Saturday, December 27, 2008

GlobalTribe: Mexico Eco-Punks

Permaculture Eco Punks

Art / City Regreening / Water Catchment...

From the Seattle Times
and Punk Rock Permaculture

Friday, December 26, 2008

...Let There Be Pie...and there Was Pie

We’re Gonna Need More Pie

by Sharon Astyk

...this is one of my all-time favorite posts. I thought about editing the parts that reflect badly on me, but those are the funniest bits, as usual, so I just left them in. I had so much fun writing this - and Edson, my son, helpfully points out that Obama, whatever his limitations, is clearly on the pie platform too - he’s a big fan. So that can only be good ;-).

The other day I got embroiled on a newsgroup in one of those endless discussions/debates/headbangings about what the best approach to greening the planet is. Of course, all of you know that my defining characteristics are my reasonableness, aversion to confrontation and sensitivity, so my role here was to calm the hot tempers and settle the differences of others, which I do from my sheer love of humanity. I provided a calm and rational perspective that I know helped settle everything right down, because that’s just the kind of healing, caring person I am.

Ok, just on the off chance that anyone involved in that group says otherwise, I want to ask you upfront, who will you believe - them or me? After all, the people saying I was fanning the flames of this stupid umm…integral argument are nothing more than two or three hundred ordinary voices, where as I am a professional idio…author. I daily produce hundreds of words that are pulled randomly out of my a…er…finely crafted and honed for maximum effect. Sometimes the words even make sentences. Once in a while even grammatical sentences. These words are read by as many as eight or nine people around the world every single day. So you can certainly imagine that my ravings…um wisdom should outrank the sworn testimony of several hundred people.

So you’ll be proud to know that I, of course, natural leader that I am, did come up with a healing solution, something that we could come together on, a real commitment to change, a possible solution to the profound difficulties wrought upon us by the Great Change that comes sweeping over the (ok, stupid metaphor deleted)… But I did have an idea.

The idea was pie. And my position is that I’m for it. I know this is just the kind of hard-edged, radical position taking that you can expect on this blog, the reason you know you can turn here first to hear opinions that are beholden to no one…except the guy up the road with the cherry trees, who I can’t afford to piss off if I want pie. But this kind of risky political statement in favor of pie is just the sort of thing I know you’ll wish to support by donating a large portion of your salary to keep me going. Just click on the button below that says “big heaping wads of cash.”

I’m in favor of pie. I mean, what could be better than pie? It is commonly associated with good, noble things like motherhood, America, light bondage and domination, clowns and the federal reserve, so how could we not be for pie? In fact, who isn’t for pie? Well…

I have to tell you the ugly truth. There are powerful anti-pie interests in our government, and people working night and day to restrict your pie access. But we here at Casaubons book (Who is “we” you ask in puzzlement? Well, Sharon has obviously gone off the deep end writing her book, as you can tell from this post, so mostly the voices in her head. But they sometimes wear cool hats, and one of them is named “Leo.”) are committed to bringing you the truth about pie access and other equally crucial issues, like socks and beer.

It occurred to me, as I was healing the rift in this newsgroup brought on by unnamed troublemakers not named Sharon, that pie can do a great deal to heal our environmental crisis. For example, today’s climate change and peak oil news was particularly awful. There’s the coal, the war, the monks in Burma. There’s the fact that even if we halved our emissions, global warming will keep going for 600 years . There’s the mass extinctions. The fact that one of the few bits of environmental good news, the reforestation of the east is threatened by us: And then there’s the financial news…

All in all, I think the only possible reaction (other than hysterical weeping) to all this bad news on a cold, snowy afternoon is to put on fuzzy pajamas, bunny slippers and eat half a pie. Or to drink a lot of local beer, I guess. Heck, you could drink beer and eat pie together.

Yes, I know that’s pathological of me, but sometimes a retreat into pathology is rather comforting. I doubt I’m the only person who has ever responded to the bad news about our environment by thinking “apple or pumpkin?” The reality is whether we believe in stockpiling ammo or creating sustainable ecovillages, the need to derive comfort where we can is our common ground.

Pie can bring us together. And that unifying power isn’t limited to the peak oil movement – pie can cross religious, cultural and national boundaries. While there may be deep cultural divisions between those who believe that you should make your sweetened orange vegetable pies with sweet potatoes and those who vote for pumpkin, I believe these barriers can be crossed, if only we’ll just take a piece of each with a lot of whipped cream.

Pie can be a powerful political motivator as well. Right now, money tends to be the most powerful tool in politics, but let us not underestimate the influence of pie. Pies in the face are a powerful tool of political resistance in Europe. I’ve heard rumors that Bill Clinton sent the Haitians back because the republicans offered him all the blueberry pies he wanted. Dick Cheney regularly sits around nude, plotting his attacks on Middle Eastern countries while eating entire mince pies.

This kind of inside information isn’t easy to come by – the author had to send several pies to congressional aides. Fortunately, they are sleep deprived, wired on coffee and often morally bankrupt so bribing them with pie is very easy.

But pie is also essentially, deeply democratic. Pie is an essential ingredient in town-meeting style democracy in many New England states, along with baked beans. And pie is about democracy – fundamentally, pie (and pasties, empanadas, dumplings, wontons and all the other pie relatives) are about stretching high value foods to share with everyone. If you have six apples and ten guests, someone gets screwed, unless you put them between two crusts with some spices and call it pie – everyone gets a piece of sweet apple, everyone gets some crust. Pies are a way of getting maximum enjoyment from high-value foods. Meat, fruit, spices – these things are special. But they can be enjoyed regularly if carefully combined with filling starches. They are about democracy, frugality, comfort and family.

