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Solutions & sustainability - May 18

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


The advantages of living green

Joseph P. Frazier, Associated Press
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'Off the grid' electricity was the solution this Oregon community found and embraces
LAKE BILLY CHINOOK -- Before power lines, homesteaders had no choice. They lit their lanterns, stoked their fires and packed away winter ice against sizzling summers.

Owners of about 250 homes in the Three Rivers community near this central Oregon lake are far from homesteading or camping out. But they are among a growing number of Americans who shun power lines, choosing to live "off the grid," without commercial power.

Everyone in Three Rivers gets most of their power from dark solar panels on their rooftops or on nearby freestanding structures positioned to more efficiently capture the sun. Some supplement it with energy generated by windmills.

Solar power easily handles their computers, lights, large-screen televisions, microwave ovens, refrigerator-freezers and more.
(18 May 2007)
Echoes of the 1975 science fiction novel by John Brunner, Shockwave Rider:

[Nick, the protagonist, is conducted] to one of the "paid avoidance areas" in California, where people are paid to do without the full panoply of modern technology, as an alternative to spending billions to rebuild infrastructure after the earthquake. After Nick risks exposure yet again in one of these places, they move to the least known one, a town called Precipice.

Precipice turns out to be a Utopian community of a few thousand people. The nearest comparison would be an agrarian, cottage industry community designed by William Morris.


The Juggler's Lament, Ecological Collapse and Making Change

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Blog
I really recommend that you check out this article at The Oil Drum, www.theoildrum.com/node/2534. Professor Francois Cellier does a fascinating analysis of the impact of ecological footprints, the Human Development Index and the problem of population. Although I don't agree with everything Professor Cellier says, I think he does an excellent job of reviewing the peculiar, and serious stresses on our society and environment. He leaves some important points out, including the possibility of further reducing our footprints voluntarily, and also of voluntarily reducing populations.

Now I'm going to play prophet for a moment, with the caveat that I'm really no better at it than anyone else, and that I'm often wrong. But my guess is that within the next two decades, probably sooner, things will get very, very different, and not in a very nice way. And that when we get there, instead of our being able to point to a single cause "Oh, it was peak oil" or "Damn that climate change" the problem will be a concatenation of factors, many of which we won't recognize when they happen.

Believe it or not, that true of the great depression. Economists and historians still don't have a clear consensus on why the great depression happened, or why it lasted as long as it did. There are theories and arguments, but there is no single event that one can point to. And I predict that we'll find ourselves puzzling (to various degrees) about what went wrong eventually.

One of the most fascinating passages in The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is one that describes the way their computer models began to show collapses not due to any single factor, but due, ultimately, to the system being unable to cope.
(17 May 2007)
Another essay posted on the same day by the prodigious Sharon: Making The Change - 90% Emissions Reduction Rules and Regs.


For American consumers, how much is enough?

Jeffrey Shaffer, Christian Science Monitor
Imagine this: You drive to a neighborhood service station expecting to pay sky-high prices, but instead an attendant walks up and says, "We're having an unadvertised special. All gas is free today but only until we run out."

What's your plan of action? Some people might simply fill up and drive on to the next errand like any other day.

Others would probably race home and come back with a load of empty gas cans and other storage containers. Would you call your friends and alert them to the bonanza?

This scenario is a compelling way to think about how much an average person needs to feel satisfied every day in 21st-century America.

Replace the gas station with a shoe store, home electronics outlet, or furniture showroom. It would be a great experiment for a college psychology class. Create a pile of goods, point it out to random bystanders, and say, "Take what you want." How long would the pile last?

But talking about this issue in schools can be tricky. Collective attitudes have changed a lot during the past 50 years.

When I was in third grade, the impacts of the Great Depression and World War II were still vivid in the national memory. And whenever our teachers, or any adult, had conversations with children, they often doled out advice about basing desires on practical needs, not being wasteful, and never asking for a second helping until you've finished what's on your plate.

These days, however, anyone who promotes such notions in a classroom might be accused of advancing an anticapitalist agenda that's secretly attempting to indoctrinate students with ideas meant to limit consumption and stifle economic growth.

Jeffrey Shaffer writes about media, American culture, and personal history.
(18 May 2007)


Global Warming - The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do

Mick Winter, Sustainable Napa Valley
You can combat global warming without giving up much, if anything. Why? Because of the excess and slack built into our system. In fact, by living a more sustainable, less polluting lifestyle, you can even gain a lot.

You don't have to live more sustainably for the sake of the planet; you can do it just for yourself, because the less energy you use (whether it's in the form of gasoline, natural gas, electricity, pesticides, fertilizers, hot water, packaged products, or a thousand other items), the more money you save. The more money you save, the less oil and gas that needs to be extracted from the earth, the fewer greenhouse-emitting power plants and refineries that need to be built, and the fewer greenhouse gasses you personally are directly responsible for.

By using less fossil fuel energy and fewer resources, you'll save money. Potentially lots of money. And, as a bonus and without any sacrifice, you'll be helping the planet and the environment as well, doing everything that you personally can to combat global warming. Not a bad deal, eh?
(May 2007)
Handout issued under a Creative Commons license (can be copied and distributed). The material is taken from two books written by Mick Winter:
Sustainable Living for Home, Neighborhood and Community - www.sustainablelivingbook.com

Peak Oil Prep - Three Things You Can Do to Prepare for Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Collapse - www.peakoilprep.com [an expanded version of "Sustainable Living"]

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