- Digital: Technological tools are developed for specific use among semi-literate and illiterate learners from various regions of the country.
- Viral: Each woman trained becomes a trainer, actively participating in the ongoing knowledge transfer to others.
- Co-Created: Enriche is developed and delivered in partnerships with local social enterprises and NGOs.”
Join us as we bike around New York City with Doug Gordan, the co-host of The War on Cars Podcast. We explore a wide array of fascinating topics about reshaping our communities and reclaiming our public spaces. From his passionate advocacy work and the undeniable social benefits of choosing bikes over cars, this rider story is a thought-provoking journey into the world of urban mobility and sustainable transportation.
Riding bikes and walking are critical for lowering carbon emissions.
Short, excellent animated video explaining the origin of fossil fuels and providing context for what it means in relation between carbon and climate collapse.
The Barefoot College is an organization in India that works with women, offering educational and advocacy programs designed to improve village life in a variety ways. The base is the development of capacity to grow their economies and standards of living through training not only in the use of appropriate technology but with a goal of trainees becoming trainers. In other words, each one teach one. In addition to the development of technological skills areas such as women’s reproductive health, sustainability and general occupational skills are also addressed.
The “Barefoot Enriche Curriculum” is designed to
“Enriche offers comprehensive training in things like basic technological skills, women’s reproductive health, environmental stewardship and occupational skills.
The programme’s founders say it is digital, viral and co-created. These three aspects are the foundation of the programme’s unique impact and success.
By donating to the campaign, you’ll be helping send 100 used iPads, chargers, cables, and battery packs to the Barefoot College. Fraser is looking to raise about $15,000 by the end of August to cover the cost of buying, testing, and shipping. The iPads will help with all matters of education, advocacy, training, communication, etc.
“The Barefoot College is a place where words like inclusion, social justice and equality are not just words. They are a way of life. We have been championing ideas of capacity building within the rural poor community through solutions like water, solar and livelihood development for our entire history.” MEAGAN FALLONE, CEO BAREFOOT COLLEGE INTERNATIONAL
Apple’s been on a very impressive roll and I’m not talking about it’s ever evolving line of mobile devices and computers, but rather its continuing build-out of solar farms. In 2012 they completed their Maiden North Carolin data center with its own on-site solar power facility which is the largest privately owned solar array in the U.S. Since then they’ve completed work on a facility in Prineville Oregon that utilizes “micro-hydro” and another solar facility in Reno Nevada is set to come online in 2015. In locations where they do not generate power they are sourcing it from wind and other renewables.
In truth, their conduct in regards to the environment goes far beyond their solar farms. They’ve made great efforts in recent years to address the energy consumption of their devices, the toxic chemicals in the devices, the recyclability of devices and amount of packaging for new products as well as repair shipments. Their most recent construction project, a new headquarters in Cupertino is designed to be one of the greenest buildings on the planet. Apple says this about it:
Like everything we build, our new Apple campus in Cupertino pushes the boundaries of technology — it will be the most energy‑efficient building of its kind. Powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources, the campus goes beyond showing respect for the environment to forming a partnership with it. Air flows freely between the inside and outside of the building, providing natural ventilation for 75 percent of the year. And sunlight powers one of the largest onsite corporate solar energy installations in the world.
The building itself is just part of the story. Just under 80 percent of the site will be open space, populated by more than 7000 trees — including more than 6000 newly planted shade and fruit trees. Drought-tolerant plants will be used throughout the landscape to minimize water use.
For a comprehensive overview of their efforts to date check the Apple Environmental Responsibility page. It’s refreshing and long overdue for companies to not only acknowledge human climate change but to recognize their own impact and then make significant changes to their operations. Apple is doing this.
Here’s the latest:
On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a massive new investment by the company in solar energy: an $850 million installation that will cover 1,300 acres in Monterey County, California. Apple is partnering with First Solar—the nation’s biggest utility-scale installer—on the project, which will produce enough power to supply 60,000 Californian homes, Cook said.
According to a press release from First Solar, Apple will receive 130 megawatts from the project under a 25-year deal, which the release describes as the largest such agreement ever.
Cook called it Apple’s “biggest, boldest and most ambitious” energy project to date, designed to offset the electricity needs of Apple’s new campus, the futuristic circular building designed by Norman Foster, and all of Apple’s California retail stores. “We know at Apple that climate change is real,” he said.
About air conditioning:
In the late 1970s, 23 percent of American homes had some form of air conditioning; today, 87 percent do. We have become so addicted that 9 out of 10 new homes are built with central air. We spend $40 billion a year air-conditioning our buildings, says the EPA, and cooling our homes accounts for 17 percent of household energy use.
In return, we get — well, I’ll let author Stan Cox say it: “Air-conditioning buildings and cars in the U.S. has the climate impact of half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. That exceeds the total annual carbon dioxide emissions of any one of these nations: Australia, France, Brazil, or Indonesia.”
Wait, you mean the thing we use to get through the record heat is … helping to cause the record heat? I believe that is what the kids call ironic.
The new solar air heater leaning up against the well/shower house where it will likely be installed as it is a near perfect south facing wall. Thermometer reading after just a minute behind the air outlet? 100 degrees and that's with outside air of 48. NICE! My guess is that this would easily heat our little shower house to a comfortable 70+ degrees on sunny days during the winter. A big thanks to Rick for building it!
