What have you done today to lower your impact?

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

Blog Archive

Thursday, 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.