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Solutions & sustainability - June 16

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


A Personal Peak Oil Discovery Process, Part II

John Rawlins, Raise The Hammer
...As soon as we understood the food/oil linkage, we began planting fruit and nut trees in our open field areas. Soon after that I discovered the concept of permaculture, which originated in Australia, and "edible forest gardens" (one of the permaculture ideas).

We are still in the process of planting food-producing trees, bushes, and groundcover as rapidly as two aging people can, while still trying to enjoy all our hobbies and dealing with an intensively-managed vegetable garden. We anticipate that, when economic tough times do arrive, we may have some of our children (or even local friends) sharing our home, and our food planning takes that possibility into account.

One of the more bizarre aspects of this entire discovery process is the reactions we experience from others when we try to share our knowledge. Most people just dismiss the warnings and seem to ignore them completely! Some appear to take us seriously, but make no changes in their lifestyle. A small minority start reading and making serious changes.

...The dean at our college convinced me to make one more attempt to inform our college and community before retiring completely. The community college has adopted as its "Issue of the Year" for 2006-2007 the combined topics of peak oil, climate change, and permaculture (some folks think of this as sustainability).

I outlined some pretty aggressive possible outcomes, including lifestyle changes among college students, faculty, and staff. We also will attempt to do the research needed to plan for energy descent at the city and county levels, following models created by people in scattered places like Kinsale-Ireland, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon.

...If you want to see a list of books, websites, and web-based articles that have influenced my thinking the most, go to my college course website and become a peak oil addict yourself.

John Rawlins is a retired nuclear physicist who lives in Washington with his wife (a psychologist). He teaches physics at Whatcom Community College. They live on ten acres of mostly wooded land about sixteen kilometres (ten miles) northeast of Bellingham and enjoy bicycle trips on the islands, skiing (near Mt. BGaker), sea-kayaking in the Sound, and occasionally some river kayaking. Prior to his retirement, Rawlins worked for 19 years for Westinghouse-Hanford Co, but took early retirement because he wanted his work to make a difference. Visit his website: faculty.whatcom.ctc.edu/jrawlins/.
(16 June 2006)


Going green is good for bottom line
Companies embracing sustainability

Nick Eaton, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A promising battle against climate change is being fought not by government, but by businesses.

Companies see a future in the practice of "sustainability" -- reducing corporate fallout on the environment and society.

That's what sustainability expert Brian Nattrass said Thursday at the 18th Annual Washington Retail Seminar at Pier 66. Nattrass, who consults for retail giants such as Nike Inc. and Starbucks Corp., urged representatives from the area's retail circle to go greener.

In fact, he said, it's the future of business.

"We are being squeezed economically and ecologically all over the world," Nattrass said. "We really need to understand ... that everything is connected to everything else."

...Companies -- especially ones in the United States -- are in a position to lead the world in change, Nattrass said. By confining business practices to the limits of nature, companies can reduce their impact on the environment and society -- and spur innovation for greener products.

The future is in reusable products, high emission standards, healthy employee relations and transparency in the way companies do business, he said.
(16 June 2006)


Rural Kenyan women on vanguard of African 'solar revolution' (solar cookers replace wood fires)

Lillian Omariba, AFP
KAJIADO, Kenya - Elizabeth Leshom may not know it, but she is among a legion of African women at the vanguard of what many hope will be a "solar revolution" that could empower them and help save the environment.

The 25-year-old Kenyan is part of a rapidly growing programme across east and central Africa that aims to replace or at least reduce traditional wood-fired cooking with efficient energy from the sun.

Here in Kajiado, a dusty rural township about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Nairobi, she is part of a group learning how to use, then make, market and sell so-called "cookits" under the tutelage of a US-based development agency.

"I've used a cookit for three months and it's really good, smokeless and less expensive," Leshom says, marvelling at the savings of both money and time as well as new income the small contraption has brought her.

...A cheaper version of factory-made solar cookers, which use parabolic mirrors, "cookits" are made from waxed cardboard cartons, laminated with reflective shiny foil and reinforced with a colored cloth binding.

...In 24 months, cookits will save huge amounts of firewood, money and long hours spent buying or collecting it, purify thousands of gallons of drinking water and prepare hundreds of meals, according Solar Cookers International (SCI), the US group behind the innovation.

The California-based SCI, is championing the use of cookits as a pollution-free alternative to combustible fuel in eight countries around Africa to not only reduce deforestation but give rural women economic opportunities long-lacking in their communities
(15 June 2006)


Father of energy efficiency to get Fermi Award

Michael Kanellos, CNET
Art Rosenfeld, a physicist who helped jump-start the push for energy-efficient appliances and homes, will receive the Fermi Award from the U.S. government next week.

During the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil crisis of the 1970s, Rosenfeld, a veteran researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a member of the California Energy Commission, began to study the amount of energy consumed by appliances, air conditioning systems and buildings.

The findings were surprising. New refrigerators, which had consumed 400 kilowatt-hours a year on average in 1959, were consuming 800 kilowatt-hours a year. To gain extra storage space, manufacturers removed insulation and gunned the refrigeration motor.

