Friday, March 31, 2006

local, sustainable AND organic?

Recently I’ve noticed a buzz about the increased availability of organic vegetables in the produce sections of major marketplaces including big, bad Wal-Mart. I should start by saying that I think the growth of Wal-Mart is an incredibly destructive force in this country that destroys local businesses, increases the dependency of American citizens on foreign imports, drives American jobs overseas, and continues to foster the idea that everything should be cheap and easy regardless of the consequence. I don’t shop there and the introduction of organics won’t change that. Before this piece becomes a full-fledged rant against the monster Sam Walton released on our nation I’ll stop shouting with a story I find tragic on several levels. Thanks to Matt Savinar for the heads up.

Hilton also has personal reasons for his passionate support of Wal-Mart. Several years ago, his late fiancée, Gloria Machado, was battling cancer. She wanted to work but, emaciated and having lost her hair, she had trouble finding a job. "Wal-Mart hired her and let her work around her chemotherapy schedule," Hilton recalls. "Talk about enhancing someone's self-esteem. It made her feel like somebody. They didn't bat an eye if she couldn't make it because her chemo session ran overtime." Machado lost her battle against cancer, but her six months working at the Wal-Mart in Rohnert Park let her "die with a little dignity," Hilton says.
Full story here.

Anyways, back to the organics issue. Wal-Mart and others in the mainstream steam of the shopping experience here in the United States have begun to take advantage of the growing awareness about the benefits of eating organic foods. It seems instinctive that pouring chemicals onto the food we eat would cause negative health effects but it has taken the general public awhile to awaken to this insight. Nevertheless they have and big business wants in. In general I see this as a positive development for the simple fact that more people will be eating better food. Left out of the argument though has been two other important aspects of responsible food production. They are the support of local farming and the support of sustainable practices on those farms. Here are a few possible situations you might run into when buying your food.

Farmer A lives 6 miles outside of town. He provides produce you buy at your local farmers market. He’s not certified organic but doesn’t use commercial pesticides or fertilizers. His seeds aren’t organic but he’s committed to using cover crops and other sustainable practices to build soil for the long term health of his farm. He invites you to visit any time to check out his operation. You do and are impressed.

Farmer B lives in Chile. You don’t know him but his food is certified organic. You purchase it at the chain store grocery right around the corner. When you look up his operation online you notice that his farming practices seem to fall inline with an effort towards sustainability. You don’t know how to verify this though since you aren’t planning a trip to South America any time soon and you’re pretty sure transporting food over thousands of miles isn’t ultimately sustainable what with that pesky peak oil proposition on the horizon.

Farmer C lives two counties away. He operates a farm that is certified organic, “Because they pay more”, he explains and he sells his food through a specialty grocer 20 miles from your home. You are welcome to visit his operation and you do. The farmer is obviously opposed to using chemicals on his farm but ships in large quantities of guano and kelp fertilizer from overseas. He is also in the process of drilling another well as his last one went dry. You mention ideas such as mulching crops to aid in water retention or collecting storm water runoff to use in irrigation but he’s not interested and says he’ll farm here until “it can’t be farmed anymore”.

Who do you buy from? These issues are all important and intertwined. Food produced without chemicals in an organic way is desirable as is food produced near by so as to alleviate massive transportation. Also important is the idea that our farming practices must be repeatable in a way that is sustainable and maintainable for future generations. Very often these practices work together but sometimes decisions must be made in terms of the sacrifice of one for the sake of another. I must mention too that the very definitions of these aspects of food production are themselves in flux and up for debate. What is “organic”?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled "organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries. After October 21, 2002, when you buy food labeled "organic," you can be sure that it was produced using the highest organic production and handling standards in the world.

Call me cynical but how much do you trust a government label? There have been attempts made by corporations to lobby for reductions in the standards of such labels.

“Organic standards are under assault once again. A sneak attack in Congress in October 2005 potentially opened the door for hundreds of synthetic substances to be used in processed organic foods, without proper scientific review by the organic community. Recent attempts, partly successful, have been made to pack the National Organic Standards Board, the organic community's traditional watchdog over organic standards, with food industry and agribusiness bureaucrats."

As big business tries to cash in on Americans turning towards organic I can certainly see more attempts to do so. We’ll just have to trust our government to protect us (smirk).

How about a definition of local?

