Presentation at El Ojito Springs Center – Money, Power, Democracy, and War

Join Sustainable Tucson for the second evening of music, food and a thoughful discussion about aspects of sustainability for our community and region.

Tuesday, March 13 Tom Greco, economist and author, will talk about “Money, Power, Democracy and War: Finding the Path Toward Global Peace, Harmony, and Prosperity”

The talk will be held at El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity, 452 South Stone Avenue, from 7 to 9 p.m. *Come at 6 pm for music, food and drink.

This presentation will describe how power and wealth have been overly centralized through control of the monetary system, and how local communities can empower themselves by organizing their own exchange mechanisms.

Further details will be posted on Tom Greco’s blog, Tom’s News and Views:

March 20 Sustainable Tucson Monthly Meeting at Ward III Offices

Sustainable Tucson will hold its monthly General Meeting on March 20, Tuesday, from 4 – 6 pm at Councilwoman Karen Uhlich’s Ward III offices at 1510 E. Grant Rd.

Dennis Dickerson from Pima Association of Governments will talk about the PAG Enivronmental Indicators Report.

Join us for the discussion, networking and getting involved in Affinity Group projects. Let us know what you are concerned about, what your organization is doing toward sustainability in Tucson and how the coalition can help you and/or your organization meets its objectives.

Youth Involvement Affinity Group Meets at Prescott College

The Youth Involvement Affinity Group is meeting for the second time only.  So far, university, public school, non-profits working with youth, and citizens have identified the purpose of the group:  to carry out one or two projects that model how youth can be meaningfully involved in helping the community meet goals for water conservation, energy efficiency and carbon dioxide reduction.  New members are welcome.

Do Sustainable Cities Have a Future?

Do Sustainable Cities Have a Future?
By Neil Peirce, The American Prospect
Posted on February 21, 2007, Printed on February 21, 2007

This article is reprinted from the American Prospect.

A “green revolution” is burgeoning in America’s cities and towns.

And it’s a surprise. Six years ago, as we exited an economically exuberant but perilously polluting 20th century, the idea would have seemed chimerical. True, by the 1990s we’d begun to talk about community and global sustainability; President Clinton even appointed a White House council on the topic. But the conversation proved to be a tad ahead of its time. It exhibited little of the intensity with which the green ideal is today being talked up, and in some places, truly implemented.

A set of mix-and-match developments explain the change. Foremost and scariest among them is the mounting scientific evidence of fast-advancing, potentially cataclysmic global climate change. Then there is the growing realization of oil’s short-term future in the dangerous world that September 11 dramatized.

Among the results are heightened interest in hybrid cars and renewed focus on wind farms, solar energy, biofuels, and other renewables; a burgeoning “smart-growth” movement in our states and regions; worry on the health front about sedentary lifestyles, obesity, loss of natural connections; green roofs and strong revival of urban parks; and breakthroughs to pinpoint waste and pollution in our great infrastructure systems, enabled by more sophisticated geographic information system (GIS) technology.

If the new, green, urban alchemy has an epicenter, it’s Chicago. Once the embodiment of smoky factories and belching locomotives, the erstwhile City of the Big Shoulders has led the new green wave with beds of flowers and blossoming pots hung from new downtown street lamps.

A big share of the Chicago credit goes to Mayor Richard J. Daley and his allies. There’s a green roof on City Hall and greenery along roadway medians stretching out into the neighborhoods. Asphalt schoolyards have been converted to grass, vacant lots turned into community gardens, greenways and wildlife habitat nurtured. Major reinvestment is occurring in the city’s 570 parks, 31 beaches, and 16 historic lagoons. And there’s a dramatic “big splash” — 3-year-old Millennium Park, $475 million worth of lush greenery, sculpture, fountains, and more on the lakefront that’s drawing 4 million visitors a year, many to its stunning outdoor music theater.

Says Chicago Alderman Mary Ann Smith: “We’re creating places people want to be, not places people want to flee.” In fact, Chicago has registered America’s most dramatic “back-to-the-city” movement, with tens of thousands of new downtown residents.

Cities Taking the Lead

But Chicago is no exception. From Philadelphia to Seattle, Boston to San Diego, city officials agree that green urban settings are a critical draw in an era when highly educated, mobile professional workers — the economic gold of the times — gravitate to attractive, welcoming, and healthy places.

What’s more, claim the apostles of green, property tax yields from homes and apartments near parks are significantly higher. Tree-lined streets alone increase property values some 15 percent.

Quite quickly in this decade, the familiar definition of “green” has advanced from trees and plants and parks to a much more inclusive vision of city and metropolitan planning. Moreover, it now comprises an array of environmental issues, including energy saving and renewable sources, reduced burning of fossil fuels, cleaner air and water, improved wastewater removal systems, and redevelopment of “brownfields” sites.

Energy standards for buildings — the familiar LEED standards of the U.S. Green Building Council — are a case in point. They’re quickly advancing from handfuls of pioneering buildings to a preferred benchmark in new construction. Despite the 2 percent to 4 percent price premium for fully energy-efficient buildings, a growing number of businesses are opting for a LEED standard. Part of the justification is long-term energy savings; another rationale, increasingly cited, is the dramatically increased productivity reported among employees in quality green structures.

Increasing numbers of city governments are moving to the standard that Salt Lake City set recently — requiring LEED approval for any of its own buildings, plus any commercial or residential buildings that receive city funding. “High-performance buildings should be the norm,” says Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. “Municipal governments have a huge role to play in bringing about that progress.”

On the nonprofit side, pioneers in big-scale green building are Enterprise and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Their five-year goal, announced in 2004, is 8,500 “environmentally sustainable” and affordable new homes, and a move to make sustainability the mainstream in affordable housing. And not just in construction: The new housing they support must be compact and land efficient, close to transit, and in neighborhoods with ample sidewalks and pathways and shops within walking distance.

The idea is that with less auto dependency and easier access to public transportation and jobs, low-income families will have to spend much less on transportation than they now do (on average, 40 cents of every dollar of income at the poverty line). Fewer workers will be forced into long commutes and even more encouraged to walk, with ricochet benefits in saving energy, reducing obesity, and improving overall health.