Update 1: Went back out to get another temperature reading, 110 degrees! From what I've read online they can be expected to output air between 100-130 degrees or more on sunny days. Even on cloudy days they will put out air that will warm a space though obviously not as effectively.
Update 2: As of this update (1pm) it is 50 degrees outside and the current reading is 120+ (my thermometer tops out at 120) that's a 70 + degree gain.
So, cost on these, is 4x8 plywood, 2x4, paint, caulk, silicone, tempered glass assuming it is all bought new probably $100-150. My guesstimate is that in one winter the savings on electricity would be $300-500 depending on the use scenario. Cost on keeping our well/shower house heated to 50 degrees this winter has probably been $60-80, maybe more. To keep it heated to 75 for comfortable shower house temps would have been MUCH higher, easily $200+ as it would require an actual heater, not just the two heat lamps I currently use. Using the solar air heater, I think we'll be able to keep this structure heated to at least 75 on sunny days, for free next winter.
Ha! I wrote that line and almost stopped because I liked the title and the simplicity of that one word in answer. But really, this post is prompted by something Greenpa over at Little Blog in the Big Woods wrote. It is something I have meant to write about for a long, long time but never did: that we have let the conveniences of modern day life come between us and the direct experience of nature. It has softened us and dulled us. I suppose I have written about it in a round about way when I’ve discussed living without an air conditioner, fridge, or running water but I’ve not written about it in quite the same way that Greenpa
puts it here:
‘You set up your house so you HAVE to walk at least 100 yards to get to your car?! On PURPOSE??! And the worse the weather, the farther you have to walk??!!!?'
Yes I did.
Because I’m lazy.
Seriously. I’d rather not walk that far, particularly in lousy weather. If I could avoid it, I wouldn’t do it.
That, however, is something I see as an increasing problem in our world; our ever growing insulation from nature. In my lifetime, we’ve seen air-conditioning invented; then become an absolute necessity. There are loads of kids out there who cannot conceive of summer in the city without full air-conditioning.
Besides all the energy load of the machines, and the ozone destroying refrigerants; all the heat pumped out into the city so that meteorologists now see them as ‘heat islands’ on their maps; these kids do not know what it is to be HOT. And to have to deal with it.
Or cold. In winter, we go from our heated houses into our attached garages, get into our pre-warmed cars; drive to the underground parking ramps, scurry to the elevators (heated) and shiver into the offices, complaining about how miserably cold it is, without actually having been outside more than 30 seconds at a time.
As a biologist, I can assure you, we can tolerate a lot of heat; and adapt to a lot of cold, and human skin does not melt in the rain. But more and more, kids are genuinely unaware of that.
I don’t think that’s a good idea. And I doubt it’s good to be so comfortable, all the time, even for folks who DO know it. I really think humans are a part of nature. And I really think we need to stay in touch with the rest of it.
Anyone that knows me or who has read this blog knows what I think about climate change and peak oil. Not only are they very real but they have come to our front door and stepped into our homes. They are here right now.
I’ve chosen do what I think must be done on a mass scale right now (though I’m certain it won’t be) and that is DRASTIC change in how we live our lives. I have chosen to live directly and deliberately with nature as a part of nature. Ultimately I think more and more of us will be forced into this but I’d much rather make the changes by choice. In fact, I relish the intensity and beauty of it. The other night is was sitting in our unheated outhouse at 8 degrees F. Not only did I survive but as I did my business I enjoyed looking out the window at the star filled sky and it was perhaps the most fantastic shit I’ve ever taken. The very next morning I was out there doing the very same thing only this time I was watching and listening as a variety of birds went about their morning business in the branches just a few feet away. Yes my ass was frozen but thanks to the beauty surrounding me this too was a great start to another day.
The fact is that these are the conditions that many all over this planet still live in every day. As Greenpa says above, humans are much, much more durable than we in the “civilized” world realize. Not only can we survive the greater intensity of a life lived more directly, but the experiences deepen our appreciation of the simple comforts that we do have. In truth, if we truly value the ideas of justice and fairness it seems to me that we really should live in such a way that limits our resource use to a level that will allow our fellow humans to live better. Our very survival depends on it.
Carbon, Climate Change, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Ecology, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environment, Environmentalism, Fossil Fuels, Global Warming, Homesteading, Humanity, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Self Reliance
Rob Hopkins of the Transition Town movement has an excellent post: about the need for fairly drastic 9% cuts in carbon emissions that we need to avert climate change. His post reminds me of something I wrote nearly a year ago, namely that we need a global recession. Humans have thus far proven incapable of dealing with this issue in any meaningful way. A recession or depression, though very difficult, will force the solution.
From Hopkins' post:
Last week a friend sent me a stunning, thinking-shifting powerpoint by Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre’s Energy Programme entitled Reframing Climate Change: from long-term targets to emission pathways. If you want a sobering and, frankly, deeply depressing, update on the implications of the latest climate science, this is as good a place to start as any. It looks at the scale of the year-on-year emissions that we need to make, and it is quite something. Given that we need to aim to stay below 450ppm in order to have any chance of avoiding runaway climate change (and even that, as the Climate Safety report, issued last week, and the recent testimony from Tim Helwig-Larsen and James Hansen at the House of Commons set out, is almost certainly not enough), what does that actually mean in terms of emissions cuts?