And pies are things that you have to produce either for yourself or in your locality. The truth is that frozen pie crust tastes awful, and that Sara Lee pies taste like corn syrup, which is what they are mostly made from. Real pie - good pie comes either out of your kitchen or a local bakery or diner where they make it fresh every single day from real ingredients. Pies are part of a whole lifestyle – if you want to eat pie, you have to cook, or you have to have a little Mom and Pop bakery. And those things are democratic too – as opposed to corporatist.

Sure, you say, but if I eat too much pie, I’ll get fat. And lord knows, that’s a real possibility. But here’s the thing. How many of you have ever met a really fat Amishman? I haven’t. And they eat pie more or less constantly, or so my Amish neighbors tell me.

Pie can power a human-powered lifestyle in the way that junky processed crap can’t. Certainly the Amish cookbooks I’ve seen are filled with pies. And back when dessert (or breakfast in New England) was routinely pie, people were a lot thinner. One might argue that pie isn’t what makes you fat – it is not living the pie lifestyle. Because the pie lifestyle means picking berries or walking to the bakery. It means eating pie as a treat, and as the place where you put your special festival foods that you don’t have all the time, while most of you meals are simple.

Instead, for most Americans, breakfasts is false pie - poptarts, which despite a plastic resemblance are not pies at all – because they aren’t actually food. The poptart lifestyle makes you fat, the pie lifestyle makes you thin, or thinner.

Pie makes you thin. It brings about democracy. It brings about agrarian or relocalized societies and economies. It provides comfort, crossing political lines. People talk about oil as the “master resource” but perhaps we need to start reconsidering the power of pie to create a sustainable, human powered economy. Pie-centered societies, ones that provide a chicken in every pot pie, are what we’re striving for. We can all consume less, and still have an evenly distributed piece of the pie.

Which is why I must say to you with a heavy heart – we are facing peak pie. Corporate interventions, and the “better than homemade” slogan has resulted in a US population that mostly doesn’t know how to cook anymore. Millions of people think that pumpkin comes from a can. Farmers are still going out of business at an appalling rate. The majority of our pie ingredients are contaminated by pesticides. Our ability to provide for our pie needs is deeply threatened. We are facing the final destruction of the pie lifestyle – and the end of the last remnents of our democracy.

So what can we do about it? How can we fight back for the pie lifestyle, for Mom, Teddy Bears and Apple (or Peach) pie? The only way to deal with this depletion crisis is to start living the pie lifestyle. Bake a pie today from locally grown ingredients. Eat a pie today, and use it to fuel human powered activity – dump your leaf blower and get out a rake, get rid of the power mower and bring out the push mower, lose the chainsaw and get the bucksaw down.

Make a pie and give it to a neighbor. Give out the recipe. Get together and make pies for elderly shut ins or the school bake sale or to buy solar lighting for the neighborhood watch. Throw a pie at a warmonger – we’ll have a bake sale to raise your bail. Point to the coal plant builders and the energy wasters and tell people - they are against pie! Start “Pie Eating Veterans for the Truth” and tar polluters and heavy emitters with the scorned label “pie haters.” Don’t forget to mention that they don’t like mothers, babies or kittens either. Have a town meeting and hand out pie. Give out pie at the voting booths, to hungry people in the park, to the shelter and soup kitchen. Try pies from other places, other lands – and send the money you would have spent on poptarts to good causes. When the world seems to suck, eat pie, and use that energy to get back on your feet and fight again.

Fight now, for motherhood, justice and apple pie!



CO2 to Soil: Yields for a Future

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vilsack and Obama: Farmer in Chief my Ass! by Sharon Astyk

Once again Sharon Astyk speaks my mind in words that go straight to the heart of the matter. I fervently urge you to spend some time at her blogs (caution - can be habit-forming - also, sometimes very funny, which is to say you maybe should take a pee first so you don't wet yourself - e.g. We're Gonna Need More Pie)
Casaubon's Book - Sharon Astyk
Riot 4 Austerity
Depletion & Abundance

Vilsack and Obama: Farmer in Chief my Ass!

Sharon December 17th, 2008

So Tom Vilsack is going to be Secretary of Agriculture, hmmm… Let’s see, rabid ethanol proponent…check! Enthusiastic supporter of GMOs and biotechnologies…check! Totally indebted to and under the thumb of agribusiness…check! Yup, it seems clear that Obama really took Michael Pollan’s “Farmer in Chief” piece to heart ;-P. Short of actually appointing, say, Monsanto’s chairman, it is hard to imagine a choice less likely to make real shifts in our food system.

But of course, as Rod Dreher points out (quite correctly) and as Carolyn Baker points out (equally correctly), so far there’s very little from the Obama administration that should make us feel secure that what’s coming is going to shift the status quo. Ultimately, Hillary, Geithner and the rest of the crew mostly can be described as people who did things not as badly as George W. Bush and his primary appointees - but that’s hardly saying anything of note.

I was in college when Bill Clinton was elected president, and I was almost alone in my social circle in refusing to volunteer for him - I’d supported a more leftist candidate in the primaries, and despite my acute desire to believe that Clinton would offer some kind of radical change, I couldn’t quite shake the reality of his positions out of my thinking. The same is true of Obama, who, for example, wrote of dealing with the mortgage crisis in terms of the moral hazard of bailing out homeowners - but appears to have few qualms about bailing out banks.

I had precisely the same feeling during this campaign - I preferred Obama quite dramatically to Hillary Clinton, and there were genuinely moments of hopefulness in his campaign. But I kept thinking, riffing on the late, great Molly Ivins, that "you have to dance with them that brung you". That is, Obama couldn’t possibly come to power without indebting himself to people who are more invested in the status quo than in improving lives.

