Solutions & sustainability - Apr 26
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
McKibben talk on PO, global warming, strategies
Emily Gertz, WorldChanging
Notions about what comprise systems that work is about to change, said McKibben. Peak oil is one reason: the end of cheap and easily obtained supplies of the fossil fuels that have powered industrial civilization for the past 200 years. McKibben thinks there's no reason to think our culture will make an easy transition out of the oil age, and predicted that one day, Frank Gehry "will be seen a world champion for how much energy can be concentrated into producing one building."
Global warming is the other big reason, of course, and McKibben's evening talk came just as as it's hit the big time of mainstream American media -- from the cover of Time magazine to the cover of Vanity Fair. McKibben was one of the first to document global warming for a popular audience. His 1989 book, The End of Nature, explored the idea -- then still largely theoretical -- that something scientifically valid but emotionally counterintuitive was going on: human actions were actually having enough impact to affect the global climate. "From 1990 to 1995, more money was spent on [testing this theory] than on any other scientific question in history," said McKibben, and by 1995 climatologists agreed that it was valid. And since 1995, he went on, the Earth has been conducting a peer review of the science -- one that's pretty much upheld the case for global warming and then some. "We need an immediate 70 percent reduction in CO2 emissions worldwide just to stabilize the climate at its current state," he said, "and the irony is that this need comes just as the developing world is really starting to burn fossil fuels. If we're incredibly good and lucky technologically, we'll just be able to run in place."
McKibben doesn't anticipate an easy transition out of peak oil and into the age of climate disruption -- and as a long observer of our society's inability to muster political will in the face of obvious need, it is hard to disagree. But he sees promise in the development of "technologies of community" -- of localities creating the technological solutions that work for their cities and regions, and then implementing them in ways that not only include and inspire the people they affect, but make their lives better.
(24 April 2006)
Small is still beautiful
Tom Philpott, Gristmill
...In the conclusion to his review [of Michael Pollan's new book Omnivore's Dilemma, Kamp reveals what he's looking for:
So what to do? Is the ever-growing organic-food industry already on the right path? Or is more radical action needed? Should the Department of Justice break up giant, soil-exhausting factory farms into small, self-sustaining polycultural organic farms?
Kamp yearns for big answers; he wants Pollan -- or Salatin, or the Justice Department -- to come up with a grand, sweeping solution to the environmental, social, and public-health disasters being wrought by our food-production system.
Yet such thinking merely mimics the industrial logic that currently dominates food production. Chemical-intensive agriculture arose -- with significant government support -- to solve the problem of rural labor shortages and rising urban populations. Genetically modified crops are now being flogged as the "solution" to the environmental problems caused by chemical ag.
"As one problem is being solved, ten new problems arise as a result of the first solution," writes E.F. Shumacher in his landmark Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973), a much-admired, little-read book whose observations are now honored mostly in the breech.
Salatin may have the answer, after all. The problem with our global-scale food production system may be scale itself. And the solutions (note plural) might lie in leveraging local knowledge and grassroots efforts to recreate local- and regional-based food-production networks.
(24 April 2006)
A greener way to cut the grass runs afoul of a powerful lobby
Felicity Barringer, NY Times
ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Some have automatic transmissions. Drink holders. Electrical outlets. That staple of the American suburb, the lawn mower, now has many features of a late-model car. But not a catalytic converter, a muscular piece of antipollution engineering. At least not yet.
So when Heidi Ramaekers mows her yard here in lush exurban Atlanta, she inhales the competing scents of spring: the damp sweetness of grass cuttings and an acrid chaser of hydrocarbons. Mix in some of the nitrogen oxides from her push mower's exhaust and cook it in the sun for a bit. Presto, she has made smog.
As warm days move north and America's lawns awake and grow, homeowners and lawn care services are revving up some of the dirtiest engines in the national garage.
Gallon for gallon — or, given the size of lawnmower tanks, quart for quart — the 2006 lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than 2006 cars, according to the California Air Resources Boar
(24 April 2006)
This article is part of the NY Times's series, "The Energy Challenge", which "will periodically examine the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future."
Extending the garden
The Urban and not so Urban market garden, a common feature of revitalized western cities, has even greater potential for the poor and nutrient deficient of the developing world. From the adoption of mini-livestock to a re-acquaintance with indigenous vegetables, the promise of gardening as a self-empowering nutrition tool has yet to be fulfilled.
Backyard Animal Farming, a practice that goes hand in hand with the small vegetable lot, has been overlooked as a mechanism for solving the shortfalls in protein production. The neglect of indigenous and adaptable flora and fauna had consequences that ranged from unsustainability to warped local economies. A 'rediscovery' and re-validation of these methods and means will go a long way in remedying these mistakes, filling the belly and inspiring the mind.
The Snail and the Goat
The Giant African Land Snail -- a delicacy in most parts of West Africa, a 'pest' in the US (Achatina fulica, Achatina marginata and Achatina Achatina) -- exhibits livestock qualities that are profound. Its food input needs are almost any vegetable and or fruit remains, moisture, darkness and a calcium source. Already an export product in Ghana, 'GALS' could conceivably turn children and adults with very limited resources into livestock breeders and traders. For those with more acreage to spare, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat "can produce a surprising amount of sweet milk for her small size." A star in goat breeding circles within the US, its potential has yet to be harnessed fully in the countries of origin. As a source of rare dairy products across the region, its promise is hardly tapped.
Urban Vegetable Platter
The successes of urban gardeners such as Doudou Diallo’s "small – and amazing - organic vegetable and fruit garden," need to be heralded in societies "where city dwellers may spend as much as 70 percent of their income on food." Diallo's bountiful harvest, attained with the usage of "compost from manure, garden wastes and leaves," are a testiment to the efficacy of home grown solutions. The re-emergence of previously neglected indigenous vegetable farming continues to be another practical plank in the fight for a nutritious diet that is sustainable. "Leafy vegetables are seen as an ally in the fight against hidden hunger, whether they be wild or cultivated, and produced by lianas, tubers or trees. Leafy vegetables offer populations with limited access to meat or fish a rich source of protein, which is essential for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as for young and growing children."
Emeka Okafor is an entrepreneur and consultant. A founding partner of Caranda Ventures, parent company of Caranda Teas and Caranda Coffee. He is also the founder of the publically acclaimed blog Timbuktu Chronicles. Emeka sits on the global advisory board for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and was recently named a Sun Microsystems participation fellow at Poptech. He is also a founding member of the IPEGroup.
(25 April 2006)
Green.tv in the pink after promising launch
The people behind green.tv - the first broadband TV channel dedicated to environmental issues - are cracking open the nettle wine after notching up 250,000 hits in the first week of being online.
Set up with the backing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), green.tv has set its sights on becoming a major resource on information on the environment covering everything from climate change to children's stories on wildlife.
The online broadcaster went live at the beginning of April and features content on matters such as preserving natural resources, pollution and climate change.
Ade Thomas, green.tv's Director, said: "With green.tv we've brought together the audience pulling power of television with the chatroom and blogging interaction of the internet to create a truly powerful new medium, one that reaches out to a global broadband audience - an audience which, importantly, consumes most of the Earth's valuable resources."
(12 April 2006)
Several dozen videos seem to be available now.
Main website: www.green.tv/