If , Anderson argues, we were to aim for 650ppm with global emissions peaking in 2020, we would need 3% annual cuts starting today. A huge task in itself. If we want to aim for 550ppm with emissions peaking in 2020, we would need 6% annual reductions (which means 9% reductions in emissions from energy generation). If we go for the 450ppm target, which is, realistically, the one that has any chance of preserving a stable climate, we need 9% reductions, every year, for the foreseeable future, starting now. 9%.
9% is just a number though, and as one wades through the climate change literature one is bombared with numbers… but having studied this presentation, 9% is clearly an important one, perhaps as important as Bill McKibben’s 350. What might it actually mean in practice? Anderson goes on to look at the rare occasions in the past when reductions have actually been achieved by ‘developed’ nations. Annual reductions of greater than 1% p.a. have, he argues, quoting the Stern Report, only ‘been associated with economic recession or upheaval’. Interesting.
I have little doubt that we have entered a greater depression or what James Kunstler calls the Long Emergency. The landscape of the United States is changing by the day and by the end of 2009 it will be very different place. We can waste resources fighting this inevitability or we can embrace it. I have chosen to embrace it by shifting to a greatly simplified life based on permaculture. I’ll do my best to become self sufficient and to share my surpluses.
What does a simple life like this look like? In the first 8 months of living at my homestead I’ve happily lived on 2-3 kWh a day (the U.S. average is around 31 a day) with no refrigerator, microwave, or other major appliances. I use a couple of compact fluorescent lights, a laptop, and, on occasion, a television. I haul water from a well and use 3-5 gallons a day. I cook with propane or wood stove which is also my heat in the winter. All humanure is composted for use on fruit trees after 2 years. I drive to town once a week. Next years expanded garden should produce much of my year’s food. If I can preserve it properly maybe most of my food. When the food forest has matured I’m hoping to be able to produce all my food for the year except for the rice and wheat.
Having lived a similar life at the deCleyre co-op in Memphis, TN I have little doubt that a great deal can be done on any suburban or city lot. Striving for a smaller carbon footprint and greater self reliance can happen anywhere though certainly those with more land can grow more. Washing clothes by hand and hanging to dry can happen practically anywhere as can food preparation from scratch.
The key is to take a hard look at what we use and assume as the normal, needed appliances. We often don’t need them, but have gotten used to them. The 9% reduction discussed in the article above is a very large cut from what we currently use. It will require that we all garden, reduce driving to only essential or emergency trips, and drastically reduce our consumption. In other word,s 9% is not accomplished by the easy stuff like changing light bulbs. It means little or no air conditioning, heating in the winter to 55 or 60 rather than 72. Imagine cutting your electrical use by half and then cut that in half again. Now cut it in half one more time. Anyone can do these things but it will not be easy and it will require commitment to drastic change. It really is that simple.
One last thought. For those that want to believe that we can solve this problem with technology. It is NOT going to happen that way. Sure, we can build out solar and wind power capacity and we should. But that is only part of the answer, probably the smallest part. The largest part will be the drastic conservation that we can all do RIGHT NOW without any government legislation or infrastructure change.
Activism, An Inconvenient Truth, Antarctica, Arctic, Climate Change, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Economy, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Global Depression, Global Warming, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Self Reliance, The Long Emergency
An excellent site for those that use wood as a primary source of heat. Actually, good for anyone using a wood burning stove but especially important for those that burn alot. Wood Heat.org provides all the details for burning wood most efficiently. If you’re concerned about climate change and I hope you are this is a site worth reading through.
Want to get a better foundational understanding of the Greater Depression that we have now entered? Here are a few blogs I’d suggest you read every day or at least a few times a week.
Sites which focus on the economic system specifically:
The Automatic Earth
The Market Ticker
Sites which discuss a broader range of issues (peak oil, self reliance, homesteading, climate change, suburbia…) related to the current collapse and what will follow:
The Archdruid Report
Here’s a little sample from November 7 post from
The Automatic Earth: Debt Rattle: Hocus Focus:
Obama’s chief of staff is a former Freddie Mac board member and fervent supporter of the invasion of Iraq. Many of the ‘experts’ are, or have been, Goldman and Citigroup execs. These people like the power and the money they have gathered while driving the economy into the ground. They’re not going to give that up just to build a financial system that would better serve the people. They’ll build one that best serves them.
Sure, some loose ends will be tweaked, but mostly they’ll spend the nation into a depression by attempting to salvage corporations that would have long since died if it were not for America’s 21st century version of Mussolini’s corporate fascism, and the unlimited access to the public trough it provides.
The broke man in the street will be broker, until he’s broken, until he lives in the street, his last hard earned penny squeezed from his hands and dumped into banks, insurers and carmakers that have zero chance of ever turning a profit again.
The taxpayer will be taxed, and will be forced to pay until (s)he can pay no more, if need be at the barrel of a gun, until (s)he no longer has a job, a home, dignity or a future. And then the growth machine will spit her out. Whoever can’t produce or consume is a write-off.
We’ve spent too much, and now we’re broke. Let’s spend more, and lots more, ‘cause then we will be whole again. Double or nothing, it’s all we know.
