Solutions & sustainability - Jun 2
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The Power of Community DVD
Liz Logan, Sustenance
My parents and I watched Community Solution's The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil tonight. We liked it, but before I review it I need to set up the background.
I'm visiting my folks in between Summits and Workshops and the last few nights we have been talking about the possibility of us moving back to California. During this discussion, I have brought up my concerns about sustainability, the quality of life and even survivability in the face of oil depletion. So we got to sharing our future scenarios from a half-full, or half-empty perspective. Mom has a grim view and felt somewhat hopeless about the whole thing. Dad felt that people would rally in the face of adversity. I was just plain getting depressed. Then I remembered that I had brought the Cuba DVD, and this was the perfect occasion for it. So I invited them to join me in watching it.
We all liked it a lot. Dad was impressed with the production values. He said it well-crafted, with a good balance of talking heads, graphs and action shots. It explained the problem concisely, without being overblown. It was very matter of fact and presented in digestible segments. Once it got to the part about how the Cubans dealt with their situation we were rooting for them. It presented their struggles and solutions in a human scale. It was inspiring.
Mom thought it clearly explained the problems and solutions and she liked the way they used an outline to help us follow along with where they were in the presentation. She thought it was hopeful and upbeat even if she wasn't sure how their solutions would translate to her community.
I have a background in independent feature film production, so I am pretty critical. But I found nothing that detracted from the people or the message. It was seamless in its delivery. The folks they interviewed were very articulate and I learned a lot. We are not Cuba, but it was helpful to see that people pulled together to solve their problems and made progress in a matter of a few years.
(1 Jun 2006)
I recently watched the documentary too and had a similar impression - now I'll have to watch it again with my parents!
Go to Community Solution's website to order a copy of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. -AF
Energy's 'three Rs': a primer
Joel Makower, WorldChanging
...Pretty much everyone from pre-school on up these days knows the "Three R's" of solid waste: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. There are countless Web sites on the topic, and more than one song.
What many people don't seem to know (or have forgotten) is that the "Three R's" represents more than just a clever alliteration -- it is a hierarchy of priorities. That is, in addressing one's solid waste -- whether a household, a business, or a city -- the most important thing to do is reduce the amount of stuff that will ultimately need to be disposed of (by buying things in bulk, for example, or things with less packaging). Next most important is to reuse what you buy as much as possible to maximize its value (by repairing, refurbishing, or refilling them, for example). Finally, after you've used the least amount of stuff and reused as much of it as possible, you should recycle what's left.
Simple stuff, although a surprising number of people focus on recycling as their sole goal, despite the fact that it's a decidedly third choice.
So, too, with energy.
While there's no popular equivalent of solid waste's "Three R's," I'll proffer an admittedly kludgy version here: Reduce, Renew, Remedy. As with the other "Three R's," it describes a hierarchy. To wit:
- When addressing your energy use or climate impacts -- again, whether a household, a business, or a city -- the single most important thing to do is to reduce the overall amount of energy you use -- by purchasing energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs, cars, computers, etc., and by running them as little as necessary.
- Of the energy you do use, purchase as much renewable energy as possible -- whether from a local utility program, by generating your own (say, by installing solar panels), or by using biofuels for your transportation needs.
- Finally, after you've used the least amount of energy, and the highest possible percentage of renewable energy, you should remedy the climate impacts of the nonrenewable energy you use, by purchasing carbon offsets, perhaps in the form of "green tags."
(1 June 2006)
Build community, invest for post-collapse, get your blog read
Dave Pollard, How to Save the World (blog)
The Challenge of Building Community
We're starting to discover that the only effective way to make the world better is from the bottom up -- by creating or evolving self-sufficient communities. As we saw in New Orleans, and as we see with failed states and failed cities everywhere, top-down political and economic solutions don't work; when they change anything at all, they seem to make matters worse.
But creating community is not easy. In Creating a Life Together Diana Leafe Christian describes some of the challenges of intentional communities
What Should We Invest In If the Economy's Going to Collapse?
...here are ten things we're looking to invest money and time in, all stuff that would be valuable in a Depression:
What Makes a Blog Popular?
...this is the future of blogging. Not off-the-cuff simplistic echo-chamber rants about things the author doesn't really know anything about, but instead, journalism as invitation to knowledgeable, actionable, interesting conversations. In this kind of journalism, insight trumps mere cleverness, what it means is more important than what happened, and collaboration, consensus and resolution are valued over scoops, scandals and vituperation.
(1 June 2006)
Solar power - seriously souped up
Herb Brody, New Scientist
Make solar cells as small as a molecule, and you get twice as much as you bargained for - could this be the route to limitless free power?
IF YOU want efficient solar power, Victor Klimov has a deal for you. Give him one photon of sunlight, and he'll give you two electrons' worth of electricity.
Not impressed? You should be. In all solar cells now in use - in everything from satellites to pocket calculators - each incoming photon contributes at most one energised electron to the electric current it generates. Now Klimov, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has broken through this barrier. He has shown that by shrinking the elements of a solar cell down to a few nanometres, or millionths of a millimetre, each captured photon can be made to generate not one, but two or even more charge carriers.
(31 May 2006)
Full article available to subscribers only.
Green building goes big
Les Christie, CNNMoney.com
With oil piercing the $70-a-barrel barrier and natural-gas prices quadrupling since the late 1990s, the use of green construction in large-scale, multi-home developments is taking off.
Helping the change is that green techniques and materials are increasingly becoming more affordable and "scalable," that is, they are capable of being made and installed in mass quantities.
Many developers are coming around. McGraw Hill Construction, in partnership with National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), reported a 20 percent jump last year in home builders focused on environmentally responsible construction. That should increase another 30 percent in 2006. Some 50 percent of all builders will produce at least some homes using green methods by 2010.
But the percentage of green residences and commercial buildings constructed this year will still come to only about 2 percent of the total built, according to the report. However, that should rise to perhaps 10 percent by 2010. By then, between $29 billion and $57 billion a year will be spent on green building, up from $11 billion in 2006.
Evidence that green building is starting to boom is not lacking. Taryn Holowka, of the United States Green Building Council, says that there are only about 500 buildings in the nation that qualify for the organization's LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) status. But there are more than 4,000 under construction that will qualify.
(1 June 2006)