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“Freegans” forage for food in bins

Kate Kelland, Reuters
LONDON – Ross and Ash are about to dig in to a meal of chicken rogan josh, king prawn makhani and rice, chicken balti and naan bread followed by pineapple, strawberries and grapes for dessert.

All of which came out of a bin.

“Everything I eat comes from dumpsters,” Ash says. “For me it’s a logical lifestyle choice. It’s such a natural thing to use up that waste.”

Some call them “dumpster divers,” others brand them “skip lickers,” but Ross Parry and Ash Falkingham like to count themselves among the Freegans — a growing band of foragers who seek to live entirely from the waste of others.

In this brief trip to a small supermarket skip in southeast London, they have recovered enough food to provide themselves — and several others — with an impressive evening meal, as well as bread, muffins and teabags for the next morning’s breakfast.

Freeganism, derived from the words “free” and “vegan,” is spreading to Britain from the United States, where one of its founding fathers, Adam Weissman, has set up a Freegan information Web site to persuade others to join him.

Weissman describes Freeganism as “a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations.”
(26 May 2006)

Global Sustainability Conference June 10-11 in Seattle

New World Rising
Speakers include:
Dr. Brian O’Leary — Re-Inheriting the Earth: Awakening to Sustainable Solutions and Greater Truths
Julian Darley — Re-localize Now! Getting Ready for Climate Change
and the End of Cheap Oil
Christopher Mare — Solutions for Local Food Production
Franklin Sanders — Gold, Silver, and Navigating the US Economy
Francis Ayley — Rejuvenating the Local Economy by Re-localizing Money
Dave Ewoldt — Sustainability: Moving from Vision to Local Reality using Natural Systems
Allison Weeks-Ewoldt — Sustainability: Moving From Vision to Local Reality using Natural Systems
(May 2006)

Restore the Earth, Rebuild Civilization –
Proposal for a Global Rebuilding Program

Richard Register, Ecocity Builders
… The biggest things we build – our cities – are creating the biggest problems we have. More precisely stated, the built infrastructure of our global civilization is the literal, physical foundation for much or probably even most of the crisis of colliding crises we find ourselves in today. Why? Because cities are not planned and built on the measure of the human being, but instead on the measure of the automobile and massive amounts of cheap energy to run it. These car-based, scattered, energy profligate cities demand a greedy share of the earth’s bounty and exude CO2 enough to transform the atmosphere and climate of a whole planet.

…Specifically this is what I mean: First, European cities at levels of prosperity comparable to those in the United States use about one quarter the land and one quarter the energy per person as the typical American city of cars and sprawl. Second: train, streetcar and rail based transportation systems are around eight times as efficient in terms of energy and delivery of goods and passengers as the car, truck and highway system. Two lines of track side-by-side equals 16 lanes of freeway. That is massively significant. Considering that, promoting cars of any kind and neglecting rail at this point in history borders on insanity or stupidity. Freeway building should stop cold in its tracks right now.

There’s more. Considering European cities are swamped in cars despite their history originating as pedestrian cities, and none of them are going all out for ecological redesign, the land required for lively, livable, ecological cities is likely to be more like one sixth the area American sprawl occupies with a particular population. Taken together, as indeed land use patterns and transportation modes are one seamless larger whole pattern, we begin to see the enormous import of those numbers. Considering factors represented by these number that are this significant and considering that an industry building such an infrastructure would be building less in terms of material resources if more in terms of healthy services, then, should we choose to build upon these factors, a redesigned city/civilization infrastructure could run on about one tenth the energy and a small fraction of the land consumed by the city of cars. That city is sweeping – no, paving the world, and engulfing the atmosphere of an entire planet in a historically new mix of gasses, aerosols and particulates.

Those small sounding numbers of gigantic consequence, 8, 6 and 10, are key. Factor of 8 for transportation. Factor of 6 for land use. Factor of 10 for cities, towns and villages designed for people instead of cheap energy transport machines, that is, cars and trucks. These numbers will come back over and over to stab us in the back if we don’t pay attention to them
(May 2006)
The May-June issue of the Ecocity Builders E-Newsletter is now online.

Richard Register is a long-time visionary and activist – an advocate of cities designed for people rather than autos. For more, see his article Green Cities and the End of the Age of Oil which contains further links.

Micropatronage and Josh Ellis’ Trinity Project

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
Ally Josh Ellis wanted to do some writing about the Trinity nuclear test site and its meaning today. So, this being the 21st Century, and Josh being a freelancer attuned to his times, he passed the PayPal hat, raised a little money and went off to research and write an excellent essay, Dark Miracle: Trinity, the Manhattan Project and the Birth of the Atomic Age:

…It’s a fine piece of work, and we highly recommend it. It’s also a sign of things to come, as writers, photographers, and documentarians of all shapes will increasingly deliver their work to audiences which are willing to support the creation of that work, whether or not magazines, publoishers, art galleries or studios get the worth and importance of doing that work.

This ability of creative people to connect with “long tail” audiences may prove vital in helping to make the transitions which face us over the next couple decades. We need a lot more innovation, after all. Almost all innovation, whether technological or cultural, springs from the concerns of what are initially a very small group of people (at least relatively speaking). Reporting key bits of information, delivering fresh and useful perspectives and connecting people with shared concerns is a vital part of the process — and a job for which independent journalists and artists are particularly well suited. Indeed, increasingly, these circuit riders and explorers are serving an absolutely critical role, delivering news to people who need it, long before the rest of us have caught on that it’s important. Micropatronage, therefore, is a good thing, and Josh is ahead of his time.
(27 May 2006)

UK: Eco Villages Springing Up All Over
Green Building Press
The Pembrokeshire based eco-village project, Lammas, has been offered some land next to the village of Glandwr, Pembrokeshire. The plot is 175 acres of farmland with woodland, which the organisers say seems an ideal location for the project. They have begun a community consultation process and will be holding meetings to explain the project and collect feedback from local people. So far the proposal has met with some alarm, with residents saying the development would double the size of the village and concerns about traffic.

