Ordinary Citizen: Awareness Leads to Action

I became aware of global warming several years ago but did nothing because I did not know what to do. Then I heard of the light bulbs, using less water while showering, buying a water bottle to reuse instead of buying bottled water, etc. The list now goes on.

Then last year I began to realize the AZ Daily Star was printing more and more articles re global warming, so to remember what was being said I started clipping the articles and saving them to reread. This was when I became convinced that this was real and we were headed for a great deal of trouble. I have since written the Star and have had several of my opinions published.

Then I started to write and call and e-mail my Senators and Representatives.
Then I started to go to Sustainable Tucson meetings (took a break over the summer).

Now I am ready for action! I am willing to sit in on the City Council meetings even though I am not eligible to vote within the City.

As for some of my friends: too busy with their lives, have other passions such as Lost Boys, foster parents, inertia, etc.

So it is a process one goes through after one becomes aware and finally wakes up to the full implications of what is ahead if we do not change our ways.

Jo Behrman

What to Do? Taking Action in the Face of Collapse

Creating a sustainable culture of peace based on progressive values starts with
facing what’s really going on, both internally and externally.

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO? Taking Action In The Face Of Collapse

Tuesday, 10 July 2007
By Carolyn Baker

Every time I write an article on collapse such as my most recent one “Happy
Independence Day; You Have No Government”, I am bombarded with emails asking me
“what should I do?” For those who have just discovered this site, that is a
legitimate question because for them, the reality of collapse may be new. Those
who have been following this site for some time have heard many suggestions on
what to do, but this article will offer those and other suggestions again more
clearly and more adamantly than they have been offered here before. The
intensity you are likely to hear in this piece is driven by the urgency which I
and many of my peers are feeling at this moment. Quite frankly, it’s time to
quit screwing around with talking about collapse and start acting. The Rubicon
has been crossed, we’re not living in Kansas anymore, and we are living in the
closest thing we’ve seen to pre-World War II Germany than anything since then.
Suit up and stop theorizing and speculating. It’s showtime.

The first thing I’m not going to tell you is that collapse can be avoided or
that human ingenuity and technology will come up with something to spare us
from it. I’m not going to tell you that there will be some mass movement- some
magic that will organize progressives into a
groundswell of protest, writing letters to Congress, creating blogs and
websites, supporting the “right” candidate, and asking for donations. No, what
I’m going to tell you is that as a nation and as a planet, we are screwed,
fucked, and shit out of luck, or if you prefer Spanish, estamos jodidos.

The second thing I’m not going to tell you is what you’d like to hear-how you
can just keep living the lifestyle you’re living but that somehow you can avoid
collapse. I’m not going to tell you that you can keep banking with Wells Fargo,
Bank of America, Citibank, or any of the other satanic financial monsters and
it will make no difference to you or anyone else. I’m not going to tell you
that you can keep buying your food at your local supermarket or Walmart, and
everything will be fine. I’m not going to tell you to go out and vote for a
presidential candidate in 2008 when even if there is an election, whoever is
selected by the electronic voting industrial complex, will be that complex’s
man or woman-body, mind, and soul. I’m not going to tell you to get a hybrid
vehicle or put solar panels on your house. In fact, before I tell you to do
anything, I’m going to invite you to engage in doing nothing.

Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, creators of the documentary “What A Way
To Go: Life At The End Of Empire”, have suggested five things you can do,
and I’d like to elaborate on those.

Unlike ancient cultures, America is a society of manic doers. Before we have
even understood the problem, we are frantically rushing to find a solution. So
I’m going to ask you first of all to stop-dead in your tracks and do nothing.
In fact, I’m going to suggest that you go out in nature, sit down on a quiet
log, tree stump, rock, or on the grass, and do and say nothing. Look into a
river or stream, study a blade of grass, pick up a handful of soil, focus on a
colony of ants, but whatever you do-pay attention. Look, listen, smell, and
above all, feel your own emotions as you: 1) “fully acknowledge and internalize
that the culture of Empire is destroying the support systems on which the
community of life depends, and robbing us of our essential humanity.”

Acknowledge that all of your efforts and those of everyone you know and love
cannot and will not prevent collapse. In addition, feel the powerlessness,
helplessness, and hopelessness that courses through your body as you do this.
Feel the forever loss of the stream or grass, or soil, or animal that you might
be looking at. Imagine in its place the extinction of everything you are now
perceiving. All that you are now observing has been supporting you, and soon,
it will be gone. How does that feel? Yes, I know. Sad, tragic, horrifying,
enraging-and now you feel even more despair. It’s OK. Let yourself feel it-
really, really feel it. This is sacred time. This is the moment of truth; this
is your meditation on what is so, and you can’t do anything else-not really,
not effectively until you feel these very feelings. In other words, surrender
to the idea of collapse. Stop running from it, imagine it, feel it. The more
you focus on doing, the less you’ll focus on feeling, and your doing will not
work for you until you feel the feelings behind your doing.

And then, when you’ve experienced those very precious and necessary moments of
sacred truth, take yourself into the company of those you love and begin
talking about what is so: 2) “Talk about your concerns with everyone you know.
Make peak oil, climate change, mass extinction and population overshoot
household words.” There will be many people you cannot discuss these with. Find
those with whom you can. This is the beginning of “finding your tribe”-finding
those individuals who get it, who feel what you feel and are no longer in
denial about collapse. They have probably been looking for you as much as you
have been looking for them. Talk not only about the facts, the research, the
events of collapse, but equally or even more importantly, about your feelings
about it. This really isn’t hard to do. If you have children, think about their
future. What do you feel?

Yes, I know you want to know more about what to do, but slow down. You’re
moving too fast. Keep feeling. Keep talking.

The very first action steps really have to do with you and your inner world.
You need to think and feel about who YOU want to be in the face of collapse.
What kind of work do you really want to be doing? 3) “Find your work in the
world to preserve life, change this culture and /or create restorative ways for
individuals and communities to live in harmony with each other and the non-
human world.” Does the work you’re doing help to preserve life? Do you need to
relocate to another part of the country or world so that you and your loved
ones can live lifestyles that prepare yourselves for collapse? What are you
doing to take responsibility for your food supply? How are you preparing to
live in a post-petroleum world? Can you even fathom what that means? Such
dramatic change does not happen overnight; it’s a transition, but remember, you
don’t have all the time in the world. Several dozen species have become extinct
while you’ve been reading this article.

4) “Assess what you actually need during this transition in order to live and
do your work. Only buy what you need and buy from local sources in order to
support the creation of local economies.” And now comes an enormously important
exercise: What do I need and what don’t I need? Preparation for collapse will
change as much in your life as will collapse itself. Every step of preparation
is a meditation, a paring down, and gathering together, always informed by “Who
do I want to be? What’s really important? What do I really not need? What do I
really need?”

I believe that one reason collapse is so unthinkable for many individuals is
that they have no spiritual (I did not say religious) basis for navigating it.
On the other hand, some individuals can think deeply about and realize its
daunting reality, but they approach it with cynicism and bitterness. All of the
above questions I have suggested entertaining are essentially spiritual
questions because they are questions of the soul. 5) Therefore, “find or deepen
your spiritual connection to that which is greater than you. Ask and then
listen for guidance about how to live joyfully and creatively in the face of
these unprecedented times.”

One of my favorite mantras is a quote from Derrick Jensen: “We’re fucked,
and life is really, really good.” Amid the dismal we need fun, joy, play,
lightness of heart, art, music, poetry, songs, stories, and creativity of
infinite varieties. Yes, I know, it’s a tremendous challenge holding such
opposite emotions in the same body, but that is our work in the face of the end
of the world as we have known it. Recall the words of Morpheus in “The Matrix”:
“I didn’t say it would be easy, I just said it would be the truth.”

I will be away from the computer and Truth To Power from July 14-28. Not only
do I need two weeks away from the website, but I need to gather with my “tribe”
as we spend days and nights in nature sharing our feelings and planning how we
might create and maintain a community for navigating collapse. People often ask
me what I’m doing to prepare and where I might relocate. Even if I were able to
tell you, what I would tell you isn’t necessarily what you should be doing or
where you should be going. Only you can discover that for yourself. My wish for
you is that you will use these two weeks to contemplate your future and where
you need to be and what you need to be doing.

Remember: There are no “solutions” but only options as the fascist empire
concretizes around us. Part of the empire’s agenda is to keep you, like a dog
chasing its tail, looking for solutions and bashing people who don’t offer them
to you but tell you the truth instead-that the future of you and your loved
ones is entirely in your hands and no one else’s. The sooner you let go of your
illusions about avoiding collapse and someone or something being able to
prevent and cure it, the more energy you will free up to act on behalf of
yourself and your tribe.

OK, now I’ve told you what to do. If you don’t want to do it or refuse to do
it, please don’t call me “dismal”, “negative” or a “purveyor of hopelessness.”
Look in the mirror and ask yourself how it is that after all this time, despite
all the information you have, you still don’t get it. Someone has said, “Deal
with reality or reality will deal with you.” Do you want to deal with reality
when collapse is in your face, or do you want to take action to prepare for it
now? Ground yourself in your authentic feelings about your collapsing world,
then join with your tribe to build lifeboats. For two weeks this website will
be in “hibernation”. It could be sacred time–time to reflect, time to feel,
time to act-before time runs out.

Community Conversation on Water

Save October 26th for a meeting on water in the Tucson region”Community Conversation on Water”
Friday, October 26, 2007
Approximate Time: 8:30 to 2:30
Doubletree Hotel
(445 S. Alvernon, Tucson, Arizona)

This event will be an important opportunity to learn, listen and participate
in a discussion on water resource issues in the Tucson region

The “Community Conversation” is being organized by:
The University of Arizona, Water Resources Research Center
Arizona Department of Water Resource, Tucson Active Management Area
Pima Association of Governments
Southern Arizona Leadership Council

What Bike Friendly Looks Like

What “Bike Friendly” Looks Like (Bicycle Neglect #4)
Posted by Alan Durning on 05/17/2007 at 06:30 PM
What if cities had no sidewalks and everyone walked on the road? Or, for urban recreation, they walked on a few scenic trails? What if the occasional street had a three-foot-wide “walking lane” painted on the asphalt, between the moving cars and the parked ones?

Well, for starters, no one would walk much. A hardy few might brave the streets, but most would stop at “walk?! in traffic?!”

Fortunately, this car-head vision is fiction for pedestrians in most of Cascadia, but it’s not far from nonfiction for bicyclists. Regular bikers are those too brave or foolish to be dissuaded by the prospect of playing chicken with two-ton behemoths. Other, less-ardent cyclists stick to bike paths; they ride for exercise, not transportation. Bike lanes, in communities where they exist, are simply painted beside the horsepower lanes.

Cascadians react reasonably: “bike?! in traffic?!” And they don’t. “It’s not safe” is what the overwhelming majority of northwesterners say when asked why they bike so little. (As it turns out, it’s safer than most assume—on which, more another day.)

So what would Cascadia’s cities look like if we provided the infrastructure for safe cycling? What does “bike friendly” actually look like?

Good bicycling infrastructure is something few on this continent have seen. It doesn’t mean a “bike route” sign and a white stripe along the arterial. It doesn’t mean a meandering trail shared with joggers, strollers, and skaters.

Bike friendly means a complete, continuous, interconnected network of named bicycle roads or “tracks,” each marked and lit, each governed by traffic signs and signals of its own. It means a parallel network interlaced with the other urban grids: the transit grid on road or rail; the street grid for cars, trucks, and taxis; and the sidewalk grid for pedestrians. It means separation from those grids: to be useful for everyone from eight year olds to eighty year olds, bikeways on large roads must be physically curbed, fenced, or graded away from both traffic and walkers. (On smaller, neighborhood streets, where bikes and cars do mingle, bike friendly means calming traffic with speed humps, circles, and curb bubbles.)

Picture a street more than half of which is reserved for people on foot, bikes, buses, or rail; on which traffic signals and signs, street design, and landscaping all conspire to treat bicycles as the equals of automobiles. This is what bike friendly—what Bicycle Respect—looks like.

Such “complete streets” are common in Denmark, the Netherlands, and other northern European countries. This photo is from Copenhagen, which has more than 200 miles of “bicycle tracks” and another 40 miles planned or under construction. (Photo courtesy of Jayson Antonoff, International Sustainable Solutions. See more photos here.) These tracks, which are typically above street grade and below sidewalk grade, can move six times more people per meter of lane width than motorized lanes of Copenhagen traffic. That’s right: because cyclists can travel close together, bike tracks have higher traffic “throughput” than do car lanes. Copenhagen has even synchronized its traffic signals—for bikers. An average-speed bike commuter going downtown will rarely see a red light.

What does bike friendly look like? It looks like a 60-year old and her granddaughter on two wheelers, getting the green light at each intersection they approach, while drivers brake to stay out of their way.

What does bike friendly look like? Watch this video to see. Though it’s Big Apple-centric, it includes footage of physically separated bike lanes from around the world. (Note: The eight-minute video buffers slowly; you may want to start it loading in another browser window and return to it after you finish reading. The image below is not a live link.)

(Aside: If you’re part of the YouTube generation and want to see more video of bike-friendly cities, there is plenty to choose from. The best I’ve found online are Copenhagen – City of Cyclists made by the city government and Amsterdam: The Bicycling Capital of Europe made by Cascadia’s own Dan Kaufman of Portland.)

Compared to these two-wheeled meccas, how bike friendly are Cascadia’s cities?

They’re not. Even leading cycling cities such as Corvallis and Eugene lack continuous, interconnected grids of physically separated bikeways. It’s true, Corvallis has painted bike lanes on almost all its arterials. Eugene has 33 miles of separate bike paths, and it lights many of them at night. But they’re more of a recreational resource than a transportation network, because they don’t form a grid. These towns are North American models, but they’re still a long way from bike friendly. You wouldn’t send your eight year old to school or soccer practice on these bike lanes.

The big Cascadian metro areas all lag these smaller cities, though they’re above average, by North American standards. Among them, Portland and Vancouver have invested more aggressively in bicycle infrastructure than has greater Seattle. And both are exploring new forms of bikeways to attract new riders, such as converting neighborhood streets into calmed, “bicycle boulevards” or greenways.

Vancouver, BC, is the cycling-est big city in the Northwest, and the City of Vancouver has been inserting bike routes into its urban grid at a pace of one mile every two months for almost two decades. It has emphasized waterfront bike paths and calmed, side-street bike lanes. (See, for example, this report [large pdf], especially pages 37-44.) The greater Vancouver area boasts an impressive 1,500 miles of designated bike routes, but most of them are just white lines in traffic.

The City of Portland has expanded its bikeways fast in recent decades, as shown in this animated map of bike routes over time. (Static maps [large pdf] courtesy of City of Portland, Office of Transportation. Thanks to Clark for animating.) It’s also shown in the chart below. The city has added them at a pace approaching one mile a month since 1980, outstripping even Vancouver. In fact, with 277 miles installed in Portland, the Rose City now claims more bikeway miles than Copenhagen.

