Sunday, February 28, 2010

Alcoholics Unanimous

If you register for this event, tell them you learned about it here. Keith Johnson

Alcohol Can Be A Gas workshop:
IIEA & Better Food / Better Living Nashville

to be held at David Lipscomb University Shamblin Theater, main campus Nashville TN.
Date: March 19 - 21 (Friday evening social mixer, Saturday & Sunday workshop)
Time: 5-8 pm CT (Friday); 9 am to 5 pm CT (Saturday and Sunday)
Address: David Lipscomb University: 3901 Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN 37204-3951
Phone: (615) 966.1000
Cost: $270.00 (First 50 registrants receive a coupon for $100 off an alcohol fuel conversion kit)
About the location: David Lipscomb University Shamblin Theater - main campus: Nashville, TN (1/2 mile south of Woodmont Blvd. between Granny White Pike & Belmont Blvd.) 
For a map of the campus: click here -
For driving directions: click here - 
Program details: The program opens Friday, 3/19 at 5 pm for a two-hour registrant mixer (location to be announced). Please be sure to attend this important evening gathering. In addition to the networking and social opportunity, we use this time well to register you, draft an agenda for our weekend program, work together to identify priorities for the group, and help participants form regional workgroups. Having these preliminaries out of the way allows us to hit the ground running on Saturday morning. The actual workshop runs 9:00 am to 5 pm CT, Saturday and Sunday (3/20-21).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peak Soil

Thanks to The Oil Drum for this review...

"Dirt" (2008) by David Montgomery deals with the relation between soil erosion and civilization collapse. It is neither the first nor the only book that examines this subject. It is, however, written by a soil scientist, and it brings to a deeper level the understanding of how soil disappears and how this affects agriculture and, in turn, society. 
Was the Roman Empire doomed by the loss of fertile soil to erosion? This is a much discussed point that I also examined in a study of mine on the fall of the Roman Empire. Fertile soil generates food that, in turn, causes population to increase and that is what makes an empire able to expand, as all empires do. But fertile soil is also subject to overexploitation. It is fragile; is easily washed to the sea by rain. And, when it is gone, it takes centuries, at least, to reform.

So, did the Roman Empire collapse because of soil loss? Historians are still debating this point but, in this book, "Dirt", David Montgomery makes a forceful case that soil erosion was a major cause of the decline of the Roman economy and that, in general, it strongly affected ancient civilizations. Montgomery connects the dots of what we know and shows - among other things - that the Romans clearly understood the importance of agriculture in their economy. Yet, they never were able to understand the role of soil erosion.

Of course, there are alternatives to the simple linear chain of positive feedbacks that goes as more people -> more land cultivated -> more erosion. The sources tell us that many fields went uncultivated at the time of the Roman Empire and that suggests the possibility of a problem of underpopulation. The military needs of the late Empire were so strong thet there were not enough people left to cultivate the land. There is also evidence of droughts at the time of the decline of the Empire which would have affected agriculture, too. None of these explanations excludes the others. In a complex system, there is no simple cause and effect relation.

Everything affects everything else and you need good quantitative data to understand the weight of all the factors involved. Unfortunately, good quantitative data is exactly what we are missing for the Roman Empire. But, on the whole, it is clear that soil erosion is a major element at play in the decline of civilizations. The Romans, as many other civilizations before and after them, were destroying their resource base, soil, and they never were able to replace it.

There is much more in Montgomery's book - it is a comprehensive review of the relation of soil erosion and the history of humankind that starts from the end of the last ice age and arrives to our time. As such, it is a great learning experience. Of course, the book is not without defects. Stuart Staniford correctly points out that often Montgomery doesn't give a sufficient justification for his statements and that leaves the reader unsatisfied. This is true especially for the last chapter, where the text becomes somewhat ideological when Montgomery tackles fields which are not his: peak oil, energy, and the economy. The result is that the discussion becomes shallow, unlike the rest of the book.

Apart from these problems, "Dirt" is an absolutely must read for the serious students of civilization collapse. It is the same for those who still insist in defining biofuels as "renewable energy."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Constitutional Amendment Heating Up

Outside, Washington, D.C. is smothered in near-record amounts of snow. But inside - inside the halls of government, to be specific - things are heating up.