In order to be the president many of us hoped Obama would be, he would have to be willing to betray many of the people who brought him, and their hopes and investments in his future. This is no easy feat for anyone, and is probably less so for someone who came so far, so fast, with the hand of so many. It isn’t impossible - other presidents have done it. The man isn’t even president yet.

But presidents are known by the company they keep - the reality is that no man can supervise all the elements of the nation alone - they depend enormously on those people that Obama is appointing right now. He will not be out in the fields, or at the soup kitchens - he will rely on reports and summaries from those he appoints. And those summaries will be given by men whose viewpoints are already formed. Vilsack cannot but describe our food system through the lens of his prior investments, and this will be disastrous.

In 2002, the Atlantic ran a story by Mark Bowden called “Tales of the Tyrant” - it described what it was like to be a dictator, and imagined how Saddam Hussein’s situation must lead inevitably to his downfall. The deepest reason, Bowden argued, was that everyone lied to the dictator all the time - they couldn’t do anything else.

I’ve thought of that story a number of times in relationship to various presidencies. It is true that our presidents don’t routinely throw advisors who tell unpleasant truths into jail - but even the best of them are surrounded, not so much by people who lie all the time, but by people who tell their truth as though it were “the” truth. To some degree, of course, this is inevitable - everyone’s worldview is shaped by their experiences. But it is possible to bring in a diversity of viewpoints, to find, in multiple versions of the truth, something closer to reality. Obama has overwhelmingly chosen one, very narrow set of viewpoints - the viewpoints of people who have power now, and to whom he is already indebted for his power.

I don’t claim that there is no hope for Obama, but before he chose these people to surround him, there was hope that an ordinary man of integrity, hearing a range of viewpoints, might choose something different. Now, we have to imagine that Obama is an extraordinary man, one with the power to find unconventional paths to knowledge, and the willingness to override the viewpoints he has invested himself in. It gets harder to hope for change.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Carbon Sink: CO2 becomes Soil!

Cows have lately been getting a bad reputation as contributing to the destruction of the atmosphere. Feedlot cows do, in fact. Grass-fed cows, on the other hand, can contribute to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere...and you can help. Read on...
Here are some alternate sources, since CFA is now defunct.
The article is still practically appropriate.

Carbon Farmers of America is a company built around a vision of ecological restoration and hope.
Together, grassfarmers and conscious citizens can effectively grow new topsoil and reverse global warming.
Topsoil has the capacity as a carbon sink to capture the excess carbon in our atmosphere. And our soils desperately need that carbon.
Today, we have the knowledge we need to rapidly create new topsoil over much of the Earth’s surface. Given this knowledge, Carbon Farmers of America offers every American the most responsible choice available: create that topsoil starting today.
The front lines of this historic undertaking are family farmers holistically managing grassland farms and carefully planning the grazing of livestock.
The excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere causing global warming can be transformed, through photosynthesis by grassland plants and then decay by soil life, into stable soil organic matter.
Soil organic matter is the key to soil fertility, true economic prosperity, climatic stability, clean and abundant water and vibrant human health. Once created, and under continuing good management, a significant portion of soil organic matter stays in soils for up to a thousand years.
If the American people were to restore the soil fertility of the Great Plains that we have destroyed in the last 150 years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide would be reduced to near pre-industrial levels.
Seen globally, the same results would be achieved if we humans were to increase the organic matter levels of the world agricultural and grazing lands by 1.6%.
(See Allan Yeomans, Priority One: Together We Can Beat Global Warming)
As we capture carbon dioxide and create true wealth through soilbuilding we must also radically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases.
We the people have the power to stop global warming and restore the topsoil that is our truest wealth!
What We Do
Carbon Farmers of America trains, equips, scientifically monitors and provides ongoing support to member farmers across America to rapidly create new, high organic-matter topsoil. We pay our farmer members for every ton of carbon dioxide they capture in new topsoil.
Together, within the next ten years, we aim to create the new topsoil that will feed our descendants, insure clean and abundant waters and stabilize our climate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sharon Astyk's Prognostications for 2009

Given that she nailed most of her 2008 predictions, Sharon Astyk's 2009 prognostications are worth paying attention to:

"In previous years, I was fairly lighthearted about my predictions - this year, I don’t find it possible to be. I really hope I’m wrong about this. And I hope you will make decisions based on your own judgement, not mine. These are predictions, the results of my analysis and my intuitions, and sometimes I’m good at that. But I do not claim that every word that comes out of my mouth or off my keyboard is the truth, and you should not take it as such. You are getting this free on the internet - consider what you paid for it, and value it accordingly.

1. Some measure of normalcy will hold out until late spring or early summer, mostly based on hopes for the Obama Presidency. But by late summer 2009, the aggregate loss of jobs, credit and wealth will cause an economic crisis that makes our current situation look pretty mild. With predictions of up to a million jobs lost each month, there will simply come a point at which the economy as we understand it now cannot function - we will see the modern equivalents of breadlines and stockbrokers selling apples on the streets.

2. Many plans for infrastructure investments currently being proposed will never be completed, and many may never be started, because the US may be unable to borrow the money to fund them. The price of globalization will be high in terms of reduced availability of funds and resources - despite all the people who think that we’ll keep building things during a collapse, we won’t. We will have some variation on a Green New Deal in the US and some nations will continue to work on renewable infrastructure, but a lot of us are going to be getting along with the fraying infrastructure, designed for a people able to afford a lot of cheap energy, that we have now. The most successful projects will be small, localized programs that distribute resources as widely as possible.