The City of Seattle reports 67 miles of bike paths and lanes, plus another 90 miles of signed bike routes—a fraction of Portland’s network. The greater Seattle area has about 470 miles of paths and bike lanes, which is one third the total in greater Vancouver, a smaller, more-densely settled metropolis. The emphasis in the Puget Sound region, according to the Cascade Bicycle Club (large pdf), has been on building recreational paths shared by bikers and pedestrians, not building transportation infrastructure for human-powered travel. Tacoma is especially ill-fitted for bicycling at present, as the News Tribune recently reported.

Of course, raw numbers of bikeway miles are difficult to interpret. Researchers John Pucher and Ralph Buehler (pdf) adjusted reported bikeway length for population size in various North American cities, determining that Portland has 38 bikeway miles for every 100,000 residents, while Vancouver, BC, has 18 miles and Seattle has 9 miles. But these figures conceal as much as they reveal: a low value may reflect either fewer bikeways (for example, in Seattle) or higher population density (for example, in Vancouver).

Moreover, the quality of biking infrastructure matters as much as the quantity. Slapping a “bike route” sign on a road may qualify it for a city’s registry but doesn’t help cyclists much. Conversely, traffic calming on residential streets may make entire neighborhoods bike friendly without adding a mile to the bikeway count. Portland claims to have more miles of bikeways (277) than Copenhagen (204). But two-thirds of Portland’s are white lines on the pavement, while Copenhagen has an integrated, continuous network of physically separated bike tracks. Consequently, Copenhagen’s bike “mode split”—the share of all trips taken by bike—is ten times higher than Portland’s.

Cascadia is no novice at building bike-friendly cities, but we may be no more advanced at the art than apprentices. Still, our intentions are good. Take, for example, the City of Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan—an official policy document that’s in the final stages of public comment and review. The plan will guide the cyclo-fication of the city over the next decade. If fully implemented, the plan will bump the bikeway count up to 452 miles and put bike lanes on 62 percent of arterial streets—reaching within a quarter mile of 95 percent of city residents. The plan doesn’t envision groundbreaking on northern European-style bike tracks, but it does raise the bar in Cascadia’s largest city, setting it on a trajectory to catch up with its neighbors.

The question is, which Cascadian city will push on into the realm of true bike friendliness—of true Bicycle Respect? Doing so may not be politically easy, because in most cities, it will require taking street space away from cars and trucks and converting it to separated bikeways. The benefits will be immense and immediate, because bicycles are clean, healthful, democratic, fun, and affordable for all classes.

But who will lead the way?

Until some city does, until we can see “bike-friendly” right here in Cascadia, most northwesterners will continue to say, “bike?! in traffic?!”

(Thanks to Deric Gruen, who did research for this series.)

On the Rise in American Cities: the car-free zone


On the rise in American cities: the car-free zone
Pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers are king of the road – at least
sometimes – as more US cities ban autos from parks or designated districts. By
Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

San Francisco – Every Saturday starting May 26 through Sept. 30,
bicyclists, joggers, and pedestrians will have free rein on almost a mile
of John F. Kennedy Drive, the main drag through Golden Gate Park. The usual
denizens of the road – autos – will be banned, detoured elsewhere.

Vehicles are already prohibited in parts of the park on Sundays, and the
decision to “go carless” on Saturdays as well concludes a heated seven-year
debate. In the end, arguments that such road closures promote family
activities, more active lifestyles, and tighter-knit communities carried the

The auto’s demotion at Golden Gate Park follows dozens of similar moves in at
least 20 American cities in the past three years. It’s a trend that is gaining
ground rapidly in the US, say urban planners.

o New York is proposing to shut down perimeter roads of Central Park and
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park all summer long.

o Atlanta plans to transform 53 acres of blighted, unused land into new
bike-friendly green space.

o Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and El Paso, Texas, are planning events to
promote car-free days in public parks, most in the hope that the idea will
become permanent or extend for months.

“Cities across America are increasingly declaring that parks are for
people, not cars, … and closing roads within parks is one result of
that,” says Ben Welle with The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park
Excellence, in Washington.

Resistance can be fierce at first, he and others say, because of worries
about traffic congestion, parking problems, and loss of visitors for
businesses and museums. But studies are showing that traffic problems can
be minimized, shops and museums get more visitors, and residents begin to
cherish their where-the-action-is location.

Not everyone is convinced, saying the jury is still out on how no-car zones
affect neighborhood vitality. In San Francisco, for instance, the de Young
Museum has said its delivery schedule must be adjusted because of the new road
closure, and it is concerned that patrons with physical disabilities may not be
able to get to the museum as readily.

The model city for road closure is Bogotá, Colombia, which in 1983 embarked on
a program called ciclovia (bike path), in which designated streets were closed
to cars every Sunday but open for jogging, biking, dancing, playing ball,
walking pets, strolling with babies – anything but driving. One-and-a-half
million people now turn out each week for ciclovia. Other cities in Latin
America followed suit, closing parts of parks or whole urban districts to cars
– some intermittently, some permanently. A result: revitalized neighborhoods
and an influx of people.

Smaller US cities, from Davenport, Iowa, to Huntington Beach, Calif., are
also starting to create car-free zones, according to Mr. Welle’s studies.

Beginning this month, El Paso will detour cars from seven roads every Sunday
from 7 to 11 a.m. so that cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians can use them

“City leaders were faced with a challenge: to get a poor city of
overweight, sedentary people moving when there weren’t any parks or
[bicycle] lanes,” says Robin Stallings of the Texas Bicycle Coalition. A
national magazine declared the city one of the four fattest in the US, he
says, “and that really got everyone’s attention.”

Two years of planning and $100,000 in donations made the program possible. El
Paso is the first ciclovia city in Texas – and it needs it more than most, says
Beto O’Rourke, the city councilman who championed the idea. It has just 25
percent of the park space of the average US city, a smaller tax base, and few
spaces for pedestrians or bicyclists, he says. “This solves a lot of problems
at once.”

The trend reflects cities’ response to residents who, after streaming back to
city centers, want more pedestrian amenities.

“The great thing about ciclovia is that cities can do it very
inexpensively. All the infrastructure is already there; there is no added
capital cost,” says Gil Penalosa, former parks and recreation director for
Bogotá who helped expand its network of closed roads from 8 miles in 1997 to 70
miles today.

In some ciclovia cities, such as Guadalahara, Mexico, fears that autoless
streets would cause economic hardship have dissolved. Some merchants
actually had to return to their stores on Sundays because the thousands of
visitors wanted everything from food and drink to curios.

“The economic boost to Guadalahara has been tremendous,” says Rob Sadowsky, a
Chicago bike activist who recently visited the city for a ciclovia symposium.
Mr. Sadowsky is organizing an August event in the Windy City that, if
successful, would extend next year from May to October.

In the US, say observers, the clamoring for car-free park space is
intensifying because of two other trends: global warming and obesity rates.

“Climate change and the obesity crisis have [rejuvenated] the movement for car-
free space,” says Paul White of Transportation Alternatives, which works to
reclaim roads from autos. As of last year, he notes, more of Earth’s
inhabitants live in cities than in rural areas. “Now we have to figure out what
urban habitat will sustain ourselves … it’s all about reducing car use.”

Related Stories
New German community
models car-free living 12/20/2006
Just hop in the car?
Not so fast, says one French town. 09/23/2005
Car owners test a day
without whee

Peak Oil Task Force recommends Portland cut fossil fuel use 50%

March 7, 2007

Peak Oil Task Force recommends Portland cut fossil fuel use 50% by 2032

The Report by a citizen committee stresses implications of fuel supply
fluctuations and price increases on social safety net and basic services

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Peak Oil Task Force, a twelve member
citizen committee appointed by Portland´s City Council in May 2006,
today delivered a strongly worded report advising that the City
accelerate efforts to curb the use of oil and natural gas.

The report´s key recommendation is that the City take action to
reduce fossil fuel use by half over the next 25 years. The report
finds the best path to this goal is in accelerating current
initiatives such as high-density planning and zoning, public
transportation and acquiring electricity from renewable resources.
Additional recommendations suggest specific actions elected officials
can take to move towards the goals.

“This is an achievable imperative,” said Task Force chairman Bill
Scott, General Manager for Flexcar Portland, a car sharing company.
“Rising energy prices are likely to force major change in any case.
Portland has an economic stake in getting ahead of those price

The Task Force found that actions such as increasing housing density
and fortifying our mass transit system will be much less expensive to
achieve now than they will in ten, twenty or forty years, when
materials and transportation costs will be much higher.

“This report represents many months of work by a dedicated group of
citizens,” said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “It makes clear
that those most affected by increasing fuel costs and fluctuations in
supply will be our most vulnerable citizens. The Task Force has sent
us a clear signal about the growing costs of our energy dependency,
while also pointing out practical solutions.”

“However well Portland succeeds in its energy transition, it will
not be able to isolate itself from global energy crises or the
resulting economic implications,” the report states. “The Task
Force sees the potential for profound economic hardship and high
levels of unemployment, and it recommends having plans in place to
adapt social and economic support systems accordingly … contingency
plans are needed for fuel shortages that may last for several weeks,
well beyond the time considered in existing emergency plans.”

City Council adopts peak oil preparedness resolution

At the meeting today, Council also adopted a resolution establishing
the goal of reducing fossil fuel use by half, and directing city
bureaus to incorporate the goal into both internal operations and
programs and policies addressing planning guidelines, building energy
use and transportation systems.

“The Peak Oil Task Force report underscores the need to accelerate
our efforts,” said Susan Anderson, director of the Office of
Sustainable Development. “All of the recommended actions also help
the City meet other established community goals such as clean air and
water, livability, carbon dioxide reductions and economic growth.”

The Task Force found that Portland residents, businesses and
institutions spend more than $650 million for gasoline and natural
gas each year. Most of this sum leaves the community, while
investments in public transportation infrastructure, energy
efficiency and dense urban housing create jobs and keep dollars in
local circulation.

Portland has long been known for early action on related issues. The
City was the first in the U.S. to adopt a comprehensive Global
Warming Action Plan, in 1993, and is known for its dense, walkable
urban neighborhoods, high number of green buildings, efficient mass
transit and hundreds of miles of bike lanes and bike routes.

Recent City actions that will help Portland meet the goal laid out by
the Peak Oil Task Force include a pending agreement to purchase 100
percent of municipal electricity from wind power; participation in
transportation initiatives such as Plug In Partners, a national
effort to increase the purchase of hybrid electric fleet vehicles;
and Solar Now! a campaign to double the number of solar energy
systems installed on Portland homes and businesses.

“It is not enough for the City to commit to this goal,” said
Scott. “Citizens and business owners also will need to step up.
Weatherizing your home and finding ways to drive less or use a more
fuel efficient vehicle are the first steps.”

Interested citizens can learn more about peak oil and what they can
do through Portland Peak Oil,
a grassroots group dedicated to developing strategies for responding
to peak oil. Information is available at www.portlandpeakoil.org.
The group meets Wednesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the
dining hall at St. Francis Church, 1182 SE Pine in southeast Portland.

For more information and to download a copy of the Executive Summary
and full report of the Peak Oil Task Force, please visit http://

Contact: Amy Stork, Office of Sustainable Development

(503) 823-0229

Brendan Finn, Commissioner Saltzman´s Office

(503) 823-3110

About the Office of Sustainable Development

The Office of Sustainable Development (OSD) brings together community
partners to promote a healthy and prosperous future for Portland. OSD
advances improvements and innovation in reducing global warming
emissions and encourages public engagement in energy efficiency and
renewable energy, biofuels, waste reduction and recycling,
sustainable economic development, sustainable food systems and green
building practices.

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices;
Sustainability and Culture are Priorities

Dateline March 7, Tucson, AZ
by Lindianne Sarno

Mike Hein, City Manager of Tucson, spoke March 6 at a breakfast meeting of the Sun Belt World Trade Association. He has worked for several Southern Arizona local governments including South Tucson, Nogales, Marana, Pima County, and now the City of Tucson. Speaking candidly, he described his job as handling numbers. He reports to seven people, manages a budget of $1.1 billion, and is responsible for 6,500 employees, one-third of whom are due to retire soon.

Last year, Hein said, the City of Tucson started an Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development. This year the City initiates an office of Historical and Cultural Affairs. He said, “This city has a soul. My job is to connect people, artists, and resources.”

When Sustainable Tucson member Tom Greco asked about public particiation in Tucson’s budgeting process, Hein said, “Set me the goals, set me the vision. I’ll develop the process to get to it.”

To meet the challenges Tucson faces over the next 10 years, and to prepare Tucson for our children and grandchildren, Tucson needs citizen involvement, says Hein. A recent Gallup poll of Tucson/Pima citizens revealed only 32% satisfaction with local government, but even more revealing, 22% “don’t know and don’t care.” Hein advised, “Be at the table and be listened to.” At a typical Mayor and City Council meeting, he lamented, about five people respond to the call to the public. At stake are important issues, including how Tucson will grow, how Tucson will handle water, and how Rio Nuevo will develop. Input from the informed, caring sector of the public is urgently needed.

When a member of Sustaiable Tucson asked how the City of Tucson would finance the conversion of Tucson’s infrastructure to solar, Hein replied, “You have your coalition. Unify your coalition. Direct your voice. Find your champions.” He also mentioned the prospective planning going into new building in Tucson and the new role of LEEDS certification (green building standards).

The City of Tucson’s message to Sustainable Tucson is clear: Come talk to us, we need your input, your guidance, and your vision. Sustainability is mainstream. Sustainability is a priority.

Therefore, we plan to post the Mayor and City Council meeting schedule on Sustainable Tucson’s website, www.sustainabletucson.org. The two remaining meetings this month are March 20 and March 27. We urge you to attend these meetings, identify yourself as a member of the Systainable Tucson coalition, and speak up for sustainable design, localization, water harvesting, neighborhood agriculture, food security, community centers, solar energy, and generally reducing Tucson’s global footprint.

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: http://www.alternet.org/story/47728/

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society
By James Howard Kunstler, Kunstler.com. 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.

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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

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

Local Economies, Local Choices

Independence from the Corporate Global Economy
by Ethan Miller
The old story says we have to depend on big corporations. The new story tells us we can earn a livelihood, gain freedom, and build community through cooperation.

Call it “globalization,” or the “free market,” or “capitalism.” Whatever its name, people across the United States and throughout the world are experiencing the devastating effects of an economy that places profit above all else.

None of this, of course, is news. Many of us have come to believe that the crucial economic decisions affecting our lives are made not by us, but by far-away “experts” and mysterious “market forces.” A friend asked me recently, “Since when did the American people decide to send their manufacturing sector south to exploit people in El Salvador or the Dominican Republic?” We didn’t, and nobody ever asked.