Lammas proposes a new build permaculture development of 30-45 dwellings, centred on a village green.They say the dwellings will merge with the surrounding natural environment, will be highly innovative and earthy, and use the latest environmental technologies combined with local natural materials. Each dwelling will be unique, having been essentially created by the people living in them. The site is intended to become a showcase for low-impact building and living.
(26 May 2006)

No Bar Code
Michael Pollan, Mother Jones
An evangelical Virginia farmer says a revolution against industrial agriculture is just down the road.

I might never have found my way to Polyface Farm if Joel Salatin hadn’t refused to FedEx me one of his chickens.

I’d heard a lot about the quality of the meat raised on his “beyond organic” farm, and was eager to sample some. Salatin and his family raise a half-dozen different species (grass-fed beef, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits) in an intricate rotation that has made his 550 hilly acres of pasture and woods in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley one of the most productive and sustainable small farms in America. But when I telephoned Joel to ask him to send me a broiler, he said he couldn’t do that. I figured he meant he wasn’t set up for shipping, so I offered to have an overnight delivery service come pick it up.

“No, I don’t think you understand. I don’t believe it’s sustainable-‘organic,’ if you will-to FedEx meat all around the country,” Joel told me. “I’m afraid if you want to try one of our chickens, you’re going to have to drive down here to pick it up.”

This man was serious. He went on to explain that Polyface does not ship long distance, does not sell to supermarkets, and does not wholesale its food. All of the meat and eggs that Polyface produces is eaten within a few dozen miles or, at the most, half a day’s drive of the farm-within the farm’s “foodshed.”
(May/June 2006)

Growing Hope
Aaron Nuline, Powering Down
Gardening is a tangible way to grow hope.

“Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have fashioned a secret garden… ‘They have had to take the seeds from their meals and then scratch at the soil in order to get that going.’ said Mr. Willett, who first wrote about the garden in The Washington Post”

“Using water to soften soil baked hard by the Caribbean sun and then scratching away with plastic spoons, a handful of prisoners have reportedly produced sufficient earth to grow watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe and even a tiny lemon plant, no more than two inches high.”

Read the full story here.

I think a peak in the production of certain types of fossil fuels will require a shift in the way we live our lives. The good new is that I think this shift could heal much of the anxious, lonely aggression that seems so prevalent in our nation. The bad news is that it will probably be a painful process for many. There will be those that feel it coming and adjust in preparation and there will be those that will resist change long after it has obviously arrived. I hope to educate some of the latter but the bulk of my effort will be on helping those of the former adjust so that they might survive, even thrive in the post peak petroleum era. This is a cryptic way of saying that there’s change in the wind. I will be using the internet to help in this effort in a different way in the near future. Please stay tuned.
(26 May 2006)
Aaron has some gardening tips in the post too, -AF

The link to the Guantanamo story doesn’t seem to be working. A similar story, however, is available on Aljazeera. -BA

An Evening in Peter Harper’s Garden
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Peter Harper has been at the Centre for Alternative Technology for over 15 years as a landscape designer, director of biological research and now as Head of Research and Innovation. He is author of many articles and of the classic “Natural Garden Book”, which I think is now tragically out of print. He lives in Machynlleth has done a great job of renovating his traditional cottage as ‘greenly’ as possible, as well as creating a beautiful and productive garden.

Peter is great at testing green claims using research, trying out old wives tales and the more optimistic claims of permaculture and organics to see if they actually work. He is a great one for measuring, weighing, recording and estimating.
(24 May 2006)
A post full of home sustainability ideas. -AF

Building With Hemp
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Building With Hemp by Steve Allin – a Review

Hemp is a plant with an extraordinary history and a list of uses that would gave most other plants a serious inferiority complex. Historically it provided the UK Navy’s ropes for centuries, the paper for the first US dollar bills, it can be made into a material called Hemp Plastic which was what the bodywork of the first Ford car was made from, and makes a wide range of papers and fabrics (such as the shirt I am wearing as I write this piece…). Alongside its remarkable abundance of uses is a long history of persecution. Demonised by Governments the world over for its relation to its better known and more mind expanding relatives in the Cannabis family, hemp has, despite being so eminently useful, been largely edged out of world production in favour of its petrochemically derived substitutes.

Now however, hemp is making a comeback. Interest around the world is growing in its various uses, one of the most promising being its use as a building material. The home of the use of hemp in building is France, where it has been widely used for many years, and is increasingly the material of choice in the conservation of old timber frame buildings. The French have also been the pioneers of the use of hemp in modern construction, developing systems for building timber frame structure with hemp infill at considerable speed.

The useful piece of the hemp plant in terms of construction is its pithy centre, or xylem, the surrounding fibres being useful elsewhere as a fibre. This central core is chipped and dried, and is used in various ways, mostly with lime. Lime acts as the binder, and has considerable environmental benefits over its closest comparison, cement. Lime reabsorbs all of the CO2 released during its firing in order to set, making it a carbon neutral material, unlike cement, the production of which releases twice as much CO2 every year as the airline industry.
(26 May 2006)