I pray that we will have the brains to ignore most other things and set up some kind of health care system, one that softens the blows here. If not, we’re really fucked - the one thing most of us can’t afford is medical care as it works now in a non-functioning economy. Unfortunately, my bet is that we don’t do something about this, but I hope to God I’m wrong.

3. 2009 will be the year that most of the most passionate climate activists (and I don’t exclude myself) have to admit that there is simply not a snowball’s chance in hell (and hell is getting toastier quickly) that we are going to prevent a 2C+ warming of the planet. We are simply too little, too late. That does not mean we will give up on everything - the difference between unchecked emissions and checked ones is still the difference between life and death for millions - but hideously, regretfully and painfully, the combination of our growing understanding of where the climate is and the economic situation will force us to begin working from the reality that the world we leave our children is simply going to be more damaged, and our legacy smaller and less worthy of us than we’d ever hoped.

4. 2008 will probably be the world’s global oil peak, but we won’t know this for a while. When we do realize it, it will be anticlimactic, because we’ll be mired in the consequences of our economic, energy and climate crisis. Lack of investment in the coming years will mean that in the end, more oil stays in the ground, which is good for the climate, but tough for our ambitions for a renewable energy economy. Over the long term, however, peak oil is very much going to come back and bite us all in the collective ass.

5. Decreased access to goods, services and food will be a reality this year. Some of this will be due to stores going out of business - we may all have to travel further to meet needs. Some will be due to suppliers going under, following the wave of merchant bankruptcies. Some may be due to disruptions in shipping and transport of supplies. Some will be due to increased demand for some items that have, up until now, been niche items, produced in small numbers for the small number of sustainability freaks, but that now seem to have widespread application. And some may be due to deflation - farmers may not be able to harvest crops because they can’t get enough for them to pay for the harvest, and the connections between those who have goods and those who need goods may be thoroughly disrupted. Meanwhile, millions more Americans will be choosing between new shoes and seeing the doctor.

6. Most Americans will see radical cut backs in local services and safety nets. Funding will simply dry up for many state and local programs. Unemployment will be overwhelmed, and the federal government will have to withdraw some of its commitments simply to keep people from starving in the streets. Meanwhile, expect to see the plows stop plowing, the garbage cease to be collected, and classrooms to have 40+ kindergarteners to a class - and potentially a three or four day school week.

7. Nations will overwhelmingly fail to pony up promised commitments to the world’s poor, and worldwide, the people who did the least harm to the environment will die increasingly rapidly of starvation. This will not be inevitable, but people in the rich world will claim it is.

8. We will finally attempt to deal with foreclosures, but the falling value of housing will make it a losing proposition. Every time we bring the housing values down to meet the reality, the reality will shift under our feet. Many of those who are helped will end up foreclosed upon anyway (as is already the case) and others will simply see no point in paying their mortgage when, by defaulting, they could qualify for lowered payments (as is already the case). Ultimately, the issue will probably self resolve in either some kind of redistribution plan that puts people in foreclosed houses with minimal mortgaging, with foreclosures dragging down enough banks that people find it feasible to simply stop paying mortgages that are now unenforceable, or with civil unrest that leads people simply to take back housing for the populace. I don’t have a bet on which one, and I don’t think it will be resolved in 2009.

9. By the end of the year, whether or not we will collapse or have collapsed will continue to be hotly debated by everyone who can still afford their internet service. No one will agree on what the definition of collapse actually is, plenty of people will simply be living their old lives, only with a bit less, while others will be having truly apocalyptic and deeply tragic losses. Some will see the victims as lazy, stupid, alien and worthless, no matter how many there are. Others will look around them and ask “how did I not see that this was inevitable?” Many people will be forced to see that the poor are not a monolith of laziness and selfishness when they become poor. We will know that we are in our situation only in retrospect, only in hindsight - our children will have a better name for the experience than we will, caught up in our varied personal senses of what is happening Meanwhile, each time things get harder most of us will believe they are at the bottom, that things are now “normal” and adapt, until it becomes hard to remember what our old expectations were.

10. Despite how awful this is, the reality is that not everything will fall apart. In the US, we will find life hard and stressful, but we will also go forward. People will suck a lot up and retrench. It will turn out that ordinary people were always better than commentators at figuring out what to do - that’s why they stopped shopping even while people were begging them to keep buying. So they’ll move in with their siblings and grow gardens and walk away from their overpriced houses, or fight to keep them. Some of them will suffer badly for it, but a surprising number of people will simply be ok in situations that until now, they would have imagined were impossible to survive. We will endure, sometimes even find ways of loving our new lives. There will be acts of remarkable courage and heroism, and acts of the most profound evil and selfishness. There will be enormous losses - but we will also discover that most of us are more than we think we are - can tolerate more and have more courage and compassion than we believe of ourselves.

An early Happy New Year, everyone. May you know better than you deserve and see others at their best in these hard times."


Consume this Movie....While Supplies Last!

Are Americans too materialistic? Are we willfully trashing the planetary ecology in order to serve the desires and drives of the ego? And what, or who could be driving this powerful force of seduction? Consume This Movie takes a critical look at social injustice, peak oil, resource depletion and our deep need to feel connected to each other through what we choose to consume. This 80 minute documentary also examines the frenzied pace of fast-lane materialism that is beggining to burn us out. We Americans are just now beginning to yearn for a simpler life, but is it too late? Have we set in motion a runaway train that threatens to undermine the ecological, social and spiritual cornerstones that make the pursuit of happiness possible in the first place? Walk, don't drive to see this powerful documentary film, while supplies last!

Woven into this exploration are interviews with Dr. Peter Whybrow, American Mania, Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American, simplicity guru’s Cecile Andrews and Duane Elgin, photographic artist Chris Jordan, advertising expert James. B. Twitchell and Post Carbon Institutes Julian Darley among others.