But what about standard market housing, in typical neighborhoods? Developers nationally are now being asked to “act green” as the U.S. Green Building Council, the nrdc, and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) create and promote a new LEED-ND (“neighborhood development”) standard. “Under this vision,” says Chicago architect Doug Farr of the CNU, “both urbanists who pick bad regional sites, and green building practitioners who ignore location and context, will be dancing with dinosaurs.”

A Local Response to a Global Challenge

All these developments link closely to the big climate-change issues of the time. Indeed, global warming has moved quickly up the agenda list of many cities and counties despite — or, arguably, in reaction to — the Bush administration’s studied indifference.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors last June voted to call for sharp reductions in fossil fuel use in all buildings — both for construction as well as heating and cooling. Their stated goal is to make the nation’s building stock “carbon-neutral,” using no more fuels made from oil, coal or natural gas, by 2030. The stakes are immense: Buildings account for 48 percent of all U.S. energy consumption (well ahead of transportation at 27 percent and industry at 25 percent).

In Seattle, King County Executive Ron Sims is advocating a 2050 mindset. Assume, says Sims, it’s already mid-century and one’s looking backward to see which of today’s major infrastructure and building decisions — for big highways or public transit systems, for example — make sense on the basis of their carbon impact.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels issued a “Kyoto Challenge” to the nation’s mayors, asking them to pledge they’d meet, in their cities, Kyoto Protocol goals of reducing global warming pollution levels to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. At latest count some 320 mayors — representing 50 million U.S. residents — had signed on.

Seattle and King County initiatives run all the way from partnering with General Motors on development of the country’s first and largest hybrid diesel bus fleet to increased portions of biodiesel in vehicle fleets, from the nation’s largest hydrogen fuel-cell project (using methane gas from a sewage plant) to efforts to reduce the big carbon footprint of the diesel-burning ships, trains, and trucks that use the city’s busy port.

There’s also official support for a new “Cascade Agenda,” a 100-year conservation and preservation plan for 2.6 million acres of the Puget Sound region’s most prized waters, mountains, and communities. The focus is first on channeling growth into denser, well-planned cities, second to save rural lands by a massive new market-based transfer of development rights initiative, and third, with expanded greenery, to create a significant “carbon sink,” forests that absorb carbon dioxide emissions.

Back on the East Coast, green revolutionaries in Philadelphia’s Office of Watersheds are lead exponents and practitioners of new ways to “daylight” streams turned into culverts. They’re working to catch and filter severe storm waters so they don’t carry oil and corroding junkyard metals from paved surfaces, not to mention untreated sewage, into rivers and streams.

The idea is to adapt city parks, roadways, lawns, and yards with swales and other systems that can absorb and slowly filter water. The vision: to make all of Philadelphia into a kind of great, green sponge that handles its runoff more naturally and assures clean and reliable water for fishing, swimming, and drinking.

Philadelphians have also formed the Schuylkill Action Network (SAN), recognizing they’re located downstream from 100 miles of riverside and 2,000 square miles of potentially polluting farms, mines, and factories. Federal and state agencies, plus dozens of upstream communities, belong to san — a prime example of how virtually every environmental challenge is regional, and needs to be addressed that way.

Today’s roster of green initiatives knows practically no limits. It includes massive tree replanting efforts; conversion of hundreds of miles of once-industrial urban waterfronts to parks and greenways and millions of acres of protected farmlands and forests; concerted efforts to build green schools in which children learn better; and campaigns to expand locally based agriculture and farmers’ markets and decrease the pollution from trucks carrying foods over thousands of miles.

In Seattle, there’s a Hope VI public housing/mixed-income project, High Point, that stands out as an entire green community, with its high old trees identified by community youngsters and then protected, creative plantings, a thriving community garden, sidewalks and streets tied into a “natural” water drainage system, and new energy-efficient condos and townhomes.

Out across the nation, there’s fast-growing demand for public transit to save energy and transit-oriented development to curb sprawl. The move for major regional rail systems has now reached far beyond New York and Chicago, Boston and San Francisco to traditionally auto-dependent cities like Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Houston, and even Los Angeles.

Terminal Consumption?

Yet however welcome, even startling, the new developments seem, the somber truth is that the great ocean liner U.S.S. Consumption has so far shifted its direction barely a degree. With 4.6 percent of the world’s population, the United States continues to burn a quarter of the globe’s fossil fuels and to emit 25 percent of its greenhouse gases.

Carbon dioxide emissions continue to climb and power companies claim a need to build 150 new coal-burning plants to slake our electric power thirst. Bigger and bigger houses, SUV road and gas hogs, vehicles for all members of the family, massive freeways and proposals for even greater ones, new gadgets by the dozens, near-lethal sugar and fat content of fast-food fare, the right to bloat our bodies and then count on the medical machine to fix them — we seem to want, and expect, it all.

And dwarfing campaigns for green values, the public is constantly exposed to the advertising budgets of GM, Ford, Wal-Mart, Pfizer, McDonald’s, and the like — many billions of dollars a year, outweighing, by a factor of hundreds, efforts to educate Americans to a more conserving lifestyle.

Single-occupant auto commuting continues to grow, and carpooling and walking keep declining. Notwithstanding the decade-long push for “smart-growth” policies to protect the natural watersheds, the open fields and forests around our towns and cities, any check of existing zoning around the nation shows immense tracts of land zoned for added development.

“You can’t deal with sustainability [and] climate change if we insist on covering our open lands with one-, two-, three-acre house plots,” notes Robert Yaro, president of the New York-area Regional Plan Association.

It’s possible, if not likely, that carbon caps, monster storms, and global oil emergencies will soon alter the status quo more rapidly than anyone today imagines. Green has to be the future, many of its advocates argue, because in a resource-short and turbulent world, the American consumption lifestyle of the last 60 years will prove itself simply unsustainable.

In the meantime, the very best hope undoubtedly lies in the growing numbers of citizen groups and elected local officials who sense the changing world around them and have led today’s remarkably broad search for fresh, new, green approaches.

Along the way, there are steps that could make an immense difference. One is a focus on the other green — money. We are beginning to see the dramatic, long-term savings that can be realized from green buildings and their reduced operating costs and increased property value.

There’s growing market acceptance of new green product lines, combined with the rapid growth of new clean technology funds. Green neighborhood and city planning, green water and power systems are on the rise. As a green economy emerges and proves its staying power, the momentum toward change will surely rise.

