Thursday, August 31, 2006

a book review

Regularly it happens that in mid-conversation someone will ask me if I’ve read a certain book. Typically this person will go on to give a short summary of the book and then herald it as something interesting, something I should read. Sometimes however something completely different happens. After asking if I’ve read a certain book the person I’m talk with will give no details regarding the book; only pause as if to rearranging the direction of our discussion based on whether I have read the book or not. When this happens with the same book several times I know I need to read it. Such was the case with “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.” I’ve been hearing about this book for several years but not in the typical way. This book belongs in another category. It seems to have such a profound affect on those who read it that they are sometimes forced to reorganize their conversations when speaking to those who have not. My whole review here...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

the drain of what we knew

"our habit of self-destruction helps cut through arguments over whether ‘technology’ is good, bad, inert, whatever. technology is not a mythical beast over which we have no control, but an object of our creation - the embodiment of everything we covet and fear. clearly not every culture is stupid enough to roast itself. even in our own cultural past we have not always been this stupid."

Read more as heretic fig serves up an excellent helping of thoughtful commentary on our foolish attempt to impose our will upon the world. For thousands of years human beings lived in relative harmony with the environmnet around them. Now those of us in "developed" countries have discovered shortcuts around the cyclic processes that organized life before fossil fuels were exploited. When we began to view ourselves as apart from nature and then as the masters of nature we took a wrong turn that has led to the incredible wealth of a few and the extraordinary destruction of much of the rest of this planet's creatures and systems. Only now, as our mistaken direction is threatening our own human lives are we waking up to the potientially devestating effects of our actions. But now I'm bleeding over into my next post...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

when will the peak perk?

The following was previously published by me over at Groovy Green. Also, I've reworked my comprehensive composting guide and put it up over on the front page of GG for those of you who missed it here at powering down early this year. Check it out if you're interested in making soil. Now for the main feature...

when will the peak perk?
by aaron newton

Jeffery Brown throws out a challenge to the main stream media.

“Who among you is going to have the courage to step forward and “break” the story that the lifeblood of the world economy–net oil export capacity–is now declining?”

Mr. Brown says, “I estimate that oil exports from the top 10 net oil exporters are probably now falling at a double digit annual rate.”

He’s an independent petroleum geologist from Dallas by the way; not one of them economists that thinks you can put dollar bills in your gas tank and drive to work. I once told two smart friends of mine, an engineer and a medical student, that physics trumps economics and they said I didn’t understand how the world works. I don’t. But I do think that as oil is physically less available “laws” of economics are going to spin on their heads. Just a little prediction for you this afternoon. Here’s one more. It will be obvious that we’ve peaked in oil production by the end of 2006. It’ll take a few more years, two maybe, for the most optimistic of oil cheerleaders to admit so (read up on the history of the peak in production in the U.S. - 1971). Then, suddenly everyone will be saying, “Yeah, of course we’ve peaked. That’s what oil fields do- Duh!” But by then the scurry to find the next source of fuel for our mobile lifestyles and our transportation dependent economy will be on in full force. My favorite are the news headlines that read, “How Will We Fuel The Cars of Tomorrow?”, or, “Is Ethanol The Answer?” No ethanol isn’t the answer. It’s only suggested as a part of the solution because Iowa is the first stop on the road to the White House. It seems very few people are stopping to consider ways of living that require less driving. Supply-side solutions will not solve the problem of the declining rate of petroleum production. In fact I’ll predict that they will cause more damage in the form of pollution and green house gasses and postpone the day when demand-side solutions will be seriously considered. The rush to liquefy coal, harvest oil shale and tar sands, and build new-cue-lar facilities will all be a very real part of our energy descent. But unless we are visited by aliens from outer space (and some think we will be) our politicians will remain tethered to the very industries that rely on a fossil fuel based economy. They will do more of the same; fight in the Middle East for the largest remaining oil deposits, refuse to address the idea of a shift in our economic paradigm and a change in our lifestyle, and continue to subsidize foolish supply “solutions” that will dirty our air, pollute our water and offer only a false hope that we can continue on our merry way. I wish I were cheerier about it but I’m not.

How then should those of us concerned about our dependency on dirty fossil fuels respond? Recently a friend wrote to me in an email, “I am repeatedly finding that there are lots of folks who would like to talk about the “environmental” movement but don’t want to actually take an aggressive stance in this area.”

