Solutions & sustainability - April 2
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The ELP Plan: Economize; Localize & Produce
Jeffrey J. Brown, GraphOilogy
Jeffrey J. Brown is an independent petroleum geologist in the Dallas, Texas area.
In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as “Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.”
For some time, I have suggested a thought experiment. Assume that your income dropped by 50%. How would you change your lifestyle?
Many employees of Circuit City don’t have to imagine such a scenario. Many higher paid employees at Circuit City have been fired and then been told that they are welcome to apply for their old jobs, subject to about a 50% pay cut.
I recommend that you try to reduce the distance between work and home to as close to zero as possible, and furthermore, that you live in smaller, much more energy efficient housing, preferably close to mass transit lines.
If you can walk or take mass transit to work, in many cases you can get by without a car, or least fewer cars--and save considerable amounts of money. Currently, it costs about $7,500 per year to drive the average late model US car about 15,000 miles per year. As gasoline prices increase, and as depreciation rates probably also increase, the cost per mile of driving cars will continue to increase.
I would further recommend that you integrate yourself into your local community. Get to know your neighbors. Become involved in local government, etc.
I would especially recommend support of local food producers, perhaps via Community Supported Agriculture, and support of local manufacturing and local businesses.
Jim Kunstler has suggested that we should not celebrate being largely a nation of consumers. I agree with Jim. We need to once again become a nation of producers. I recommend that you try to become, or work for, a provider of essential goods and services.
Key recommended sectors are obviously energy--conventional, non conventional and alternative energy production and energy conservation--as well as food production, especially local organic farming close to towns and cities.
Other sectors to consider are repair and maintenance, low cost energy efficient housing, low cost transportation, basic health care, etc.
(2 April 2007)
How a bunch of city chicks taught me about sustainable community building
Allison Adams, Conserve Magazine
I try to do my part to live sustainably: I volunteer with a local environmental organization and support the Nature Conservancy. I ride my bike, walk, or take transit to work. I keep my thermostat set at a reasonable level. I hang my clothes outside on a line when the weather is nice.
I admit it, though-saving the planet was not first on my mind when I decided to start keeping chickens. I grew up in Rabun County, Georgia, at the southern tip of the Appalachians, and I wanted to link my rural roots to my more recently established city self here in Decatur, Georgia, a small city (population about 18,000) just a few miles east of downtown Atlanta.
Also, it was about the eggs. Fresh, yummy eggs with yolks so richly yellow you’d think they were little sunshines.
But I was soon to discover that urban flock-keeping is about much more. Indeed, there is a growing movement of city folk who are discovering the pleasures of keeping a few chickens. Books have been written. Documentary films have been made. And for many of us, one of the greatest satisfactions is knowing that our food hasn’t traveled thousands of miles over land and sea, at the cost of untold quantities of fuel, to get to our tables.
Indeed, once I got started - in league with my next-door neighbors, with whom I share the costs, labor, and benefits of our birds - I quickly saw what community can really mean in a metropolitan area. Our little poultry project unexpectedly tapped into an exciting local movement of folks who wanted to model a certain kind of ethical living -eating locally and sustainably - and to connect with one another in an often isolating and artificial urban world.
(1 April 2007)
New Peak Moment TV shows highlight community localization
Janaia Donaldson, Peak Moment
Peak Moment Television has produced five new online videos focusing on community localization topics including a conversation with Richard Heinberg. You can watch or listen at www.peakmoment.tv. Peak Moment: Community Responses for a Changing Energy Future is a television series emphasizing positive responses to energy decline and climate change through local community action. The new programs are:
49 Local Currencies: Replacing Scarcity with TrustFrancis Ayley contrasts our standard scarcity- and debt-based money system with local currencies in which "there's always as much as you need." His local currency issues money when members trade goods and services. Communities with local currencies will be less affected when recession or depression hits the mainstream economy.
50 Land Trusts - Keeping Local Agriculture Alive Land trusts are an important part of the voluntary protection of working agricultural lands, water quality, habitat, and beauty. Land trust veterans Cheryl Belcher and Dan Macon, himself a farmer, discuss the critical role of small scale food producers in the local economy and the challenges they face -- from misperceptions of farming to policies favoring big agriculture.
51 An Experiment in Back Yard SustainabilityTour Scott McGuire's "White Sage Gardens" in the back yard of his rental home -- a demonstration site for suburban sustainability. He ponders, "How might a household produce and preserve a significant portion of its own food supply?" Composting, a water-conserving greenhouse, and seed-saving are all facets of this beautiful work in progress.
52 Return of the Electric Car Otmar Ebenhoech has worked with electric vehicles for decades, watching as popular commercial EVs were developed, then recalled when their legal mandate was overturned. He sees improved battery technologies as the catalyst to enable widespread acceptance of EVs. Peek under the hood and watch a test drive of his hot electric Porsche race car conversion (0-60 in less than 5 seconds!).
53 Community Responses to Peak Oil Peak Oil educator and author Richard Heinberg discusses transportation, including a novel ride-sharing scheme, assessing municipal vulnerabilities, local food and energy production, short-term thinking, and the Hirsch report's conclusion that 20 years is needed to make an energy transition--likely more than we'll have.
These half-hour video conversations and on-site tours highlight individuals, businesses, organizations and communities working towards sustainability and economic localization: How can we thrive, build self-reliant communities, and help one another in the transition from a fossil fuel-based lifestyle?
The series is cablecast on community access TV stations nationwide and are available on DVD. Peak Moment is hosted and produced by Janaia Donaldson and directed by Robyn Mallgren of Yuba Gals Independent Media, Nevada City, California, who gratefully acknowledge Global Public Media and YouTube for hosting media available on www.peakmoment.tv. Info: janaia-at-peakmoment.tv (replace -at- with @).
