Wednesday, December 27, 2006
We didn’t talk about peak oil or the tragic loss of top soil in our country. But she did say she’d seen my chickens one day when they ventured into my front yard. She told me about how living in our small, southern town used to include keeping backyard poultry and sometimes even larger livestock. She lamented the fact that folks no longer garden; that people aren’t as neighborly and don’t get together to share as often. We both apologized for not having met sooner. I brought up the idea of me gardening in her backyard. She is no longer able to do the physical work of growing food and was happy to hear the idea of me using her former garden to do so. We both agreed that sharing the food, not only between our two households but also with some of our other neighbors, would be a good idea. One such neighbor has since offered to help and has begun to deposit fallen leaves in a pile we’ll use for compost and for mulch.
The full version of this story about a holiday expansion of my neighborhood gardening efforts appears HERE as part of Groovy Green's 13 Days of Joy series.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Hopefully I'll be back with a big ole world changing suggestion in a few months. Here's to making change because this is just tragic...
Friday, December 15, 2006
If you need any amusement this holiday season aside from outdoor Christmas decorations gone mad, you’re welcome to review this week’s OPEC circus sponsored by corporate media. For the second time in nine months the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries got together and decided to cut production; this time by 500,000 barrels per day.
Funny Monkey Number One: The price of oil is dangerously low. Say what? OPEC decided to cut production by 1.2 million bpd back in October to, “halt a 10-week, 25 percent price decline.” Remember this graph?
Oil at anything other than about $20 a barrel is historically high. And yet they claim to be “stopping the price slide” or that they have “determination to manage the market and prop up prices.” I know we’ll never see $20 per barrel oil prices again. But I also know the real reason why. So how come the corporate media of our oil importing countries just sits there stupid and eats up this nonsense? Perhaps they actually buy this…
Funny Monkey Number Two: There are seasons of high demand for oil. In
Not So Funny Monkey Number Three: OPEC is peaking in oil production.
Now I ask you, if you were one of the countries that was responsible for the continuation of The Western World’s Great Big Fossil Fuel Party (admission by invite only) what would you do when you reached the peak of your production capacity? Would you come right out and say, “Sorry guys, the keg’s dry.” Or would you, in a market of sustained high oil prices, decide to voluntarily cut production? Think about it. What they’re doing would be like Starbucks saying, "Now that we have everyone addicted to $2 per cup caffeinated beverages we're going to be closing some stores." OPEC had this to say in a press release about the circus this week, “The Conference further reiterated the Organization’s determination to take all measures deemed necessary to keep market stability through the maintenance of supply and demand in balance, for the benefit of producers and consumers alike." Hello dummy media organizations, in case you really aren’t getting the hint OPEC is trying to tell you it has peaked. They're ready to give Richard Heinberg a call. Remember this is the same organization that once reported its oil reserves did this.
This group is interested in stability for as long as it can hold together a market for its product. But make no mistake, it is has never been interested in being forthcoming about the truth. And here sits the corporate media like three little monkeys.
So there you have it. To bad the truth isn’t as fun as a circus. Happy Holidays.
Some of the above charts from a responsible independent media resource, The Oil Drum.
Monday, December 11, 2006
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Luffa phenomenon is also affecting me. My most recent post to this site was an essay of ideas about how we as a people must make change in ourselves (among other rambling thoughts). It was thoughtful (I thought) and took a bit of thinking and writing to complete. It has received very little attention. On the other hand, a few weeks ago I published a 20 sentence explanation on “How to Grow a Luffa Sponge” that took 15 minutes to create. It received tens of thousands of visitors in less than a week. I guess I should accept the fact that people are more interested in learning how to grow their own shower sponge and less interested in listening to the sprawling thoughts of a peak oil aware 30-something. That might not be such a bad thing. It points to the fact that people everywhere are interested in doing and growing things for themselves. It might mean folks have this wonderful new source of communication in the Internet and they are using it to search out ways of being more self sufficient and ways of living in a more sustainable manner. Perhaps the rejection by omission of my most recent essay should serve as an aide memoire of something my wife is fond of foretelling; as peak energy unfolds people will want to read about simple changes they can make in response to the problems of the world. Actually she just says, “Keep it simple stupid”. So that’s what I’ll do. I will write about a simple way to fix the problems associated with peak oil, climate change, national insecurity and wide spread social injustice. Now let’s see... what simple, elegant solution could address so many problems?
I got it. How about adding 100 million new farmers in
"some critics will surely complain that 'Korten wants to change everything'. They miss the point. Everything is going to change. The question is whether we let the changes play out in increasingly destructive ways or embrace the deepening crisis as our time of opportunity … it is the greatest creative challenge the species has ever faced"
Why fight it? The simplest way to make lemonade from our citrus circumstance is to find a clever, uncomplicated way to turn the world around. What better approach than through food. Not to mention the process of building soil sequesters a good bit of carbon from out of the atmosphere but now I’m giving away too many ideas. Why would Oprah buy the book if she could just read it all right here? Plus I’m going to need some help with this one. I’d better first talk to Sharon Astyk and see if she’d like to lend a hand. The truth is this project was Sharon’s idea and I imagine we’ll get help from plenty of the other really smart people already working to make this world ready for a change.