The dice will come up nothing.
Barack Obama, Capitalism, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Economy, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Food, Food Production, Gardening, Global Depression, Great Depression, Homesteading, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Obama, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Recession, Self Reliance, The Long Emergency, Working Less
Apparently there is talk that Al Gore might be head of the EPA in the Obama administration and just over a week ago Gore wrote up a dream list which was published in the New York Times.
One of my current favorite authors, Sharon Astyk, in her post A New Deal or a War Footing? Thinking Through Our Response to Climate Change wonders why there is no mention of lowering consumption. This is something I’ve written about before. Earlier this year I wrote that, in fact, a global economic recession was exactly what was needed as a way of forcing the lowering of consumption and thus a lowering of climate impact. From Sharon’s blog:
Quick - what’s not on this list? I bet you noticed, too - there’s no mention of consumption, either as an economic issue or at the personal level. Rather like coming out of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ we’re left with the message that there’s nothing for us to do other than lobby our fearless leaders.
What’s wrong with that? Addressing climate change manifestly requires policy solutions - but again we see ourselves trapped in the false dichotomy I discuss in Depletion and Abundance between public and private. There is no question in the world that consumption is a policy issue - 70% of our economy depends on consumer spending and personal consumption. Yet again we are being told that ‘personal action’ is something you do in the dark that makes no difference, while the really important stuff happens at the government tables.
In fact, in reality, we know differently. At US government tables we’ve seen exactly 0 major policy shifts so far - yes, we had the worst president imaginable, but that doesn’t change the fact that under Clinton, when Gore was vice-president, we saw the same zippo. At the same time, as consumers have slowed their spending, we’ve seen projections of world oil use fall dramatically - for the first time in decades, we are expecting an actual contraction in the use of oil. Earlier this year, actual driving miles fell dramatically - as much as 6% year over year. Now these things were in reaction to high prices - but they were consumption decisions made by private households that in the aggregate made more real difference in the impact of our emissions than all the treaties we’ve violated or refused to sign.
The assumption, of course, is that we make changes for economic reasons, but that we’d never make them for ecological reasons. My answer to that is simply this - no one has tried asking Americans to make major shifts in their lifestyle for the good of their country and their ecology in 30 years. We assume we know that this would never succeed - in practice, we don’t have the slightest idea what would happen.
Consumption is not simply accidentally left off the table by people who underestimate its power or prefer only to focus on legislation, it is left off because thinking about consumption undermines some of the presumptions of wholly technical and policy solutions. In fact, if we addressed consumption, we might have to change our basic assumptions about what we can accomplish.
Think about Gore’s list above in relation to consumption. The first thing, of course, that jumps out at you is the claim we have to bail out the car companies, even though, as Deutsche Bank announced, GM is worth nothing - its stock is worth absolutely nothing. Think about that one for a second, and consider what has to underly our presumptions that we should bail out a car company - underlying it is the assumption that we will all be buying cars again fairly soon - shiny new electric ones.
That is, underlying the assumptions of a Gore-style New Deal is the idea that we can do temporary bail outs because our consumption is going to go back up - only this time we’ll be consuming green products, including our electric cars. There are several problems with this - the obvious one being that it isn’t clear what will fund our ability to buy these new cars in the coming years. The assumption is that the new green jobs will do so - and perhaps that’s true, but there’s a ‘turtles all the way down’ quality to this analysis - the new deal will give us the ability to make these shifts, and the money will then only be spent for good (despite the fact that historically, the more we spend, the more we consume)….I’m not convinced anyone knows how that might happen.
Sharon offers many details in her thought provoking analysis of the energy input vs return in the massive renewable energy program that the Gore approach entails. I encourage you toread her post in it’s entirety.
American Politics, Barack Obama, An Inconvenient Truth, Capitalism, Carbon, Climate Change, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Ecology, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environment, Environmentalism, Fossil Fuels, Global Warming, Natural Resources, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Politics, Recession, Sustainable Development
Sharon Astyk has peeled back the layers of the current economic collapse… an excellent essay worth checking out.:
What is reducing the amount of productive work accomplished, and moving the money increasingly only into a few pockets? It is the high price of food. And what is the root cause of the high price of food? Well, the single biggest factor, according to a number of studies, including the UN studies, has been the move to food based biofuels. So if we peel back the onion one more layer, what we find is that one of the major factors slowing the economy has been, well, oil. The rush to biofuels is a response to tightening oil supplies and rising costs, and the aggregate effect has been to push up food prices all over the world, while doing pretty much nothing to increase energy security, reduce greenhouse gasses or do much of anything else useful.
I’m no economist, and I don’t pretend to be. But I wonder, when we peel back the layers of the onion later, and look at the history of this Depression, I wonder if we’ll see that in fact, what happened was that we squeezed out the lifeblood of the very thing we’d built our economy upon - new workers/consumers who could be counted on to grow the economy outwards and upwards. We could have forseen this - but we chose not to - we chose, as we struggled to keep our lifestyle intact on the backs of the world’s poor, not to see that we stand on their backs, and it is people…all the way down. In killing them, we killed ourselves. It may be that besides the tragedy of starving millions of poor people, we may also have brought down our own system, simply because we did not see, did not realize that the poor matter more to us than we like to admit.