But what’s the alternative? We’re taught that there are only two possible economic choices: capitalism-a system in which rich people and corporations have the power, make the decisions, and control our lives; or communism-a system where state bureaucrats have the power, make the decisions, and control our lives. What a choice!

When it comes to real economic alternatives, our imaginations are stuck. Clearly, we need something different, but what would it look like? How do we start to imagine and create other ways of meeting our economic needs?

A Story of Dependency

We can begin by changing the stories we tell about the overwhelming power and inevitability of our economic system. These stories have hidden from us our own power, potential, and value as creative human beings.

The dominant story defines the heroes of our market system as the rational, self-interested firms and individuals who seek to satisfy their endless need for growth and accumulation in a world of scarce resources.

In this story, we the people are just worker-bees and consumers, making and spending money, hoping for the opportunity to accumulate more, and perpetually dependent on the jobs and necessities that the corporate system allocates to the worthy. Citizenship is reduced to the active pursuit of financial wealth. Feeling powerless to make real change, we come to see the economy as like the weather-beyond our control and understood by only the elite “experts.” We hope for sunny days and carry umbrellas.

This story renders all activities other than business transactions invisible-segregated into the sphere of family life, social life, and leisure. A community of active, creative, and skilled people without money or capital (or the desire to have it) is considered unproductive or backward.

This is why many economic developers talk endlessly about “bringing in new businesses” or “attracting investors” to improve the local or regional economy. Real value, for them, comes from the outside, not the inside; from those who invest capital, not those who invest time and hard work; from the power of money to make more of itself, not from the power of life and community to self-organize and to thrive. This dominant story is about how our lives and our communities are never good enough, never complete or worthwhile without the money and jobs of the capitalist market economy.

A Story of Hope

Suppose we try a different story: instead of defining the economy as a market system, let’s define it as the diverse array of activities by which humans generate livelihoods in relation to each other and to the Earth. Extending far beyond the workings of the capitalist market, economic activity includes all of the ways we sustain and support ourselves, our families, and our communities. Peeling away the dominant economic story of competition and accumulation, we see that other economies are alive below the surface, nourishing us like roots. These are not the economies of the stock-brokers and the economists. They are the economies of mutual care and cooperation-community economies, local economies.

Many are familiar to us, though rarely acknowledged. They include:

Household Economies-meeting our needs with our own skills and work: raising children, offering advice or comfort, teaching life skills, cooking, cleaning, building, balancing the checkbook, fixing the car, growing food and medicine, raising animals. Much of this work has been rendered invisible or devalued as “women’s work.”

Gift Economies-built on shared circles of generosity: volunteer fire companies, food banks, giving rides to hitch-hikers, donating to community organizations, sharing food.

Barter Economies-trading services with friends or neighbors, swapping one useful thing for another: returning a favor, exchanging plants or seeds, time-based local currencies.

Gathering Economies-living on the abundance of Earth’s gift economy: hunting, fishing, and foraging. Also re-directing the wastestream-salvaging from demolition sites, gleaning from already-harvested farm fields, dumpster-diving.

Cooperative Economies-based on common ownership and/or control of resources: worker-owned and -run businesses, collective housing, intentional communities, health care cooperatives, community land trusts.

Community Market Economies-networks of exchange built from small businesses and cooperatives that are accountable to their communities through social ties, innovative ownership models, and mutual support. Such economies are not created to make large profits, but to provide healthy, modest livelihoods to their participants, and services to the larger community.

Recognizing these diverse forms of livelihood we can see not only that economic possibilities exist beyond the market and the state, but that these possibilities are viable and powerful. Indeed, the dominant economy would fall apart without such basic forms of cooperation and solidarity. It is not the capitalist market that germinates seeds, calls nourishing water from the sky, or transforms decay into delicious fruit. It is not the capitalist market that nourishes our souls on a daily basis with friendship and love or cares for us when we are too young or too old to care for ourselves. Nor is it this market that keeps us alive in times of crisis when the factories close, when our houses burn down, or when the paycheck is just not enough. It is the economies of community and care-what many activists in Latin America and Europe call the “solidarity economy”-that hold the very fabric of our society together. It is these relationships that make us human and that meet our most basic needs for love, care, and mutual support.

So what’s the alternative to the market system? Its seeds already exist. Though capitalist markets are constantly working to undermine, exploit, and co-opt elements of the solidarity economy, its power and potential as a space of creation and hope persists.

We already inhabit different kinds of economic relationships. We have our own forms of wealth and value that are not defined by money. Economies already exist that place human and ecological relationships at the center, rather than competition and profit-making. We do not need to start from scratch.

When faced with the question of alternatives, then, we can answer not with another Grand Economic Scheme, but with a vision for creative, diverse, and democratic economic organizing. We can build on existing cooperative economic practices, cultivating imagination and possibility.

Linking together emerging alternatives in networks of mutual support and exchange, we can take them to the next level and generate new economic dynamics of solidarity and cooperation on local, regional, and global scales.

A strategy begins to emerge: identify existing alternatives; bring them together to build shared identities and connections; and with new-found collective strength, generate powerful possibilities for social and economic change.

Sounds simple, right? Perhaps, but it is the complex, deliberate, and beautiful work of community organizing that will transform vision into reality.

Efforts to identify spaces of democratic economic possibility are already under way. Groups such as the Seattle Local Economies Mapping Project (www.seattlemap.org) are building inventories of alternative economic initiatives, from cooperatives and local currencies to volunteer fire companies and community food banks. Inspired by what is sometimes called “asset-based community development,” other groups are cataloging forms of wealth left out of the economic equation, such as subsistence skills, traditional arts and crafts, local stories and lore, and natural landscapes. A coalition of organizations in the U.S. and Canada called the Data Commons Project is building a directory of North American cooperative economic projects (see http://dcp.usworker.coop).

New Eyes, New Connections

With local economic inventories in hand, we can begin to generate conversations among solidarity initiatives and institutions. In Brazil, where the solidarity economy movement is well-established, 23 statewide forums, connected by the national Brazilian Solidarity Economy Forum, generate dialog and collaboration among solidarity-based economic projects.

Similar gatherings could be highly effective in North America. The United States Social Forum, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 2007, offers an exciting opportunity for solidarity economy practitioners and organizers to meet on a large scale.

Such gatherings can link previously isolated efforts, integrating their work into a new and emergent economic web of solidarity. These connections are about more than mutual recognition; they are about building relationships of exchange and support-connecting producers and consumers, marketers and distributors, investors and organizers. In the process, we redefine these roles and institutions.

Connections can also extend to the larger web of organizations and social movements struggling for justice, ecology, and democracy. Campaigns against big-box stores are enhanced by efforts to create community-based economic alternatives. Counter-recruitment work is more effective when youth are involved in cooperative economic projects that offer viable alternatives to the military, and the creation of community land trusts and housing cooperatives strengthens anti-gentrification struggles.

In all of these cases and more, the support is reciprocal: the dreams, aspirations, and energies of grassroots social movements ensure the integrity and health of community-based economic institutions.

The practices of seeing, convening, and connecting all build toward the practice of creation. From imagination and possibility can grow new initiatives, new institutions, new forms of exchange, new economies of solidarity. Together, we can reclaim our homes and communities as spaces of safety, care, healing, and mutal aid.

Seeking economic alternatives? The seeds have been planted. They’re ready for the rain.

Ethan Miller
Ethan Miller (ethanmiller@riseup.net) is a writer, musician, subsistence farmer, and organizer. A member of the GEO Collective (www.geo.coop) and of the musical collective Riotfolk (www.riotfolk.org), he lives and works at JED, a land-based mutual-aid cooperative in Greene, Maine.

Picture Southeast Arizona Full of Small Farms!

What’s So Beautiful About Small
by Peter Rossett

Are small farms as bountiful as they are beautiful? Can they really compete with large farms in the agriculture of the future? The answer is yes on both counts. Here’s why.

. Small farms are far more productive, producing from 200 to 1,000 percent more per acre than large farms. We are often misled by “yield” figures. The highest yield of a single crop might be achieved by planting it alone – in a monoculture. Large farms must plant monocultures because they are easiest to manage with heavy machinery. But monocultures make inefficient use of space. Small farmers often intercrop, using the empty space between rows (which would otherwise produce weeds) to combine or rotate crops and livestock, with manure replenishing soil fertility. Instead of “yield,” which refers to one crop, we should include everything the farm produces – crops, livestock, fruit, fish – when we measure their productivity.

. Small farms are more efficient than large farms, say the few studies that have actually compared them. When economists measure a farm’s use of capital, land and labor, they find that large farms are very inefficient.

. Small farms promote regional economic development. In farming communities dominated by large corporate farms, nearby towns die off. Mechanization means fewer local jobs, and absentee ownership means that settled farm families themselves are no longer to be found. In these corporate-farm towns, the income earned in agriculture is drained off into larger cities to support distant enterprises, while in towns surrounded by family farms, the income circulates locally, generating more local businesses, schools, parks, churches, clubs, and newspapers, along with better services, higher employment, and more civic participation.

. Small farmers are better stewards of natural resources. The small farm landscape is typically filled with biodiversity. The wood lot, the orchard, the fish pond, the backyard garden, large and small livestock, and the farm itself with its varied crops allow for the preservation of hundreds if not thousands of wild and cultivated species. The commitment of family members to long-term soil fertility on the family farm is not found on large farms owned by absentee investors. In the US, small farms devote 17 percent of their land to woodlands, compared to only 5 percent on large farms. Small farms maintain nearly twice as much of their land in soil-improving uses, including cover crops and green manures.

– Peter Rossett, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

Adapted from “Small is Bountiful,” The Ecologist, December 1999; and from Food First Policy Brief No. 4, “The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations” (www.foodfirst.org/media/press/1999/smfarmsp.html), both by Peter Rosset.

Relocalization URL list

This list of URLs on relocalization comes from one of Eugene, Oregon’s great activists, Kathy Ging.

Community is the Solution: http://www.communitysolution.org/solution.html

Willits Economic Localization (WELL) 459-1256

Coast Economic Localization (CELL) 463-2921 http://www.coastlocalize.org

Greater Ukiah Localization Project (GULP) http://www.cloudforest.org

Potter Valley Community Planning

Boonville Economic Localization (with local grange)

Laytonville Economic Localization (with local grange)

South Coast Economic Localization (with local grange)

Mendocino Ecologic Learning Center (Willits) http://www.melc.org

Preliminary outline; new editions will contain specific contacts, events and

Several are currently listed at http://www.postcarbon.org (Postcarbon
Institute) And http://www.cloudforest.org 743-1287 where many links are

and http://www.ukiahsmartgrowth.org

Humboldt Economic Localization http://www.humboldtrevolution.org/

and another related link http://www.communitysolution.org/

Community Environmental Economic Development in Arcata http://ceedweb.org/

Collaborated with other organizations Economies (www.livingeconomies.org),

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association (www.biodynamics.com),

Northeast Organic Farming Association (www.nofamass.org),

Orion Society (www.oriononline.org),

Marion Institute (www.marioninstitute.org), Vermont Commons

National Community Land Trust Network (www.communitylots.org)

Community Economics in action (New England)
EF Schumacher Society http://www.smallisbeautiful.org
An introduction to the Green Web and to Left Biocentrism
Campaign for a (Green) Political Ecology: http://eco.gn.apc.org/
Interesting Link to a Green blog http://www.greencommons.org/blog
Berkshire Eagle (www.berkshireeagle.com) Economics for People, Thinking Small

Sustainable Tucson to Follow Up Dr. Jackie King’s Visit

Co writers: Madeline Kiser and Lindianne Sarno

Sustainable Tucson will be holding a series of meetings is to follow up on Dr. Jackie King’s visit this past summer. City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich is particularly interested in Tucson’s followup to Dr. King’s visit. Below is an excellent article about her visit, which appeared in the Tucson Weekly.

Dr. King and other notable aquatic scientists who are following her footsteps make three main points:

1) Sound science should serve as a base for water laws and policies. It requires that teams of scientists, not just single hydrologists, work together, to study aquatic, economic and social systems, and provide a clear balance sheet to policy makers and water managers for any proposed action that will alter them. For example: building a dam in a certain way, maximizing the production of electricity, might net that energy – but may cause (as in the Mekong River Delta) 60 million people to lose their gardens for four weeks of each year. This cost is then quantified along with others. This science, in addition to requiring that teams of scientists from different fields work together, also holds central that preserving aquatic systems’ unique flow patterns – their individual pulses or signatures – is what matters most. In other words, preserve the river.

2) Articulating for policy makers and the public in a clear, non-polarizing fashion this previously “quiet” or hidden side of the ledger – the total costs of altering aquatic systems as well as benefits from developing them – helps generate political will, in a way that pitting interests against each other simply doesn’t; for example: “water to bring back single rivers (or to save single species)” vs. “water for development.” Some business leaders present at Dr. King’s roundtable asked her if she might return to Tucson – precisely because, instead of talking about bringing rivers back, or saving species, she spoke about the need to clearly measure the total effects of development. This may seem like a small point, but discussing water in this way is helping a growing number of nations avoid divisiveness.

3) Sound science must be supported by sound water laws. South Africa and Australia took the lead almost 15 years ago by declaring that only two entities have a right to water: humans, and the environment (i.e., the river itself). In Costa Rica, which is in the process of rewriting its water laws to embrace these two principles, government agencies and NGOs have traveled region to region to explain to people the importance of these laws, and the science behind them, thereby educating the populace about what, specifically, is at stake in attempting to conserve water, especially in a time of rapid climate change.

The total effect of this strategy is to offer clarity: We save natural capital to save our children’s future (and yes, our sacred natural world). Again, the key is generating necessary political will by ensuring that the public understands clearly what is at stake. As with other issues, with water, we need an “ethical north” in designing our policies. A growing number of countries are following this simple ideal. Why shouldn’t Arizona, as it attempts to become a world leader in conserving water?


The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
by David Korten

By what name will future generations know our time? Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth’s capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet’s resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?

A defining choice
We face a defining choice between two contrasting models for organizing human affairs. Give them the generic names Empire and Earth Community. Absent an understanding of the history and implications of this choice, we may squander valuable time and resources on efforts to preserve or mend cultures and institutions that cannot be fixed and must be replaced.

Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.

Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to re-learn how to live by its principles.

Developments distinctive to our time are telling us that Empire has reached the limits of the exploitation that people and Earth will sustain. A mounting perfect economic storm born of a convergence of peak oil, climate change, and an imbalanced U.S. economy dependent on debts it can never repay is poised to bring a dramatic restructuring of every aspect of modern life. We have the power to choose, however, whether the consequences play out as a terminal crisis or an epic opportunity. The Great Turning is not a prophecy. It is a possibility.