Fallling Apart - Falling Together

Why Are Things Falling Apart?

Richard Heinberg explores the good and bad of our discovery of fossil fuels.

Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture

By Dale Allen Pfeiffer

The miracle of the Green Revolution was made possible by cheap fossil fuels to supply crops with artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Estimates of the net energy balance of agriculture in the United States show that ten calories of hydrocarbon energy are required to produce one calorie of food. Such an imbalance cannot continue in a world of diminishing hydrocarbon resources.

Eating Fossil Fuels
examines the interlinked crises of energy and agriculture and highlights some startling findings:

The worldwide expansion of agriculture has appropriated fully 40 percent of the photosynthetic capability of this planet.

The Green Revolution provided abundant food sources for many, resulting in a population explosion well in excess of the planet's carrying capacity.

Studies suggest that without fossil fuel-based agriculture, the United States could only sustain about two-thirds of its present population. For the planet as a whole, the sustainable number is estimated to be about two billion.

Concluding that the effect of energy depletion will be disastrous without a transition to a sustainable, re-localized agriculture, the book draws on the experiences of North Korea and Cuba to demonstrate stories of failure and success in the transition to non-hydrocarbon-based agriculture. It urges strong grassroots activism for sustainable, localized agriculture and a natural shrinking of the world's population.

Peak Oil Is Now History

The Peak Everything Year

by Richard Heinberg

For those who understand the overwhelming importance of fossil fuel depletion, the signal event of 2008 was without doubt the oil price spike that sent the cost of a barrel of crude rocketing to $147. Knock-on effects were as anticipated: the airline industry contracted, the auto industry went on life support, food prices jolted upward, and the overall economy went into reverse (more on that below). Due to all of these things, the demand for oil subsequently peaked and began to slide, which in turn caused the price to plummet, with no end currently in sight.

I am among several commentators who have gone on record as saying that July 2008 will turn out to have been the all-time record month for world petroleum production. With the price so high (in July), all producers were pumping flat out. And now, with the price so low, there is no incentive to make the required enormous investments in future productive capacity, so that when demand picks up again (and it may be a few years before that happens), new additions to supply will not be sufficient to overcome the capacity erosion that will have accumulated in the interim due to depletion and decline in existing oilfields. Say goodbye to Peak Oil: it's history now.

Fortunately, high oil prices during the early months of the year led to an explosion of Peak Oil awareness. There was an unprecedented frequency of discussion of the issue in the mainstream media, with T. Boone Pickens doing much of the heavy lifting, but also we saw the release of several film documentaries, along with dozens of radio and television interviews of Post Carbon Institute fellows and board members. Transition Initiatives sprang up in scores of towns and cities around the world, and more communities began to assess their vulnerability to future oil shocks.

The climate continued changing this year, with a new record set for the melting rate of the north polar ice cap. Even more ominously, plumes of methane were observed rising from thawing permafrost in Siberia, leading some researchers to speculate that at least one of several potential "doomsday" reinforcing global warming feedback loops has been triggered.

Negotiations over the treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol have begun. Environmental organizations are planning to spare no strategic option (including massive direct action campaigns) to press for maximum emissions reduction commitments from the world's nations, but the economic crisis will likely weigh heavily on the minds of world leaders, whose top priority is the futile quest for a return to growth.

Which brings us to the subject of that annoying economic collapse that everyone keeps talking about. The "slowdown," as our government officials like to call it, actually started in 2007 when housing prices weakened and mortgage-backed securities started tanking, but over the past six months the low hissing noise that wary commentators have attributed to a deflation of the debt-credit bubble has turned into a vaporizing explosion.

In a commentary a few weeks ago I opined that 2008 will eventually be seen to have been the last year of aggregate world economic growth (as currently defined). Ever. That's a big, nasty prediction to make, but somebody needs to be pointing out the obvious: economic growth is, almost by definition, something that can't go on forever on a finite planet, and things that can't go on forever cease at some definable point in time. Given Peak Oil, I think we can define that point as now.

On the bright side, we are very nearly at the end of the Bush Administration, and we have just seen a historic election in which hope triumphed over cynicism. Despite realistic concerns that the Obama team faces unmanageable economic and geopolitical crises left over from its predecessors, and that the new Cabinet consists of insiders who are unlikely to grasp the unprecedented nature of the circumstances facing us, or to propose the kinds of bold policies that are called for in a post-Peak era, nevertheless it is clearly a time to offer every possible encouragement and support to our articulate and optimistic President-Elect.

Food Democracy Now

Take a moment and add your name to the list of endorsers (of the following letter) which includes: Michael Pollan, Judy Wicks, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, Rosiland Creasy, John Jeavons, Frances Moore Lappe, Winona LaDuke, Cathrine Sneed, Ralph Paige and many other people of organic influence. Let's get a secretary of agriculture who understands ecological farming.


Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.
The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

A Tour of Eric Toensmeier’s Perennial Vegetable Garden

Mmmmm, Fly Larvae - Homegrown Protein for Chickens & Fish

Read more and watch more videos at Black Soldierfly Blog and ProtaCulture

Genetic Pollution Epidemics - from a CAFO near you?

From the pages of Keep Antibiotics Working:

On Antibiotic Resistance

Throughout America, infectious diseases are emerging that we may not be able to cure because bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.

