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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

The community car

The Community Solution
How will we cope with gasoline at $10 a gallon… when you can get it? Clearly a new paradigm must be forged with regard to transportation. We propose one option – Ride-Share.

…We could significantly slow oil depletion by significantly reducing, not the number of people, but number of vehicles on the road. The goal is to curtail the current redundancy of so many people driving individual vehicles to the same destinations.

The solution is to make the sharing of cars both convenient and efficient. But how do we create efficiency? One answer is to use our advanced technology to compile and disburse information about individual vehicles, their destinations, and their riders so vehicles can be shared.

A convenient, efficient, widespread ride-sharing program can slow oil depletion enough to buy the time – years and years of additional time – needed to make the transition from our centralized, city-based, gasoline guzzling culture to a culture of decentralized smaller communities far less dependent on fossil fuels.
(February 2006)

Sustainability Network Update #56E
(PDF – 493K)
Elizabeth Heij (ed), CSIRO Sustainability Network

  • Our future food security is no longer a given – challenges for agriculture and society;

  • Practical lessons in sustainable design of the built environment at Charles Sturt University, Thurgoona;
  • Hands-on learning for a novice in permaculture gardening;
  • The high cost of corporate mobility;
  • Good news on renewable energy uptake;
  • More debate on Australia’s energy future;
  • Feedback on the need to re-think “value-adding” systems such as organic certification.

(1 February 2006)

Online book: “Manage Insects on Your Farm: Guide to Ecological Strategies
(PDF – 3.5MB)
Miguel A. Altieri and Clara I. Nicholls with Marlene A. Fritz, Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
Agricultural pests — insects, weeds, nematodes and disease pathogens — blemish, damage or destroy more than 30 percent of crops worldwide. This annual loss has remained constant since the 1940s, when most farmers and ranchers began using agrichemicals to control pests.

Agrichemical methods of protecting crops are costly to the farmer, potentially harmful to the environment and, despite widespread use, have not proved 100-percent effective. Problems persist due to pest resistance and the uncanny ability of pests to overcome single-tactic control strategies.

A National Academy of Science 1997 Proceedings paper, “A Total System Approach to Sustainable Pest Management,” called for “a fundamental shift to a total system approach for crop protection [which] is urgently needed to resolve escalatory economic and environmental consequences of combating agricultural pests.”

Many farmers are seeking such an approach, one that relies less on agrichemicals and more on mimicking nature’s complex relationships among different species of plants and animals. Known as “ecologically based pest management” or simply “ecological pest management,” this approach treats the whole farm as a complex system.
(August 2005)
The online publication of this 130-page book is important for two reasons:

  1. It provides science-based information on farming without pesticides, which are manufactured with fossil fuels.
  2. It’s a model of how to disseminate critical information quickly, cheaply and to the broadest possible audience.


Permaculture activist Andrew Millison on creating the modern “EcoHood”

Susan DeFreitas, E Magazine
What’s wrong with the 1960s vision of moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle by growing your own food and raising kids with a few (or a few hundred) of your closest friends? Only one thing, says Andrew Millison: “The idea that you have to leave society to do it.” A Prescott College instructor, landscape contractor, homeowner and self-described permaculture activist, Millison is helping to spearhead a community sustainability initiative in the Lincoln-Dameron Street district of Prescott, AZ (pop. 45,000) that’s become increasingly known as “the EcoHood.”

…What is Prescott’s “EcoHood”? It’s a mid- to low-income neighborhood situated around the floodplain of nearby Miller Creek that encompasses roughly two blocks, two apartment buildings and thirty houses, the majority of which were built in the 1930s. Fifty percent Hispanic/Native American, it’s also home to a significant number of retirees and college students. The district now has six systems that reuse household graywater for irrigation in the landscape, two rainwater cisterns, five organic gardens, 25 heirloom fruit trees, and (at last count) 57 chickens.