I finally have a chainsaw that works thanks to a my dad who has loaned me his. It really works. It does not stop running every 2 minutes and with a sharp blade/chain it cuts through logs like soft butter.
Anybody that knows me or anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows how I feel about peak oil and climate change. People that know me personally also know just how much I detest the unnecessary use of gas, especially in lawnmowers, weed eaters, air blowers, etc. These machines are loud, stinky and unnecessarily used to impose order where order is not meant to be. But let me tell you about the chainsaw.
Yes, the chainsaw is also loud, stinky, and equally as polluting. But it is one gas-powered tool I will use because it is a smarter use of the fuel and unlike the others listed above, it serves a very real purpose: winter survival. While the other devices are about trying to force nature into something it is not, aesthetically ordered and neatly groomed, the chainsaw is a tool that will help me keep warm in the winter.
I’ve never used them much because I’ve always had other sources of heat. I’ve never been very fond of them because I do love trees and would rather they be planted and left standing rather than cut. We need more trees on our planet, not less. That said, I do understand that sometimes they do need to be cut down and sometimes they are blown down and need to be moved. In both cases one possible use of a downed tree is to cut it up for firewood. Yes it is possible to use a hand saw and I actually have used one quite a bit this summer for smaller branches. But for cutting through tree trunks a chainsaw is orders of magnitude faster and it is one of the very few times I have thought to use such a tool because I think it is a much wiser use of the energy.
My goal here is to build a homestead based upon the principles of permaculture which, greatly simplified, means a life which is sustainable. There’s no room in such a life for the wasteful use of resources. All of my gardening is done with hand tools, most of it is no-dig. Any area that I determine must be cleared of grass is cleared via sheet mulching or hand tools and a gass-less reel mower. My point is that the use of gas-powered tools is the exception to the rule and is a last resort.
Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Fossil Fuels, Gas, Gasoline, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Self Reliance
Want to know more about the current economic situation and coming Depression? Check out the Crash Course by Chirs Martenson. This is a fantastic series of flash video/slide presentations that explains money, inflation, and the economy. Watch it and share it. This guy does a really excellent job of presenting the history and the current situation… everyone should watch this at least once. It is… STUNNING.
Pass it on.
Capitalism, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Energy, Fossil Fuels, Global Depression, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Recession, The Long Emergency, Economy, Poverty, Banks, FED, Dollar
Over the years I’ve spent countless hours reading, learning and speculating about the future of humanity and the planet we call earth. In my first years of college in 1988-1990 I first started learning about the human rights movement, alternative agriculture, and the budding american Green movement. I founded a Green local in my college town, Kirksville, MO and I began to identify myself as an activist. Between my time away from family as well as this fundamental shift in my identity I began to notice a crack which became a gulf in how I related to my fellow humans and they to me.
Looking back I’ve come to realize that the “activist” is actually a strange phenomena. In a participatory democracy, there would not be a need for “activists” which are really just citizens which are involved in the community process of self-government. In a participatory democracy all citizens are active. The republic that we have today is, of course, a far, far cry from a real democracy. To suggest that it is democratic is to twist and pervert the word to such a degree that it no longer resembles its original meaning. (It was never a participatory democracy at all, but a republic that was supposedly controlled by citizens via representatives via “democratic” elections. But really, the differences, while important, are another topic for another time.)
Over the years (most notably beginning after WWII and the rise of suburbia) the people of United States have been taught that life is about the American Dream. It is about being happy which comes with certain material possessions as well as a neatly defined nuclear family of husband, wife, and kids. Of course the American Dream is open-ended and the list of material possessions grows and grows and is never completed. In accepting the American Dream as our way of life we gave up citizenship and became consumers who were no longer concerned with the serious responsibilities of being involved in government. In allowing ourselves be redefined we gave up power to those who did the redefining: the wealthy upper-class which controlled corporate capitalism and the state.
The role of “activist” came about because there are still citizens that strive to be actively engaged. I’ve come to realize that the disdain and outright hostility that I’ve faced as an activist is a fairly common experience and is related, at least in part, to the psychological and life investments made by the majority of people in the U.S. People went along for the ride. They were offered a way of life and they took it. They may not have even realized what was happening. My parents are a good example. They were a product of their socialization and they accepted what was put before them as the normal way of life. The development of suburbia and a shift to consumerism were the next steps to be taken after the Great Depression and the emergence of the U.S. as a world power after WWII. My parents got their jobs, bought their car and home then started having children. They moved, kept their jobs, bought another car and continued to raise their kids. They invested their lifetimes in this way of life. They believed in this way of life. My two siblings followed suit with their own families, jobs, homes, cars, pools and kids.
Imagine the emotional response of having that way of life criticized. By definition an activist (active citizen) is critical and vocal. The role of the citizen is to strive towards informed and ethical decision making for the community good. It is an unfortunate fact that to be an active citizen in our society often leads to separation from the majority in thought and behavior in part because we are often considered to be “judgmental” which, of course, we are. We do “judge” in the sense that we form opinions and conclusions regarding the everyday life around us. Being an active citizen is a never ending process of responsibility which leaves no stone unturned. It means looking at how we get things done: transport, growing of food, production of material goods, etc. and making determinations of how those actions and systems are working or not working.