Over the last 60 years, effective antibiotics have turned bacterial infections into treatable conditions, rather than the life-threatening scourges they once were. The effectiveness of many life-saving antibiotics is, however, waning. Health experts have deemed the rise in antibiotic resistance a public health crisis. Everyone is at risk from antibiotic-resistant infections, but children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The overuse of antibiotics is to blame. A major source of this overuse is routine use of antibiotics as feed additives for livestock and poultry – not to treat disease, but instead to promote growth and compensate for crowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are used as feed additives for pigs, poultry and cattle. In June 2001, the American Medical Association went on record opposing the routine feeding of medically important antibiotics to livestock and poultry (i.e., "nontherapeutic" use).

Antibiotic use in animal agriculture has been linked definitively to human bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics. Mounting evidence suggests that widespread overuse of agricultural antibiotics also may be contaminating surface waters and groundwater, including drinking water sources in many rural areas. Nonetheless, agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry are fighting hard to thwart restrictions on the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

Spread the Word. Tell friends and family what you have learned about how the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture impacts human health. Urge them to visit our website and to Take Action on this important issue.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Permaculture solves problems - got any problems?

These are some of the services offered by well-trained, skilled and practiced permaculture designers. The following example introduces a variety of projects / services offered by friend and fellow designer Larry Santoyo and the consortium of designers that work with him via Earth Flow Design Works.

The Home Ecosystem
New construction and renovation projects. Designs that integrate the function & beauty of interior environments with the function & beauty of the exterior environments. Consulting & Design includes green interiors, edible landscaping, natural cooling & heating, alternative energy, roofwater collection, greywater sytems and more...

[Most landscapes, buildings, and life circumstances are (often literally) dripping with possibilities and yields that most people completely overlook. You may be wealthier than you think....Talk to someone trained to notice these things....Even better, get yourself trained! K]

Green/Real Estate Development...
Our green building consulting services use unique and rigorous Permaculture Design Guidelines, along with the US Green Building Council's LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Ecological and economical investment opportunities in sustainable homesteads and acreage, green homes and commercial properties are available.

[Most homes can be enormously improved by reevaluation and redesign. A good Permaculture Design team could save you buckets of federal "reserve" notes. K]

Permaculture Design Certificate Courses
& Advanced Permaculture Design Training...

Our teaching team includes the most experienced Permaculture Instructors and recognized leaders in the World-Wide Sustainability Movement. Our Courses are conducted all over the world, in cooperation with citizen groups, government and non-government groups, universities and environmental organizations.

[More permaculture teachers these days are working with colleges and universities, municipalities and, in a few instances, national governments. After almost 30 years Permaculture is making a difference on a fairly large scale. Stay tuned.....K]

Land Search
Place to Practice & Practice to Place...

Consulting & Design services assist homeowners, ecoVillagers, land managers, farmers and ranchers with Sustainable Development Guidelines. Finding and developing the "best use" practices for any given site -and- for matching "ideally suited" properties with proposed practices, saves time, money and natural resources.

[Get yourself connected to land and earth, even if it's pots on a balcony or rooftop gardens. Remember, a concrete wall can be a huge trellis for grapes.....or kiwis........K]

Localize Enterprise!
Green Business Development...

Consulting and planning services assist developers and business owners to create facilities, practices and products that strive for excellence with a "Triple Bottom Line" approach: the Economic, Social and Ecological factors that enhance prosperity, empower local communities and re-generate natural resources.

[See APPLE (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy - Bloomington, IN) K]

Deep Green & Natural Building...
Ancient Methods for Modern Elegance. Mud and straw, sand and stone are the time-tested building traditions of people on nearly every continent. Updated techniques are examined and explored through hands-on workshops, and demonstrated through design and construction services.

[Many people don't know that they could build their own houses relatively cheaply from local materials. The Permaculture Design Course opens up many of these options. K]

Village Permaculture...
In association with The Permaculture Institute (USA) and Pattern Literacy, EarthFlow works together with Peace Corp Volunteers, NGO's, local farmers and government officials. The focus of Permaculture projects in Jamaica and in the Maya Mountains of Southern Belize is education, community development and sustainable agriculture.

[Often, when it comes to living sustainably, we can point to many culture's FAR MORE stable and adaptable than American culture. Maybe we should learn more about this before we wreck any more foreign lands and cultures with Our Empire. I think we should start seeing other people....K]

Back to the City Permaculture...
Los Angeles, California has become our training ground for implementing City Permaculture strategies. Making cities more sustainable is the best way to ensure the protection of all wilderness and conserve natural habitats world-wide. EarthFlow Design Works promotes urban and rural enterprise links to help create food & resource security.

[Cities have abundant resources when they are not squandered and degraded...principal among them is people. Empowered people can revision, redesign, and revitalize their cities making them cheaper to run and maintain and more fun to live in. You can learn these things.....uh, better hurry. K]

Restorative and Regenerative Agriculture...
Sustainable and organic agriculture efforts are dramatically enhanced by Permaculture & Keyline Design Guidelines. Management and land use practices conserve water and build soil. Helping growers transition from a chemical-based monoculture production to integrated polycultural systems is key in recreating global health and moderating climate change.

[Cuba, for example, HAD to adapt to peak oil by learning to farm organically when the Soviet Union collapsed and the US embargo persisted. Now Havana grows more than half of its food within the city limits and the country is largely food self-sufficient. K]

Swan Song for the Lawn...
Edible and Incredible Environments. Workshops assist Homeowners and train School Teachers how to convert resource-consuming lawns into ever-evolving food and resource systems. Culinary and nutritional information is also provided.

[The nation needs about 10,000,000 new farmers in the next decade to supply the shortfall when food becomes too expensive to ship all over the world. Many millions of people will lose their jobs in the next few years. We NEED to turn at least some of them into managers of small-scale highly intensive diversified urban and suburban polycultures. Are you up for it? TAKE A PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE for starters. Rise up against the forces of Lawn Order...K]

Peak-Oil/Energy Descent...
Working for a Fear Free Future!