Does that mean 10 miles from your dinner table? 100 miles? 1,000? I buy oranges grown in Florida. They don’t grow well in North Carolina. I suppose that’s not too bad- at least not as bad a shipping them twice as far from California. I buy apples from the NC Mountains. That’s less than 200 miles away. That’s better than from upstate New York but couldn’t I grow some in my front yard? Does anybody grow them in my county? Local to me means close by. How close is close though and who sets the standard?

Lastly what practices are sustainable? Some people believe agriculture itself is unsustainable. I believe we’ve made this bed and now we have to find out how to responsibly lie in it. John Jevons recommends 60% of crop lands be dedicated to producing soil amendments but the use of dual purpose seed and grain crops is acceptable to his practices. Do your food producers turn more than half of their crops back into the soil? How about water use; do they divert waterways to irrigate otherwise unfarmable land? Is the idea of shipping food from China to America a sustainable practice? There are many standards floating around and they aren’t always the same. Good stewardship of our Earth and the way we makes food from it can take many forms and be tricky to reduce to a formula or checklist. This argument seems destine to continue.

I wrote this piece to help clarify my thoughts on the currently competing ideas about growing food organically, locally and sustainably. I haven’t come to a conclusion about which is more important. I guess it depends on the criteria you use to critique. Maybe it just best to buy food encrusted with as few chemicals as possible, from as near by as feasible from those producing the food in the manner most sustainable in your eyes. I bet it’s going to take some research.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

post peak eats

What follows is the presentation I gave this past Saturday at the Trianle Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions. Much thanks to Peter Taylor and the Hrens for organizing the effort. More to come on the overall event. My piece of the puzzle entailed facilitating discussion about the affects of peak oil on food production. Thanks also to Tami Schwerin of The Chatam Marketplace cooperative with whom I worked in two separate sessions of discussion on this issue. I was please to see so many people interested in how we will feed ourselves post peak oil; post green revolution.

An Introduction to Agriculture Post Peak Petroleum

71% of the petroleum consumed in the United States is used to power transportation. This will be the sector of our society most noticeably affected as global oil production peaks sometime in the very near future. Last year’s temporary spice in the price of automotive fuel caused long lines and increased anxiety levels in North Carolina. Far more chilling though than the discomforts of an increase in the price of gasoline is the implications that a reduction in oil supplies will have on our ability to feed ourselves. Modern industrial agriculture requires on average 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of edible vegetable food; 35 calories of fossil fuels for 1 calorie of beef and 68 fossil fuel calories for every 1 calorie of pork. Drs. David Pimentel of Cornell University and Mario Giampietro of the Istituto Nazionale della Nutrizione in Rome, Italy have provided data that shows “400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American.” The three largest fossil fuel inputs relied upon by commercial agriculture break down like this. 31% of this petroleum is used to produce fertilizers. 19% is used to operate the machinery that currently replaces human and animal labor on the farm, and 16% is used to transport the food we eat. The average piece of food travels over 1500 miles before it reaches your dinner table. As the price of the oil doubles and triples ad infinitum the price of producing and transporting food from across the nation or in some cases across the world will follow suit. Let’s set aside facts like modern agriculture consumes 85% of the fresh water used in the United States or the fact that topsoil in this country is being depleted at best 30 times faster than the rate at which it is naturally produced. These are related issues but I’d like to focus today on the big three: fertilizers, mechanized labor and food transportation.

If you’ve read the July 2004, Harper’s Magazine article entitled “The Oil We Eat” by Richard Manning or Dale Allen Pfeiffer’s article “Eating Fossil Fuels” you probably have an even better understanding of the extent to which or food production system is based on fossil fuels especially oil. If you haven’t read them you should.

So if we know that the chemicals we use to fertilize our soils are going to become more scare and more expensive and if we understand that the labor of plowing and planting and producing our food will no longer be accomplished in the future by machines powered by petroleum and if we recognize that the idea of transporting food from far flung corners of the globe will not be possible in an era of increase fuel prices what are we going to do about it?