Health awareness should help too — demonstrating to the public the dramatic health benefits of green approaches and lifestyle, overcoming misleading, potentially disease-dealing advertising.

Government codes and regulations are another promising field for reform. Many of today’s zoning and land-use regulations, building codes, and rules were written in response to public health and safety issues of a century ago, from tenement buildings without running water to slaughterhouses invading residential neighborhoods.

Today we’re stuck with sterile zoning and restrictions on building materials and methods alarmingly out of sync with present-day needs. A concerted effort by state and local governments to untangle obsolete building codes and set straightforward new standards, and to revamp outmoded zoning with modern and more flexible codes, could give a strong boost to the emerging green revolution. For example, zoning of the post-World War II era encourages “pods” of development — residential, office, and retail. The result is multiple auto trips that mitigate against compact, mixed-use, energy-efficient development.

Then there’s the challenge to the professionals — the architects, planners, designers, engineers, builders, utility representatives, city and county housing officials, and others engaged on the front line of building and reshaping communities. Historically — and often, still today — they have worked sequentially, first doing the land planning, then the underground pipes, then roadways and buildings and so on.

In a smart 21st century, that won’t do. It costs too much and it misses opportunities for better aesthetics, energy efficiency, and quality of life. The time’s at hand to move from silos to systems. It’s the right moment to ask the professionals to start thinking more broadly, to work closely with colleagues from the other disciplines from start to end of any project.

Green value sounds and is environmental. But it’s so much more. It also stands for connectivity, intelligence, smart systems, and creating a 21st-century world that has a chance of being truly sustainable.

This article is available on The American Prospect website.

© 2007 by The American Prospect, Inc.

Neal Peirce’s weekly column, focused on new developments in states, cities, and regions, is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group. He is also chairman of the “>Citistates Group, a network of journalists and civic leaders focused on building sustainable 21st-century metropolitan regions.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society
By James Howard Kunstler, Posted February 10, 2007.

The best way to feel hopeful about our looming energy crisis is to get active now and prepare for living arrangements in a post-oil society.

EnviroHealth RSS Feed

Editor’s Note: James Howard Kunstler is a leading writer on the topic of peak oil the problems it poses for American suburbia. Deeply concerned about the future of our petroleum dependent society, Kunstler believes we must take radical steps to avoid the total meltdown of modern society in the face looming oil and gas shortages. For background on this topic, read Kunstler’s essay, “Pricey Gas, That’s Reality.”

Out in the public arena, people frequently twang on me for being “Mister Gloom’n’doom,” or for “not offering any solutions” to our looming energy crisis. So, for those of you who are tired of wringing your hands, who would like to do something useful, or focus your attention in a purposeful way, here are my suggestions:

1. Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. This obsession with keeping the cars running at all costs could really prove fatal. It is especially unhelpful that so many self-proclaimed “greens” and political “progressives” are hung up on this monomaniacal theme. Get this: the cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax™ oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem. And trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse. The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car. We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.

2. We have to produce food differently. The Monsanto/Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming — e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils — will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America’s young people (if they can unplug their Ipods long enough to pay attention.) It also presents huge problems in land-use reform. Not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history. Get busy.

3. We have to inhabit the terrain differently. Virtually every place in our nation organized for car dependency is going to fail to some degree. Quite a few places (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami …) will support only a fraction of their current populations. We’ll have to return to traditional human ecologies at a smaller scale: villages, towns, and cities (along with a productive rural landscape). Our small towns are waiting to be reinhabited. Our cities will have to contract. The cities that are composed proportionately more of suburban fabric (e.g. Atlanta, Houston) will pose especially tough problems. Most of that stuff will not be fixed. The loss of monetary value in suburban property will have far-reaching ramifications. The stuff we build in the decades ahead will have to be made of regional materials found in nature — as opposed to modular, snap-together, manufactured components — at a more modest scale. This whole process will entail enormous demographic shifts and is liable to be turbulent. Like farming, it will require the retrieval of skill-sets and methodologies that have been forsaken. The graduate schools of architecture are still tragically preoccupied with teaching Narcissism. The faculties will have to be overthrown. Our attitudes about land-use will have to change dramatically. The building codes and zoning laws will eventually be abandoned and will have to be replaced with vernacular wisdom. Get busy.

4. We have to move things and people differently. This is the sunset of Happy Motoring (including the entire US trucking system). Get used to it. Don’t waste your society’s remaining resources trying to prop up car-and-truck dependency. Moving things and people by water and rail is vastly more energy-efficient. Need something to do? Get involved in restoring public transit. Let’s start with railroads, and let’s make sure we electrify them so they will run on things other than fossil fuel or, if we have to run them partly on coal-fired power plants, at least scrub the emissions and sequester the CO2 at as few source-points as possible. We also have to prepare our society for moving people and things much more by water. This implies the rebuilding of infrastructure for our harbors, and also for our inland river and canal systems — including the towns associated with them. The great harbor towns, like Baltimore, Boston, and New York, can no longer devote their waterfronts to condo sites and bikeways. We actually have to put the piers and warehouses back in place (not to mention the sleazy accommodations for sailors). Right now, programs are underway to restore maritime shipping based on wind — yes, sailing ships. It’s for real. Lots to do here. Put down your Ipod and get busy.

5. We have to transform retail trade. The national chains that have used the high tide of fossil fuels to contrive predatory economies-of-scale (and kill local economies) — they are going down. WalMart and the other outfits will not survive the coming era of expensive, scarcer oil. They will not be able to run the “warehouses-on-wheels” of 18-wheel tractor-trailers incessantly circulating along the interstate highways. Their 12,000-mile supply lines to the Asian slave-factories are also endangered as the US and China contest for Middle East and African oil. The local networks of commercial interdependency which these chain stores systematically destroyed (with the public’s acquiescence) will have to be rebuilt brick-by-brick and inventory-by-inventory. This will require rich, fine-grained, multi-layered networks of people who make, distribute, and sell stuff (including the much-maligned “middlemen”). Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Internet will replace local retail economies. Internet shopping is totally dependent now on cheap delivery, and delivery will no longer be cheap. It also is predicated on electric power systems that are completely reliable. That is something we are unlikely to enjoy in the years ahead. Do you have a penchant for retail trade and don’t want to work for a big predatory corporation? There’s lots to do here in the realm of small, local business. Quit carping and get busy.