A turn from life
According to cultural historian Riane Eisler, early humans evolved within a cultural and institutional frame of Earth Community. They organized to meet their needs by cooperating with life rather than by dominating it. Then some 5,000 years ago, beginning in Mesopotamia, our ancestors made a tragic turn from Earth Community to Empire. They turned away from a reverence for the generative power of life-represented by female gods or nature spirits-to a reverence for hierarchy and the power of the sword-represented by distant, usually male, gods. The wisdom of the elder and the priestess gave way to the arbitrary rule of the powerful, often ruthless, king.

Paying the price
The peoples of the dominant human societies lost their sense of attachment to the living earth, and societies became divided between the rulers and the ruled, exploiters and exploited. The brutal competition for power created a relentless play-or-die, rule-or-be-ruled dynamic of violence and oppression and served to elevate the most ruthless to the highest positions of power. Since the fateful turn, the major portion of the resources available to human societies has been diverted from meeting the needs of life to supporting the military forces, prisons, palaces, temples, and patronage for retainers and propagandists on which the system of domination in turn depends. Great civilizations built by ambitious rulers fell to successive waves of corruption and conquest.

The primary institutional form of Empire has morphed from the city-state to the nation-state to the global corporation, but the underlying pattern of domination remains. It is axiomatic: for a few to be on top, many must be on the bottom. The powerful control and institutionalize the processes by which it will be decided who enjoys the privilege and who pays the price, a choice that commonly results in arbitrarily excluding from power whole groups of persons based on race and gender.

Troubling truths
Herein lies a crucial insight. If we look for the source of the social pathologies increasingly evident in our culture, we find they have a common origin in the dominator relations of Empire that have survived largely intact in spite of the democratic reforms of the past two centuries. The sexism, racism, economic injustice, violence, and environmental destruction that have plagued human societies for 5,000 years, and have now brought us to the brink of a potential terminal crisis, all flow from this common source. Freeing ourselves from these pathologies depends on a common solution-replacing the underlying dominator cultures and institutions of Empire with the partnership cultures and institutions of Earth Community. Unfortunately, we cannot look to imperial powerholders to lead the way.

Beyond denial
History shows that as empires crumble the ruling elites become ever more corrupt and ruthless in their drive to secure their own power-a dynamic now playing out in the United States. We Americans base our identity in large measure on the myth that our nation has always embodied the highest principles of democracy, and is devoted to spreading peace and justice to the world.

But there has always been tension between America’s high ideals and its reality as a modern version of Empire. The freedom promised by the Bill of Rights contrasts starkly with the enshrinement of slavery elsewhere in the original articles of the Constitution. The protection of property, an idea central to the American dream, stands in contradiction to the fact that our nation was built on land taken by force from Native Americans. Although we consider the vote to be the hallmark of our democracy, it took nearly 200 years before that right was extended to all citizens.

Americans acculturated to the ideals of America find it difficult to comprehend what our rulers are doing, most of which is at odds with notions of egalitarianism, justice, and democracy. Within the frame of historical reality, it is perfectly clear: they are playing out the endgame of Empire, seeking to consolidate power through increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic policies.

Wise choices necessarily rest on a foundation of truth. The Great Turning depends on awakening to deep truths long denied.

Global awakening

Empire’s true believers maintain that the inherent flaws in our human nature lead to a natural propensity to greed, violence, and lust for power. Social order and material progress depend, therefore, on imposing elite rule and market discipline to channel these dark tendencies to positive ends. Psychologists who study the developmental pathways of the individual consciousness observe a more complex reality. Just as we grow up in our physical capacities and potential given proper physical nourishment and exercise, we also grow up in the capacities and potential of our consciousness, given proper social and emotional nourishment and exercise.

Over a lifetime, those who enjoy the requisite emotional support traverse a pathway from the narcissistic, undifferentiated magical consciousness of the newborn to the fully mature, inclusive, and multidimensional spiritual consciousness of the wise elder. The lower, more narcissistic, orders of consciousness are perfectly normal for young children, but become sociopathic in adults and are easily encouraged and manipulated by advertisers and demagogues. The higher orders of consciousness are a necessary foundation of mature democracy. Perhaps Empire’s greatest tragedy is that its cultures and institutions systematically suppress our progress to the higher orders of consciousness.

Given that Empire has prevailed for 5,000 years, a turn from Empire to Earth Community might seem a hopeless fantasy if not for the evidence from values surveys that a global awakening to the higher levels of human consciousness is already underway. This awakening is driven in part by a communications revolution that defies elite censorship and is breaking down the geographical barriers to intercultural exchange.
The consequences of the awakening are manifest in the civil rights, women’s, environmental, peace, and other social movements. These movements in turn gain energy from the growing leadership of women, communities of color, and indigenous peoples, and from a shift in the demographic balance in favor of older age groups more likely to have achieved the higher-order consciousness of the wise elder.

It is fortuitous that we humans have achieved the means to make a collective choice as a species to free ourselves from Empire’s seemingly inexorable compete-or-die logic at the precise moment we face the imperative to do so. The speed at which institutional and technological advances have created possibilities wholly new to the human experience is stunning.

JUST OVER 60 YEARS AGO, we created the United Nations, which, for all its imperfections, made it possible for the first time for representatives of all the world’s nations and people to meet in a neutral space to resolve differences through dialogue rather than force of arms.

LESS THAN 50 YEARS AGO, our species ventured into space to look back and see ourselves as one people sharing a common destiny on a living space ship.

IN LITTLE MORE THAN 10 YEARS our communications technologies have given us the ability, should we choose to use it, to link every human on the planet into a seamless web of nearly costless communication and cooperation.

Already our new technological capability has made possible the interconnection of the millions of people who are learning to work as a dynamic, self–directing social organism that transcends boundaries of race, class, religion, and nationality and functions as a shared conscience of the species. We call this social or-ganism global civil society. On February 15, 2003, it brought more than 10 million people to the streets of the world’s cities, towns, and villages to call for peace in the face of the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They accomplished this monumental collective action without a central organization, budget, or charismatic leader through social processes never before possible on such a scale. This was but a foretaste of the possibilities for radically new forms of partnership organization now within our reach.

Break the silence, end the isolation, change the story
We humans live by stories. The key to making a choice for Earth Community is recognizing that the foundation of Empire’s power does not lie in its instruments of physical violence. It lies in Empire’s ability to control the stories by which we define ourselves and our possibilities in order to perpetuate the myths on which the legitimacy of the dominator relations of Empire depend. To change the human future, we must change our defining stories.

Story power
For 5,000 years, the ruling class has cultivated, rewarded, and amplified the voices of those storytellers whose stories affirm the righteousness of Empire and deny the higher-order potentials of our nature that would allow us to live with one another in peace and cooperation. There have always been those among us who sense the possibilities of Earth Community, but their stories have been marginalized or silenced by Empire’s instruments of intimidation. The stories endlessly repeated by the scribes of Empire become the stories most believed. Stories of more hopeful possibilities go unheard or unheeded and those who discern the truth are unable to identify and support one another in the common cause of truth telling. Fortunately, the new communications technologies are breaking this pattern. As truth-tellers reach a wider audience, the myths of Empire become harder to maintain.

The struggle to define the prevailing cultural stories largely defines contemporary cultural politics in the United States. A far-right alliance of elitist corporate plutocrats and religious theocrats has gained control of the political discourse in the United States not by force of their numbers, which are relatively small, but by controlling the stories by which the prevailing culture defines the pathway to prosperity, security, and meaning. In each instance, the far right’s favored versions of these stories affirm the dominator relations of Empire.

THE IMPERIAL PROSPERITY STORY says that an eternally growing economy benefits everyone. To grow the economy, we need wealthy people who can invest in enterprises that create jobs. Thus, we must support the wealthy by cutting their taxes and eliminating regulations that create barriers to accumulating wealth. We must also eliminate welfare programs in order to teach the poor the value of working hard at whatever wages the market offers.

THE IMPERIAL SECURITY STORY tells of a dangerous world, filled with criminals, terrorists, and enemies. The only way to insure our safety is through major expenditures on the military and the police to maintain order by physical force.

THE IMPERIAL MEANING STORY reinforces the other two, featuring a God who rewards righteousness with wealth and power and mandates that they rule over the poor who justly suffer divine punishment for their sins.

These stories all serve to alienate us from the community of life and deny the positive potentials of our nature, while affirming the legitimacy of economic inequality, the use of physical force to maintain imperial order, and the special righteousness of those in power.

It is not enough, as many in the United States are doing, to debate the details of tax and education policies, budgets, war, and trade agreements in search of a positive political agenda. Nor is it enough to craft slogans with broad mass appeal aimed at winning the next election or policy debate. We must infuse the mainstream culture with stories of Earth Community. As the stories of Empire nurture a culture of domination, the stories of Earth Community nurture a culture of partnership. They affirm the positive potentials of our human nature and show that realizing true prosperity, security, and meaning depends on creating vibrant, caring, interlinked communities that support all persons in realizing their full humanity. Sharing the joyful news of our human possibilities through word and action is perhaps the most important aspect of the Great Work of our time.

Changing the prevailing stories in the United States may be easier to accomplish than we might think. The apparent political divisions notwithstanding, U.S. polling data reveal a startling degree of consensus on key issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong priorities. Supermajorities want to see greater priority given to children, family, community, and a healthy environment. Americans also want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination. These Earth Community values are in fact widely shared by both conservatives and liberals.

Our nation is on the wrong course not because Americans have the wrong values. It is on the wrong course because of remnant imperial institutions that give unaccountable power to a small alliance of right-wing extremists who call themselves conservative and claim to support family and community values, but whose preferred economic and social policies constitute a ruthless war against children, families, communities, and the environment.

The distinctive human capacity for reflection and intentional choice carries a corresponding moral responsibility to care for one another and the planet. Indeed, our deepest desire is to live in loving relationships with one another. The hunger for loving families and communities is a powerful, but latent, unifying force and the potential foundation of a winning political coalition dedicated to creating societies that support every person in actualizing his or her highest potential.

In these turbulent and often frightening times, it is important to remind ourselves that we are privileged to live at the most exciting moment in the whole of the human experience. We have the opportunity to turn away from Empire and to embrace Earth Community as a conscious collective choice. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

David Korten is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network.
This article draws from his newly released book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. Go to www.yesmagazine.org/greatturning for book
excerpts, related articles, David’s talks, and resources for action.

Sustainable Business Institute – recommended website

The SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS INSTITUTE (SBI) is the premier catalyst for the business community and public to take the lead in implementing equitable worldwide sustainability practices.

To benefit the public through outreach initiatives that encourage business leaders to identify, create, implement and communicate economically viable sustainability practices.

How does SBI accomplish its mission?
SBI educates business leaders and the public through a variety of programs including the CEO Forum on Sustainable Business and the Seal of Sustainability.
CEO Forum on Sustainable Business
Since its founding in 1994, the SBI has convened five CEO Forums on Sustainable Business. This year’s Sixth Annual CEO Forum on Sustainable Business will further augment the ability of SBI to conduct its educational outreach on an increasingly global scale.
Seal of Sustainability
Another vehicle to promote sustainable business practices is the Seal of Sustainability (the “Seal”). The Seal recognizes businesses that are committed to sustainable business practices economically, environmentally, and socially. The Seal also serves as a powerful tool for the public. When individuals choose to do business with a recipient company over a non-recipient company, it signals that they value socially and environmentally responsible corporate practices and support businesses that value the same.

Read about all of our programs to promote sustainable business practices
©2005 – Sustainable Business Institute. All Rights Reserved.

U.S. Green Building Council

Here is some general info on the USGBC, as well as what the Arizona Chapter/Southern Arizona Branch aims to do here in our state.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Our more than 7,200 member organizations and our network of more than 80 regional chapters are united to advance our mission of transforming the building industry to sustainability.

Core Purpose

The U.S. Green Building Council’s core purpose is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

The diverse volunteer membership of the U.S. Green Building Council Arizona Chapter is dedicated to transforming the built environment in the Southwest. We do this by providing monthly chapter meetings that include a mixer and an educational program on a green building topic such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental DesignTM (LEEDTM).

We have standing committees on Education, Programs, Membership, Communications, and Finance that design and support our activities. Our financing derives from program fees, sponsorships and member organization dues.

If you are in the Southwest and are interested in green building, let us know! As an all-volunteer effort, we are also always interested in individuals and organizations that can lend a hand for financial support. Together, we’ll improve our Southwest built environment and our planet.

Our next meeting is January 17th at 11am – Making the Business Case: Understanding the Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Building. RSVP is required however, so inquiries should be directed to me at tucsongreendrinks@yahoo.com. Thanks!


Bio-Intensive Gardening for Self-Sufficient Cities

Cultivating Our Garden, by John Jeavons

Biointensive farming uses less water, land, machinery, and fertilizer
– and more human labor
One of the articles in A Good Harvest (IC#42)
Fall 1995, Page 34
Copyright (c)1995, 1997 by Context Institute | To order this issue …

“They’re making people every day,
but they ain’t makin’ any more dirt.”
– Will Rogers

A sustainable community involves a dynamic inter-dependent relationship between each of us and the resources that sustain our lives. Rather than shirking human labor, trying to reduce the amount of it used or to increase its productivity in unsustainable ways, we need to exalt in its proper use and the maintenance of the very muscles involved in an effective human life. Properly performed, labor is not tedious or enervating, but strengthening and rewarding.

Using resources more efficiently – doing more with less – allows us to use our personal energy more effectively. The field of electronics was recently miniaturized on this basis. In fact, the world is on the verge of a major new discovery – that there are major economies of small scale, such as the miniaturization of agriculture. The sophisticated low-technology techniques and the approaches involved in this kind of food-raising will make possible truly sustainable agricultural practices globally.
Biointensive Mini-Farming

This miniaturization of agriculture is not new. Small-scale sustainable agriculture has supported such widely dispersed civilizations as the Chinese 4,000 years ago, and the Mayans, South Americans, and Greeks 2,000 years ago.

Ecology Action has dedicated almost a quarter-century to rediscovering the scientific principles that underlie these traditional systems. The people in Biosphere II in Arizona have been using techniques based on those outlined by Ecology Action: they raised 80 percent of their food for two years within a “closed system.” Their experience demonstrates that a complete year’s diet for one person can be raised on the equivalent of 3,403 square feet!

This is an improvement over traditional Chinese practices, which required 5,000 to 7,200 square feet. In contrast, it takes commercial agriculture 22,000 to 42,000 square feet to grow all the food for one person for one year, while bringing in large inputs from other areas. At the same time, commercial agricultural practices are causing the loss of approximately six pounds of soil for each pound of food produced.