“I’d always thought of this area as a prime location for an eco-village,” says Millison, a Dameron St. resident on and off for the past eight years. “But I still had this idea of a community out on the land somewhere.” Managing the organic farm at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti Urban Laboratory for two years had shown Millison the challenges inherent in a traditional “back to the land” scenario. But it wasn’t until he purchased a home 20 miles outside of Prescott that the concept for the EcoHood began to emerge.

“Here I was,” says Millison, “burning up a quarter to half tank of gas every day, while reading David Holmgren’s book about peak oil [Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, which suggests that permaculture is the best way to confront the challenges resulting from peak oil]… That’s when it hit me–the age of cheap oil was coming to a close.” At the same time, three ecologically minded friends moved to the Lincoln-Dameron district with the intention of becoming more community and sustainability oriented. “I could see that the vision I’d had was starting to manifest,” says Millison. “When there was an opportunity to move back to the neighborhood, I jumped at the chance.”

Since that time, the EcoHood has grown to encompass seven area households. While Millison has contributed key expertise in areas such as graywater irrigation, rainwater catchment and permaculture design, the process has unfolded organically, with neighbors swapping skills, information, tools, and, at times, even child-care, chickens and compost.
(January/February 2006)

Back to the farm:
Japanese retirees are choosing gardens over golf

Hideko Takayama, Newsweek
…All across Japan, would-be retirees are taking up their hoes. Faced with the prospect of ending their first careers—the country’s nearly 8 million baby boomers will begin to retire at 60 next year—many are pondering the idea of making a second career, or at least a lifelong hobby, out of farming. For the postwar generation, who faced fierce competition at school and work, the often-demanding physical labor is a way to relax and get back to the land. “Now they want to slow down, touch the soil and look for true spiritual fulfillment,” says Hiroshi Takahashi, director of the Countryside Returnees’ Support Center, which promotes country living. For the government, having baby boomers take up farming is the perfect answer not only to the “2007 problem”—what to do with all those retirees—but also to the country’s 380,000 hectares of unused farmland created by urbanization and the aging of the farming population. “How to keep the farmland from becoming wasteland is one of our most serious issues,” says Hirotoshi Matsuura, an Agricultural Ministry official.
(13 February 2006 issue)

Polluting households face green taxes

Matt Weaver, Guardian
Households that recycle waste and save energy and water would be taxed less under a major fiscal shakeup put forward by an environmental thinktank today.

The proposals, published in a report commissioned by the Green Alliance, were aimed at discouraging people from leading environmentally damaging lifestyles.

They included inefficiency charges on polluting or wasteful products such as disposable batteries, single-use cameras, garden sprinklers and traditional incandescent light bulbs.

The report also called for council tax and stamp duty reductions for households that installed energy efficiency measures such as cavity wall and loft insulation and energy efficient lightbulbs.
(8 February 2006)

A drive toward fewer cars in Seattle

Jane Hadley, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Steep gas prices.

Flabby bodies cruising for diabetes and heart trouble.

Global warming.

Air pollution.

If the pitfalls of automobiles aren’t already enough to make you think about chucking your car for other ways of getting around, consider the growth that is in store for Seattle.

In the next 19 years, the city expects 22,000 new housing units and 50,000 new jobs.

Assuming the same percentage of people continued driving alone to work, the city estimates it would have to build 20 city blocks of 10-story parking garages downtown.

“Nobody wants to do that,” says Patrice Gillespie-Smith, chief of staff of the city’s Department of Transportation. “We are very motivated to offer incentives to get people out of their cars.”

In 2000, 61 percent of all Seattle work trips were by someone driving alone. By 2020, the city’s transportation strategic plan wants to knock that down to 55 percent. People tend to become more interested in shifting out of their cars if gas or parking prices escalate, and if alternatives to the car are reliable, affordable and convenient, experts say.

But it often takes something unusual to inspire or shake people into the awareness of those alternatives, said David Allen, senior transportation planner for the city.
(8 February 2006)
A rundown of alternatives to cars being promoted in Seattle.