6. We will have to make things again in America. However, we are going to make less stuff. We will have fewer things to buy, fewer choices of things. The curtain is coming down on the endless blue-light-special shopping frenzy that has occupied the forefront of daily life in America for decades. But we will still need household goods and things to wear. As a practical matter, we are not going to re-live the 20th century. The factories from America’s heyday of manufacturing (1900 – 1970) were all designed for massive inputs of fossil fuel, and many of them have already been demolished. We’re going to have to make things on a smaller scale by other means. Perhaps we will have to use more water power. The truth is, we don’t know yet how we’re going to make anything. This is something that the younger generations can put their minds and muscles into.

7. The age of canned entertainment is coming to and end. It was fun for a while. We liked “Citizen Kane” and the Beatles. But we’re going to have to make our own music and our own drama down the road. We’re going to need playhouses and live performance halls. We’re going to need violin and banjo players and playwrights and scenery-makers, and singers. We’ll need theater managers and stage-hands. The Internet is not going to save canned entertainment. The Internet will not work so well if the electricity is on the fritz half the time (or more).

8. We’ll have to reorganize the education system. The centralized secondary school systems based on the yellow school bus fleets will not survive the coming decades. The huge investments we have made in these facilities will impede the transition out of them, but they will fail anyway. Since we will be a less-affluent society, we probably won’t be able to replace these centralized facilities with smaller and more equitably distributed schools, at least not right away. Personally, I believe that the next incarnation of education will grow out of the home schooling movement, as home schooling efforts aggregate locally into units of more than one family. God knows what happens beyond secondary ed. The big universities, both public and private, may not be salvageable. And the activity of higher ed itself may engender huge resentment by those foreclosed from it. But anyone who learns to do long division and write a coherent paragraph will be at a great advantage — and, in any case, will probably out-perform today’s average college graduate. One thing for sure: teaching children is not liable to become an obsolete line-of-work, as compared to public relations and sports marketing. Lots to do here, and lots to think about. Get busy, future teachers of America.

9. We have to reorganize the medical system. The current skein of intertwined rackets based on endless Ponzi buck passing scams will not survive the discontinuities to come. We will probably have to return to a model of service much closer to what used to be called “doctoring.” Medical training may also have to change as the big universities run into trouble functioning. Doctors of the 21st century will certainly drive fewer German cars, and there will be fewer opportunities in the cosmetic surgery field. Let’s hope that we don’t slide so far back that we forget the germ theory of disease, or the need to wash our hands, or the fundamentals of pharmaceutical science. Lots to do here for the unsqueamish.

10. Life in the USA will have to become much more local, and virtually all the activities of everyday life will have to be re-scaled. You can state categorically that any enterprise now supersized is likely to fail — everything from the federal government to big corporations to huge institutions. If you can find a way to do something practical and useful on a smaller scale than it is currently being done, you are likely to have food in your cupboard and people who esteem you. An entire social infrastructure of voluntary associations, co-opted by the narcotic of television, needs to be reconstructed. Local institutions for care of the helpless will have to be organized. Local politics will be much more meaningful as state governments and federal agencies slide into complete impotence. Lots of jobs here for local heroes.

So, that’s the task list for now. Forgive me if I left things out. Quit wishing and start doing. The best way to feel hopeful about the future is to get off your ass and demonstrate to yourself that you are a capable, competent individual resolutely able to face new circumstances.

Tagged as: suburbia, energy crisis, peak oil

Permaculture Open House

ONGOING: Permaculture OPEN HOUSE Fourth Saturday of Each Month (except
December): Bring Your Own Brunch (BYOB) – GET DOWN TO EARTH/ MUD DAY! Site:
rotates so, call to sign up & get directions! Get your hands in the mud and
try out some earthen plasters on walls made of straw bales, adobe & cob. See
demonstrations and get some hands-on experience: MUDDING FUN (EARTH
INCLUDING AFFORDABLE BUILDINGS & SMALL STRUCTURES WITH STRAW BALE ADOBE, & COB. Please note hours: 10 am – 2:00 pm (earlier hours in warmer weather)
EMAIL OR CALL TO SIGN UP & GET DIRECTIONS. 520 624 1673 or Donations for materials, time & effort appreciated.

Earthen Baking Oven Saturday

Earthen Baking Oven Saturday: April 14, 2007 9:00 am to 5:00 pm , Cost $75 per person. Learn the basics of building and cooking in a natural, outdoor earthen oven that doesn’t heat up your kitchen. We will build/sculpt and plaster the walls of an oven using clay & straw. Cooking with a wood-fired clay oven can add a distinctive flavor to pizzas, bread, pies, turkeys and casseroles. This is a great backyard project and introduction to working with natural materials. The skills required to construct an oven are simple and require no prior building experience. Site: St. David, AZ. Instructor is member of Tucson Permaculture group. To Register, Call (520) 624 1673, email More at DAWN SouthWest.


Rainwater Harvesting Systems Workshop

Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Saturday, April 7, 2007, 9:00am-5:00 pm. Cost $95 per person Learn creative ways to collect rainwater to grow gardens, intercept stormwater sheet flow, stop erosion and restore the natural landscape. We will show you how to build simple, in-ground catchments which will slow the runoff and let the water inflitrate the soil where you want a garden. We will also explore the possibilities of above ground cisterns, using recycled drain culverts to capture rooftop runoff. Site: Permaculture demonstration site using all these techniques. Site: TBA. Instructors are members of Tucson Permaculture group. Co-Sponsored by Pima Community College. To Register, Call (520) 206 6468 or email ref # 72126  More at DAWN SouthWest.

Intro to Natural Building Materials

Introduction to Building with Natural Materials: Saturday, March 17, 2007 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Cost $98/person Adobe, cob, & straw bale, along with earth plasters & finishes will be used in a hands-on workshop to build & sculpt small structures, such as garden walls & benches. An overview of design , structural elements, protection from rain, solar orientation, shading, sizing and scale will be given. Bring your own lunch. Site: SW Tucson. Instructors are members of Tucson Permaculture group. Co-Sponsored by Pima Community College. To Register, Call (520) 206 6468 or email ref: # 72125  More at DAWN SouthWest.