Biointensive mini-farming techniques make it possible to grow food using 99 percent less energy in all forms – human and mechanical, 66 percent to 88 percent less water, and 50 percent to 100 percent less fertilizer, compared to commercial agriculture. They also produce two to six times more food and build the soil.
The Biointensive Method

The basics of this whole-system approach can be summarized as follows:

Most life in nature occurs at the interface of soil, water, air and sun. Biointensive soil preparation practices create growing beds with more surface area to maximize the effect of nature’s life processes. Double-dug beds, with soil loosened to a depth of 24 inches, aerate the soil, facilitate root growth, and improve water retention. The health and vigor of the soil are maintained through the use of compost. Close seeding spacing is used to protect the soil microorganisms, reduce water loss, and maximize yields. Companion planting facilitates the optimal use of nutrients, light and water, encourages beneficial insects and creates a vibrant mini-ecosystem within the garden. The use of open-pollinated seeds helps to preserve genetic diversity and enables gardeners to develop their own acclimatized cultivars.

A focus on the production of calories for the gardener and carbon for the soil ensures that both the gardener and the soil will be adequately fed and that the farm will be sustainable.

How can the soil’s nutrient fertility be preserved with agriculture continuously removing nutrients as one crop is harvested after another? One answer is surprising. Each person’s urine and manure contain approximately enough nutrients to produce enough food to feed that person. However, those nutrients are not enough when they are spread thinly over the one-half to one acre that it takes mechanized commercial agriculture to produce that person’s food.

Biointensive mini-farms require much less area to produce the same yield of crops, so the nutrients contained in one person’s wastes can be applied in a more concentrated way. This enables the nutrients to be fully effective, and high yields can result.

Because of this higher productivity, Biointensive practices could allow one-half to three-quarters of the world to be left in wild for the preservation of plant and animal diversity.

It has been said that Biointensive practices might make it possible to grow food for all the people in the US in just the area now used for lawns. This possibility could mean thriving agriculturally self-reliant cities with ‘green belts’ to produce all their food.
Scarcity vs. Abundance

Scarcity can be changed into abundance when sustainable, resource-conserving agricultural practices are used.

* The world continues to deplete its soils approximately 7 to 80 times faster with conventional forms of agriculture – even with organic practices – than they are built up in nature. Probably only 50 to 100 years’ worth of world soil productivity remains for us to use. We are rapidly depleting the soil base upon which civilization depends. In contrast, sustainable Biointensive farming, if used properly, can build the soil up to 60 times faster than in nature while producing more food and conserving resources.
* Economically, conventional agriculture in the US produces on the average up to $100 per sixteenth of an acre; the net return on a $500,000 investment on the average 500-acre farm is about $12,000, or a little over 2 percent. We are depleting our agricultural economic base and indirectly our farming community base. Biointensive economic mini-farming, in contrast, can produce up to $20,000 on a sixteenth of an acre through increased yields, decreased resource use, and direct marketing. It also offers a foundation for community-based agriculture.
* The average age of the US farmer is 55, with few young people entering farming. In fact, 0.2 percent of the population of the US is producing most of the nation’s food. We are depleting the nation’s skill base. With mini-farming approaches, everyone can be part of the rebuilding of farming skills wherever they are.
* 75 percent of all the seeds ever used in agriculture are estimated to have become extinct by 1990. Ninety five percent are expected to be extinct by the year 2000. We are depleting our genetic base by overdependence on too few highly specialized varieties. It is interesting to note that many, if not most, normal open-pollinated crop varieties will produce equally high Green Revolution-type yields with a fraction of the resources and few insect and disease problems when Biointensive techniques are used because of the healthy soil they produce.
* Conventional agriculture uses 100 times the energy in mechanical and human forms per pound of food produced, compared to Biointensive farming. This is because of current agriculture’s heavy dependence on machines and energy-intensive chemical fertilizers. We are depleting our energy base. Sustainable Biointensive practices, in contrast, recycle nutrients and are productive enough to be done manually without high energy consumption.
* Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of all the water used by people on this planet, and dozens of countries already have insufficient water for growing all the food needed for their populations. Further, the agricultural practices being used do not generally conserve water in our soil. The result is that we are in the process of depleting our available water base. Biointensive practices use a third to an eighth the water per pound of food produced as conventional farming practices. Thus, the amount of water available for farming, which is currently insufficient, can be more than enough.

It Is Simple to Begin

The thought of beginning to learn to grow all one’s own food seems overwhelming, but Ecology Action has designed a small one-bed growing unit from which to begin growing personalized solutions. This unit is a 100-square-foot bed that includes equal areas of compost, diet, and income crops. As we improve each 100-square-foot area of soil in our backyards or on our farms, we begin to understand our climate and the varieties of plants that thrive in our own micro-climates and mini-ecosystems. Each small portion that we grow of our own food enables us to better appreciate the farmers whose food we buy.

Voltaire in Candide suggests that if we each tend our own “garden,” the entire world will be transformed. In the process, all of our work will be filled with meaning. In this way, we will “grow people” who possess a whole new understanding: that we must grow soil rather than crops – create rather than consume. When we do so, the harvest for our nourishment will be abundant beyond our greatest expectations!

John Jeavons is known internationally for his work developing small-scale sustainable food production techniques. His food-raising techniques are being used in 108 countries, rich and poor.

Ecology Action, founded 24 years ago, has taught the Biointensive method to organizations and individuals in over 100 countries through tours and workshops, and more than 30 publications – some in other languages. For more information, write to Ecology Action, 5798 Ridgewood Road, Willits, CA 95490-9730.

Ecological Economics

Excerpt from Rachel’s: Is It Time for A New Economics?

It is now time — long past time — for a Copernican/Darwinian
revolution in economics in which humans cease to be seen as the
privileged species, homo economicus — at the center of everything and
exempt from the limits of the biosphere. Instead, humans need to be
placed within the same systems that nourish every plant and animal on
Earth. In this case, however, there is a twist. Far from having to
realize how insignificant and unexceptional we are, we must come to
understand that we have evolved into a different species which
William Catton Jr. has dubbed “homo colossus,” a man-tool hybrid
capable of destroying the very habitat that sustains us and so many
other creatures.

The simple fact is that the economy cannot become bigger than the
biosphere. (There are, of course, some believers in Star Trek-style
fantasies who envision us exploiting and living on other planets. To
such people may I suggest that they get started on this project right
away since we are running out of time to turn things around here on
Earth). Humans already consume at least 40 percent of the
photosynthetic product of the Earth each year and, that’s an estimate
from 1986 when the population was 5.5 billion. Now it is 6.5 billion.
And it’s projected to be close to 9 billion by 2050. Could we
increase our share of the world’s photosynthetic product to 60 percent
as the 2050 projection implies and still survive? Would we wipe out
species upon whom we depend, but of which we currently know nothing?
Even if we could transition away from finite fossil fuels, would
finding a theoretical, but as yet unknown, unlimited and pollutionless
energy source really solve our problems? Or would it simply cause us
to bump up against other limits?

When you undergo the Copernican/Darwinian revolution in economics, you
cannot avoid such questions. The physical world and its limits must be
accounted for. To that end some researchers are proposing a
comprehensive biophysical economics. One outline of an approach to
such a problem can be found in an article entitled “The Need to
Reintegrate the Natural Sciences with Economics.”

The field of study now known as ecological economics has been
working on the problem in a piecemeal fashion for a long time. But
even though a comprehensive biophysical economics may never be
possible — since it would require understanding everything about the
natural world — we must attempt the feat for two reasons: 1) to
expose the dire peril in which neoclassical economics has placed us
and 2) to suggest ways to build an economy that can operate
indefinitely on the Earth and not one that only functions until it
destroys the Earth’s capacity to sustain us.

The French writer Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand is reputed to have
said, “Forests precede civilizations and deserts follow them.” It is
to this problem that economists must now turn themselves.

Has Politics Contaminated the Food Supply?

By Eric Schlosser
New York Times
December 11, 2006

This fall has brought plenty of bad news about food poisoning. More than 200
people in 26 states were sickened and three people were killed by spinach
contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. At least 183 people in 21 states got
salmonella from tainted tomatoes served at restaurants. And more than 160
people in New York, New Jersey and other states were sickened with E. coli
after eating at Taco Bell restaurants.

People are always going to get food poisoning. The idea that every meal can
be risk-free, germ-free and sterile is the sort of fantasy Howard Hughes
might have entertained. But our food can be much safer than it is right now.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76 million
Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year
because of something they ate.

Part of the problem is that the government¹s food-safety system is
underfinanced, poorly organized and more concerned with serving private
interests than with protecting public health. It is time for the new
Democratic Congress to reverse a decades-long weakening of regulations and
face up to the food-safety threats of the 21st century.

One hundred years ago, companies were free to follow their own rules. Food
companies sold children¹s candy colored with dangerous heavy metals. And
meatpackers routinely processed ³4D animals² — livestock that were dead,
dying, diseased or disabled.

The publication of Upton Sinclair¹s novel ³The Jungle² in 1906 — with its
descriptions of rat-infested slaughterhouses and rancid meat — created
public outrage over food safety. Even though the book was written by a
socialist agitator, a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, eagerly read it.

After confirming Sinclair¹s claims, Roosevelt battled the drug companies,
the big food processors and the meatpacking companies to protect American
consumers from irresponsible corporate behavior. He argued that bad business
practices were ultimately bad for business. After a fight in Congress,
Roosevelt largely got his way with passage of the Meat Inspection Act and
the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

The decades that followed were hardly an idyll of pure food and flawless
regulation. But the nation¹s diverse agricultural and food-processing system
limited the size of outbreaks. Thousands of small slaughterhouses processed
meat, and countless independent restaurants prepared food from fresh, local
ingredients. If a butcher shop sold tainted meat or a restaurant served
contaminated meals, a relatively small number of people were likely to
become ill.

Over the past 40 years, the industrialization and centralization of our food
system has greatly magnified the potential for big outbreaks. Today only 13
slaughterhouses process the majority of the beef consumed by 300 million

And the fast-food industry¹s demand for uniform products has encouraged
centralization in every agricultural sector. Fruits and vegetables are now
being grown, packaged and shipped like industrial commodities. As a result,
a little contamination can go a long way. The Taco Bell distribution center
in New Jersey now being investigated as a possible source of E. coli
supplies more than 1,100 restaurants in the Northeast.

While threats to the food supply have been growing, food-safety regulations
have been weakened. Since 2000, the fast-food and meatpacking industries
have given about four-fifths of their political donations to Republican
candidates for national office. In return, these industries have effectively
been given control of the agencies created to regulate them.

The current chief of staff at the Agriculture Department used to be the beef
industry¹s chief lobbyist. The person who headed the Food and Drug
Administration until recently used to be an executive at the National Food
Processors Association.

Cutbacks in staff and budgets have reduced the number of food-safety
inspections conducted by the F.D.A. to about 3,400 a year — from 35,000 in
the 1970s. The number of inspectors at the Agriculture Department has
declined to 7,500 from 9,000.

A study published in Consumer Reports last week showed the impact of such
policies: 83 percent of the broiler chickens purchased at supermarkets
nationwide were found to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

Aside from undue corporate influence and inadequate financing, America¹s
food-safety system is hampered by overlapping bureaucracies. A dozen federal
agencies now have some food safety oversight. The Agriculture Department is
responsible for meat, poultry and some egg products, while the F.D.A. is
responsible for just about everything else.

And odd, conflicting rules determine which agency has authority. The F.D.A.
is responsible for the safety of eggs still in their shells; the Agriculture
Department is responsible once the shells are broken. If a packaged ham
sandwich has two pieces of bread, the F.D.A. is in charge of inspecting it
— one piece of bread, and Agriculture is in charge. A sandwich-making
factory regulated by the Agriculture Department will be inspected every day,
while one inspected by the F.D.A. is likely to be inspected every five

Neither agency has the power to recall contaminated food (with the exception
of tainted infant formula) or to fine companies for food-safety lapses. And
when the cause of an outbreak is unknown, it¹s unclear which agency should
lead the investigation.

Last year, Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Senator Richard
Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, introduced an important piece of
food-safety legislation that tackles these problems. Their Safe Food Act
would create a single food-safety agency with the authority to test widely
for dangerous pathogens, demand recalls and penalize companies that
knowingly sell contaminated food.

It would eliminate petty bureaucratic rivalries and make a single
administrator accountable for the safety of America¹s food. And it would
facilitate a swift, effective response not only to the sort of inadvertent
outbreaks that have occurred this fall, but also to any deliberate
bioterrorism aimed at our food supply.

The Safe Food Act deserves strong bipartisan backing. Aside from industry
lobbyists and their Congressional allies, there is little public support for
the right to sell contaminated food. Whether you¹re a Republican or a
Democrat, you still have to eat.


Eric Schlosser is the author of ³Fast Food Nation² and ³Reefer Madness.²

Plant trees, disband the army, work together: the Tuscan way of surviving collapse

From the highly recommended website: transitionculture.org

Plant trees, disband the army, work together: the Tuscan way of surviving collapse by Ugo Bardi.

Rob writes: Ugo Bardi is a Professor at the Dipartimento di Chimica at Università di Firenze in Italy, and is also President of ASPO Italy, who so ably hosted ASPO5 in Pisa earlier this year. In this article, Ugo delves back into the history of his region of Italy, Tuscany, and identifies strategies and lessons of relevance to societies in their attempts to respond to peak oil. Having lived in Tuscany myself for a couple of years, it is a part of the world I am very fond of, so here is an article which mixes post-peak solutions and Tuscan history, and offers some very useful points in so doing:

The fall of empires is a subject that has fascinated us from the time of Gibbon’s 18th century classic “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” More recently, in “The Collapse of Complex Societies” (1988) Joseph Tainter reports the case of 18 societies in history that declined and disappeared. Of these, the Roman Empire is still the one we know best and that fascinates us the most. Its fall was a major discontinuity in history; it was not just a reduction in population, nor just the disappearance of a political system. It was the loss of most of what we call “civilization”: government, laws, justice, art; everything. The science and the literature accumulated over nearly a millennium would have been completely lost had not been saved, in part, in the Irish monasteries and the Islamized East. It was the kind of collapse we fear for our own civilization.

But not all societies collapse so completely. There are cases in which a society manages to contain decline and to keep its structure, its traditions, and its way of life. One may be the decline of Tuscany after the great expansion of the Renaissance, a case that had many points in common with the fall of the Roman Empire, but which was not so abrupt and devastating. Centuries of history are a complex story to summarize in a few pages but, as a Tuscan, I think I can at least sketch the main elements of what happened in Tuscany after the start of the decline, around the end of the 16th century. From this story, perhaps we can learn something useful for us today.

Historians don’t agree on what are the causes that make societies decline; Tainter cites 11 different explanations in his book. However, we are starting to understand that the main cause of decline is the lack of resources which are, almost always, provided by agriculture. We can still see how agricultural decline brought down the Roman Empire when we look at the city of Antium on the Tyrrenian Sea. Today, Antium is an inland city but, in imperial times, it had been the gateway of Roman commerce; the riches of the Empire went through its harbor. The disappearance of Antium’s harbor tells us the story of an agricultural disaster.

