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Book Review: Peak Oil Prep

Robert Rapier, The Oil Drum
… On my latest trip I read Mick Winter’s Peak Oil Prep and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. I started reading Peak Oil Prep during my first flight, and while the man sitting across the aisle from me reading the National Enquirer didn’t show much interest in what I was reading, the woman sitting next to me reading about Christina Aguilera’s confessions in Glamour kept glancing at the book. But unfortunately, she never asked about it and we never struck up a conversation. Opportunity missed.

First of all, I thought the title – Peak Oil Prep – as well as the subtitle – Three Things You Can Do to Prepare for Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Economic Collapse – were both misnomers. This is not a book that will merely come in handy when world oil production peaks. Much of the advice in this book will help you save money and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle while lowering your ecological footprint. The subtitle is a misnomer because there were certainly more than “Three Thing You Can Do.” That was in fact the theme throughout the book: Three Things to Do (in the kitchen, regarding your health, on education, on community gardens, etc.)

The book contained a lot of information that will be familiar to TOD readers. In fact, there was even a plug for TOD on Page 19. However, each section is chock full of links to additional resources. This was the strength of the book, in my opinion. There were a lot of practical tips, but then the author linked to additional information so you could research a topic to your heart’s content. Want to learn to garden using permaculture? Read the permaculture summary on Page 78, and then follow up with one or more of the ten references on permaculture.

This is not a book to convince people of Peak Oil or of climate change. There is a short section in the beginning that discusses these topics, but those are more appropriate for someone who is already familiar with those issues. This is a book for those who have at least a basic grasp, and who are wondering “What can I do?” And that is answered from “A” (acupressure) to “Z” (zoning). This book is essentially a user’s manual for sustainable living.
(27 Dec 2006)
I’ve been trying to set aside time to write a review of the book. Fortunately Robert Rapier covers the important points here. -BA

What’s Next: Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken, WorldChanging
Because of increased intensity of feedback loops from climate change, resource conflicts, and failed economic paradigms, we will see an exponential rise in every aspect of transformation detailed in WorldChanging. It will be a hold-onto-your-hat decade and beyond. Increases in innovation and possibilities (along with green- and poorwashing) will occur along with tragic damage to the earth and its carrying capacity, which in turn will further accelerate change and adaptation. From biological farming to corporate rights, from fisheries to localization, traditional institutions will be make about faces and embrace ideas that they scorned not long ago.

This sounds like good news and it is. However, the only thing harder than failure is success. The rapid growth in interest and adoption of green practices worldwide will place great stress on organizations and people. Although it is a time to plan for success, not failure, this doesn’t mean becoming a charismatic organization or a media hero. And it does not mean we will succeed. It will be the stroke of midnight for the rest of our lives. Rapid growth in this movement requires cooperation, collaboration, and sublimation.
(26 Dec 2006)

Group’s rejection of consumerism is catching on
3,000 people attempt to get by without buying new things

Carolyn Jones, SF Chronicle
…aside from the occasional hardware crises, the Compact — an ever-growing group who have vowed not to buy anything new except food, medicine and underwear — is going strong on its first anniversary.

The Compact originated in December 2005 at a San Francisco dinner party, where guests decided to take recycling one step further and go for a year without new purchases. Consumerism, they said, is destroying the world and most of us already own far more than we need.

They called themselves the Compact as a semi-joking reference to the solemn commitment of the Mayflower pilgrims, but the concept is being taken quite seriously and has quickly spread.

They’ve been featured in newspapers across the United States and Europe and on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” “CBS Evening News,” TV news in China and Poland, and countless shock-jock radio programs. They were offered book contracts and at least two TV reality shows, all of which they turned down because it seemed contrary to the Compact principles.

Almost 3,000 people from six continents have joined the Compact group on Yahoo, and chapters have sprung up around the globe from Alabama to New Zealand.
(27 Dec 2006)

Being green can make you happy, says new study

Naomi Weston, Imperial College (UK)
Research shows link between being environmentally friendly and personal well-being
New research conducted by a Masters student from Imperial College London shows a significant link between environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviours and personal well-being.

Matthew Mellen who has just finished his MSc in Environmental Technology conducted the research and found that people who live a more eco-friendly lifestyle have improved well being.

Matthew undertook a comprehensive survey of 700 anonymous individuals using new online research software. He analysed people’s levels of ‘greenness’ by examining their awareness of environmental issues and their behaviour for example the amount they cycled or walked rather than drove. The participants then reported their subjective well-being by assigning scores to statements about their life satisfaction, personal development and social well-being.

The research revealed that those people who live more ‘eco-lifestyles’ tend to score significantly higher in subjective well-being assessments. Matthew explains: “It is really common sense, human culture is found within the natural world. At a fundamental level harm to the environment is harm to us. Conversely healthy, secure human societies require healthy, stable eco-systems. A growing body of research links planetary and personal well-being. It is fascinating to note that the solution to global warming is likely to be equitable sharing of ‘carbon rights’ which should contribute to making the world a safer, happier place.”

The main elements of a green lifestyle that improve personal well-being highlighted in the research include, a sense of connection to nature which improves health and happiness, involvement in local communities, and non-materialist values.

Matthew added that although traditional economics suggests that well-being is a function of increasing consumption and that continuous economic growth is required for on-going increases in well-being. This study suggests the opposite: “On going economic growth seems to be responsible for the twin ills of environmental degradation and declines in human well-being,” he said.
(19 Dec 2006)

Slow Food’s Growing Pains

Bryan Zandberg,
Want to eat local? You’ll have to get in line.
If you’re one of those people who has the next week’s winter farmer’s market pencilled in on your calendar, you’ve probably already learned to contend with the stampede.

“The demand for local produce is skyrocketing and there is nothing we can do to stop it,” says Tara McDonald, pointing to the record-breaking sales her organization, Your Local Farmer’s Market Society, is chalking up once again this year. When all is said and done, her three markets will likely have sold two million dollars of farm-fresh goods in 2006.

Eating locally has become something of a micro-craze: in 2005, shoppers snapped up an average of $10,000 worth of edibles an hour at the bottle-necked bazaar in East Vancouver, which, like its counterpart at Riley Park, has become hectic and overcrowded.

But while fans of the 100-Mile Diet are justified in seeing the trend as cause for jubilation, the once-folksy weekend affairs have grown too big for their britches. A look at what it will take to expand the markets shows that McDonald, who’s dead-set on heaping up this city’s dinner-plates with as much home-grown goodness as possible, has her work cut out for her.

The rising interest in eating local and eating healthy has to contend with a national decline in organic growers and a dependence on foreign food, according to a recently released Canadian Organic Growers report
(27 Dec 2006)