of our energy system. To this we will add solar hot water, a multi fuel burner, various outdoor biomass stoves, a solar cooker, a bio gas digester, and significant passive solar and efficiency improvements to the structure. Additionally we will harvest rainwater, reuse greywater and of course practice the permaculture ethics throughout.

“Care of the Earth - provision for all life systems to continue and multiply
Care of People - provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence.
Setting limits to population and consumption - by governing our own needs we can set resources aside to further the above principles.” - Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future 1990 by Bill Mollison page 2.

I will cover the details of our plan over the next several months here on this blog. After we arrive we will cover the implementation for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The scientists predicted more extreme weather and here it is!

As predicted, the longest coldest weather in over 30 years with temperatures lower than ever recorded in the UK. Could this be due to Global Warming? Seems likely to me.

Over at Climate Progress they've dealt with the foolish who in their ignorance that this suggests that some sort of confirmation of global Cooling! Here's a little excerpt;

"Robert Henson, author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change also has a good piece in the UK’s Guardian, “Snow, ice and the bigger picture“: The cold snap tells us little about climate change, but if you want something to blame it on, try the Arctic oscillation,” which notes:

What’s different now is that climate change is shifting the odds towards record-hot summers and away from record-cold winters. The latter aren’t impossible; they’re just harder to get, like scoring a straight flush on one trip to Vegas and a royal flush the next.

It’s also critical to remember the “global” in global warming. Even if every inch of land in the northern hemisphere were unusually cold, that would only represent 20% of Earth’s surface. There’s plenty of warmth elsewhere around the world. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data through November hints that 2009 may end up ranked as the southern hemisphere’s warmest year on record. For the planet as a whole, last year falls solidly among the 10 warmest years of the past 100. And despite all the talk about Earth having cooled since the late 1990s, this past decade trumps the 1990s as the warmest on record."

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Video - I Love Mountains Day - Wendell Berry

"Wendell Berry speaks at the rally at I Love Mountains Day. February 14, 2008, Frankfort, Kentucky. "

"Questionnaire" by Wendell Berry and child mortality

Thanks to FamousPoetsandPoems.com for the image of Wendell Berry.

Hundreds of thousands of children die every year due to water borne diseases resulting from a lack of access to clean drinking water, at the same time western consumers export millions if not billions of gallons of water from the developing world in the form of products, agricultural and otherwise.

Meanwhile this globalized network of plunder is destroying the stability of our planetary climate. Climate change is already increasing child mortality. As reported at Health News

"Citing a number of explanations backing up their finding, the report said that climate change already affects 250 million people - half of them being children - in a year.

“In the next 20 years, it is estimated that climate change and other factors will increase the number of people affected by disasters by more than 300 percent. Already climate change is affecting children’s health and access to food and water,” the report said.

Change in climatic conditions, which cause floods and increasing temperatures, further cause child killer diseases like malaria and diarrhoea.

“Malaria already kills 800,000 children under five each year. Rising temperatures will increase the geographical range and seasonality of the disease. In some areas where temperatures were previously low enough to keep malaria at bay - like the Kenyan highlands - the average temperature has increased so as to increase the risk of transmission,” the report said.

“If global temperatures increase by two degrees, an additional two-three million people will experience water stress, thus contributing to water borne diseases,” it added."

All to feed our desire for, in the words of Wendell Berry from an interview on Progressive Radio, "utterly worthless stuff that is worthless and unnecessary when it is made and sold to us and when we throw it away becomes substantially worse than nothing", leaving an almost indestructible legacy of toxicity.

(a poem by Wendell Berry)

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

----Wendell Berry

Thanks to Democratic Underground for the text of this poem.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Video - Resurgence - Elegant Simplicity

"Satish Kumar prescribes a simple solution to the unnecessary materialism pervading global culture. Visit http://www.resurgence.org to find out more "

Ringing in the New Year, a resolution of simplicity.

It was a mostly clear night, the blue moon shone through the occasional thin cloud. As I walked home from sharing an organic cider along with lively and productive debate with a good friend, avoiding lingering icy patches, warming my hands with my pipe, the moon began to diminish as the shadow of the earth was cast across it. I don't usually buy into the New Years eve hype but this one felt special, a lunar eclipse to signpost a new era. I felt as if I had been rung like a bell. I relit my pipe and stood stock still, gazing on this beauty offered to me on the last night of the first decade of the 21st century.

And what a decade it has been, as of February it will be a decade since I married my dearest wife, a decade of life in far flung places, adventures on the sea, on the rocks, and in the mountains. A decade of learning, study and action. Half the decade was spent living off grid, a lifestyle that has guided so much of our decision making process ever since.

And unfortunately it has been the warmest decade for the planet ever recorded. As we embark upon, what is likely to be, the new warmest decade ever and face the challenges and responsibilities that will bring, I have found renewed commitment to living a sustainable life to whatever degree is physically and financially feasible. Amongst all the efforts I have made and am committing to make towards that end, I can identify a trend, it is simplicity.

I wish to distill my life down to it's requisite elements; water, food, shelter, love, and community. In so doing I will inevitably, if done mindfully, reduce my carbon footprint, enhance my own quality of life, support those I love, and contribute to my community.

This is my resolution.

Thanks to Tech Dreams for the image.