We know that the Roman Empire reached its maximum expansion in the 2nd centurty A.D.; afterwards, without the riches that came from plundering its neighbors, it started declining. The only answer that the Romans could give to stop the fall was military; war was what they knew best, what they had built their empire on. They strenghtened their legions, they built new fortifications, they developed new and better weapons. In this way, they managed to keep the Empire together for a while. That, however, put a terrible strain on their agriculture. The land was overexploited; erosion progressively destroyed the fertile soil and transformed it into the silt that flowed with the Tiberis River and buried Antium’s harbor. Other silted port cities show that the problem was widespread all over the Empire. Eventually, erosion became so serious that agriculture collapsed and the Empire disappeared, destroyed by famines and depopulation.

Tuscany had been part of the Roman Empire and it had collapsed with it. But, in the period that followed, the Tuscan land was left in peace for centuries and could recover its fertile soil. In the Middle Ages, Tuscany could again produce enough food to sustain a growing population. The great economic expansion of Tuscany of the Renaissance came from industry and commerce, but it couldn’t have been possible without a healthy agriculture. But nothing can keep growing forever. With the 16th century, Tuscany started showing all the symptoms of agricultural overexploitation. Today, if you look at the city of Pisa on the Tuscan coast, you’ll see that it is an inland city. But, once, Pisa had been one the seafaring republics of the Middle Ages. In the 15th century, Pisa’s harbor is reported to have been already silting from sediments carried by the Arno River. In the 17th century, silting became so serious that the harbor had to be abandoned. The destiny of Pisa was the same as that of Antium centuries before. Overexploitation of the land had led to the loss of agricultural soil, carried to the sea by rivers. The sediments that destroyed the harbor of Pisa were once the rich soil that had supported the Tuscan population.

One of the reasons for the erosion of the Tuscan land was overpopulation, another was the the development of firearms. Firearms are made in steel and to make steel charcoal is needed. Charcoal comes from trees and when trees disappear, erosion appears. More wars meant that more trees had to be cut and that meant losing more fertile soil. The Tuscan agriculture was following the same path of decline of the Roman agriculture of several centuries before. With the decline of agriculture, the Tuscan economic system started imploding; commerce and industry could not survive without food.

The Tuscan cities declined also in terms of military strength. As it had happened to the Romans long before, Tuscany was invaded by more powerful neighbors. The free cities of Tuscany fell one by one. The republic of Florence fell to the Spanish Imperial Armies in 1530. The republic of Siena fell to the combined armies of Spain and of the Florentine Medici in 1555. Tuscany became a province of the Spanish Empire, independent only in name. In 1571, Tuscany still had enough resources to send galleys to fight alongside the Spanish ones at the battle of Lepanto, against the Turks. They brought back home some glory but nothing else. At the end of the 16th century, the proud citizens of Florence, the city that had been called the “New Athens,” started going hungry. According to a chronicler, in 1590 Florentines were reduced to eat a kind of bread that “in older times would have been given to dogs, and perhaps dogs would have refused it.” The whole 17th century was a disaster for Tuscany; the chronicles report famines, epidemics, locusts and all sorts of calamities. Tuscany had become one of the poorest regions of Europe; the situation was so bad that, in the last years of the century, the government was forced to forbid the export of all kinds of food as a last resort for fighting famines.

But Tuscany didn’t make the mistake that the Romans did, that of seeking for military solutions for their troubles. The Grand Dukes of Tuscany preferred instead to concentrate their resources on agriculture. They had new land reclaimed, they experimented with new techniques, and they continued the ancient medieval tradition of caring for the trees. In this, they were perhaps following Saint Giovanni Gualberto (995-1073), the Tuscan saint who spent most of his life planting trees. The first Duke who really made these policies the focus of his activity was Ferdinando 1st, who took over in 1587 and reigned until his death in 1609.

A modern image of St. Giovanni Gualberto, (995-1073) the Tuscan saint who spent his life planting trees.

Ferdinando favored agriculture and spoke of Tuscans as “worker bees” (“api operose”) meaning that they had to work hard all together. His motto was “Maiestate Tantum”, meaning that his reign was based on “dignity only” and not on miltary force. Some warlike spirit remained in Tuscany during Ferdinando’s reign and the Tuscan fleet managed to defeat the Turks in some minor battles. But the Dukes who followed progressively reduced military expenses. The navy was disbanded in 1646 and the army was reduced and strength until it was formally disbanded in 1781. Tuscany simply couldn’t afford war. Her borders had to be opened to invaders; it caused less harm than fighting them. It may not have been a glorious strategy but it worked. After the fall of Siena, in 1555, Tuscany didn’t see her cities besieged and bombarded until 1944.

The “Working Bees”, (“Api Operose”) symbol of Ferdinando 1st (1549-1609) Grand Duke of Tuscany, 1587-1609). Image on the monument in Piazza SS. Annunziata, Firenze.

Not everything was perfect all the time and the rules that protected trees were relaxed more than once. It is reported that, in 1780, a group of woodcutters fell on their knees in front of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, pleading hunger; this resulted in a decree liberalizing tree cutting. Later on, when Tuscany was already part of Italy, a new wave of deforestation started. But every time the mountains were reforested and agriculture remained a focus of the policy of the government. Pietro Leopoldo 1st was especially active in this field and, in 1753, he created the “Georgofili” academy with the specific task of promoting agriculture. The academy still exists today and its motto is “For the sake of public prosperity”.

The symbol of the Georgofili Academy esablished in Firenze in 1753. The writing says “In favor of public prosperity” (“Prosperitati Publicae Augendae”)

It took time, but eventually caring for agriculture had its effects. From the 18th century onward, agriculture managed a comeback. Famines didn’t disappeare but could be contained while commerce and industry restarted with a new network of riverways and roads. With the 19th century, Tuscany was back to a modest level of prosperity and the last recorded famine in Tuscany was in 1898. Even during the worst period, the old spirit of freedom and intellectual independence of the Renaissance had survived in Tuscany. In the early 17th century Ferdinando the 1st had created a safe haven in Leghorn for the Jews fleeing from Spain; Tuscany kept her universities and academies and, in 1786 Tuscany was the first European state to officially abolish torture and the death penalty.

Today, Tuscany is still one of the most forested regions of Italy, but times have changed. The present Tuscan administrators seem to be convinced that it is a good idea to pave the land with houses, highways, parking lots, and shopping centers, all in the name of “development”. Because of this building frenzy, some of the once fertile areas of Tuscany are starting to look like suburbs of Los Angeles. With a population four times larger than it was at the time of the Renaissance and with the oil crisis looming in the near future, Tuscany is facing difficult times. But we have a tradition of caring for the land that has helped us in the past. It will help us also in the uncertain future.

Can Tuscany be sees as a model of “soft collapse” for other regions of the world? Perhaps; at least it gives us a recipe that worked. We may summarize it as three rules from the history of Tuscany of the time of the Grand Dukes:

Plant trees
Disband the army
Work together

It doesn’t seem that the world is exactly following these rules, right now. But we may have to learn.

2 Responses to “ “Plant trees, disband the army, work together: the Tuscan way of surviving collapse” by Ugo Bardi. ”

Ugo Bardi says:
December 12th, 2006 at 11:45 am
Rob, I didn’t know that you had lived in Tuscany. Does your experience fit with the way I described the situation? Did you notice the “Los Angeles” style of the new developments?


Rob says:
December 12th, 2006 at 3:09 pm
Where I was living was very rural, a small village in the hills, and it was before Toscana became very desirable, at that point (1990) it was still a few hippy folks from the city buying up ruined farmhouses. Beautiful place, I loved it very much. I haven’t been back for many years apart from a quick dash to the ASPO conference and back. I lived in a small village called Pomaia, nr. Santa Luce, just inland from Cecina. I still dream about it often.

Lindianne says:
December 12th, 2006 at 5:10 pm
Ugo, Thanks for this excellent article. Tuscany’s experience is very relevant to what Tucson, Arizona and the Sonoran bioregion (once a fertile agricultural region) are going through right now as we gear up for sustainability, lest we face collapse. Your article will be posted on our website.

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Jason Cole on The Idiocy of Renewing Trident
ptr on Is Peak Oil Pessimism a Generation of Men Coming to Realise How Useless They Are?
Rob on Skilling Up For Powerdown Course Notes – online until January 1st.
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Bamboo for Tucson

Another option for Tucson is bamboo construction. We must be very
concerned about introducing invasive species, but if we are going to
become “indigenous Tucsonans” we must be prepared to survive here.

These are two examples of remarkable bamboo construction — a 150 foot
car bridge and a 20,000 square foot pavilion. They do use concrete and
steel to reinforce the joints, but probably 100s of pounds, not 100s of
thousands of pounds.

Tres English
English Business Services
129 S. Irving Ave ¥ Tucson AZ 85711
1-520-795-3413 ¥ tres1@mindspring.com

Did you know that there are species of bamboo that are drought resistant and, in fact, one species that grows south of us in the Sonoran Desert called Mexican Weeping Bamboo that makes a beautiful hedge and is also edible? Check out the Bamboo Ranch in west Tucson – an acreage that boasts a bamboo nursery and a bamboo grower who has been developing it for 20 years. email Matt Finstrom at: bambooranch@yahoo.com or look up this amazing enterprise in the phone book. Some of us in the natural building sector are growing “clumping” timber and edible bamboo from the Bamboo Ranch and wearing T-Shirts and other clothing made of spun bamboo!!!

Biofuels debate continues

ISIS Press Release 11/12/06

Biofuels: Biodevastation, Hunger & False Carbon Credits

Europe’s thirst for biofuels is fuelling deforestation and food price hikes, exacerbated by a false accounting system that awards carbon credits to the carbon profligate nations. A mandatory certification scheme for biofuels is needed to protect the earth’s most sensitive forest ecosystems, to stabilise climate and to safeguard our food security.
[Dr. Mae-Wan Ho]

Biofuels not necessarily carbon neutral nor sustainable: Biofuels are fuels derived from crop plants, and include biomass directly burnt, and especially biodiesel from plant seed-oil, and bioethanol from fermenting grain, sap, grass, straw or wood [1] (Biofuels for Oil Addicts, SiS 30). Biofuels have been promoted and mistakenly perceived to be ‘carbon neutral’, that they do not add any greenhouse gas to the atmosphere; burning them simply returns to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that the plants take out when they were growing in the field. This ignores the costs in carbon emissions and energy of the fertiliser and pesticides used for growing the crops, of farming implements, processing and refining, refinery plants, transport, and infrastructure for transport and distribution. The extra costs in energy and carbon emissions can be quite substantial particularly if the biofuels are made in one country and exported to another, or worse, if the raw materials, such as seed oils, are produced in one country to be refined for use in another. Both are very likely if current trends continue.

Read the rest of this article here

Or read other articles in the energy section of the Institute of Science in Society Website


By Eric Auchard
December 10, 2006

[ See original article ]
BERKELEY, Calif. – Al Gore plans to start a grass-roots political movement
next month to seek a “freeze” on carbon emissions that scientists say are to
blame for global warming.

The former vice president’s campaign is modeled after the nuclear freeze
movement of the 1980s. Gore said he planned to enlist groups ranging from
entrepreneurs and activists to political leaders to push for stronger
policies to limit the growth of greenhouse gases.

“I think we need a ‘carbon freeze,’ ” Gore told policy and business leaders
Friday at a conference organized by a venture capital firm. “I intend to
launch an ongoing campaign of mass persuasion at the beginning of 2007.”

Gore said the grass-roots campaign would put heat on leaders in Washington
to come up with more sophisticated policies to address global climate

“I think we need a mass movement in the United States. I think it ought to
start at the grass roots,” said Gore, author of the book, “An Inconvenient
Truth,” which was made into a hit documentary film on global warming.

Gore said the power of the freeze demand is that it can operate at every
level of society — individuals can take steps to cut their use of
nonrenewable energies, and so can businesses and local and state

As a senator and arms control specialist, Gore had opposed the nuclear
freeze movement two decades ago because he thought it was “naive and

He said he has since recognized its impact on political leaders.

Gore was appearing at a two-day, closed meeting of a group called the
Greentech Innovation Network organized by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and
Byers, Silicon Valley’s most powerful venture capital firm.

The group, credited with helping to persuade Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
to sign into law a model carbon emissions cap in September, is made up of
environmental entrepreneurs, policymakers, and academics.

John Denniston, a Kleiner Perkins partner, told reporters that his firm,
which has pledged to invest $200 million to fund green technology start-ups,
is prepared to help finance Gore’s political efforts.

Gore spoke on a panel that included Andy Karsner, US assistant secretary for
renewable energy.

Karsner said he agrees with Gore’s call to make environmental issues a moral
imperative, but said the righteous tone of such advocacy was

“In fact, what we lack in abundance is the ability to listen to one another
and engage in civic discourse,” the Bush administration official said.

Sustainable Ecopreneurship Course at ASU

ASU Technopolis Sustainable Launch Prep Entrepreneurship Course (LPEC)


The Sustainable Launch Prep Entrepreneurship Course (Sustainable LPEC) is a program sponsored by Salt River Project (SRP) and the National Collegiate Inventors and Investors Alliance (NCIIA). The NCIIA has provided a grant to develop the Sustainable LPEC program and to deliver it twice during the 2007-2008 academic year.

This is an interactive introduction of basic sustainability and start-up concepts for innovators and entrepreneurs interested in creating ventures in markets related to sustainability.

The Sustainable LPEC course combines the best of education in sustainability and entrepreneurship from ASU Technopolis, the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and the ASU School of Sustainability. Sustainability education components include an introduction to sustainability and sustainable development, an overview of sustainable technologies and markets, funding for sustainable ventures and examples of successful sustainable venture models. Entrepreneurial education covers all aspects of starting, funding and growing early-stage companies.

Dr. Jay Golden, Assistant Professor in the School of Sustainability and Director of the National Center of Excellence on Sustainable Material and Renewable Technology (SMART) Innovations, and Dan O’Neill, Entrepreneurial Coach with ASU Technopolis, co-facilitate the course. Both are seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs. The course also includes lectures from guest experts with expertise in sustainability-related markets who will speak on topics such as entrepreneurship, intellectual property, product development, business development, marketing, sales, finance, law and team building.

Each class attendee will have the opportunity, if they desire, to develop a business concept presentation to be given multiple times during the course of the class, including to a panel of sustainability business experts.

*Visa, Mastercard and Discover accepted.


Eight consecutive 3-hour Monday sessions from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. for up to 30 entrepreneurs. Teams or individuals create and present their business concepts.
Participants receive lectures from guest speakers such as ‘been there, done that’ entrepreneurs as well as domain experts in areas of intellectual property (IP), product development, business development, marketing, sales, finance, law and team building.
Guest speakers will specifically have expertise in sustainability and sustainable technology markets.
Participants study cases, review reference materials, complete homework, practice their business concept presentations and receive feedback on their work.
Draws upon ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU Technopolis, as well as other sustainability and entrepreneurial resources, for materials and handouts. Participants are given homework.
The course ideally feeds into the Launch Pad Program. Those entrepreneurs with the most promising ideas and success in Sustainable LPEC may be invited to participate in the Launch Pad program.