OK. 100 million new farmers as a way to heal our world.
We have to.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around. -Thoreau
So I sent out a few letters post midterm election 2006, to get a response from those who are peak oil aware. The Democrats took control of the United States House of Representatives, a name that many in my generation find facetious. They also appear to have taken control of the Senate and while I don’t have a readymade joke for that body of Congress, please don’t assume I think them any more capable of addressing the issues of energy and environment currently facing the American dream. We are about to awaken from our slumber to the cold realities of recently dismissed phenomenon like physical limits and laws of nature. When I sent out my impromptu poll I was curious as to whether any of those concerned about the converging calamities associated with a consumer-based society believe that the recent swing of the political pendulum will have any effect on the readiness of America to weather the coming storm. The results were all but unanimous.
Let me stop and say that I am not by manner a pessimist. This might seem like a lie if you know me only through my shared thoughts of essay but in truth I am an optimist. Not out of belief but out of practice. I have been told time and again what was and was not in the cards concerning my future. Sometimes I wanted more than others thought was possible and on many occasions I have been pleasantly pleased at my ability to transcend their expectations. So grew an idea about ability that exceeds human anticipation without forgetting that there are reasonable limits to achievement. In other words I find human beings often underestimate their own abilities while simultaneously overestimating the aptitudes of technology. We are at once ready to believe that we are doomed because we can’t personally change and prepared to be saved by some unknown outside force. Sounds like a new religion.
Those whom I polled saw little hope that reasonable action would be taken in the United States concerning the coming global peak in oil production and the following energy decent- from a governmental standpoint that is. This point emerged: Do not count on the American Democrats to save the day. I could not help but have expected such an answer. U.S. Baby Boomers might turn out to be the most destructive generation in all of human history, but their failure to properly govern democratically, that is their susceptibility to big business as a corruptive influence, has my generation turning up its nose at even an unexpected Democratic victory in the shadow of Hubbert’s Peak. And who can blame them? However, that does not entitle us to adopt an attitude of defeat.
Many traditional environmentalists work from a place of anger. They are angry that others have dirtied their air and their water. They are angry that the government has allowed this to happen. There are a dramatic number of cases of childhood asthma attributed to power plant emissions. Our drinking water is full of toxins and hormones known to harm the health of countless Americans each year. The specific issue that most recently jangled my anger was mercury levels in big fish so strong that my pregnant wife was advised not to eat tuna. Industrial America has made it unsafe for her to do so. Yes, that’s enough to make anyone angry. From all of this anger comes an offensive to stop the pollution through active means. I’ve just read Derrick Jensen’s, Endgame Vol. I The Problem with Civilization. Mr. Jensen is an author and activist who goes further than most and calls for the active dismantling of industrial civilization. His arguments about fighting back and forcefully creating change are an easy sell to those who believe their clean air and fresh water have been taken from them. Many Americans are awake enough to see the extreme degradation of our environment as a direct consequence of our consumptive way of life. Even if they stop short of working to bring down civilization, these concerned individuals are willing and ready to fight back on behalf of Mother Nature. But I argue that strategy will never work. It over looks one simple fact. No one can force anyone to do anything. Sure someone could hold a gun to your head and force you to recycle but as soon as the gun is removed so is the incentive to recycle. The end result of such an exchange will probably establish in you a resentment of recycling and a reluctance to do so; the opposite of the intended effect. People can not be forced to believe in something. And unless they believe in something, they can’t change their behavior.
I am calling for a new way of imagining our relationship with the environment. Most people view their lives as their turn on the dance floor. They see themselves as having inherited the Earth from their parents and feel free to do with it as they please. I argue the opposite, that we are borrowing the Earth from our children. What we do they will have to deal with. This change in perspective separates the takers from the leavers. Daniel Quinn in his monumental work Ishmael, describes the human race as being made up of two groups; those who take what they can and those who leave as much as possible. Obviously those who are actively involved in polluting our planet are in the former group. They see themselves as free to do as they please and to take what they want regardless of the consequences left for future generations. I argue though that they are human and as such can not be forced to do anything otherwise.
Corporate America lobbies heavily against environmental legislation. When these laws are past, they are often later repealed or altered so as to make them less effective. Sometimes they are simply ignored. If all of these efforts fail, big business is usually ready to fight in court with well funded lawyers. When activists attempt to physically shut down caustic practices like nuclear power generation they are sometimes even met with violence, state sanctioned or otherwise. Even with righteousness on your side you can’t effectively force anyone to be environmentally responsible. It just won’t work in the long run.