Natural Paints & Finishes Workshop

Natural Paints & Finishes: Saturday, February 17, 2007, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Cost $98
Learn about earth plasters & finishes and try out natural paints made from only a few inexpensive ingredients such as Clay – Natural Pigments – Casein – Lime – Natural Oils; add fillers such as straw & mica and apply them to almost any type of wall surface including latex, gypsum, cement, sheetrock, or wood. For the artistic, the earthen plasters can be used to create & sculpt whimsical and beautiful decorative elements on walls. Site: SW Tucson. Co-Sponsored by Pima Community College (with members of Tucson Permaculture group.) TO REGISTER Call (520) 206 6468 or email ref: # 72124 More at DAWN SouthWest.

Man was the first creature to use fossil fuel…or was he?

Southwest Renewable Energy Fair
duBois Center, NAU
August 9, 2002

Man was the first creature to use fossil fuel…or was he?

E. Allan Blair, Ph.D.

Fossil energy or fossil fuel is solar energy stored as chemical energy in the form of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. It is plant material that has accumulated in sediments and thereby removed from the biosphere. If the plant material had stayed at the surface of the earth (in the biosphere), it would have been decomposed to carbon dioxide and water by bacterial action.

Ecology books present the concept that life consumes energy and that all energy for life comes from the sun. Plants collect solar energy by photosynthesis and everything else gets its energy by eating the plants or other creatures that eat plants, or directly from the sun. An exception to this rule has been recently discovered in a group of creatures living on geothermal and geochemical energy on the ocean floor. Since it was so unusual, it attracted a great deal of attention.

Since about 1600, man has not obeyed the rule that energy for life comes from the sun. Before Elizabethan times, man had no other energy source except the sun. It furnished not only our food, but our warmth and shelter–our warmth from burning wood or animal fat, and our shelter (including clothing) from wood, other vegetable materials, or animal skins. The world could only support the number of humans that the sun’s energy could support.

Then, in the Elizabethan age, man learned to use coal, a fossil fuel. The use of fossil fuel meant that man’s population could increase beyond the number that solar energy could support. If the use of fossil fuels stopped, a large portion of the people on Earth would freeze or starve. There are still places where the only source of energy for human life is the sun. We call them underdeveloped nations.

Man was the first creature that learned to use fossil fuels—-Or was he?

The latest knowledge of geochemistry says that when the Earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, it had an atmosphere consisting mostly of nitrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide. The heat from the sun evaporated water and caused rain as it does now. Some of that rain came as thunderstorms, and as shown by the work of Urey and Miller in 1953, the lightning caused the gases of the atmosphere to react to form organic compounds. These compounds, which included all of the chemical building blocks of life, were washed into the oceans where they collected like salt does today. Also, since there was no oxygen in the atmosphere, there was no ozonosphere to absorb the ultraviolet radiation from the sun, so the surface of the earth was exposed to a tremendous amount of UV radiation. Talk about sunburn! Ultraviolet radiation is used today to promote chemical reactions, and in those ancient days, it must have caused further reactions of the compounds formed by lightning. In addition, the volcanic hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor caused more, and probably different reactions.

Those organic compounds in the ocean were formed, either directly or indirectly, by solar energy. Solar energy caused the thunderstorms and lightning and solar energy in the form of UV radiation caused the lightning formed compounds to combine into more complex chemical compounds. This “primordial soup” was solar energy stored as chemical energy, just like the other fossil fuels. Some reactions may have taken place in the ocean floor geothermal vents, where the pressures and therefore temperatures are much higher than can be achieved on the surface of the earth.

Over the approximately 600 million years before the beginning of life (that is as long as the time that the earth has been occupied by multicelled organisms), these organic compounds accumulated in the ocean, and must have reached a fairly high concentration. During that time, the environment of the earth was constantly changing. Organic compounds (compounds containing carbon) were accumulating in the oceans, and the composition of the atmosphere was changing as the original gases were used up.

Then about 4 billion years ago, some of these organic compounds joined together to form chemical compounds with some of the characteristics of life. They could use the energy of some of the other compounds in the primordial soup of the ocean to reproduce themselves, breaking down part of the material to carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen compounds. These “living” compounds eventually organized themselves into something like protozoa and eventually, they used up all the organic compounds in the oceans, converting them into “bio-mass”, nitrogen compounds, and carbon dioxide.

During that time, the environment of earth was still changing constantly, as the chemicals in the primordial soup were used up by the “proto life” and converted to “living” compounds while the carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the atmosphere were replenished. This was the first example of the consumption of fossil solar energy. The compounds in the primordial soup that had accumulated for 600 million years were consumed by the new proto life, and the environment was changed by their action.

The oceans must have looked like fermenting beer, full of micro-organisms living on dissolved organic material. The land was totally barren, because there was no food there (it had all been washed into the ocean,) and UV sterilized everything. The atmosphere again consisted of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, and did not contain any oxygen at all. There was probably no life in fresh water either, because there was little food there.

When the living (or semi living) creatures had used up all the chemical compounds in the primordial soup that had been created by solar energy, about 2.8 billion years ago, they had to find something else to live on. Talk about an energy crisis! It involved all life on earth, not just the small fraction of Homo Sapiens that live in “developed nations.” By that time, the living chemicals had probably organized themselves into cells and may have developed cell walls, like bacteria and algae have. They had converted all available organic compounds into biomass and the gases carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Probably, some of these “creatures” had mastered the art of eating the proto-living compounds in the sea, and became the first “primary consumers.”

In order to survive, life had to find a new energy source!

It did, in the form of photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, plants absorb sunlight, and use its energy to convert carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates (starch and cellulose) and oxygen. Imagine the environmental impact statement for that new chemical process! It changed the composition of the entire atmosphere from oxygen free to oxygen rich, removed most of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and made it possible for life to invade the land. It changed the entire atmosphere and surface of the Earth. Even the US Army Corps of Engineers never did anything so outrageous!

When a high enough concentration of oxygen had been developed in the atmosphere, the ozonosphere was formed, protecting the surface of the earth from UV radiation, and life could eventually move onto the land without dying of sunburn. There was no food there, but photosynthesis made that unnecessary. All plants needed was sunlight, carbon dioxide, some minerals, and water. With oxygen available, the Earth could develop modern style ecology, where plant-type life would use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide, nitrogen compounds, and water into oxygen and living matter, and animal-type life (primary consumers) would convert oxygen and living matter into carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen compounds.