The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union had a profound impact on one certain nation. Cuba was devastated by the event. Almost overnight the island lost its main source of petroleum and petroleum based products. 70% of its agricultural chemical imports disappeared. The effect during the first year of what the Cubans refer to as the “Special Period” was a 50% reduction in daily caloric intake resulting in an average of 30 pounds of weight loss per person in that country. Let me say that again the average Cuban lost 30 pounds during the first year that country was unable to continue with petroleum based agriculture. How did Cuba and its largest urban are react? The city of Havana has a population of over 2 million people. That’s far greater than any metropolitan area in North Carolina. In the period that followed the Soviet collapse Havana used a plan to create more than 8,000 urban gardens. Some neighborhoods and these are dense, urban neighborhoods, produce more than 30% of the food the residents eat. The Government of Cuba granted gardening rights to those willing to work the land of vacant lots in the city and planning laws began to place a high priority on food production. The population was decentralized to a certain extent but the transportation needed to carry food to cities such as Havana was decrease in large part because the food was grown inside these city or close by.

The caloric intake rate among Cubans has returned to a level near that of the late 80’s. By the way their infant mortality rate is now just slightly better than that of US infants and their life expectancy is on par with ours. A new documentary due out in April from The Community Solutions group explores the Cuban response to their drastic reduction in petroleum inputs

How about here in the U.S.? What would we look like 30 pounds lighter?

That’s kind of an amusing question to some extent but what would our children look like 30 pounds lighter? How well would they be nourished with out all the fresh Florida orange juice we take for granted or the lettuce from California that makes up the 3000 mile Caesar salad we had from lunch?

Let’s tackle these issues one at a time. I mentioned 31 percent of fossil fuel inputs in agriculture are used to created inorganic fertilizers. The solution to overcoming this dilemma is a return to the cyclic patterns that governed agricultural production before man harnessed the power of petroleum. Prior to cheap commercial fertilizers farmers relied on composted nutrients to build soil and produce crops. Kitchen waste, yard waste, animal manure and green manure or composted crops are all part of a possible return to a system that employs what some consider waste and returns to nature the rubbish we currently dump in our landfills. I watch people put trash bags full of organic material- leaves and grass clipping out at the street for the city to take and dump in the landfill and I wonder if they understand the amount of nutrients they could be returning to the soil. In former times humans utilized the slight excesses of these systems to produce food for themselves. The so called “green revolution” of the 50’s and 60’s substituted dependency on stewardship of these systems for dependency on chemicals likely to run short in the near future. We must go back to a pattern of returning theses nutrients to the soil. We must follow the cycles of flow not the linear pattern of input. We must compost like crazy.

Next we have to deal with the issue of mechanized labor. In 1920 just over 30% of the population if the United States of America was involved in farming. By 1950 that number had decreased to 15.3%. In 1985 on 2.2 % of our population were active in the production of the food we eat. The work of growing crops has been turned over to machines that use oil as energy. What will happen as less and less of this oil-based energy is available?

I fully expect to a certain extent a return of human labor to the task of producing food. Perhaps those who currently push paper for a living will find themselves unexpectedly involved in future food production. I think animals will once again play a part in how we prepare for the task of raising crops. Animals come with their own share of needs and required care but they also reproduce.

Oxen have babies, tractors don’t. They also recycle food into manure that works well as a fertilizer. This arrangement is profitable even for the backyard gardener. I have 3 chickens despite my limited amount of property and close proximity to our downtown. My hens provide my growing family with fresh, chemical free eggs and they recycle my uneaten food into wonderful composted fertilizer for the garden. They eat bugs and are fun to watch but raising urban chickens is a topic for another day. Suffice to say that animals of all kinds have been and will again be used to store energy and recycle nutrients humans are unable to process. Green manures or composting cover crops are another way to build soil without using chemical fertilizers. Growing plants that stabilize unused soils and fix nitrogen from the air that can then be turned back into the soil to replenish the nutrients lost is a great way to naturally build fertility.

Lastly we must recognize the great distance most of our food travel to meet us. This is what I believe is the most readily fixable problem within our current food production system. The idea that we in North Carolina are dependent on farmers in California to produce our lettuce is ridiculous. We might be obliged to once again enjoy the crops of the season and not be spoiled by pineapples in January and oysters in June by how nice it was to experience the seasons not solely by the temperature and length of day but also by the food available during specific times of the year. Regardless, we will be forced to make due with what we are able to produce locally as food and fuel prices increase. Relocalization of our food production will not be a luxury it will be a necessity.

In 1943 Americans took food production out into their own backyards. The nation’s population that year boasted 20 million Victory Garden. I find it personally humorous the United States Federal Government didn’t initially support these personal gardens because they didn’t trust the average American to make good use of his or her resources. During that very same year however 70% of the vegetables consumed on the home front came from Victory Gardens. In 1943 Americans grew 70% of the vegetables consumed domestically. There’s a statistic I find hopeful. I think localized food production can be separated into concentric categories base on the distance of travel from producer to consumer.