The focus must first be on us. After all, we are the ones using the electricity created by Industrial Power Plants. Each of us is responsible for the products and services we buy and use. Our support of the system is to blame for the destructive nature of We the People (lately read We the Consumers). I agree with those who say that corporations have used psychological strategies to convince Americans to adopt consumptive lifestyles. The odd reality is though that even after we awake up from the spell of such strategies most of us continue to consume and in doing so prop up a system of destruction and pollution. I am not advocating that those of us who understand how horribly damaging our way of life has become should run off into the woods and abandon all we have come to know. Such a cold turkey response to the habit of industrial civilization will probably not last and will most certainly alienate us from friends and family. I am advocating though for a change in focus for those of us lucky enough to understand the great poisoning that has taken place and who want to beat it back.
We must change ourselves. We must change our habits. We must slowly drop out of consumer culture. We must remove our support of corporate monsters and return our support of local businesses. Forcing others to change won’t work but making real change happen in our own lives will. If you don’t support the production of nuclear waste and your electricity comes from a nuclear power plant, find a way to change that; not by protesting in front of the plant but by making your own power or, as my friend Sharon is doing in her kitchen, do away with your need for electrical power. “Wow” you say, “That’s crazy”, but the truth is it’s not. It’s the easiest, most effective way to make a difference. You won’t change the nuclear power plant people. You could dedicate countless hours of time to legal battles with those folks and would probably wind up with little to show for your efforts. Or you could walk away from their toxic waste and take your financial support for their power with you.
At this point I might be losing you because some obvious, classic questions arise from this direction of action. Sticking with the nuclear power plant example, the question is, “How do you make your own power or do away with the need for electricity?” There isn’t just one answer to this question. Start with evaluating how much electricity you use. Next work to reduce that amount. Don’t give into the idea that the change must be instant. The lack of perfection is an oft given excuse for a lack of effort. It might take years to achieve your goals in their entirety but that journey could start today. Perhaps you can provide your own solar or wind generated electricity. Before you scoff at the cost, do some investigation. Check into price, review government programs that offer financial incentives. Look into grants, build our own wind turbine, build a gigantic hamster wheel for your over active dog- my point is that in these efforts you will find, if you work hard enough, the solution to your problem. It lies within you, not as blame to be placed on others. I will guess that as you free yourself from the yoke of the nuclear power plant that others will be eager to learn more about what you did. There will be others who want this change as well and your efforts will help them to make change, not by storming the gates of the power plant but by removing your dependence on it and then helping others to do the same.
Perhaps your thinking that there are those who will never change. I understand your concern and I agree that there are those who will resist change with great force. The vast majority of people however will not. Most people are in the habit of following the lead of others. It’s not necessary for those of us trying to make change to convince everyone we’re right. We only have to become a small force of change, maybe 12% of the population. That number of people doing things differently, making a difference not on the picket lines but in our own lives, will be enough to help fuel a revolution of change across our country. Not a change in political parties but a true change in the attitudes and actions of Americans.
When discussing change there seems to be two typical responses concerning how and why change happens. The first is that the government mandates it and the second is that the invisible hand of Adam Smith makes it economically more attractive. Most people will use these responses as the only reasons for why things do or do not change. These people fail to recognize how defeatist this attitude is. These people have given up their own freedom of choice and the freedom of others in their society. Of course there are other reasons for making or not making change. In fact for most of the really important decisions we make in our lives, we don't require the permission of Congress or rely on rational financial sense. We don't get married to a certain someone for either of those reasons, we don't have children for those reasons, we don’t eat healthy foods for those reasons and I am going to assume that my friends don’t associate with me because President Bush asked them to or because they gain economic benefit from me.
Have we completely lost the ability to make our own decisions as a society about what is best without the help of the government or the market? Societies have historically made decisions about common items for the benefit of community and not because of the government or economics. Yes our society is fractured and in bad health so we all look like greedy bastards only interested in grilling out on the back porch but that is not at the heart of who we are as human beings. I reject the idea that reasonable responses to problems are possible only if it's affordable or if we're told we legally have to. I'll go further and say that I am a freer man than anyone who would argue otherwise.
We have great power over those who derive their wealth through the complex systems that force us into dependent relationships. If we step out of their systems of enslavement we can again do for ourselves what they want to charge us for. It’s been said before that growing your own food is one of the most radically rebellious acts you can perform. As I learn to grow my own food I see how true this really is. I am becoming less dependant on Archer Daniels Midland and other such agrobizcorporations. ADM is at the heart of industrial agriculture; a practice that is stripping away topsoil that took millions of years to create. It is using non-renewable resources to pesticide poison our foods and creates oceanic kill zones where sea life can’t live. It is irresponsible and destructive and every time I plant a potato I am supporting less of this legacy, this terrible bequest we are leaving to our children. I’m not going to protest at the front doors of ADM, I’m just going to quietly flip them the bird while I work in my garden. Already my neighbors are interested.
There are other simple ways in which we can once again take command of our own needs. Harvesting and recycling water, building clever homes from local, renewable materials. Harnessing the energy of the sun in direct ways; all of these are techniques that have fallen out of favor because of briefly available fossil fuel energy. These behaviors seem strange because during the last four or five decades citizens of the United States have been living in a manner that disregards ecological consciousness. Cyclic systems were abandoned for linear ones in which oil and other fossil fuels were put in at the beginning, products were used in the middle and in the end the waste was buried in the ground. Our recent lives haven’t been dependant on natural cycles so we haven’t paid them any attention. What a long winded way of saying that these aren’t radical new ideas, they’re the wisdom of our mothers and fathers; the ways of doing things that worked well for thousands of years.