Nordic Countries Know How to Create Sustainable Communities by Tim Montague


The Natural Step for Communities

By Tim Montague

Sweden has a penchant for safety and cleanliness. Swedes invented the
Volvo, one of the safest automobiles. Volvos are built to minimize
harm to passengers during accidents, and they are built without toxic
flame retardants. Swedes invented the safety- match and dynamite too
— much safer than the alternative it replaced, black powder.
Recently, Sweden has become known for its innovations in sustainable
development — safer development.

Sweden recently declared that it will create an energy and
transportation economy that runs free of oil by the year 2020. But the
groundwork for this radical declaration was laid in the 1980s by
Sweden’s eco-municipality movement, which successfully incorporated
sustainability into municipal planning and development.

Before former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland became a
household name in international environmental circles, Sweden and
Finland were stimulating local economic growth in ways that were good
for people and the planet. The town of Overtornea — Sweden’s first
eco-municipality — was an early adopter of what we now call
sustainable development, which “meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs.”[The Brundtland Report, 1987].

Simultaneously, The Natural Step (TNS) was being developed by
Swedish scientist Karl-Henrik Robert. The Natural Step began as a
way for individual companies to create more environmentally and
socially responsible practices; see Rachel’s News #667, #668, and
#676. And TNS was quickly embraced by Swedish planners, government
officials and residents who wanted to achieve their goals AND minimize
harm to the environment and human health.

The Swedish economist and planner Torbjorn Lahti was one of the
visionaries in Overtornea — a town of 5,000 that had 25%
unemployment and had lost 20% of its population during the previous 20
years. Lahti and his colleagues engaged the community — getting
participation from 10% of residents — to create a shared vision of a
local economy based on renewable energy, public transportation,
organic agriculture, and rural land preservation. In 2001 the town
became 100% free of fossil fuels. Public transportation is free. The
region is now the largest organic farming area in Sweden and more than
200 new businesses have sprung up.

The story of the eco-municipality movement is documented in the new
book, The Natural Step for Communities; How Cities and Towns can
Change to Sustainable Practices (2004; ISBN 0865714916) written by
American planner Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti. Today there are
more than 60 eco-municipalities in Sweden — representing 20 percent
of the population — and this movement for social and ecological
sanity has spread throughout Norway, Finland and Denmark as well.

Here in North America, cities like Whistler, British Columbia,
Portland, Oregon, and Santa Monica, California are on the
bleeding-green edge with city-wide master plans in which
sustainability is more than just a buzzword. These cities are making
the transition to renewable energy, mass-transit, green building, zero
waste and open-space preservation. As a report card on Santa
Monica’s progress shows, they have a long way to go, especially on the
social-justice front, to meet the Brundtland Report definition of
sustainability. But they are trending in the right direction. They are

What is the Natural Step for Communities and how does it work?

Like the Precautionary Principle — which is another lens forak;dr;job;
sustainability — the Natural Step (TNS) says that the decision-making
process must be inclusive and participatory. TNS recognizes that the
communities we live in will be self-sustaining only when resources are
justly distributed. You can have the greenest buildings, the cleanest
energy in the world, and the best public transportation. But without a
just social system, the community will not achieve sustainability.

The Natural Step has four ‘system conditions’ which, when achieved,
will create sustainable conditions. In a sustainable society, nature
is not subject to systematically increasing

1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust;

2. concentrations of substances produced by society;

3. degradation by physical means

4. and, in that society human needs are met.

In other words, we should minimize harm to the earth and human health;
we should use alternatives to fossil fuels, toxic metals, and other
persistent toxic substances. We should achieve zero waste (or darn
near). And we should protect and restore nature and the ecosystem
services it provides. But most importantly, we should meet basic human
needs for food, shelter, education and healthcare. I would add that
basic human needs include a social environment free of social
isolation bred of racism and classism, an environment that nurtures
and respects everyone.

According to The Natural Step for Communities, social justice is a
prerequisite that will either allow or prevent the other system
conditions from being achieved. And while TNS for Communities is rich
with examples of towns and cities that have improved their physical
and natural environments, the examples of improved social environments
are fewer and less concrete.

The indigenous Sami people — a trans-arctic people living in
Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia — are struggling to hold on to
their traditional reindeer herding culture which is being crowded out
by logging, development and environmental degradation. While some
groups of Sami — as suggested by TNS for Communities — are
transitioning to an economy based on eco-tourism, the growth of that
phenomenon isn’t necessarily socially, economically and
environmentally sustainable. If the traditional Sami culture dies,
then this movement has failed.

While there are obvious technological fixes to some of our
environmental woes — like wind energy and electric vehicles —
solving the issues of institutional racism are not specifically
addressed by the Natural Step. Still, I believe TNS for Communities
does hold several important pearls of wisdom for all cultures.

** Begin and guide a planning process with a community-defined vision
of a desired future (set goals; involve residents in the process).

** Combine vision, planning, and action from the start and throughout
the planning process (assess alternatives and choose the best one;
pick the low-hanging fruit and dive into real projects that improve

** Include the full range of community interests, values, and
perspectives in a meaningful way (involve those most affected; use
open, democratic decision-making).

** Plan in cycles, not just one linear pass (learn from your mistakes
and oversights; correct course accordingly).

** Focus on finding agreement, not on resolving disagreement (consider
the positive).

** Lead from the side (involve those most affected: let residents be
the experts).

There is mounting evidence that the Nordic model — including Sweden
and Finland — of free education, affordable healthcare, and cradle-
to-grave social services COMBINED with high rates of investment in
industrial research and development produces a high standard of living
and a vibrant economy.

As we begin to acknowledge that the social determinants of health are
MORE important than purely environmental factors, those of us who are
building a movement for a sustainable urban environment have much to
learn from the Natural Step and the eco-village movement.

Home Sustainable Home by Tim Vanderpool

Here’s a story from the Tucson Weekly about Sustainable Tucson’s hero, Brad Lancaster.

Home Sustainable Home

A tour of eco-friendly Tucson houses shows the possibilities for a brighter future



There’s an insurgent joy to the clipped power cables poking from Brad Lancaster’s home. And there’s a defiant beauty to the lush enclave that surrounds his old adobe. All off the grid and flush with desert shrubs, trees, lizards and birds, his world thrives on a fraction of the energy and water used by most Tucsonans.
Lancaster handed Tucson Electric its walking papers a few years ago, when his residence went all solar. And while Tucson Water is still on the scene, the utility doesn’t pull much weight around here. Instead, clever landscape design, abundant gray-water use and a 1,200-gallon concrete cistern maintain this exuberant oasis.

A big, friendly guy with a reddish beard, Lancaster strides around his downtown-area enclave with a kid’s enthusiasm. “This is our laboratory and our playground,” he says. In fact, he’s fashioned an upbeat career from showing how folks can squeeze their earthly impact to miniscule proportions. He recently authored Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Rainsource Press, 2006). And he says achieving drastic reductions in water and electricity use don’t require rocket science.

You can learn more yourself this weekend, when Lancaster’s home is featured on the 11th annual Tucson Innovative Home Tour and Tucson Solar Tour. Co-sponsored by the Solar Institute, the event highlights 20 award-winning sites that illustrate how to slash water and energy use, without living like a Spartan. From expert speakers, you can also learn how to cut home construction costs in half and save up to 80 percent in electricity and gas costs.

Paul Huddy is a physicist and the Solar Institute’s chief scientist. He says it’s never been more critical to look hard at conservation techniques offered by the tour. “The world’s population just turned 6.6 billion. The population of the United States reached 300 million, and the population of the Tucson metropolitan area is about to reach 1 million.

“All over the planet, this growth of human population is having very big impacts on the planet that sustains us,” he says. Given those numbers, “it’s no coincidence that almost every major government issue has to do with greater competition for dwindling resources.”

Those resources are particularly tight in Tucson, he says. “This is a desert, and one of the least sustainable environments in the entire country. So we import from distant places all of the things sustaining us–energy, food, building materials. And that is becoming steadily more difficult and expensive.”

To Huddy, the message is clear. “We need to look at a new way of doing things,” he says. “The environment was an important concept for us around 1970. At this point, sustainability is the important concept. We need to learn how to fit in with nature and our local environment better, so we don’t have to import all this stuff–so we can sustain ourselves better.”

Nor could we find a better community for getting into a sustainable mode, he says. “Tucson is really being recognized as a leader in this sort of thing. Professionals come here from around the world for that reason. And the Tucson Innovative Home Tour was established so that everybody else could learn about sustainability.

“This gives people a chance to find out how to live better in the desert, ” he says. And there’s an added bonus: “Approaching your lifestyle through the concept of sustainability can be a whale of a lot less expensive.”

Just ask Brad Lancaster. His utility bills are miniscule. And he’s created his Xanadu on a shoestring. “We started where it’s the cheapest and easiest to harvest water,” he says. “That’s the landscape, because you don’t need to worry about water quality issues.

“Here’s a kicker,” he says. “Thirty percent of the potable water consumed in an average single family home in Tucson is cast in the dirt. It’s used for irrigation. Another 30 percent in the house goes down the toilet. And we go to such a huge expense purifying this water to deliver to every home.

“But a simple way for people to shift out of that 30 percent for landscape use is to set up simple water-harvesting networks, so water falling from the sky pools in basins. Then we mulch those basins heavily, and we vegetate them heavily, so they become living sponges where the water rapidly infiltrates.”

In turn, that water is “recycled” into plants and trees. “They are living pumps,” he says, “that allow us to access the water in the form of passive cooling shade, wildlife habitat, food from the mesquite pods, ironwood seeds and oranges, peaches and pomegranates.” Those trees also keep his home some 20 degrees cooler than unshaded parts of the neighborhood.

In turn, a solar-powered washing machine is shared with neighbors. It directs gray water to trees around the yard, each connected by a separate piping system. Sun-drenched parts of Lancaster’s home are shaded with vines and trellises, and the vegetable garden is irrigated by harvested rainwater.

And we’re talking lots of rainwater. In a given year, he captures about 100,000 gallons in the cistern and basins. Compare that to the average Tucson family, which uses about 20,000 gallons of water each year.

There there’s the 25 percent of his food needs grown in his own garden, the photovoltaic solar power system, the solar water heaters and the solar oven where most of the food is cooked.

And the 748-square-foot home “doesn’t have mechanical heating or cooling,” he says. “We open the house up at night and close it during the day. Now, it’s not like going into a city building with 76-degree air conditioning, but I feel a lot healthier, because I’m not going from one extreme temperature to another.”

If you’re not convinced, take a moment to ponder Lancaster’s utility bills. “Right now, it’s about $20 a month,” he says with a big smile.

Tucson Innovative Home Tour

792-6579; www.solarinstitute.org


Eco-Results – Putting People Back into Nature

Working together to heal the West


Norm Lowe, Gail Lowe, Dan Dagget

Though EcoResults! is a startup enterprise, the people responsible for it have served as pioneers in creating collaborative, results-based solutions to Western environmental challenges.

Dan Dagget, environmentalist and author, literally wrote the book on the subject of applying collaborative solutions to Western ecosystems, Dagget’s book, Beyond The Rangeland Conflict—Toward a West That Works, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been described as one of the most important books on the contemporary West. In 1992 Dagget was honored as one of the top one hundred grass roots environmental activists in America by the Sierra Club for its centennial celebration. He has given more than a hundred talks around the West on the outstanding results that environmentalists and ranchers achieve when they apply a results-based approach and work together.

Norm Lowe is president and jack-of-all-trades of the Diablo Trust, a collaborative group that has been designated a government reinvention lab for the work it is doing with two ranches near Flagstaff, Arizona, encompassing 426,000 acres of land. Norm has a B.S. in Range Management and has had range management planning and monitoring experience with the Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. He is the current Range Program supervisor for the Navajo New Lands project in Arizona and has served as education chairman for both the Arizona and International Society of Range Management.

Gail Lowe has a B.A. in Anthropology and a Masters of International Management. She is a member of the Arizona Society of CPAs, the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council and the Diablo Trust. Gail services over 100 clients in various industries. She was financial/business manager of Tucson Downtown Development Corporation (a private non-profit corporation) along with four other for-profit firms.

P. O. Box 61613, Santa Barbara, CA 93160 • (805) 964-5788 • info@ecoresults.org

Anything Into Oil by Brad Lemley

Discover Magazine Issues Apr-06 features Anything Into Oil
Anything Into Oil
Turkey guts, junked car parts, and even raw sewage go in one end of this plant, and black gold comes out the other end.
By Brad Lemley
Photography by Dean Kaufman
DISCOVER Vol. 27 No. 04 | April 2006 | Technology

The thermal conversion plant turns turkey offal into low-sulfur oil that is carted off by three tanker trucks daily.

The smell is a mélange of midsummer corpse with fried-liver overtones and a distinct fecal note. It comes from the worst stuff in the world—turkey slaughterhouse waste. Rotting heads, gnarled feet, slimy intestines, and lungs swollen with putrid gases have been trucked here from a local Butterball packager and dumped into an 80-foot-long hopper with a sickening glorp. In about 20 minutes, the awful mess disappears into the workings of the thermal conversion process plant in Carthage, Missouri.

Two hours later a much cleaner truck—an oil carrier—pulls up to the other end of the plant, and the driver attaches a hose to the truck’s intake valve. One hundred fifty barrels of fuel oil, worth $12,600 wholesale, gush into the truck, headed for an oil company that will blend it with heavier fossil-fuel oils to upgrade the stock. Three tanker trucks arrive here on peak production days, loading up with 500 barrels of oil made from 270 tons of turkey guts and 20 tons of pig fat. Most of what cannot be converted into fuel oil becomes high-grade fertilizer; the rest is water clean enough to discharge into a municipal wastewater system.

For Brian Appel—and, maybe, for an energy-hungry world—it’s a dream come true, better than turning straw into gold. The thermal conversion process can take material more plentiful and troublesome than straw—slaughterhouse waste, municipal sewage, old tires, mixed plastics, virtually all the wretched detritus of modern life—and make it something the world needs much more than gold: high-quality oil.

Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, has prodded, pushed, and sometimes bulldozed his way toward this goal for nearly a decade, and his joy is almost palpable. “This is a real plant,” he says, grinning broadly. He nods at the $42 million mass of tanks, pipes, pumps, grinders, boilers, and catwalks inside a corrugated steel building. The plant is perched 100 yards from ConAgra Foods’ Butterball plant, where 35,000 turkeys are butchered daily, surrendering their viscera to Appel’s operation. The pig fat comes from four other midwestern ConAgra slaughterhouses. “To anybody who thinks this can’t work on an industrial scale, I say, ‘Come here and look.’ This is the first commercial biorefinery in the world that can make oil from a variety of waste streams.”