Eventually, most of the carbon dioxide was used up, and the environment reached the first steady state in history. Even that was not an entirely steady state, because plants produced more organic matter than animals could consume. This was removed from the biosphere (the part of the Earth where life exists), by being buried under sediments, and ended up as coal, natural gas, or petroleum–fossil energy.

By now, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has leveled out at a fraction of one percent. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen compounds, potassium, and phosphorus are the limiting factors in the growth of plants. Since there is a shortage of these materials, plants can not use all of the available solar energy for photosynthesis. This has allowed incredible inefficiency in the use of solar energy by plants. Why be efficient if you have more of one resource than you can use?

Western man has learned to find and use fossil energy with greater efficiency than any other creature. All known supplies will be exhausted in a few hundred years, and the first use of it was only four hundred years ago. It took our single celled ancestors about 1.2 billion years to do the same thing. Homo Sapiens is really a wonderfully capable creature!

What will our new energy source be? We don’t have many choices. Many potential sources have been used in the past and abandoned in favor of fossil energy. Those include wind, tides, low head water power, direct sun, etc. New sources include ocean currents, ocean water temperature differentials, geothermal, and nuclear energy. All of these alternative sources are hampered by politics and/or by short-term economics.

The one thing of which we can be sure is that Mother Earth cannot support us in the manner to which we are accustomed if we don’t find a satisfactory alternative to fossil energy in the next few hundred years.

In modern times, man has shown remarkable ingenuity in finding solutions to problems like this. This one will probably be solved by something that we haven’t even thought about. Whatever it is, I doubt that the environmental impact of our new energy source will be any greater than the one that was developed 2.8 billion years ago by our single celled ancestors.

Historical Energy Crises

Date Crisis Solution
1600 Exhaustion of trees in British Isles Use Coal

1820s Exhaustion of trees in Eastern USA by iron industry Ship coal from frontier, build canals

1830s-1940 Stopping canal shipments by drought or freezing Build railroads

1974-1978 Gasoline Crisis Raise gasoline price

Collapse And its Discontents By Dmitry Orlov

Collapse And its Discontents By Dmitry Orlov
A CarolynBaker.Org Exclusive

February 01, 2007

Many readers are familiar with Dmitry Orlov, who lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union and from his experience offers options for surviving the collapse of Western civilization as we know it.—CB

Read more Dmitry Orlov at: and

It’s been a couple of years since I started writing on the subject of economic collapse, as it occurred in Russia and as it is likely to occur here in the United States. Thus far, I remain reasonably content with my predictions: it’s all lining up, slowly but surely.

Militarily, the US, followed by Israel, seem to have landed themselves in a cul de sac of their own creation, having squandered much treasure on useless high-tech weapons while losing infantry battles against motivated freelancers, with the eventual effect of losing access to the oil fields in the Middle East. Economically, Peak Oil appears to have actually transpired some time in the summer of 2005, and is now slowly coming into focus in the rear view mirror, just as it’s supposed to. Politically, the country has wobbled leftward, only to rediscover that its other Capitalist party also happens to be its other War party. Internationally, hoisting the American flag is now considered a lewd gesture, and this will probably remain so for quite some time, since honor and reputation happen to be among the most difficult things to reclaim. Financially, the US economy has degenerated into a sort of cargo cult, where people feel that they can continue to attract recycled petrodollars by dancing around piles of internet servers with their cell phones and their laptops.

In short, steady as she goes, and I see no reason to start worrying that history will prove me wrong. But that is where the satisfaction ends, and the problems begin.

A dispassionate and ironic approach is all well and good. However, my very own mother accuses me of unsympathetic sang froid in understating the horrific suffering endured by the Russian people when I describe how much better-prepared for economic collapse they were than the United States currently is. So, for the record, I am talking about a die-off, shattered lives, a missing generation of children, and much that is precious and irreplaceable burned or buried under a tide of violence and filth. I also know that endlessly recounting tales of horror and misery is the surest way to lose one’s audience, as my mother would no doubt be willing to demonstrate. Others have accused me of Schadenfreude: of not being sufficiently dispassionate, but of greeting the troubles and the signs of the coming collapse with glee. This is an ad hominem argument, boiling down to “you say such things because you are the sort of person who enjoys saying such things.” Again for the record, I do not feel gleeful, see above as to why. But, to be truthful, I am not a big fan of the American lifestyle. I prefer to stay out of the suburbs, I rarely drive, and I do my best to avoid flying. I don’t feel that the prospect of it all eventually going away is a bad thing. In fact, I am very much looking forward to all the fresh air, although once pollution-induced global dimming goes away, global warming will proceed at a redoubled rate, and we will be forced to seek higher ground further north sooner rather than later – a prospect that does not fill me with glee either.

I suppose that if I were the sort of person who derives a deep feeling of contentment from pursuing the suburban lifestyle, extreme car dependence, shopping at malls and big box stores, jetting around, and daydreaming about full spectrum dominance, I would not be talking about collapse, because I wouldn’t have the foggiest notion of such things. This lifestyle seems like sheer misery to me, but I recognize that tastes do differ. Moreover, it must be something of a blessed state, not knowing anything about resource depletion or global warming or collapse, or not caring to know. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die,” says the preacher, and who am I to disagree? When people do find out about these things, they sometimes go through a bout of acute psychological distress, and only eventually settle down to some internal compromise. I feel almost guilty when I bring someone out of this blessed state, because it feels wrong to be breeding discontent among an otherwise pacified and well-controlled populace. They are like children when they first find out about death, and before they are consoled with stories of angels and heaven, or, in this case, hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol, biodiesel, wind farms, hybrid vehicles, or whatever other eco-props happen to be on hand. Still, they often end up with a nagging worry that not enough is being done.

Such consolations are not as convincing as we would hope, and the nagging worry starts some of us on the road to questioning everything: the living arrangement, the job, the life. Some people go as far as questioning the value of technological civilization, and wondering if it is on a path to planetary-scale self-destruction. They can then become extremely tiresome and tedious company, and breed discontent in everyone they come into contact with, talking incessantly about melting ice caps, drowning polar bears, Texas-sized fields of floating plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean, dead sea birds, fish going extinct, dying coral reefs, and so forth. “Enough!” you might say to them. “If the challenge is to avert planetary self-destruction, then let’s all get on the same page: formulate a project plan, define the next steps, and start executing.” Then you realize that the person you are talking to is serious, and the situation becomes awkward.