Sankofa is an African word that means to go back and retrieve wisdom and use it to move forward. In it lies the key to our future. With it we can step out of corporate dependence and without throwing a punch or filing a lawsuit we can whisper to those who would destroy my daughter’s planet, “Go away, we don’t need you.”I can’t say I’m not pleased that the Republican stranglehold on our federal system of checks and balances has come to an end. It is the result I was hoping for. A sense of anxiety in me has receded following Election Day. But almost instantly that anxiety was replaced with a sense of fear. What if this legislative body doesn’t do any better? It’s time to stop placing our bets on others and recognize in ourselves the possibility of something those fools can’t conceive- a society of just rule and inclusion; a system of operation that allows human beings to carry on with an experiment that hopefully becomes more benign, more compassionate and more responsive to the ecological systems that hold ultimate veto over our existence.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
From Sharon Astyk on self sufficent suburbia... "I have been talking a lot lately in various places about adaptation - the ways in which we can use our existing infrastructure to live a lower-impact life. And so, I wanted to describe how that might work. I chose as a model the suburban home of a college friend of mine, who coincidentally has become aware of peak oil and asked for my advice not long ago. She lives in an exurb of Boston, with no direct public transportation (there is a train line 15 minutes away), in a fairly conventional suburban home with her partner and two children, 1 1/2 and 5." more...
From Zane on floor boards and stillness ... "It is now already well into the evening as I write, and soon I will be ready to head up to the cozy loft, above my office here, and read for a while before bed. I have largely grown accustomed to these long days of work. I am starting to understand that this schedule is not a short-term thing, while we get set up, but it is the new rhythm of my life, and I like it. Projects for living, like building a house or growing a garden—these are satisfying jobs." more...
From Liz Deane on frugality... "I started reading about what is called "voluntary simplicity", "frugality", or "tightwadding", and devoured just about every book on the subject. I don't own any of them, having used the interlibrary loan system, but if I had one of those books lying around, I could probably open it up and find a list of things the average person can do to save money. Since I don't, I thought I'd make a list of things that we did to put more money in our bank account, where it belongs. These are all simple suggestions for anyone who is looking to cut back on the flow of money that makes it's way out the door each month." more...
From Douglas Barnes on Seed Balls... "Seed balls may be obscure in North America, but in parts of the world already badly damaged by human activity, their use is easily recognised. The BCIL Alt.Tech Foundation of India uses seed balls to regreen Bangalore. And as most of the planets deserts are the creation of mankind, we can follow their lead to undo the damage we have done." more...
Best wishes on this weekend of reflection and family.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"The average household sends more to a landfill than the entire Subaru manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana. The Subaru plant is the first auto assembly plant to achieve zero landfill status - nothing from its manufacturing efforts goes into a landfill. It's all reused and recycled. The Subaru plant was determined to be the first auto assembly plant in the U.S. to be designated a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation in 2003. Deer, coyotes, beavers, blue herons, geese, rabbits, squirrels, meadowlarks, ducks and other animals live on the plant property in peaceful coexistence with the Subaru plant."
If you have any questions you'd like me to ask the folks at Subaru please leave them as comments. A full report to follow over at Groovy Green.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Trees grow from tiny seeds into enormous creatures that can live for hundreds of years. Trees rely on their ability to obtain water and other necessary nutrients from their immediate environment. Talk about local, trees never move. They put down roots and absorb what they need from the surrounding soil. They also make leaves that absorb solar energy and transform it into food for the tree. Their leaves breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen and water vapor, all in exchange from the surrounding air. And when the leaves have done their duty they are dropped to the ground where their nutrients are made available all over again. In other words trees meet all their needs, sometimes for a very, very long time, without ever moving from where they were born.
In contrast, Americans of the post WWII era have established a way of life that is incredibly dependant on constant movement. None of us could survive without constantly moving from one place to another to collect supplies and deposit waste. Our food is grown, on average, 1500 miles from where we eat it. The nutrients used to fertilize this food come from even farther away. We pump water from rivers and lakes through complex systems of pipe and wash away waste in a similar scheme. Surviving the elements is accomplished by using resources from all over the planet to build houses that require mechanical systems to maintain a comfortable temperature. And then there’s all the stuff we tell ourselves we need.
Constantly on the go, we have even developed a system by which we burn fossil fuels and therefore pollute our air in order to power vehicles to propel ourselves faster over impervious surfaces made of petroleum that need constant upkeep so we can get from one place to another in a great big hurry. Why? Because we can. Which sounds smarter to you, learning to live with what you have or always running around wanting more?