In the 20 or so years that I’ve considered myself an active citizen I have consistently been met with resistance. Most people are not open to the idea that their way of life requires the suffering of others. It’s not comfortable or convenient because it implies a sense of guilt about both the system and the people who are a part of it. If a way of life is implicitly unfair and unsustainable and we willingly participate in it what does that say about us?
With the arrival of peak oil, climate change, and serious economic crisis all at the same time, many people are seeing the cracks in the way of life that they have taken as a given. As the cracks begin to expand and the system crumbles the whole gamut of emotional and mental states will run its course through the “consumers” of this nation. I suspect that anger, fear and confusion will dominate. The process is already well under way and if we’re lucky it will continue to unwind slowly. If that is the case then perhaps panic and violence will give way to community-based movements of cooperation. I don’t hold out much hope for this. The shift in our way of life is going to be monumental. Every aspect of how we live is about to change as the cultural, political and ecological repercussions of the past 60+ years step onto the stage. Perhaps the two most significant differences between the Great Depression of the last century and this “Long Emergency” (as James Kunstler refers to it) are the planet’s population of 6.5 billion people and dwindling fossil fuel resources.
Eleutheros of the excellent blog How Many Miles from Babylon describes it as a
shift in paradigm :
Facing the realities of our immediate future calls for a shift in the paradigm, a shift in thinking, a shift in the mindset.
We are mentally conditioned to think that we would be happier, more comfortable, in a larger over heated and over cooled house. We think prepackaged food is vastly easier to prepare. We think a food processor is a hundred times easier than a knife. Of course this farmstead is on the lunatic fringe. We have experimented with cutting all the firewood we need for heating and cooling with hand tools. It’s some more work, to be sure, but not much. Yet in the imagination of the uninitiated, a chainsaw is many hundreds of times less work.
On this farmstead 85% of our food involves zero food-miles and almost all the rest is bought bulk, we use very little electricity and no commercial gas or other fuels. We wear used clothing. We drive bottom feeder vehicles and those only very rarely. Yet how much do we impact global energy and resource use? None, negligible at any rate. The random motion of molecules accounts for more fuel savings that we do in the scheme of things. What we represent is not some quantified amount of energy and resources saved, but rather a complete paradigm shift from the consumerist world.
I’ve said many times before that I think it is far too late to stop what is coming. It is a done deal. The question is how will we handle ourselves as this amazing shift in our way of life occurs. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we learn and share the skills necessary for survival? Will we step out of our air-conditioned lives and do the work that is now required? Billions of people on planet earth deal directly with survival issues every single day. They know hunger, thirst, extreme cold and heat… for them, survival is not a reality television show but a fact of everyday life.
When fossil fuel based agriculture fails and the shelves remain empty will we eat the drywall of our over-sized homes or will we learn to grow and preserve food the way our ancestors did? I wonder how many people have a basic understanding of how to garden and preserve food? How many have actually tried it and thus have an awareness of how much can actually be grown on any given amount of land or how much time is required? What about growing from seeds and saving seeds for the next season? Will they have access to gasoline and a tiller to prepare the soil or will they double dig by hand or sheet mulch with cardboard? Do they know about squash bugs or japanese beetles? What will they do about water during times of drought? Will a nation of people used to consuming fast food and microwaveable box dinners even know what to do with the vegetables that they’ve grown? How long will it take them to learn to enjoy real, whole and healthy food?
As individual people we have a lot of growing to do. As individuals that inhabit rural roads or streets in towns and cities, we’ll need to develop better relationships with neighbors which can then be grown into communities.
Activism, Agriculture, American Politics, Capitalism, Climate Change, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environmentalism, Food, Food Production, Fossil Fuels, Gardening, Global Depression, Global Warming, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Politics, Recession, Self Reliance, Sustainable Development, The Long Emergency
I had another one of those aha!! moments that is almost embarrasing because it was so long coming. As I’ve written recently I’m not using air conditioning as a part of my effort to reduce my personal impact on the climate. I’m also living in a cabin which is not completely finished on the inside. The ceiling is finished and well insulated with a ceiling fan installed. I’ve still got two walls that need the electrical wiring finished, insulation on two walls still to be installed and then pine bead board for all of the inside walls.
Much of my cabin is shaded at various times of day but it does get hit with a good bit of direct sun. About half of the east facing side gets full sun from about 9am to noon. I made it a point to insulate about half of this wall a few weeks back but a good bit of heat still makes it through. I would have done the whole wall but I have a good bit of temporary shelving nailed up to the other half and it is fully stocked with food so I stopped at the half way point.
Three weeks ago Greg brought down a truck load of used 2x4, 2x6, and 2x8 wood to be re-used for a variety of future projects. We stacked it into a neat pile where it has been sitting ever since. Meanwhile I’ve been working, observing and thinking about the design elements of the site and future projects. I decided very early on that I’d be putting a series of eight or so raised rain collection barrels along the back/east side of the cabin and that I’d put a lattice or similar structure on it for some sort of perennial fruit vine or an annual bean/squash vine to provide food and shade. I may also plant a couple fruit trees back there. But those projects won’t be completed until early spring of next year.