What sparked the fire?

The Supreme Court ruled last month that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections.

You already joined the fight to defend our democracy from a corporate takeover by signing Public Citizen's petition for a constitutional amendment to counteract this radical ruling.

I'm asking you to help grow the resistance by forwarding this email to 10 friends and family members and asking them to sign the petition, too.

We must preserve First Amendment rights for actual people and the press. The First Amendment was never intended to apply to artificial constructs like profit-hungry corporations.

Many members of Congress are introducing amendments and signaling their support, including Representatives Donna Edwards, John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, Leonard Boswell and Dennis Kucinich, and Senators John Kerry, Arlen Specter and Chris Dodd.

A real movement is taking shape.

Our petition is already 45,000 citizens strong. People instinctively recognize the Supreme Court's decision for the disaster that it is.

But constitutional amendments do not come easy. We need a groundswell of support from every corner of the nation. We need hundreds of thousands of people to drive the legislative push in Congress.

The first step is building our petition.

Please forward this letter to at least 10 friends and family members today. Ask them to visit and sign the petition, too.

Thank you,

Robert Weissman, President

Monday, February 8, 2010

Overcoming Corporate "Personhood"

How'd you like to attend a class that teaches community persons how to overcome corporate "persons"? The following outline itself offers some outstanding history and educational empowerment for regular persons like us. Be the Change.

Democracy School Curriculum Outline

Section “A” – Our Work Within the Regulatory System:
What is Law and
How is it Used?

  1. The regulatory system guarantees that the environment will be damaged, that the system actually permits it to occur, and that the system is built to recognize certain constitutional constraints.
  2. Our “engaging in the regulatory system”, while limiting some of the harms done by corporations, cannot achieve the types of change we need, and that our minds are colonized to believe that the untruth that we can create change by these means.
  3. Our thinking is colonized not only by the law – which establishes certain constraints that deny us the goals of our activism – but that our thinking is colonized by a culture that is  created by those who benefit from the way that the system operates.
  4. On the issue of land application of sewage sludge, we’ve been colonized that a bad is a good, through language used to frame the issue.
  5. On the issue of the corporatization of agriculture, we’ve been colonized that a bad is a good, through language used to frame the issue.
  6. Both the regulatory system of law and the culture produce a system of activism that cannot stop a corporate minority from governing community majorities, and that the regulatory system of law and culture effectively drives us like cattle down to a point of activism where we cannot win the issue that we’re working on.
  7. A regulatory system of law governs employer-employee relationships, and that regulatory system of law codifies the rights of the employer over the employee law codifies the rights of the employer over the employee.
  8. Regulatory systems of law were created not to protect health, safety, and welfare, but as a governmental barrier to prevent majority governance by the people.
  9. The traditional use of the regulatory system of law, and the operation of today’s regulatory agencies, are not mistakes or errors, but a logical use of the law to assert minority control over majorities.
  10. Law itself has a long history of being used by a minority to govern, that it was used by William the Conqueror to create an English structure of law; and that the mere existence of Constitutions does not guarantee democratic government.
  11. Throughout history, there have always been people who have seen the illegitimate structure of governance, and demanded something else, like the English Levelers and Diggers in the 1600’s. 


Section “B”- Colonialism:  Replicating the English Structure of Law and Culture Across the Globe and in the American Colonies

  1. Western Europeans colonized other countries through various means of legally sanctioned violence and terror.
  2. The English colonized the Caribbean through various means of violence and terror.
  3. The Church intervened repeatedly to legalize and authorize state colonialism.
  4. The English colonized America through the use of corporate charters which transferred full governing authority to one or several men, and that charters are, in reality, instruments of exclusion.
  5. The English Structure of Law was positioned to recognize the legality of colonizing “discovered” lands, and that the American Indians were dispossessed of lands through that legal sanction.
  6. The English Structure of Law viewed nature as a resource to be used, and thus, that it was man’s rightful role to subjugate, dominate and manage nature; and that through colonialism, the English imposed that view and forcibly eliminated those cultures that sustainably used natural systems.
  7. The English Structure of Law treated African-Americans as property, leading to a system of slavery as the dominant economic institution both north and south, and that imposition of that understanding led to thousands of slave revolts prior to the Civil War in the United States.
  8. The English Structure of law treated women as property.