Philosophical queries aside this is why you (yes I mean you sitting right there at that your computer reading this) should plant trees. Trees clean our air. In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, a
Wangari Maathai, the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 is calling on us humans to plant 1 billion trees in 2007. “When we plants trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.” Please join the effort and help me and others plant trees. If you do, please send me a photo of the trees you plant. I will share your images. Thank you.
Statistics referenced in this post:
Our City Forest
Trees For You
Other Study Summaries
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I must also mention how much help my brother has been in this year's leaf wrangle. Without his truck and his keen eye for compost feedstock we wouldn't be winning the contest 209 bags to 191 bags. Thank you Jon.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I'm a novice at growing these guys, this being only my second year but they are fun and easy once you get the hang of it. You start early in the spring by cutting a sweet potato in half and putting the cut half under water in a jar. Here let me just show you with a photo.
Once vines begin to grow out of the potato you snip them off at their base and put the cut end of each back in the water. The vine, or slip as it is called, will grow roots and can be transferred to the garden once it has really warmed up. Sweet potato vines will crisscross your garden all summer, putting down roots and growing tubers for you to harvest. If you wait too long you'll get huge sweet potatoes like this one. I think it looks like a chicken ready for baking.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The truth is, the drop in price since summer ain't the only dramatic thing about this graph . The way the corporate media is talking you'd think we were back down under $20 a barrel.
Monday, October 23, 2006
“Shell is spending $30 million to create and test a massive "freeze wall" that would extend from the surface to 1,700 feet below the ground. The walls would be 30 feet thick in a shape 300 feet wide by 350 feet long.”
Of course they’ve already built another test wall, “A crew of 200 construction workers will complete the larger freeze wall in the spring by drilling a series of 150 well bores that will be pumped full of ammonia-based coolant. It will take about 18 months for the adjacent water and rock to freeze to minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the massive ice wall.” -Denver Post
My question is this, if oil availability is not a problem why is Shell spending $30 million dollars to create an ice wall 30 feet thick that extends 1700 feet into the ground? Projects like this are viewed by the general public as proof that the oil industry will always be able to provide us with more oil. For me however, projects like this are proof that cheap, conventional oil is about to become increasingly scarce. Grasping at straws isn't a good sign.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
there was a luffa growing right outside. Once the fruit is pollinated it grows quickly. I can see a noticeable difference in size every few days. If the first frost will hold off for a few more weeks I'll have my shower sponge for 2007. This year however it looks like I'll have to find another neighborhood Christmas gift.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
...what about all those bags of leaves you see on the side of the road piled up as other people’s trash? The process by which trees produce leaves that then fall and decompose is how soil is created. Those people are throwing away soil. Are they crazy!?!?
So here’s the challenge. Matt, I bet I can pick up more bags of leaves (soil) than you can. If you accept my challenge and I do pick up more bags, you will have to do something. But if you happen to collect more bags of leaves from the side of the road then I will have to do something. And we’ll let the readers decide what that something is. What do you say?
I'm not sure if he'll accept but if he does, you can follow our attempts to make large amounts of compost and annoy our wives by clicking here.
Friday, October 13, 2006
It is also a great way to supersize your composting efforts. Last year the house next door was unoccupied all fall and winter. I told the real estate agent trying to sell it that she could have her landscaper pile up all of the leaves in my side yard instead of taking the extra time to bag all of them. I saved her landscaper time which saved her money and no plastic bags were used in the process. My reward was a pile of leaves 6' wide and about 6' high. I was excited. My wife was a little less enthusiastic about the small mountain of leaves resting in our side yard. Truth be told I thought maybe I had overdone it a bit. But we were both amazed at how quickly the pile shrank. The composting action of billions of little microbes worked wonders. By early spring the pile was 1/3 of its original size. The material deep inside served as wonderful compost while the less decomposed material on the outside worked well as mulch for the garden. The idea that I could ever collect too many leaves was banished from my thoughts. I too will be collecting leaves this fall. I'll rake them in my own yard, collect them from my neighbors and yes stop on the side of the road to pick this golden brown treasure out of other people's trash. This year though I'll remember to leave a tarp in my car. Some times those bags of leaves leak.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The first is a conversation I was lucky enough to have with Jules Dervaes of Path to Freedom.
Jules and his family stayed in their own neighborhood to make their change. They live in
My second item to report is an article about how important autumn is in terms of home food production. There are advantages to spending serious time in your garden in the fall. Preparing new beds, stockpiling leaves, starting a compost pile, building and using cold frames, saving seeds, planting perennials and other useful gardening tasks can be accomplish in the fall. If you’re interested in growing some of what you eat you might want to check it out. To read it click here.
Thanks for following me around the web.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
At the funeral service for the man who attacked an Amish schoolhouse last week… About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish. Dozens of Amish neighbors came out Saturday to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a brief, unfathomable rampage.
Then there’s word that the oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a
Violence as a response to violence seems weak in the face of such incredible strength.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Click here for the answer.