The closet possible food producer is of course you. Home gardening can be extremely productive and provide food at incredibly savings even in our current price structure.

The ability to produce some or much of what you need to eat is an incredible form of freedom. It empowers a household to begin reusing its compostable waste, it cause the family cultivate a closer connection with natural systems and it unplugs those willing to garden from the current agricultural system that has put in place a dependency on fossil fuels bound to cause us problems in the future post peak oil. In other words Monsanto take a hike.

Community gardens are the next closest food production cycle. They make use of cleared land and available sunlight to increase the amount of food producible in given area. Shared work and responsibility can be reward in ways that exceed crop yields. Much can be learned from others.

I am in the process of fostering a new garden in my community and I have been surprised at who has come out of the wood work with great gardening knowledge or at least great enthusiasm. It is a reason for somewhat separate individuals to come together for a common cause. I hope this is even more true in the future.

Slightly further from the consumer is the local food producers who are most likely farmers whose sole employment it is to grow food. They will again thrive on the edges of urban or semi-urban areas. Those with the land and know-how to grow crops without artificial energy inputs will be in great demand.
In Cuba farmers now earn greater wages than engineers. Community Supported Agriculture or CSA programs are a way for you to begin to support theses farmers. A weekly visit to your farmer’s market is another. And then there’s the local food co-op.

Outside of local farmers I think we will continue regional production of crops well suited to our climate. And an additional step further beyond that I think national and international food trade will continue in ever-decreasing amount. In the future I think the large majority of what we consume will come from a fairly small radius.

Have you ever boiled a frog? If you drop it into water 212 degrees Fahrenheit the frog will obviously protest and try its best to get out of the pot. If however you place the frog in lukewarm water and very slowly turn up the temperature the frog will eventually roll its eyes back into its head and die. Why such a horrible story in the middle of me presentation you ask?

The United States will most probably not experience a Cuban-like period of dramatically reduced petroleum agricultural inputs. I think instead that we will see a rocky decline in available energy and likewise an unstable decline in cheap food from afar. It won’t happen overnight. Will we notice and take action? Or will we experience a gradual increase in scarcity and wait until too late to begin the task of growing our own food? I am hoping to help avoid tha. I’d like your help.

Normally after I’m finished talking people will ask me, “So what are we suppose to do”?

Here is the list I give them.

First, educate yourself. Don’t believe everything anyone says even me. Read, go online, pay attention to where your food really comes for, listen to others, educate yourself.

Second, grow your own food and by that I don’t mean try and provide all your family’s calories this year. You overload trying to do that. But pick a few things to grow- a couple of tomatoes, peppers, some potatoes… m maybe some beans and learn and increase each year. The important thing is to get started. Start small and dream big. But start now.

Third, work towards a community garden. Look for unused sunny property and neighbors who might be willing to help. There are resources online and maybe in your community already. Get together with neighbors and build an effort to grow food.

Forth, support your local farmers. You can do that by visiting the farmers market looking into CSA (community…) joining your local food cooperative. Try asking you local restaurant if they buy from local food producers- put the bug in their era that you as a patron are interested in that. Ask your waitress for a chicken bag and tell her that your unrecognizable leftovers will be taken home and composted by your very own chickens. I promise you’ll get a reaction.

Lastly don’t rely on others as the only ones to provide your basic needs. You might not want to become a farmer or a chicken rancher or a rainwater collection specialist but understand the basics of how to take care of yourself, your family, your friends and the environment around you. This return to responsibility will I believe be the beginning of a better tomorrow.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

salon perspective

Yesterday featured one of the best articles I’ve ever read concerning overall response to peak oil and the coming energy crisis. This first-rate piece of writing by Katharine Mieszkowski covers the full range of peak oil perspectives without polarizing the issue. She starts with an interview of Matt Savinar of He is a pessimist peak oil profit who’s been quoted on the floor of the House of Representatives and whose site serves as a clearinghouse of information on peak oil and its possible implications. She also speaks with others who believe peak oil is a myth or at worst a speed bump on the highway of human evolution. She completes her open-minded yet focused coverage by talking to Peak Oilers such as those at the Post Carbon Institute who are somewhat optimistic that the long term result of a reduction in dependency on fossil fuels might actually have a positive effect on our society. Many such advocates of the movement to power down still fear an unplanned energy decent and the short term implications of the coming shortage of petroleum. They are however working to do something about it. Much of the media coverage of our day is “balanced” such that it reports on items by presenting two opposing views on either ends of the spectrum. Ms. Mieszkowski avoids that obstruction and provides a comprehensive look at peak oil; one which is not afraid to deal directly with this difficult issue. Below I’ve provided a quote from this must-read article.