Section “C” – The American Revolutionaries Rebel Against the English Structure of Law and Culture

  1. Early colonists understood that English colonialism, carried out by multinational trading corporations chartered by England, resulted in the actions taken by Parliament against the American colonies.
  2. Some revolutionaries understood that solving their problem meant replacing the English structure of law and culture, and transforming the chartered corporate colonies from property to constitutionalized states, and that the corporate form must be subordinated to the governance of the people.
  3. That understanding led to the declaration of a new theory of governance, expounded as part of the Declaration of Independence, that people have inherent rights and create governments to secure and protect those rights, and that when government fails to secure and protect those rights, is the duty of people to abolish that government.
  4. The authorship and release of the Declaration of Independence was illegal.
  5. The colonists drafted a First Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and those Articles envisioned a decentralized confederation of the States that retained local governing authority.
  6. Lack of a centralized, preemptive federal government created delays for those engaged in multi-state commerce, and that Washington’s incorporation of the Potomac Company spotlighted those problems.
Section “D”- Betraying the Revolution: A Minority Replicates the English Structure of Law Through the Adoption of the U.S. Constitution

  1. The Mount Vernon Conference was convened to solve the problems encountered by the Potomac Company, and the Conference led to the Annapolis Convention, which sent a report to Congress urging for a broader meeting to be held in Philadelphia.
  2. Delegates to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention were a select group representing property-owning white males, that the proceedings were secret and sentries were positioned at the doors, that Madison and Randolph presented the Virginia Plan on the first day, and that minutes of the Convention were not released for over 53 years.
  3. Most of the delegates viewed democracy as rule by the rabble, and called for the crafting of a Constitution that enabled a minority to govern, and which protected the property of the minority from majority governance.
  4. There were a group of people called the anti-federalists who understood what the delegates were attempting, and attempted to stop the ratification of the Constitution.
  5. The Constitution is an anti-majoritarian, slave document that established a minority-rule, slave state.
Section “E” – The Second American Revolution: Abolitionists and Women’s Rights Agitators Lead a Revolt Against the Constitution

  1. The Abolitionists launched a frontal attack on the Constitution as a slave document, and that the Abolitionists used the Declaration of Independence as the foundation for that attack.
  2. The Abolitionists were forced to dismantle the popular American Colonization Society, which called for the expatriation of slaves to slave colonies, because their goals were not the goals of the Abolitionists.
  3. The Abolitionists and Radical Republicans drove the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments into the Constitution following the Civil War.
  4. The Abolitionists saw those Amendments as the beginning of a constitutional revolution, to replace a slave Constitution with a rights Constitution.
  5. Southern and northern business interests reunited after the Civil War, and with the election of Hayes, pulled the federal troops out of the south and brought them north to put down labor uprisings.
  6. The United States Supreme Court concocted legal theories that withdrew the protections of the Amendments from African-Americans in the South.
  7. That women attempted to enforce the guarantees of those Amendments and were denied, and that suffragists broke the law as part of their efforts to drive universal suffrage into the Constitution.
Section F:  Building a Corporate State: A Minority Uses the Constitution to Override Community Self-Government

  1. Accumulations of property and capital, in the form of the corporation, have been given constitutional "rights" and protections over the past one hundred and thirty years.
  2. As early as 1819, corporations were recognized as being protected by the Contracts Clause of the Constitution, making their corporate charters exempt from unilateral authority exercised by the State seeking to change the charter.
  3. Even though private corporations and municipal corporations are both corporations, separate sets of law have evolved which empower private corporations but keep municipal corporations under very strict State control.
  4. The system of law guarantees that the rights of private corporations and their decisionmakers will almost always trump the rights of communities, even though municipal corporations ostensibly represent “we the people.”
  5. The system of law does not recognize a right of local self-government, but that municipalities are wholly controlled by State governments, as a parent/child relationship.
  6. The Commerce Clause has been used by corporations and the courts to strip state and municipal governments of lawmaking in the area of commerce, and that major environmental, labor, and civil rights laws were passed under the authority of that Clause.
  7. The accumulation of rights for corporate minorities combined with the corporate grip on culture, has resulted in the creation of a Corporate State.