If you were her father what would you tell her?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Oddly this strategy of critique isn’t used on old ideas. Sure grandmother will need help removing the Thanksgiving turkey from the freezer. She also uses a stool to change the light bulb in her kitchen. Perhaps we should build all ceilings at only 7' high? Then Grandmom could change the light bulb without using a stool. No, stools work just fine. Ceilings are high enough to stay out of the way and light is up there where it can be most useful. Perhaps we should try and solve problems like energy efficiency and pollution by addressing the larger issues first and figuring out the details like how to adjust for the elderly and the disabled afterwards. Interestingly I’ve heard the same sort of thinking used to describe electric can openers. "But people with only one arm can't open cans without them" and of course that's true. So how does this sound, let's mine coal (very dangerous remember) and then let's burn it (causing health problems and a change in the climate of Earth) so we can generate electricity to be transmitted over long distances (with an extreme loss of efficiency) so we can power a small appliance that does a job 90% of people can do in 3 seconds with a hand tool. Call me crazy but maybe our perspective is a bit skewed. We have to take the disabled into consideration but I don't buy it as a reason to set aside good ideas.
Now his economic argument was a good one. He pointed out that electricity is extremely cheap. And electricity will be cheap well into the future if we continue to live in a socialist nation- well half socialist, half capitalist. If you're talking power plant profits, that's capitalist territory. People who generate electricity get to keep the money they make. But the problems they produce like unhealthy emissions of fine particles or the mercury that kept my formerly pregnant wife from being able to eat tuna or the occasional accident like three mile island (did you know the US government passed a law making itself responsible for big nuclear accidents because the free market wouldn’t insure nuclear power plants without such socialization?) all those items are costs that are socialized- spread out among us; even those of us who think electric can openers are stupid. If the cost of electricity reflected its true impact then it wouldn't be cheap. You add in the cost of the
No one gives a #%%! about things they can't see or don't know and the true cost of items like electricity isn't going to be made public to the American people any time soon. They wouldn't believe it anyway as most of them are asleep. But that was my most recent epiphany. I no longer give a damn if you use a regular refrigerator or a modified freezer with tremendous energy savings because I know I can't convince you of anything. I am not trying to convert anyone any more. I will continue to write and I will send out an occasional item to those I care about in an effort to provoke thought and I will certainly continue to share my thoughts with those who are interested. But taking the red pill is a mean ride and subconsciously I think we all know that. I am going to spend my time preparing for a future radically different from the present by changing the way I live and learning what I need to know. I will share it with those who want to hear it and everyone else is on their own. This may not sound like my typical attitude but please understand, I haven't abandoned preaching because I no longer care or even because I don't think it will do any good. The real reason I am getting off the soapbox is because I don't need to share this with everyone.
There seems to be two typical responses as to how change happens. The first is that the government mandates it and the second is that the invisible hand of Adam Smith makes it economically more attractive. Most people will use these responses as the only reasons for why things do or do not happen. Let's take population for instance. If I say, "There are too many humans here on Earth, let's cut back", most people will say, "You'll never reduce the population". These people will give me one or both of the reason above as proof. No one will stand for government mandated population control like in
Societies have historically made decisions about common items for the benefit of community and not because of government or economics. Yes our society is fractured and in bad health so we all look like greedy bastards only interested in hanging out on the back porch but that is not at the heart of who we are as human beings. I reject the idea that reasonable responses to problems are possible only if it's affordable or if we're told we legally have to. I'll go further and say that I am a freer man than anyone who would argue otherwise. But even that is not the point. The reason I don't care about your refrigerating decision is because I don't need to share this with everyone. I don't need a majority to get this thing going. I think a small percentage of people willing to make change (leaders) who commit themselves to making decisions because of what's right and not because of what's cheapest or legally mandated- that small majority can cause- we will cause a revolution. The sheeople will follow along so why waste any effort trying to force them to change, especially when that means responding to weak arguments like the weight of turkey pulled from a chest freezer.
I didn’t write back to my friend Chris in an attempt to smash his effort to be objective in his response to a new idea that makes sense. I countered with an idea about how to affect change in our current situation and also because I understand his hole poking to be beneath his capability. Plenty of people “know” why things won’t work differently. Let's solve some problems shall we?
Saturday, September 30, 2006
So I thought I’d take some time to jot down some of the ideas that need more attention. They are in no particular order and this list is as much my way of organizing my thoughts as it is a call for help. Fell free to grab a topic and report back. There is so much to do.
- More than 100 million homes exist in
today. Only 1.5 million new homes are built here each year. Building green is great but what sort of system(s) can we put in place to help with the massive retrofit spiraling energy costs will demand? America
- How can we over come the black and white perception of instant consumers and guilty producers? I think there are a few questions embedded in that one.
- A decrease in energy availability is one thing but what about the chaos it will create?
- The square as a way to graphically represent the 4 major destabilizing effects peak oil will have on our culture: decreased agricultural production, increased geopolitical conflicts, a contracting economic system currently based on growth and an overall reduction in transportation.
- Personal, local, state and national adoption of the Oil Depletion Protocal.
- Restructuring the family unit- how to rebuild agrarian families by unconventional means. This is based on a conversation with Peter Bane about the need for tribe-sized units of about 25 humans as the building blocks of the reagrarianization (my spell check just had kittens) of America in response to the failure of the “green” revolution in post peak petroleum America.