"I think that a lot of people have their head in the sand about this," says [Larry] Robinson. "Some believe that the market will solve the problem, and ultimately, it will, but markets aren't anticipatory. They're more reactive. If we wait for a market solution, it's going to come probably in the midst of a lot of disruption and unnecessary suffering."

But the Sebastopol City Council member also sees some silver linings in the slide down Hubbert's Peak. First, he believes that savvy local entrepreneurs will be able to create new businesses and local jobs, manufacturing shoes and clothes, when transportation costs make it prohibitively expensive to import them from halfway around the world. Beyond that, he sees peak oil as providing a kind of wholesale referendum on the American way of life.

"I think that we can adapt, but our adapting may not be so much technological, as sociological, and maybe even spiritual," Robinson says. "It really comes down to the question of the place that we see for ourselves in the world and what we need in order to live a meaningful life. For quite a while now, a meaningful life in America has meant acquisition of things and cheap energy, and we associate that with freedom. We do not see that it's really a form of dependence and slavery. So, I see the potential for a much greater level of freedom and spiritual fulfillment and social cohesion, and restoration of balance with the natural world. This is one of the great possibilities that I see on the other side of the crisis, and whether we get to that is a question of the choices that we make now."

The entire article is available here. Enjoy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

busy mixed bag

I am sorry for the recent lack of content. In addition to welcoming home the new addition to my family I have also been asked to participate this weekend in the Triangle Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions. For those of you here in the Carolinas this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about peak oil and the coming energy decent. I am excited both to be participating in the event and also that it is taking place in the heart of the higher learning center of North Carolina in the Triangle area at Duke University within a few miles of both North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It will also be baby’s first conference on sustainability. If at all possible please join us this Saturday in Durham as North Carolina begins to address this issue in public. More information on this free conference here.

Today, March 20, 2006, was suppose to have been the opening day for the oil bourse set to trade crude oil in euros. I wrote about it here. Turns out the opening has been delayed. Those of you who would like to read more on the topic should check out this article.

If you are interested in continuously updated information on smart and thoughtful ways to respond to peak oil and energy decent I highly recommend visiting Transition Culture. Mr. Rob Hopkins is diligent about updating with new and relevant information.

I would like to draw your attention to a document I read this past week. It’s entitled Energy Trends and Implications for the U.S. Army. The full version of the document is available here. A four page summary is available here. If there are those of you still unconcerned about the future of America despite our energy dependency who do not believe peak oil is a real issue or believe instead that it will solve itself, I have provided below a few excerpts from this document that might at least peak your curiosity. Remember this document wasn’t created by a tree-hugging environmental organization. It was created by U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They tend to be rather scientific and straightforward.

Quotations include:

“The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close.”

“In general, all nonrenewable resources follow a natural supply curve. Production increases rapidly, slows, reaches a peak, and then declines (at a rapid pace, similar to its initial increase). The major question for petroleum is not whether production will peak, but when.”

“World oil production is at or near its peak and current demand exceeds the supply. Saudi Arabia is considered the bellwether nation for oil production and has not increased production since April 2003. After peak production, supply no longer meets demand, and prices and competition increase. The proved reserve lifetime for world oil is about 41 years, most of this at a declining availability. Our current throw-away nuclear lifecycle will consume the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years. Unless we dramatically change our consumption practices, the Earth’s finite resources of petroleum and natural gas will become depleted this century.”

“Currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum... In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have already past their peak, or are now producing at peak capacity.”

“The impact of excessive, unsustainable energy consumption may undermine the very culture and activities it supports. There is no perfect energy source; all are used at a cost.”

On that somber but straightforward note let me add that Powering Down will itself be transitioning into a more comprehensive website over the coming months. While I still plan to rant about energy issues as a form of peak oil therapy I am hoping to provide other information on such topics as our currently emerging community garden, a schedule of energy-related events in the area, useful directions on everyday adaptations for American household in anticipation of peak oil, etc. The site will focus on the Southern United States or at very least have a Southern flair. This is a call for input on how the new version of this website might best serve those of you who visit and are concerned about peak oil and the coming energy decent. Please contact me through comments to this post or by visiting my profile and sending me an email. No recommendation is too large or too small. Thank you for your continued participation in these times of change.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

baby roo arrives!