My response was that there are two problems that I face in trying to affect change in the area of environment and energy. The first problem is the need to recognize that nothing I do to shape the minds of other people will be as effective as what I do to shape my own mind. And the second problem is to understand that there are plenty of well-meaning people who will do little to change the state of our world because they don’t understand the first problem. Without meaning to, they are spinning their wheels and they’ll spin mine too if I let them.

There are other people out there doing it, making real change. They serve me as both a source of inspiration and information. In the absence of physical neighbors who understand our environmental pickle we must, at this point, begin to build the lighthouses that will serve to illuminate a darkening world. We must have the foresight and resolve to do that which is unconventional. Frontyard gardens might be a source of neighborhood gossip now but the knowledge gained in growing them will turn into a valuable skill for the future. We must be willing to step forward in a new direction long before there are others to lead or even hands to hold. This is what I’ve come to believe.

I learned about peak oil a little more than two years ago. What followed was a life-changing rollercoaster ride during which my world view was refocused. Since then I’ve walked a path that meant learning about some of the incredibly foolish actions we’ve taken as a species in the recent past. My first instinct was to shout out to others so that they too might learn of our follies and help me steer the ship away from the rocks. I learned no one likes to be shouted at. Next I knocked at the door of those traditionally associate with championing the environment. But a mixture of politics, bureaucracy and/or an attitude of self-congratulatory smugness seemed to render many of them too ineffectual for me. Lastly I recognized what I said before, that I must change myself and be ready to help those others that wake up.

So here I am. Laying trails of bread crumbs and working diligently to better my model before it is needed by my community. I feel a sense of urgency but I’m no longer in a hurry. That would only lead to mistakes (and I make enough already). What will come will come. Maybe someone will accept the challenge Mr. Brown gave at the beginning of this posting. Perhaps tomorrow will be the dawning of a new age of awareness as the population at large learns of our predicament from the main stream media. Or more likely there are a few years ahead of us with relative calm as the problems of energy and environment compound. Then one day average Joe, his government representative and the National Association for the Societies of Environmental Activist Coalitions Against Global Pollution Efforts (NASEACAGPE) will be ready to understand.

When will it be time for a real change? Will I be ready?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

shared lately?

Have you told your friends and family about the coming shift in culture ready to take place as energy, specifically liquid and gaseous fossil fuels, decrease in availability and spin our way of living in a new direction? To put it another way, have you talked to your loved ones about peak oil, resource depletion, a turn from consumer-based society, your backyard garden, your new bike commute to work or even your general worry about how your children and your children's children might live? Robert did. Read his letter with a quick jump over here.

He awaits his friend Marcus's response...

Update: a response!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

eating carrots

This morning I wrote a short essay over at Groovy Green. Here's a bit of it.

"As a new way of life grows out of increased awareness about the state of our environment and our energy problems, we must remember that great change can’t be made without mistakes. I’ve made many. I’ll make more. Come and watch so you can learn. Share with me so that I might avoid the mistakes you’ve made. Together we can recognize the need to continue to walk and remind ourselves that the path is worthwhile even if it’s flawed sometimes. We can’t take a pass on progress in search of perfection."

You can read the whole thing, including more about Keaton eating carrots by clicking here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

katrina advertiZing

More from Maria at Crew Creative Advertising below. Maria and her company are tapping the ever expanding blogosphere to advertise for the Discovery channel. I wrote a while back about her and the rise of indirect advertising over the internet. Read it here. OK Maria tell the folks what you want them to know...


RE: Surviving Katrina

I just wanted to follow up on the "Surviving Katrina" Special that premieres on the Discovery Channel, August 27 at 9PM ET/PT.

SURVIVING KATRINA covers the perfect storm of nature, science, politics and extreme human experience with a range of stories and interviews from all major aspects of the disaster, including Charity Hospital, the Convention Center and Superdome and with former FEMA director Michael Brown.

We have advance screeners available, please let me know if you'd be interested to write a review on your website and I can send you an advance screener of the special. [webaddress removed per her request but here's an image from website]

Also, visit our link below for access to our SURVIVING KATRINA assets page, where you will find a press release and images.