- Powering down as a “fascinating optimization exercise”. Got this one from Sharon Astyk. In other words, for those of us that like a challenge just how much of modern
can we give up and still be happy? I dare you to make it fashionable. America
- The real benefits of electricity. I’ve long considered appliances like electric can openers to be insanely stupid. Imagine mining coal (this is dangerous remember) and then burning it (releasing pollution that is bad for our health and changes our climate) in an effort to generate electricity that is transported over many miles at an extreme loss of efficiency so that I can press a button to open a can. Opening a can with a manual can opener is incredibly easy and takes about 3 seconds for the vast majority of the population. The marketing of electric can openers leads me to believe that modern ad agencies could convince Americans to hit themselves with hammers if only someone were willing to pay for the ads. Which leads me to another thought…
- Agitprop as possible means towards affecting the change necessary to deal with energy descent. I’m not especially thrilled about the idea of agitating propaganda as a way to motivate change in human behavior but perhaps something useful could come out of a hard look at propaganda and how it’s used by the corporate media currently to keep change from happening. If you learn the language you don’t have to use it but you can at least recognize and avoid its message.
- Carrots and sticks. Motivating change with positive and negative feedback loops. What are they and how do they work together?
- Peak oil as a justice movement. This is another idea I am borrowing from
. I have audio of some of our conversations and plan to make available the most embarrassing- I meant to say most enlightening portions of that soon. Back to the idea though which is that the biggest instances of change in this country during the previous century came about as a result of justice movements. As a southerner, I can say with certainty that this part of the country is nothing like it was 25 years ago. The idea that a black man and a white man are different in meaningful ways has been rejected by a large portion of the younger population. This didn’t happen because it was a mandated change in thinking by the government or because someone made money from a new product sold to reduce bigotry. It came about largely because people stood up and were no longer willing to accept unjust treatment. What can we learn from that? Sharon
- Imbedded in that last rant was the idea of focusing a larger portion of our education efforts (meaning our earth community/ life skills education) on the youngest part of our population. One of the very few disappointments of my conference experience was the average age of those attending. I was happy that everyone there was committed to learning more and affecting change but it seems to me that if you can raise and teach a child to be open-minded and objective and if you can raise and teach a child the skills necessary to shrug off dependency on corporate dominance you will have affected more change than if you convert those later in life to these practices. THIS IDEA IS NOT intended to marginalize the participation of older Americans or older humans from all countries, in the movement to reclaim our Earth. The wisdom of those who are older continues to amaze me. They are and will increasingly be crucial to the success of the great turning from industrial society to one of earth centered and community centered existence. That is to say I don’t wish there had been fewer older Americans in attendance but that there had been more young folks there. How can we increase their numbers. How can we structure education practices (home schooling is growing like wildfire) so that children and young adults learn more than how to read & write, how to do basic math and some general facts about the history of white people from the middle ages on. These are important topics but there are other topics that are also important and we aren’t teaching them. Now there is a can of worms…
- Why is it that American presidents seem to do their best, most public centered work after office? Would someone please put that question to Jimmy, George and Bill so as to begin a more public dialog about the phenomenon; or perhaps as a way to restructure the discussion of how to fairly finance election campaigns?
- Hybrid cars make up less than 1% of the automobiles on the road. Continuing to talk about them as the saviors of our way of life could be dangerous in that it might delay necessary, immediate change. This is not to say that they aren’t better than average cars but talking about them puts average
back to sleep. America
- The stall of human develop put in place my corporate media, specifically the television. The result of on-demand everything is that many Americans never develop beyond the childish ideas that: everything is possible, there are no limits and, “I can do whatever I want”. Fully formed adult humans seem to understand that some things are impossible, the natural world does have limits that humans most obey, and the rights of others temper our own rights. Can we please talk about how to get rid of the methods by which many Americans are trapped into this lack of development?
- Peak Oil meet Climate Change. Climate Change meet Peak Oil. I thought you two might be able to work together, being the flip side of the same coin.
- The idea of thresholds. I doubt we need to convince 100% of the population that our species is threatening our very existence. I doubt we even have to convince a majority to get the ball rolling. I bet we only need a small, critical mass to affect change. How many? Who are they- the ones who don’t know yet? How can we reach them?
- Victory Gardens. I have written about this before but let me try a new catch phrase. The revolution won’t be televised but it will need to be fed. Food is one of the few, true basic necessities of human life. How about we start by removing our dependence on others for this most basic need? Because of its importance, food has become a central configuring factor around which our cultures have developed. In other words, home grown community potluck dinners are powerful forces in the face of domination by ADM and those other bastards.
- In this movement we could all stand a bit of non-confrontational communication training. Apparently there are people who can help us learn to speak in non-threatening ways to others about what we’re doing. This could further the cause. Eric, I think this one has your name on it.
- Top down thinking. Bottom up action.