This past Thursday at
1:40 am my wife gave birth to our first child, a baby girl now more formally name Keaton Phoenix. The labor and delivery happened all of the sudden and with only minor complications. What a fantastic and exciting event. That’s easy for me to say as the strenuous work of delivering a baby through the natural process of child birth fell almost entirely to my wife. The past few days have been a whirlwind of events and emotions. We have come home and are settling in with introductions to family, friends, koda the dog, the cats and even a bit of gardening this morning with baby in a sling as mother napped. How many of us can say we planted lettuce at 3 days old? I was initially at a loss for words regarding her and other matters. Now the backlog of thought is breaking free with a flood to the surface. Let me tell you a story of surprise.

I have been writing and even talking at times about our baby in feminine terms. In truth we decided not to learn the sex of our child before birth. When I wrote I did not mean to mislead but I found using the terms he/she or himself/herself took away from the work. I also thought to myself from the beginning that the baby would be a girl. Turns out I was right. A nurse announced to the entire delivery room just before birth about our igno
rance concerning the sex of the coming child and everyone involved seemed excited to be a part of the surprise. When the baby was born I anticipated the announcement as the doctor delivered and the nurse quickly whisked away the baby to be medically examined. As she was cleaning nose and throat and wiping the baby from head to foot I expected the announcement of boy or girl. Instead of such an announcement the nurse first spoke to us with this statement. “So who has the redhead in the family?” My wife, obviously still dazed, looked up and asked, “Redhead? Is it a boy or a girl?” “A girl,” the nurse responded, “Congratulations, you have a redheaded girl.” Now this might not seem strange but my hair is sandy blonde and my wife is a dark brunette. The idea of having a child with red hair had never occurred to us. It seemed less strange after a trip up the family tree. My mother has red hair as do two of my mother’s siblings. The hair of my mother-in-law was somewhat red as was the hair of my wife’s grandfather though unfortunately he passed a long time ago. Suddenly there seemed a connection to the past we had not considered and were abruptly aware of. This was an additional emotional encounter we had not bargained for. What a wonderful thing is life and its unexpected turns.

When I first told a certain thoughtful friend of mine that my wife and I were going to have a child he had a question in response. He said, “Aaron, You understand fully that the world we know might very well change in the near future in a way that is painful and less promising then that of the most recent past.” He was kindly asking me how I could bring a child into the world with an understanding of the coming energy decent and the painful process into which it could possibly evolve. I could not fully answer his question until I saw the face of my child. The future is undefinable but that doesn’t mean we should be afraid to move forward into it. I can only hope. I can only have faith. I can only know that our future will rise flying from the ashes of the past. I believe in a better future. I have to. I will do my part and teach my child as best I can. I am excited.

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, mediations, comments and emails.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

NC Green Building Database

Those of you interested in sustainable and energy efficient construction here in North Carolina will be interested to know there is an interactive database of projects that meet those parameters available online.

You can select a project from the dropdown menu list on the upper right hand corner of the screen. The listed information specific to each project is comprehensive and includes techniques used as well as the contact information for the designers and contractors who participated. Enjoy it here.

Monday, March 06, 2006

baby roo

A quick note for those of you so kind as to inquire about the quickly approaching birth of our child. It seems baby Roo, as we've taken to calling our yet-to-be-born baby, is on the way. All the signs point to soon, maybe very soon. Prayers, thoughts and meditations are most certainly appreciated- it is wonderful to be able to share this experience with so many others. I will report back when there is more to share. Thank you.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Triangle Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions.

This event will take place on March 25, 2006 from 1:00 pm until 6:00 pm at Love auditorium on the beautiful campus of Duke University in Durham, NC. I am pleased to see the issue of peak oil and possible responses to this matter being openly addressed here in North Carolina. Contact Peter Taylor or Stephen Hren for more information on this event and kudos to both of them for creating this opportunity to begin to publicly plan for the coming peak in global oil production.