Section “G” – Shaping a Movement: Communities Assert Local Self-Governance in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Beyond

Kid with sign at uranium forum.jpgDAY THREE

Optional - offered to Communities that are ready to organize a Rights-Based campaign to assert Self-Governing Rights through their Municipal government

Getting a Local Campaign Started

The Curriculum, Themes, and Structure for this Optional portion of the Course will be Tailored Specially for Each Community

Friday, February 5, 2010

Killer Trees Poison Forest Ecology, Drinking Water and Us

The Growing Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees -
Award winning documentary film explores the growing global threat of genetically engineered trees to our environment and to human health. The film features renowned geneticist and host of PBS' The Nature of Things David Suzuki, who explores the unknown and possibly disastrous consequences of improperly tested GE methods.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mycoarchitecture, Mycoinsulation, Mycopackaging

At an organic farm just outside Monterey, Calif., a super-eco building material is growing in dozens of darkened shipping containers. The farm is named Far West Fungi, and its rusting containers are full of all sorts of mushrooms--shiitake, reishi and pom-pom, to name a few. But Philip Ross, an artist, an inventor and a seriously obsessed amateur mycologist, isn't interested in the fancy caps we like to eat. What he's after are the fungi's thin, white rootlike fibers. Underground, they form a vast network called a mycelium. Far West Fungi's dirt-free hothouses pack in each mycelium so densely that it forms a mass of bright white spongy matter.
Mycelium doesn't taste very good, but once it's dried, it has some remarkable properties. It's nontoxic, fireproof and mold- and water-resistant, and it traps more heat than fiberglass insulation. It's also stronger, pound for pound, than concrete.


Read more:,9171,1957474,00.html#ixzz0eb4RU2qS

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Water abuses magnify climate disruption.

Published Jan 19 2010 by On The Commons

To curb climate change, we need to protect water

by Maude Barlow
An international rescue plan for fresh water
It is widely acknowledged that greenhouse gas emission-fueled climate change is having a profound and negative impact on fresh water systems around the world. Warmer weather causes more rapid evaporation of lakes and rivers, reduced snow and ice cover on open water systems, and melting glaciers.
(Photo by Suneel Madhekar from under a Creative Commons 
License - no commercial use or alteration)(Photo by Suneel Madhekar from under a Creative Commons License - no commercial use or alteration)What is less understood is that our collective abuse and displacement of fresh water is also a serious cause of climate change and global warming. If we are to successfully address climate change, it is time to include an analysis of how our abuse of water is an additional factor in the creation of global warming as well as solutions that protect water and watersheds.

There are two major factors. The first is the actual displacement of water from where it is sustaining a healthy ecosystem as well as healthy hydrologic cycles. Because humanity has polluted so much surface water on the planet, we are now mining the groundwater far faster than it can be replaced by nature. New Scientist reports of a "little-heralded crisis" all over Asia as a result of the exponential drilling of groundwater. Water is moved from where nature has put it in watershed and aquifers (where we can access it) to other place where it is used for flood irrigation and food production - where much of it lost to evaporation - or to supply the voracious thirst of mega cities, where it is usually dumped as waste into the ocean.

Water is also lost to ecosystems through global trade - water used in the in the production of crops or manufactured goods that are then exported (known as virtual trade in water). Over 20% of daily water used for human purpose is exported out of watersheds in this way. Water is also piped across long distances for industry leaving behind parched landscapes.

The second factor is the removal of the vegetation needed for a healthy hydrologic cycle. Urbanization, deforestation and wetland destruction greatly destroy water-retentive landscapes and lead to the loss of precipitation over the affected area.

Slovakian scientist Michal Kravcik and his colleagues explain that the living world influences the climate mainly by regulating the water cycle and the huge energy flows linked to it. Transpiring plants, especially forests, work as a kind of biotic pump, causing humid air to be sucked out of the ocean and transferred to dry land. If the vegetation is removed from the land, this natural system of biosphere regulation is interrupted. Soil erodes, reducing the content of organic material in the ground, thus reducing its ability to hold water. Dry soil from lost vegetation traps solar heat, sharply increasing the local temperature and causing a reduction in precipitation over the affected area. This process also destroys the natural sequestration of carbon in the soil, leading to carbon loss.