You are more than welcome to utilize any of the assets on the page, but please do not link directly to our server. Please keep me posted as assets go live on your site.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. Thanks in advance for considering our request.



This post was designed to remind you that business is evolving and coming up with new ways to promote their products. Just so we all keep that in mind.

Will someone please watch this special and let me know what you think? Oh and I didn't make any money from this post; not one thin dime.

Monday, August 14, 2006

in town permaculture video

Andrew Millison put together this video about his urban permaculture project in Prescott, Arizona. Found it on Treehugger. Click the pic to watch.

how dependent on oil are you?

As a nation, we're hooked. When you begin to understand in the global context the extent to which we are reliant on oil our behavior as a nation begins to make more sense. Just a reminder that those most dependent on a finite resource stand to lose the most when the production of that resource goes into decline. How long will we wait to wake up to this fact? How much pain will we have to feel before we shake off the propaganda of big oil, big auto and the other corporate interests who keep us convinced that we're fine- everything's fine. Stay tuned. I'm sure the answers to these questions will be revealed... eventually. In the meantime I suggest we all ponder where we personally would appear on a graph representing oil dependency among American citizens. How dependent on oil are you?

Graphs by NationMaster

Thursday, August 10, 2006

rocket science

I think the discussion of peak oil has moved from its former existence as an arguable question (though there are still skeptics) through a period of anxious anticipation (are we there yet? are we there yet?) and has arrived for many of us as a realization that requires action. A growing mass has come to accept that the end of the oil age is upon us. This group is moving away from noisy discussions about if or when. Possibly out of fear, perhaps out of practicality, or maybe because this group is forward thinking, they are beginning to engage in serious discussions about how to deal with reality. All of this is a way to introduce what I think is an interesting idea.

PeakEngineer is a rocket scientist or more accurately a NASA engineer. He has established a new discussion called PeakOilDesign. It’s described as a,

“forum for discussing solutions for an organized planning and transition to post-Peak Oil life. This is a first stop for community organizers and those looking to become part of a community as oil-based life becomes increasingly difficult.”

He’s employing a systems engineering approach to plan for post petroleum life. I do recognize math as a language but using it to describe events or map plans of preparation can become static for me. I shy away from engineering and towards more organic types of training. In truth, even the organic world of plants and animals is made up of measurable data. And I could stand to pay more attention to the numbers if only as a way to track progress and facilitate efficiency so I’ll try and keep up. Design is after all the marriage of science and art in an effort to create. So take a look, offer your thoughts or at least check back from time to time and see what comes of it. The more ideas the better.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

mixed bag

If you're interested in an alternative theroy concerning the recent shut down of the Alaskan oil pipeline Click Here.

If you're more interested in being hands-on productive and you'd like to save money and energy by insulating your hot water heater Click Here.

If you'd like to learn how to make fig jam (figs are in season- yum) then Check This Out.

If you want to read about the threat high gas prices pose to a suburban lifestyle Hit The Jump.

And if you have a hamster and a dead cell phone battery Try This One.

If you'd like to see a picture of Koda the dog, well, here you go.

I'm putting together several telephone interviews- trying something new. I'll let you know when they're done.

Monday, August 07, 2006

hold on

This from the New York Times Sunday edition,

"In a sudden blow to the nation's oil supply, half the production on Alaska's North Slope was being shut down Sunday after BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. discovered severe corrosion in a Prudhoe Bay oil transit line... That's close to 8 percent of U.S. oil production as of May 2006 or about 2.6 percent of U.S. supply including imports, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration."

Some annalists are saying we can expect a $10 rise in the price of a barrel of oil. Others are saying the U.S. is well supplied and this will have little effect on price. If I were a betting man I'd go with the former. The real question however is how long this last will. No word on that from BP.

The volatility of the peak of oil is here. If you don't think so watch what a little corrosion in a pipe in Alaska does to the price of the fuel Suburban America is desperately dependant on.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

the worsted witch

If you like what I write you should check out

From a recent post,

"I understand how the wheels of the consumer capitalist machine revolve, but I’ve always raised a skeptical eyebrow towards green consumerism, which is quite different from consuming consciously. The latter places needs above wants. The former, however, objectifies the movement but sees no inherent value in something other than keeping in step with the zeitgeist, persisting in the same excessive spending patterns reflexively with neither analysis nor forethought."

I couldn't agree more.