Networking seminars offer practical information and strategies for organizing and empowering local community groups to help transition from a consumer lifestyle to a more localized and sustainable conserver lifestyle.

[Get a out a 'conservatism' your kids might admire...Remember the FIRST permaculture principle.....,"Get help!" K]

The MicroVillage Network...
Connecting People to People and People to Place. A Product, Service and Skills Bank for local community groups to find green businesses, create local currency networks and provide links to contacts and information for Land Access and Land Partnerships.

[I think we're grown up enough to tell the truth about money....WE'RE the currency. We need a few systems to manage the enormous variety of exchanges possible between people. We actually need far fewer federal "reserve" notes than we think! (IF we think.) K]

EcoVillage & Community Design...
Green and natural building techniques for EcoVillage infrastructure layout, design and construction, as well as strategies for community economic security. EarthFlow also conducts workshops for effectively dealing with human dynamics, and the all-important "social architecture", to help ensure community responsibility, security and longevity.

[Hint...Many of the ecovillages of tomorrow are already built...they're called neighborhoods. What's missing is a bit of organizing, cooperating, planting and sharing...oh, and take down some of the fences...and collect water....and...and...and... K]

Food Forestry: a BioDiversity Imperative...
School Yards, Backyards, City Streets, Farms and Orchards can all become "Forests of Food." Integrated multi-level production, even on the smallest scale, can provide food, fuel and fiber, create wildlife habitat -and help cool the Earth.

[Think about it...schools, churches, corporate "parks", land everywhere becoming fruitful to provide for those that use the facilities...Duhhhh!....What's stopping us? K]

Biodiversity Nursery
Specializing in Rare and Exotic Fruits and cool summer climate edibles and herbs from the highland Cloud Forests and beyond. Yacon, Achira, Pepinos, Celeriac, spineless fruiting Opuntia and more...

[translate / transpose for your particular region / climate zone. K]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

There's low tech...& then there's (almost) NO tech.

My friend & fellow permaculture teacher / designer Larry Santoyo writes,

"One person's trash is another's path to illumination...
Check out these skylights made from plastic water bottles".

L. Santoyo, Director
EarthFlow Design Works
Now, how would YOU apply this concept in a cold climate?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toby Hemenway - articles

Enjoy these articles by Toby Hemenway, sometime editor of the Permaculture Activist and author of Gaia's Garden...
Is Sustainable Agriculture an Oxymoron?

Seeing the Garden in the Jungle: Beyond Wilderness

Another Kind of Genocide: Review - Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience

Ecological Patterns, Land Use, and Right Livelihood

Learning from the Ecological Engineers: Watershed Wisdom of the Beaver

The Third Ethic of Permaculture: Finding a Sense of Surplus

Urban vs. Rural Sustainability

Cities,Peak Oil and Sustainability

Apocalypse, Not - A Critical Look at Peak Oil Catastrophism

A Zone of One’s Own

Peter Bane - articles

These articles by publisher / editor Peter Bane appeared in the Permaculture Activist magazine over recent years....
Another Kind of Energy or ComPost-Modernism

Designing for Change

Lessons In Village Design

Keystones and Cops: An Eco-Mystery Thriller

Rocky Mountain Magic: High, Dry and Flourishing

Time to Garden the Planet

New! Coppice-with-Standards: New Forestry with Ancient Roots

Permaculture Videos (and Audio)

A while back I spent a bit of time compiling pages of videos related to Permaculture for the Permaculture Activist pages. You can watch them starting here...and then watch some more.... Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7

...Audio, too.

I especially enjoyed Paul Stamets' talk about mycoremediation:

Sealife: Dazed and Confused

Prozac Ocean:
Fish Absorb Our Drugs, and Suffer For It

(from Discover Magazine's Blog)

sad fishThe fish are acting funny because they’re on Prozac.

In the U.S., more than 200 million prescriptions for antidepressants are given out every year. A lot of the contents of those pills eventually end up in our water supply, either from patients’ excretions or from pills flushed down the toilet. Since water treatment plants aren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals, we’re effectively medicating our streams and rivers.

Chemists have found that water downstream of water treatment plants holds a veritable medicine cabinet worth of antidepressants, including venlafaxine, bupropion (Wellbutrin), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).

The concentrations of antidepressants in the water—billionths of a gram per liter—aren’t enough to affect larger species, but they are enough to make small fish and fish babies feel woozy. Researcher Meghan McGee tested the effect of antidepressants on young minnows by exposing unhatched and newly-hatched minnows to levels of antidepressants commonly found downstream of water treatment plants. The drugged minnows appeared lethargic and took twice as long to react to stimulus, making them much more vulnerable to predators.

McGee then upped the dosage of antidepressants to see how they would affect fish that feed on minnows, such as hybrid striped bass. When the concentration was increased to several millionths of a gram per liter, the bass spiraled into a drug-induced haze and exhibited some really weird behavior. Some hung around vertically in their tanks, others skimmed the surface with half of their backs exposed in the air (even though they are normally a bottom-dwelling species). They lost their usually voracious appetites and ignored the minnows that swam around them. The males took on feminine characteristics, loosing their masculine facial bumps and growing yolk protein.

In humans, many antidepressants (allegedly) work by altering levels of serotonin in the brain, but some also function like the sex hormone estrogen. It’s not clear how the drugs are working in the fish, but it’s clear all that Prozac isn’t doing them much good. Meanwhile, some communities have begun drug disposal campaigns that collect unused drugs to be incinerated instead of flushed into the water supply.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

DIY Energy Independence

Are you handy with tools and enjoy building things? Help yourself to energy independence with 100's of do-it-yourself projects at Build it Solar:

Experimental Solar DIY Projects

Solar and renewable energy ideas and projects that look promising (or at least interesting).