Of course, these two factors are deeply related. Just as removing vegetation from an ecosystem will dry up the soil, so too will removing water from an ecosystem mean reduced or non-existent vegetation.

Taken together, these two factors are hastening the desertification of the planet, and intensifying global warming. Even if we successfully address and reverse greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, Kravcik says, we will not be able to stop climate change if we do not deal with the impact of our abuse of water on the planet.

Unless we collectively address the crisis of fresh water and our cavalier treatment of the world's water systems, we will not restore the climate to health.

Restoration of Watersheds
The solution to the water half of this crisis is the massive restoration of watersheds. Bring water back into parched landscapes. Return water that has disappeared by retaining as much rainwater as possible within the ecosystem so that water can permeate the soil, replenish groundwater systems, and return to the atmosphere to regulate temperatures and renew the hydrologic cycle. All human, industrial and agricultural activity must become part of this project, which could employ millions and alleviate poverty in the global South. Our cities must be ringed with green conservation zones and we must restore forests and wetlands - the lungs and kidneys of fresh water. For this to be successful, three basic laws of nature must be addressed.
  1. It is necessary to create the conditions that allow rainwater to remain in local watersheds. This means restoring the natural spaces where rainwater can fall and where water can flow. Water retention can be carried out at all levels: roof gardens in family homes and office buildings; urban planning that allows rain and storm water to be captured and returned to the earth; water harvesting in food production; capturing daily water discharge and returning it clean to the land, not to the rising oceans. 
  2. We cannot continue to mine groundwater supplies at a rate greater than natural recharge. If we do, there will not be enough water for the next generation. Governments everywhere must undertake intensive research into their groundwater supplies and regulate groundwater takings before these underground reservoirs are gone. This may mean a shift in policy from export to domestic and local production.
  3. We must stop polluting our surface and groundwater sources - and we must back up this intention with strict legislation. Water abuse in oil and methane gas production and in mining must stop. We must wean ourselves of industrial and chemical-based agricultural practices and listen to the many voices sounding the alarm about the rush toward water-guzzling bio fuel farming. We need to promote "subsidiarity," whereby national policies and international trade rules support local food production in order to protect the environment and promote local sustainable agriculture. Such policies also discourage the virtual trade in water. Countries should also limit or ban the mass movement of water by pipeline. Government investment in water and wastewater infrastructure would save huge volumes of water lost every day. Local laws could enforce water-harvesting practices at every level.
Toward a Water Secure World
Clearly, for this rescue plan to be successful, governments around the world must acknowledge the water crisis and the part the role water abuse plays in the warming (and drying) of the planet. This in turn means that a nation's water resources must be considered in every government policy at all levels. Nations must undertake intensive studies to ascertain the health of watersheds and groundwater reserves. All activities that will impact water must conform to a new ethic - backed by law - that protects water sources from pollution and over-pumping. This will likely mean a strong challenge to government policies that favour unlimited global economic growth.

Nearly two billion people live in water-stressed regions of the earth. Until now, the UN has addressed this terrible reality with a program to give them access to groundwater sources. But current levels of groundwater takings are unsustainable. To truly realize the universal right to water, and to protect water for nature's own uses, means a revolution in the way we treat the world's finite water resources. There is no time to lose.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Maude Barlow chairs the board of Food and Water Watch and is the senior adviser on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly. Her new book is "Blue Covenant, The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle For the Right to Water" (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Maud Barlow is a Canadian activist concerned with water issues.
The article doesn't mention the important relationship between water and energy. Processing and distributing fresh water requires quantities of energy. Generating energy in turn requires water. For example:

The California State Water Project is the largest single user of energy in California. In the process of delivering water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta to Southern California, the project uses 2 to 3 percent of all electricity consumed in the state.
- "Energy Down the Drain"
Maud Barlow's article is also posted at Common Dreams.