Because, you see, there really is not much to be done, on a global scale, and most serious people sense that intuitively. The biggest “if” in the world is the one in sentences that start “If we all…” If we all reduce our ecological footprint to a sustainable level, then there wouldn’t be anyone left out to increase theirs at our expense. An additional complication is that we cannot make such a huge reduction because the current human population of the Earth far exceeds its carrying capacity: a lot of people would have to die. If this sort of thing has to be part of our little project plan, then doing absolutely nothing becomes the more ethically acceptable option, albeit a distressingly impotent one.

In a culture that prides itself on keeping busy, doing nothing is actually a lot harder than doing something. I was recently invited to fly to Alaska to do a presentation, but declined the invitation, because it seemed ridiculous to me to burn a few more barrels of kerosene and drown a few more polar bears for the sake of informing a group of Alaskans that it’s time for them to consider moving south. To inspire them, I could have told them stories of settlements in the Russian arctic that froze when their winter fuel deliveries failed to happen. As always happens, not all of them had been evacuated. I could have also told them that fuel isn’t necessary for humans to survive arctic winters. All you need is a good double-sided fur parka with matching pants, boots, and mittens (wolverine fur for the trim around the hood, please, because it doesn’t ice up), an igloo, a fat-burning lamp (because months of total darkness are not healthy, and because sewing fur and leather and working bone and flint into tools is hard to do in the dark), and a pile of frozen animal carcases to chew on. You hack off hunks of frozen meat and put them inside the parka until they thaw. For something to wash them down with, you stuff a skin bag full of snow and put it inside your parka until it melts. It’s been done this way for thousands of years, but if we are now on our way to a completely different planet, one without much ice and snow, then all bets are off.

I somehow felt that drowning a few more polar bears for the sake of telling Alaskans what Alaskans should know better than me in any case was the wrong thing to do: the hypothetical benefits of my trip did not justify the quantifiable harm to the environment. But everyone I discussed this with seemed less than pleased with my decision: I got points for being consistent, and not much else. Plenty of other people have no such qualms, and feel that the means justify the ends. For them, the same industriousness that is destroying the earth can be used to save it. They fly and drive to attend conferences, champion various social and environmentalist causes, and organize energy-consuming, environment-damaging campaigns with the goal of saving energy or saving the environment. According to the news, this doesn’t seem to be solving any of the big problems, or even stopping them from growing worse.

The one large and uniquely solvable problem, and therefore the one Al Gore chose as his example of environmentalist victory, is the Montreal protocol limiting the discharge of CFCs into the atmosphere. Most other problems are too complex to organize around, and so the environmental movement has failed to check either mass extinction and habitat destruction, or deforestation, or land and water degradation, or overpopulation, or carbon emissions, or a host of other, equally intractable problems. Overpopulation – the mother of all problems – is hardly even discussed, because every woman has the right to have a child (at least one, and that’s already too many), and also, I think, because babies are really cute. In spite of our superficial cleverness, there is a requisite base level of mindlessness to being human, and it sets bounds on what we can do collectively to control our numbers. We can pretend to be able to control nature, for a while at least, but we can’t even pretend to be able to control our own natures and appetites. Nature will have to do it for us – but then it always did and always will.

We can be sure that the living will not always outnumber the dead, as they do now, and that the flow of humanity will reach a peak and start to ebb. Based on everything I have seen and experienced, I can imagine that once the downward slide begins, it will not be a smooth transition, but an abrupt, wrenching change. The downward slide will acquire a logic and a momentum of its own. Taking the specific example of oil, which a lot of people focus on, I can’t imagine that, a few years down the road, we will still be looking at annual production shortfalls of just a few percent. I imagine the number to be closer to 100% – not a slowdown, not a recession, but a collapse. I am also sure that we, collectively, will have little idea that this is happening. Once the lights go out for good in your neighborhood, nobody but your few nearest neighbors will know what is happening to you, and you will know of the larger world no more than you presently know of the goings on in the various places that are already largely in the grip of a permanent blackout, like Zimbabwe or North Korea. Our one world is fragile artifact, and places within it only exist while they have electricity, scheduled flights, and bottled water for the foreign journalists to drink.

If our last hope is that economic collapse will put a stop to our rampaging and trampling of what’s left of the ecosystem just shy of the point of no return, and even if it does happen this way, each of us will be disappointed. Because collapse will not be televised, you will not know that it has happened. You will only know that it has happened to you. And so it is only fair that I warn you: caveat emptor! Collapse – for you, the putatively satisfied consumer of information products – is a faulty product that will fail to please you. If, however, you have already dropped out of the ranks of satisfied consumers, then for you collapse is already well underway, and you have far more pressing things to consider than tilting at the windmills of climate change or obsessing over countless other issues of global import. Collapse, it turns out in the end, is a single-use product. Properly applied, it produces a deep and abiding feeling of dissatisfaction. In this, and this alone, it is quite excellent.

The Suppression of Collective Joy

From Counterpunch at

January 27 / 28, 2007

Barbara Ehrenreich at the Commonwealth Club

The Suppression of Collective Joy


Barbara Ehrenreich made a quick visit to San Francisco last week to promote her new book, “Dancing in the Streets.” Her noontime talk at the Commonwealth Club Jan. 18, excerpted below, was attended by about 100 people, mostly women. The subject was the suppression of collective joy, a historical trend that might seem abstruse -who but an insightful sociologist would try to name and explain it?- but which has affected every one of us directly. “‘Collective joy’ is a clunky term,” Ehrenreich acknowledged, “but it’s the best I could come up with.”