Highlights to include:
Keynote by Larry Shirley, Director of NC State Energy Office
Breakout sessions on transportation, food, energy and intentional communities
Movies about Peak Oil and Q&A with experts
Free admission (donations accepted)

Please join us to talk about this important issue. More information available here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

swamp land in florida

This from Exxon in 2004…

from Peak Oil Center

Then this from Exxon in 2005…

Without any press conferences, grand announcements, or hyperbolic advertising campaigns, the Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world's largest publicly owned petroleum companies has quietly joined the ranks of those who are predicting an impending plateau in non-OPEC oil production. Their report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years.

More here.

Now meet the new Exxon advertising campaign.

Download a better looking version here. "With abundant oil resources still available- and industry, governments and consumers doing their share- peak production is nowhere in sight." This from the oil company that recorded the largest quarterly profit in the history of America just last year. The crazy thing is Exxon thinks we will believe whatever they tell us. Crazier yet, some of us will. As for me, I’ll get my information on the future of oil from someone who isn’t trying to sell oil to me.

By the way based on the International Energy Agency numbers scrutinized here by The Oil Drum we peaked in oil production in May 2005. We'll see how that holds up over time though- a bumpy ride at very least.

Thanks to LATOC for bring this "advertising" campaign to my attention.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

pienite resource

The first recorded pizza delivery took place in Western Europe in 1889; probably in the evening. Raffaele Esposito delivered the dish to the King and Queen of Savoy. This is a bit of a stretch though as the tavern owner didn’t follow present protocol. He brought the ingredients with him to the palace and prepared it on site. Pizza delivery didn’t take off until the end of World War II as American servicemen returned home and brought with them a craving for the Italian dish. Pizza cooks fast and is easy to make. It’s flat and simple to transport. Add in the extremely low cost of fuel at the time and a sense of increased convenience post WWII as reimbursement for service overseas and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary for a revolution in the food service industry.

The process is rather simple. The customer phones the local pizzeria from home or office and orders a particular number of pizzas selecting size and ingredients. The caller provides an address and the restaurateur sends a driver to the location. The practice caught on quickly and before we knew it pizza delivery was common place.

The idea of pizza delivery entered our culture and created a universe all its own. The ubiquitous pizza box followed as a form of protection for the food as did the development of protective bags first insulated and later heated using electricity. Local establishments mingled among the chain stores that sprung up and all sorts of advertising campaigns developed around the process of providing pizza to your doorstep. Who in the United States could forget the Noid, that demon of Domino’s Pizza always trying to undermine delivery?

“Avoid the Noid” we were warned. Today the Noid has his own webpage and you can buy your own bendable doll online. Speed wars ensued as pizza parlous guaranteed swift service, some promising “Delivery in 30 minutes or it’s free.” Americans everywhere ordered and then watched the clock. Illuminated signs on delivery vehicles advertised the latest crazes in pizza modification- stuffed crust pizza- “Eat it backwards.” The custom of tipping for delivery developed and the driver himself was established as icon of minor, minimum-wage slackness with the ultimate in unreal jobs. Stories about pizza delivery boys being robbed, beaten and killed were watched on the evening news by families enjoying there very own recently delivered pizza. News organizations have even admitted to keeping an eye on specific pizza shops that service specific governmental organizations known for ordering out just before a big event keeps staff in the office overnight. It has been reported that a massive order of pizzas just before the first gulf war let that cat out of the bag a bit early. You can find examples of this mainstay of American culture in books on T.V. and in film. Pizza delivery is more American than apple pie. That's why I was so surprised last week to be offered this.

It’s a carryout club membership card for a program that offers to buy me one free pizza after I order five times. The catch is I have to transport my own pizza. Apparently it now makes more economic sense for Papa John’s Pizza to give away one out of every six pizzas I purchase than for the company to deliver them to my door. Papa’s story is described like this.
As a high school student working at a local pizza pub in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Papa John's founder John Schnatter realized that there was something missing from national pizza chains: a superior-quality traditional pizza delivered to the customer's door. His dream was to one day open a pizza restaurant that would fill that void. Now he wants me to come pick up my own.

I am big a fan of “pointing out the myriad signposts dotting the landscape along this highway to hell”, as Steve Lagavulin recently put it. I listened curiously as our oilman turned president publicly admitted in his 2006 State of the Union Address that “America is addicted to oil.” I keep an eye on the global oil production figures provided by the IEA with comment courtesy of The Oil Drum. I am as interested as any in the staggering depletion rate of North Seas oil compliments of the tremendous technological advances that are suppose to save us. If you really want verification however that the end of the oil age is coming, call your local pizza shop. The proof is in the pie. The end of delivery is nigh.