Now, for that aha! moment. It’s hot and humid outside. I’m hot. My dog is hot. My unfinished walls are getting direct sunlight and heating up outside and inside. Why not lean all those neatly stacked boards up against the east side of my cabin? So simple and obvious!! In ten minutes I’ve provided a solid wall of deep shade that should easily give me another hour or two of inside coolness. I’ll be doing the same thing along the south side of the cabin which gets direct sun from about 3pm to 5pm.
Greg will be back down around the third weekend of August and we’ll get the inside walls finished off but I’ll be leaving those boards up until they no longer get the direct sun or until outside temperatures cool down, probably the middle of September.
It always amazes me how many people do not shade their houses with trees, bushes or vines. I suppose that the combination of cheap energy, air conditioning and fairly well insulated homes combined make it easy for folks to ignore or not realize just how much direct sunlight on exterior walls can heat a home. As energy becomes increasingly expensive and eventually as shortages occur I expect these details will become more important to more people.
Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Fossil Fuels, Global Warming, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Self Reliance, The Long Emergency
I wrote the other day about not using a refrigerator as a part of my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint. I’d mentioned that if we in the U.S. are going to lower our our carbon footprint to a level which is equitable and closer to sustainable that we would need to lower our emissions by about 90%. Ninety. Percent. That is a drastic reduction. Ponder it for a moment. Hell, ponder it for the rest of the day if you’d like.
I came across that particular percentage will reading through this post by DJ at the excellent blog, Asymptotic Life:
Listening to Radio West yesterday, I heard a guest make an interesting point: if we tell poor people around the globe that they can’t live the way we do, we’re trying to prevent global warming by forcing people to continue to live in poverty. That is, for most of us, morally unacceptable.
Our current attitude seems to be that we can afford to buy all that energy and emit that CO2, and “they” can’t. Too bad, but bully for us…
What would it look like to create an equitable and sustainable per-capita CO2 emissions policy? Assuming everyone emitted the same amount of CO2, how much could we all emit without frying the planet (and all of us with it)?
Let’s assume that, to keep CO2 concentrations low enough to avoid catastrophe, we limit CO2 concentration to 350 ppm— down from today’s 385 ppm. That means cutting CO2 emissions by 50% of their current levels. At 2004 levels, the world generated 27 billion metric tons of CO2— more than 20% of that by the U.S. alone. That means we’d need to reduce to about 13.5 million metric tons worldwide.
The world population is currently 6.8 billion people. That means each person would be allowed to emit 2 tons of CO2 per year. For 88 countries in the world, that’s a step up— more than they currently produce per capita. But for we priviledged few in the U.S., that means cutting our per capita emissions (currently over 20 tons per person per year) by 90%.
One of the largest energy hogs in any household is the air conditioner. Others at the top of the list are whole house forced air heating systems, hot water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, and plasma tvs. In addition to not having a refrigerator I’ve decided I will not use an A/C. I do have a small window A/C but only run it at the request of visiting guests. When it is just me and Talula we get hot, damn hot. We cool off with lots of water, we slow down and sit in the shade. We’ll survive just like many of other billions of humans who survive everyday in hot climates with no A/C. It’s not easy, not fun (well, actually swimming is fun), not comfortable but it is possible.
Before I move on let me quote another of DJ’s excellent posts, What Two Tons Means to Me:
Last week, I calculated that a sustainable and equitable rate of CO2 emissions would be about 2 tons per person per year. Currently, the U.S. emits just over 20 tons of CO2 per person annually. Of this, according to EPA, 20% (4 tons) is caused by household energy use and about 27% (5.5 tons) is caused by four-wheeled passenger vehicles. The remainder, about 11 tons, is generated by the economy on our behalf, including manufacturing, agriculture, cement and steel production, and transportation of goods both for us and for export.
Let’s assume that DJ’s figures are correct. Even with my limited use of electricity I am averaging 25 Kwh a week, about 100 a month. That’s for one person in a small cabin of 192 square feet. On a typical day I use: 1 compact fluorescent light, a ceiling fan, a window fan, and a laptop computer. Other appliances that draw power on occasion: water well pump, battery charger, external hard drive, computer speakers, and phone charger. That’s it and it still adds up to 100 Kwh a month. The average U.S. household uses just under 900 Kwh a month, just in electricity. Imagine the difficulty of cutting that by 60-80%!
Want to try something interesting? Take a weekend and power down everything in your house. Go through room by room and unplug everything on Friday evening. Over dinner discuss the adventure and what it means. Experience Friday night and Saturday without power. Use the time to discuss and evaluate your needs. Define the difference between needs and wants, needs and comforts. Make an effort to understand your needs and usage as they relate to the needs and usage of the vast majority of families around the planet that use far less. Sunday morning or afternoon begin the process of slowly and thoughtfully plugging things back in based Saturday’s discussion.
Remember, we’re not even considering the carbon that is emitted by personal transportation, emissions that would need to be cut by 80% or more. Then there are carbon emissions related to consumption of food and consumer goods.
This is why the governmental “solutions” put forth by congress and presidents (or the current crop of presidential candidates) are a sad joke. These folks are not even CLOSE to realistic. The same goes for the myriad “100 things you can do to save the planet lists” that we see put forth by media and mainstream environmental groups. Sure, we should all do the easy things that are on those lists but the reality is that if we are serious about slowing climate change we are going to have to make drastic changes to the way we live. I’m all for it, I think we absolutely should go all out. I think we should sacrifice, should do whatever it takes. But my guess is that most folks would laugh at the idea. Frankly, I don’t think that today’s Americans have the strength of character the task requires. We’ve been far too spoiled for far too long.
