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8am: Shower. Save the water. Save the planet

Robert Greenall, BBC
Would you switch everything off and rely on natural light to save the planet? It’s the only answer for the families going to extreme measures to cut emissions.

Most families get up in the morning, switch on the lights and start their ablutions. The Robinsons do not. The Robinsons get up, leave the lights off and open the curtains a crack so some light gets in but little heat escapes.

This is the world of “carbon rationing”.

The term may fill some people with horror – conjuring up images of wartime austerity measures and queues for bread and sugar. For others it may suggest green fundamentalists forcing us to swap our central heating for woolly jumpers and run our cars on chicken dung.

A recent poll suggested only 28% of Britons thought the idea of setting mandatory limits on individuals’ carbon emissions – raised by Environment Secretary David Milliband – was socially acceptable, even though most feel lifestyle changes are needed to reduce the impact of climate change.

But the term does not trouble Peter Robinson, and dozens like him around the country who have signed up to voluntary groups whose aim is to substantially reduce the CO2 their members are releasing into the atmosphere.

These Carbon Rationing Action Groups advise their members, known as Craggers, on how to minimise energy use. The Robinsons have eagerly set about finding ways to cut their personal energy use, many of which have also proved financially beneficial.
(14 May 2007)
Related at BCC: The diary of a carbon rationer.

Heinberg, Pollan, Kingsolver on peak oil and sustainable food

Center for Environmental Literacy

For May, the Center for Environmental Literacy offers several articles of interest:

The Challenge of Peak Oil by Richard Heinberg

In this month’s Thinking outside the Lunchbox essay, author Richard Heinberg reviews evidence of limitations on our ability to continue producing oil at the rates demanded by growing economies. Because of the climatic consequences, oil can’t just be replaced by other fossil fuels, nor is it likely that renewable sources can fully meet current levels of energy use. A lower-energy way of life is possible, he believes, but only through a “coordinated effort on a scale not seen before in human history.” Education for sustainable living means assessing such arguments and imagining their implications for food, transportation, and every other oil-dependent aspect of our lives.

You Are What You Grow: Will This Year’s Farm Bill Make Us Fatter and Sicker? by Michael Pollan

According to journalist and author Michael Pollan, “The Farm Bill essentially treats our children as a human disposal for all the unhealthful calories that the Farm Bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce.” The first step toward changing this situation, he suggests, is to stop thinking that the Farm Bill is about “farming” and start viewing it as an opportunity to “[align] agricultural policy with our public health and environmental values…with incentives to produce food cleanly, sustainably, and humanely.”

New Barbara Kingsolver Book Explores Eating Locally

Best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver’s first nonfiction narrative, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, chronicles her family’s move to rural Virginia, committed to eat only food grown by themselves or in their neighborhood. During a 12-state book tour, the author will read at benefits for several regional sustainable agriculture organizations…
Visit the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website

(May 2007)
The link to the Heinberg article on the homepage currently does not work.

Contributor Shepherd Bliss writes:
The May offering from the Center for Ecoliteracy is an example of more attention being given to Peak Oil issues by enivironmental and agricultural groups. It is a welcome development. Barbara Kingsolver’s new book on eating locally–referred to at the website — also indicates a shift in more attention to these issues. I am glad that groups such as this Center are working within schools. I increasingly feel the need to work within institutions to help prepare people for the growing probability of greater world-wide crises resulting from climate change, war, Peak Oil, and related trends. I have had the freedom of working mainly outside institutions for decades, but now feel the need to reconnect to the many people within institutions, especially academic and religious.

Outdoors relief

Marcus Roberts, Guardian
It’s time that the mental health benefits of natural, low-cost ecotherapy were taken more seriously
Researchers have found there’s a very simple way to reduce the length of time that patients spend recovering from an operation in hospital: give them a window looking out over trees, rather than buildings. Their stay will be shorter, they’ll need fewer painkillers, and they will have a more positive experience overall.

A study of prisoners found that the occupants of cells with views of greenery had fewer sick visits. There’s nothing new in the idea that the outdoors is restorative – Victorian asylums, for example, were often situated in acres of beautiful gardens. But how much use are we making of this knowledge in 21st-century health and social care?

In a report published this week, the mental health charity Mind sets out a new green agenda for mental health. For the one in four people who experience mental distress at some point in their lives, the natural environment is an effective, low-cost therapy, free of the unpleasant side effects that many people experience with psychiatric drugs.
(14 May 2007)

52 Weeks Energy Cut: Week 3: Make It Yourself

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
Welcome to week 3 of our 52 week energy cut. I’m hoping that this is starting to be helpful for some of you, and that you’ve found that the first changes I suggested weren’t too overwhelming.

This week’s project is “make something you usually buy.” By doing so, you cut down on your need to drive to stores, reduce packaging and cut costs. I’m trying to do more of this myself – this week’s project at our house is crackers. My kids like them, and I don’t like to buy them, since most of the ones in the store aren’t super healthy.

Way back when I was testing recipes out of Carla Emery’s _Encyclopedia of Country Living_, I tried all her cracker recipes, and some were extremely good, but I sort of forgot about them, and occasionally bought bulk wheat crackers instead. But I noticed that my family often has leftover oatmeal (favorite breakfast here) lying around, and so I’ve started making her “gruel crackers” (sounds awful, doesn’t it, very Oliver Twist, but we really like them).
(14 May 2007)