- Hispanic immigrants retain much of the wisdom of community that will be vital to thriving in the coming age of energy descent and rapid climate change. Could someone please tell me the best way to involve these people in what we’re doing? Funny to think that right now the nation is talking about the problems of immigration and in fact their sense of community could be a stabilizing factor post peak oil.
- The coming movement of population. The Hispanic community is moving north into American society. I see only increased migration of people who can't make a living where they currently live. I spoke of the benefits the Hispanic community could offer but what about the stress put on existing communities as more people are forced to move? In other words, where will those Americans currently living in the Southwest go when air conditioning and pumped-in water both dry up? How will they be received? What has happened historically to large migrating populations who were forced to move because of environmental or economic reasons?
- Inspiration and Information as the twin faces of Peak Oil awareness.
Whew. If anybody knows how to write grant proposals or if anyone would like to pay me to quit my job and tackle some of these crucial questions raised at the conference please feel free to contact meJ If not, please weigh in on any of them yourself. They are by no means my own ideas but rather items I heard about and have become interested in having attended this year’s Community Solutions Peak Oil Conference. Take a few and research and write about the implications of these issues in light of what just might be the most exciting period of human history.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
A Summary: Beyond Energy Alternatives
September 2006 Yellow Springs,
Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” He also said, “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.” I spent the weekend with genius and with courage, and I am happy to report that they are alive and well and working on our problems. Most Americans are not yet familiar with the coming tide of instability. Asleep and dreaming the American Dream, many are unaware of the issues associated with energy and environment that face our people and all of humankind. Scores of those who are aware of our troubles have convinced themselves that the answer lies in more of the same. But there are those who have another idea.
What a wonderful experience to be able to share a weekend with those who understand the need for change. I am excited and inspired and more full of hope than I have been in quite a while. I come away from the experience better informed and ready for action. I am happy about the friendships that grew out of the conference, and I am grateful for those who came to share the comprehension necessary for the next step. The time has come. We are ready to deploy our weapons of mass sustainability. Sharon Astyk made the remark that with an attendance of more than 250 people, the Third US Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions had more than the necessary number of people required to start a revolution. It is here. The time is now.
There are many well-meaning environmentalists moving to activate change in alternative fuel types, emission standards, pollution regulations and more. I have been dismayed though that these substitutes are at the forefront of the response to a peak in global oil production and the coming climate change. I don’t doubt that the best of intentions are in mind when these “business as usual” suggestions are made. I continue to be skeptical though concerning the effectiveness of the message that “more is still better” and “all is possible if only we believe.” Plan B has been the idea that more, bigger and faster is an acceptable idea and that we need only switch from one fuel source to another. More power plants are not a problem. We’ll just pump the pollution underground. More cars are not a problem. We’ll just fuel them with corn. More of everything isn’t a problem we’ll just… This has been the approach.
So while everyone else is scrambling to perpetuate the status quo, I went to
Consumerism sucks. After September 11, 2001, I was told that the best thing I could do for my country was to go shopping. What a joke. There has been no real examination of the problem- we are taking too much. If the practice of consuming as much as possible leads to a better life, then it might be something worth fighting for. But it doesn’t. Americans are fat and sick and disconnected from the natural world and from each other. We are in desperate need of health, we are in desperate need of time spent outside, and we are in desperate need of quality relationships in community with others. We have become desperate people. More than one quarter of us are reported to be seeking a simpler way of life. Given a choice, I think citizens (currently called consumers) of the
On Friday evening, David Orr framed the problem and on Saturday night Vicki Robin tempered our typical response. We were ready for the alternative presented by Pat Murphy and for the vision of Peter Bane. Along the way, it was incredibly inspiring to hear from Richard Heinberg, Julian Darley, Bob Brecha, Richard Olkson, Sharon Astyk, Megan Quinn and Jeff Christian about where we are going and what might be best way to get there. I was able to spend time with some of the speakers and audio of those interviews is forthcoming. So much good thought to share. I told my wife over the phone that I would need to take the rest of the year off to digest, write about and put in practice all I had learned over the course of one weekend. How else could a summary describe the success of this conference? Maybe I could write about how easy it was to talk to strangers or how beautiful the campus of
When I left the closing remarks of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, I lingered on the main lawn of the campus under the shade of an old oak tree. It was in full fruit and the acorns were beautiful and bountiful. I picked quite a few. Would you like one? Would you like to take a seed and watch it grow? Would you like to be a part of a revolution, because we’ve got one and it is ready to run. I will send you an acorn for care and management. I hope for a progress report now and again. It will not be a hands-off experience. It will require getting a bit dirty, caring for and being responsible about a new (very old) way of being accountable and conscious concerning how you live and what is important in life. I will send you a seed, a physical representation of a weekend spent in planning about how we will respond as individuals and as a community to peak oil and climate change. All it takes is commitment. Join me. Grow trees. Nurture life. Cultivate the spirit of change and the path towards the answer to our problems. I am excited.
If you are interested in growing one of these important Oaks please email me: aaron"AT"groovygreen"DOT"comThanks to Michael for creating the image at the top of this post. This post was orginally published at Groovy Green.