When it comes down to it most folks in western “civilized” nations will only change when it is forced on them when resources are no longer available at prices they can afford. We’re already seeing that people are driving less in the U.S. now that gas is averaging $4/gallon, imagine gas at $6, $7, or $8 a gallon. Imagine utility rates doubling or tripling. Those things are coming sooner than later and I for one welcome them. Yes, they will bring hardship and suffering and around the world billions are already suffering as they are already effected by price increases. Regardless of what reality is about to force upon us, it is probably too late in terms of the climate. What we have set in motion will not be easily undone, most likely we will hardly slow the process at all.
Michael Stipe said it best: It’s the end of the world as we know it.
American Politics, An Inconvenient Truth, Anarchism, Arctic, Carbon, Climate Change, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environment, Environmentalism, Food, Food Production, Fossil Fuels, Gas, Gas Prices, Global Warming, Humanity, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Politics, Sustainable Development, The Long Emergency
I’ve mentioned before that a part of our plan here is to have chickens which are, of course, an essential ingredient in almost any permaculture design. Not only do they provide eggs and meat (not for me!), but also manure, warmth for plants in an attached greenhouse, feathers, and they help weed/till the garden as they eat insects and food wastes. In short, chickens rock. I cannot wait to get our coop built and the chickens moved in. For now I’ll content myself with eggs which are raised by someone else in their backyard. What’s great about home raised eggs is that I can request that they not be washed. You may not know this but eggs have a protective layer which keeps them perfectly edible for up to three weeks without being refrigerated. Neat, eh? This is especially important for me because I do not have, or plan to get, a refrigerator. Let me explain.
One of the primary principles of permaculture is earth care which means, in part, reducing our carbon footprint. For those of us in the U.S. this means a drastic reduction of about 90% (I’ll discuss that figure in another entry to be posted soon) if we are to have an equal share with the rest of our fellow humans. In addition to earth care there is of course the added reality of peak oil/coal/energy (peak everything really but that’s also another post for another day!).
What this means for me in my day-to-day life is that I have made a choice to not have the typical electrical appliances that most people in the U.S. take for granted as necessary for life. This brings me back to the refrigerator. Because I don’t a refrigerator I have to adapt, I have to think differently about how I use and store food. I have to make sure that the eggs I get have not been washed so that I can keep them at everyday temperatures. I no longer drink soy milk which I only really used as a creamer for coffee. Also, no cheese which I don’t miss much since I rarely ate it. It means that I have to be careful when I cook so that I’m not cooking too much. If I do have left overs I can usually keep them in a small cooler with a bit of very cold well water and eat them the next day with no ill effects.
I’ve been living without a refrigerator for nearly two months and I’m still very healthy. It has required a few modifications to my diet but nothing drastic. It’s just one step towards a smaller carbon footprint and a way of life that will likely be a fact for most of us in a future with fewer fossil fuel resources.
Carbon, Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Food, Fossil Fuels, Living Simply, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Self Reliance
It’s been a very busy week since my last post! In anticipation that I might be adding to the orchard over the weekend I spent last Friday creating paths through the brush and grass. My sister and brother-in-law visited with their kids for the weekend and she stayed with the kids for another couple of days. On Saturday Greg got the electrical work in the cabin finished and on Sunday the two of us put in the ceiling (insulation, tongue and groove pine boards, and a ceiling fan). They also brought down another 10 fruit trees for the orchard which makes a total of 17 trees! On Monday I put in three Golden Delicious apple trees and since Mondays are my set day to water the fruit trees I also hauled up four buckets of lake water for those that are already planted. I got three buckets from the rain barrel which is nice since it is so much closer. On Tuesday I put in the last Golden Delicious and cleared more paths as well as put up insulation on one of the walls in the cabin. On Wednesday I put up more insulation and planted a peach tree. Today I put in another two peach trees, so, seven planted and three more to go. I should have the remaining trees put in this evening or tomorrow.
Conservation, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environment, Environmentalism, Food, Food Production, Gardening, Living Simply, Natural, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Self Reliance
You know you are a total nerd when the highlight of your day is a brief rainstorm that fills your rain barrel half way. With the new (actually 20+ years old and re-used) gutter all the rain is now directed to the barrel and our five minutes of heavy rain just now filled it to half. Sweet. I can’t wait to get the others and hook them up into a proper series. I’d like to put in 10 but I may only be able to fit 8 or 9 which would still be a nice bit of water to have around. Given that this barrel would have filled in just 10 minutes I’d estimate that 8 barrels will easily fill in less than two hours with a fairly hard rain, much less if the rain were as heavy as what we just had. Maybe I need 20 barrels?
My expectations of a future shaped by climate change and peak energy is that we must become very efficient at harvesting and using/conserving fresh water. It seems to me that we can expect increasingly erratic weather with periods of extreme drought and wet far beyond what we’ve seen in the past. Combine that with the myriad issues related to agriculture and peak energy and you have lots of trouble in regards to a steady food supply.
If I can harvest and store 1650 gallons of water for use during drought then I will… guess I need 30 barrels!