(2 April 2007)
You can go directly to the TV segments.
News & Views Round-Up, March 2007
David Zaks, WorldChanging
We come across a lot of interesting ideas and innovative solutions, but we choose only a few to discuss in detail. The best of the stories we don't cover get selected and collated as headlines in News and Views. It's like a little Worldchanging news service. Here's the news for March
(1 April 2007)
WorldChanging just posted another list of recommended articles by Alex Steffen: Political Design, Climate Inequity, Urban Eco-Sustainable Networks and the Japanese Homeless: Some Recent Web Finds.
Sustainability Network Newsletter 65 (PDF)
- High-profile feedback in support of re-forestation and a ‘war footing’ to combat global warming;
- Tropical deforestation - catastrophe in motion;
- The need for ‘baseload’ power generation is a myth;
- More evidence of the grass-roots getting the message;
- A timely reminder about low-hanging fruit in addressing global warming;
- A deeper ‘inconvenient truth’ in human nature;
- How to create an UN-sustainable society; Cut emissions by ‘taking the pledge’;
- A re-think needed for fire management;
- Wind power variability
(31 March 2007)
Amory Lovins: U.S. can cut oil imports to zero by 2040, use to zero by 2050
The United States could dramatically cut oil usage over the next 20-30 years at low to no net cost, said Amory B. Lovins, cofounder and CEO of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, speaking at Stanford University Wednesday night for a week-long evening series of lectures sponsored by Mineral Acquisition Partners, Inc.
Lovins opened by comparing the current position of the oil industry to that of the whaling industry in America in 1850, when it was the fifth largest industry in the country. At the time, most buildings were lit with whale oil, but increasing scarcity of whales drove up the cost of the resource, spurring competition and innovation. Within a decade of peak oil prices, whale oils lost two-thirds of their total market share.
"Whalers ran out of customers well before they ran out of whales, even before Edwin Drake struck oil in 1859 in Pennsylvania and made kerosene ubiquitous," he remarked. "Whalers in the late 1850s were begging for federal subsidies on national security grounds."
"Whales were saved by technology and profit-maximizing capitalists."
Jumping forward to today, Lovins said the United States can eliminate its imports of oil while revitalizing its economy without taxation or new federal regulation.
“Unlike other proposals to force oil savings through government policy, our proposed transition beyond oil is led by business for profit,” he said. "We're not counting on regulations to make markets. Instead markets will drive innovation."
(29 March 2007)
I'm attending this series of lectures by Amory Lovins, and it's good to see this coverage from Mongabay. Unfortunately this article emphasizes only the libertarian, market-oriented side of the talks. Lovins, however, is is too smart and his thinking too wide-ranging to be easily categorized. In Thursday's talk, for example, he dwelt on the failures of the marketplace and the need for intelligent government regulation. He quoted such diverse figures as Winston Churchill, the Greek historial Thucydides (showing the original Greek text), as well as radical community organizer Saul Alinsky.
If one had to sum up Lovins's message, it might be: "Abandon dogma, and dare to approach problems in unconventional ways. If we're rational and creative, many conflicts that now bedevil us will disappear." A television series on creative thinkers like Lovins would raise our collective IQs by several points.
Slides for the lecture series will be available in about two weeks at Rocky Mountain Institute. Podcasts will be available in a couple of months (you can sign up for notification here). As I get more information, I will post it.
About the source: "Mongabay.com seeks to promote appreciation of wildlands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging local and global trends in technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development."
Making Other Arrangements: Stories for sustainable future
In the last issue of Orion, James Howard Kunstler reminded us of the urgent challenges that face our country as we move into an uncertain and energy-scarce future (see Kunstler’s essay here). At the end of the article, the Orion editors asked you, our readers, to tell us about how you are moving forward to meet these challenges. We want to know what steps you are taking to forge healthy and durable lives and communities, to make other arrangements. Below are a few of the first stories of action, vision, and hope we have received in response...
“We’ll Need Sailing Vessels”
About a year ago, I decided to try to make some positive changes in my life, and, if possible, around me as well. And so I became interested in sailboats. Sailboats of the serious, ocean-going variety are either a very extravagant hobby or a really cheap way to live and travel. Few people can afford to own real estate, but most people can afford to own a boat, provided they live on it. Even an expensive marina like mine (Constitution Marina in Boston) is cheaper than the cheapest studio apartment I can find within bicycling distance of my job.
A sailboat is a house that moves with you wherever you go, that you can own free and clear, that you can maintain and even build yourself. If you live and travel on a boat, owning a car becomes impractical. You can’t put a car on a boat, so you ride a bicycle instead. So there is one large category of expense gone. No rent or mortgage (a marina slip is rent of a sort-cheap rent), so there’s another large expense gone. Boats require more or less constant maintenance, and sailing is quite a lot of exercise, and so with that and all the bicycling you become physically fit, and your medical expenses go down as well. Lastly, the amount of storage space on a boat is limited, so it’s just not possible to spend money accumulating useless junk.
Sailing vessels predate industrialization by many centuries, and they will be around long after industrialization has run its course. Sailors and their ships run on food and water and wind-all renewable. Sailboats can be made from renewable materials as well: wood, hemp, flax, and pitch. The culture of sailing is rich, ancient, and largely intact. It is also a culture that fosters competence, fitness, self-reliance, and courage, which are all sadly missing from the world we see around us. If we want to make it to the future, we’ll need sailing vessels...
Pointed out by Erik Hoffner at Gristmill.