Still, Appel looks wearier than he did when Discover broke the news about his company’s technology (see “Anything Into Oil,” May 2003). Back then, when the process was still experimental, Appel predicted that the Carthage plant would crank out oil for about $15 a barrel and rack up profits from day one. But the plant was delayed by construction problems, and federal subsidies were postponed. After it started up, a foul odor angered town residents, leading to a temporary shutdown in December 2005. Production costs turned out to be $80 per barrel, meaning that for most of the plant’s working life Appel has lost about $40 per barrel. As recently as last April, he feared the whole operation might implode. “There have definitely been growing pains,” he says. “We have made mistakes. We were too aggressive in our earlier projections.”

But now, after more than $100 million in private funding and $17 million in government grants, several hurdles have tumbled. The Carthage plant has been optimized and is expected to turn a small profit. A tax credit has leveled the playing field with other renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. Appel is confident that new ozone scrubbers and other equipment will abate the odors. State officials are warily optimistic. “We are not hoping to shut them down [permanently] and take away jobs,” says Connie Patterson, spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “We have given them a window of opportunity to solve the problem.”

Others are optimistic too. “I’m impressed,” says Gabriel Miller, a New York University chemistry professor and a consultant to KeySpan Corporation, a gas and electric utility that serves New York. “The fuel that comes out is better than crude, and you don’t need a refinery to use it. I think they can bring it deep into commercialization.” Miller has recommended that KeySpan burn the oil in its generators.

Appel, a former Hofstra University basketball star, leans his 6-foot-5-inch frame against a counter in the company’s lab and rubs his face. He says he is confident that the process can indeed solve thorny waste problems, supplement oil supplies, become an odor-free “good neighbor,” and at last, become immensely lucrative.

The catch? It may not happen in the United States.

Left to right: An on-site lab checks oil and fertilizer quality a dozen times daily; some of the plant’s 45 workers stroll under oil-bearing pipes; daily maintenance logs are kept on a whiteboard; (Below) a truck is weighed before dumping turkey leftovers; the scrubber system’s exhaust stack, wrapped in a steel framework, looms over the plant.

Appel has shepherded development of the thermal conversion process(previously known as the thermal depolymerization process; Appel changed the unwieldy moniker last year) since 1997, building on organic-solids-into-oil research stretching back nearly a century. By 1999 he had lined up investors, hired an engineering staff, and had a pilot plant chewing through seven tons of waste daily in a Philadelphia industrial yard. Early in 2003, company officials predicted their first industrial-size plant would be steaming ahead 24/7 in Carthage by that summer. As it turned out, continuous production did not start until February 2005.

Which is surprising because at first blush, the thermal conversion process seems straightforward. The first thing a visitor sees when he steps into the loading bay is a fat pressurized pipe, which pushes the guts from the receiving hopper into a brawny grinder that chews them into pea-size bits. Dry feedstocks like tires and plastics need additional water at this stage, but offal is wet enough. A first-stage reactor breaks down the stuff with heat and pressure, after which the pressure rapidly drops, flashing off excess water and minerals. In turkeys, the minerals come mostly from bones, and these are shunted to a storage bin to be sold later as a high-calcium powdered fertilizer.

The remaining concentrated organic soup then pours into a second reaction tank—Appel says the two-stage nature of the process distinguishes it from dozens of failed single-stage waste-to-oil schemes devised over the last century—where it is heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pressurized to 600 pounds per square inch. In 20 minutes, the process replicates what the deep earth does to dead plants and animals over centuries, chopping long, complex molecular chains of hydrogen and carbon into short-chain molecules. Next, the pressure and temperature drop, and the soup swirls through a centrifuge that separates any remaining water from the oil. The water, which in the case of slaughterhouse waste is laden with nitrogen and amino acids, is stored to be sold as a potent liquid fertilizer (see “Garden Delights,” next page). Meanwhile, the oil goes to the storage tank to await the next truck. The whole process is efficient, says Terry Adams, the company’s chief technology officer: Only 15 percent of the potential energy in the feedstock is used to power the operation; 85 percent is embodied in the output of oil and other products.

The oil itself meets specification D396, a type widely used to power electrical utility generators. The oil can be sold to utilities as is, further distilled into vehicle-grade diesel and gasoline, or, via a steam process, made into hydrogen. Until last year, Appel distilled his output on-site, but he has since decided to sell the oil directly to utilities and refineries. “We just don’t make enough volume to make operating our own refinery viable,” he says.

So why has success been so long coming? Basically, Appel says, everything has been more complex and expensive than anyone guessed. First, the conversion process needed tweaking. Each variable—temperature, pressure, volume, tank-residence time—needs to precisely match the feedstock, which proves to be no mean feat on an industrial scale. “The really difficult thing has been finding the sweet spot in the process parameters,” says Appel. “This isn’t a laboratory. We have to respond to the real world of varying supply. If I get two truckloads in a row of just feathers, I need to deal with that high-protein peak. Or if I get too much blood at once, the result is too much water.” The solution has been to blend disparate truckloads of stock in a holding tank, making what enters the process relatively consistent.

“Fat, fiber, protein, moisture, ash—getting those right, that’s our mantra,” says Jim Freiss, vice president of engineering. “Now we are able to nail the same quality every day.” Freiss says he and fellow engineers Terry Adams and William Lange “have learned so much that I am very confident we can build a second plant that’s optimized from the start.”

Chemistry was not the only challenge. Since 2004, the federal government has subsidized biodiesel, usually made from soybeans, at $1 a gallon. It gave Appel zero for the fuel he produced from turkey guts. “It was hard to believe that a competitor could walk away with a dollar a gallon while we were excluded,” Appel says. In August that hole was plugged: The fuel Appel makes, known officially as renewable diesel, received a subsidy of $1 per gallon from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which took effect in January. That boosted the company’s income by $42 a barrel, allowing a slim profit of $4 a barrel.

Appel offers no apologies for needing government largesse to make money. “All oil, even fossil-fuel oil, gets government subsidies in the form of tax breaks and other incentives,” he says, citing a 1998 study by the International Center for Technology Assessment showing that unsubsidized conventional gasoline would cost consumers $15 a gallon. “Before we got this, I had the only oil in the world that didn’t get a subsidy.”

Another hurdle: Within months after opening in February 2005, the plant smelled, and by August it had been hit by six notices of emissions violations by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. But some in the town, which has other large food processing operations, contend the new plant was unfairly singled out. “The thing was, any odor at all was blamed on them,” says Mayor Kenneth Johnson. In any case, Renewable Environmental Solutions, the subsidiary of Changing World Technologies that runs the Carthage plant, spent $2 million on biofilters, scrubbers, and other odor stoppers. Between July and late September complaints had dwindled from 23 to 5 a week, says Mark Rader, an environmental specialist with the department’s southwest regional office.

Nonetheless, the Department of Natural Resources issued a temporary shutdown order for the plant in December, prompting Appel and his colleagues to install more ozone scrubbers. But even critics say the persistence of a smell does not invalidate the technology. The plant is just four blocks from downtown Carthage and two blocks from residences. Building future plants in less dense areas would “make more sense,” says Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Connie Patterson.

Sustainable Community – Village Homes by David Bainbridge

Sustainable Building Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Restoration Native America Search Site Index

Sustainable Community – Village Homes, Davis, California

By David A. Bainbridge
(Former Planner in Davis, VH Resident,
& VH Community Board Member)
Associate Professor
United States International College of Business
Alliant International University
San Diego, CA 92131

Village Homes is an innovative mixed use planned unit development that was started in 1974 on 60 acres in Davis, California. It was designed and built by developers Michael and Judy Corbett, with help from many others. It was financed by Sacramento Savings and Loan and building was phased in over 5 years to allow for careful construction and sustained work for builders. At build-out it includes 220 single family homes, 20 apartments and a cooperative house, most incorporating solar design features and solar hot water. Business space is included in the community center and an inn was recently completed. There is a comprehensive community center, with pool, meeting and party rooms, and large playing field. The developer allowed individual builders to buy lots, although 60% of the homes were built by the Village Homes company. This added diversity in design and an opportunity for innovation. Several builders who got their start in Village Homes were able to build their own homes in the development and have become major local builders in the community. The developer also built a home and he and his family have always lived in the community.

The primary focus of the development plan was on community building. Shared ownership of common areas and common spaces, shared laundry space for some units, shared gardens, community gardens, community fruit and nut trees and vineyards, and bicycling (much of the City of Davis commute is by bicycle) and walking orientation have been very successful in building community. In a study comparing Village Homes to surrounding contemporary development (standard suburbia) the residents of the Village Homes development knew 42 people in their neighborhood, compared to 17 in other areas. The average resident identifies 4 of their best friends in the community, compared to 0.4 for people in the conventional development. This community spirit and people orientation has also virtually eliminated crime (only 10% of the city average). Density is almost double surrounding areas, but the quality of life is much higher. This is reflected in increased home value (a $10-15 per square foot premium) and much quicker home sales in Village Homes.

Aerial View of Village Homes

The orientation of streets and paths was also designed to facilitate natural heating and cooling using winter sun for solar heating and shade and night-time ventilation cooling for relief from the summer heat. This followed suggestions made by the consulting firm Living Systems in reports to the City of Davis on the performance of conventional apartments and homes and an innovative climate adapted building code and workbook (since supplanted by the much less sophisticated and cumbersome Title 24 state standards). The original program worked very well and included training for builders and building officials. Homes are known for improved comfort and bills average about 50-60% of surrounding developments. The comfort is also aided by narrow streets which reduce the urban heat island effect.

Energy conservation, comfort and safety are also aided by bicycle and pedestrian orientation and narrow streets. The fight for narrow streets was difficult, and succeeded only after Living Systems developed guidelines for street design for the City of Davis based on European research showing that narrower streets were safer. Off street parking, a focus of houses toward the bikeways not the street, and limited through traffic enabled street width to be cut from 44-52 feet in conventional developments to 20-26 feet in Village Homes. This also reduces cost, minimizes overheating during the hot summer, reduces stormwater drainage problems, and improves the quality of life by minimizing traffic and noise.

The second biggest struggle was over above-ground storm water drainage in natural looking swales with infiltration basins. This was considered heretical by the City engineers, but after a long fight it was approved. It was tested by very heavy rains not long after it was completed and Village Homes was one of the only areas in the City that didn’t flood. Subsequent developments have added even larger retention basins and infiltration ponds. On many evenings muskrats, ducks, geese and other birds can be seen enjoying these park features, and they conserve water and return it to the groundwater resource for use.

Village Homes demonstrated to all involved that development can work for people and the environment. It is a lasting tribute to the energy, wisdom and persistence of the Corbetts. It set a standard for new villages to match or equal. As the Corbetts say, “We do not view Village Homes as an ideal. We see it as a step in the right direction.” We know much more know and can and should do much better today.

Further Reading:
(Prepared by David Bainbridge and Val Czapelski Okerstrom, Research Assistant)

Corbett, Judy and Corbett, Michael. 2000. Designing Sustainable Communities:
Learning from Village Homes. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 235 p.
Bainbridge, D.A. 1987. Energy self-reliant neighborhoods. pp. 398-402. In D.A.
Andrejko and J. Hayes, eds. 12th Passive Solar Conference Proceedings,
American Section International Solar Energy Society (ASISES), Boulder,
Corbett, M. 1981. A Better Place to Live. Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Bainbridge, D.A., Corbett, J. and J. Hofacre. 1979. Village Homes’ Solar House
Designs. Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Bainbridge, D.A. 1976. Planning for energy conservation. Living Systems for the
City of Davis, California, 83 p.
Bainbridge, D.A. 1976. Street design for energy conservation. Living Systems for
the City of Davis, California. 19 p.
Melzer, B., M. Hunt, D.A. Bainbridge. 1976. Energy conservation in building: code
workbook. Living Systems for the City of Davis, California
Bainbridge, D.A. 1976. Towards an environmental new town. Council of Planning
Libraries Exchange Bibliography #967, 6 p.

Internet Source:

Corbett, J. and M. Corbett. 1999. Toward better neighborhood design. College of
Human Ecology, Michigan State University.

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You can contact David Bainbridge at bainbridge@ecocomposite.org.
©2000-2003 David Bainbridge. All rights reserved.

Chinese Eco-city by Pierre Labgellier and Brice Pedroletti

Here’s a very interesting report that may be worth looking into, from
Local Living Communities News, 05-01 to 06-30

Please feel free to forward this news / resource to other group lists
and organizations. Your sharing makes it possible to reach a wider circle,
cooperating for a stronger sustainable vision.

Sustainable Neighbourhoods / Urban Ecological Planning

China to Build First Eco-city, WEB Reference, May 10, 2006 (Guardian Weekly, Jean-Pierre Langellier and Brice Pedroletti)

Imagine it is 2010. The place is Dongtan, the world’s first purpose-built eco-city.
It stands in the middle of the marshes at the eastern tip of Chongming, China’s third largest island, at the mouth of the Yangtse River. None of the buildings is more than eight stories high. Turf and vegetation cover the roofs, a natural form of insulation that also recycles wastewater. The town has six times more space for pedestrians than
Copenhagen, one of Europe’s airiest capitals. Pollution-free buses, powered
by fuel cells, run between neighbourhoods. An Intranet service forecasts
travel times and connects people who want to share a car. Traditional
motorbikes are forbidden, replaced by electric scooters or bicycles. The
roads are laid out so that walking or cycling to work is quicker than driving.


Local Living Communities research from around the world,

Courtesy of … The Community Involvement Project
Box 4516, #54 – 650 Terminal Ave.
Nanaimo, BC, Canada
V9R 6E8
Ph: 250-753-5605

Email: communityinvolvement.news@gmail.com

CIP News Archives can be found at: http://cip.nanaimo-online.net –
Click on any of the GREEN category tags across the top of the page.

Thanks to Tom Greco for bringing this article to our attention.

Emerging Water Shortages by Lester Brown

Africa’s Lake Chad, once a landmark for astronauts circling the earth, is now difficult for them to locate. Surrounded by Chad, Niger, and Nigeria—three countries with some of the world’s fastest-growing populations—the lake has shrunk by 95 percent since the 1960s. The soaring demand for irrigation water in that area is draining dry the rivers and streams the lake depends on for its existence. As a result, Lake Chad may soon disappear entirely, its whereabouts a mystery to future generations.

Every day, it seems, we read about lakes disappearing, wells going dry, or rivers failing to reach the sea. But these stories typically describe local situations. It is not until we begin to compile the numerous national studies—such as an 824-page analysis of the water situation in China, a World Bank study of the water situation in Yemen, or a detailed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assessment of the irrigation prospect in the western United States—that the extent of emerging water shortages worldwide can be grasped. Only then can we see the extent of water overuse and the decline it can bring.

To read the rest of this article: Emerging Water Shortages