Buildings weren't designed for energy efficiency either. They were often heated with electricity, rather than gas--an approach that's far less efficient--and came with huge lighting systems that caused air conditioners to work even harder.

...Had changes not been enacted, a new fridge would likely consume about 1,870 kilowatt-hours and cost $200 a year to run, Rosenfeld said. Average car mileage grew to 21 miles a gallon by 1985 but then stalled out.

Nonetheless, manufacturers bristled at the new regulations.

"They all claimed it was the...end of civilization as we knew it," the 79-year-old scientist said.

Overall, the regulations, and technological achievements of manufacturers, have put a significant crimp in energy consumption. By Rosenfeld's own estimates, efficiency technologies cut energy spending in the U.S. by $700 billion in 2005 alone. (In other words, had such technologies not existed, the U.S. would have spent $1.7 trillion, rather than $1 trillion, to power appliances, cars and buildings last year.) The Department of Energy has said the changes have saved more than $100 billion over the past 30-plus years
(13 June 2006)


Groovy Video: Tour of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm

Michael d'Estries, Groovy Green
Wind Power is an extremely controversial alternative energy resource with strong activists on both sides of the issue. Concerns about cost, impact on communities, wildlife mortality, and long-term viability are constant buzz words thrown back and forth in discussion. GroovyGreen sought to gain first-hand experience of this technology and visited the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in NY state. Once complete, it will be the largest WindFarm in the Eastern United States and capable of producing enough power to sustain 60,000 homes. Check out our video tour of the site and some snippets of audio from Scott Alexander, Director of Operations at Maple Ridge.
(10 June 2006)


Message Board Activism: The Blogosphere's Next Level

Conceptual Guerilla, Daily Kos
You have no doubt heard references to the "101st Fighting Keyboardists," usually in reference to rightwing bloggers. Occasionally you will also hear people denigrating online activism, as if to ignore the tremendous impact of the blogosphere on the public discourse. There is a reason all those corporate media pundits take pot shots at Kos and other prominent bloggers. They're feeling the heat -- and they are gradually, if entirely too slowly, paying attention to the issues raised online.

Beyond the impact on "conventional wisdom," the blogosphere has an impact on public opinion, in general Here's why. Daily Kos gets a million hits a day. Taking into account people who come three times a day, people who come three times a week, and people who come three times a year, you can take that number -- a million people -- as a good ballpark estimate of the number of people who pay regular attention to what goes on there. Here's how that shakes out in the realm of public opinion.

Most of those million people have families, they work, they have community ties, in short they know people who DON'T visit everyday. Most of the people I deal with face to face -- wife, mother, sister, in-laws -- don't even know what the "blogosphere" is. In my case, everyone of those people is online -- as in, they have email accounts, and use the internet to do things like shop. That's about it, but that doesn't mean they don't know what's hot in the political blogosphere. I TELL THEM ABOUT IT. And so do many of you. The impact of a million people following the same stories, learning the same frames, seeing the same facts, gradually filters out into the "offline" world of people who vote.
(14 June 2006)
Although the article is couched in terms of liberal Democratic activism, one can use the same technniques to spread the word about peak oil, sustainability, global warming, etc.


Trolling for Dollars

deconsumption
...the gist of it is that NetVocates appears to offer a service whereby they will target weblogs which might "impact an organization and its products and image in uncontrolled and often unexpected ways", and they then hire individuals to post comments on those weblogs which will, presumably, help to create more "controlled" and "expected" impacts.

In other words they pay people to troll.

You know what a troll is don't you? The typical troll is that person you sometimes encounter on a weblog comments board or discussion group who seems to have little purpose there other than to agitate the discussion and annoy people. Now granted most trolls are not paid trolls, they're just people who feel a strong desire to argue but don't really know how to carry on a respectable argument.

...Now Robin points out that the owner of NetVocates is a fellow named Chip Griffin who "seems to write a lot of stuff of interest to Republican candidates, congressmen, etc and...worked for a variety of politicians, think tanks, and public relations firms in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition, he headed townhall.com, a conservative internet portal." Which makes sense because this kind of micromanagement over other people's lives and the over-arching "theology of control" it suggests is a patent characteristic of Empire culture, which most quote/unquote Conservatives seem to embrace.

But for the sake of argument let's assume that NetVocates may also be out there operating on behalf of customers who wish to promote eco-advocacy or alternative energies or social work in Palestine or whatever.... The point is that it's still trolling if they're being paid to talk without listening.
(16 June 2006)
Big Gav in his post Netvocates - Privatised Propaganda Services?" has a list of related links:

See Trolling for Dollars, behind netvocates, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Get Out Your Tinfoil Hats, Another Inconvenient Truth - NetVocates, Strange Days Indeed: Shadowy Propoganda-for-Pay Group Targeting Web Logs, Has Netvocates visited your blog recently ?, Are You Paranoid If They're Watching You?, Paid Trolls (with one commenter pointing out "Their sub-heading "Blog Intelligence and Advocacy Service (BIAS)"...the [acronym] says it all"), netvocates: IP addresses and screenshots, Netvocates come out of the shadows and many more..

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