Almost a decade ago, before Ehrenreich’s forays into the labor force recounted in “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch,” she got interested in human bonding. Not sexual bonding, she explained, and not just the kind that holds families together, but:

“the kinds of bonds that hold communities together and can even bring strangers together… Ritual, organized ways that people can make each other not only happy but joyful, delirious even ecstatic… Dancing, music, singing, feasting -which includes drinking- costuming, masking, face paint, body paint, processions, dramas, sporting competitions, comedies…

“These activities are almost universal. When Europeans fanned out across the globe from the 15th to 19th centuries conquering people, they found rituals and festivities going on everywhere from Polynesia to Alaska to Sub-Saharan Africa to india. Everywhere there were occasions for dressing up -often in a religious context but not always. The Europeans were horrified by what they saw and described it as ‘savagery’ and ‘devil worship.’ They thought it showed the inherent inferiority of indigenous people that they could let go in this way. The truth is, these traditions were European, too, but forgotten. The ancient Greeks had a god for ecstasy, Dionysus. Women especially worshipped Dionysus…

“There is evidence that Christianity until the 13th century was very much a danced religion. The archbishops were always complaining about it. When dancing was eventually banned in the churches it went outside in the form of carnival and other festivities that filled the church calendar. In 15th century France, one out of four days of the year was given over to festivities of some sort. People didn’t live to work, they lived to party…

“Going back 10,000 years we find rock art depicting lines and circles of dancing people. There is evidence that this capacity for collective joy, especially through synchronized, rhythmic activity such as dance, is hardwired into humans. It’s part of our unique evolutionary heritage. Chimpanzees can get excited and jump up and down and wave their arms, but they’ve got no rhythm. They can’t dance. They can’t coordinate their emotions…

“The evolutionary scientists say it was probably this capacity that allowed humans to form groups larger than kinship groups -large groups that were essential for defense against predatory animals and eventually against bands of other humans. The techniques -the dance steps, the musical instruments, the costumes- are cultural, but the capacity for collective joy is innate. We are hardwired to be party animals…

“Why is there so little collective joy today? Why is our culture bereft of opportunity for this kind of thing? Mostly, we sit in cubicles at work and we sit in our cars. If you mention ‘ecstasy’ people think you’re talking about a drug. The cure for loneliness and isolation and despair is Prozac… The simple answer is: the ancient tradition of festivities and ecstatic rituals was deliberately suppressed by elites -people in power who associated this kind of frolicking with the lower classes and especially with women…

“The Romans had their own Dionysus worshippers in Italy and they slaughtered them in 60 BC with the kind of ferocity they later directed at Christians… The Protestants were the real killjoys. They just wiped out that entire calendar of festivities from the Catholic church and outlawed dancing and masking. Around the world it was mainly missionaries who crushed the ecstatic rituals of indigenous people. In this country, slave owners banned not only reading and books, they banned the drum. They understood that in these kinds of rituals people found collective strength. A similar thing happened in 18th century Arabia with the rise of Wahabist Islam, the antecedent of Al Qaeda and Saudi Islam. Their main enemy was not Christians or Jews so much as it was the Sufi tradition within Islam which is ecstatic and involves music and dance.

“Elites fear that disorderly kinds of events could turn into uprisings. And this fear is justified. Whether you’re looking at European peasants in the late middle ages or Caribbean slaves in the 19th century, they were using festivity and carnival as the occasion for revolts.

“A second reason that comes with the industrial revolution is, of course, the need to impose social discipline. It’s hard to take agricultural people or herding people and convince them that they should get up and work six days a week, 12 hours a day, and then spend the seventh day listening to boring sermons in a church. To discipline the working class and slaves was a huge enterprise.”

Festivity has been replaced over the centuries by spectacle -“something you watch or listen to but you do not participate in directly.” As examples Ehrenreich cited the transition “from danced Christian worship to the masque, a drama going on on stage,” and football, which originally “was played by hundreds of people on a side. It was a mass sport in which whole villages took on other villages, men women and children. It was a melee that got tamed into football where a few participate and most watch. Spectacles involve your eyes and ears, not the muscles of your body, and they require no creativity on the part of the spectator. The creativity has been centralized.”

People keep trying to reinstitute festivity because, Ehrenreich emphasized, “we were meant to get up and move.” She recalled “the rock rebellion of the 1950s and ’60s -the kids in the audience refused to sit still. They kept lifting up out of their seats. Police would be called. But the kids would get up and dance as soon as the police turned their backs.” Other examples include “costuming, even if it’s only wearing the team colors or a cheesehead. Face paint -what could be more ancient. The wave… In Latin America you get people bringing their drums to the stadium and dancing in the bleachers…

Ehrenreich remarked the emergence of entirely new festivities such as Burning Man, the Love Parade in Berlin (at which a million people have danced in the streets), and the transformation of Halloween into a grown-up celebration. In response to a question about San Francisco’s efforts to contain the partying on Halloween, Ehrenreich said that repression has often been rationalized in terms of maintaining public safety and order -“too much noise, that kind of thing.” Almost as an afterthought she added, “a lot of the repression of what goes on in clubs is carried out in the name of the war on drugs.” (Ehrenreich is a former board member of NORML.)

Ehrenreich’s scholarship (even her throwaway lines contain the seeds of PhD theses) doesn’t keep her from waxing lyrical. She concluded by reading a passage from “Dancing in the Streets:” “Walking along the beach in Rio we came upon members of a Samba school rehearsing for Carnivale -four-year-olds to octogenarians, men and women, some gorgeously costumed and some in tank tops and shorts -Rio street clothes. To a 19th century missionary or a 21st century religious puritan their movements might have seemed lewd or at least suggestive. (Missionaries always called indigenous people lewd.) Certainly the conquest of the streets by a crowd of brown-skinned people would have been distressing in itself. But the samba school danced down right to the sand in perfect dignity, rapt in their own rhythm, their faces both exalted and shining with an almost religious kind of exaltation. One thin, latte-colored young man dancing just behind the musicians set the pace. What was he in real life? A bank clerk? A busboy? Here, in his brilliant feathered costume, he was a prince, a mythological figure, maybe even a god. Here, for a moment there were no divisions among people except for the political ones created by Carnivale itself. After they reached the boardwalk, bystanders started following in without any indication or announcements, without embarrassment or even alcohol to dissolve the normal constraints of urban life, the samba school turned into a huge crowd and the crowd turned into a momentary festival. There was no quote point to it, no religious overtones, no ideological message, no money to be made. Just the chance -which we need much more of on this crowded planet- to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.”

U.S. Energy Experts Announce Way to Freeze Global Warming

As scientists sound daily alarms about the dire consequences of global warming, Americans are asking one question: What can we do about it?

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has an answer: Deploy clean energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies now!

ASES unveiled a 200-page report, Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.: Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 2030.
The report illustrates how energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can provide the emissions reductions required to address global warming. (Read report here)