One of the appealing aspects of the solar thermal area is that "garage inventors" can make meaningful advances. Some of the factors that make it possible to keep coming up with new ideas and innovations in this centuries old field are:

  • Innovative ways of combining collection, storage, insulation, and distribution of solar energy

  • New ways to integrate solar features with architectural features

  • Opportunities provided by new materials

  • Opportunities provided by increasing prices in conventional energy sources

  • Opportunities provided by the pollution consequences of conventional fuels

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Garden Helpers: Will Work for Food

Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Nature is filled with "good bugs", crawling and flying creatures whose diet consists mainly of the pests that ravage garden plants. Here is a list of those good bugs and the plants that they like to visit for food and shelter. Intersperse these plants among the "problem pest areas" in your yard. Remember, though: Many chemical sprays work on both bad and good bugs. To keep the good bugs in your yard, eliminate insecticide use in the areas where they live and work.

Check out the lists here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Radio Ecoshock Interviews Dmitri Orlov
which considers...Bailout 2.0 Beta, how to find food, what to do with repatriated troops, where you can stick your money (should you still have any) to avoid being overcome by its putrid smell, and how having one's predictions come true is not necessarily a happy outcome.

Adapt or Die.....REALLY!

Found at Carolyn Baker's Speaking Truth to Power...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Some think tanks are now calculating that sometime between 2030 and 2050 we will need two planet earths to provide the resources for sustaining the present trends of production and consumption. Though this seems rather sudden, there are people alive today that have seen world population double in their lifetime. We are not going to find another earth to exploit in time to prevent the inevitable explosion. We can see that the growing consumption of finite resources ends with the shattering of civilization and mass die-off (possibly excluding the remaining forager/hunter tribal groups).

Some feel the culprit is economics, some say it is politics, but the big picture is a mal-adaptation to the earth. Civilization's problem is biological. We live in a culture that extorts energy from the biological energy flows of the earth without a positive feed-back loop to replenish the source.

The food of the earth, sunlight, is consumed by the plant world to build biomass. Leaves, limbs, and other organic debris fall on the earth and are consumed by the millions of entities, both macroscopic and microscopic that make up the soil community. It is the excrement of these beings, that is in solution in the soil, that the plant roots take up for their nutrition. This then funds the drive toward more species diversity. Most plants require moderate to rich topsoil which accumulates at the rate of one inch per 300 to 1,000 years, in optimum ecologies. When the biologically maladapted human cultures of Babylonia and Han China began to "clear the land" six thousand years ago, for agriculture, the biological energy circulation ceased, because there was no longer an ecology on top to feed it.

In the Great Plains of the U.S., half the topsoil is already gone, and now the industrial farmer dumps herbicides and pesticides on the land which further kills the soil community. The farmer then replaces the soil fertility with artificial fertilizer generated from fossil fuel which is rapidly running out.

This is a small example of how the biological energy flows of the earth are being dismantled through agriculture, deforestation, desertification, pollution and building suburban houses on fertile topsoil.

Though humans have been very successful inhabitants of the earth for several million years, six thousand years of the culture that is called civilization has brought us to a catastrophe in which the human species might well become extinct, taking a large part of the life of the earth with it, ultimately by nuclear radiation.

We live in a culture that exists and grows by extorting biological energy out of the living planet, without giving anything back. This scenario presents us with choices. We can attempt to "reform" our existing culture or we can take the leap and create a new way of life, we will not have the option of doing nothing.

Adaptation to the biological energy flows of the earth is the live or die question for the human species. This is fundamentally the human predicament.


Our remote ancestors succeeded for eons of time in their biological adaptation to the life of the earth, and now if the species is to survive, we must create adaptation at the next turn of the spiral. We can't go back to wearing loincloths and eating roots and berries. The game animals are gone and the roots and berries are covered by towns. We will have to create a culture that facilitates the growth of life rather than its extirpation.

Human cultures are normally formed over long periods of time by the conditioning of the young through the generations. We do not have that luxury of time. Presently, we have tremendous amounts of information from many cultures which we can synthesize and use for ideas in creating new social institutions. We see over the past centuries a wide diversity of colonies and intentionally created communities that demonstrate creating new human culture is possible.

At the beginning of the 21st. Century the choice to live in a self- sufficient community, self- sufficient watershed, and self- sufficient bioregion, is both a survival solution and a choice to create a new reality of cultural and ecological restoration.

Given that civilization has seriously overshot its resource base and has no future, we need a new idea. Every member of the species taking biological responsibility for their existence on this planet is a new idea. If humans were becoming more responsible, we collectively could sponsor experimental self-sufficient communities in many of the earth's bioregions. These communities would be experimental in the sense that the central question of "living in balance with nature," would be addressed. We civilized are not skilled at this and experiments by different cultures in different ecological regions would move us forward.

These would be legitimate "growth" communities concentrating on the growth of living things rather than the growth of money and power over other people. If groups begin at the top of watersheds, commencing ecological restoration and slowly spread downward the test would be that clean water and air come from those areas.

Given the principle of the growth of life, ecological restoration would be the focus. Permaculture, which would grow more food per acre than the industrial system, while restoring the soil, would be used in areas near the habitation. The habitations would be hand-made from local materials.

Though this seems a tall order there are seed communities around the planet now doing this successfully ( At the end of its time the old oak tree begins to disintegrate; as it does, an acorn sprouts. Our task is to encourage the sprout and to allow the old oak its passing.

Wm. H. Kötke is widely traveled and published. His most recent book, prior to Planet Garden, was the underground classic, The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future. He may be contacted at