Solutions & sustainability - Dec 8
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Whistler 2020 (fully-sustainable, low-footprint)
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanging
Whistler 2020, a comprehensive civic sustainability plan crafted by the small Canadian town earlier this year, has just been given the International Livable Communities Award in the category of "Planning for the Future."
Whistler 2020 reimagines the resort community as a fully-sustainable, very low-footprint community, and spells out an ambitious -- yet practical -- agenda to make it so.
(6 December 2005)
Bike industry, advocates unite, and Congress starts to notice
Seth Sutel, Portland Oregonian
Spending - Four communities receive $25 million each to improve bicycle, walking routes
Darwin Hindman, the 72-year-old mayor of Columbia, Mo., is a hard-core cycling advocate. Every day he rides a bike to work that is 20 years old -- older than many of the University of Missouri students who live in the city he governs.
Hindman, who has worked on cycling issues for many of his 11 years as mayor, suddenly has an embarrassment of riches -- $25 million in federal money over the next five years to improve bicycling and walking routes in his community.
Some critics note that Columbia and three other areas chosen for the experimental walking path and bike path program all had powerful friends in Congress. But other big jumps in bicycle-related spending in this year's Congress seem to indicate that the bicycling industry overall is becoming more effective in its lobbying efforts in Washington.
Tim Blumenthal, executive director of an industry group called Bikes Belong ... said support for cycling programs is growing steadily in Washington, especially as people become more concerned about rising gasoline prices, traffic congestion, childhood obesity and finding ways to exercise more.
(7 December 2005)
How to live off the land
Rich Cookson, The Independent
Could you survive only on local produce? As the Government urges us to help reduce Britain's spiralling food miles total, Rich Cookson spends two weeks without salt or sugar, tea or coffee, wine, pasta - or chocolate
If there's an ancient art to preparing rabbit, I'd like to be in on it. I'll spare you the details, but my kitchen looks like something out of a horror movie and the rabbit liver has just slipped off the chopping board and on to the floor - it's more like Reservoir Dogs than River Cottage.
Still, food doesn't come much more local than this. My rabbit was shot a few fields away and the vegetables were grown just eight miles down the road. The delicious, thick, creamy milk that will go into my mashed potato came free from a friendly farmer this morning. In a couple of hours, there'll be a steaming bowl of delicious and wholly local rabbit stew and mash on the table.
The food we eat is travelling further than ever to get to our plates. A recent government report revealed that the food eaten in Britain travelled a staggering 30 billion kilometres in 2002. The study, from the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs, also found that the amount of food transported by lorries has doubled since 1974, and now accounts for a quarter of all miles travelled by HGVs in the UK.
The phenomenal grown of supermarkets, with their centralised distribution systems and out-of-town locations, is partly to blame. But they rightly say they're only responding to demand: many of us want to eat strawberries and tomatoes all year round, without thinking too much about where they come from.
The report pointed out that each of us now travels an average of 136 miles a year by car to shop for food, and the combined environmental and social costs of all these food miles is about £9bn a year. Launching the report, the Sustainable Food and Farming Minister, Lord Bach, said that the issue was "complex and that a range of factors have an effect on the overall impacts of food transport, not purely the distance travelled by individual products... [but] buying local products has the potential to greatly reduce the distance food is transported."
So just how local is it possible to go? Styling myself as Somerset's answer to Morgan Spurlock - the US film-maker who ate nothing but McDonald's for a month and made a documentary about the grizzly consequences - I set out to live ultra-locally for two weeks. The golden rule is simple: I can only eat food grown, reared or hunted within 10 miles of my house.
(5 December 2005)
Gardener on the Roof
On green roofs
Umbra Fisk, Grist
Our garage is in need of a new roof. We would like to build a "living roof" and are wondering where to start. Our long-term plan is to convert the space into an art studio, complete with insulation, electricity, and finished walls and floor. Do you have any pithy suggestions for us to consider while planning our roof, considering it will cover a finished room eventually?
...The very basic parts of a living roof are a waterproof membrane, a drainage layer, a layer of soil, and well-adapted vegetation (sedums are popular). So, as a completely hypothetical example: your garage is shingled, and fairly low pitch. You'd rip off the shingles to find the plywood underneath in good shape. Tidy up the plywood, removing pokey lumpy bits that could threaten the integrity of the membrane. Build a vertical parapet at the bottom edge, which will act as a soil dam (with holes for drainage). Attach the membrane to the roof without puncturing the middle or leaving open screw holes on the edges. Add at least three inches of soil, and plant small-rooted, native plants. Tend them for several years until they are established, et voila!
Living-roof trouble spots, to this researcher, appear to be the weight of the soil if you have a shoddy garage, the potential difficulty in finding and installing the membrane, and the up-front expense (but they do last longer). In sum, I think you should go for it, but do everything possible to find a local expert, or at least someone who can help you find and install the membrane. Start on the web, and check with your local eco-building store or association, if you have one. If not, you may have to start one yourself.
(5 December 2005)
Modes de transport
If I want to travel from point A to point B without the aid of a powertrain, I usually mull through a few options depending on the weather and terrain. I don't claim my list complete, but short of including draft animals, no one would claim that we have an abundance of human-powered alternatives to choose from. As you will see, not all these provide a practical means of commuting, unless, as you will notice, the proverbial hell freezes over.
...Never mind the differences in mass, road bikers and bike messengers will become the Alpha males of the city streets once all the SUV's disappear.
(5 December 2005)
Folke Günthe talks about re-ruralisation with Stephen Hinton
Global Public Media
Q: You are a systems ecologist, what is that?
A: Systems ecologists study the physiology of the eco-system, how the parts are connected and depend on each other. You could say they study the eco-system as an organism. My specialty is the study of how human settlements could adapt to eco-systems’ function instead of working against them.
This raises the question of how fossil fuels impact the settlement – eco system balance.
My initial research in the beginning of the 90s was into how human settlements could be suited to the eco-system. During these investigations I realized the problem of fossil fuel reliance.
I also saw how settlements and eco-systems fit each other exactly. Doing things that work well in the eco-system decreases the amount of fossil fuel needed to support the settlement.
Eco systems develop towards self-sufficiency- Let’s take the example of an immature system like a lawn or field of wheat. These support few species, and export a large amount of products. If you let them be, they will, by themselves, develop a large amount of internal cycling. These systems will develop to consume what is produced on the spot instead of exporting it.
If you construct a human settlement that acts as part of a mature ecological system, you will have set up a settlement that is so well adapted it needs less fossil fuel. In effect, producing a standard of living with less energy intensity.
(4 December 2005)
Folke Günthe's homepage
Sustainability through local self-sufficiency (paper given at FEASTA confernce)
Guerilla guide: The clean green route to power
Jeff Rice, Red Pepper
It might not be enough in itself to halt climate change, but we can take some of the heat out of global warming through personal action. The clean, green solution is renewable technology. Here’s the Red Pepper meltdown on alternative energy.
...It’s time to join the renewable technology revolution. Don’t wait for the ice caps to melt – act today!
What's unusual about this brief introduction to alternative energy is that it appeared in a British leftist publication, Red Pepper